How the West Will Be Won: MLB Preview

When it's all said and done, I still think the Giants' chemistry will trump the Dodgers' money. The same phenomenon could happen in the AL West. 

The Western divisions of both the National League and American League and where one finds some very good teams and some grotesquely awful ones. Both divisions are also  up for grabs than most pundits would have you believe.

National League West:  The Dodgers have become the new Yankees, apparently without noting that for all the dough they've spent in New York, championships have been elusive. On paper the Dodgers are formidable. There’s Matt Kemp, plus so much pitching that Capuano and/or Lilly are likely to be dealt. But let me point out that the team also includes fragile personalities such as Ethier, Greinke, Harang, Beckett, Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez, the latter the only infielder who will impress with his defense. Manager Don Mattingly has the kind of team that will either go to the World Series or get him fired by All-Star break. I’m betting the latter. The Giants are reigning champs and have something the boys from LA lack: chemistry. They also have a pitching staff that’s as good as any, and stand-up players such as Posey, Scutaro, Pagan, and Sandoval. Until someone beats them, the Giants remain the best of the West.

The Diamondbacks have the arms to compete, if everyone steps up (especially Kennedy, Cahill, and mystery man Brandon McCarthy). The everyday lineup won’t stun anyone, but it contains grinders who can be troublesome. If a few teams underachieve, the D-Backs could grab a Wild Card. The Rockies, on the other hand, seem to be very short on pitching behind De La Rosa and Francis. It has some good lumber—Carlos Gonzalez, Cudyer, and the wonderful Troy Tulowitzki—but unless young arms come on faster than projected, their hopes are as thin as the Denver air. As for the Padres, there is Quentin, the enigmatic Volquez, Headley, and prayers. Not enough, which is why Headley is on everyone’s most-likely-to-be-traded list.

American League West: The Angels are the other West Coast free-spending bully; they also have the same set of question marks as the Dodgers. On paper, Pujols, Hamilton, Trout, Trumbo, and Kendrick are frightening. The staff is more solid than formidable, but it’s deep. The big fear—and a legitimate one—is that the Angels could be this year’s version of the 2010 Red Sox—big names and small deliveries. If Hamilton yields to his demons, Pujols doesn’t figure out AL pitching better, and Trout hits more like he did last September than last June, the Angels could swoon. I remain a Jared Weaver skeptic, by the way, but the Angels will benefit from diminished competition.

The Angels should win, simply because they've raided so much of the Rangers’ roster that Texas will find itself short of both big arms and big bats. Who’s the ace of the staff? Holland? Hanson? Feliz? Can Oganda start? And Lance Berkman will not replace Hamilton’s production. Who knows what to make of the Athletics? Once again Oakland will field mostly no-names with good sabermetrics numbers. If history is any guide, the A’s won’t be good this year—those surges such as the one in 2012 are generally followed by sinks. On the other hand, given the Astros' entry into the division, the A's might have a legitimate shot. Every year I say the Mariners will surprise, and every year they impress only with their constant mediocrity. I wonder why General Manager Jack Zduriencik still has a job.  His latest bonehead move is trading a decent pitcher (Vargas) to the rival Angels for a player who wasn't going to make their lineup (Morales). This team is Felix Hernandez, the over-the-hill gang (Ibanez, Bay) and the never-will-be boys (Montero, Morse, Saunders). But they won’t finish last. If the Astros don’t lose at least 100 games this year—their first in the AL--Bo Porter should be manager of the year, no questions asked!   


NL: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Colorado, San Diego

AL:  Los Angeles (with little confidence), Oakland (a hunch), Texas, Seattle, Houston

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