The American League West will be an interesting division to watch in 2009. Most expect the Angels to repeat as champs; however, the Oakland A's made a few splashes in the off-season on the free-agent market, adding young superstar Matt Holliday and bringing back Jason Giambi for his second stint with the team.
The Angels made a couple of moves themselves, bringing in outfielder Bobby Abreu and closer Brian Fuentes. The Mariners are coming off an extremely disappointing season in which many people picked them to win the division.
As for the Rangers, well they continue to compete but this team may be in for another frustrating season.
Seattle Mariners - Thankfully for Seattle fans, Ken Griffey Jr has returned. At least now they have a reason to go watch their beloved Mariners. Sadly, this team has very little chance to make a run at the AL West in 2009. First-year manager Don Wakamatsu is going to have to do the best he can, with limited talent.
Why they will win the west: If they are somehow able to surprise everyone, it will be thanks to their starting pitching, namely King Felix and Erik Bedard. These two will have to eat up major innings, and do so while pitching extremely well.
Why they won't win the west:Starting pitching, relief pitching, and offense. This team has a lot of work to do if they want to compete anytime soon. Beyond Ichiro, and a 39-year-old Ken Griffey Jr, the Mariners will be relying on guys like Bryan LaHair, Wladimir Balentein, and Jeff Clement.
Beyond their first two starters, Jarrod Washburn, Carlos Silva and Brandon Morrow round out the rest of their rotation. All are average pitchers, at best. Their bullpen does have some veterans in Miguel Batista, Tyler Walker and David Aardsma, but none of them are anything special.
Mark Lowe, who in 76 career games has one save and an ERA of 4.66 is slated to be their closer. Enjoy the end of Griffey's career Seattle; it's going to be a rough year.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - The Angels look to make another run into the playoffs in 2009, but will have to do so without dominant closer Francisco Rodriguez. They managed to replace him with a very capable Brian Fuentes and brought in another outfield bat to help anchor the loss of Garret Anderson.
Why they will win the west: Speed, power, and solid pitching. Chone Figgins, Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar will set the table for one of the best hitting outfields in baseball: Vladimir Guerrero, Bobby Abreu and Torii Hunter.
The Angels will surely be glad to have Juan Rivera's bat back in their lineup after he missed over 70 games last year with an injury. Back in 2006, Rivera cranked 23 homers, as well as 27 doubles, knocked in 85 runs and hit .310 for the season.
John Lackey should continue to be one of the best pitchers in the game, and despite the loss of K-Rod, their bullpen should still be very capable of getting the job done.
Why they won't win the west: If their young pitching staff behind Lackey can't find some consistency, the Angels may have to rely on their offense to drive in even more runs. Santana, Weaver, and Saunders have all proven at one point or another they have major league talent, but all showed signs of inconsistency last season.
The Angels playoff and world series hopes, rest on the shoulders of their rotation.
Texas Rangers - As truly wonderful as Josh Hamilton's story from last year was, the fact remains this is a team that is going to struggle. They will have their moments of scoring a lot of runs, but overall this team is in a rebuilding mode.
Why they will win the west: I have to search and search to find anything that this team has to give them any shot at the post season. Ian Kinsler, Michael Young and Josh Hamilton will have to have their best offensive years of their careers, for this team to even think about playing meaningful baseball come August and September.
Why they won't win the west: The Rangers have three pitchers in their bullpen that have closer experience, and yet it seems as if they will give the closers job to Frank Francisco, who in 170 career games, has five saves. Starting pitching will be the downfall for Texas.
Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla will have a few good starts, but will struggle more often than not, and behind them the Rangers have very little in terms of talent. As a whole, this Ranger team is just not very talented, and 2009 may be even more disappointing than 2008
Oakland Athletics- It seems like just yesterday, the Oakland A's were a playoff contender every year, with the likes of Miguel Tejada, Jermaine Dye, and the great pitching trio of Hudson, Zito and Mulder.
Unfortunately for A's fans, those days are long gone. They will have to rely on a very young and inexperienced pitching staff if they want to shake the nickname 'Oakland Pathetics.'
Why they will win the west: Matt Holliday is simply one of the best hitters in Major League Baseball, and if the A's have any hope of sniffing the playoffs in 2009, much of the pressure will be on his shoulders.
Holliday is going to need some help and hopefully for Oakland fans, Jason Giambi can conjure up some magic from his first go-round with the team. He started with Oakland in 1995, but in his last four seasons with them from 1998-2001, he averaged 35 bombs and 123 RBI.
If the A's are playing in October, Holliday, Giambi and power hitter Jack Cust will be a big reason why.
Why they won't win the west: Justin Duchscherer, Dana Eveland, Sean Gallagher, Gio Gonzalez, Dallas Braden. That is the projected starting rotation of the Oakland A's. This five-some have a combined 34 victories under their belts as starters, 12 of them from Duchscherer.
Unless this young staff can mature very quickly, the once dominant pitching staff of the A's will have turned into a batting practice staff. As if this pitching staff didn't have enough worries, their bullpen also may present them with issues.
Joey Devine, an unproven 25 year old that is expected to be the closer, is accompanied in the bullpen by the likes of Russ Springer, Michael Wuertz, Santiago Casilla, and Brad Ziegler, who had an outstanding rookie season in 2008.
Lastly, I give you my prediction for the 2009 season in the American League West.
1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2. Oakland A's
3. Seattle Mariners
4. Texas Rangers
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