AL West Preview

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Another one of these? Believe it or not, there’s another two on the way after this one. Anyone else starting to regret the decision to break down each team with minute detail? Not that I am or anything. Anyway, here’s the American League West, because why not? As always, all win totals taken from the Atlantis Casino.

Houston Astros

250px-houston-astros-logo-svgAfter 2015’s stunning turnaround the Astros kind of stalled out last season, in part (in my mind) because of their disappointing decision to abandon the home-run-or-bust strategy that brought them success. After finishing only two dingers behind the league leading Blue Jays in 2015, they were middle of the pack last year. Part of the change, though, was turning the team over to their super-stud young players like Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman. I’ve heard Jose Altuve is good, too. And fellow UConn Husky George Springer could have 30+ homers. I’m not worried about their offense. They’re going to score a lot of runs, and they’re going to prevent a lot of runs with their excellent defense.

The fact that their pitching was still pretty good last year despite a bad year from 2015 Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel tells me their 2016 record may have been more of a product of some bad luck than anything. But even though all the numbers say their pitching was anywhere from decent to well above average last year, I don’t really feel great about it. I mean Keuchel has had at least 16 starts all five years in the league. 3 out of the 5 seasons his ERA has been at least 4.55. Are we sure he didn’t just get crazy hot for a year? At this point, Lance McCullers is probably their best starter. Everyone else is getting older and was never that great to begin with. The bullpen is okay, but their big offseason addition Ken Giles had a really disappointing year. I think he’ll bounce back, but I don’t know if the rest of the pitching is really that good. Felt like a lot of smoke and mirrors last year, and if Keuchel doesn’t rebound it could be a long year for this staff.

Over/Under 87.5 Wins: Under (think they get 87 exactly)

Key Offseason Move: Signing Josh Reddick and my grandpa Carlos Beltran

Burning Question: Why would you get rid of Tal’s Hill, the coolest and most unique ballpark feature in the Majors? Talk about bad karma.

Bold Prediction: There will be a couple of stories about the fact that Jose Altuve is short before the All Star break

Texas Rangers

300px-texas_rangers-svgBaseball’s luckiest team (no one outperformed their adjusted win-loss record by more wins) is back to defend an unexpected division title, only this time Mike Napoli is back! All joking aside, though, this is still a good team, despite the losses of Ian Desmond, Carlos Beltran, and Prince Fielder (was that even really a loss?). They resigned Carlos Gomez, which is never a good idea, but other than that, a lot of low risk moves this offseason could lead to another good campaign in Texas.

It might not be as exaggerated as Coors Field, but whatever they’re calling the Rangers’ stadium these days is always conducive to high octane offense. This team should club a bunch of homers once again this year behind ageless wonder Adrian Beltre, “21-year-old” star Nomar Mazara, Roughned Odor, and Nap. And if they ever give the Paul Bunyan-esque Joey Gallo consistent playing time, forget about it. They were sixth in the majors in slugging last year for a reason.

Also like the Rockies, the Rangers’ pitching needs to be graded on a slight curve, and when you take ballpark effect into consideration, their pitching is about league average, but with high upside at the top. Yu Darvish should be all the way back from Tommy John surgery, and could pair with Cole Hamels to form one of the highest-strikeout duos in the American League. The rest of the starters are pretty eh, but new signee Tyson Ross still has some potential. It’s really crazy how good bullpens are these days. The Rangers’ pen wasn’t even that bad last year and they still ranked in the bottom ten in ERA+. Part of the reason is that they don’t strike anyone out: only the Angels bullpen had a lower combined strikeout percentage. In today’s game, if your bullpen isn’t racking up ks, it’s probably going to end up getting hit around a bit. And they didn’t really do anything to make it better, either. They’re just content to throw Sam Dyson out there so he can get upset when people flip their bats on him. Kind of seems counterintuitive for a team trying to expel their postseason demons.

Over/Under 86.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Resigning Josh Hamilton Picking up Jonathan Lucroy’s option

Burning Question: If Roughned Odor’s brother Roughned Odor took him out at second with a hard slide, who would win the fight?

Bold Prediction: Probably lose in the playoffs in the most heartbreaking way possible

Seattle Mariners

300px-seattle_mariners_logo-svgIf I wasn’t already convinced the Red Sox were winning the World Series, I’d say the Mariners were a dark horse contender in the American League. Why? Just kind of a gut feeling I have. And when you’re in the business of divination, gut feelings can be pretty powerful indicators. And this is a good team.

Pretty much no one was more active during the offseason. They made trade after trade after trade, and now they’re left with an interesting roster that could wind up with the best hitting infield and worst hitting outfield in the league. I can certainly understand the reasoning behind trading for a guy like Jarrod Dyson, one of the best defensive players in the league coming to one of last year’s worst defensive outfields, but he does nothing to add to a light-hitting (to put it mildly) unit that could ultimately hold this team back. If young first baseman Dan Vogelbach can tap in to his deep reserve of power, the five-some of him, Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager, Robinson Cano, and Jean Segura could be a quasi-Murderer’s Row. The infield is good enough (offensively) to contend for a title. But what about the outfield?

I can’t really figure the pitching out. I feel like they should be better. Felix Hernandez, who has seen his velocity go on a steady decline for a while now, has to return to some semblance of his dominant form if this team has any chance. Hisashi Iwakuma was really good when he first came over, but he’s 35 now and showed obvious signs of decline last year. I don’t mind trading Taijuan Walker, who had kind of stalled in his development, and I like getting Yovani Gallardo, who I think still has something left. They added a lot to what was a decent bullpen last year, but the starters are my main concern. That all goes away, though, if Felix becomes the King again.

Over/Under 85.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Trading for Jean Segura

Burning Question: Has anyone investigated the fact that Felix Hernandez’s decline coincides with the legalization of marijuana in Washington? Hmmmm…

Bold Prediction: They’ll make it to game 7 of the ALCS against the Sox, be down one in the ninth, have runners on the corners with one out…then bunt into a double play, officially getting Pete Carroll off the hook

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

187px-los_angeles_angels_of_anaheim-svgThe Angels make me so mad. They’re wasting one of the greatest players of all time! They sucked last year and their big offseason move was…trading for Danny Espinosa. Come on, man. Mike Trout is gonna fade into obscurity on this roster. They’re gonna be bad again this year. Their record might not be all that terrible simply because Trout will singlehandedly win about 20 games, but still. For the good of everyone, just trade Mike Trout if you’re not gonna try to win with him. Please.

Over/Under 76.5 Wins: Under out of spite

Key Offseason Move: Not doing anything to help one of the best players in the 150 year history of Major League Baseball

Burning Question: How long until someone organizes a KG-style rescue mission and puts Trout on a good team?

Bold Prediction: Trout hits over 45 home runs but only has 80 RBI because the rest of the team is so bad

Oakland Athletics

300px-oakland_athl_primlogo-svgNow that I think about it, I think the A’s have my second favorite jerseys in sports (behind Wyoming football). The green hat with the yellow brim is one of the greatest designs in the history of millinery. And those all-white shoes with the home white jerseys? Simply to die for. Then adding in a yellow shirt and a green shirt? It gets my heart all aflutter. The team stinks, but they’ll look good while stinking.

Over/Under 66.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: I honestly don’t even know

Burning Question: Does Brad Pitt ever show up at the team office and start making roster moves?

Bold Prediction: Khris Davis becomes the most random guy to ever have back-to-back 40 home run seasons

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