Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Pennant Fever - AL West

All World All Sports Blogs

-Digger's Daily-

AL West 2009 has been a great division to follow. Los Angeles, Texas & Seattle have had their moments of greatness and disappointments. Pre-season favorite LA is holding a slim 3 game lead over Texas. Seattle began April on fire, fizzled in May and continues to hang tough even after trading one of their top starters (Washburn). The summer heat is on. Don't count any of these clubs out just yet, especially when considering wild card implications. Here's my read on how the West will be won.

Los Angeles (65-44) has been a model unit showing others how a team decimated by injury can succeed. Manager Mike Scioscia continues to make all the right moves night after night. It's been a complete team effort on both sides of the diamond. Kendry Morales (1B) is having a career year and might be team MVP. Hunter had been an AL MVP candidate until injuries sidelined one of the games best OF's. Guerrero has been in and out of their lineup battling nagging injuries all season long. It doesn't seem to make any difference who Scioscia inserts in daily lineups. Angels find a way to win. They're 56-32 after a rough beginning (April 9-12). Starting pitchers might be their only weak spot come playoff time. Southpaw Saunders has been getting roughed up lately after a great first half. Ervin Santana has yet to find his stride after returning from injury (4-6, 7.20). Team ERA is an unusually high 4.70 and must come down if Scioscia's squad wants to advance beyond the first round against what will certainly be heavy hitting playoff opponents. If the starting rotation faulters or if their fragile arms fall off later this summer ... then look out. Texas is a hungry team hot for their first division title since 1999.

Texas Rangers (62-48) led the West for more games than any team in this division. As usual, their lineup is explosive. It's been Texas' pitchers hurling the surprises (team ERA 4.18). Rangers staff has been a consistent disappointment for years. It's been a pleasant surprise and key to their '09 success. I've always been a fan of Texas baseball. Usually sounding off on how they never seem to sign good pitchers and I still hold this theory. However, they're finally doing something right this year on the hill. Will they continue to win or will they do the usual Texas fade in sweltering 100 degree heat? It remains to be seen. It's been a relatively injury free season (except for '08 surprise Hamilton). Rangers lineup is a wrecking crew when on their game. Swing and miss when off. I'm rooting for them to pass LA for the West crown. Texas is also a wild card contender as of now. I was very disturbed when they didn't trade for a veteran winner (pitcher) to help down the stretch. There's still a chance for a waiver wire deal but it's highly unlikely. The good news here is Texas has owned both LA (9-3) and Seattle (9-3). Winning ways must continue vs these division rivals or the Rangers will be on the outside looking in once again.

Seattle Mariners (58-53) will be included in my pennant fever report based solely on their record even though it appears management has thrown in the towel. They have an outside shot (at best) of winning the West ... but, remain very much in the wild card hunt (for now). I don't think the M's will hang around much longer especially since they traded away a key hurler (Washburn). If they are to stay in the hunt then Felix Hernandez and Eric Bedard will have to win nearly every single remaining starting assignment. 447 total runs scored by their offense is 2nd lowest in AL. Seattle has been fading of late and I project them to finish double digit games out of first place.

Prediction: LA, Texas, Seattle. Texas will just miss on both West and wild card in season's final week.

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