by Robert Ferringo - 03/28/2006
As the immortal LL Cool J said - I'm going back to Cali.
Like the great tide of the Pacific Ocean, constantly rolling and breaking over the shore, Oakland just continues to roll along. A little further down the coast, the Anaheim Angels are happy and healthy (for now) and looking to make a return trip to the World Series.
Seattle is lurking, but like so many of my ex-girlfriends they're a little imbalanced. Texas is tough, boasting a super-sized offense, but they still lack the pitching to be considered a serious threat.
Here is one man's look at the American League West:
AMERICAN LEAGUE WESTOAKLAND ATHLETICS
2005 Record: 88-74 (second)
Odds to win AL Pennant: 6/1
Odds to win World Series: 14/1
Wins Over/Under: 89.5
Strengths: With the young guns spearheading the rotation they'll always be in the fold. I don't know how they kept Barry Zito, but he, Harden and Haren are formidable in the front. This team has a good blend of youth and experience.
Weaknesses: They don't have depth, and Milton Bradley is one blowup away from T.O. Land. Dan Johnson and Nick Swisher need to make strides at the plate in order for the offense to keep up with the pitching.
Outlook: Since 2002 their overall win total has dipped every season. The good news is that no one in this division has managed to separate themselves. I think the A's have reached a plateau, and the Moneyball model might need revision.
2005 Record: 95-67 (first)
Odds to win AL Pennant: 5/1
Odds to win World Series: 14/1
Wins Over/Under: 88.5
Strengths: Their position players are as good as it gets, with Vladimir Guerrero and Chone Figgins anchoring a potent lineup. The front end of the rotation is still set with ace Bartolo Colon, and the addition of J.C. Romero really bolsters the bullpen.
Weaknesses: As always, the Angels better have a good HMO. About 15 of their top 20 players have huge injury question marks hanging over them. They lost Paul Byrd and Jarrod Washburn, which severely reduces their pitching depth.
Outlook: After two years of making major off-season moves, the Angels stood pat. It's not that they needed to do much; they just need for the stars that they have to stay healthy.
2005 Record: 79-83 (third)
Odds to win AL Pennant: 300/1
Odds to win World Series: 40/1
Wins Over/Under: 81
Strengths: Teixeira, Nevin, Young and Co. can still mash, and the Rangers will likely score more consistently than the Texans. Kevin Millwood and Adam Eaton give Texas its best tandem of starters in nearly a decade, and Francisco Cordero has proven more adept at throwing sliders than throwing chairs at female fans.
Weaknesses: The back end of the rotation is unproven, with minor leaguers Kameron Loe and Juan Dominguez expected to contribute. They still can't be considered a good fielding team, and the formula of out-slugging your opponent has yet to work.
Outlook: While it's not yet a strength, the pitching staff is improving. Power pitchers like Millwood and Eaton should hold it down. New GM Jon Daniels appears dedicated to correcting the missteps of the past. If he can bag a legit No. 1 starter and upgrade the speed and defense categories, they could be in business.
2005 Record: 69-93 (fourth)
Odds to win AL Pennant: 7/1
Odds to win World Series: 70/1
Wins Over/Under: 75
Strengths: The top of their lineup is as good as any team in the league, and Ichiro will continue his abuse of major league pitching. They managed to steal Jarrod Washburn away from their division rival, Anaheim, and Felix Hernandez is poised for a breakout year.
Weaknesses: They have a lot of holes in their lineup. With unproven players up the middle (C, 2B, SS and CF), the Mariners are going to be exposed for long stretches.
Outlook: They are a microcosm of MLB. Some players - like Beltre, Sexson and Ibanez - are making a ton of money, while others - like Yuniesky Betancourt - are making much less. And like the league's business model, it won't work.
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The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of Doc's baseball picks service.