Monday, July 28, 2008

Season 4 AL West Preview

Season 1: 98-64; 1st Place; Lost in ALCS
Season 2: 91-71; 1st Place; Lost in DCS
Season 3: 97-65; 1st Place; Lost in DCS
The Angels have been the kings of the AL West but just can’t put all of the pieces together in the playoffs.

Despite losing the big bat of Darryl Whitaker for the entire season, the Angels once again prevailed in the AL West, thanks to the fearsome tandem of MVP runner-up Arthur Boggs and ROY Travis Murphy. With Whitaker’s return to his DH role, the only question is which big-time slugger will trot out there and pretend to be a leftfielder? This trio of hitters is one of the best in baseball and with Aaron Holliday, Tony Contreras, and DaRond Wagner, they should be one of the AL’s best.

The true MVP of this team last season had to have been Cy Young winner Haywood Charles. He was the ultimate workhorse ace for this team, pitching a ML leading 282 innings and winning 22 games. Since Rabbit Tracy was the only other starter providing a consistently positive contribution, depth of starting pitching is the biggest weakness of this team. With Graham Brown and Alex Sanchez providing quality setup work for one of the best closers in the game in Leon Owens, the Angels will once again have one of the better bullpens around.

Season 4 Forecast
With one of the best offenses in the league, Haywood Charles pitching every fourth game, and one of the better bullpens, the Angels once again are the favorites to raise a fourth consecutive divisional banner. If Fernando Dotel can step up and provide them with someone else for the playoff rotation, the Angels may end their playoff woes.

Season 4 Prediction: 100-62; 1st Place

Season 1: 65-97; 4th Place
Season 2: 79-83; 2nd Place
Season 3: 93-69; 2nd Place; Wildcard; Lost in WS
The Beavers have been able to improve each season and with last season’s World Series appearance, the Beaver faithful, hungry for a hometown title since the Blazers in 1977, ended last season with a huge party in Pioneer Square.

What was a solid group and one of the finer all-around lineups in the AL just got a huge boost. The arrival of Harry Reid in a trade from Cleveland sends a big message to the fans, “We are not content to simply make the World Series. We want to win it now!” With Reid joining MVP candidate Robert Durham as well as excellent hitters in Bobby Dawkins, Tommy Blackley, Rico Ayala, Jarrod Costello, the Beavers have a stacked lineup that will provide the pitching staff with excellent run support that will keep pace with the Angel lineup mentioned above.

The talented young arms of this staff was able to successfully navigate this team through the AL playoffs and nearly to a championship. The rotation is getting crowded this season as joining righthanders Nelson Stockton and Dick Cook and southpaws Pepper Stearns, Parker Parris, and Josias Rosado will be joined by young righthander Buck Hoover. This group provides a lot of solid innings and quality starts and this season with the improved offense, they’ll probably be racking up more wins.The setup tandem of Preston McMillan and Johnny Riggs is one of the best in the business as they provided over 200 innings of superb relief work last season. This paves the way for stud closer Ignacio Benitez who had a fine season and was outstanding during the playoff run. With this trio, any lead going into the 7th inning is going to be well preserved.

Season 4 Forecast
The addition of Reid and the continued maturation of their young starters bodes well for this team which will be a very serious challenger to Anaheim’s division reign. Expect a third consecutive season of regular season improvement in Portland and another playoff appearance.

Season 4 Prediction: 98-64; 2nd Place

Season 1: 81-81; 2nd Place
Season 2: 65-97; 4th Place
Season 3: 92-70; 3rd Place; Wildcard; Lost in DCS
The Mariners have had a yo-yo history thus far and with no acquisitions or departures, while many other teams in the league have retooled, the trend looks to continue.

Lacking any consistent offensive threats other than first baseman Karl Turner, the Mariners are going to have an average offense at best. While Butch Hampton was a tear on the base paths with his record shattering 157 stolen bases, he doesn’t reach base nearly often enough (.309 OBP) to be considered a success. Without any new additions, the Mariners are going to need improved contributions from Brandon Curtis, Richard Ishii, and Luis Reynoso if they are going to once again make the playoffs.

The starting staff is definitely the strength of the team, as all five starters had quality seasons with Freddie Alston and Fred Rolle leading the way with 15 wins each. With the offensive production being somewhat limited and the starters keeping games close, the bullpen will once again be key in the success of this team. Providing the bulk of the innings will be two workhorse relievers in setup man Larry Houston and closer James Hutton. Both pitchers perform superbly last season in helping the Mariners into the postseason and their performance this season may once again be the difference between playing baseball or golf in October.

Season 4 Forecast
The Mariners were a bit of a surprise last season. But with no new help, it looks like they will fall back a bit this season with the offense being their Achilles heal.

Season 4 Prediction: 82-80; 3rd Place

Season 1: 73-89; 3rd Place
Season 2: 76-86; 3rd Place
Season 3: 73-89; 4th Place
The Athletics have been a stagnant team at the ML level with near identical records and with no help nearby, it will likely get worse before it gets better.

The Athletics had a surprisingly potent offense last season with a star less collection of players in which six different players had 20 or more homers. The departure of free agent Danys Puente takes away some of that production and it is hard to imagine this group scoring as many runs this season.

Unfortunately, the top component of this pitching staff is pitcher friendly Network Associates Coliseum. However, there is a new young ace taking the mound every fifth day in young right-hander Ivan Mota. With Kelvim Ming still a couple of seasons from being ready, Mota will likely be the only quality starter on this staff for the next few seasons.The only bright spots in the bullpen are closer Craig Evans and setup man Bernie Pascual. The rest of this group puts up stats almost like they are throwing batting practice. There are going to be a lot of runs scored against the A’s this season.

Season 4 Forecast
With the pitching issues on this team, look for the Athletics to be serious competitors for next season’s #1 pick.

Season 4 Prediction: 68-94; 4th Place

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