2005 MLB Predictions: AL West

Joe Beatty

When baseball historians look back at the Mariners over the late nineties and beyond, they will be puzzled over the strange anomaly that was last season’s disaster. Luckily for M’s fans, 2004 will be just a blip, as GM Bill Bavasi made up for his “Rich Aurilia Offseason” with some very nice free-agent signings over the winter of 2005. Beltre and Sexson will give the lineup pop, and once Jose Lopez is healthy, he and Jeremy Reed will give Seattle a good young core. The only issues that could crop up this year are on the pitching side.

The California Los Angeles Angels of Western United States Third Planet from the Sun might win over a broader fan base, but they will have a hard time getting back to the playoffs. The departure of David Eckstein leaves the Halos without the heart of their championship run, and the new infield has very little power. The lack of home runs will be rough when this crummy starting rotation gets exposed.

The good news for the Rangers is that they still have one of the best lineups in baseball. The bad news-and it really isn’t news anymore-is that they still have Chan Ho Park and Kenny Rogers at the top of their rotation.

Billy Beane has a knack for getting things right (in the regular season) but he will need a lot more than Moneyball to help the A’s this season. Oakland will be sending out four young pitchers and Barry Zito, who is coming off a very down year. Assuming Erubiel Durazo sticks to his status quo, Eric Chavez will be the only Athletic to consistently knock in runs.

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1. Seattle Mariners

2. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

3. Texas Rangers

4. Oakland A’s

Tye Smith

Some guy got all bent out of shape when I picked the Angels to finish third in this division last year, so I’m going to take them to win. The Angels put the finishing touches on an already dangerous outfield when they acquired center fielder Steve Finley to play between Vladimir Guerrero and Garrett Anderson-it might now be the best core of outfielders in the game.

In other interesting news, the Angels want to be known as the Los Angeles Angels instead of the Anaheim Angels. They are currently engaged in a compelling court drama that could rival the intrigue of the O.J. Simpson trial when all is said and done. Stay tuned.

With Barry Zito as the lone remaining piece from the pitching threesome of Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson and Zito that terrorized teams for years, the A’s have lost their identity. Even more problematic is that Zito sucked in his first outing this year. But there is some encouraging news for this franchise: center fielder Mark Kotsay is batting .500 after 20 at bats.

Mike Hargrove is a winner, and while he couldn’t get the job done in Baltimore, he should be much more successful with the Mariners. This team still needs improvement, but having the best lead-off hitter in the history of the game in Ichiro Suzuki can be a catalyst for scoring a lot of runs. The pitching staff has questions, but if Jamie Moyer remains healthy and gets back to his old form, this club could be OK.

The Rangers are getting good production from Alfonso Soriano, again, but they don’t have much in the pitching department. The Rangers are a pretty good team for last place, but this division has emerged as one of the better divisions in baseball, pound for pound.

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1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

2. Oakland A’s

3. Seattle Mariners

4. Texas Rangers

Asad Kudiya

Even though the Seattle Mariners made great improvements in the offseason, they aren’t going to win the division crown. That spot is reserved for Los Angeles, since the A’s conducted a firesale and are starting over.

The Angels’ lineup is deadly with Darin Erstad leading off, Chone Figgins right behind him and Vlad the impaler at third. Garret Anderson is at cleanup and Steve Finley is right behind him. The Angels will score a lot of runs and they will need to, because I don’t have much faith in the starting rotation-at least Francisco Rodriguez is the closer now.

The Rangers are a good, young team that is growing together and will finish second this year.

Mark Teixeira has not done well at all this season, but he has the ability to pound a bunch of balls out of the park. Alfonso Soriano could do better this year batting leadoff and the Rangers added Richard Hidalgo to add some power to the bottom half of the lineup. The starters are solid, and the bullpen is very good.

Adding Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson was huge for the Mariners, since they had a guy who was always stranded on base in Ichiro. Ichiro always gets to first and can quickly get to second with his speed. With Beltre and Sexson, the Mariners should score a lot more runs this year. The problem is that the starting pitching sucks. Jamie Moyer is not an ace and the rest of the rotation doesn’t impress me or anyone else [Ed. Note: Mr. Kudiya did not do any research to determine the factuality of this statement].

You know Billy Beane has a plan set for this team, but I just don’t see the A’s climbing out of the cellar. The lineup is a good blend of bats, but nobody really jumps out at you. The pitching staff is young and God knows how long Barry Zito will stay with the A’s. He could be shipped off just like Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder for more young talent.

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1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

2. Texas Rangers

3. Seattle Mariners

4. Oakland A’s

Matthew Piper

At least one team in the American League is giving the two AL East superpowers a run for their money.

The “Los Angeles” Angels feature one of baseball’s most effective relievers, Francisco Rodriguez, who should make a smooth transition from set-up man to closer. There’s no reason hitters will be able to do any better against the 23-year old fireballer in a different inning. Bartolo Colon can no longer reach back and find 97 mph consistently with his fastball, so he’s decided to solve his velocity the same way that he solves all his other problems, by eating. If fatty can somehow win anything close the 18 he tallied last year, a powerful lineup will give the Angles a shot at another World Series title.

The Texas Rangers have the best infield in baseball, but not much else. Richard Hidalgo hit .228 in 2003 and .239 in 2004, so he’s poised for a huge year. Trust me, he’s a first ballot shoe-in for the Steve Trachsel Schizophrenic Baseball Hall of Fame. Somehow Alfonso Soriano already appears to have his best years behind him at 29(!). On the contrary, 24-year-old Hank Blalock appears to have a remarkable future, but he needs to solve his tendency of fading after the All-Star break.

The Mariners brought in Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson, lending instant credibility to a flaccid lineup. Ichiro Suzuki had an amazing season last year, but he only produced 161 runs. He’s good, he’s just not THAT good. Seattle has solid arms throughout the staff and could contend for the division title if they can get some production from the bottom of the lineup.

The A’s lost two of their infamous “Big 3,” and the remaining musketeer has been getting shelled like Baghdad. Barry Zito has lost his magic on the mound, but he sure is handsome and he plays the guitar. So he’s got THAT going for him, which is nice. They’re hoping that another wave of young pitching will propel them back into contention. GM Billy Beane is running a talent agency in Oakland. The end result of “Billy Ball” is a fresh group of youth ready to flourish and start packing for the move to New York.

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1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

2. Texas Rangers

3. Seattle Mariners

4. Oakland A’s