Thursday, April 1, 2010

2010 American League West Preview

  • Let's find some context:

I'm just curious, since I was under such relentless attack for picking the Mets in the NL East due to some misinformed allegation of bias, why are the stat zombies not under similar scrutiny for their annual selection of the Moneyball Athletics as their AL West winner? Between the two of us----me and the zombies----I think they have far more reason to be examined with the jaundiced eye of an agenda than I do.

Let's look at the AL West.

American League West

  1. Los Angeles Angels----Wins-92; Losses-70; GB ---
  2. Seattle Mariners----Wins-86; Losses-76; GB-6
  3. Texas Rangers----Wins-85; Losses-77; GB-7
  4. Oakland Athletics----Wins-73-Losses-89; 19

Los Angeles Angels:

Every year the Angels are underestimated.

Every year they rise to the top of the AL West.

As foolish as it seems to repeatedly do the same thing over and over again, it's still going on. The Angels are widely expected to fall to the bottom of the division. Presumably, the losses of Chone Figgins, John Lackey and Vladimir Guerrero are so devastating that they won't be able to compete.

I don't see it.

As always, the Angels run the club based on a set of principles they don't deviate from. They have a well-balanced lineup; a deep pitching staff from top-to-bottom and spend money on pitching. The signing of Joel Pineiro to replace Lackey, in retrospect, will be seen as one of the smartest and most economical moves of the off-season. Pineiro will slide seamlessly into the Angels way of doing things and continue the trend he showed with the Cardinals of pitching to contact and going deeply into games.

Hideki Matsui was signed to replace the declining Guerrero and is a clutch player and solid clubhouse guy. (One thing I don't get is why the Angels are insisting on giving Matsui a glove at all; let alone trying to play him in the outfield.)

With manager Mike Scioscia calmly steering the ship, the Angels are always a threat; always competitive not matter what happens, injuries or unspeakable tragedies. In addition to that, they're always ready to make an aggressive trade to bolster their club as they did with Scott Kazmir last season. If Carl Crawford ends up on the market, you can bet the Angels will be neck deep in trying to get the Rays left fielder.

The cream rises to the top and that's what's going to happen with the Angels again in 2010.

Seattle Mariners:

GM Jack Zduriencik is the "genius" of the moment.

Not to diminish the work Zduriencik has done, but Cliff Lee basically fell into his lap due to the Phillies' idiocy. He's banking on defense and pitching trumping the lack of a big power bat; he's hoping Milton Bradley behaves himself and produces; and that the expensive signing of Chone Figgins adds to the run scoring punch sans power.

The Mariners have a great defense, but I don't see how they can contend with Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Sweeney as their primary DH combination. It's possible that pressure from above forced Zduriencik to bring back Griffey; the Mariners would be a serious playoff contender if they'd signed Jim Thome instead.

As it is, with Zduriencik's aggressiveness, the Mariners will be looking for offense for the entire season; if they get it and Lee and Felix Hernandez are healthy; if the defense saves as many runs as it's expected to; if the bullpen performas as it did last season; and the back of the rotation is serviecable, they're in the mix for the playoffs.

I don't see it happening. They'll hang around contention and fall late due to their holes.

Texas Rangers:

After rebuilding the club and his reputation by crafting one of the most productive minor league systems in baseball and making some brilliant trades, GM Jon Daniels had a strange off-season. Replacing Kevin Millwood (whom he gave away to the Orioles) with the always-injured Rich Harden is a head-scratcher. Now, they've taken a reliever, C.J. Wilson, and inserted him into the starting rotation.

The offense is always going to be solid with their power bats; it's a good bet that Vladimir Guerrero will experience a renaissance playing in the hitter's heaven of Rangers Ballpark; and they always play hard; but the Ron Washington cocaine controversy and the repeated injuries to Josh Hamilton are hanging over the club's collective heads.

