My fellow baseball fans. We are almost halfway through the 2013 MLB preview/predictions. If you missed the first two installments, yo can find them by clicking on the two links below.
Today, we focus on the AL West. The only division with three teams to have never won the World Series (Texas, Seattle and Houston) and one of only two teams (Seattle) to have never even been to the World Series. I don't think either of those things will change this year, but let's go ahead and take a look.
But first, I asked on Twitter @SultanofSquat - "What World Series-related distinction do the teams in the AL West carry into the 2013 season?" The answer, after the predictions.
1. Texas Rangers: 91-71
This is gonna be close. I know that the Angels signed Josh Hamilton and acquired Jason Vargas and Tommy Hanson. But the Rangers signed A.J. Pierzynski and Lance Berkman and traded Michael Young and....wait, why did I pick them to win the West over Pujols and Trout and Hamilton?
Call me crazy but I think this team will score some runs and I think the pitching will be a step ahead of the Angels.
Schedule: Part of what will have the Rangers clicking in 2013 is the schedule. 62 games against the Twins, Royals, Indians, Astros, Orioles, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Pirates and Rays. Easy pickings.
2. Los Angeles Angels: 88-74
I can see the Angels and Rangers swapping here. I really can. Especially if Mike Trout can avoid the Sophomore slump and put up another MVP-type season. But I honestly feel like the pitching will let this team down. The offense will be there. If the offense stumbles, it could be a long season for the Halos.
Schedule: Like the Rangers, they have many winnable games against lesser opponents, though not quite as many as the Rangers have. But there are almost 100 games on the schedule against evenly-matched opponents (according to SultanMetrics) compared to under 90 such games for Texas. Thus, the advantage for the Rangers.
3. Oakland Athletics: 85-77
MONEYBALL! It worked its' magic again last year. The A's were one of the surprise stories of 2012, storming through the final weeks to take the AL West crown from the Rangers. This year, the schedule gets a bit tougher and no one will be looking past the A's. They will hang in the Wild-Card hunt, but they take a step back this year.
Schedule: Like I mentioned, the schedule gets a bit tougher this year with only 52 games against "lesser-opponents". The A's open the season at home against Seattle and end the season in Seattle.
Fun with promotions: This one is actually pretty good. On June 2nd, against the White Sox, the first 5,000 kids receive a Coco Crisp cereal bowl.
4. Seattle Mariners: 83-79
The Mariners lost on out acquiring Hamilton and had Justin Upton reject a trade from Arizona - to go play with his brother B.J. in Atlanta. But the Mariners did re-sign Felix Hernandez to a long-term deal. The M's moved in the fences at Safeco in the hopes of generating offense. Here's an idea.....SIGN SOME HITTERS instead of spending money on a long-term extension for a pitcher you had signed for TWO MORE YEARS anyways!
I forgot, they did sign some hitters. They brought back Raul Ibanez (.240 in 2012) and signed Jason Bay (.165 in 2012). YAY!
Schedule: The Mariners benefit from the fences being moved in and a pretty favorable schedule. The M's play 51 games against the Astros, Padres, Pirates, Indians, Royals, Cubs and Twins. All winnable games.
5. Houston Astros: 65-97
Welcome to the American League! Thrown into the gauntlet against the Rangers (Two World Series appearances in the last three years), the Angels (Favored by many to at least make the Series this year), the Athletics (2012 AL West champs) and the Mariners (.....now not picked to finish last in the division). Oh and by the way, you have to play each of them 19 times apiece.
Schedule: Finding 67 wins in this schedule is difficult. They lost 107 games last year and I will not be surprised if they actually lose more this year. That being said, my belief is that this team will be slightly motivated to improve because of the constant berating they receive in the media and the fact that they now get the DH. In fact, having signed Carlos Pena to be the DH gives me hope that they can keep it under 100 losses this year.
That's the west as I see it. Before I sign off, here is the answer to the Twitter trivia tease. The question again was: What World Series-related distinction do the teams in the AL West carry into the 2013 season? The answer: It is the only division with three teams to have never won the World Series.
The Astros joining the AL West gives the division three teams (along with the Mariners and Rangers) to have never won the Series. The NL West has two (Padres, Rockies), the NL East has one (Nationals/Expos), the NL Central has one (Brewers) and the AL East has one (Rays). The Mariners also are one of only two teams (The Nationals/Expos the other) to have never even been to the Series.
Tune in soon as we switch Leagues and preview the NL East.
Thanks for reading.