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Monday, March 10, 2008

'08 RAPs: AL West

For the most part, the AL West was the most boring division in baseball last year. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim were clearly, by far the best team. Despite a brief run by the Mariners, the Angels completely dominate rotation, pretty strong pen, and relatively formidable lineup had the division rapped up from Opening Day on. Here's the rundown:



On May first, the Angels were two games ahead of second place Seattle and 2.5 ahead of third place Oakland.


On June first, LAA was ahead of second place Seattle by 5.5 games and ahead of the third place A's by 6.5. Texas, by the way, was already 13.5 back.


On July first, the Mariners were 4 back, while Oakland slipped to 8.5 back (out of the race for good).


At the break, the M's moved to two-and-a-half back of the Angels.


On August first, the M's were still hanging in there at 3 back.


By September first, the M's were 6.5 back and pretty much out of the race.


The Angels clinched the division on September 23.



Well, that was boring! Will it be a more exciting division this year? Find out on Sunday, when I make my predictions. Anyway, here are the final standings for the 2007 AL Western Division:


1. Angels: 94-68


2. Mariners: 88-74 (6 GB)


3. Athletics: 76-86 (18 GB)


4. Rangers: 75-87 (19 GB)


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

08 RAPs: Texas Rangers

After several years of irrelevance, GM Jon Daniels finally earned his paycheck at the trade deadline last year. Along with their stellar first round of the Rule 4 draft, thanks to the prospects picked up at the deadline, the Rangers have one of the best farm systems in the game. Daniels has also had a very good off-season. Here are his off-season moves: -Signed pitcher Sidney Ponson to minor league contract. -Signed outfielder Kevin Mench to a minor league contract. -Signed pitcher Jason Jennings to a one-year contract. -Signed pitcher Eddie Guardado to a one-year contract. -Signed pitcher Kazuo Fukumori to a two-year contract with a club option for 2010 -Signed infielder Edgardo Alfonzo to a minor league contract -Acquired first baseman Ben Broussard from the Seattle Mariners for infielder Tug Hulett -Acquired outfielder Josh Hamilton from the Reds for pitcher Edison Volquez

Pitching Staff: SP1: Kevin Millwood SP2/3/4: Kason Gabbard/Jason Jennings/Vincente Padilla SP5: Luis Mendoza CL/SUM: Joaquin Benoit/C.J. Wilson

Field: DH: Frank Catalanotto C: Jarrod Saltalamacchia/Gerald Laird 1B: Ben Broussard/Jason Botts 2B: Ian Kinsler SS: Michael Young 3B: Hank Blalock LF: Marlon Byrd CF: Josh Hamilton RF: Milton Bradley

Predictions: Easiest- The Rangers will finish in third place. Boldest- The Rangers' team ERA will be over 6.00 for the season. Team MVP/Best Season- Michael Young (20-25 HR, +.320 AVG.) Best Pitcher/Breakout Player- Kason Gabbard (9-12 wins, sub-4.oo ERA)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

'08 RAPs: Oakland Athletics

"Money-balling" GM Billy Beane was in full sell mode this off-season. He traded away both his best pitcher (Dan Haren) and posittion player (Nick Swisher) after realizing that his team has no chance of winning. Here's the list of Beane's moves: -Traded pitchers Dan Haren and Connor Robertson to the Oakland Athletics for pitchers Brett Anderson, Dana Eveland and Greg Smith, outfielders Aaron Cunningham and Carlos Gonzalez and infielder Chris Carter. -Acquired outfielder Ryan Sweeney and pitchers Gio Gonzalez and Fautino De Los Santos from the Chicago White Sox for outfielder Nick Swisher. -Signed outfielder Emil Brown to a one-year contract. -Signed first baseman Mike Sweeney to a minor league contract. -Signed catcher Matt LeCroy to a minor league contract

Pitching Staff: SP1: Joe Blanton SP2: Rich Harden SP3: Chad Gaudin SP4: Justin Duchserer SP5: Lenny DiNardo CL: Huston Street SUM: Keith Foulke

Field: DH: Jack Cust/Mike Sweeney C: Kurt Suzuki 1B: Dan Hohnson/Daric Barton/Mike Sweeney 2B: Mark Ellis SS: Bobby Crosby 3B: Eric Chavez/Jack Hannahan OF: Travis Buch/Emil Brown/Chris Denorfia/Carlos Gonzalez/Ryan Sweeney/Jack Cust

Predictions: Easiest- The A's will trade Joe Blanton mid-season. Boldest- Mike Sweeney will lead the West in OBP this season. Team MVP/Best Season- Mike Sweeney (10-15 HRs, .320-.350 AVG, 400-450 ABs) Best Pitcher/Breakout Player- Rich Harden (8-12 wins, sub-4.25 ERA)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

'08 RAPs: Seattle Mariners

General Manager Bill Bavasi has had quite a good winter. Despite leaving his somewhat feeble offense alone, he has managed to better his team tremendously. With the acquisitions of Erik Bedard and Carlos Silva, the M's now have a rotation that is good enough to compete with the Angels... almost. Here are the Mariners' off-season moves: -Signed pitcher Carlos Silva to a four-year contract. -Signed pitcher Arthur Rhodes to a minor league contract -Signed outfielder Brad Wilkerson to a one-year contract. -Signed infielder Miguel Cairo to a one-year contract. -Acquired pitcher Erik Bedard from the Baltimore Orioles for outfielder Adam Jones and pitchers George Sherrill, Chris Tillman, Kam Mickolio and Tony Butler. -Signed infielder Greg Norton to a minor league contract.

