Wednesday, April 1, 2009
AL West Preview
This should be my easiest preview as there are only 4 teams in the AL West, as opposed to the bear that was forecasting the 6 team NL Central. Despite the size of the division however, I find myself struggling with the AL West preview. I am sick and tired of seeing the Angels make the playoffs only to lose in the first round. I would like to see somebody new step up in this division. Therefore I am going to make a few bold predictions in the AL West. Injuries will devastate the Angels, the Mariners will play to their potential, and the A's and Rangers will be surprise dark horses in the AL West. In all, it will make for a very interesting and exciting AL West race.
With Ervin Santana and John Lackey both out for a month or so already the Angels are not off to a good start this season. Moreover, they lost their big bat in Mark Texeira who propelled them to a regular season cakewalk last summer. These three losses leave the Angels with an aging middle of the order: Vlad The Impaler, Bob A-brew and Toriiiiii Hunter, and a less than stellar rotation featuring Jered Weaver and Joe Saunders as the aces. If they get off to a bad start of the season they could be in trouble. It's always tough to know what to expect with pitchers returning from injuries too. The Angels are hoping for breakout years from Howie Kendrick and Mike Napoli as well. This would be a huge boost to a team that's plan every year seems to be to sign another outfielder. The bullpen is still solid despite the loss of Frankie Rodriguez, and Scott Shields should once again this year be the king of holds. On the surface, there isn't much to show that the Angels won't win the division again. But their age, injury concerns, offseason additions by other teams, and the fact that I don't really like them has me thinking that they are due for a down year this year. They will go about 85-77 and finish second in the AL West.
The Mariners are my pick to finish third in the AL West this year. I think that their two studs King Felix and Erik Bedard will both have better seasons this year; Bedard coming back from injury and King Felix still going through growing pains as an ace pitcher. Behind the two starters are a couple of capable starters in Carlos Silva and Jarrod Washburn who could each potentially win 10-12 games, making for a decent rotation. The 'Ners bullpen is very unproven and could cost them a few games over the course of the season. Trading J.J. "total" Putz seems like a big loss right now, but the Mariners believe in Brandon Morrow as their closer of the future so we will see what happens. The Mariners lineup looks right again with Ken Griffey's son in the lineup. They have good speed with Ichiro and Endy Chavez at the top of the order, but could use a little more pop. Hopefully Griffey will be rejuvenated in Seattle, Adrian Beltre can find his power stroke (roids) again, and Jose Lopez can step up to provide that middle of the order power for the Nautical Wheelers. Russell Branyan is a gigantic void at first base, look for the M's to bring someone up mid-season. The Fishermen were just awful last year, prompting them to bring in a new manager. I think they turn it around and finish at or just under .500 this year.
The Rangers. Oh boy. Every year the Rangers have the same problem, no pitching. This year is no different. With Phillies cast-offs Kevin "Thrillwood" and Vicente Padilla "flotilla" as their top two pitchers, don't count on much success in Texas. By year's end I think Brandon McCarthy will be their best pitcher. They do have a former Rookie of the Year on their staff too with Jason Jennings. Since his rookie campaign he has only disappointed though, rocking an ERA over 8 last year. The bullpen is pretty good with "Everyday" Eddie Guardado, C.J. "Parker" Wilson, Derrick Turnbow and Frank Francisco closing it out. Frank is short for Franklin by the way. I was really hoping his name was actually Francis or Francisco Francisco. The problem will inevitably be getting the ball to the bullpen with a lead. The only way the Rangers will be able to do this will be by outslugging the competition. With boppers Josh Hamilton, Chris Davis, Michael Young, uniform sewers nightmare Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Hank Blalock and up and comer Nelson Cruz this could be possible. However, they will not be able to do this every game and the Rangers will suffer. I look for them to finish right around where they did last year about 10 games under .500.
Wesley Mareo is going to love this. I like the Oakland A's to win the AL West this year. The A's vastly improved their lineup in the offseason by adding Matt Holliday "celebrate", Jason Giambi (who can finally grow back his power locks), Orlando Cabrera (who always seems to be on a winning team), and NOMAR!!!!!! Add those guys to Travis Buck, Jack Cust (two great white guy names) and major wild card Eric Chavez and you've got yourself a lineup. I can honestly admit that I have never heard of anyone in Oakland's starting rotation, but has that ever stopped them before? Oakland has a seemingly endless supply of great pitchers that come from the minors and dominate. I expect them to have some live arms coming up this year, and hopefully Justin Duchscherer can successfully return from injury to guide the young pitchers along. Brad Ziegler and the rest of the bullpen will need to have a big year now that Joey Devine is visiting Dr. James Andrews, the equivalent of the blue screen of death for a computer, but I think they can take advantage of the huge park they play in. Call me crazy, but I see Oakland finishing around 86-76 to win a wild race in the mediocre AL West.
Now, we can let the discussion begin.