2014 AL West Picks with MLB Betting Odds and Predictions
by Robert Ferringo - 3/20/2014
When people talk about the most heated division rivalries in baseball, they will quickly rattle off the obvious feuds: Red Sox-Yankees, Dodgers-Giants, and Reds-Cardinals. But if you are looking for an area featuring an underrated amount of animosity, look no further than the American League West.
Texas, Oakland and Anaheim have been trading blows for the past five years both on the field and in the press. They have cannibalized each other's rosters, and between the three of them they have spit up the last seven division titles. If they each stay healthy this season, they should treat us to another West Coast rock fight for bragging rights and a playoff spot.
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Here is a look at Doc's Sports 2014 A.L. West picks with some betting predictions (with odds courtesy of Sportsbook.ag):
2013 Record: 96-66 (+1850)
2014 Wins "Over/Under": 86.5
Odds To Win 2014 AL West: +225
Odds To Win 2014 AL Pennant: +600
Odds To Win 2014 World Series: +1800
Outlook: The A's were certainly one of the league's biggest surprises last year, winning 12 games more than their projected season win total. Like the Rays out East, the A's win with stellar young pitching, outstanding defense, clutch hitting, and exceptional clubhouse chemistry. There haven't been any major changes on the roster, so there's no reason to think that they won't win 90 games for the third straight year.
Oakland's lineup doesn't strike fear into the hearts of many opposing fans and starters. But they were No. 4 in the Majors in runs scored and, shockingly, No. 3 in home runs. This despite playing in one of the top pitchers' parks in the league. Stud Cuban Yoenis Cespedes is the linchpin in the cleanup spot. And guys like Brandon Moss and Coco Crisp provide plenty of pop around him.
Oakland's pitching is good and could be getting better. Closer Jim Johnson and stellar setup man Luke Gregerson both joined the fold thanks to savvy trades. The A's have to replace effective starter Bartolo Colon. But they have outstanding youngsters like Jarrod Parker and Sonny Gray to pick up the slack.
The A's are one of the best bets in the business. Their starting pitchers and their starting lineup get no respect from the betting public or the oddsmakers. So their moneylines are playable just about every day. And all this team has done over the past two years - since acquiring Cespedes, who for my money is one of the most valuable players in the league - is win games and cash tickets. I think that will continue this year.
2013 Record: 91-72 (-460)
2014 Wins Over/Under: 87.0
Odds To Win 2014 AL West: +250
Odds To Win 2014 AL Pennant: +1000
Outlook: It's tough to win 90 games and be a disappointment. But that's exactly what the Rangers have done the past two seasons, losing in a play-in game in 2012 and missing the postseason entirely in 2013. Texas did not stand pat, however, making a major trade to land Prince Fielder and adding free agent Shin-Soo Choo.
The hope is that Fielder's bat can help replace the pop the Rangers lost when they let Josh Hamilton wander up to Anaheim. And Choo is supposed to take over a leadoff spot that has been a revolving door for the Rangers the past five years. Texas also lost Nelson Cruz, and on the whole this year's lineup doesn't look more potent than last year's Top 10 unit.
A key to Texas' season is also on the maturity of young players like Elvis Andrus, Jurickson Profar and Leonys Martin.
Texas' pitching staff continues to produce, but it has some question marks. Yu Darvish is a bona fide ace. But Texas needs Alexi Ogando, Matt Harrison, and Joe Saunders to bounce back from injury. Closer Neftali Feliz is also coming back from Tommy John surgery. So they have a lot of players teetering on the edge of "effective contributor" and "disabled list drain".
The Rangers have won over 90 games each of the past two seasons but have lost money for bettors in both seasons. That tells me they are overvalued in the marketplace. And I think that they will remain overvalued heading into this season. Texas isn't as strong offensively as they were with a primed Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Ian Kinsler in the middle of the order. They are a different team now. Obviously, they are still talented. But they have faded down the stretch the past two seasons and the seat under Ron Washington will be in flames if the Rangers don't produce this season.
Los Angeles Angels
2013 Record: 78-84 (-2100)
2014 Wins Over/Under: 86.0
Odds To Win 2014 AL West: +200
Odds To Win 2014 AL Pennant: +1000
Odds To Win 2014 World Series: +1800
Outlook: Reality is starting to set in on this team. They began last season with World Series expectations and a Vegas season win total of 91.5. They were never even close to threatening that number and were one of the biggest disappointments in the game.
