West coast, best coast, baby. Is the American league West the best in the league? Certainly not. But it does feature an interesting three-team race at the top with skilled teams with major question marks, and another that probably wasn’t as bad as their record last year indicated. And the A’s, who are, unfortunately for anybody looking to witness another Moneyball year, very bad.
After making a surprise trip to the playoffs in 2015, the Astros kind of fell of their face last season. What did they do about it? A lot. This winter, they signed top free agents Carlos Beltran and Josh Reddick to an already potent lineup, and, most importantly, they traded for Brian McCann, who’s a massive upgrade over the poor defensive catchers they’ve trotted out the past few years. One thing they didn’t do? Upgrade this nightmare of a starting rotation.
The only addition they made was Charlie Morton, who they’re hoping can have a bounce back season this year after a couple of rough ones. And that’s pretty much the theme of their entire rotation. Dallas Keuchel needs to have a bounce back season and return to something near his 2015 Cy Young status, and Mike Fiers and Lance McCullers are also coming off disappointing seasons. If none of those guys can improve off of what they did in 2016, the Astros lineup will have a lot of heavy lifting to do in order to compensate.
The lineup is good enough to push the team into contention for a wild card berth, certainly. But whether or not they can beat out Seattle and Texas for the division will come down to pitching.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Imagine having one of the greatest players of all time on your roster, and just letting him rot like the Angels do with Mike Trout.
Mike Trout is so good. So so soooooo fucking good. And because of it, the Angels are stuck in a trap. They certainly can’t blow it up and rebuild, because, well, you have a 25-year-old all-time great already around. They can’t make a bunch of additions, because they’ve already got a massive payroll committed to this roster. The only thing they can do is hope for some kind of miracle, like, all of their good, young pitchers healing perfectly from injury, returning to the rotation, and hitting the ground running.
But that’s a lot of hoping and praying to ask for. Realistically, the Angels aren’t going to be good enough to compete with the Rangers, Mariners, and Astros. They’re an easy pick for fourth in the division. Just as easy as the prediction that Mike Trout will win another MVP and the weather in California will be nice.
Speaking of easy picks, the A’s are very bad. They’ll finish fifth in the division, and there’s no doubt about it.
Their ace is Kendall Graveman, because their real ice, Sonny Gray, is on the disabled list. Their leadoff hitter and everyday centre fielder is a 36-year-old Rajai Davis, a bench player. Their middle-of-the-lineup bat is Ryon Healy, who may or may not actually exist. They had some very Oakland A’s-y pickups this winter, like Trevor Plouffe, Matt Joyce, and Davis, none of whom are very good, and they’re players being filled around a core that doesn’t create much excitement.
But hey. Maybe Billy Beane can go into the locker room, pound the crap out of a Gatorade jug with a bat while the underachieving veterans sit around and watch in fear before turning around their lives when their general manager (who used to be a player, you know) becomes hands on and tells them all to stop swinging the bat ever. Unfortunately this is the real world, and the narrative around the A’s surprising everyone with their rag-tag group of unwanted toys will not come to life anywhere other than your DVD copy of Moneyball.
Since the Blue Jays made the payoffs in 2015, the Seattle Mariners have inherited Major League Baseball’s postseason drought crown. They haven’t been there since 2001 when Ichiro, Edgar Martinez, and Bret Boone mashed their way to a 116-win season.
But these are the Mariners, we’re talking about. This is a team that seems to find new and creative ways to be mediocre. Some years, they’re impossible to hit, but they themselves can’t score. Other years, they’re mashing, and their pitching goes to hell. Could this year be the year?! Maybe!
Their rotation has upside but also question marks. Felix Hernandez isn’t King Felix anymore, Hisashi Iwakuma is good but is only a Mariner because the Dodgers didn’t like what showed up in his physical, and James Paxton and Drew Smyly are enigmas with talent and injuries that have held them back. Their lineup is strong, though, there isn’t much doubt about that. Kyle Seager, Robinson Cano, and Nelson Cruz are an excellent core, but hopefully Jean Segura, Leonys Martin, and Jarrod Dyson can get on base for them.
They could be better than Texas and Houston. They could be worse. Put it all together and the Mariners are a team that’ll push for the playoffs, but are far from a sure thing.
We know all about the Texas Rangers at this point. They’re the two-time defending American League West Champions, and the two-time defending American League Division Series losers. Zing!
The Rangers bullshitted their way to back-to-back division titles, which is surprising, because in 2014, it looked like this team was rebuilding. But everything just worked for them. Last season, they posted one of the greatest seasons of all-time in terms of winning one-run games. I doubt their luck will be as good this season as last, as their lineup features many question marks, like the enigmatic Carlos Gomez, the very old Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli, and a bunch of youngsters who tend to swing at everything. Their rotation isn’t anything more of a sure thing, as after Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish, who, himelf isn’t even a sure thing either, are very, very, ugly.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m not giving them enough credit because, ya know, they’re a bunch of whiny piss babies who wait until a dude’s last at bat of a seven-games-in-a-few-weeks series to drill him for owning them in the playoffs, get into a fight about it, and then go ahead and lose in the playoffs again to the same team a few months later. But realistically, we’ll see Texas pushing for a playoff spot again. I don’t know if it’ll be the division crown, but they’ll be there so they can fulfill their annual task of losing in October.