AL West Week in Review: 4/30

This week ended much like it began with parity continuing to be the rule. Just when it seems the favored Angels are putting some distance between themselves and the other three clubs, they drop a few straight and the rest of the west closes the gap.

LA Angels of Anaheim: 13-11, 1st Place, 3-3 Last 7 Days

It looks like the Angels are beginning to emerge as the class of the AL West, though not nearly as convincingly as most believed they would. With an offense hovering around the middle of the pack last week (11th in MLB in RPG) and Steve Finley hovering around the .160 mark, the Halo's turned to Vlad Guerrero (.476 avg., 1.236 OPS) and second baseman Chone Figgins (.423 avg., 4 SB) to lead the way. Dallas MacPherson finally caught a groove with four doubles but otherwise the power outage continues as the Angels hit only three home runs for the week. The Angels continue to win by playing small ball, tallying 13 stolen bases to accompany some timely hitting.

With the Angels offense stuck in nuetral, the arms did their part to remain atop the AL West, compiling a team ERA of 2.89. Excellent starts by John Lackey and Jared Washburn and the continued success of Scot Shields and his bullpen buddies held opposing offenses to 17 runs over six games, though Paul Bryd and Bartolo Colon both struggled in their starts. Just ask Alex Rodriguez (three homers, nine RBI vs. Colon in four innings) how much Colon struggled.

The Angels continue to live or die with the bat of Vladimer Guererro. A prolonged injury to their superstar and the Angels could quickly fade from the division race as no team in baseball is more reliant on one individual player at this point.

Seattle Mariners: 12-12, 2nd Place (tied), 4-2 Last 7 Days

The Mariners continue to play just well enough to hang around the division leaders. Mariner hitters are 21st in the league with a .251 team batting average and continue to struggle with hitting the longball, hitting only three last week, all coming against Texas on Thursday - and all solo home runs. Solid performances from Raul Ibanez (.421 avg., 6 BB) and Richie Sexson (.368 avg., 6 BB) highlighted an otherwise lackluster week. Perhaps most encouraging was Miguel Olivo's .375 OBP with only two strikeouts, driving in five runs. Adrian Beltre continues to struggle, looking lost in going 4-for-23 at the plate. Boone went 4-for-23 until breaking out with three hits in Saturday's loss at Oakland.

Seattle pitching had a solid week posting a 3.90 ERA, though the wheels finally came off of Ryan Franklin's surprising April as he served up seven earned runs in four innings of work against Texas. Bright spots included solid starts from Joel Piniero and Aaron Sele, and a very encouraging performance from Gil Meche (7.2 IP, 1 ER.) Jamie Moyer became the first AL pitcher to four wins as he stayed undefeated with a 2.53 ERA entering play on Saturday. The Mariners bullpen continues to be a welcome surprise, sporting a 2.30 ERA after game one of the series versus the Athletics..

Overall, much like the Angels, The M's pitching is keeping the team in the hunt, as the offense continues to struggle to find some rhythmn.

Oakland Athletics: 12-12, 2nd Place (tied), 3-3 Last 7 Days

The A's continue to buck the odds with an offense that doesn't seem to do anything well and hitting just enough to squeek out low scoring victories. Maybe it's the whole moneyball thing, but a team second to last in total bases should not have a .500 record. Eric Chaves continues to slump with only three hits in 24 AB's this past week, and Mark Kotsay finally cooled off of his torrid start going 3-for-24 over the same span. Erubial Durazo had a solid week going 7-for-20, as did Scott Hatteberg who went 8-for-22.

Another AL West team buoyed by the success of solid pitching - At least we know that won't be the case with Texas. The A's are currently ranked sixth in team ERA, which goes a long way to explain how the team continues to stay afloat, though Barry Zito's stuggles continue. Rookie Danny Haren was rocked against the Angels giving up seven runs in four innings, and Rich Harden was hit hard for five runs in five innings against the White Sox. Kirk Saarloos looked solid in two outings though he received no decisions in each, and Joe Blanton went eight strong innings - losing a heartbreaker to the Angels 1-0. It should come as no surprise that the bullpen continues to shine.

This is a team surviving on bread and water. Eventually the lack of baserunners will knock the A's out of the division race.

Texas Rangers: 12-13, 3nd Place, 2-4 Last 7 Days

Here's a surprise. The Rangers are ranked 17th in batting average, yet ranked sixth overall in offense. Maybe it's because they have hit a league leading 32 home runs - almost half coming outside the cozy confines of the Ballpark at Arlington. Hank Blaylock had a horrible week, however, batting .095, but the rest of the lineup took up the slack for him with Mark Texeira, Kevin Mench and Laynce Nix all tearing the cover off the ball. If only one of these guys could pitch.

Here are some numbers for you. The Rangers had seven pitchers with an ERA under 2.00 last week. They also had five who finished the week with an ERA over 10.00! Since the Rangers staff is made up of a bunch of never-will-bes and a few has-beens, I won't divulge many individual statistics. Some were awful, a few weren't so bad but if the Rangers ever invested any money in the pitching staff, they would be a force to be reckoned with in the AL West. With a bullpen ERA of almost seven for the year, you'd think the starters must be doing pretty well. Well, they are not. One point to note is that Kenny Rogers, the only pitcher worth anything on the Rangers staff , has a team leading 2.67 ERA, yet is 1-2… How does that happen? Offense - the Rangers forever bloodline.

What an odd season emerging as we enter the month of May. None fo the four teama have separated themselves from any divisional foe, or established any outstanding characteristics. The Angels seem to be the steady favorite but they could be an injury away from the basement.

The Mariners seem to be the most balanced club overall but until the bats come around the pitching will have to carry the load – how long are they capable of that?

The A's are a head scratcher. It would take an engineering degree which I don't possess, to understand how they are continuing to compete at a high level, and they couldn't be less exciting. Yet they are right in the thick of it, as expected by some, and not others.

If the Rangers made a couple of suave moves and traded a hitter or two for some young pitching, they could run away with the division. But they seem to be obsessed with accumulating hitters, so my expectations are low.

Los Angeles

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