Crushed Optimists

We are twin brothers who grew up in Central Washington. This blog is devoted to the life of Seattle sports fans, as well as various other topics that we will espouse for your enjoyment. We could be called another OFFICIAL SEATTLE SEAHAWKS site, but we'll take our uneducated crack at the Mariners, Sonics, and Huskies as well. A Seattle Sports Blog? Must be the land... of crushed optimism!

Saturday, April 30, 2005

AL West - 1 month in...

Wow. Looks like everyone will be separated by 2 games at the most. As both Gavin and I suspected, this is and will be an incredibly tough conference from start to finish. Let's look at some of the current trends and what to expect in the month of May.

LA Angels of Anaheim (13-11):

May Schedule:
1 - at Twins
2-4 - at Seattle
6-8 - Detroit
9-11 - Cleveland
13-15 - at Detroit
16-18 - at Cleveland
20-22 - at Dodgers
23-26 - White Sox
27-29 - Kansas City
30-31 - at White Sox

Analysis:
The 1st place team in the AL West should be able to continue that trend throughout May with their schedule, predominently versus AL Central teams. Kelvim Escobar is back, while Bartolo Colon has been pitching like an ace besides his start against the Yankees. Like most AL West teams, the bullpen has been solid and the starting rotation above average. Also like most AL West teams, the offense has yet to click on all cylinders. Sure, Vladimer Guerrero is still a monster, and Darin Erstad is having a nice bounce-back year, but newcomers Steve Finley (.157 BA) and Orlando Cabrera (.271 BA) have yet to contribute. Rookie Dallas McPherson has yet to show the enormous potential that Angels fans have been clamoring to see. Because of that inconsistency, I expect LA to remain hovering around the .500 mark, though they might go on one winning streak during this month.

Gavin: If there's a time for the Angels to start making a run for the division, it should be in May. At face value that is about as easy a schedule as one could ask for. Twelve games against the Indians and the Tigers, should do well, as both of those teams are playing below expectations. Then nine games against the White Sox and Dodgers, both of whom should be crashing back to earth by then. My guess is that the Angels will have the chance to go five or six games above .500. Whether or not they do is dependent on a few factors. The starting pitching has to be more consistent, as Lackey, Washburn, Escobar, Byrd and Colon have all been very shaky at times in the first month. None of them are pitching like aces (unlike what Colin writes). The bullpen is showing the wear of losing Ben Weber, putting Scot Shields in positions he is unused to. The offense is showing the wear of losing David Eckstein and Troy Glaus. Eckstein could always be counted on for a great at-bat, getting the ball in play. Glaus could deposit anything in the seats. Frankly, that lineup just doesn't frighten any opposing pitching (obviously except for that Guerrero guy, who is freaking nuts). I don't see this offense getting much better than it is... and that's why I don't see much over .500 for this month.

Seattle Mariners (12-12):

May Schedule:
1 - at Oakland
2-4 - LA Angels
6-8 - at Boston
9-11 - at NY Yankees
13-15 - Boston
16-18 - NY Yankees
20-22 - San Diego
24-26 - at Baltimore
27-29 - at Tampa Bay
30-31 - Toronto

Analysis:
Well, Mariners' fans fears were averted with a .500 month to start the season. After the misery that was April last year, this month has been a sight for sore eyes, even with the inconsistent offense (common theme for this division). However, the month of May will prove whether the Mariners are a contender or a pretender, with a crucial stretch of 15 games against the Angels, Red Sox, and Yankees. Can Gil Meche continue his solid start against Texas? Can Jamie Moyer continue his phenomenal April (disregarding the start today)? What about Ryan Franklin and Aaron Sele? Should they still be in the rotation? And, or course, let's not forget Joel Piniero, who has yet to pitch like an ace this year. That was, and is, the question mark for this team. The bullpen has been better than advertised, as Guardado has regained his control and Putz and Villone have been more than satisfactory. The offense should improve this month as Beltre and Sexson continue to adjust to the league, Reed continues to grow as a hitter, and Olivo learns how to see the slider and the curve. This could be a rough stretch, and it will be extremely interesting to see how the Mariners cope.

Gavin: So the Angels get 12 games against Cleveland and Detroit while we get 12 games against New York and Boston. Wow. This month will be made simply through keeping the Angels within reach during that stretch. I think Mariners fans should be excited about being competitive again, but disappointed by how unlucky the team has been. We should have three-four more wins than we do, and eventually that will catch up with us. The starting pitching has been fair, not overpowering, and with the staff we have will never be better than fair. I'm waiting for when Felix Hernandez, he of the 1.50 ERA in AAA, can step in for Aaron Sele. The bullpen has been the third best in the AL, always giving us a chance to compete in games. The offense has shown a propensity for climbing back into ballgames (like today), although still not hitting the home run like we should. It is true that we need to give Beltre and Sexson another bit to adjust. Boone has looked good, Reed will improve, but how much better can our offense be with the bottom of our lineup being that bad? M's fans should take comfort in that .500 record with only three members of the team having a good month, Ichiro, Moyer, and Guardado. I'll be excited with a .500 record for this month.

