For years the specter of PEDs has hung out around baseball to the point that I mostly just root for the stories to go away when they show up. The Biogenesis scandal is rather different than anything we have seen before though, and will have an effect on the season’s outcome for this year and possibly years to come. Two of the suspensions are of particular interest for us Royal fans, and one of them may make a playoff run quite a bit more likely.
The Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers are currently blocking the path to the playoffs for the Royals, but both of them will be without the services of an every day player for most of the rest of the season due to the suspensions handed out yesterday. Jhonny Peralta will not be manning short for Detroit and Nelson Cruz will not roam the Rangers’ outfield. There has been speculation that this was coming ever since Ryan Braun took the first deal, but only Detroit made a move at the trade deadline in preparation for this eventuality. This has left them in a pretty good position to weather the storm while Texas looks like they might have made it a lot harder on themselves as they try to reach the playoffs.
The Tigers got in on the Jake Peavy deal and snagged Jose Iglesias who will be replacing Peralta down the stretch. Iglesias will not likely be able to replace Peralta’s bat since Jhonny has a decent amount of power for a short stop, but he should be able to improve a woeful Tigers infield defense.
Iglesias has blown through the minors in a hurry playing 17 games of rookie ball, 13 in low-A, and 57 at double-A in 2010 before starting 2011 in triple-A. By the end of 2011 he got a cup of coffee for the Red Sox. He has looked very good defensively in short stints for Boston, but he will never be a power hitter.
So far this year Jose has been useful with the bat posting a .330/.376/.409 line in 215 ABs for Boston. He doesn’t walk much and as you can see by the slugging percentage will be very batting average dependent. So far this year a .364 BABIP has made him useful at the plate, but that is not likely to continue. Still, at only 23 years old he could develop into a pretty good major leaguer. For this year his job is to try and be average at the plate and make up for that by being better than Peralta was in the field. That would make the loss of Peralta manageable for Detroit, especially since their pitching staff puts a lot of balls on the ground. Rick Porcello and Doug Fister are second and third among qualified pitchers in GB% at 57.2 and 56.6% respectively.
Now on to Texas, who did not make a move in preparation for Nelson Cruz getting suspended. We generally think of the Rangers as an offensive juggernaut, but this year that is not the case. This year they have been a very average offense (13th in the majors in runs scored), and of late they have been worse than that scoring less than 4 runs per game in July. Nelson was leading them in home runs and RBIs while being the second best hitter on the team behind Adrian Beltre.
If you look at the Ranger outfield without Cruz, it now looks pretty bleak. David Murphy had a career year last year, but so far this year is hitting .227/.286/.387 for an 80 OPS+. Craig Gentry is only moderately better, and has only a .350 slug. Leonys Martin is almost average at 95 OPS+. This means they might have to lean on Jeff Baker and Engel Beltre. Beltre is not ready and Baker’s career says that he will hurt you playing every day.
Their outfield is now in shambles, and the rest of their team isn’t much better. After signing a big off-season deal, Elvis Andrus has been horrible at the plate this year. AJ Pierzynski has not repeated last years magic, and Mitch Moreland had a huge May with 8 homers, but has since fallen on hard times posting OPSes of .622 in June and .496 in July.
Nelson Cruz’s suspension makes the offense that was already struggling even worse. Cruz was hitting .269/.330/.511, so replacing his line is nearly impossible. The Rangers did shore up their injured pitching staff by acquiring Matt Garza, but this team may be in trouble due to the lack of offense.
I still don’t like the Royal’s chances of making the playoffs, but the Rangers may have made the path a little easier. Catching Detroit is just not likely. They are too good, and have too big a lead, and they have found a replacement who can keep the loss of Peralta from being a giant blow. The most likely path to the postseason lies in the wildcard. For that to happen the Royals need to catch the Indians, Orioles, and Rangers. The loss of Cruz may have just made catching one of the three much easier, though looking up at three teams is still an uphill battle.