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Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Stanky Maneuvers | Part II: The AL

Baseball's Unsung Heroes 
Continuing from Part I: The NL
We're looking at the guys who embody Eddie Stanky's winning legacy, despite his lack of natural talent.  The guys on this list may not be All-Stars, but they play roles on their squads that make a huge difference. 


Baltimore Orioles 
Wei Yen Chen  
Stanky Stat:192 IP  

Chen made an ultra-smooth transition from Japanese ball to the majors last year.  In his first season, he established himself as one of Baltimore's toughest pitchers.  The lefty went 12-11 with a 4.02 ERA and 154 Ks in 192 IP.  Impressive enough for an international, more impressive from a rookie in the AL East.

Boston Red Sox
Pedro Ciriaco
Stanky Stat: .293; 16 SBs

Ciriaco filled in all over for the Sox in 2012.  He played all three OF positions, SS, 3B, 2B and DH'ed a little as well.  He only got action in 76 games, and despite his work with the stick, he had a little trouble staying on the field.  His defense apparently needs a lot of work, but he's a valuable asset to have on the pine.

Tamp Bay Rays
Jake McGee
Stanky Stat: 6.64 K/BB

David Price, Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore get all the press, but Jake McGee needs some love, too.  He destroyed opposing hitters last year from the left side.  He posted a 73/11 K/BB ratio pitching in the 7th and 8th more often than not.  Plus, we're not talking about a LOOGY here.  McGee is an equal opportunity BA killer, right or lefty, his numbers are stellar on either side.  

Toronto Blue Jays
Brandon Morrow  
Stanky Stat: 3 CG Shutouts

My brother texted me after the 12-K, 0 ER rampage Morrow laid on the Mariners in August: "Morrow is a snorting fiery demon from hell."  I can't argue with that astute assessment of Morrow's 2012.  If not slowed down by a few injuries, Morrow would have been the best pitcher in Canada.  Overshadowed by Ricky Romero for some reason, and put on the backburner of fans' minds after the Marlins coup, Morrow could still be the best pitcher on a contending Blue Jays team, if he can just stay focused and healthy.  Trade a few disasters (like a 9 ER implosion against Boston) for a season laden with 10K+ self respect raids, and you've got a terrifying presence in the battery.

New York Yankees
Stanky Stat: Eduardo Nunez overcame having the middle name Michelle.

No unsung heroes here.  Yankee brass and ESPN "sing" about them far too often to let anyone go unnoticed for more than a bloop single.   


Cleveland Indians
Vinnie Pestano
Stanky Stat: 36 Holds

The guys at Waiting For Next Year named Pestano the Indians "Best Role Player" last year and I don't disagree.  For the second year in a row, Pestano has been an amazing back-end reliever, posting ERAs under 3.00 both years.  He owns an 11.0 K/9 ratio for his career and his WHIP cozies up to the fiery 1.10 mark every year.  Just don't ask him to close (He blew 3 out of 5 chances last year, or 2 for 2 in saves with 3 blown holds if you ask Vinnie himself). 

 He also got a semi-embarrassing name drop on How I Met Your Mother. 

Chicago White Sox 
Alejandro De Aza
Stanky Stat: .349 OBP 

This guy kinda came out of nowhere last year.  He spent most of his time in the minors until he was 28.  Last year he claimed CF (.991 FLD%) and as the leadoff man for Robin Ventura.  De Aza took advantage.  He posted a 281/349/410 slash with 9 Bart's Dads, 50 RBI and 26 SBs. 

KC Royals
Jarrod Dyson

Stanky Stat: 30 SB in 292 AB

Dyson started 79 games for KC last year and turned in a .328 OBP.  His plate discipline lead to the all-important factor for his game: being on first base.  Dyson will steal any time he gets the chance.  He's so fast he can turn off the lights and be in bed before it gets dark (just like Cool Papa Bell, maybe not that fast).  He also gets a little too excited sometimes and slides straight over second base.  But, he's a valuable tool coming off the 2013 Royals bench and is the default pinch runner in any situation.    

Minnesota Twins
Jamey Carroll
Stanky Stat: .343 OBP

Carroll has been around forever.  He's had cameos for 5 different squads over 11 years and this poor bastard only has 1 PA in the World Series.  He was given the Dodgers Heart and Hustle Award in 2010 and has consistently carved out a role for himself, even after going 3 years without a HR.  He gives it everything, always takes one for the team.  Just look at his right hand.  Hey Carroll, have your grandkids help you fire up WebMD, there's something wrong there.

Guillermo Del Toro-inspired Carroll fingers.

Detroit Tigers
Andy Dirks
Stanky Stat: .321 RISP

Many Tigers players and fans credit Dirks with making the play that catapulted the Tigers out of their 2012 mediocrity.  In a tie game against the Royals, Dirks Patrick Willis'ed Irving Falu to save a double play and allow the go ahead run to score.  They went on to the Fall Classic and Dirks made a name for himself.  His .322 BA in 79 starts for Detroit lead to a sole possession of LF.  Brennan Boesch is still nipping at his heels, only because of Dirks' incomplete resume (plus a .365 BABIP).  Over two seasons in limited action Dirks has posted a combined mark of .293 with 15 HR, 70 RBI, 90 R, a .340 OBP and a .454 Slugging %. He won't be going to anytime soon.



LA Angels
Alberto Callaspo
Stanky Stat: 56 BB | 59K

Callaspo's BA fell off to .252 last year, but he kept his OBP up (.331) out of the last third of the lineup. His power numbers were average (10 HR, 56 RBI) and his fielding wasn't always as amazing as the web gems suggest, but Callaspo is like a shitty GEICO ad at the plate, he never goes away.  His contact rate was 90% last year, highest among fellow hot cornerers.  He also posted a 6.4 WAR over the past two years, higher than Derek Jeter's output.

Texas Rangers
David Murphy
Stanky Stat: .859 OPS

Texas landed Murphy in the Gagne deal back in 2007, and he's slowly crept into the everyday lineup, culminating with 3.2 WAR 2012.  Murph put up a 304/380/479 slash with 15 HR, 65 RBI and 10 SB.  He's well liked in Arlington because of his 2010 playoff crusade (he hit .412), plus he doesn't have this on his chin. 

"Bobby Jenks is my idol!"


Oakland As
Brandon Moss
Stanky Stat: 19.8% HR/FB  

Moss went apeshit in his 84-game platoon stint with the As last year.  In essentially half a season, he hit 21 homers and drove in 54, all with .291 AVG from the left side.  In the Coliseum!  He would've had 100 dingers if he was still aiming for the tiny RF confines of  Fenway.  That's not saying much, since most guys could hit the Pesky Pole with a two-beer piss.  Moss' major downfall is his enormous K rate (about 30%), but his power is rare.  If he can find a way to sustain his .954 OPS, he won't make this list for long.  He's already been named's Zachery D. Rymer's Platoon Player of the Year.  With Chris Carter doing work at Chase Field, Moss has 1B all to himself. 

Seattle Mariners
Hisashi Iwakuma
Stanky Stat: 1.12 GB/FB

 Iwakuma's transition to MLB play is similar to that of Baltimore's Wei Yin-Chen (see: above).  He started out in the Seattle pen, pitching 14 relief appearances to moderate success.  He got the bump to the starting rotation and didn't look back.  Iwakuma finished with a 9-5 record, 3.16 ERA and 101 Ks.  Seattle made it worth his time, signing him to a 2-year deal in November.  If he can cut down on his walks, he could round out a pretty stout rotation when the Seattle Three arrive to back up King Felix (Taijuan Walker, James Paxton & Danny Hultzen).

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