Man oh man, talk about a division with a ton of drama. The Rangers went to their second straight World Series only to get their hopes crushed in a brutal game six. As far as we can tell that loss hasn’t discouraged them from get back on the horse and compete for a third-straight World Series. It’s only going to get tougher though, as rivals Angels arguably baseball’s best hitter in Albert Pujols from the Cardinals who beat the Rangers in the World Series.
The Angels signed C.J. Wilson away from the Rangers and that should heat up the rivalry all the more. Let’s not forget though, these aren’t the only two teams in the division. Seattle and Oakland are quiet but also aggressive and would love to play the role of spoilers if nothing else. Oh, and don’t forget, this division will add the Houston Astros next year.
Texas Rangers: There were so many things that happened in the offseason that could’ve served as major distractions, but they didn’t. The Rangers just put everything behind them and focused on what lies ahead. The team wasn’t interested in giving Wilson the money he was asking for, and it’s easy to see why when looking at his postseason numbers. They more than made up for with the addition of Yu Darvish whose expectations are through the roof.
Colby Lewis got the nod to start opening day as he looks to start for his third 200-inning season. He won 14 games in 2011 and as the No. 1 starter in 2012, he will have a chance to improve some more. Derek Holland has surprised a lot of people and is performance in the postseason (particularly in Game 4 of World Series) helped him earn a five-year $28 million contract. He loves Dallas and it’s nice to know he’s here to stay for a while. Matt Harrison also won 14 games last year Yu Darvish will be under a microscope as everybody will be evaluating whether or not the Rangers made the right move in signing him. Neftali Feliz is moving from closer to the fifth starter. The former rookie of the year throws heat that will have people waving and coming up empty.
Ian Kinsler is the leadoff man and likely the most underrated second baseman in the league. He’s coming off a 32- home run season with a .255 average and an on-base percentage of .355 and he also stole 30 bases. Shortstop Elvis Andrus has come a long way. His lightning speed has allowed him to steal bases and makes him a tough defensive weapon. Josh Hamilton is in a contract year but his main focus is helping the team.
The 2010 MVP missed 36 games last year but still managed to hit 25 homers and 94 RBIs. Adrian Beltre made a huge difference last season with his 32 homers, 105 RBIs and .296 batting average. Oh, all happened despite the fact he missed 37 games. Nelson Cruz is clutch, pure clutch. He hit 29 homers with 87 RBIs and is a freak of nature in the outfield. If you’ve forgotten his value, check out the ALCS.
Michael Young, the club’s All-Time hit leader had 214 hits last year and 106 RBIs and finished eighth in MVP voting. He will be the team’s primary DH but can play first, third and shortstop. Mike Napoli destroys lefties. He’ll see time at first and at catcher. Mitch Moreland was limited due to a wrist injury, but if he’s at full strength, he will mess up opposing pitchers ERA. David Murphy will split time with Julio Borbon. Murphy has been a tremendous fill in and adds great depth.
The season couldn’t get here fast enough for the Rangers who just wanted to put Game 6 as far behind them as possible and take another shot at winning it all. The club went 96-66, winning the most games in franchise history. It won’t be easy to repeat that but don’t assume they won’t.
Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim: They’re stacked at pitching. They’re stacked with bats. Adding Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson to the mix will not only make them a better team but will add to the rivalry between them and the Rangers.
Jared Weaver had the best year of any AL pitcher, other than Justin Verlander. Dan Haren has been nothing but consistent. He averaged 5.38 Ks per walks to lead the league last year. Wilson won 16 games with Texas last year and earned an ERA of 2.94. Ervin Santana threw a no-hitter a year ago and finished the year 7-1.
Switch hitter and leadoff man Erick Aybar won a Gold Glove last season and finished with a batting average of .279. Howie Kendrick made his first All-Star team last year thanks to 18 homers and an average of .285. Albert Pujols had a slow start in St. Louis last year, but still managed a .299 average, 99 RBI and a World Series. Torii Hunter has battled injuries in the last several years but last year had 882 RBIs anyway.
The Angels are tired of taking a backseat to the Rangers and the offseason moves could help prevent that, but it won’t be easy. The club finished 86-76 and will likely win a few more, but it’s going to be a tight race no doubt.
Seattle Mariners: Felix Hernandez is pretty much the pitching staff, but he can’t do it all. Unfortunately for Seattle though, the Mariners don’t have much else. They do have some decent bats, but will it be enough to get the Ws?
Hernandez is young, 25, and already has a Cy Young from the 2010 season, and he’s coming off a season with an ERA of 3.47. Chone Figgins had a disappointing season last year but the team hopes being the leadoff man will change that. Ichiro Suzuki has had 200 hits in each season of his career, except last year. Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero are inconsistent, but when they’re on, they’re hard to stop. Franklin Gutierrez won the Gold Glove in 2010 but was plagued by injuries last season. He’ll likely miss the majority of this season as well.
A record of 67-95 was embarrassing. This year’s going to be long and embarrassing also.
Oakland Athletics: Expectations were high for this team last year as many predicted they’d finish first or second in the west. That obviously didn’t happen and expectations are low this year. Brandon McCarthy, former Ranger is No. Ace (if you can call him that) and like the Mariners, the A’s will depend on the bats to keep them alive.
McCarthy is coming off his best year with nine wins, an ERA of 3.32 and 170 2/3 innings.
Leadoff Jemile Weeks hit .303 with eight triples, 22 steals, an on-base percentage of .340 as a rookie in 2011. Coco Crisp tied for the most steals in the AL with 49, but doesn’t seem too happy about moving to centerfield. Josh Reddick homered seven times last year with an average of .280. Kurt Suzuki has hit an average of 14 homers over the past three seasons but team will need more production than that out of him.
A record of 74-88 wasn’t bad compared to what this year will be.