Before I stupidly predict the AL West standings (doing the predicting is stupid, hopefully, the predictions themselves won't be), I want to discuss why I focus almost exclusively on the A's chances to win the West and not on their wild card chances. The reason is simple; the three best teams in the American League are in the East. Heck, it's possible that the three best teams in either league are in the AL East. Only the Phillies, and maybe the Cardinals, are better than the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays. I guess it's theoretically possible that two of those teams falter, but short of catastrophic injuries, I don't know how it would happen.
So that's the bad news. The A's are playing for one playoff spot instead of two. But, there is good news. As we've seen from the rest of the season previews (and the first handful of games), the AL West lacks a clear frontrunner and may very well feature four teams that end up within a couple games of each other. But, despite all this, and despite Adam's infinitely more scientific projection, I'm going to try to predict the AL West standings, even if I know them to be unpredictable.
RS RA W L
Oakland 770 720 86 76
Anaheim 825 780 85 77
Texas 790 750 85 77
Seattle 675 690 79 83
I may have subconsciously been overly optimistic about the A's Maybe I'll be docked some analyst-cred here, but I think I've picked up enough fan points to balance it out. All kidding aside, I think the runs scored and runs allowed totals will end up being fairly accurate, even if the standings don't end up looking like this. These numbers, though, don't tell the whole story, as each team has both risks and mitigating factors that alter the chances that they exceed (or fall short of) these win totals.
A's Risk Factors
- Pitching staff health
- Regression by Rajai Davis
- Stalled development of Daric Barton, Ryan Sweeney, and Cliff Pennington
- Rotation depth
- Potential contributions of Michael Taylor, Chris Carter, and Adrian Cardenas
- Continued development of Daric Barton, Ryan Sweeney, and Cliff Pennington
- Aging offensive core
- Rotation depth
- Over-reliance on Scot Shields and Jeff Mathis
- Breakout seasons from Brandon Wood and Howie Kendrick
- Front office's ability/willingness to make a big trade (Adrian Gonzalez?)
- Injury prone stars in Ian Kinsler, Josh Hamilton, and Rich Harden
- Non-development of Julio Borbon and Chris Davis
- Colby Lewis and CJ Wilson not making successful transition from Japan/bullpen
- Colby Lewis and CJ Wilson making successful transition from Japan/bullpen
- Potential contributions from Justin Smoak or Tanner Scheppers
- Development of Neftali Feliz
- Reliance on Milton Bradley, Ken Griffey Jr., and Mike Sweeney
- Rotation depth
- The returns of Cliff Lee and Erik Bedard
- Um...Michael Saunders?
Meanwhile, the other three clubs all seem less well equipped to handle injuries or poor performances by the players that are likely to get hurt or play poorly. The Angels, despite probably being the most talented team, rely heavily on older players (Hunter, Matsui, and Abreu), and probably could not survive down years or injuries to any of those guys. The Rangers are already dealing with an injured Ian Kinsler and neither Julio Borbon nor Chris Davis have hit at all so far. While Justin Smoak may eventually replace Davis, Texas has no obvious solutions should Borbon and Kinsler continue to struggle. We've seen how bad the Mariners offense can be, and they have no internal solutions to fix it.
Maybe my faith in the A's offense being roughly league average is a bit optimistic, and maybe my view of the Mariners, Rangers, and Angels have been skewed by their records so far. But, it's clear that the A's at least have a shot at the postseason this year, which is all you can hope for.