Today, EJSIC takes you to the West division of the American League. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have strangled the division in recent years, but it appears very open in 2010.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
1. Who replaces departed ace John Lackey? The Angels lost Lackey because, according to his words, he wanted to play for a winning team (and that “winning team” was defeated by the Angels in the first round of the playoffs last season, ironically). The Angels signed free agent Joel Pineiro to take up some of the void, but they will also rely on returning starters Jered Weaver and Joe Saunders.
2. Can World Series MVP Hideki Matsui replace Vladimir Guerrero? Matsui is identical to Guerrero in that both players are declining defensively, but still provide a good enough bat to warrant a spot as the designated hitter. Matsui will bring a more disciplined approach to the plate, but who wants that when you can see Guerrero hit a home run that bounces ten feet shy of the plate (Sabermetrics need not answer)?
1. Is Ben Sheets healthy? For most of the 2000s, Sheets was one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. Arm injuries kept him out of action last season, but he’s returned this year, claiming to be fully healthy. If he is as healthy as he says, then Sheets can provide a relatively young rotation with valuable experience. Guys like Justin Duchscherer, Trevor Cahill, and Dallas Braden can learn from the veteran.
2. Do they have the offense to compete? The A’s have the pitching, at least they do on paper, to compete in a wide open division. But do they have the offense? They will not be relying on the long ball, instead GM Billy Beane has built a team based around speed and getting on base. Perhaps if the oft-injured Eric Chavez can stay healthy and provide some power in the middle of the lineup, the A’s could find themselves in the race late into the season.
1. Do they finally challenge the Angels for the division crown? The Mariners seemingly win the off-season every year only to find themselves behind the Angels once again. The Mariners improved tremendously from 2008 to 2009 and now they’ve added All-Star 3B Chone Figgins (former Angel), former Cy Young winner Cliff Lee, and a cantankerous, but good player in Milton Bradley.
2. Can the Mariners have the best rotation in the American League? They have two aces on staff in “King” Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee. Plus, they are looking forward to the return of Erik Bedard by mid-season. That’s three top of the rotation pitchers if they all stay healthy.
1. Do they have enough pitching? Every season pundits across the nation ask the same question of the Rangers. And each season, they fall short. Now, they’ve traded away or waived their two veteran pitchers from last season in Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla. They did trade for Rich Harden who can be outstanding at times, but has struggled with injuries in the past. They will rely on some relative unknowns in Scott Feldman, Derek Holland, and Tommy Hunter.
2. How will the combo of Vlad Guerrero and Josh Hamilton perform? Both players are quality offensive guys when healthy. However, Guerrero has reached his mid-30s and is basically limited to being a DH. Hamilton is still a five tool talent, but he could not remain healthy for most of 2009 after his breakout season in 2008. If the Rangers want to win the division, both guys will need to deliver solid production throughout.