2012 MLB Predictions: AL West Outlook and Betting Odds
by Robert Ferringo - 3/21/2012
The poor, poor Seattle Mariners.
It’s going to be a long season for the boys in the Pacific Northwest because, through no fault of their own, they now find themselves in the middle of a clash of titans.
The Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers are both gearing up for what should be one of the most competitive and best division title races in recent AL West memory. The Angels and Rangers boast stocked lineups and killer pitching staffs and either team could threaten to win 100 games this year.
And in the middle is the poor, helpless Mariners (and an Oakland team whose most redeeming quality is that, “Hey, at least we’re not Seattle!”).
The Mariners have gone just 22-54 over the last two seasons against the Rangers and Angels. That means that more than 27 percent of all of their losses have come against those two opponents. This year it could be even worse. And with the margin between the Angels and Rangers expected to be razor-thin the division may be decided based upon which team can dominate Seattle the most.
So while it is easy to get excited about the battle that the two superpowers of the West are about to engage in, I beg you to please not forget about those poor, pathetic Mariners and the hell that their season is about to become.
(And by “please not forget about” I mean, “be prepared to bet against them just about every day”.)
Here is a look at Doc’s Sports 2012 AL West preview:
Los Angeles Angels
2011 Record: 86-76 (+200)
2012 Wins Over/Under: 92.5
Odds To Win 2012 AL West: -125
Odds To Win 2012 AL Pennant: +400
2012 Los Angeles Angels Odds to Win World Series: +800
Outlook: I think that right now, today, this is the best team in baseball. Whether that will play out over 162 games remains to be seen. But I don’t know that there is a team better situated for October baseball and winning a World Series than the Angels.
This isn’t just an overreaction to Los Angeles picking up one the best free agents of the last quarter century, Albert Pujols. This was going to be a bounce-back year for the Halos regardless of whether Pujols signed or not. The Angels had averaged 92.8 wins from 2002 to 2009 before back-to-back “down” seasons of 80 and 86 wins. Injuries, some bad luck, and the rise of the Rangers all conspired against them.
But adding Pujols and getting some veterans back healthy and focused has this team entering the season with a load of confidence. Add in one of best starting pitching staffs in baseball, buoyed by the addition of free agent C.J. Wilson, and I think that this extremely experienced team enters the season focused and confident.
If there is a weakness with this group it is their shaky bullpen. This team blew the third-most saves in baseball last year (25) and has a somewhat unproven closer in Jordan Walden. But if the relief corps, which logged the fourth-fewest innings in the league, can tighten up its game then the Halos could enjoy the No. 1 seed this postseason.
2011 Record: 96-66 (+1275)
2012 Wins Over/Under: 91.5
Odds To Win 2012 AL West: +100
Odds To Win 2012 AL Pennant: +400
2012 Texas Rangers Odds To Win World Series: +800
Outlook: The Rangers have captured back-to-back American League pennants for the first time in franchise history and have the foundation back to make a run at three in a row. This team was just one out away from a World Series title (twice) last October and they have to feel like there is still plenty of unfinished business to take care of this season.
However, I don’t think that Josh Hamilton is the only Ranger that had to deal with a hangover this offseason. I think that the largest hurdle standing in front of Texas and a return trip to the postseason won’t be the rejuvenated Angels. Instead, I think that the lingering heartbreak of being oh-so-close to a championship last year will have a carryover effect onto this season.
But, of course, Texas can always smash its way out of that mental block with the best lineup in baseball. Josh Hamilton is healthy and in a contract year and other studs like Nelson Cruz, Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler and Michael Young didn’t forget how to swing over the winter. So the Rangers will still bash people into submission on a regular basis.
They may have to because the Rangers pitching staff seems a little flimsy to me. I definitely don’t buy Colby Lewis is a No. 1 and from what I’ve seen of Asian import Yu Darvish so far he’s nothing more than a slightly better version of Dice-K. Derek Holland is coming of his best year as a pro (16-5, 3.95) but he still has a career ERA of 4.73 and Matt Harrison (4.49) is in that same neighborhood. However, those two lefties should be just good enough to combine for at least 25 wins again this season.
The ace in the hole that Texas has is its bullpen. I believe that they have the best bullpen in the American League – especially if Alexi Ogando finds a home there as the odd man out of the starting rotation. The Rangers only need “pretty good” starting pitching because their back end, anchored by Mark Lowe, Kenji Uehara, Mike Adams and Joe Nathan, will be able to slam the door on most nights.
2011 Record: 74-88 (-1540)
2012 Wins Over/Under: 80.5
Odds To Win 2012 AL West: +3500
Odds To Win 2012 AL Pennant: +5000
2012 Oakland Athletics Odds To Win World Series: +8000
Outlook: Last year I proclaimed that Moneyball was dead. I was wrong. What I should have said is that Moneyball is still alive – it just doesn’t live in Oakland any more.
No matter how hard I try I can’t get excited about the A’s. They are a third-tier franchise trapped behind two significantly better teams in Anaheim and Texas. And the biggest problem is that I can’t pinpoint where the strength of this Oakland club really lies.
Is their starting pitching? Brandon McCarthy is a nice piece but he isn’t a No. 1 ace starter. Behind him there are injuries (Dallas Braden), retreads (Bartolo Colon), and unproven young arms like Tommy Milone. Oakland is going with a first-time closer, Grant Balfour, and while they have a nice stable of relievers this team hasn’t finished in the Top 10 in bullpen ERA in either of the past two seasons.
The savior of this team is supposed to be Cuban star Yoenis Cespedes. But who knows what the 26-year-old really has to offer or if he’s ready to hold up for 162 games. And he is surrounded by one of the worst lineups in baseball, with a host of no-names, young hopefuls, and unproven projects filling out the rest of the roster.
These guys aren’t going to be a 90-loss team. But I don’t see any scenario that has them finishing over .500 (which they haven’t done since 2006) or threatening for a postseason bid. Pick your spots with these guys but mainly they are a team to bet against.
2011 Record: 67-95 (-2150)
2012 Wins Over/Under: 71.5
Odds To Win 2012 AL West: +5000
Odds To Win 2012 AL Pennant: 50-to-1
2012 Seattle Mariners Odds To Win World Series: 100-to-1
It is hard to believe that just two years ago the Mariners were considered the favorites in the West. They had King Felix and Cliff Lee and they were coming off an 85-win season. But then the Mariners lost 101 games in 2010 followed by 95 games last year. And as I look at how their roster stacks up to the rest of the division this year I can’t predict anything good.
Seattle has lost 93 or more games five times in the last eight years and this season should make it six of nine. Their best hitter is still Ichiro Suzuki who, sadly, is showing signs of decline and will be 39 this October. After that the M’s are following the Oakland model of trotting out a bunch of “Who the hell is he?” guys like Mike Carp, Casper Wells, Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders and hoping that a couple of them can become solid Major Leaguers.
However, that quintet has combined for all of 508 hits in their Major League careers. That is more than 100 hits less than Ichiro has in just his last three years combined.
Needless to say, Seattle’s offense is going to be disgusting again this season. That means they will again rely on their enormous ballpark and their makeshift pitching staff to try to guide them through a mass of ugly, low-scoring games.
Unfortunately for them, outside of Felix Hernandez the pitching staff is equally awful. That is unless you are a big believer in hidden gems like Jason Vargas, Blake Beavan, Hector Noesi and Hisashi Iwakuma. With a starting staff like that it almost doesn’t even matter who your bullpen has or doesn’t have.
I’m going to make the bold prediction that Seattle doesn’t lose 100 games this year. But that’s about the nicest thing that I can say about the worst team in the American League.
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