Saturday, July 13, 2013

Midseason Report: The AL West

     AL West: The Los Angeles Angels were expected to be on top of this division this year. However, they've started off slow and have been under .500 for most, if not all, of the first half. But now, the Halos seemed to have turned things around and are slowly climbing up in the division. Meanwhile, the Oakland A's and the Texas Rangers have been duking it out for the top spot in the division. What will happen in the AL West during the second half of the season?

  1. Oakland Athletics: Oakland hasn't lost a step from last year's surprising AL West division title, sitting on top of the AL West once again. But this time, the bats are making noise as well. The A's are 8th in runs scored with 423 runs this year. They are also 3rd in the majors against left-handed pitching in runs scored with 135. All of this run scoring is thanks to third baseman Josh Donaldson (.310, 15 HR, 58 RBI), who has been a huge contribution. Donaldson, first baseman Brandon Moss (16 HR), and left fielder Yoenis Cespedes (15 HR) have been Oakland's primary mashers in 2013. Throw in a surprising starter in ageless wonder Bartolo Colon (12-3, 2.69 ERA, 15 BB) and an elite closer in Grant Balfour (24 saves, 1.72 ERA) and you have an Athletics team that could make it to the Fall Classic. Must Fix: As good as the A's have been in scoring runs this season, their ability to create base hits has been a problem. The reason for why Oakland's 8th in MLB in runs scored is mainly due to a combination of taking a lot of walks and timely hitting. Their pinch-hit batting average is a mere .123, good for last in baseball (Their team BA is .246, good for 20th). They'll need some hitters that can come into late-game situations and provide some key hits.
  2. Texas Rangers: The Rangers have proven that they do not miss Josh Hamilton one bit. Nelson Cruz is still in Arlington and he's got 115 hits, 22 home runs, and 68 RBIs. Also providing offense for the Rangers is third baseman Adrian Beltre (.314, 20 HR, 53 RBI, 53 runs), Ian Kinsler (.290, 9 HR, 36 RBI), and rookie Leonys Martin (.291, 5 triples, 18 SB). There's even some good news for Nolan Ryan's squad concerning team ace and AL strikeout leader Yu Darvish. Tests on Darvish's trapezius muscle came back normal, meaning that Darvish will be back in the minimum 15 days from the 15-day disabled list. Must Fix: Texas is fortunate to have dodged a bullet with Darvish, because they already have enough players on the disabled list. Players like Lance Berkman (hip) and Alexi Ogando (shoulder) are missing from this Rangers' roster. Texas needs to stay healthy and get their injured players back as soon as possible.
  3. Los Angeles Angels: In spite of a slow start from star acquisition Josh Hamilton (.204 BA in the month of April) and from the entire Angels team (27-38 in their first 65 games), the Halos are now hovering around .500. Albert Pujols (15 HR, 57 RBI), young phenom Mike Trout (.323 BA, .402 OBP, 15 HR, 59 RBI, 21 SB, 117 hits), second baseman Howie Kendrick (.305, 11 HR, 40 RBI), and designated hitter Mark Trumbo (20 HR, 56 RBI) have all kept the Angels' season alive. In fact, it isn't far-fetched to say that Trout is a legitimate MVP candidate once again in 2013. Must Fix: Ironically, Josh Hamilton hasn't been the main reason for the Halos' early woes. They were without Jered Weaver for a couple of months with left elbow issues and opponents are batting .274 against their starting pitchers. If they want to make a challenge for the AL West crown or even a wild-card spot, their starters need to strike out more batters and give up less hits.
  4. Seattle Mariners: The All-Star pitching duo of Felix Hernandez (9-4, 2.69 ERA, 136 SO, 1.11 WHIP) and Hisashi Iwakuma (7-4, 2.97 ERA, 106 SO, 0.92 WHIP) has been must-see MLB for the Puget Sound. They also have one of the best farm systems in baseball with guys like Danny Hultzen throwing well in Triple-A. There have also been a pleasant surprise from an older Mariner; Raul Ibanez has 24 home runs and 54 RBIs this year. 16 of those were hit at Safeco Field, which isn't really known to be a home-run park. Must Fix: The only way that Seattle can compete with the rest of the AL West is if they can find a batter that can adjust to Safeco's cavernous dimensions. Kyle Seager (.290, 15 HR, 44 RBI) and offseason acquisition Kendrys Morales (.281, 14 HR, 54 RBI) have provided the lineup with some spark. However, the rest of the bats need to find a way to create runs in a pitcher's park.
  5. Houston Astros: Expected to be the AL West cellar dwellers, the Astros have lived up to their billing with a record of 33-59. This is a young team that needs a few years to develop in order to compete in the MLB. Luckily, they have a number one pick in Mark Appel that they will look forward to seeing in the near future along with plenty of other great prospects. Once players like Jonathan Singleton and Jarred Cosart come up, this will be a fun team to watch. Must Fix: There's nothing that Houston can really do right now. They'll just need to wait out the season and probably next season in order to give their current guys some experience under their belts.
Revised Predictions

     AL East Champions: Baltimore Orioles: If Chris Davis continues mashing home runs and the rest of the lineup keeps up its offensive production, then Baltimore will take a ride to the top of the AL East.
     AL Central Champions: Detroit Tigers: There's a small chance that Cleveland will win the Central. With Victor Martinez heating up, Max Scherzer blowing through batters, and Miguel Cabrera tearing the league up, the Tigers should come out on top.
     AL West Champions: Texas Rangers: It's going to be a dog fight for the AL West this time around, but Texas should win the AL West crown this time. Don't be surprised if Oakland wins back-to-back AL West titles, however.
     AL Wild-Cards: Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics: Both teams will have stiff competition coming down the stretch. But they have enough pieces to clinch the final playoff spots.

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