Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Look at the AL West

Well, It's been a while since I did a strictly baseball post, with the NFL draft taking up most he last month, but today I wanted to get back to the diamond and talk a little AL West. Reason being is that it's an odd division in that only 3.5 games separate the 1st and 4th place teams. I'll do a small, team-by-team capsule of where each team is at as we get ready to enter June, in one of the most fairly matched divisions in the game:

Texas Rangers, 25-23 W-L: The Rangers are getting by with that great offense and one starting pitcher in particular who's become a Cy Young candidate out of nowhere in Alexi Ogando (5-0, 1.81, 43 K's, 0.87 WHIP). Outside of him and C.J. Wilson (4-3, 3.42 era, 60 k's), the rotation has been ordinary, though they do have Brandon Webb extremely close in rehab (threw 7 innings Monday night in A-ball). Ogando though has been the man, he's actually filled Cliff Lee's large shoes while Derek Holland struggles. I can't think of what they'll do if they get a healthy Webb back in June though, with that offense. They've also won so far on the Adrian Beltre signing (.257/10/28, gold glove defense at 3rd), who was essentially signed to help the defense and take Vlad Guerreo's spot in the lineup. Now that the Rangers have Mr. All-Everything, Josh Hamilton, back I expect them to slowly separate from the pack. Worried about JHam's health? First 2 games back: 2 multi-hit games, a homer and 4 RBI!

Los Angeles Angels, 25-24: The Angels have been decimated by injury, otherwise they'd be one heckuva an opponent for Texas. Torri Hunter looks like he's 50 years old all the sudden, and their starting pitching is so night and day it's ridiculous (mainly Ervin Santana). Eric Aybar is having an amazing year at shortstop so far, hitting over .300 with 2 homers and 12 steals. He and Howie Kendrick, .322/7/18/ 30 runs scored, have been the only reason they aren't the southern version of the Mariners. They still could turn things around with Dan Haren, Jared Weaver and the re-invented Joel Piniero starting ballgames, but they need Bobby Abreu to come around, Santana to revert to last years success and some health and they'll be in Ok shape, but I don't see them taking on Texas with all that offense and pitching and "lights-out" closer, Neftali Feliz. Not unless they make a move to get another guy or two who can hit 25-30 homers. Right now, they don't have that guy, though Marc Trumbo is having a nice rookie year.

Seattle Mariners, 23-25: The only reason the Mariners aren't 10 or more games below .500 right now is because of two starting pitchers in particular.King Felix Hernandez (5 wins) and Rookie-of-the-Year shoe in Michael Pineda (6 wins) are the leaders of an otherwise dim situation in the Pacific Northwest. With Pineda's emergence, I'd consider dealing the "King" for 2 legit bats that can help out an offense going nowhere. That said, their starting staff as a whole is actually solid, and I really like lefty Jason Vargas as a #3 guy. Problem with them, is they'd be better having Tacoma's lineup come up and hit for them, outside of a few guys. Ichiro is Ichiro, but even he's starting to show signs of aging (0 HR, .292 avg. through May 24). The steady guy in the lineup for Seattle has been rookie Justin Smoak (.269/6/26) and why he hasn't yet been joined by fellow rookie and top prospect, Dustin Ackley, is beyond me, especially the way he's swinging down in AAA with 7 big flies and 23 RBI. They need that production in Seattle... Chone Figgins has been an absolute bust in Seattle after the money they gave him that 4 Yr/$36M deal last winter to steal him away from LAA.

Oakland Athletics, 23-26: Finally, we get to the fourth place A's, the team I had picked to win the division back in March. I knew they'd pitch, but I didn't foresee this poor of an offense, and certainly didn't expect Andrew Baily to be out the first 1/4 of the year. The team's new adds, outside of Josh Willingham who leads the team in homers and RBI, but is only hitting .230, have been a mess. David DeJesus, a lifetime .300 hitter, is hitting .232, Hideki Matsui is hitting just .236 with 3 homers and don't even get me started on the infield. They have, by far, the worst offensive infield in baseball. Their combined infield has 6 homers and is hitting under .200, and it's almost June folks. That's how bad things are in Oakland, and I think it's waring on the pitchers. You wouldn't know it though by looking at Trevor Cahil, Gio Gonzalez and Tyson Ross. Brett Anderson and Brandon McCarthy look a little rattled though, as they've been pitching through some horrible luck. I have no doubt Anderson will be just fine, but McCarthy now has the stress fracture and it could hamper the 1-4 pitcher all year long.... It doesn't matter though, only way the A's make a run at Texas and LA is if they call up 3-4 guys who succeed and maybe make a deal or 2 in order to sort of re-make their lineup. Jemile Weeks is ready at 2nd!

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