AL Notes: Semien, Orioles, Astros

For those actively searching for a player ready to assume Anthony Rendon’s former title as the game’s “Most Underrated” player, Athletics shortstop Marcus Semien is making a valid case for himself in 2019. As Martin Gallegos of MLB.com notes, Semien scored his 120th run of the season on Sunday, placing him just three runs behind Reggie Jackson 1969 record for most runs scored by an Athletic in a single season (link). Besides that possibly impending accomplishment, it’s important to note that the 28-year-old Semien has done more than just cross the plate in 2019. Among AL shortstops, his 32 homers place him 3rd, his 90 RBIs are good for 2nd, and his 7.2 WAR valuation places him behind only Houston’s Alex Bregman at his position. However you slice it, 2019 has been a banner year for the former Cal Bear, who will likely garner MVP consideration at season’s end.

Semien’s near-peerless production has been a large reason behind Oakland’s 2.0-game cushion on all Wild Card competitors. He’s likely due a sizable raise in his third trip through arbitration this offseason, as his $5.9MM salary this year represents one of baseball’s biggest bargains.

More notes from around the league on a quiet Sunday eve…

  • Yesterday, we passed along word of one dissatisfied ex-employee of Orioles GM Mike Elias’–namely, former special assignment instructor BJ Surhoff, who felt disrespected by Elias’ handling of his dismissal. Despite that bit of scuttlebutt, Elias is feeling good about his organization’s direction now that he’s had nearly a calendar year to direct its progress, as he told Roch Kubotko of MASN Sports in a wide-ranging interview (link).“When we came in here, the big league team (had) the worst record in the league last year,” Elias told Kubotko. “The farm system was ranked in the 20s…We had no real international scouting function, a minimalist analytics group. All of that’s changed. We’ve got our program going internationally. We’re signing players, we’re competing for players out there. We’re building towards a bigger analytics staff. The farm system’s taking a huge jump this year.” There are several other items of note in the article itself, among them his support of manager Brandon Hyde (who did ’Great’ in 2019, in Elias’ estimation) and his expectations for the club in 2020.
  • The Astros were finally able to pop the corks on champagne bottles that had remained on ice through Friday and Saturday, as Sunday saw the team capture its third consecutive AL West title. In a well-written piece from the Houston Chronicle’s Chandler Rome, manager A.J. Hinch credits mentality–not the team’s embarrassment of stars–as the source behind Houston’s success (link). “We just keep on keeping a winning culture, a winning mindset. We show up ready to play every day,” Hinch told Rome. “It’s the thing I’m most proud of. We just stay current in the moment.” Also of note in Rome’s article is a rundown of the club’s utter dominance of its AL West opponents in 2019; the club has won 32 out of its last 38 games at home against AL West competitors, en route to an overall 51-19 record against divisional foes this year.