Other than the Astros, all four teams in the Al West have losing records. If you have been following the betting odds you might wonder how this could be since these teams have mostly played in division.
While this is basically true, it is not entirely so. The other four teams besides Houston have played 17 games versus non-division competition and they have a horrifying 3-14 record, -12.9 units. This sums up the division to this juncture. With all the clubs in the division branching out in the next week to 10 days to start playing others teams, anybody from MLB baseball handicappers to those making sports picks has to have serious concerns about the AL West looking ahead.
Let’s examine what each squad is bringing to the table from pitching perspective.
“Houston, We Do Not Have a Problem, We’re All Good”
OK, it is not exactly Tom Hanks from the – Apollo 13 movie – but you understand the point; these are giddy carefree time for the Astros who has the best record in the American League and are the top money-maker at +13.3 units. What has keyed Houston’s incredible success, well like almost any turnaround in baseball it starts with pitching.
Last season the Astros were 9th in the American League in starting pitcher ERA and dead last in bullpen ERA, This season, third overall in both categories, which placed them right behind Kansas City in runs allowed in the AL at 3.5 per contest.
Dallas Keuchel (0.73 ERA) and Collin McHugh (3.41) have made 10 total starts and Houston has won each of them. The balance of the starting rotation is underwhelming in many areas, but with the Astros averaging five runs a game, for the time being that is not an issue.
First year manager A.J. Hinch was criticized in Arizona for often unusual moves, but whatever he learned from that experience it has helped him here. This is especially so when looking at his use of the bullpen, where five different pitchers have made at least 10 appearances and generally been extremely successful.
Houston has pounded on teams in the division to the tune of 14-5 (+11.5 units) and is the only squad with a winning record outside the division at 4-2. If you are putting together MLB picks, it is very difficult to not use the Astros these days.
Angels and Mariners Stinking Up the Joint
The Angels of Anaheim and Seattle were supposed to be where Houston is in early May, presumably running away from their competitors. Instead, both are scuffling.
The Angels are surrendering four runs a game which is not bad, but two other factors are killing them. Outside of Mike Trout, the rest of the offense is brutal and averaging 3.8 RPG. Also, after years of being an ace, Jered Weaver has not won any of his six starts. This has happened to him in the past, but never with an ERA of 6.29 and averaging less than four strikeouts per nine innings. Manager Mike Scioscia is saying all the right things about Weaver, yet it is impossible to ignore his average fastball has been under 85 MPH in past two starts.
In 2014, Seattle was third in starting pitcher ERA, this season they are ninth and that includes Felix Hernandez at 1.82 and half of the Mariners wins being in King Felix starts.
The loss of Hisashi Iwakuma has mattered and younger pitchers James Paxton (5.74 ERA) and Taijuan Walker (8.74) have not lived up to their billing. Closer Fernando Rodney has converted seven of eight save chances, but has an ERA over a five and a WHIP of 1.65. With nobody other than Nelson Cruz hitting, presently, the M’s have an uphill battle.
Oakland and Texas Getting No Relief from Relievers
The Athletics and Rangers are both losing money versus the MLB odds. Don’t blame the starting pitching as Oakland ranks first in the AL in ERA and Texas is a respectable fifth in spite of suffering so many injuries. For both clubs, the bullpens have been horrific and it is hard to beat sportsbooks like Wagerweb.ag if you are giving away games in the late innings.
The A’s pen ERA is 15th or last in the AL and they have a 2-8 record and have blown four of seven save opportunities.
The Rangers are nominally better at 14th and they have blown six of eight save chances and done so be being hit hard, ranked next to last behind Boston in total bases allowed.
No quick fix for either manager to fix these problems, all they can do is hope these pitchers find comfort zones and begin to produce.