American League West 2019 Midseason Report: Competitive For What Purpose Exactly?
In a way, baseball’s most competitive division is also its least competitive.
Sure, Texas has joined the playoff race as has Anaheim. And Oakland is about where we thought they’d be. Let’s not talk about Seattle yet shall we?
But no one can challenge Houston, who is still the class of the division and one of the four best in Major League Baseball. Here’s a scary thought: Houston gave up Dallas Keuchel and replaced him with… Collin McHugh? Mc Hugh has lost more games than he’s won and his ERA is north of 5.00, yet Houston was still ahead by double digits in the west for a lot of the first half. Assuming nobody gets hurt they still have enough pitching with Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Wade Miley to go deep in the playoffs but if someone gets hurt? If two people get hurt?
The offense Is a modern day Murderers’ Row with almost the entire team hitting better than 270. Shockingly, Jose Altuve is at the bottom of that list. Credit to George Springer. We’ve seen what he can do in the postseason. He’s finally translated that to the regular season and is proving he can be more disciplined: .300+ batting average with 20 home runs and nearly a 1:1 strike out to walk ratio.
Up Interstate 45, with a brief trip in the carpool lane down I-20, the Texas Rangers are doing their best Astros impersonation but are coming up a little bit short. Mike Minor, Lance Lynn, and Jesse Chavez have been good/very good as have Elvis Andrus, Shin Soo Choo, Joey Gallo, Hunter Pence And Danny Santana.
Danny who? He’s only the feel good story of the year: parts of 11 seasons in the minors, never more than 66 games a season with the Twins and then the Braves. This is a player who had “part-time guy” written all over him but now that he’s getting a chance to play every day is hitting .300 and on pace to hit 25 homers. Question is, can you trust any of those guys to continue as they have in the second half? Maybe Minor… and you can’t help but pull for Santana.
Out in Oakland,the Athletics are basically the Rangers with fewer high-average hitters. Third baseman Matt Chapman is their best everyday hitter and he’s just a shade under .280. Both the Rangers and the A’s have the same number of players with double-digit home runs.(7). The good news is Khris Davis is hitting in the .230 range and is due to go on the kind of tear to which A’s fans have become accustomed.
Of the A’s ten best pitchers four have been primarily in relief and three of them have an ERA of less than two-and-a-half (Liam Hendriks 1.21, Wei-Chung Wang 1.50, Yusmeiro Petit 2.39). Also on the team is a guy who broadcasters fear coming to town because he can very well end their careers: Brian Schlitter. I break out in hives just thinking about announcing it.
Like the Rangers, the A’s have a surprisingly good starting rotation that has held up even with the loss of Frankie Montas (suspended for performance-enhancing-drugs.) Mike Fiers, Brett Anderson, and Chris Bassett all have an ERA under 4.00 which makes them basically three number-two or number-three starters. Good enough to get to the playoffs? Sure. Good enough to win a series once there? Doubtful. The A’s should be in the market to import a true number one.
This season was supposed to be different, in theory, with the signing of Mike Trout, the return of Shohei Otani, and The 3000th hit of Albert Pujols. But the Angels didn’t upgrade the pitching and are now struggling emotionally to overcome the death of starter Tyler Skaggs.
There wasn’t much behind Skaggs and management seems at a loss as to how to find decent arms. Griffin Canning’s ERA is getting worse, not better. Los Angeles might do well to try Noe Ramirez, Cam Bedrosian and Hansel Robles as true starters instead of openers. The Angels are at least a year away from a playoff run. They have more pieces than they did: Tommy La Stella and David Fletcher look like half of the team’s infield of the future. But
Seattle sure surprised a lot of people. They had 16 wins by the end of April, but most of those came against struggling Red Sox, Rangers, and Angels teams. The Mariners have won just 24 games in the two-and-a-half months since.
Right now, there isn’t a lot there. The starting pitching is not what you’d call good, but it is better than the Angels.
Left fielder Domingo Santana and catcher Omar Narvaez look like big-leaguers. Narvaez is throwing out less than 20 percent of runners attempting to steal, though, so a move to first base might be in order.Tom Murphy looks more capable in that regard and hits righties at a respectable clip (.239). Dee Gordon’s a good player with speed that becomes more valuable in the postseason and should bring some prospects in a trade.
If you’re an M’s fan, there will be a lot of that. Don’t buy any jerseys. You never know who’s going to be on the team next week.
What does it all mean? Nobody has the horses to run with the Astros. Our preseason pick remains the same, though the fight for second should be awfully fun.