American League West preview: MLB's most interesting division
The American League West is the most interesting division heading into the 2013 MLB season.
One of the best players in baseball swapped teams, with Josh Hamilton leaving the Rangers for the Angels, and one of the worst teams in baseball swapped leagues, with the Astros leaving the NL Central for the AL West. On top of that, the A's are the surprise division champs after a late-season run last summer. There's never a dull day in the American League West.
Houston Astros (2012: 55-107 - -30.69 units, 80-75-7 over/under)
Division odds: +10,000
Season win total: 59.5
Why bet the Astros: Houston actually finished on a decent 15-15 run during its final 30 games of the 2012 season, compared to its awful 40-92 start to the year. Bud Norris is a decent wager at home where his ERA has been much better than on the road. Lucas Harrell was 11-11 as a rookie last season and will improve as he gets better command of his pitches. Wesley Wright allowed lefties to hit just .198 in 77 appearances last season. Jose Altuve should get better after hitting .290 last season, with 33 steals and 37 RBIs.
Why not bet the Astros: This is an awful team. Norris is terrible on the road and his past success against the Cardinals is now a non-issue. The rest of the rotation pitched awful last season with Alex White going 2-9 and Philip Humber sporting a 6.44 ERA for the White Sox. The lineup is sorely lacking in power and average. The bullpen is weak and must rely on Jose Veras and other sub-par pitchers.
Season win total pick: Under 59.5
Los Angeles Angels (2012: 89-73 - -9.42 units, 75-78-9 over/under)
Division odds: -125
Season win total: 91.5
Why bet the Angels: The lineup is even deeper from No. 1 thru No. 5 with the addition of Josh Hamilton. Mike Trout is an amazing leadoff hitter and Albert Pujols is hoping to avoid a slow start like last year. Erick Aybar hit .326 BA over the final four months of the season and Peter Bourjos is a solid hitter for the bottom of the order. The pitching rotation is intriguing with Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Tommy Hanson leading the way. The bullpen is deep with Sean Burnett and Ryan Madson joining Ernesto Frieri.
Why not bet the Angels: Hamilton is not the hitter he used to be as his strikeout rate increased in 2012 and he might now underachieve after getting a big contract, just like Albert Pujols did last year. Jason Vargas and Joe Blanton are questionable at the back end of the rotation. Vargas was terrible on the road and enjoyed the spacious Safeco Field. Frieri can’t be as good as he was last season, giving up his first run after 26.1 innings of scoreless appearances.
Season win total pick: Over 91.5
Oakland Athletics (2012: 94-68 - +38.54 units, 70-86-6 over/under)
Division odds: +650
Season win total: 84.5
Why bet the Athletics: The rotation is young and full of firepower, especially if Brett Anderson returns to what he used to be. Anderson has dominated runners in scoring position, holding batters to a .195 BA over the last three seasons. Tommy Milone, Jarrod Parker, and A.J. Griffin all took care of business last year. The bullpen is solid with Grant Balfour and Ryan Cook holding down the back end. If either fails, Sean Doolittle is an able replacement. Yoenis Cespedes is also an underrated player.
Why not bet the Athletics: The offensive lineup is still suspect. Josh Reddick hit 32 home runs last year, but he also struck out 151 times. Chris Young is a nice addition, but he hit only .231 BA with Arizona last season. A.J. Griffin had a 7.27 ERA in his last four starts, showing the rookie slowed down as the campaign wore on. This team got 54 wins from rookie pitchers last year. Opponents will now be better prepared and more familiar when facing those sophomore hurlers this season.
Season win total pick: Under 84.5
Seattle Mariners (2012: 75-87 - +4.29 units, 69-84-9 over/under)
Division odds: +1,600
Season win total: 77.5
Why bet the Mariners: Felix Hernandez remains a dominant pitcher with 223 strikeouts in 232 innings last year. He has now struck out at least 217-plus batters in each of the past four seasons. Hisashi Iwakuma was 8-4 in his 15 second-half starts for Seattle and is a decent No. 2 in the rotation. The batting lineup now has more pop with the additions of Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales. Dustin Ackley will be healthier as he dealt with bone spurs last season. There is also potential help in the future with Taijuan Walker and Danny Hultzen.
Why not bet the Mariners: The rest of the pitching rotation is suspect with Erasmo Ramirez, Blake Beaven, and Hector Noesi. The rest of the hitting lineup is mediocre as well, with veteran Raul Ibanez being counted on for production. Franklin Gutierrez is injury prone and had only 163 at-bats last season. Jesus Montero hit only .228 BA off right-handed pitching.
Season win total pick: Under 77.5
Texas Rangers (2012: 93-69 - -4.39 units, 72-83-7 over/under)
Division odds: +200
Season win total: 86.5
Why bet the Rangers: The lineup is still strong despite the loss of Josh Hamilton. Lance Berkman can duplicate some of Hamilton's production if healthy. A.J. Pierzynski is an upgrade at the catcher position. The pitching rotation returns nearly intact with Martin Perez out with a broken arm until June and Colby Lewis recovering from elbow surgery. When Joakim Soria is healthy enough to return, which should be around June, he'll make that bullpen even stronger.
Why not bet the Rangers: Berkman's health is always a question mark. Rumors have linked Nelson Cruz to performance-enhancing drugs, so we'll see if his performance suffers this year. Michael Young is gone and he was a stabilizing force. Derek Holland allowed 32 home runs last year. Middle relievers are a question mark which could make getting to Joe Nathan and Joakim Soria a problem.
Season win total pick: Over 86.5