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Texas Rangers (16-9)—CONTENDER
After getting embarrassed down the stretch last season and in the inaugural Wild Card Game, the Texas Rangers seem to have put 2012 behind them. They look like the team that was in first place for most of the season instead.
That’s mainly because of the starting pitching. Yu Darvish laced up his ace cleats this year for sure. The rotation has been good as a whole (11-8, 3.03 ERA, 4.1 WAR, second in MLB), but it’ll be interesting to see how it deals with the loss of Matt Harrison, who needed back surgery.
Offensively, the loss of Josh Hamilton hasn’t been too apparent. Ian Kinsler (.313/.394/.521, 5 HR, 14 RBI) has played exceptionally well, and so has newcomer Lance Berkman (.319/.440/.493, 2 HR, 15 RBI). Texas won’t falter like it did last season.
Oakland Athletics (15-12)—CONTENDER
The Oakland Athletics were America’s team last season as the underdogs that just kept on winning at unexpected times. This season, Oakland is trying to prove that it’s for real and can compete within the division and the AL once again. So far, the A’s have played well, but they haven’t had that same spark they did a year ago.
Coco Crisp has looked better than ever this year, and Josh Donaldson has played out of his mind. Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick, two sluggers who played a big role this year, have started 2013 very cold. The pitching has been shaky (15-12, 4.28 ERA), but Bartolo Colon (3-0, 3.38 ERA) is somehow winning games with ease. Did you expect that?
Seattle Mariners (12-16)—PRETENDER
The Seattle Mariners added a bunch of offense over the winter, but it hasn’t paid off just yet. Raul Ibanez (.161/.217/.304, 2 HR, 5 RBI) doesn’t look like the same player that played well with the New York Yankees last season (.240/.308/.453, 19 HR, 62 RBI). Michael Morse hasn’t hit or played well defensively, but players like Jason Bay and Kelly Shoppach have exceeded expectations.
The X-factor for the Mariners, though, has to be Jesus Montero. Montero continues to struggle at the plate, but if Seattle will contend, it needs him to produce more runs. The pitching staff has the potential to get the Mariners into the postseason, but the offense needs to click much better.
Los Angeles Angels (9-16)—PRETENDER
The Los Angeles Angels have the star power, but for some reason things just haven’t fallen in their favor yet. I’m not so sure that things will turn around enough that Los Angeles makes it to the playoffs either.
I’ve yet to be impressed with most of the offense. Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols have been as horrible as ever. Mike Trout is still an all-around stud, but even he can’t make up for the lack of offense from that dynamic duo.
To make matters worse, the pitching hasn’t done much either. No pitcher on the team has more than a pair of wins. No pitcher on the team has a WAR higher than 0.3. That’s pretty bad, and it seems unlikely that the Angels will be able to figure it all out before it’s too late.
Houston Astros (8-18)—PRETENDER
There shouldn’t be any complaints here. I’m not even sure how the Houston Astros have won as many games as they have. The Astros have the second-worst pitching staff (8-18, 5.33 ERA) and the 17th-best offense (26 HR,100 RBI) in terms of WAR.
The problem on offense is that Houston strikes out more than any other team in baseball. Astros hitters strike out 26.2 percent of the time they come to the plate.
On the contrary, the pitching staff walks too many opposing batters. Houston averages 3.93 walks per nine innings, the second-highest mark in the league. By striking out often and walking too many batters, there’s no question that Houston will be at the bottom of the division the entire year.