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46 Games In: Sizing Up The AL West

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With about 30% of the season gone and about 70% still ahead here, for your discussion, are my projections on how you can expect the AL West to evolve over the rest of the season.

What should I expect from the A's?

How the heck would I know?

"Are the Angels going to keep winning?"

Unfortunately, yes. The Angels rotation is about 7 deep--meaning it's just fine even when two guys go down--and when Howie Kendrick returns to join Vlad, the lineup won't be half bad either (nor will it be half good). Following a wobbly and hobbly start, and on the heels of a six-game winning streak, the Angels are now a .583 team for the season, which projects to 94.5 wins: And I see them finishing with about 92-93 wins, offering a firm but not outrageous challenge to win the division. And I'd be more surprised if they failed to win 90 than if they won 96.

"Can Seattle stay in the race?"

Unfortunately (if you have a soft spot for the Mariners, as I do), no. Only the mediocrity of the AL West to date has kept Seattle in contention as a .500 team and I fear they will be lucky to win 81 games for the year. Their rotation just isn't good enough. Perhaps the Yankees could win with that rotation, but you know what?--the Yankees probably wouldn't ever bat Jose Vidro third. The Mariners, like the Devil Rays, are among the scariest non-contending teams to have to face. But as May turns to August, Seattle will be spoiling, not contending.

"Are the Rangers really this bad?"

Actually, yes. Texas isn't just off to a lousy start, currently holding the worst record in the entire AL; Texas is actually a lousy team. The knock on the Rangers is that they have a great hitting team, but the pitching really stinks. Trouble is, in reality, the pitching stinks just as much as advertised but the hitting isn't as good as people think.

Millwood is not an ace; he's a decent pitcher who has been stunningly mediocre since 2002. Vicente Padilla is as inconsistent as he is talented, Robinson Tejeda is arguably their best pitcher but that doesn't mean he's great, Kameron Loe's sinker only sinks against the A's, and Brandon McCarthy's fastball is as straight as Harvey Fierstein isn't. Mike Wood should change his first name to Dead.

But folks, the lineup isn't all that. Michael Young and Mark Teixeira are very, very good, yet even their numbers are far more pedestrian away from Texas--Young has just a.315 career OBP on the road, while Teixeira bats 40 points lower (.262) and slugs 100 points lower on the road. The trouble with big home/road splits, compared to big L/R splits, is that you play 81 of your games on the road. Meanwhile, Hank Blalock, like our own Eric Chavez, struggles mightily against lefties and is stuck in the rut of being one of the decades "all-time good" hitters; he is not part of any murderer's row. Ian Kinsler certainly has talent but beyond that, the Rangers lineup doesn't scare anyone--except Ron Washington, when he's weighing it alongside his own team's pitching.

I don't know if this is the year Seattle drops Texas into the cellar, but don't be surprised if it happens. With Felix Hernandez back, the Mariners may have a better chance of continuing to play .500 ball than the Rangers have of seeing the sunny side of .500 any time soon.