August was a vast improvement compared to the bleak month of July. The M's finished the month with a 13-15 record, which while still a losing record, was a big improvement over July's 6-20 record. It was the offense that powered that improvement, seeing the M's score more runs in August (121) than in any other month this season and a huge jump from the low point in July (72).
On the other hand, the M's pitching struggled a bit in August, giving up more runs (139) than in any other month this season. That's not too uncommon. Pitching does tend to falter a bit for most teams during the heat of August. This season was no exception, with the league ERA, K/9, BB/9 and other indicative stats getting worse during August. Still, the M's struggled more than most teams. Trading away two of your best starters (Fister and Bedard) and your top set-up man (Pauley) will do that for you.
In case you're wondering, Fister has been great for the Tigers, with 4 quality starts, 3 wins and a low 2.97 ERA. Pauley has struggled in Detroit, however, pitching only 8 innings with a craptastic 7.88 ERA. Bedard has been decent with the Red Sox, struggling to pitch deep into games and throwing only one quality start this month, but with above average results while in the game (3.46 ERA and 1.35 WHIP).
There's your backdrop. Let's take a closer look at the category summaries...
Welcome the new guard. Through the first half of this season, we found ourselves hoping the vets could revert to their career averages in order to support the offense. Not anymore. The kids have taken over.
The first wave was led by Smoak and Moore, kids who were determined at the start of the season to be ready for primetime. This was the unlucky wave. Moore played two games before being injured and out for the season. Smoak started great, but spent most of this month nursing a sore hand, followed by a broken nose Anybody else notice that his first game back from the latest injury ended with him getting hit by a pitch and having sore ribs for a couple of days? The kid has no luck! Smoak should be back in a couple of days. Moore will get another chance in the spring.
The second wave was the pasta round, as the M's tossed a bunch of spaghetti at the walls to see who could stick. After tryouts for Peguero, Halman, Wilson, Carp, and on and on... we've found some kids who are fitting the bill: Ackley, Seager and Carp. Everyone expected Ackley to stick, but the other two have been great, unexpected additions.
Then came the third wave... kids from outside the org brought in as the result of deadline trades. Say hello to Wells and Robinson.
Now go look at this month's honor roll: Carp, Seager and Wells. Ackley just BARELY missed the cut, squeaking past the first hurdle with a .751 OPS, getting past the second with a positive 0.04 WPA, but tripping over the final obstacle with a negative WPA/Li. Oh so close. His A- for the month doesn't make the honor roll. Likewise, Robinson just barely missed the cut having a positive WPA and WPA/Li, but only notching a .722 OPS for the month. A solid B+, but not on the honor roll either. Both would have made the list using last season's criteria.
So, the offense came within a hair of placing 5 kids on the honor roll this month. Yeah, baby!
The closest vet to the list? That would either be Gutierrez, with a positive WPA and WPA/LI but a pedestrian .683 OPS, Ryan also with a positive WPA and WPA/LI and a marginally better .693 OPS, or Olivo who managed a .706 OPS for the month with a negative WPA and WPA/LI. Surprisingly, Ichiro, who has been on a tear the past few weeks, batting .293 for the month and making a run at his annual 200 hit mark, was nowhere near making the list. Ichiro finished the month with a .678 OPS (second worst of all batters with 50 or more plate appearances) and the worst WPA of all offensive players.
The only real flop of the month was Kennedy, who provided a Figgins-esque .430 OPS to go with a negative WPA. Looks like the "old man" could use a rest. (Note: "old man" is in quotes since he's still significantly younger than me)
Now the tough part... choosing who should represent the group.
Carp had the best aggregate stats of the group, tied the M's record for RBIs in a month, had by far the highest WPA of the month and has given the M's a real cleanup hitter for the first time in ages, all while taking over 1B with Smoak on the DL. He obviously gets into the poll.
Seager was just behind Carp in the stat chase, leading the team in AVG and just barely coming in second in OBP, while solidifying what was a black hole for the team. He's been solid defensively and more than solid offensively. He gets into the poll (and probably gets credit for ending Figgins career... at least with the M's).
Wells played less than the others, but is tied for the HR lead and finally gives the M's a decent LF. His low average hurts him, as well as a stat-line well below the other two studs. Sorry, Casper. You'll be sitting out the poll this time.
Here the story is the exact opposite from the offense. Fister and Bedard were traded away as the deadline approached and the team chose to go with a Quantity Over Quality approach, replacing those two with Beavan, Furbush and Vasquez and running with a 6-man rotation for much of the month.
Beavan held up pretty well. He gave the team 4 quality starts out of 6 starts, notching 2 wins, 2 losses and 2 no decisions on his way to being arguably the second best starter for the month. Solid B performance, but no honor roll.
Furbush had one really nice start, one decent start where he only went 5 innings, and a bunch of real stinkers. C-
Vasquez has no business being in a MLB rotation. And for some reason, whenever I start to type his name, it always comes out as "Valtrex". Must be some weird Feudian thing going on there.
Pineda has started to compensate for the adjustments being made by batters. He's gone through the league. The scouts put out a book on him, and guys started to pick him apart a bit in July. Now the big guy strikes back. The results were mixed. Pineda did rack up 3 quality starts in four trips to the mound for the month... but he also hasn't gone more than 6 innings all month. He could be getting a little tired, having not pitched this much in a season before. Whatever the reason, Pineda was merely "good", probably earning a B for the month. Not enough for the honor roll.
Vargas was hot and cold as usual. He threw two absolute stinkers (both losses), two gems (both no decisions) and one gutsy performance than was his only win (7 innings with 6H, 2HR, 4BB and somehow only 3 runs). Not his best month, but nothing to be embarrassed about either. I'd give him a B- or C+. No honor roll.
That leaves us with the King, who finished the month as the M's best pitcher by a wide margin. Felix deserved six wins this month, but got gypped on two games where he pitched 8 full innings giving up 3 runs and 2 runs respectively, and got tagged with losses because the M's couldn't score. He almost got another one of those last night, throwing a complete game with only 5 hits and 1 run, all while waiting until the bottom of the 8th before the M's scored. In his only non-quality start of the month, Felix pitched 7 full innings and gave up 4 runs. If that's your BAD start of the month, you're doing pretty darn good.
Once again, Felix was our horse averaging 7 1/3 innings per start. That's a full inning per game more than the next best starter. His ERA, xFIP, K/9, BB/9... heck, pick any stat you want... was better than any other pitcher for the M's and right up there with the best in the AL. Again. As usual. Give this kid an A, put him on the honor roll and send him to the poll. Flip a coin between Felix and Ervin Santana for the best starter in the AL West for August.
Five relievers pitched enough innings to be considered. Only one pitched well enough to make the honor roll. That's how it works when WPA is used as a gating requirement.
That should be a good thing for the bullpen. They come into games either when there is very high leverage (thus have the ability to rack up big WPA numbers quickly) or when the game is already way out of reach (thus have little impact on winning/WPA). All they need to get into positive WPA territory is be kinda good more than they are kinda bad. No big heroics. Just... good.
League was our only reliever with a net positive effect, with a narrow 0.06 WPA for the month. That's despite getting 8 saves and 1 blown save in his 12 games of work. Despite the WPA score, he was actually pretty good. Only League and Wilhelmsen bested the league average for ERA, xFIP, K/9 and BB/9. Wright did some nice stuff as well. As did Lueke. But despite the decent homework, all but League failed the final exam.
Nothing to see here. Move along.
- Mike Carp: .313/.353/.545/.898, 140 OPS+, 15 runs, 25 RBI, 6 HR, 61TB
- Kyle Seager: .342/.372/.506/.878, 137 OPS+, 11 runs, 7 RBI, 2 HR, 40TB
- Felix Hernandez: 4-2, 6GS, 4QS, 7.1IP/G, 51K, 11BB, 4HR allowed. 1.08 WHIP, 2.84 ERA, 2.65 xFIP
- Brandon League: 0-1, 12G, 10.2IP, 8SV, 0HLD, 1BS, 9K, 1BB, 2HR allowed. 1.03 WHIP, 2.53 ERA, 2.76 xFIP
POLLS ARE NOW OPEN