The Astros seemingly have bigger fish to fry than winning the AL West division in 2019, but failure to do so could leave the team out in the cold or fighting through a win or done Wild Card scenario. Here is a look at the AL West for 2019 in the predicted order of finish.
1) Houston Astros 2018: 103-59 AL West Winners. Lost in ALCS to Red Sox.
2018. Hitting – .255 BA (4th in AL) / .329 OBP (4th) / .754 OPS (5th) / 797 runs (5th) / 278 2Bs (8th) / 205 HRs (7th) / 71 SB (10th) / 565 BB (3rd) 1197 Ks (2nd least)
2018. Starting Pitching – 3.16 ERA (1st) / 1.12 WHIP (1st) / 100 HRs (2nd least) / 298 BBs (6th most) / 1101 Ks (1st) / .219 BA against (1st) / .645 OPS against (1st)
2018. Relief Pitching – 3.03 ERA (1st) / 1.06 WHIP (1st) / 46 Saves (T 4th) / 52 HR (least) / 137 BBs (least) / 586 Ks (8th) / .214 BAA (1st) / .630 OPSA (1st)
- SP Dallas Keuchel, SP Charlie Morton, UT Marwin Gonzalez, C Brian McCann, C Martin Maldonado, DH Evan Gattis and RP Tony Sipp all gone to Free Agency (Keuchel and Gattis still floating out there)
- SP Lance McCullers Jr.and RP Joe Smith both out with major injuries
- Signed FAs OF Michael Brantley, C Robinson Chirinos and SP Wade Miley
- Traded for UT Aledmys Diaz
- Hopeful that 2B Jose Altuve, OF George Springer and SS Carlo Correa are all over injuries that affected their play (though Correa is having neck problems) and will be major additions
Discussion. The Astros rode a top-notch offense and very good pitching to the 2017 World Series. The 2018 team’s starting pitching and bullpen were both at the top of baseball, while the offense took a step backward. They have sustained a lot of losses in this off-season, but strategically added at a few spots of need, moved a few pitchers around and added some lightly tested youth. It is interesting that the loss of three starting pitchers may show up more in the bullpen than in the rotation as they brought in Miley from the outside and moved Collin McHugh and Brad Peacock from the ‘pen to the rotation. The lineup losses may not affect the offense at all as Gattis had already lost his spot to Tyler White and Brantley will take up most of the ABs that Marwin took in LF. The key is getting their core guys back healthy and hacking.
Outlook. It is hard to picture a scenario where the Astros don’t do well in a division that looks pretty shaky. Even if they struggle with their pitching, they have some really impressive arms (Forrest Whitley, Corbin Martin, J.B. Bukauskas, Cionel Perez) only a phone call away. On top of that, the front office has not been shy to trade prospects for needs during the season.
Prediction: Astros finish 100-62 and first in the AL West followed by a long run into the playoffs
LA Angels 2018: 80-82 and fourth in AL West
2018. Hitting – .242 BA (11th in AL) / .313 OBP (10th) / .726 OPS (8th) / 721 runs (8th) / 249 2Bs (14th) / 214 HRs (5th) / 89 SB (6th) / 514 BB (9th) 1300 Ks (5th least)
2018. Starting Pitching – 4.34 ERA (7th) / 1.31 WHIP (8th) / 123 HRs (7th least) / 287 BBs (9th least) / 783 Ks (5th) / .250 BA against (7th) / .745 OPS against (8th)
2018. Relief Pitching – 3.92 ERA (7th) / 1.34 WHIP (8th) / 35 Saves (12th) / 82 HR (12th least) / 259 BBs (3rd most) / 603 Ks (6th) / .247 BAA (7th) / .729 OPSA (7th)
- SP Garrett Richards, Jim Johnson, Matt Shoemaker, RP Blake Parker, Junichi Tazawa, and Blake Wood, OF Chris Young, UT Eric Young Jr., and Jefry Marte
- Lost the pitching side of rookie sensation Shohei Ohtani, but as he recovers from TJ surgery he should be DH’ing instead of death anchor Albert Pujols.
