Monday, March 8, 2010

Angels will have tough time staying on top of West; Mariners most improved

Los Angeles Angels

2009: 97-65 1st place

Key Players

Torii Hunter- CF .299 22 Hrs 90 RBIs

Erick Aybar- SS .312 5 Hrs 58 RBIs 70 Runs

Howie Kendrick- 2B .291 10 Hrs 61 RBIs

Jered Weaver- SP/RH 211 IPs 16-8 3.75 ERA 174 Ks 66 BBs

Joe Saunders- SP/RH 186 IPs 16-7 4.60 ERA 101 Ks 64 BBs

Key Additions

Fernando Rodney- RP/RH

Hideki Matsui- DH

Matsui is an addition with a lot on his shoulders. He will be expected to fill the void of Vladimir Guerrero, and he will bat clean up. He hit 28 homeruns and had 90 RBIs for the world champion New York Yankees last year. Guerrero had been on a steady decline since he had four straight 100 RBI seasons. The other key addition, Rodney, will be asked to fill a void in the middle of the bullpen. In order to do so, he will need to get his walks down. He walked 41 while striking out 61 last year, but he did save 37 out of 38 games as well. The numbers suggests he either had big leads, or he put himself in trouble and was able to get out of it.

Key Subtractions

Vladimir Guerrero- DH

John Lackey- SP/RH

Chone Figgins- 3B

Guerrero’s absence won’t be felt as much as Figgins. Figgins had 114 runs scored last year, and he is one of the best leadoff hitters in the game. Aybar will need to step his game up to replace him. Also, with Lackey gone, their pitching staff lacks a true ace. He will be missed, especially if they need to break a losing streak.

Stats breakdown

Pitching 4

Offense 3

Defense 4

Overall 11

The Angels lost key pieces, and the other teams in the division have added key pieces. Figgins and Lackey will not be able to be replaced, so the Angels will need several players to try and fill the voids. The division isn’t theirs to win this year. They will need exceptional play and consistent starting pitching all year. The race will be decided in the final weeks, but it doesn’t seem like the Angels have what it takes yet. They may need to make a big midseason acquisition.

Oakland Athletics

2009: 75-87 last place

Key Players

Justin Duchscherer SP/RH 141.2 IPs 10-8 2.54 ERA 95 Ks 34 BBs

Dallas Braden SP/LH 136.2 IPs 8-9 3.89 ERA 81 Ks 42 BBs

Jack Cust DH .240 25 Hrs 70 RBIs

Rajai Davis CF .305 3 Hrs 48 RBIs 41 SBs

Kurt Suzuki C .274 15 Hrs 88 RBIs

Key Additions

Ben Sheets SP/RH

Sheets was picked up to give the Athletics a potential ace. If he stays healthy, he can give 16-17 wins. He will also be able to tutor the other young pitchers on the staff. He is a decent pick up for a young team.

Key Subtractions

Nomar Garciaparra 1B

Adam Kennedy 2B

The Athletics are going to go young this year, but they will miss Kennedy’s production at the top of the order.

Stats breakdown

Pitching 2

Offense 2

Defense 3

Overall 7

The Athletics are at the bottom of the pack in the division. Sheets will give them a boost, and they will compete with the division early. The young players aren’t ready to be in it during September, however. They need to score more runs for their young pitchers, and they do not have the power to do so.

Seattle Mariners

2009: 85-77 3rd place

Key Players

Ichiro Suzuki RF .352 11 Hrs 46 RBIs 88 Runs

Felix Hernandez SP/RH 238.2 IPs 19-5 2.49 ERA 217 Ks 71 BBs

Franklin Gutierrez CF .283 18 Hrs 70 RBIs

Ken Griffey Jr DH .214 19 Hrs 57 RBIs

Ryan Rowland-Smith SP/LH 96.1 IPs 5-4 3.74 ERA 52 Ks 27 BBs

Key Additions

Chone Figgins 3B

Cliff Lee SP/LH

Milton Bradley LF

Figgins is going to make the Mariners’ top of the order one of the best. He joins Suzuki, and the middle of the order will have plenty of opportunities to see inflated RBI numbers. Bradley is one of the fortunate players, but he will need to play and put all of his baggage behind him. The Mariners don’t have anything to really lose by giving him a try. Lee will be a huge addition at the top of the rotation. He will make the Mariners a contender with Hernandez as the ace. Lee was 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in over 40 innings during the postseason last year.

Key Subtractions

Adrian Beltre 3B

Beltre had a down year with injuries last season. The Mariners upgraded with Figgins, but the Beltre power numbers of old was missed last year. If Gutierrez or Bradley have great years, Beltre will be a distant memory.

Stats breakdown

Pitching 4

Offense 4

Defense 5

Overall 13

The Mariners have upgraded considerably, and Lee and Hernandez will be devastating to opponents. The lineup has Figgins and Suzuki at the top, and the middle of the order will see more chances to drive in runs because of them. With the additions, the Mariners will be in the race for the division, and they will be the team to beat down the stretch.

Texas Rangers

2009: 87-75 2nd place

Key Players

Josh Hamilton LF .268 10 Hrs 54 RBIs

Ian Kinsler 2B .253 31 Hrs 86 RBIs 101 Runs

Michael Young 3B .322 22 Hrs 68 RBIs

Scott Feldman SP/RH 189.2 IPs 17-8 4.08 ERA 113 Ks 65 BBs

Tommy Hunter SP/RH 112 IPs 9-6 4.10 ERA 64 Ks 33 BBs

Key Additions

Vladimir Guerrero DH

Rich Harden SP/RH

The Rangers are hoping Guerrero will be good enough to boost Hamilton’s numbers. Guerrero’s production dipped the last few years with the Angels, and the Rangers will need him to be the RBI machine he was four years ago. Harden is a nice addition to the pitching staff. He had 171 strikeouts for the Chicago Cubs last year, which fits in well with the Rangers.

Key Subtractions

Kevin Millwood SP/RH

Ivan Rodriguez RP/RH

The Rangers lose their ace of last season, and they lose out on their veteran catcher. The young staff will miss his game calling skills. The pitching may be worse off because of the subtractions.

Stats breakdown

Pitching 3

Offense 3

Defense 3

Overall 9

The Rangers had a very good year last season, exceeding everyone’s expectations. However, they lost their ace, and they have decided to rebuild with some young talent. They still have a decent offense, and they will be able to compete with the Angels and Mariners, especially if the new owners splurge by the trade deadline. The problem will lie with the consistency. The Rangers staff just isn’t as good as the Angels or Mariners to win the division.

Final AL West beakdown

Champion: Seattle Mariners

The Mariners have many upgrades, and the Angels lost some key pieces. It won’t be easy, but the Mariners will have the better pitching down the stretch, and the offense will start to score runs in bunches with Figgins and Suzuki reaching base for the middle of the order. The Angels will miss a true ace, and the Rangers will need to upgrade at several positions. If the Mariners can have a winning record within their division, they will easily take the crown and knock the Angels from the top of the pedestal. Don’t think Mike Scioscia will have the Angels lying down, however.

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