I started doing these division by division baseball previews a while ago, planning to space them out a bit. Then my computer crashed. Then it took two weeks to get a new one. So this is the inaugural post from my shiny, new HP laptop. The typos will probably increase, so watch out for that. Today we’re going to take a look at the AL West. Check out the AL East and the AL Central.
Last year’s AL West went to the LA Angels by a slim 21 games. In fact, the Angels were the only one of the four teams to finish with a record above .500. They look to be the odds on favorite to repeat their ’08 success despite the losses of Mark Teixeira and Francisco Rodriguez in free agency. The team still boasts Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter, along with a mix of highly regarded prospects like Brandon Wood and Kendry Morales. The also added the very capable bat of Bobby Abreu to play left field.
To go along with their impressive hitting, the Angels also have the best rotation with John Lackey, Ervin Santana, Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders and either Dustin Moseley or Nick Adenhart rounding out the staff. The bullpen will see a drop off in saves without K-Rod, but the Angels acquired Brian Fuentes and have a mini K-Rod in Jose Arredondo. I think they’ll be fine there. I’ve made my feelings about Rodriguez known before. Barring massive letdown or injuries, the Angels should win this division again.
The Texas Rangers have always been one of those teams that I kind of root for. It seems like they’re never good but they have players who can just rip the cover off the ball. They haven’t won the division since 1999 and have never been past the divisional round of the playoffs (0-3, falling to the Yankees all three times). A run down of their high-OPS player reads like a who’s who of hitters: Ian Kinsler, Mark Teixeira, Ivan Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez, and Jose Canseco. Over that same time period their list of lowest ERA pitchers reads like this: Vicente Padilla, Ryan Drese, John Thomson, Aaron Sele, Rick Helling, Ken Hill and Roger Pavlik. Not exactly a list that strikes fear into the heart of even the worst JV baseball teams. This year should be no different.
Their lineup boasts some impressive hitters like Josh Hamilton, who put on a show in last year’s Home Run Derby, Ian Kinsler, Michael Young. Their rotation, however, is just not that good. In addition to Kevin Millwood and Padilla, their final three sports will be filled by very, very young pitchers. They have arguably the best farm system in baseball, but that won’t help them this year. Look out for the Rangers in the future, though, with Neftali Feliz and Elvis Andrus.
The Oakland A’s are an enigma to me. I don’t know what to think of them. They acquired Matt Holliday from the Rockies, signed Jason Giambi and Orlando Cabrera so it seems like they’re gearing up for a run for the playoffs. But then I look at the rotation and see Dana Eveland, Sean Gallagher, and Dallas Braden. That’s not a playoff rotation. More than likely, they’ll look to trade Holliday and maybe Giambi at the deadline for some prospects and build for the future, again. I just really don’t follow their strategy, since they gave up a host of young talent for Holliday. This team may finish second in the division, but I think it will be a distant second.
Best case scenario, Holliday puts up Coors-type numbers and wins AL MVP, Travis Buck comes into his own and Jason Giambi plays like it’s 1999. Eric Chavez finally gets healthy and plays. Justin Duchscherer repeats his 2.54 ERA and the rest of the rotation outperforms all year. That’s only way they’re making the playoffs.
Finally we have the Seattle Mariners. The 2008 version finished 61-101. They were the definition of underachievers. They had just acquired Erik Bedard and were poised to make a run at a World Series. Instead, they’ll have the second overall pick in the upcoming draft. Their lineup doesn’t look a whole lot different than last year’s, but there was one notable addition. Ken Griffey Jr. will be making his home-coming to the house that he built. It will be fun to see Jr. back in a Mariner uniform.
Felix Hernandez heads their rotation; he’ll be a year older and more experienced, so maybe he can have that breakout season that everyone has been waiting for. Bedard will try not to suck and gain back a hint of respectability. Another interesting name to watch will be Brandon Morrow. It will be his first full year in a starting role. Morrow is the pitcher that Mariners took instead of Tim Lincecum and we all know how that turned out.
This team really shouldn’t be this bad, but they didn’t change enough from last year’s team which lost 101 games. Ichiro and Beltre are back. Jose Lopez is a year older and Kenji Johjima won’t be nearly as bad as he was. I still just don’t see them contending.
The 2009 AL West will finish like this: