2010 Forecasts: AL West

We’ll wrap this up tomorrow night with some thoughts on individual players and awards, but let’s do the last of the six divisional previews first.

Does it
seem to you as if Brandon Wood has been on the verge of breaking in to the LOS
ANGELES line-up since Mark Langston was the Angels’ pitching ace? Whether it’s
been four years or forty, this is the first time the team is actually relying
on Wood, and the
pressure is probably a lot more intense than generally understood. If Wood does not produce
a power-filled season, or doesn’t hold on to the job, the Angels will have to
revert to the Chone Figgins-driven line-up, only without Chone Figgins. It’ll
be tough enough adjusting to Erick Aybar at the top of the line-up, without the
Halos also failing to add the last layer of punch they missed so dearly in the ALCS
last year. The emergence of Kendry Morales and the resuscitation of Howie
Kendrick gave life to the club last year, but face it, four key positions are
beginning to creak a little bit with age, including the now three ex-Yanks in
the line-up. Torii Hunter should be terrified at Mike Scioscia’s insistence that
he may occasionally use Hideki Matsui in left. If placed between Matsui and the
periodically mystified Bobby Abreu in right, MLB might consider letting Hunter
ride a Razor. Pitching is deep but once you get past Jered Weaver, not very
intimidating, and Joel Pineiro might have been the off-season’s most overrated
signing (Fernando Rodney might have been the second, but with or without him,
the bullpen is the team’s top asset).

OAKLAND
looks like an all-or-nothing proposition. Anderson, Braden, and Cahill might
emerge as world-beaters. Sheets and Duchscherer could make remarkable
comebacks. Bailey could expand on a ROTY season. Or literally any one of the
six could lose his job by June 1. The ailments of Joey Devine and Michael
Wuertz thin out an already thin pen, and the line-up, while energetic and
dynamic, does have to play 81 games on the road against teams that actually hit
those things where, you know, the ball goes past those walls behind the gents
standing on the far lawn – what are those called again? Honestly, if your
line-up looks like it could be beaten up, man for man, by that of the Royals,
you could be in for a long summer, even if every one of the pitchers come
through.

With the
strategic building in SEATTLE over the last two years – Figgins, Wilson,
Gutierrez, Lee, even Byrnes and Snell and League (to say nothing of Wakamatsu)
added to the Ichiro/Felix base, it would seem it would be almost impossible for
the Mariners not to be favored. But as I have suggested before, Jack Zduriencik
managed to make the one move that could undo all the good ones. Ask the 2004-05
Dodgers, who thought he was the guy who could take them over the hump. Ask the
2006 A’s, who thought he was the missing piece (and surrendered Andre Ethier to
get him). Ask the 2007 Padres, who brought him in for the stretch run (and
infamously coughed up the division to the Rockies). Ask the 2008 Rangers, who
signed him, only to start shopping him at mid-season. Ask the 2009 Cubs, who
gave him $30 million for three years and sent him home before the first year
ended because nobody could abide his presence any more. Ask the fans he’s
confronted, the reporters he’s confronted, the play-by-play man he ran up
several flights of stairs in hopes of knocking silly. It’s not as if Milton Bradley
has had a few problems. This is six clubs in six seasons and the longest he
lasted with any of them was until June 29th of the second year. I
don’t know what it will be, I don’t know when it will be, but Bradley will do
something to cost the Mariners the division. And if this somehow does not come
to pass, he will have earned an apology from me – but probably will not have
asked for it, because he would have already experienced an epiphany in which
his consistently uncontrollable behavior would have appeared as unacceptable to
him as it has to everybody else, and he
would have apologized to the Cubs. And the Rangers. And
the Padres. And the A’s. And the Dodgers (and just for good measure, Cliff Lee
is not only hurt – he has the most nagging and unpredictable of injuries for a
baseball player, ‘something in the abdomen.’)

The
line-up in TEXAS frightens me. I know Josh Hamilton is not going to hit 57
homers. I understand Vlad Guerrero has aged. I’m sure Chris Davis could repeat
the first half of 2009. I noticed Ian Kinsler’s on the DL. Without them this
is still the most potent batting order in the division.
So the Rangers’ questions are, as
ever, on the mound. But in addition to reclaiming Darren Oliver and bringing
back Colby Lewis from banishment, Texas has one other answer to those
questions: Neftali Feliz. It is impossible to watch him pitch and not see
either a super closer, or a 250-strikeout starter. Either one of them will do
the Rangers fine upon his maturation; for now, a dominating 8th-inning
presence will probably win them the division. And it will be fascinating to
watch any player struggles completely overshadowed by the good or bad conduct
of a manager – not to make a comparison that would be slanderous to the
good-hearted Ron Washington, but we haven’t seen that since Billy Martin died,
and it occasionally helps a team get on with its business while the skipper
takes the heat.

DIVISION FORECAST:
As suggested, I like Texas. Oakland’s pitching could jell to challenge them;
Milton Bradley could go AWOL on May 1 and save Seattle’s season; Brandon Wood
could be everything the Angels ever wanted from him. But I don’t think any of
those things are going to happen. Rangers by a five or six game margin, with
the others following in a jumble I can’t quite yet discern.

LEAGUE
FORECAST: I think Tampa ends up with the best record, Texas the worst, and the
Rays will handle the Rangers easily. The Wild Card will go to Boston, most
likely, and they should probably dispatch Detroit, setting up a re-run of 2008,
including the TB victory. This time I like the Rays to win the Series, five
years after other owners seriously murmured about moving them or contracting
them.

9 Comments

Aww, shucks, Keith. Fresh from a brutal NCAA bracket beating, I stumbled over to find you here saying something I never thought I?d hear: ??I like Texas.? Still, I can?t get terribly excited about the Rangers. Never have. Besides, they?ll choke if they get close.

I really just need to know one thing: Are the A?s moving to San Jose or not??? I just can?t bear to get attached to a team, only to have them leave. Sure, the Sharks are trying to keep them at bay (ha!), but I?m not sure they?ll succeed. Oh well. Rather than making a hasty decision now, I?m probably better off focusing on my other obligations, and holding out till football season, where my mind?s essentially made up. It will be good to have a team within geographical reach again. Please don?t tell me why I shouldn?t like the Niners. My sportsbrain is too delicate right now.

By the way, I have a box to hide in. Not big enough for you, but I’d fit.

?As suggested, I like Texas.? Love it!!! Uh-oh?I just got a mischievous idea.

Milton Bradley? Now there’s an interesting name choice. Brought to mind memories of playing Battleship, Cootie, Operation and KerPlunk as a kid. I wonder if it’s purely coincidental, or if Bradley’s parents were fans of board games and named their son after games titan and pioneer, Milton Bradley. “You sank my battleship!” was the rallying cry. :D

Don’t bet against the Angels Keith. They’re the one team that Baseball Prospectus has gotten dead wrong for years, always undervaluing them. Texas has more than a small issue with their pitching. Perez has great stuff, but he’ll be streaky this year because he isn’t polished. And Feldman and Hunter’s strikeout numbers were abysmal last year. Too many balls will be put into play for them to duplicate their numbers. As for Texas’ line-up, it’s their strength, but the Angels have 5 players who hit 20+ home-runs last year. Those five DONT include Bobby Abreu, Howie Kendrick, and Erick Aybar. Aybar’s the only real question mark outside of Wood, but his defense makes him worthwhile. Oakland can’t hit and the Mariners are top-heavy but shallow in their rotation and line-up. 88 wins should be enough for this division, but it’s gonna be L.A. Their deep enough to remain very consistent and solid throughout the season.
As for their aging outfield, they all have at least another productive season left, and Peter Bourjos, high on the minor league depth chart, is already a superb center fielder and can fly.

@ Ashoein: I bet he hated that name as a child…..maybe that’s why he’s got such ungovernable behavior. I’m so glad he’s some other teams’ problem, and not the Cubs’.

I did watch the Seattle/San Francisco game this afternoon……Vargas does pitch well. I just hope when Bradley joins the lineup he doesn’t screw up the rest of the team.

Keith, I’ll definetly be cheering for the Yankees tonight………hope they do well, even though it’s an away game ;)

BTW, I loved the Thurber reading you did Friday night :D The chair was a nice touch, too……definitely gave it the “Family Classics” vibe ;) Looking forward to the next story, and I will be going to my local library Tuesday(not open on Monday at all……small town, smaller budget) to see if they actually have that Library of America volume……I seem to recall they got those books, but I haven’t been in there for a while. Otherwise I’ll have to order some more books to add my my collection ;)

Nice review Keith. I have pretty similar reviews for the AL West.
http://carlosenriquez.mlblogs.com/archives/2010/04/2010-al-west-predictions.html

Thank heaven for the Internet (never thought I’d actually say that).

I came home from work last Friday evening, all set to watch Countdown, in its usual time slot out here in the west. But much to my chagrin, instead of Countdown, up popped one of those MSNBC ?stupid-people-doing-stupid-things-and-landing-themselves-in-prison-for-a-very-long-time-surprise-surprise shows. I changed the channel immediately (not interested).

Uhhhh, where was Keith? Was I imagining things, or hadn’t he recently said he was returning to his television gig full time? I dunno, must have been a disconnect between the East Coast, the Rockies in between, and the West Coast. Suffice to say, I totally missed the Thurber reading.

As I read the comments upthread, I scratched my head at jaidubya’s box reference (what on earth was that supposed to mean?) and nightowl’s Thurber/chair reference (what chair?). All kinds of stuff ran through my mind, some of it not necessarily fit for this blog. Then, I watched Friday’s Countdown on the MSNBC website, and all was made clear. Sooooo . . .

Keith, that you continue to honor your late father’s memory by reading Thurber on your show (just as he wanted you to), is lovely.

And my message to you: Are you sure about all of this political punditry stuff in the long term?

Ashoein: Yeah, that was a fantastic interpretive reading, wasn’t it?? Keith ought to record some audiobooks of those stories *hint, hint* ;)

Well, the Yankees lost to the Red Sox, dammit……seemed to be doing so well until they had to bring in the relief pitchers, then got shelled :( The errors/blown plays and that wild pitch didn’t help matters any *sigh* Oh well, it’s only the first game of the season…….I hope my Cubbies play at least half that well tomorrow ;)

@tribegal

Ben Gay??? That could only be topped by: Ben Dover . . .

@ Tribegal: That’s interesting to know about Milton Bradley’s name……I’m just hoping he doesn’t spell as much “Frustration” and Trouble” for his current team as he did for the Cubs, though I fear that may end up being the case anyway.

@ Ashoein *snickering* Only thing worse than that would be to hear “Turner Brown and Ben Dover” ;) *evil chuckle*

I guess I’ll cue up that Thurber segment on my iPhone again and listen to it as I try to go to sleep…….at least it will chase out the accumulated musical “earworms” from singing 3 Masses and 1 service in the space of less than 72 hours and relax me enough to rest for a while ;) Insomnia sucks >:-(

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