AL West At A Glance

The Texas Rangers have been to back to back World Series (lost them both) and experts think they are a smart pick to get back there for a third straight time.  Does this mean that the rest of the American League should lay down and play dead?  Does anyone in the AL West even have a reason to continue playing this season?  Who can stop the Texas Rangers from getting an opportunity to become this generations Atlanta Braves?  Well let’s take a look at the AL West as it stands a month and half into the season and get the answers to these questions.


The Oakland Athletics 19-17  4 GB

GM Billy Beane shocked the baseball world by signing highly sought after Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes in the off season.  A lot of clubs were drooling over the 5 star athlete when he escaped Cuba and no one had the A’s as his landing spot.  By guaranteeing him free agency after only 4 years, Cespedes signed with the Athletics.  Beane followed up by signing Manny Rameriz to an incentive laden contract to come out of retirement after serving his 50 game suspension for once again violating the MLB drug policy.  The A’s have fallen on hard times after a great run in the early 2000s after Billy Beane embraced sabermetrics.  This led to the hit movie Moneyball coming out this past year starring Brad Pitt.  I highly suggest watching the movie.  While Oakland continues to fight with the Giants about potentially getting a new stadium and moving to San Jose, the A’s have been stuck with poor ticket sales and a bad stadium.  This is the main reason that the signing of Cespedes caught everyone off guard.  Who knew the A’s could go out and spend money on free agents instead of just losing good players to free agency?  Anyway, the Athletics are off to a good start.  Cespedes has wowed with his power but has to find a way to make consistent contact.  He is currently on the 15 day DL due to an injury to his hand.  Josh Reddick has been a great addition for the A’s as well this year after spending last season in Boston.  He is leading the team with a .289 batting average and 9 home runs.  He is second to Cespedes (21) with 20 RBI.  Add in his .889 OPS and Billy Beane found another gem.  Tommy Milone, technically still a rookie after getting 5 starts for the Nationals last season, has been a key contributor to the pitching staff with 5 wins on the young season.  Brandon McCarthy has been a tough luck 3-3 so far with an ERA of 2.56 which is almost 1.5 runs better than Milone.  If Oakland can keep getting occasional strong showings from Bartolo Colon, 3-3 with an ERA just under 4.00, they can continue competing for one of the 2 wild card spots but they will need Cespedes, Reddick and Manny to have dominating second halves if they want to overtake the Rangers for the division crown.

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Seattle Mariners 16-21  7.5 GB

It seems like an eternity since the Mariners were led by Lou Piniella, Ken Griffey Junior, ARod and Randy Johnson and winning the division every season.  While it hasn’t been an eternity, it has definitely been a long time since the Mariners were a threat to go to the playoffs.  Now the Mariners are known for Ichiro, King Felix and losing.  So far, 2012 doesn’t seem to be much different.  The year started off with Seattle trading Michael Pineda to the Yankees for Jesus Montero.  The Yankees got hosed on the deal as Pineda didn’t make it out of spring training before being lost for the season with a shoulder issue.  While the Mariners claim they had no idea he had anything wrong with him, Pineda did have a horrible second half of his rookie season which could have raised some warning flags.  The Yankees took a risk and it blew up in their face.  We’ll have to wait and see if Jesus Montero becomes the next Edgar Martinez or the next flash in the pan before the Yankees decide to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge.  Maybe Pineda will return to dominant form next year if his injury heals correctly and there will be no hard feelings in the Bronx.  But lets talk about who is still on the team.  Age is finally starting to catch up to Ichiro.  Entering his 12th season in MLB, Ichiro is now 38 years old.  Last season was the first year in his MLB career where he didn’t collect 200 hits or have an average over .300.  This year appears to be more of the same as he is currently hitting .285.  He’s closing in on 2500 hits and would be closing in on 4000 hits if he had played his entire career in the US.  It will be interesting to see how far past 2600 he can end this season at and have a chance to play until he’s 40 and get to 3000.  It would be an incredible feat to play 14 years and get 3000 hits.  The aforementioned Montero is currently hitting .262 with 5 homers and 17 RBI.  I’m sure the Mariners were hoping for a bit more production out of him by this point.  Dustin Ackley (.248 2 10) and Justin Smoak (.214 4 12) have been underachievers so far as well.  The pitching has been very good so far which makes the impotent offense that much more disappointing.  King Felix is 3-2 with an ERA of 2.29 and the pitching staff as a whole has an ERA of 3.85.  An ERA under 4.00 in the AL is very good.  However, a lot of that ERA is due to the bullpen.  If the young talent on offense can start to be more consistent and if they can add another good SP to join King Felix and Vargas, the Mariners could be in the playoff hunt in a couple of years.  Perhaps they should go back to their old school logo which is much cooler than the new one.  It worked wonders for the Orioles so far!

