Coming into the 2015 campaign, the AL West was thought to have 2 clubs battling neck to neck & each defeating the betting odds to make the playoffs. However, it was supposed to be Seattle, not Houston.
The Astros along with Minnesota have been the two biggest positive surprises in the American League and baseball handicappers and those generating MLB picks have been forced to alter their preconceived notions. Nonetheless, the baseball season is a long grind and Houston has seen its once healthy lead in the division disappear on the last day of the so-called first half of the regular season, as the Angels made up five games in 10 played to overtake the Astros.
Can Texas, Seattle or Oakland possibly become a factor the rest of the way, Let's make a determination.
L.A.A. Angels (48-40, +4.5 units)
The team from Anaheim finally found a rhythm and began to play like squad most sportsbooks and those working the MLB odds predicted, with an 11-3 spurt to take over first place. The Angels starting pitching has been solid all year with the third-lowest ERA in the league and similar to last year, the defined roles in the bullpen are making this contingent more effective. Beyond Mike Trout and Albert Pujols homers, the offense has been spotty and the Halos want to acquire an outfield bat, even as Kole Calhoun and C.J. Cron are coming along. The schedule sets up for a blazing Angels starts with a 10-game homestand versus Boston Red Sox, Minnesota and Texas before going to Houston and traveling north for I-5 rematch with Dodgers. A real opportunity for L.A. to create distance in division.
Houston (49-42, +4.0)
There is more than one reason why the Astros have tumbled out of first place, but a quick refresher explains a large portion. After 13 away affairs to begin the season, Houston was an unbelievable 11-2. After finishing up losing their last six to complete 1-6 road trip, the Astros are 10-24 in away outings since May 8th. Can the Houston recover, yes, because for sports picks they remain a healthy 28-16 at the "Juice Box". What GM Jeff Luhnow has to decide is what kind of starting pitcher do they need to add, one that improves them or an ace like a Johnny Cueto, but having to give up prospects to win this year or possibly over the next few instead of keeping building like Kansas City did. I have harped about the Stros all or nothing offense and like the Angels could come flying out of the box with Texas and Boston at home before a weekend series in K.C.. For sports picks, best to take a week by week approach with Houston.
Texas (42-46, +9.0)
It was supposed to be a very long season for the Rangers, but it has, at least to this point, been far better than anticipated. That is not to say Texas could not totally collapse like last season since the pitching is more hanging on than excelling. The Rangers have a couple pieces like Nick Martinez and Yovani Gallardo who should fit nicely when Yu Darvish returns next year, but the trio of Colby Lewis, Wandy Rodriguez, and Matt Harrison is wishful thinking more than positive results. With a largely substandard offense besides Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland, backing Texas at Heritage Sports or any other sportsbook is risky business. The Rangers are 26-20 away from home for ginormous profits (+19.3) and this could be tested immediately by heading to Houston, Colorado and Anaheim.
Seattle (41-48, -13.2)
We all missed it and thought Seattle was ready to climb higher after improving 16 games from 2013 to 2014 with 87 wins. However, those kind of massive shifts can also mean - Buyer Beware - and that is what we have seen from Seattle. The addition of Nelson Cruz helped overlook Seattle was going to have journeymen J.A. Happ in the rotation and without Hisahi Iwakuma fully healthy to start the season, they was no legit No. 2 starter. The bullpen has been ordinary at best and with Robinson Cano either truly hurt or giving off signs of not liking being out of the limelight in the far Northwest, Seattle has scuffled all season. With 10 matchups against the AL East both home and away to begin the remainder of the year, Seattle fans are thinking football again in July.
Oakland (41-50, -17.3)
With a +44 run differential that is 25 percent better than the Angels (+33), it is almost inconceivable to think Oakland is in last place in the division. It becomes more plausible to believe when you check the stats and the A's are 14th in the AL in bullpen ERA and save percentage and this same group of pitchers have accounted for 17 losses in 25 decisions. While we prefer to follow the numbers and think Oakland will play closer to their run differential the rest of the season, the schedule is quite foreboding and do not seen many opportunities for advancement unless the relievers step up.