The Seattle Mariners are a hot pick in 2010—and for good reason.
Last year, the M’s rebounded from a 101-loss ’08 campaign to win 85 games and lead the American League in staff ERA (3.87). The top of their lineup now features a “double-whammy” of Ichiro and Chone Figgins while the top of their starting rotation now includes the “one-two punch” of Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee.
Yes, Seattle could be very good. But so too could those L.A. Angels.
Sure, they lost Figgins to their division rival, while their perennial staff ace John Lackey headed to Bean Town. But it’s impossible to count out these Angels after all they overcame in 2009.
Yet last year, the Angels played through an incredible rash of poor health, not to mention the horrific Nick Adenhart tragedy following the third game of the season.
Vlad Guerrero, Torii Hunter, and Howie Kendrick all missed at least 40 games with injury. Starting pitchers Lackey and Ervin Santana were both on the DL until mid-May, while Kelvim Escobar pitched just five innings the entire year.
But somehow the Angels overcame it all to win a remarkable 97 games, coming within two more wins of the World Series.
True. The AL West has improved since last year, and the Angels’ bullpen is filled with uncertainty, but Los Angeles still deserves our respect.
The rotation is very solid from top to bottom.
Newcomer Joel Pineiro, coming off a 15-win season with St. Louis, is projected as the fifth starter. And newly acquired Hideki Matsui should add some pop to the middle of the lineup.
L.A. also re-signed dependable veteran Bobby Abreu, who proved to be one of the best steals in last year’s free-agency. He hit .293 with 103 RBI for a mere $5 million in 2009.
Even without Figgins, the Angels should continue to be one of the best teams in the league in manufacturing offense. Last year, L.A. was second in the majors with 883 runs scored, despite being just 11th in home runs.
“Chicks dig the long balls,” but the Angels don’t need to hit them in order to win.
Of course, the Angels are still coached by Mike Scioscia, who is starting to establish himself as one of the most underrated managers in the history of the game.
Still, on paper, the upstart Mariners appear to have improved this offseason, while the Angels seem to have lost a step. Every M’s fan knows, though, that losing star players doesn’t necessarily signify destruction.
Just think back to about a decade ago. The Mariners traded away Randy Johnson at the July 1998 deadline, Ken Griffey Jr. sailed to Cincy after 1999, and Alex Rodriguez signed his record deal with Texas after 2000.
Oh no! Three future Hall of Famers gone! How on earth are the Mariners going to contend in 2001 and beyond?
Well, Seattle went on to win an AL-record 116 games in the 2001 regular season. They totaled 93 victories in both ’02 and ’03.
Of course, those 2001-2003 Seattle teams did have a guy named Ichiro at the top of their lineups. He was, and still is, pretty darn good.
Yes, the race for the AL West title should be a wild one. Also, don't forget about the Texas Rangers, whose lineup and pitching staff are armed to the teeth with young talent. Just don’t be too surprised if it’s those Los Angeles Angels who take home the division crown once again.
Most Regular Season Wins Since 2002