Friday, March 23, 2007

2007 Predictions, Part 3 of 8, AL West

This is another tough division that will come down to very unknown quantities. Keys for teams include names like Bobby Crosby, Felix Hernandez, Jered Weaver & Casey Kotchman, Sammy Sosa and Eric Gagne.

The starting pitching in this division is so iffy, that there's not a single pitcher that you can say, "well, he'll have an ERA under 4.00 this season" with any confidence. The three most taleneted pitchers are Weaver, Harden, and Hernandez. Hernandez comes off of a horrible year, Harden off of injuries, and Weaver is a sophomore who will probably start the year on the DL.

So here we go:

1st Place: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The Angels stregnth, as it has been for many years now, lies in the bullpen, with K-Rod leading the way.

They will need to get Weaver back soon and for him to be the ace, which is a tall order for a sophomore, but there have been plenty of pitchers who have excelled in their sophomore seasons. Lackey is fine as a #2 starter in this division, and with their bullpen, that minimizes the trouble Santana, Escobar, and Saunders can get into.

As far as the lineup, they are going to need much better offense from Howie Kendrick and Casey Kotchman. I think they'll get it. I think Kendrick will hit about .310 (and since he doesn't walk, he'll need to). Napoli is an oddity behind the plate with his really low batting average, but high OBP and nice power.

2nd Place: Oakland Athletics
The A's are going to need a big bounce back season from Bobby Crosby. As it stands now, they don't have a single infielder who batted above .250 last season. Except for Nick Swisher they're not getting that much production out of their outfield. We'll see how Mike Piazza does as a full-time DH.

If they are to win this division, they will need Harden to step up and be a true ace. Blanton, Haren, and Loiza are all fine pitchers, but I don't expect them to get much offensive support. The bullpen is top heavy so they'll need their starters to go long into games.

3rd Place: Texas Rangers
The Texas Rangers will desperately need huge contributions from both Eric Gagne and Sammy Sosa if they are to compete for the AL West title.

Sosa is huge because if he hits at DH, that will allow Frank Catalanotto into the outfield, which right now stands as Wilkerson, Lofton, and Nelson Cruz. That is a very weak hitting outfield, but of course the Rangers have a very strong hitting infield. Their top 4 starters are all 4.5 - 5 ERA guys, who can go 6 innings. It's nice to see that Bruce Chen looks to be winning the battle for 5th starter, as that will make it the 9th team for the 29-year old. As a lefty, he has a real chance to set some records still, especially if he gets released mid-season which is very possible.

If Gange can pitch like he used to pitch, that would shorten the game by an inning for the Rangers, where the 7th inning would be the big hump inning for them. If Sosa is hitting along with that infield, that could be just enough to put them over the top.

4th Place: Seattle Mariners
The Mariners lineup is not a bad one for this division. I expect a big year from Ichiro. To go along with Johjima, Sexson, and Beltre, they can hit enough for the AL West. However, I don't have much confidence in Felix Hernandez. For them to have any chance he's going to not only need to step up his performance in ERA, but he's going to need to start pitching much deeper into games. That's where their real issues lie.

It's hard to be confident in any of their pitchers going late into games, which means there is no bridge to Putz. They are going to lose to many games innings 6-8 to stay in the race the entire season.

1 comment:

Warren said...

Napoli isn't all that much of an oddity - there's a long tradition of those low AVG, high OBP/SLG catcher types - Mickey Tettleton, Ted Simmons, etc. (Not that Napoli's in that class.)

I think you could say that Harden has a very good chance of a sub-4.00 ERA - the problem with him isn't the runs, it's the innings.

And I do have confidence in Felix Hernandez. He's the type of player that gets underrated fast - a once top prospect that had a bit of a setback. Everyone loves the new flavor of the month (say, Philip Hughes) more than the last can't-miss guy. But I still think Hernandez is a better bet for a great career than Hughes (and I think highly of Hughes). Hernandez has all this major league experience already, and he's only 2 months older than Hughes.