Pitching Staff: SP1: Erik Bedard SP2: Felix Hernandez SP3: Carlos Silva SP4: Jarrod Washburn SP5: Miguel Batista CL: J.J. Putz SUM: Brandon Morrow

Field: DH: Jose Vidro C: Kenji Johjima 1B: Richie Sexson 2B: Jose Lopez SS: Yuniesky Betancourt 3B: Adrian Beltre LF: Raul Ibanez CF: Ichiro Suzuki RF: Brad Wilkerson

Predictions: Easiest- The Mariners will finish in second in the West. Boldest- Erik Bedard and King Felix will combine for over 400 innings. Team MVP/Best Pitcher/Breakout Player- Felix Hernandez (17-19 wins,3.50 ERA,+230 K's) Best Hitter- Ichiro Suzuki (15-25 HR, +.340 AVG.)

Friday, March 14, 2008

'08 RAPs: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

There's not much to say about the Angels off-season. They only made one major move. It's not like they needed to do much more anyway. -Acquired pitcher Jon Garland from the Chicago White Sox for SS Orlando Cabrera

Pitching Staff: SP1: John Lackey SP2: Jon Garland SP3: Jared Weaver SP4: Ervin Santana SP5: Joe Saunders CL: Francisco Rodriguez SUM: Scott Shields

Field: DH: Gary Matthews Jr./Garret Anderson/Juan Rivera C: Mike Napoli 1B: Casey Kotchman 2B: Howie Kendrick SS: Erick Aybar/Maicer Izturis 3B: Chone Figgins LF: Garret Anderson/Gary Matthews Jr./Reggie Willits CF: Torri Hunter RF: Vlad Guerrero

Predictions: Easiest- The Angels will win the AL West. Boldest- NONE Team MVP/Best Season- Vlad Guerrero (30-35 HR +100 RBI) Best Pitcher- John Lackey (14-17 wins, sub-4.00 ERA) Breakout Player- Casey Kotchman (25-28 HR, 85-95 RBI)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

'08 RAPs: Final AL West Rundown and Predictions

After covering the Angels, Mariners, Athletics, and Rangers this past week, it is finally time to make my final predictions for the 2008 AL Western Division. But first, let's break down the division by pitching and offense.

Pitching: 4. Rangers: You know your rotation is in bad shape when your ace is Kevin Millwood. The Rangers are relying on Jason Jennings to bounce back in a big way to have a somewhat decent rotation. However, the good news for Rangers fans is the fact they they managed to pick up both Blake Beavan and Micheal Main in last years draft, giving them two big pitching prospects on the way. The Rangers bullpen is young and promising; however, don't be surprised if C.J. Wilson or Joaquin Benoit are flipped at the deadline. 3. Athletics: The A's rotation could get significantly worse if Joe Blanton is dealt anytime soon. Then the A's would be fully relying on Rich Harden to stay healthy in order to win 70games this season. Since Blanton is still an A though, the A's still have a better rotation than the Rangers. The A's also have a good pen; but, that could very well fall apart it Huston Street can't remain healthy. 2. Mariners: The acquisition of Erik Bedard has put the Mariners rotation over the top. If King Felix produces like he did at the beginning of 2007 and Erik Bedard duplicates his 2007 season, the Mariners could have a special season. Also, keeping up the trend of trying to repeat their '07 magic, J.J. Putz will be trying to, once again be among the top players in the game. 1. Angels: With the addition of Jon Garland, the Angels have one of the top three rotations in baseball. If Ervin Santana performs half as well as last year, there will be no stopping the Angels at all. And of course, K-Rod is K-Rod, so the Angels pen is in fine shape as well.

Offense: 4. Athletics: After losing Nick Swisher, the core of the A's offense last year, the A's seem to be done. Unless of course, Jack Cust improves greatly AND Mike Sweeney returns to the form he was in in his prime. 3. Mariners: Outside of Ichiro, I don't see much production coming from the Mariners offense. Sexson and Ibanez will continue to age as usual. The only way for the M's to have a decent offense is if Ichiro hits for as much power in the game as he apparently does in BP. 2. Rangers: The Rangers have a great young offense. If Josh Hamilton and Jarrod Saltalamacchia use their great potential properly and Milton Bradley stays out of trouble, the ever consistent Michael Young and company will be very good this year. 1. Angels: After signing Torri Hunter this off-season to compliment Vlad Guerrero and company, the Angels stay ahead of the rest of the division in the offensive department.

Final Predictions:

Standings: 1. Angels, 98-64 2. Mariners, 88-74 3. Athletics, 72-90 4. Rangers, 70-92

Awards: Division MVP: Vlad Guerrero; nothing much to say about this pick. He's the best player on the best team. Runner Up: Torri Hunter Divisional CY-Young: Felix Hernandez; hopefully for King Felix he will put his past injury problems behind him, allowing him to finally show why he was brought up to the majors at such a young age. Runner Up: John Lackey

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