American League West: All-Star Break Reality Check and Predictions
Previously in the Predictions series, we discussed both the National League (as a whole) and American League East post-All-Star break predictions. It is time to move westward and look into what will happen throughout the hot summer heat in the A.L. West.
American League West
Overview: At the top of this division lies the Texas Rangers. Sitting with a comfortable 5.5 game lead over the Angels, the two-time reigning A.L. champions are vengefully seeking a World Series win. They have an elite and well rounded pitching staff. Yu Darvish has been a more than pleasant surprise, becoming the Rangers ace in one fell swoop. The rookie pitching phenom from Japan has a 10-6 record with a 3.96 ERA and 121 Ks. The rest of the rotation features several talented young arms (and Roy Oswalt) who have proven that they can get the job done. Joe Nathan has come back to Minnesota-form and found his All-Star groove with Texas. The offense features run scoring potential throughout (well, except for the C spot), and makes any opposing pitcher shudder with just a glance at the lineup card. While there is no doubt this team is stacked in both pitching and hitting, there is always room to improve. In order to distance themselves from Oakland and LA, the Rangers must remain healthy. While Feliz, Lewis, and Moreland are all on the DL for 15 days or more, they had the backups necessary to keep the Wins coming. However, they will not be looking too fly if another starter gets hurt. They need to move Napoli back to the C spot once Mitch Moreland returns to provide more pop from 1B. GM Ron Washington will also need to step it up. His managerial decisions come playoff time have come into question several times during the past two years. To sum it all up, their Key to Victory is staying healthy.
The Angels have been playing tag with the Rangers all year long with regard to the A.L. West crown. Their blockbuster offseason acquisition of Albert Pujols (10-year, 240 mil) locked up a much needed power shortage. All-Stars Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo have given them a much brighter near-future.Veteran Torii Hunter has had a resurgence in his bat and is looking at another .275+ BA and 20 HR season. Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson have been excellent top of the rotation SPs. Them, along with electric closer Ernesto Frieri, have kept the Angels in the race for the division title. But that is where it stops. The above average hitters in the infield: Kendrick, Callaspo,and Aybar have all been flailing. The back of the rotation and middle relief have also been awful. The internal solution is to hope that injured Dan Haren can return to All-Star form in the second half. GM Jerry Dipoto is also very agreeable to this idea. “I’ll go on the record as saying — and I say this with some degree of confidence — a healthy Dan Haren is the best acquisition we can make at this point,” said Dipoto. As for any free agent acquisitions before the July 31st deadline, they are looking to get a solid starter (Greinke, Dempster, Hamels, and a few others) and possibly another bat. Once Iannetta returns from the DL, the C spot should be shored up; and a run for either the division crown or one of the Wild Card spots could be within reach. Their Keys to Victory are a resurgence to form from their infielders, an acquisition of a solid starter, and a return of Dan Haren.
I don’t think you could be more disappointed than the Seattle Mariners are this year. Looking at the long way up to the Rangers, the Mariners realize that the playoffs are not exactly in their near future. Disappointments in 1B Justin Smoak, C Jesus Montero, and 2B Dustin Ackley leave Seattle fans pondering about their future. Ichiro’s declining OPS indicate a change in batting approach; whether he will ever be able to turn contact swings as cleanly as before is very much in doubt. Figgins and Ryan have been below average. Saunders, Olivo, and Seager have all been serviceable. When it comes to pitching, chaos ensues. Hernandez, Millwood, and Furbush have been the only bright spots in this pitching staff. Brandon League is inconsistent and is not closer-material. But what can Mariners fans look forward to? Young pitchers Blake Beaven and Erasmo Ramirez have high ceilings and will make impacts after the break. Tom Wilhelmsen looks promising as the closer for the next couple of years. Relievers Shawn Kelley and Josh Kinney will provide solid middle relief in the pen. Most importantly to a team likes this, the organization’s top prospects (specifically, flamethrower Danny Hultzen) look very capable in bringing the Mariners back to contention.
The Oakland Athletic fans of 2012 should be very excited about this year and the years to come. While they are sitting 8 games back, there is not much to worry about. All they need is more production from their offense; in particular, SS and 3B (Cliff Pennington/Brandon Hicks and Brandon Inge respectively). They have great talent in the OF, 1B, 2B, and it can be said that Kurt Suzuki is more than passable at catcher. Their rotation has been more than impressive. All pitchers boast a sub-3.80 ERA, and the bullpen is probably one of the best in the league. That’s what makes this second half exciting for an A’s fan. They have Bret Anderson coming off the DL, with Brandon McCarthy soon to follow. Oakland will most likely move some of their pitching depth for production from the left side of the infield. If they can score from other sources than Cespedes and Reddick, the A’s are more than good to go for at least a Wild Card slot. Their Key to Victory is more production from the offense, specifically the infield.
American League West Division Winner Prediction: Texas Rangers
Reason: Of all of these teams, the Rangers are the most stacked and able to win now. They need no serious adjustments and have veterans at every position (except for their ace – see Yu Darvish). The offense can be explosive at times and they have an ever-growing need to win this year. The Angels and A’s will fight it out for the Wild Card spots, and its very possible they can both get them. The Mariners will continue to try and find a niche (internally or externally) and create a contender out of themselves in the years to come.
Stay tuned for the final article in the Predictions series: American League Central: All-Star Break Reality Check and Predictions.
Thoughts? Leave a comment below, and follow us through email, Facebook, or Twitter.
Posted on July 17, 2012, in 2012 Predictions, Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers and tagged 2012 Predictions, American League, baseball, Los Angeles Angels, managerial decisions, Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers, west overview. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.