2009 MLB American League West Notebook
Seattle's Ichiro is always viewed as the toughest out in baseball because he runs so well. When a ground ball is hit, an infielder cannot hesitate to make his play. And sometimes, that isn't even good enough.
Ichiro already has 22 infield hits this season. That leads the big leagues. He also had 14 in his last 19 games. Ichiro is on pace to collect 74 infield hits this year, which would be the most since Atlanta's Brett Butler had 72 back in 1992. Aside from a lack of power, Ichiro is the ideal leadoff man and has tremendous bat control. He has only struck out 16 times in his first 178 at bats. That's one strikeout every 11 at bats.
Throughout his career with the Mariners, Ichiro has averaged nearly 50 infield hits per season.
It's really looking like general manager Billy Beane's gamble of putting together a veteran lineup around a young pup pitching staff is not going to work at all. In fact, the team looks destined to finish last more than ever.
Oakland began its weekend chasing first-place Texas by 8 games. That deficit grew to 10 when the Rangers swept a double header in Arlington on May 29. Oakland fell to 18-28, which is easily the worst record in the American League. Oakland also has the second-worst offense in the league as well.
But consider that the A's have lost Nomar Garciaparra to two different stints to the disabled list, Eric Chavez's career is looking in doubt and the pitching just isn't throwing enough strikes.
Speaking of the Rangers, the sweep of the A's just gave them an AL-best record of 29-19. You hear a lot about the Rangers power. The team is hitting an OK .269 and was tied with New York with 77 home runs to lead baseball.
But this team has been very good when it comes to stealing bases. The Rangers have stolen 40 bases in 47 tries this year. That's a success rate of 85 percent. And the total puts them third in the AL. It does set up the offense to do a lot of things so it doesn't have to rely on the long ball despite the home run numbers we just gave you.
However, the Rangers still have some work to do when it comes to running the bases. For instance, trying to steal third in the ninth inning when trailing is not a good idea. Getting deeked and tagged out at third is not being smart either. Those are just a couple of incidents that happened this season.
Let's face it. If it wasn't for center fielder Torii Hunter's blistering start this year, it's hard to fathom where the Angels offense would be this season. Hunter is leading the team in home runs (11), RBIs (40), runs scored (34) and is third in stolen bases (10). No one is within three of Hunter in home runs, 12 in RBIs and five in runs scored.
Hunter has been the consistent mark for a team that is still trying to gather itself as it attempts to push the Rangers in the AL West. But the Angels are going to have to get some production from Vladimir Guerrero now that he has returned from the disabled list. Plus, Bobby Abreu's one home run through his first 43 games is also a problem.
By Kevin Lonnquist
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