Last year's AL West race was, once again, about as exciting as listening to your coworker tell you what she did this weekend. The Angels won, your coworker and "the boy" just stayed in and chilled on Sunday. Watched a movie. The Rangers kind of made it interesting for a minute before they dropped completely out of even Wild Card contention, your coworker thought about going to that cool flea market but they hardly get the time to sit around and veg like that you know? Sometimes you just need it. She says all this as you remember that she said the exact same thing about spending last Sunday in front of the TV. Weren't the Angels supposed to regress or something? Dammit, I'm going on break.
But this year should be different. The Rangers and the Mariners are both ascendant and the Angels will almost certainly be in the running for awhile. They always are. I think this may be one of the most exciting races of the year.
4. Oakland A's
- The young pitching staff gets a nominal leader in free agent acquision Ben Sheets. Yes, Sheets hasn't exactly pitched in the recent past but impressed teams in offseason workouts and is tailor made for the imaginary role of veteran/teacher that people like to write about so much.
- The rest of that staff containts two good left handers in Brett Anderson and Dallas Braden and possibly another emerging southpaw, Gio Gonzalez. Who you can watch get a haircut here:
- OF Rajai Davis had a quiet breakout season in 2009, getting on base at a .360 clip and stealing 41 bases. He'll be moving to the top of the order (ahead of new CF Coco Crisp) and you can expect that SB total to rise. He could be the league leader.
- The A's sat in the bottom half of the AL in runs scored and primary offensive additions Kevin Kouzmanoff and Crisp won't do a lot to signifcantly increase that number. They'll be relying on significant improvement from the rotation to up their win total. With the injury histories of both Sheets and Justin Duscherer, that's a can miss proposition.
Predictions: 77-85 record, Eric Chavez plays a total of 6 games and wears a catheter in each one. Bob Geren eats his weight in rocks and sticks.
3. Anaheim Angels
- Even with the departure of 3B Chone Figgins, their infield is one of the most talented in baseball. Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick, Brandon Wood and Kendry Morales all put up career years at the plate in 2009 and were all on the plus side in UZR.
- The additions of Brian Stokes and Fernando Rodney should shore up the pen and bring it closer to the level of its mid decade heyday.
- The Angels lost John Lackey to free agency and didn't do anything to replace him in the rotation. The rotation of Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders, Ervin Santana, Scott Kazmir and Joel Pineiro shouldn't strike fear in the hearts of anyone else in the division. Spring training optimism notwithstanding.
Predictions: 83-79 record, Mike Napoli grows a transcendent coke nail.
2. Texas Rangers
- Last year's team allowed an astonishing 250 fewer runs than the 2008 incarnation. 2010 may lower it yet again. The addition of Rich Harden and the maturation of the accountanty named Scott Feldman should make the rotation even better. Elvis Andrus at short helps too.
- Count healthy Josh Hamilton, healthy Vlad Guerrero and healthy Ian Kinsler as one of the more powerful cores in the league and certainly the division.
- The Rangers faded hard down the stretch and Dallas News writer/Cheeseburger Enthusiast Evan Grant has a great look at the challenges facing this offense besides potential injury. Better plate appearances are crucial to getting this team over the hump and into the playoffs, but you're not exactly dealing with malleable rookies here.
Predictions: 92-70 record, Frank Francisco goes on Antiques Roadshow to get his toothbrush appraised, The Marriage Ref gets canceled.
1. The Seattle Mariners
- Most people are in agreement that Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee are the best 1-2 in all of baseball. Teams with the best 1-2 in all of baseball usually fair pretty well.
- Chone Figgins, Casey Kotchman and Jack Wilson are all additions that bolster the defense and a healthy Milton Bradley could make up for some of the power lost when Russell Branyan departed.
- Despite the aforementioned defensive upgrades it comes as something of a wash after losing Mike Cameron (in 2003) and Adrian Beltre.
Predictions: 94-68 record, Jack Zduriencik (Daddy Warbucks) dons a toupee made out of empty soup cans for entire second half of season.