The Rangers organization is loaded with prospects, but the lack of starting pitching depth and the repeated off-field issues will relegate them to the outskirts of contention with a bright future if they make the right decision and get rid of Washington.

Oakland Athletics:

Again in certain circles, the Billy Beane "brilliance" is being credited for the Athletics being in contention. They have a load of young pitching and splurged to bring in Ben Sheets to anchor the rotation. It was part of a very questionable off-season for the Athletics in which it appeared as if Beane was throwing things together like a weird amalgam in the hopes that it would come out looking good.

Are they a defense first team with Coco Crisp in center field?

Are they a two fisted bashing team with Jack Cust?

Are they relying on pitching with the oft-injured Sheets and a bunch of talented youngsters who could still experience growing pains?

It strikes of desperation backed up by out-of-context stats.

The bloom is off the Moneyball rose and this is going to be the final straw for Billy Beane. The Athletics will fall to last place and Beane will depart Oakland once and for all.

E=MC^2 genius; and by my admittedly rudimentary calculations, that comes to...73-89.

  • Viewer Mail 4.1.2010:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE the NL East:

Forgive me, but I really think the Phillies will be tough to beat, barring major injuries.

Of course you're forgiven.

I state my case clearly. The thing I find hysterical is the amount of ridicule I'm receiving by those who are looking at the projected standings, calling me a "Mets blogger/apologist" without knowing anything about my writing or me at all.

We'll see who's right in hindsight and I stick by my picks.

Jeff (Acting Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE the NL East:

Hmmm. I dunno. I saw the Mets play the Redbirds in that spring training game yesterday. Gary Matthews running the bases was scary... so was Daniel Murphy. Reminded me of last year with all the boneheaded mishaps. And the pitching was downright awful (Igarashi anyone? Yikes!). Just one meaningless spring training game, I know, but it's the sort of thing that gets stuck in one's head... that and Johan isn't blowing people away like he used to.

That all being said, I trust ya. So let's see how this thang goes.

I don't put much stock in spring training as long as most everyone stays healthy (and as ruthless as it sounds, the team's probably better off without Daniel Murphy and with Mike Jacobs playing first base). We'll see what happens when the games count. It's routinely been unwise to bet against my gut feelings.

Peter at Outside The Phillies Looking In writes RE the NL East:

I agree unbiased assessments are possible from die-hard fans, some get it right and some get it wrong, I guess come October we'll see who's wrong and who's right.. Reyes as MVP though, that is a bit out there, even before the Thy..thingy.

I wrote it before that and the same thing happened with Alex Rodriguez last year as I picked him for the MVP and he got hurt immediately thereafter. Like I said yesterday, hopefully it's a good omen since the Yankees won the World Series.

I take offense when someone says I'm being a "homer". It diminishes everything I've tried to do and built with my work. Then, when I'm right a substantial number call me "lucky"; it's best to ignore them and let things play out.

My book, with in depth analysis of all 30 teams and predictions for the upcoming season, is available on Amazon and I-Universe. It's useful all season long and I'm a pretty good writer. So I'm told.


She-Fan said...

Yup. The Angels will be there again (Matsui will do his usual 100 RBI thing). The Mariners were very aggressive in the off-season, but it won't be enough.

Peter said...

I just think your like a dog with a bone on the Cliff Lee saga, maybe it's time to bury it till later when you need to feed again.

PairFace said...

Tough to not call you biased when you:

A) Identify yourself as a Mets fan.
B) Pick the Mets to win the division, coming off last year.
C) Pick Reyes, who hasn't played in nearly a year, as NL MVP
D) Pick Jerry Manuel, who's probably sitting in the hottest seat in the NL right now, as NL MoY.

The Mets are a mess, and will be missing 3 starters in their lineup on Opening Day. Pelfrey and Perez just demoted, and KROD now MIA.

Any accusations of bias or "homerism" are justified, imo.

BTW, I also have the Angels in the AL West. At least we agree on something.