- Signed SP Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill, RP Cody Allen, C Jonathan Lucroy and 1B Justin Bour
- Extended some guy named after a fish
Discussion. The most significant transaction for this team was the extension agreed to with the best player in the majors, Mike Trout. This removes a giant shadow and a heckuva lot of doubt for this team. In 2018 they were 8th in the league in runs scored and 7th in both SP ERA and RP ERA and ended up as the mediocre team they deserved. Two questions have hung over this team for a while. What if they were paying prime money for the prime of Pujols and what if they could actually dodge the injury bug, especially the pitching staff?
Outlook: Between injuries to Ohtani, former Astro Nick Tropeano, Andrew Heaney and Justin Upton, 2019 is not exactly starting off well for the Angels. They will get Ohtani back fairly early (as a DH) and if Cahill and Harvey can pick up where they left off last season, this team might be slightly above average.
Prediction: Angels finish 84-78 and second in the AL West
Oakland A’s 2018: 97-65 and second place in the AL West. Lost the Wild Card to the Yanks
2018. Hitting – .252 BA (6th in AL) / .325 OBP (6th) / .764 OPS (4th) / 813 runs (4th) / 322 2Bs (2nd) / 227 HRs (2nd) / 35 SB (15th) / 550 BB (6th) 1381 Ks (9th least)
2018. Starting Pitching – 4.17 ERA (6th) / 1.24 WHIP (5th) / 109 HRs (4th least) / 240 BBs (3rd least) / 610 Ks (14th) / .248 BA against (6th) / .719 OPS against (6th)
2018. Relief Pitching – 3.37 ERA (2nd) / 1.18 WHIP (2nd) / 44 Saves (6th) / 75 HR (8th least) / 234 BBs (9th least) / 627 Ks (4th) / .220 BAA (2nd) / .658 OPSA (2nd)
- SP Trevor Cahill, Kendall Graveman and Edwin Jackson, RP Emilio Pagan, Jeurys Familia, Danny Coulombe, Chris Hatcher, Shawn Kelly, Jake Smolinski, and Cory Gearrin C Jonathan Lucroy, IF Jed Lowrie, OF Matt Joyce
- Signed SP Marco Estada, RP Joakim Soria, OF Robbie Grossman, C Chris Hermann
- Traded for IF Jurickson Profar, RP Tanner Anderson, DH/1B Kendrys Morales
- Claimed RP Parker Bridwell
Discussion. In 2018, the A’s combined a very solid offensive effort with a surprisingly solid starting rotation (helped by surprise seasons from Trevor Cahill, Edwin Jackson, Mike Fiers and Brett Anderson) and a very good bullpen led by closer Blake Treinen. The offense will miss Lowrie and the long term injury to Matt Olson (somewhat offset by the pickup of Morales). The rotation has to miss the losses of Cahill, Graveman and Jackson, though the familiar name of Dallas Keuchel gets bandied about as a possible late pickup. You would think the bullpen would miss the loss of so many arms listed above, though Soria could offset some of that loss.
Outlook 2018 for the A’s seemed like 2015 for the Astros, a season that is begging for a bit of regression.
Prediction: A’s finish 81-81 and third in the AL West
Seattle Mariners 2018: 89-73 and third place in the AL West
2018: Hitting – .254 BA (5th in AL) / .314 OBP (9th) / .722 OPS (11th) / 677 runs (11th) / 256 2Bs (13th) / 176 HRs (11th) / 79 SB (8th) / 430 BB (11th) 1221 Ks (3rd least)
2018: Starting Pitching – 4.35 ERA (8th) / 1.25 WHIP (6th) / 127 HRs (6th least) / 226 BBs (2nd least) / 772 Ks (6th) / .257 BA against (10th) / .737 OPS against (7th)
2018: Relief Pitching – 3.76 ERA (5th) / 1.23 WHIP (5th) / 60 Saves (1st) / 68 HR (5th least) / 174 BBs (3rd least) / 556 Ks (10th) / .243 BAA (6th) / .708 OPSA (6th)
- SP James Paxton, RP Edwin Diaz, Alex Colome, Nick Vincent, James Pazos, SS Jean Segura, 2B Robinson Cano, C Mike Zunino, DH Nelson Cruz
- 3B Kyle Seager out a couple months injured
- SP Yusei Kikuchi, 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion, OF Jay Bruce, Domingo Santana, SS Tim Beckham, C Omar Narvaez, RP Hunter Strickland, Cory Gearrin, Zac Rosscup, OF Mallex Smith
In 2018 the M’s were a fairly weak offense with average starting pitching and a good bullpen. Their offseason was hard to figure as they parted with three of their best four everyday players (Cruz, Cano, Segura), arguably their best starter (Paxton) and four of their better relievers (Diaz, Colombe, Vincent, Pazos). You could say they were trying to get younger, but why trade young SS Segura? Why let one productive oldster walk (Cruz) while holding onto one terrible oldster Felix Hernandez, who has fallen from King Felix to Court Jester Felix. Yes, the path they were following was not going to catch the Astros any time soon, but they seemed to make a half effort at a re-build here and it felt like they did not get all they should have from the Segura trade.
