Sunday, March 27, 2011

2011 Predictions: AL West

1. Oakland Athletics
Perhaps the most improved team from last year to this one, the A’s have scary good potential.  They completely overhauled their offense, bringing in Hideki Matsui, Josh Willingham, and David DeJesus to give them some serious punch.  Last year’s parts are all fine and dandy, but it’s this trio of players that will give the A’s the offense they need to be a real player in the hunt for October.  Their pitching, in true A’s fashion, is comprised of players who are young, unknown, and—most importantly—dominant.  Trevor Cahill, the team’s opening day starter, is looking to build on his amazing 2010 (18-8, 2.97 ERA).  The other pitchers are no slouches either, but none of them are as solid as any of the keys from the A’s rotations of yore.  If they—bolstered by a fantastic bullpen—can keep it together (and there’s no reason to think that they can’t) the A’s are a good bet to take the NL West.
Bottom line: Their foundation is a bit shaky, but this team can capitalize on an unusually weak division to take a playoff spot.

2. Texas Rangers
I am very much unconvinced of the Rangers’ ability to repeat their 2010 successes.  Their terrible offseason—losing Cliff Lee and Vladimir Guerrero, and making up for that by overpaying Adrian Beltre—did them no favors.  Seriously, their pitching is terrible for a supposedly good team.  C.J. Wilson as the ace?  If Brandon Webb could get it together they’d be all right, but his recent injury takes away any claims of pitching depth they might have been able to make.  Their offense, meanwhile, is more or less unchanged from last year, except they have to rely on Adrian Beltre (he of three good seasons out of thirteen) for power.  Fine, yes, there’s Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, and Nelson Cruz—don’t get me wrong, this team can flat-out hit—but it’s not enough to elevate them above their mediocre pitching.  We are not impressed.
Bottom line: Pray that Jon Daniels makes a deadline deal for a pitcher.  Otherwise, it’s going to be hard for the Rangers to contend in strong AL West and Wild Card races.

3. Los Angeles Angels
Led by speedster Carl Crawford and ace pitcher Cliff Lee, the Angels are a sure bet to be thick in the playoff hunt.  Led by the old and overpaid Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter, the Angels are a sure bet to spend 2011 thinking “where did we go wrong?”  Their lineup, missing the improvements it needed for this season, is massively underwhelming, and way too reliant upon players who haven’t been good in a few years.  Fine, I’ll admit that Dan Haren and Jered Weaver lead a pretty good starting rotation, but it isn’t a stretch to suggest that Joel Pineiro and Ervin Santana will regress next season.  Frankly, this team just isn’t built as solidly as Angels teams of years past.
Bottom line: Instead of yet another trip to October, I expect the Angels to hobble to .500, saddled down with expensive players they can’t trade after the season.

4. Seattle Mariners
The Jack Z rebuilding process continues!  After being pegged to contend last year, the Mariners rocketed to a 61-101 record.  Oops.  While they wait for Dustin Ackley to work his way through the minor leagues, a journey that might even end at some point in 2011, the Mariners will probably have to content themselves with another bad season.  Their offense continues to be very bad, and there’s nobody besides Ichiro Suzuki who can hit (although I do expect Chone Figgins to be good again).  The pitching begins and ends with Felix Hernandez, though it should be fun to watch top prospect Michael Pineda.
Bottom line: They certainly won’t contend this year, though having Ackley and Pineda in the majors together would create some good baseball.

No comments:

Post a Comment