MLB Division Picks: American League West

Doug Upstone

Wednesday, July 9, 2014 4:14 PM GMT

No division in baseball is as top heavy as the American League West, having three of the Top 9 records in the majors. For those generating MLB picks, this trio is also in the Top 5 of units won.

This week we will breakdown the strengths and weaknesses of not only the top tier clubs, but those from the Lone Star State who are having a difficult year not only in the win column, but also versus the betting odds.


Oakland Athletics
Strengths

The best team in baseball thanks to a potent offense which averages five runs a game, a pitching staff that is the finest in run prevention and an intelligent manager in Bob Melvin who has numerous working parts and knows how to manipulate them. Billy Beane paid a hefty price for Jeff Samardjiza and Jason Hammels, but they realize this is a tremendous opportunity.

Weaknesses
With the starting pitching upgrade, at least in theory they are closer to Detroit should they meet in the postseason. Baseball handicappers are still concerned about the Athletics having the second-most blown saves in the AL, with a below average 62 percent save percentage.


Los Angeles Angels
Strengths
At this time, the A’s are the only team that has a comparable offense to the Angels. The club from Anaheim has star-power with the likes of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, but this season has several secondary role players like Kole Calhoun and C.J. Cron who contribute regularly.

Weaknesses
Overall, the starting pitching is quite good, but similar to rival Oakland, the bullpen is an issue. The Halos pensters are 11th in ERA and they have surrendered the fourth-most dingers in the American League. No question, skipper Mike Scioscia needs newly acquired Jason Grilli and Joe Thatcher to step up.


Seattle Mariners
Strengths
In the clichéd statement, “If the season ended today” Seattle is a playoff team. The Mariners have become a favorite of those making sports picks, especially in away games (27-18, +14.1 units) and as an underdog (24-22, +10.4). The Seattle staff is first in OBP allowed and second in ERA and OPS in the league.

Weaknesses
The M’s offense averages 4.1 runs a game which is 11th on the AL. A trade for Justin Morneau makes sense with Colorado, who is having his best season since 2010. The bats are adequate enough if the pitching comes through, similar to what Pittsburgh did a season ago. But if the pitching falters, Lloyd McClendon needs another option for a stick in the lineup.


Texas Rangers
Strengths
Beyond Yu Darvish and the years Adrian Beltre and Alex Rios are having, not much to get excited about. The offense is capable, but lacks consistency.

Weaknesses
Saw this coming in the spring, with not enough starting pitching and a deteriorating roster, which is why the Rangers cannot beat the MLB odds. Texas just made several roster moves; unfortunately most are superficial and are built around hope more than talent.


Houston Astros
Strengths
What Jose Altuve lacks in stature (5-5), he makes up with desire and skill, leading the AL in batting average, hits and steals. George Springer brings exceptional power and run-producing abilities; he just needs to understand the strike zone better to lift his batting average. Dallas Keuchel and Jarred Cosart look like hurlers the Astros can assemble a staff around.


Weaknesses
Still too many holes in the lineup card opposing pitchers can work around. Sportsbooks setting numbers have to daily consider what happens when an Astros starter leaves a game, because manager Bo Porter is turning the game over (no doubt cringing) to the worst bullpen in baseball.

Check out our coverage of AL East