AL West Roundtable
Daniel Abbas, a writer over at Bleacher Report, conducted an AL West roundtable today, asking five questions to a writer for each of the four teams.
The writers involved are Bo Reed (Texas Rangers), Griffin Cooper(me) (Seattle Mariners), Nathaniel Stoltz (Oakland Athletics), and Johnathan Kroncke (Los Angeles Angeles).
1. Who is the best player in the AL West?
BR: Ichiro and it’s not even a contest. The guy just keeps hitting and it doesn’t matter who he faces. He’s one of the few players that can kill you with the right hit at the right time. Whether he needs to hit it out or just get on base with an infield single, he gets it done.
GC: Hmm, well if you’re talking position player, I’d have to go with Ichiro. I’ve never seen another player who could find ways to get on base like Ichiro, and find ways to put good wood on the ball almost every trip to the plate. He’s 35 now, but he still gets just as many infield hits as ever, and just hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. He’s incredible.
NS: I think it’s Josh Hamilton when he’s fully healthy, but Torii Hunter is having the best year of any position player in the division. Felix Hernandez is the most dominant pitcher.
JK: Without question, the best player in the AL West continues to be Ichiro Suzuki. His uncanny ability to “hit it where they ain’t” combined with his enduring speed and occasional power make him a nightmare to face. And he’s not too bad in the outfield either.
2. And the most disappointing?
BR: Josh Hamilton is hitting .223 with 7 home runs at the deadline. He’s one of many reasons why the Rangers offense continues to walk in the wilderness. If it wasn’t for their pitching, which is still weird, the Rangers would be fighting the A’s for the AL West basement.
GC: For this season, I would think the most disappointing would be Josh Hamilton. I can only see it from a Mariners fans perspective, but after the year he had in 2008, I’d think it would have to be tough as a Rangers fan to be getting such limited production out of him. It’s just been unfortunate that he’s had so much injury trouble this year.
NS: Jason Giambi. Yes, he’s still walking and occasionally hitting homers, but it’s tough to be anything close to a productive player when you’re not even hitting .200 and have no range on defense. On the plus side, at least his injury made room for Tommy Everidge.
JK: This season, I suppose the most disappointing player has to be the Rangers’ Chris Davis. This looked like it was going to be Davis’s break-out season, but after striking out at an astonishing rate and refusing to hit at even a respectable clip, he’s been replaced at first base.
3. Who will win the division?
BR: Boy that’s a tough one. It depends on what the Rangers and Angels do at the deadline. If the Angels get Halladay or Lee they can sit on their lead the rest of the way. If the Rangers can find an impact bat and get going offensively the Angels are in trouble. Either way this race is destined to come down to the last week of September.
GC: Honestly, I just don’t see anyone beating the Angels. They’re surging right now, and they’re doing it without Torii or Vlad. I’d prefer to see the M’s or the Rangers take it, but the M’s just don’t have the offense, and the Rangers just don’t have the pitching to stay in it.
NS: The Angels. It comes down to pitching, and the Rangers just can’t find it. Until they prove they can find some quality starters, Texas won’t be winning the division.
JK: It’s tough to say at this point. Being the Angels fanatic that I am, I have to believe that if we can bring in some support for either the starting rotation or bullpen or both, L.A. of A. has the best shot. But Texas just won’t go away, so this should be a close race that comes down to the wire.
4. Is Seattle pretending or contending?
BR: What a difference a week makes in the game of baseball. If you had asked me last week I would have said contender, but they’ve fallen 7.5 games back and just lost Bedard for a couple of weeks at least. A big series with the Rangers this weekend can pull them back into the race, but 7.5 games behind the Angels going into August may be too big of a hole.
GC: Up until this last weekend, I would have said contending. But after getting blown out three games in a row by a bad team, and falling to 7.5 games out of first place, I’m inclined to say pretending. We had a great run, and overall it has been a very successful season, but at this point it’s time to look towards next year and beyond. Anything is possible, of course, but our odds are extremely slim for 2009.
NS: Being 7.5 games out of the division and the wild card, I don’t think they’re going to make the playoffs. I wouldn’t be surprised if they win 85 games, though. Erik Bedard going on the DL really hurts any chance they have.
JK: Seattle has hit a rough patch over the last few weeks or so, but I still think they’ve got some fight in them. They’ve got three strong starters, a little power mixed with speed in the lineup, and a bullpen that throws nothing but heat. If they can do something to improve their run production, I think the Mariners will every bit the contenders that Texas and Anaheim are.
5. What’s the most important series remaining?
BR: Unless the Rangers or Angels completely fall apart, they should still be close in the standings going into the last week of the season. The two have a big four game series in Los Angeles in the final week that may very well decide the AL West.
GC: For the Mariners? I would say this one right now, with the Blue Jays, and the first game of the Texas series after wards. I say this, because if the Mariners don’t gain two or three games on the Angels before the deadline, it should guarantee us being in complete sell mode.
NS: The three-game season-ender between Texas and L.A.
JK: This division should come down to the final few weeks of the season, and I don’t think any series will be as critical as when the Angels go to Texas for a three-game set in mid-September. That series comes in the middle of a dangerous stretch where the Halos play Boston before, and New York after. If Anaheim wants to have any chance of getting to the playoffs, it is imperative to get through that period with a winning record, particularly against the Rangers.