The American League West in 2009


In previous years, I’ve used the six divisional columns to predict records and make comments about the teams. This year, I’m debating the records part. There will still be a summary column… so I’m thinking of putting records over there if I do them.

For now… let’s take a look at the AL West. The listing of teams is in the order I’m predicting the division to finish…

I’d like to tell you there is a contest out here… and it actually may seem like there is one for the first couple of months. But the reality is that the Angels are about 5 to 10 games better than everyone else in this division, even if they have to struggle to finish there.

If they dominate early… good night… they’ll win easy and be coasting by August.

But that isn’t what I expect to see happen.

I think Oakland or Texas is going to play very well in April and May… more likely Oakland. And we’re going to hit the 40-game mark with two teams around 24 to 26 wins.

The trouble is… only California is built to maintain a 90-plus win pace. That may not mean cruise control as the July trading deadline closes and the dog days arrive, but it will mean the division lead… and I don’t expect them to give it back.

California Angels ~ Has anyone else noticed that Vladimir Guerrero isn’t Vladimir Guerrero these days? I’m not trying to be mean… I think he’s a fabulous ballplayer. But for the past couple of seasons, it seems like he has a smaller and smaller presence. I don’t know if that makes sense though.

His 141 games in 2005 was the lowest total for a season since his days in Montreal. And he pretty much puts in 600 plate appearances per year. So no worries there…

His .303/.365/27/91 for batting average, on-base percentage, home runs and runs batted in are down… but I don’t know how terribly concerned you can be about them. His highest total ever for home runs was 44, and most years in California he has hovered near 30. As to RBIs… well… that’s determined by people getting on base ahead of you as much as anything else.

So yeah… I can’t put my finger on it… and the decline of age seems on a natural course and not a worrisome course… but something doesn’t seem right with him.

And… as is my way… there is your lead in to the Angels. Nothing appears to be wrong here… and I expect them to take this division they way they normally do… but something isn’t quite right.

I may be one of the only people that feel they upgraded at the closer position.

(And I should probably clarify that.)

I do believe that based on talent alone, Francisco Rodriguez can be one of the best in the game. But there is a difference between Francisco the player and K-Rod the entertainer. And for a couple of seasons now, we have been getting more of the entertainer and less of the player. (You can go look at my Mets comments here, where I rattle off how K-Rod pulls a vanishing act in the playoffs.)

And to that end… I think Brian Fuentes is going to be just fine at the end of their bullpen. (Think of it this way… Rodriguez pitched in 76 regular season games last year. Guess how many innings he pitched. No… really… take a shot. 76? 80? 85? Try 68. Yup… the top closer in the game (all sarcasm intended) averaged less than an inning per appearance last year. 68.1 innings in 76 appearances. My point simply being that someone was pitching for the Angels before he made his one-minus inning appearance. And most of those same effective pitchers will be taking the mound on the way to getting the ball to Fuentes.)

(By the way… Papelbon, 69.1 innings in 67 appearances… Rivera, 70.2 innings in 64 appearances.)

Over 162 games… the John Lackey contract situation will be fine. (I expect his health to improve as well.) And Saunders, Weaver, and whatever pray for rain duo becomes the fourth and fifth starters will be more than enough as a rotation. (They have some injuries, so guys will be joining them as the season moves along.)

Over 162 games… Torii Hunter and Vladimir Guerrero and Bobby Abreu may not be young, but they will each contribute to a winning season.

I’m not concerned about them. They will be fine, and should just meander along until their first round opponent knocks them out of the playoffs.

Oakland A’s ~ There’s alot to like here if a few things spin the right way… so chances are that all things won’t go right, and the results will be closer to alot to be hopeful about and a future to build, but not a 2009 breakout. That said…

Orlando Cabrera and Jason Giambi? I like both of these signings for this club. Matt Holliday? It’s a bad trade only if he is absolutely, beyond belief, horrendously awful. Otherwise… if they play well and win, he’s likely a big contributor… if they play poorly and lose, he’s likely one of the best trade chips on the market in July.

Do you think we’re talking about a youth movement in Oakland? Carbera and Giambi might say no… and the addition of Nomar Garciaparra would seem to add to that total. But that’s not quite fair.

Ryan Sweeney is all of 23 years old right now. He’s also coming off a solid 2008. Most of the pitchers on the club are Sweeney’s age. There is an intriguing balance of youth and experience, which could serve them well if they can still see California in the standings when we get to Labor Day.

While I don’t see them battling for the postseason this year, the only problem I have with the A’s is this… I don’t know of Giambi, Cabrera or Garciaparra will be playing… not just for Oakland, I mean playing at all… when they do make the playoffs again. And that means for all the bargain shopping and posturing that scored Oakland these players, they’ll need to replace them. And Matt Holliday may be the first one swapped out.

Texas Rangers ~ You’ll have to answer this one for me. Let’s say everything goes perfectly for Texas. They stay healthy… get a few unexpected sources of production… maybe even make a decent trade or two. If everything goes exactly right for them, are they winning more than 85 games? Because for me… well… I don’t see it. If everything goes right for California… 92-95 wins. If everything goes right for Oakland… 90-93 wins. And if everything goes perfect in Texas… well… I see a winning record. And that’s with everything absolutely perfect.

Quick… name a Texas pitcher… starter or reliever.

Trick question… because of course you know Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla.

So let’s make it tougher. Can you name any other pitcher on their roster not named Millwood or Padilla?

Right… so I’m barely in to an analysis of Texas and already they’re out of pitchers. (At least… pitchers you may have ever heard of.)

The jokes out of the way though, I like some of what is happening here. Taylor Teagarden should develop into a solid catcher. (I’m on the Saltalamacchia doesn’t want to be a catcher forever side of the fence. Which means I’m not expecting him to be traded any time soon. Although, that appearance of not caring about catching might exactly be what gets him traded.)

Josh Hamilton has been nothing short of outstanding for them.

And in a couple of years the dead wood of Hank Blalock and the contract that is Michael Young will be gone. (I don’t personally think either of them is worthy of complete dead wood status, but you tell Texas you’ll pay their contracts and send back a player with nothing above single-A potential and I guarantee you they don’t hang up the phone. They might not make the trade, but they’ll be listening.)

By the way, Kris Benson… the Kris Benson… the Kris Benson with a Cy Young award incentive from his wife that tops anything that could possibly be in his contract… is in the Texas rotation. Yup… we’re done here.

Seattle Mariners ~ This club is about two things, and two things only…

Number one, celebrating Ken Griffey, Jr. Yup, we’re going to see him retire as a member of the Mariners. That’s nice.

And number two, huge potential for trading off most of its roster by the end of July. Or… do you think the Yankees haven’t at least looked over someone like Adrian Beltre as an option for their third base concerns?

In the end… I think Griffey will have a better year than the organization.


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