Now off to the Pitchers, First the Starters.
Mariners- Felix Hernandez/Cliff Lee/Ryan Rowland-Smith/Ian Snell/Luke French-4.5
Angels- Jered Weaver/Joe Saunders/Scott Kazmir/Ervin Santana/Matt Palmer-9
Athletics- Dallas Braden/Brett Anderson/Ben Sheets/Trevor Cahill/Vin Mazzaro-13.5
Rangers-Scott Feldman/Rich Harden/Derek Holland/Tommy Hunter/Brandon McCarthy
The Mariners might be a bit short at the back of the rotation but have a couple of things going for them.
1) Felix Hernandez/Cliff Lee is a VERY potent 1-2 punch
2) It's a contract year for Cliff Lee so expect his A-Game (and a possible Cy Young in 2010.
In terms of depth, the Angeles are stronger but i'm not buying Weaver as a staff ace. The A's have a lot of good young talent (Braden, Anderson, etc.) that will make this rotation to be reckoned with in a few years. Anderson is on the cusp on a breakout season but Braden, Cahill, et.al are still a couple years away. The wild-card in this equation is Ben Sheets. If they can somehow get 25-plus starts out of Sheets, they could push themselves into the second best rotation in the division but if being a Brewers fan has taught me anything it's that getting that many starts out of Sheets is anything but guaranteed.
The Rangers.......their rotation hinges on Rich Harden staying healthy (an even bigger IF than Ben Sheets staying healthy) but beyond Harden, nothing about the Rangers rotation is particularly impressive.
If the game is on the line, we are likely to see
4.5 Athletics- Andrew Bailey/Michael Wuertz/Craig Breslow
9- Rangers Frank Francisco/Darren O'Day/Neftali Feliz
13.5 Mariners-David Aardsma/Mark Lowe/Sean White
18-Angels-Brian Fuentes/Fernando Rodney/Scot Shields
Andrew Bailey had a pretty epic rookie year and looks poised to have a strong follow-up. Wuertz and Breslow had solid seasons last year and I see that continuing in '10.
Went back and forth on the positioning for the Rangers and Mariners. I'm skeptical on Aardsma ability to follow-up his 2009 season and that ended up being the deciding factor.
As for the Angels, yes Fuentes racked up a bunch of saves but that seems to be more because the Angels are in the position to win more often than not. Fuentes and Rodney may be familiar to more fans but i've never been blown away by these two pitchers. Add in that Shields is coming off an injury marred year and may or may not be effective and that's why their bullpen ranks dead last.
The total scores for the pitching staffs are:
Bringing us to a final tally off:
So what do we have here? A division that is pretty close top to bottom and a division where 10 games or less could be the difference between first and last. Looking into my crystal ball that may or may not exist, I see the 1-2 combo of Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez to do enough to mask other weaknesses (back of the rotation) and injury concerns (Milton Bradley...matter of when not if) to win their first AL West title since 2001.
For the Angels, A weak bullpen may cause them to miss the playoffs for the first time since '06. For the Rangers, weak pitching is likely to undermine their offensive prowess (in other words the Rangers are in the same predicament they've been in for the last 15 years).
The Athletics are definitely a team on the rise....I think their time will come in a few years but they still have a few too many holes to put together a playoff run.