As expected, the Astros have had a difficult time adjusting to their new league and are mired in last place. Meanwhile, the rest of the division has provided a few surprises along the way. Here’s a look at what’s happening around the rest of the A.L. West as we approach the trade deadline.
Los Angeles Angels
The 2013 season hasn’t gone as expected for Mike Scioscia and the Angels. The team got off to a horrendous start and has been fighting an uphill battle to get back into contention. The team took a big hit today when it was announced that Albert Pujols has been placed on the disabled list with a partial tear of the plantar fascia. Although he has bounced back quickly from past injuries, the possibility exists that Pujols could be lost for the rest of the season.
Outfielder Peter Bourjos has been out for a month due to a broken right wrist, prompting the Angels to fill roster spots with the likes of Brad Hawpe and J.B. Shuck. The loss of Pujols exponentially weakens a lineup that was assumed to be one of the best in the majors.
Mike Trout has recovered from a slow start and is having another outstanding season while newcomer Josh Hamilton has been somewhat of a disappointment. Pitchers C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver have helped to try to keep the team afloat, but at six games below .500 the end could be near in Anaheim. It will be interesting to see if owner Arturo Moreno continues to throw money at the ailing franchise in a last-ditch effort to make the playoffs.
The A’s currently stand atop the division and have the best record in the league over the past calendar year. Billy Beane and company continue to prove that it isn’t always about the Benjamins. Oakland continues to get it done despite being drastically outspent by the competition.
A breakout season from Josh Donaldson has helped disguise the sophomore slumps experienced by both Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick. But the biggest factor in the Athletics’ success has to be their pitching. The A’s 3.58 team ERA is the best in the American League. They have been getting consistently solid performances from both the starting rotation and the bullpen. As long as that continues to happen it will be difficult for anyone to catch Oakland in the standings.
The Mariners are looking like a franchise on the rise. A few veterans were added over the offseason to a young team with more youngsters on the way. The veteran additions have been hit and miss, but some of the youngsters have taken big steps forward.
Raul Ibanez has had a renaissance season but seems to have run out of gas lately. Kendrys Morales has proved to be a nice addition but Michael Morse has had an injury plagued year and is rumored to be on the trade block. Hisashi Iwakuma has teamed with Felix Hernandez to form one of the league’s most feared 1-2 punches at the top of the rotation and top prospect Taijuan Walker is waiting in the wings.
Third-baseman Kyle Seager is a player that has become a force in the Mariners lineup. The young double-play combo of Nick Franklin and Brad Miller has forced Dustin Ackley to the outfield. Catcher, and first round draft pick from 2012, Mike Zunino completes a promising group for the Mariners up the middle. Unfortunately, Zunino was recently sidelined with a broken hamate bone in his left hand. The Mariners signed our old buddy Humberto Quintero to help bolster their catching corps.
This team isn’t quite ready to contend, but promises to be competitive for many years to come. The offense has been somewhat inconsistent and the Mariners are rumored to be looking to add more young hitters at the trade deadline.
Our neighbors to the north have had their share of struggles this season. Injuries to the starting rotation have taken a toll, but the Rangers currently sport the best bullpen ERA in the American League. Pitching has kept Texas in the race as their usually dependable offense has scuffled. The success of the bullpen coupled with their offensive struggles has led to rumors that the Rangers are willing to listen to offers for closer Joe Nathan.
The Rangers made a big splash when they acquired starting pitcher Matt Garza from the Cubs last week, but their search for offense has yet to produce a trade. Texas has been tied to pretty much every available hitter out there, including former Ranger Michael Young who was run out of town over the winter. The Rangers’ new DH, Lance “Glass Knees” Berkman has been on the disabled list since Independence Day and has failed to live up to his $12 million price tag. There’s a surprise. Not!