Albert Pujols, Justin Hamilton and Mike Trout are three of the biggest names in baseball. And when healthy and locked in they are three of the best hitters we've seen in the past 25 years. But Pujols and Hamilton simply can't stay healthy, and they combined for a massively disappointing .253 average and just 38 home runs last year. That's not nearly good enough for the money they are making. And because the organization has so much tied up there, the Angels have to go to battle with a lot of other mediocre hitters dotting the lineup.
The Angels did finish in the Top 10 in batting, runs and on-base percentage last year. But they also left a ton of runners on base, and their offense was streaky, especially in divisional play. They've looked good as a unit this spring. But if Pujols and Hamilton don't return to MVP form, this lineup can't live up to its potential.
The pitching staff is a mess. Jered Weaver is an ace. C.J. Wilson has been hurt and moderately effective in Anaheim. But he's a capable No. 2. Beyond that is a hodgepodge of guys pretending to be capable starters. The team ERA was No. 24 in the game last year. And without upgrades to the starting staff or the bullpen, I don't see where we should expect much more from this mediocre crew.
Anyone that thinks last year was a fluke is kidding himself. Pujols and Hamilton are past their primes. They have made and will continue to make astronomical sums of money whether they produce or not. So there's certainly a lack of motivation for the team's two best players. Their blasé attitude has a trickle-down effect on the rest of the team.
There are also a lot of glaring holes on the roster. Their pitching isn't nearly as strong as it was four or five years ago. The defense isn't as strong, either, as evidenced by the No. 27 fielding percentage in the league. They don't do enough of the little things and are kind of the anti-A's. I think the Angels will fall short of 90 wins for the fifth straight year, and we may see some major changes in this organization before the season is out.
2013 Record: 71-91 (-1620)
2014 Wins Over/Under: 81.5
Odds To Win 2014 AL West: +600
Odds To Win 2014 AL Pennant: +2000
Outlook: Seattle broke the bank to sign free agents Robinson Cano and Corey Hart this offseason. Those additions came one year after the Mariners locked up ace Felix Hernandez to a massive contract. That's great for the organization and it has injected life into Seattle. The problem is that the other 22 guys on the roster leave a lot to be desired.
Seattle has consistently produced one of the worst lineups in baseball over the last decade. They were No. 28 in hitting last year with a pathetic team average of just .237. They have made wholesale changes, letting several veterans walk while filling in the slots around Cano, Hart and Justin Smoak with younger, high-upside players. Will the gamble pay off? I'm not confident. But it is tough for the M's to be much worse at the plate than what we've seen the past several seasons.
Safeco Field has been one of the top pitcher's parks in baseball. But the Mariners staff was just No. 26 in baseball, and opponents hit .259, No. 23 in the Majors, against them last season. The starters behind King Felix and Hisashi Iwakuma are questionable at best. And I don't think that anyone in the Seattle organization can tell us what to reasonably expect out of the bullpen. Major question marks abound.
Cano, Hart, Smoak and Logan Morrison are a good start. But the Mariners still have a lot of work to do. Their pitching isn't as good as Texas or Oakland. And their lineup isn't as good as the Rangers, A's or Angels. It will be interesting to see how the big-money commitments to Cano and Hernandez impact this club's ability to fill in the other glaring holes they have. But about the best I can say about this club is that it has improved.
2013 Record: 51-111 (-3070)
2014 Wins Over/Under: 62.5
Odds To Win 2014 AL West: +7000
Odds To Win 2014 AL Pennant: +12500
Odds To Win 2014 World Series: +25000
Outlook: I'm not going to waste anyone's time trying to dress up this dumpster fire. Houston is the worst team in the majors. In fact, they are an MLB team in name only, as their talent level is barely above Triple-A caliber.
Houston has gone 105-219 over the past two seasons. And I will be amazed if they don't lose 100 games again this year. There is literally no strength to this team. They were overmatched in the National League, where there is less separation between the best and worst teams. They have no chance in the American League and are still years away from competing against their new division mates.
No bet against the Astros is a bad bet.
2014 AL West Picks and Predictions: Predicted Order of Finish
1. Oakland A's
2. Texas Rangers
3. Los Angeles Angels
4. Seattle Mariners
5. Houston Astros
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Robert Ferringo is a professional sports handicapper for Doc's Sports. He is considered one of the top MLB cappers in the country and has turned a profit in five of the last seven years on the diamond with his baseball picks. He closed 2012 with an amazing $11,700 in earnings over the last four months and this summer will try for three straight profitable years. He is looking forward to a great upcoming season against the MLB odds. Click here for more information on his MLB picks.
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