Looking at their Pythagorean W-L, the M’s should have been 77-85 in 2018, but had pretty good luck versus their performance. They will not sniff 89 wins in 2019 (I don’t care that they are 2-0 already).
Prediction: Mariners – 80-82 and 4th place in the AL West
Texas Rangers 2018: 67-95 and fifth in the AL West
2018. Hitting – .240 BA (14th in AL) / .318 OBP (7th) / .722 OPS (10th) / 737 runs (7th) / 266 2Bs (11th) / 194 HRs (8th) / 74 SB (9th) / 555 BB (4th) 1484 Ks (2nd most)
2018. Starting Pitching – 5.37 ERA (14th) / 1.44 WHIP (14th) / 148 HRs (2nd most) / 277 BBs (8th least) / 590 Ks (15th) / .281 BA against (14th) / .832 OPS against (14th)
2018. Relief Pitching – 4.28 ERA (8th) / 1.35 WHIP (9th) / 42 Saves (7th) / 74 HR (7th least) / 214 BBs (4th least) / 531 Ks (12th) / .256 BAA (9th) / .748 OPSA (9th)
- 3B Adrian Beltre (retired), IF Jurickson Profar, C Robinson Chirinos, SP Doug Fister, Martin Perez, Bartolo Colon, and Yovani Galardo, RP Matt Moore, Tony Barnette, Austin Bibens-Dirkx, Ryan Rua and Eddie Butler
- Note – Most of these pitchers (except for Fister and Barnette) should be considered addition by subtraction, they were so terrible last season
- Signed 3B Asdrubal Cabrera, SP Edinson Volquez, Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller, C Jeff Mathis, RP Shawn Kelley
- Traded for SP Drew Smyly
Discussion: The 2018 Rangers were an overall bad club. Somehow they turned pretty poor hitting into scoring runs near the league average per game. However, their starting pitching was leaking like a sieve, giving up more than 2 earned runs more per game than the Astros staff. Their bullpen was decent. In the off-season they decided to jettison most of their starting staff, went and grabbed Lance Lynn who was below average in 2018, Shelby Miller who only pitched 16 bad innings in 2018, Volquez who did not pitch in 2017 and Drew Smyly, who pitched 1 minor league inning in the last two seasons. And the funny thing is the rotation was so bad that this may be an improvement.
Outlook: Some improvement in the rotation will help this team, but it is a lot to expect them to all stay healthy. The retirement of Beltre even after a so-so year has to hurt the heart of this club.
Prediction: Rangers 72-90 and fifth in the AL West
- The World Series winner will come from these three clubs.
- The Astros should be the favorite, but they won in 2017 because they were healthy in the playoffs and injuries hurt them in the playoffs in 2018.
- I don’t care who the AL champ plays in the WS. They will win.
- Alex Bregman will be close on the MVP award, but Mike Trout will be hard to beat.
- I can’t wait to see some of the young Astro arms, especially in the second half of the season
- The A’s and Mariners will both fall off this season.
I am just happy that I can root for a team that actually has a good chance to contend every season. The nightmare of 2011-2014 is way in the rearview mirror