It's just about the midway point in baseball's marathon season and it's time to reflect on the first 80 or so games of 2014 and cast some predictions for how the rest will shape up. Heading into July, we will round out every division in baseball as well as the MVP and Cy Young races in either league. Up first is the American League West.
Here's how they will finish:
1) Los Angeles Angels
For a good chunk of the season, the Oakland A's have been the best team in baseball. The A's have been killing teams and are the only team in baseball with a run differential better than +50 (the A's are +134 entering Sunday). But I think the Angels may have the last laugh in the AL West.
Despite early injuries (again), the Angels have hung around in the West and find themselves just 4.5 back entering Sunday. Oakland's lineup is great, but I prefer the Angels' just barely. By many statistical models, LA has the strongest lineup in the AL because of their strength at every position. Erik Aybar is having one of the strongest seasons of his quiet, yet stellar career. And LA has been getting great production from guys like CJ Kron, Kole Calhoun and Hank Conger.
The Angels will have to figure out how to win on the road. They have the best home record in the big's, but are a game below .500 on the road. That will have to change if LA is to snag the West.
2) Oakland Athletics
The A's very well may go on to win this division, but I'm a little concerned about the state of the starting pitching. Everyone knows about the injuries to Griffin and Parker before the season, and now Drew Pomerantz is on the shelf. None of the bumps have come back to hurt Oakland yet, but the MLB season is long enough to find its way of biting teams eventually. Can Scott Kazmir and Jesse Chavez hold up over the long-term? We'll see.
Aside from that, Oakland is the complete package. The bullpen is nasty and the offense has been prolific. Either way, the A's will play in the playoffs, but the division crown means that much more with the (semi) new wildcard format.
3) Seattle Mariners
The Mariners enter Sunday with the third best run differential in the division - and in the entire American League. The big question will be whether or not the AL West can get three teams in the playoffs, and it's definitely a possibility.
The Mariners are only playing better as their new parts gel as the season progresses. I like this bunch and think they might get it done to sneak into a wildcard spot, but it will be tough with so many games against LA and Oakland down the stretch. Taijuan Walker and James Paxton are still on their way back, remember.
4) Texas Rangers
Thought about pulling the upset and putting Houston here, but that will have to wait another year. Either way, I think Texas really struggles down the stretch with the beating their pitching staff has taken. Just a disaster season for the team from Arlington.
5) Houston Astros
The future is bright. Houston fans have something to really be excited about in the coming season's but for now they will have to settle for last in the West.