Sunday, March 04, 2007

2007 AL West Predictions

Los Angeles Angels (94-68) 92-96 win range
Oakland Athletics (92-70) 90-94 win range
Texas Rangers (84-78) 82-86 win range
Seattle Mariners (72-90) 70-74 win range
2006 W-L Record: 89-73 (2nd)
2006 pW-pL Record: 84-78
2007 Projection: 94-68
Strengths: Pitching staff; young hitters, Vlad Guerrero
Weaknesses: Impact hitters; offensive depth
Biggest Change from '06: Their top rookies are either in the majors (Weaver, Kendrick) or getting close (Wood)
One Reason:
One Reason the Angels will win in '07 is that their pitching staff is top-notch. The Angels are heading into 2007 with probably the best starting rotation staff in the league. They don't have a big ace (although John Lackey is underrated), but they've got several guys strongly above-average, such as Lackey, Jered Weaver, Kelvim Escobar and Ervin Santana. Bartolo Colon will take the #5 spot, and although he has the potential to perform well, it's doubtful given his health status. Either way, the Angels' starting rotation should give them a chance to win every night, even with their offense.
One Reason the Angels will lose in '07 is -- speaking of that offense . . . The Angels' lineup consists of Vlad Guerrero and a lot of hope. Their other veterans are either expensive guys who are vaguely productive (Gary Matthews, Jr., Orlando Cabrera) or guys with little left to offer (Garret Anderson, Shea Hillenbrand). They do have some quality guys like Juan Rivera and Chone Figgins who have already established themselves in the majors. But the lineup will succeed or fail based on the success of the young talent. And judging from the past couple years, that's not much to hang your hat on.
While I'm less than bullish about the Angel's offense, I think their pitching staff can carry them to October. And Mike Scioscia has been able to win with some thin, slap-happy lineups in the past (though none quite this bad).
The other reason I'm picking the Angels to win the division is that I think they're better than the A's, the only other contender in the AL West. Oakland has a more well-rounded ballclub and is certainly capable of repeating as division champions, but they're a worse team than they were last year and still have a lot of questions surrounding their roster, particularly in terms of injuries. So I'm picking the Angels to win by default.
2006 W-L Record: 93-69 (1st)
2006 pW-pL Record: 85-77
2007 Projection: 92-70
Strengths: Well-rounded roster; pitching depth
Weaknesses: Thin offense; few star pitchers
Biggest Change from '06: The loss of Barry Zito, followed closely by the loss of Frank Thomas
One Reason:
One Reason the A's will win in '07 is that they've done a great job of overcoming obstacles over the past seven years or so, and there's no better example than 2006. They had a disappointing lineup then with lots of injuries. They also had a pitching staff with good depth, but no real stars. They beat out the Angels last year despite these flaws, and they're perfectly capable of doing it again this year.
One Reason the A's will lose in '07 is that they're just not as good as they were last year, and they can't keep pace with the Angels by moving backwards. I completely agree that Barry Zito is overrated, but he's still a hard guy to replace in your rotation (although a healthy Rich Harden would help). Frank Thomas was an offensive star last year, and it's hard to see the A's making up for his loss, even with the signing of Mike Piazza.
The A's would get a big boost if they could keep even half of last year's walking wounded healthy this year. Rich Harden is priority #1, but they also lost a lot when their middle infield went down (as evidenced in the playoffs, when they started D'Angelo Jimenez at second base). Marco Scutaro is a great backup, but he shouldn't be getting more than 300 at bats.
The A's are also counting on some declining stars to fill in the gaps. There's little chance of Jason Kendall or Mark Kotsay turning things around for a career year, even though they're two guys who can at least be counted upon to stay healthy. Esteban Loaiza wasn't that bad in 2006, but he's not going to fill Barry Zito's shoes.
No, as much as I think the A's will be competitive, I don't see them making the postseason.
2006 W-L Record: 80-82 (3rd)
2006 pW-pL Record: 86-76
2007 Projection: 84-78
Strengths: Infield offense; stabilized pitching staff
Weaknesses: Outfield offense; quality and depth of pitching staff
Biggest Change from '06: Nothing significant, other than switching out John Danks for Brandon McCarthy
One Reason:
One Reason the Rangers will win in '07 is that the Angels and A's engage in an on-field brawl that results in full-season suspensions for all 50 players involved.
One Reason the Rangers will lose in '07 is that they're simply not as good as the Angels or A's. Their offense is strong, but not as strong as the ballpark makes it seem. The Rangers are still running out a bare outfield, and they can't count on a lot of production from catcher (Laird) or third base (Blalock) either. Their pitching staff is improving, but it's still not good enough to push this team much past .500.
The Rangers will have a tough time simply maintaining what they accomplished last year. Granted, there is room for improvement; Brad Wilkerson and Mark Teixeira should have better years, and the addition of Brandon McCarthy gives the team a reliable #3 for the first time in recent memory. But although this team is taking baby steps forward, they're still not really contenders.
2006 W-L Record: 78-84 (4th)
2006 pW-pL Record: 78-84
2007 Projection: 72-90
Strengths: Infield corners; Outfield; Rotation depth
Weaknesses: Power; Rotation quality; Middle relief
Biggest Change from '06: Added depth of Miguel Batista and Jeff Weaver
One Reason:
One Reason the Mariners will win in '07 is by forfeit.
One Reason the Mariners will lose in '07 is if they just keep doing what they've been doing.
I may be too pessimistic about the Mariners. Yes, they improved their starting rotation in the offseason (but at what cost?). And yeah, their offense isn't that bad. Or is it? Really, they've got a star in Ichiro, a few solid players (Sexson, Beltre, Johjima, Ibanez) and then nada. Adding in Jose Guillen and Jose Vidro isn't going to help anything.
And it should be said that the Mariners gave up Rafael Soriano for nothing (viz: Horacio Ramirez), thereby hurting their middle relief prospects. And while the M's did improve their rotation, it was pretty bad to begin with, and no one would call Miguel Batista and Jeff Weaver money in the bank.
GM Bill Bavasi was trying to save his job, and I doubt it will result in much headway out on the field.

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