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The Los Angeles Angels   15-21   8 GB

The Angels are an enigma wrapped in a riddle.  They came out of nowhere to sign Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson this off season.  They have finally gotten Kendry Morales back after he broke his leg in that freak accident while celebrating a walk off home run at home plate two seasons ago.  Baseball experts were drooling at the kinds of numbers that Erik Aybar and Howie Kendrick could put up hitting in front of the great Albert Pujols.  Instead, the Angels have shown that sometimes $300M is just better spent throwing it down a well and never seeing it again.  The first complaint I have about this team is their identity crisis.  When I was growing up, they were the California Angels.  Then they became the Anaheim Angels.  Now they are officially the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  What the hell is that?  Really?  Why not the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, California so you cover all the old names in one clusterbomb?  I don’t think anyone expects Albert Pujols to continue hitting .197.  Who had Pujols sitting at 1 HR after 36 games in the AL?  Who had Howie Kendrick leading the team in batting with an average of .280?  Mark Trumbo leading in HRs w/ 6 and RBI w/ 16?  Torii Hunter leading in OBP at .328?  How in the world is Erik Aybar sitting at .193 with an OBP of .220?  The offense has just been terrible.  It’s a miracle they have even won 15 games!  Jered Weaver threw a no hitter and then gave up 8 runs in 3 innings to the Rangers this week.  He does lead the team in wins (5), ERA (2.83) and strikeouts (49).  The big money acquisition of C.J. Wilson has netted them a 4-3 record with an ERA of 3.42.  Decent but not great.  If it weren’t for Pujols and Aybar, the biggest bust so far of the season would be Dan Haren with a 1-4 record and an ERA of 4.41 which is still better than Ervin Santana’s 1-6 record with an ERA of 5.09.  Words can’t even begin to express how much of a dog the Angels have been this year.  I fully expect them to put together a run at some point but I don’t seem them making the playoffs now even with the extra wild card team being added this season.  They have just put themselves into too deep of a hole and still haven’t begun climbing out of it yet.  They’re going to need some of these to turn their season around:

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The Texas Rangers 23-13  1st Place

As long as the Rangers can avoid the injury bug, they should be able to easily coast to the AL West division title.  Most of the reason is because they are a damn good team.  Part of the reason is because they biggest threat to the division title has wet the bed so far.  You can’t talk about the Texas Rangers without first mentioning the week that Josh Hamilton just had.  In one week’s time, he hit 9 home runs and 15 RBI.  In one game alone he had 4 HRs and 8 RBI.  On the season he has 18 HRs, 44 RBI, a .400 batting average, .456 OBP and an OPS of 1.310.  That is Babe Ruth like 36 games into the season.  The Rangers have been doing this with Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, Mike Napoli and Nelson Cruz all doing BELOW their expectations.  Not that they are having bad years so far but they have not put up the numbers of which they are capable so far.  While Hamilton will definitely regress a little and come back to reality, when he does, the Rangers have 4 other players to pick up the slack.  While they might not put up the same kind of numbers as the 1927 Yankees Murderers Row, they are as close to a modern day version as it comes.  On the pitching side, Yu Darvish has been phenomenal thus far.  He’s 5-1 with 51 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.84.  The Rangers received some flak when they decided to pursue the Japanese superstar instead of just keeping C.J. Wilson.  They have an ERA of 3.34 as an entire staff which is just unbelievable especially playing their home games in a launching pad of a stadium.  Of course, it hasn’t completely heated up to summer temperatures in the Big D so that number is bound to go up.  The Rangers have to be pleased to see very little home runs being given up if you remove the 11 gopher balls that Colby Lewis has served up already.  While the Rangers might not make it back to the World Series, the season is still young and anything can happen in the playoffs, they are going to be treating a lot of teams along the way like Nolan Ryan did Robin Ventura:






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