cali love

 

By Stefan Anderson

Lemon, Gwynn, Seaver, Carter and the legendary Ted Williams, they all have one thing in common, California bred baseball players.  California has always been known to produce standout players as well as great baseball teams.  This season is a true testament to that statement, with the California’s teams being the most dominant of all the 50 states with franchises.

Aside from the Padres, all the teams in the golden state have produced great baseball this season and all can have a chance at winning the pennant in their own right.

With honorable mention to the big city in California, Los Angeles has been creating a roar of their own. The Angels have found their bats again after struggling last season. They currently sit at 35-28 and are top 10 in RBI and HR while averaging .257 as a team. Also in LA, you have the Dodgers, who are playing mediocre record wise and are a major run away from competing for the NL West or Wild Card position.  They are swinging the bat good as well as their National League competitors but have received a great boost from their bullpen and starting pitching staff. Their NL leading 571 strikeouts, led by Haren, Beckett, Ryu, Kershaw and Grienke, the Dodgers have arguably the best starting rotation in the bigs and matchup nightmare for opposing rosters if they can withhold.

Then there are the Bay Area teams: The A’s and Giants.

By far the hottest teams in the MLB, other than the Blue Jays who are streaking and sitting a .5 game behind the AL leading A’s, the Bay has produced the best baseball this season.

After being bounced out by the Tigers in the past two seasons in the playoffs, the A’s are back to playing their style of baseball, “Moneyball”.  Maximizing the effort of their players, and are in route to conquering their 3rd consecutive AL West title.  Led by savvy vets like Coco Crisp, Scott Kazmir, Brandon Moss and Jed Lowrie and a budding superstar in Josh Donaldson, the Athletics are playing great ball. With a MLB leading 310 RBI’s and ERA sitting at 2.91 have created some staggering numbers. In most cases run differential does not mean anything to playoff races or wins. But not in the A’s cases their impressive +125 run differential has proven the ideologists wrong as their continue to pile up their wins and continue on run for a pennant.

The Giants have been one of the more consistent teams of the past few seasons bringing in their fair share championship and fashionable style of baseball. But after a struggling season in the one that just past they have bounced back in a rare form. Although the Giants struggle to put players on the base, they certainly execute when they have the opportunity to do so, driving in 271 batters home this season they have made the most of their inconsistent bats.  Despite not manufacturing a great amount of runs, they have protected their wins a lot by their great pitching staff and bullpen.  With a 3.16 ERA and allowing opposing teams to only bat at .236, tied for 4th best in the majors, have lead them to the league leading 65 wins.

It is still early to predict what can happen in October, but I  am willing to make a bold prediction and state that one of the California teams will fighting for the pennant at seasons end.

2014 Preview: AL West

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By Greg Hudson

 
The 2013 season saw big changes in the AL West, namely the addition of the Houston Astros to the previously four-team division as part of the restructuring of the league. The newcomers had struggled mightily in their final seasons in the National League and that trend continued in their new division. Meanwhile, the perennial playoff contender Texas Rangers found new competition from the Oakland Athletics, while the star power of Albert Pujols in Los Angeles didn’t produce the desired results. Here’s how it looks for the 2014 season.
 
Houston Astros (51-111, 5th in 2013)
 
The Astros had a truly miserable season in 2013, and there’s little surprise to it. The 2005 World Series runners up have long lost or liquidated their best players and haven’t had the strength in the trade or free agent markets to assemble a team that can compete for anything other than last place. In 2013, Astros hitters ranked 29th in on base percentage at a lowly .299, with the team’s leading hitter Jose Altuve batting just .283. Coupled with a woeful pitching staff ranked dead last in team ERA and WHIP, the surprising stat is that they somehow managed to win 51 games.
 
But while the Astros haven’t added much quality or depth to their roster for this season, they can take heart in the progress of top prospects like pitcher Mark Appel, who could be facing major league hitters by the end of the 2015 season.
 
Los Angeles Angels (78-84, 3rd in 2013)
 
The 2013 hardly went according to script, as far as the Angels are concerned, as a team usually considered to be playoff-caliber failed to reach the .500 mark. But this failure isn’t the sign of a lack of quality, but rather a sign that the other teams in the division are improving, namely the Athletics. After all, the Angel’s have sluggers Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, and Mike Trout as part of a lineup that ranked in the top five in batting average and on base percentage, along with a starting rotation featuring Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson. But for all the offensive success, pitching remained a weak spot for the Angels in 2013, as the pitching staff ranked 24th in ERA with a 4.23, 26th in opponent batting average at .261, and 27th in WHIP with a 1.38.
 
New signings may help those numbers improve this season, with two new starters joining the rotation: Hector Santiago and youngster Tyler Skaggs, who impressed in limited appearances in Arizona. New setup artist Joe Smith will do his best to make life easier for closer Ernesto Frieri. The already solid lineup has also been padded with a potential .300 hitter in third baseman David Freese, while power hitter Raul Ibanez will likely fill the DH spot.
 
It’s tough to say whether they’ll be a playoff team this season, and it will likely depend on the reliability of the rotation, who certainly underperformed last season. If they can keep up with the likes of Texas and Oakland, they’ve certainly got the talent to make a run for October ball.
 
Oakland Athletics (96-66, 1st in 2013)
 
Oakland was the revelation team of 2013. Despite ranking only 14th in batting average, the A’s put up the fourth most runs in the league last year, thanks in no small part to timely hitting and the power of sluggers like Brandon Moss, Yoenis Cespedes, and Josh Donaldson. A solid pitching rotation starring Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin ranked in the top 10 in most pitching departments, including the third best WHIP in the majors.
 
Considering the talent at play in Oakland, the A’s didn’t need to dip too deep into the market this off-season, but they did bolster their pitching staff with the addition of veteran starter Scott Kazmir, a move which may pay dividends. The bullpen also welcomes setup man Luke Gregerson and closer Jim Johnson. Look to see them throwing several times a week, all season, and well into October.
 
Seattle Mariners (71-91, 4th in 2013)
 
After a fairly anonymous season in 2013, the Mariners made a big move for the 2014 season, landing free agent Robinson Cano in a big-money move that has Seattle fans cheering and the rest of the country scratching its head and the length and value of the contract given to the ex-Yankee.
 
But the addition of Cano, along with DH Corey Hart and outfielder Logan Morrison, doesn’t make up all the ground between the Mariners and teams like the Rangers or Athletics. A poor performance from the pitching staff last season won’t necessarily be helped by the addition of two rookies to the starting rotation this season, despite the efforts of ace Felix Hernandez. And trusty new closer Fernando Rodney won’t have much work to do if his starters can’t give him a lead to work with.
 
They’ve still got some work to do, but things are looking up, at least.
 
Texas Rangers (91-72, 2nd in 2013)
 
The Rangers had their hearts broken by the Rays last season, but they’ve responded to the challenge of the playoff race by strengthening an already strong squad. Sure, the departures of David Murphy and Ian Kinsler hurt, but the addition of slugger Prince Fielder and hurler Tommy Hanson will only add quality to the fans in Arlington.
 
Yu Darvish will look to put his remaining doubters to shame this season, and there’s no doubt that new arrival Shin-Soo Choo will look to replicate his success in Cleveland and Cincinnati in the Lone Star state.
 
If they can play consistent baseball all season, then they stand a chance to take back the division crown from Oakland. But if they fail in that department, it’s likely that the road to the playoffs may again run through Tampa Bay.
 
Prediction:
 
1st: Athletics
2nd: Rangers
3rd: Angels
4th: Mariners
5th: Astros