With the addition of the Houston Astros, the division increased in size, and with Josh Hamilton’s defection from Texas to LA (after spurning Seattle), it increased in intensity and venom too. Two of baseball’s best teams reside here, and that doesn’t even include the defending champion A’s, and the improved Seattle Mariners. And then there is Houston. Poor, poor Houston…
We continue our divisional previews with a look at the AL West.
Past Five Champions
2012 – Oakland
2011 – Texas
2010 – Texas
2009 – LA Angels
2008 – LA Angels
Average Wins of Past Five Champions: 95.4
Mike Trout, Angels
If you think it’s crazy anointing a guy entering his second full year as the best player in a divison that contains Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, and Adrian Beltre, then you probably didn’t follow baseball last year. Mike Trout had a season for the ages, putting up insane numbers: .326 average, .963 OPS, 30 HR, a league leading 49 SB and only 5 (!!!) caught stealing, a league leading 129 runs, and a league leading 171 OPS+. Oh yeah – he didn’t even start playing until late-April after beginning the year in the minors. He also was incredible in CF, making higlight reel catches seemingly every week. As a rookie, he put up a 10.7 WAR, which equates to the 79th best single season in the history of baseball. Again – Trout was a rookie who turned 21 in August. Atop a stacked Angels lineup in 2013, he has a chance to be even better.
Honourable Mention: Albert Pujols, Angels; Josh Hamilton, Angels
Felix Hernandez, Mariners
Just another ho-hum season for King Felix in 2012, with a sub 3.50 ERA, 230+ innings, 215+ strikeouts, an All-Star appearance, and a top-5 finish in Cy Young voting. He also topped the AL with five shutouts pitching for a Seattle team that continues to be atrocious offensively. Amid rumours that the Mariners may look to deal their ace, Seattle did the opposite and signed Hernandez to a massive extension in the offseason, ensuring that he will be around to terrorize AL West opponents for a long, long time.
Honourable Mention: Jered Weaver, Angels; Yu Darvish, Rangers
Three Storylines For 2013
1. Angels Offense
Imagine being a starting pitcher stepping on the mound to face the Angels in the first inning. All you have to do is get yourself prepared to face Mike Trout, Howie Kendrick, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, and Mark Trumbo. Piece of cake right? With the addition of Hamilton, the Angels might have the scariest top of the lineup in baseball. Trout, Pujols, Hamilton, and Trumbo are each capable of hitting 30, 40, maybe even 50 home runs in 2013, and nobody would be surprised if they came close to doing it. The real issue for this team, however, is who comes after those guys? Peter Bourjos, Alberto Callaspo, Erick Aybar, Chris Iannetta, Hank Conger, and Vernon Wells? Doesn’t exactly strike fear into opponents. With a rotation that doesn’t exactly dominate after Weaver and Wilson, the onus will be on the bottom of the order to provide enough RBI opportunites for the mashers at the top. Failure to do so might result in another disappointing October.
2. Can Oakland Do It Again?
To say that the A’s shocked baseball would be putting it lightly. Most, if not all, baseball publications predicted Oakland to finish last in 2012 – and not only last, but waaaaaaaaaay back of the leaders. But on the strength of a bunch of no-name kid pitchers (Tommy Milone, Jarrod Parker, Travis Blackley, A.J. Griffin), a fat, over-the-hill pitcher (Bartolo Colon), a discarded Boston Red Sox OF (Josh Reddick), and a hulking Cuban import (Yoenis Cespedes) the A’s won 94 games to steal the division away from Texas. Now – can they do it again in 2013? The rotation is another year older (and maybe better), and they will have a full season from Brett Anderson. The offense should also be improved with the additions of Jed Lowrie, John Jaso, and Chris Young. However, it’s always easier being the hunter than the hunted. It will be interesting to see how Oakland fares with targets on their backs.
3. The Poor, Poor Astros
Chris Carter, Justin Maxwell, Fernando Martinez, Matt Dominguez, Tyler Greene, Jose Altuve, Brett Wallace, and Jason Castro. That is the current depth chart of the Astros. Bud Norris, Lucas Harrell, Philip Humber, Jordan Lyles, and Erik Bedard make up the proposed starting rotation. Houston’s highest salary in 2013 belongs to Wandy Rodriguez, who pitches for the Pirates. Nobody earns more than $3-million, or 10% of A-Rod’s salary. And now they are in a division with Oakland, LA, Texas, and Seattle. Oh no. Houston might be moving in the right direction, but it’s going to take a while to get there, and 2013 is not even close. Close your eyes kids, this could get ugly.
The major league single season record for runs scored is 198, set by Billy Hamilton in 1894. The modern era record (1950 and later) is 152, set by Jeff Bagwell in 2000. Last season Mike Trout scored 129 runs for the Angels, 20 more than Miguel Cabrera who finished second. Mike Trout only played 139 games for the Angels in 2012. Projected over a full 162-game schedule, he would have crossed the plate 150 times. Now in 2013, he has an added advantage – Josh Hamilton. If Trout is on-base and Albert Pujols can’t knock him, more than likely Josh Hamilton will. While the 198 runs scored record is likely safe, there is a very good chance that Bagwell could be stepping aside.
Who Should Win
Who Will Win
Find out in my season prediction column on March 25th