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2011 MLB Playoffs: Forecasting the American League West Race

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2011 MLB Playoffs: Forecasting the American League West Race
Harry How/Getty Images

As I boldly predicted back in February, the Texas Rangers sit comfortably on top of the American League West Division in mid-August.

Okay, that’s not even close to what I predicted. What I predicted was that the computers that Billy Beane programs to draw walks for him would win the West. I guess that didn’t work out. Oh well, egg on my face.

Currently, the standings for the division look like this:

Team

W

L

WP%

GB

Rs/G

Ra/G

Texas Rangers

70

52

0.574

0

5.2

4.2

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

65

57

0.533

5

3.9

3.8

Seattle Mariners

53

67

0.442

16

3.4

3.9

Oakland Athletics

53

68

0.438

16.5

3.9

4.1

Currently, coolstandings.com puts the Angels’ odds to overcome the Rangers at about 10 percent.

That doesn’t seem too far off, but I could see it being closer to 15 to 20 percent.

The Angels can definitely make it up in head-to-head matchups, as they play the Rangers nine more times this season, after losing 8-4 to them last night 8-4.

The other advantage the Angels have is an easier overall schedule down the stretch. While the Angels do have to face off against the Yankees in a three-game set, the Texas Rangers have six games remaining against the Boston Red Sox and six more against the Tampa Bay Rays while  playing more games against highly-motivated American League Central contenders.

The Angels, of course, have to make up five games with 40 left, which is no easy challenge. They can take themselves right out of the race if Texas sweeps them in their current four-game set.

A curious comparison: the Angels traded Mike Napoli as part of a deal to acquire Vernon Wells from the Blue Jays. The Blue Jays subsequently traded Napoli to the Rangers in the offseason.

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At no point in the first transaction was Napoli considered a comparable player to Wells; the whole reason for the trade was for the Blue Jays to clear out some payroll, presumably so they could hire more men in white to spy for them. Here’s a little comparison of those two:

 

Vernon Wells

Mike Napoli

Plate Appearances

385

285

Batting Average

.205

.290

On-Base Percentage

.236

.386

Slugging Percentage

.374

.592

OPS+

71

156

HR

17

19

RBI

46

49

WAR

-0.5

3.2

Salary

23M

5.8M

If WAR is to be believed, the Angels paid $17 million  to be five games out of first instead of ahead by a game—not Angels GM Tony Reagins’ greatest moment.

For what it's worth (and by the A's failure this year, not much), I predict that the Rangers will win 93 games and the Angels will cruise in with about 87.

(This is the second in a series of articles I am writing forecasting the results of the playoff races as of mid-August. The first dealt with the three-way race shaping up in the American League Central).

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