Over the next few days I’m going to attempt a prediction of the 6 different MLB divisions, because everyone loves some good preseason prognostication. I’m going to start out west.
The AL West is a very intriguing division to me. I don’t think the Angels and Mariners will be as good as people think and I believe the A’s and Rangers will exceed expectations.
1. Los Angeles Angels (89 wins)
I still think the Angels will win the division, but I don’t think they’ll necessarily run away with it. Losing Escobar for the year and Lackey for a month will hurt and that was almost enough for me to move them from first place. But bottom line, even without those 2 guys they have the deepest rotation (Weaver, Garland, Saunders, Moseley, Santana with prospect Adenhart an option, too). And once Lackey returns, he can replace whoever is performing the worst. The early outlook is good for the Cabrera-Garland trade.
I don’t love the Angel offense. Hunter will turn out to be a bad sign I think, but for this year, he should do alright. They still have too many mediocre outfielders. What does Garret Anderson have left? Ditto Gary Mathews, Jr. Even Guerrero seems due for a regression. Their infield has question marks and injury concerns. Can Aybar or Wood emerge at short? Can Kotchman stay healthy?
Of course, when you have the prospects and the finances the Angels do, you can fix a lot of things on the fly. So they must remain the favorites.
2. Oakland A’s (86 wins)
Maybe I have too much faith in Billy Beane, but I think the A’s will surprise this year, despite being in rebuilding mode. The A’s have young talent and most of the veterans have all been underachieving: Harden, Chavez, Crosby, etc. It was just a year or two ago that people were picking them for the World Series with Crosby MVP and Harden the Cy Young. It would seem those players have suffered through a “worst case scenario” recently. I’m betting on some sort of bounce back.
3. Seattle Mariners (80 wins)
I think Seattle is the most overrated team in baseball. People tend to overvalue pitching, particularly top starters and closers, when it comes to figuring out the regular season. Sure, in a short series, no one would want to face the Mariners with Bedard and King Felix at the top of the rotation and Putz closing. But that’s not the recipe to make the playoffs.
Sure Bedard and Felix are both lights out when they’re on, but neither one has ever pitched 200 innings in a season before. The chances of both of them staying healthy is slim; trust me, they were both on my fantasy team last year. The Mariners absolutely must get 400 innings from them to compete and I don’t think they will. After those 2, the rotation is pretty weak. Washburn and Bautista have experience but little else. Carlos Silva wins the award for this year’s grossly overpaid innings eater. He’s just a year removed from a season in which he allowed 38 HRs, 119 ERs, and struck out only 70 in 180 IPs! Yet Seattle gives him $40 million over 4 years. Seattle does have a good defense, so maybe that will make the sinkerballer slightly more effective, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
Offensively, the Mariners are just dismal. Think of this: with the exception of Melky Cabrera, every other projected Yankee starter would bat cleanup for the Mariners. Every single one. But yeah, why don’t we pencil them in for over 90 wins.
Also remember, last year’s Mariners were a mirage. Their run differential suggests they were a 79 win team last year – they allowed more runs than they scored.
And let’s face it, based on the moves GM Bavasi has made in the past few years (the terrible Vidro and Ramirez trades to go along with the awful signings) the Mariners don’t deserve to be a playoff team.
4. Texas Rangers (75 wins)
Texas is a team on the upswing I think, believe it or not. GM Daniels has done a good job restocking the farm system and the Rangers have had some good hitters for awhile now. Of course pitching is still the problem and most their talent is still a ways away. But I’d expect them to compete in the West within the next couple years.