MLB Coverage: The AL West Race

TheSportsNotebook’s  weeklong statistical overview of each division continues today with the AL West. As we’ve done in earlier overviews of the AL East and AL Central, we’ll run through each team’s league rank in runs scored, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, along with starters’ ERA, bullpen ERA and save percentage. Then we’ll note a couple individual performances worth mentioning and summarize it all in a paragraph.

Oakland A’s (54-37)
Runs Scored: 6th
OBP: 6th
Slugging: 9th
Starters’ ERA: 4th
Bullpen ERA: 3rd
Save Opps: 26/36
Notable: Josh Reddick is really struggling, with a .219 batting average and only four home runs. Grant Balfour is not, as the closer is lights out, closing all 24 of his save chances with a 1.72 ERA and conjuring up memories of Dennis Eckersley and his years closing games in one of this franchise’s two glory periods, from 1988-92. (The other, and bigger glory period was 1971-75, with three straight World Series titles mixed in).

Comments: For Oakland to be in the top half of the American League in runs scored in spite of being in a pitchers’ park and having a lousy year from Reddick speaks well to their top-to-bottom offensive balance. Realistically, they need Reddick to turn it around if this pace is going to sustain. Fortunately, that’s a realistic expectation. Realistically.

Texas Rangers (53-37)
Runs Scored: 9th
OBP: 7th
Slugging: 4th
Starters’ ERA: 5th
Bullpen ERA: 4th
Save Opps: 31/35
Notable: Yu Darvish might be the ace, but Derek Holland’s big year, with a 3.19 ERA in 18 starts, is the big reason the Rangers’ starting pitching has been so solid. If you’re looking for a culprit for the struggling offense, start with Elvis Andrus, with his meager .305 on-base percentage and awful .290 slugging percentage.

Comments: Texas’ park is the exact opposite of Oakland’s when it comes to its effect on offense. Therefore, for the Rangers to be only one spot behind the A’s in both starters’ ERA and bullpen ERA probably means the Texas staff is outperforming Oakland’s if all things were equal. But the offense is three spots behind the A’s. Imagine how dramatic the difference between the two contenders would be if they changed parks.

Los Angeles Angels (43-46)
Runs Scored: 7th
OBP: 4th
Slugging: 5th
Starters’ ERA: 10th
Bullpen ERA: 9th
Save Opps: 24/31
Notable: No point in overanalyzing this. While the pitching problems are real, the fact Josh Hamilton has a woeful stat line of .288 OBP/.404 slugging, and Albert Pujols is sitting on .322/.424, is the biggest problem this line up has. It’s why a solid team OBP rank of 4th is not translating into more runs.

Comments: The flip side to the Hamilton/Pujols conundrum is that when those two players are the ones whose turnarounds are what you are most dependent on, that’s a good reason to feel optimistic. The question is going to be this—given that the Angels have given away their margin for error, can they ensure the bullpen doesn’t give up winnable games in the second half?

Seattle Mariners (40-50)
Runs Scored: 13th
OBP: 12th
Slugging: 10th
Starters’ ERA: 9th
Bullpen ERA: 14th
Save Opps: 21/33
Notable: Kyle Seager, with a stat line of .352/.476, is one of the few everyday players having a good year with the bat. And pitching-wise, it’s all about Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, who have combined for a 16-8 record and each has a sub-3.00 ERA.

Comments: Felix and Iwakuma are great, but the seven or so innings they pitch every fifth day is about all the Mariners have going for them. The fact this team is still below average in starters’ ERA in spite of having the game’s best 1-2 punch speaks volumes about how bad the back end is. They can’t score runs and even if one of the aces hands the bullpen a lead of 2-1 or 3-2, take a look at those numbers for the relievers.

Houston Astros (32-58)
Runs Scored: 14th
OBP: 15th
Slugging: 14th
Starters’ ERA: 12th
Bullpen ERA: 15th
Save Opps: 20/31
Notable: We know the Astros are bad, so let’s be nice and talk about a couple positives. Bud Norris has a 3.63 ERA in 19 starts, and Minute Maid Park is hitter-friendly. In the everyday lineup, Chris Carter has hit 17 home runs.

Comments: What else is there to say? To paraphrase a famous rant by former NFL head coach Dennis Green, the Astros are who we thought they were.


I’m surprised to see that Texas is still considered a slight 4-5 favorite to win the AL West, while Oakland is at even money. I’m surprised because even though I respect what the Rangers have done this year, they have a ton of injuries on the pitching staff, while the A’s seem a little more complete. That’s not a prediction on my part—I’ll revisit my preseason picks at some point during next week’s All-Star break MLB coverage.  But I thought the gambling community would be down on the A’s by this point.

The Angels are still 10-1. It’s not that their margin of ten games is impossible to overcome, but they’ve got two teams to make up that gap on—at least in terms of winning the division, which is what these odds reflect, as opposed to simply making the wild-card game. Seattle is 500-1 and Houston is 1,000-1. And the Astros odds should be longer.