Oakland A's (12-12):

May schedule:
1 - Seattle
2-4 - Texas
6-8 - at NY Yankees
9-11 - at Boston
13-15 - NY Yankees
16-18 - Boston
20-22 - at SF
24-26 - at Tampa Bay
27-29 - at Cleveland
30-31 - Tampa Bay

Analysis:
A huge stretch for the A's as well, as they flip-flop with the M's in playing the big boys of the East. Fortunately, they get to come out of it with games against the injury-laden Giants and then several games against the Devil Rays. Out of all the analysis that Gavin and I did before the season, we were most accurate with this team. Their pitching has started out extremely strong. Part of that can be attributed to the growth of Rich Harden and the hot start of Joe Blanton. Part of that, I believe, can be the fact that this is the first time around for Blanton, Haren, etc. Blanton especially seems to have the potential to turn into a Ryan Franklin, a strike-thrower that doesn't strike many people out, relying on defense to procure the win. The offense has been atrocious. That can't continue. I mean, they will be bad, but they won't be this bad. Kendall is a pro, Kotsay is a solid hitter, and Chavez and Durazo, when hot, can simply rake the ball. The other part of this team that will be interesting to see if the hot start continues is the bullpen. Again, some pitchers that are either new (Street) or inconsistent (Dotel). Again, hard to predict, but there should be at least one losing streak in the A's horizon.

Gavin: Colin's right, we completely nailed this club. Now it will be interesting to see how these rookie pitchers face second time around against teams, now that scouting reports start to firm up. That Blanton guy is going to see his ERA balloon over 4.00 unless he finds an out pitch. Still, playing .500 ball with THAT offense, Chavez hitting under .200 and Barry Zito going 0-4 is pretty darn impressive. In fact, just writing that impresses me even more. How the heck have they managed to do that? This team is about to have a huge streak, either winning or losing. One or other other. The starting pitching has been insane good, but won't continue to be that good. The offense has been insane bad, but won't continue to be insane bad. The bullpen has been mediocre, but has the makings of the best in the league (I love Duscherer, Kiki Calero and Huston Street). We'll see who does the best against the bullies of the East, us or them...

Texas Rangers (12-13):

May Schedule:
1 - Boston
2-4 - at Oakland
6-8 - Cleveland
9-11 - Detroit
13-15 - at Minnesota
16-18 - at White Sox
20-22 - Houston
24-26 - Kansas City
27-29 - White Sox
31 - at Detroit

Analysis:
Looks like the easiest schedule of the bunch. Don't be surprised if they end up near the top of the division by the end of May. Again, a lot of AL Central teams, including a series against KC, and their interleague team is Houston, the only offensive team worst than Oakland. Their April is remarkably similar to the rest of the division. In fact, their starting pitching has not been half-bad, highlighted by the return to non-suck by Chan Ho Park and Pedro Astacio. The big surprise of the rotation has been the struggling of Ryan Drese, who was, by far, the Rangers best pitcher last year. The bullpen is still weak, as Doug Brocail was rocked a few times by the Mariners and Cordero has blown a couple of saves already. Their offense still hits a ton of bombs, but struggles to get the clutch single at times. Very reminiscent of the Mariners 1997 and 98 teams.

Gavin: I agree, this is the easiest schedule, but the Rangers have proven that their offense may not translate as well on the road, and are susceptible to struggle against quality starting pitching. They will face that against the White Sox and Indians in May. Can their own starters keep pace? Can Ryan Drese rediscover his control? Can Astacio keep going throwing that junk (or will he get rocked like tonight against Boston)? Can Chan Ho Park almost earn all that money? This team is waiting for those bullpen stalwarts to return, and then the bullpen won't be as bad. i don't see the pitching to be good enough to pull this team out of mediocrity.

Overall it is still hard to get a read of any of the teams in this division. There are big question marks for every team.

Angels: Will the offense outside of Guerrero wake up? Will Colon be consistent?
Seattle: Can this starting rotation keep it up? When will Beltre rediscover his power stroke?
Texas: How many games will their bullpen lose? What is up with Ryan Drese?
Oakland: Is their offense really this bad? Can Harden, Blanton and Haren continue to shine?

We will see how this all turns out, but should be a fun ride to what has been an entertaining season so far!

posted by colin_hesse @ 5:21 PM  0 comments

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