With the start of the season just around the corner I figured it would be a good idea to share my thoughts on the projected standings for the 2010 season. These are not scientific, at least not based on any of my own work, but I have studied the various projection systems out there. We've covered the AL East and Central, so let's move on to the West.
This should be a hotly contested division in 2010. The Angels lost a couple of key players, the Mariners added two weapons in Chone Figgins and Cliff Lee, and the young Rangers just keep getting better. However, this will also probably be the weakest division in the American League, and whoever advances will be cannon fodder in the ALDS. However, that is also what most people though last year, and the Angels swept the Red Sox.
1. Texas Rangers (86-76)
Last season, the Rangers posted 87 wins and an impressive +44 run differential. I have them listed at 86 wins, but that is a conservative estimate. If Josh Hamilton and Ian Kinsler can give them full, healthy seasons, Chris Davis can rebound from an awful year, and Neftali Feliz is all he is billed up to be, this team could easily find themselves with more than 90 wins.
2. Los Angeles Angels (83-79)
It looks like the Angels reign atop the West is finally coming to a close. They lost two key free agents in John Lackey and Chone Figgins, and are attempting to replace them with Brandon Wood and Joel Pineiro. Wood has impressive minor league numbers, but people are still sceptical about his ability to handle major league pitching. Thankfully for the Angels, they have a strong replacement option with Maicer Izturis. Pitching, however, will be the Angels undoing. Jered Weaver was extremely lucky last season (3.75 ERA vs. 4.48 xFIP), last season was Pineiro's first xFIP season under 4.00 since 2002, Scott Kazmir was just awful last season, and Brian Fuentes' arm appears to be hanging on by a thread.
T3. Seattle Mariners (78-84)
The Mariners are a chic pick this year thanks to 85 wins last season and one of the best defences in the league. I'm not buying it. The wins were a mirage as their run differential was -52, 4th worst in the AL. Chone Figgins will be a slight upgrade over Adrian Beltre, but the fact is this is a terrible offensive team, especially with the loss of slugger Russell Branyan, as well as Ryan Garko. I admire what GM Jack Zduriencik is doing, and would love to be wrong about this team, but I don't think I am.
T3. Oakland Athletics (78-84)
Opposite the Mariners, the A's underperformed last season with only 75 wins but a -2 run differential. They added a terrific defensive centerfielder in Coco Crisp (although he will miss significant time with a broken finger), and signed ace Ben Sheets to a one year deal. Kurt Suzuki is one of the most underappreciated players in the game, and gives the A's some pop that most teams just don't have behind the plate. Overall, this team doesn't do anything particularly well, but led by the unheralded (at least outside of sabermetric circles ) Brett Anderson, should do just enough to win a decent amount of ball games.