by Christian S. Kohl
The season to date in the AL West is best summed up by one word: fireworks. The contest has emerged early as a two team race between the starter-loaded Angels, and the absolutely electric bats of the Texas Rangers. Seattle and Oakland have quickly fallen 9 games back of the Rangers, and with limited weapons on either crew, aside from the dominant Felix Hernandez, it’s tough to envision either of these clubs making a serious run at the division or the wildcard.
When in search of pitching depth, it’s hard to do much better in the American League than Jared Weaver, CJ Wilson, and Dan Haren. These three, when healthy, absolutely dominate the leaderboards in innings pitched, ERA, and strikeouts. Their staff also sports the promising albeit inconsistent Ervin Santana. If he manages to turn it on from start to start, the Angels represent arguably the deepest, most fearsome staff in the entire league.
This team, however, is not without its flaws. After extraordinarily shaky work by Jordan Walden, LAA has scrambled to find lockdown relief to convert these solid starting outings into wins. Scott Downs has assumed the role and performed admirably so far, but his consistency and durability have yet to be proven.
Offensively, the Angels sit primarily in the middle of the pack. The surprising and painfully slow start of Albert Pujols has stunted their offensive production, leaving many to wonder if too many at-bats have already passed by for him to still contribute his typically frightening and consistent numbers. If he wants to repeat them, he’ll need to catch fire. Still, his fellow corner infielder Mark Trumbo has helped pick up the slack with 10 homers and a .348 BA. For them to really challenge late in the year, LAA will need more from not just Pujols, but other potentially powerful contributors like Kendrick and Morales.
For the time being, nothing can contain the offensive powerhouse that is the Texas Rangers. Sitting atop the division at 31-20, the Rangers currently own the league lead in all triple crown categories with 76 HR, 283 RBI, and a .288 collective batting average. This team sports power at nearly every position, with veteran contributors in Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler, and the rock-steady hitting of Michael Young. No one, however, can match the absolute tear of outfielder Josh Hamilton. With 21 HR, 57RBI, and a .386 average, Hamilton is well on his way to compiling an impressive season’s worth of stats before the All-Star break even hits. He is locked in and launching baseballs, securing his spot in the early part of the season as, far and away, the league’s most feared hitter.
Add solid starting pitching in the form of Colby Lewis and the indecipherable young phenom Yu Darvish, Texas is as formidable as any team in the league. This is absolutely their division to lose, and the biggest enemy they will face for the remaining months of the season will be injury. Cruz, Hamilton and others have prolonged histories of DL time, and it could prove costly should the meat of their order prove unable to remain in the lineup. Texas currently sports the most wins of any team in the AL, and is fresh off two pennant wins in as many years, with no titles to show for it. For the time being anyway, the Rangers are visibly unhappy about that fact, and are fixing to do something about it. Look for them to be hungry as ever come October.
Christian S. Kohl is a writer and filmmaker based in New York City. Find out more about him at DailySpew.com.