So, this is the debut of the promised new weekly feature around these parts: a weekly look at the standings in the AL West and how things have gotten to where they are. I thought about making this league-wide, but while I have the time do accomplish such an endeavor now, I’m not sure I will in the near future. Since I’d rather expand a feature than drop it down, it starts with a look at the Mariners’ own division.
I’ll also include some prospect notes now and then, but the minor league season is just five days old; it’s FAR too soon to make any sort of significant conclusions yet.
I skipped the first week of the standings because, well, five days’ worth of games really isn’t enough to gauge anything on. So here we are, two weeks in, and at our first look at how things are shaping up…
1. Texas Rangers (9-1)
Last Seven Days: 5-1
Current Streak: Won 3
Notes: The Rangers have started off as probably the hottest team in baseball. It took a dazzling pitching display from Baltimore starter Zach Britton in just his second career start to hand them their first loss, and then they went back out that afternoon in game two of a double-header and curb-stomped the Orioles to the tune of 13-1. They’ve already scored a whopping 60 runs in their first ten games, including 18 home runs.
RF Nelson Cruz has helped set a blistering pace for the Rangers this year, posting a .273/.359/.758 batting line in the early goings of the season. No, that’s not his OPS at the end of that triple-slash line. That’s just his slugging percentage. With five homers and a double to his name so far this year, Cruz seems like he could be poised to explode even beyond the impressive numbers he’s put up the last two years.
2B Ian Kinsler and his four homers are off to a great start as well; he’s going to be a terror if he can stay healthy for once. New 3B and former Mariner Adrian Beltre only has six hits so far this year… but half of them have gone for homers.
Next Seven Days: 2 @ DET, day off, 3 @ NYY, 1 vs. LAA
2. Los Angeles Angels (5-5)
Last Seven Days: 4-2
Current Streak: Lost 1
Notes: Despite an offseason that met little but derision, the Angels have gotten off to a decent start. They got swept by the Royals (who have been surprisingly good) to start the year, but have since come back strong, sweeping a two game set against the Rays in Tampa Bay, and then taking two of three against a good Toronto squad.
2B Howie Kendrick has been their best player by far in the early days of the season, with four homers, a double, and a triple already to his name. Add that to his typically solid fielding at second base, and he’s been a very valuable player for them so far. Injuries have plagued the 27 year old throughout his career, but he may finally be poised to have his breakout if he stays healthy this year.
OF Bobby Abreu and infielder Maicer Izturis have also gotten off to hot starts at the plate for the Angels, and both are players that the Angels would love to see stay productive throughout the year, especially Izturis after his injury-ruined 2010. Lights-out pitching by Jered Weaver in the rotation and Jordan Walden in the bullpen have also helped serve to propel the Angels to where they are at this point early in the year.
Next Seven Days: 2 vs CLE, day off, 3 @ CWS, 1 @ TEX
3. Oakland Athletics (5-5)
Last Seven Days: 4-3
Current Streak: Won 3
Notes: The A’s have rebounded well from their horror show of an opening series that saw them commit a whopping seven errors in three games, a stunning five of which were on Opening Day itself. Frankly, there were a few other plays that could have been charged as errors throughout the series, but I think the official scorer decided to show some mercy. They lost two close games to the Blue Jays before winning their second of the year, but then went in to Target Field and took two of three from the Twins, which is no easy feat.
No one A’s batter has a truly remarkable batting line, but new arrival OF Josh Willingham has gotten off to a fairly nice start, accounting for three of the team’s five home runs. C Kurt Suzuki has been his normal solid self so far this year as well, although new DH Hideki Matsui has gotten off to a slow start, much like his 2010 stint with the Angels. 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff has just been straight-up terrible, with a .437 OPS at the plate and three errors already charged to his name, though he could have had at least one or two more.
Oakland’s starting pitching has been their saving grace, with Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez, Dallas Braden, and Brandon McCarthy all turning in solid performances so far. The bullpen has been shaky early, but the quality of the arms there suggest that they should be fine sooner rather than later.
Next Seven Days: 2 @ CWS, 4 vs DET, day off.
4. Seattle Mariners (3-7)
Last Seven Days: 1-6
Current Streak: Won 1
Notes: After a truly horrific and miserable seven-game losing streak was broken last night, all I can really say is this:
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH I CAN’T BELIEVE I WAS AT THAT GAME WHAT AN INCREDIBLE ENDING THANK GOD I STAYED FOR THE WHOLE THING HOLYCRAPHOLYCRAPHOLYCRAP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
1B Justin Smoak has probably been the team’s best overall hitter so far this year, working at-bats well and stroking five doubles so far. He has no homers yet, but with his swing and strength, those are only a matter of time, especially with how well he’s hitting so far. OF Milton Bradley has also been doing almost surprisingly well so far, though there have been a couple of frustrating moments as well.
There has also already been plenty of drama in Mariner-land, most notably with the Jack Wilson incident last week. I’m sure you’re all tired of hearing about the details, so I’ll just say this: I have absolutely zero problems with how manager Eric Wedge handled that. I know Megan disagrees with me, but with what Wilson did and how he tried to lie and almost cover it up later on, Wedge benching him and making it clear that that sort of behavior wouldn’t be tolerated was exactly what needed to happen, especially with how bad the clubhouse got last year.
Hopefully David Aardsma and Franklin Gutierrez will be back soon to help give the team a bit of a boost. It’s badly needed right now, even with the incredible win last night (of which Megan will provide plenty of coverage this evening).
Next Seven Days: 2 vs TOR, 4 @ KC, 1 vs DET
Friendly reminder: If you’re interested in following the M’s minor leaguers, go check out my new blog, Mariners Farm Review.