Mid-Season Report Cards: American League West

 

2013 Home Run Derby Champion Yoenis Cespedes showed why the Oakland Athletics have more than just strong pitching this season.

2013 Home Run Derby Champion Yoenis Cespedes showed the entire MLB why the Oakland Athletics have more than just strong pitching this season.

All five teams in the American League West entered the All-Star Break the same place where they left off last regular season.

The Oakland Athletics are still being the Oakland Athletics, sitting in first place with a major league-leading 7 walk-off wins.

The Texas Rangers are right behind the A’s, sitting 13 games over .500 and are laughing at every analyst who thought their offensive numbers would go down after Josh Hamilton left the team.

The Los Angeles Angels (Josh Hamilton’s team), are 5 games below .500 and have to be one of the most disappointing teams thus far in the MLB.

The Seattle Mariners are in 4th place in the division and continue to be in their own world. But at least they now have a legit second starter in Hisashi Iwakuma that can compliment “King” Felix Hernandez.

Last but not least are the Houston Astros, who are still the worst team in baseball, no matter what league they play for.

Here are the mid-season report card grades for the teams in the American League West.

Oakland Athletics (56-39) 1st in West: Grade (A)

How can you not give the Oakland Athletics a perfect score for their mid-season report grade? The A’s headed into the All-Star break in sole possession of first place in the American League West — ahead of the Rangers by two games — for the first time since 1990, having won six straight series. At 56-39, they also have their best record after 95 games since ’90, not to mention their first winning record before the break since 2008.

The A’s pitchers rank in the top 7 in all major pitching categories. They are 3rd in the MLB in WHIP, 4th in quality starts and opponents batting average, and 7th in team ERA.

But it’s the A’s hitting that has this team just one game back of the Boston Red Sox for the best record in the MLB. They are 8th in the MLB in runs and are ranked 11th for their on-base percentage.

The scary thing about this A’s ballclub is that they have always been known to be a second half team. So with the great first half they put up this season, you can almost count on the A’s as a legitimate World Series contender in the American League.

Texas Rangers (54-41) 2nd in West: Grade (A-)

As I mentioned yesterday, if the playoffs were to start today, the Texas Rangers will be playing against the Tampa Bay Rays in the wild card play-in game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL.

The Rangers are just an all around solid team on both sides of the ball. They rank in the top 13 in the MLB for all major offensive categories and in pitching rank 8th in opponents batting average and team ERA, and 12th in opponents WHIP.

Players like Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz have picked up the offensive slack for outfielder Josh Hamilton who during the offseason decided to leave his former team and head to the division-rival Angels.

And with Rangers Ace Yu Darvish pitching like a Cy Young contender this season, you can expect the Rangers to be in the hunt for a playoff spot in the American League come October.

Los Angeles Angels (43-49) 3rd in West: Grade (D-)

I’m sorry Angels fans, but when your team has the 7th highest payroll in all of baseball and sits 11 games back of the first place team within your division, who has the 5th lowest payroll in all of baseball, you can consider your season a failure.

The only thing that’s stopping me from giving this Angels team a failure grade is the fact that they still have 70 games to play, and we all know anything can happen in the game of baseball.

But if they expect to make any noise within their division in the second half of the season, their pitching staff will have to get their heads out of their you know what.

The Angels pitchers rank 27th in team ERA, 25th in WHIP, 24th in opponents batting average and 17th in quality starts.

I’m sorry Angels fans, but that is not going to cut it, especially in a division like the American League West where you have two power house teams like the Oakland A’s and the Texas Rangers ahead of you.

Seattle Mariners (43-52) 4th in West- Grade (C+)

The Seattle Mariners are your typical average team in the MLB. They have a below average offense, but an above average pitching staff.

But what many of you may not know is that this Mariners team has taken a dramatic facelift, and will open the second half in Houston on Friday as one of the youngest teams in the MLB, with different starters at catcher, second base, shortstop and center field from the group that opened the season three and a half months ago in Oakland.

What many of you may not also know about the Mariners is pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma, who has quickly become an elite pitcher in the American League and a legitimate number 2 starter for his ball club.

In his first full season as a starting pitcher, Iwakuma has a  8-4 record with a 3.o2 ERA, 113 strike outs, and a 0.94 WHIP average.

Among all starting pitchers in the American League, Iwakuma ranks 1st in WHIP, 6th in ERA, 10th in strike outs, and tied in 11th for wins.

Houston Astros (33-61) last in West: Grade (E)

I can’t say I didn’t expect this from the 2013 Astros team, seeing that they were the worse ball club last year in the National League (no offense National League, but I just believe the American League is more stacked with talented teams).

I actually felt bad for the whole Houston Astros organization when I heard they were moving to the American League, because I knew this would happen.

But there are some bright spots this year to look forward to in future seasons for the Astros.

In his second season in the MLB, All-Star catcher Jason Castro is tied for 2nd among all catchers in the American League in home runs with 12, and is 4th in average at .269  and hits with a total of 80.

He, and fourth year starting pitcher Bud Norris, will look to be the Astros battery now and in the future.

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