And we’re off: Cincy Unscripted’s breakdown of the MLB… part 6

The final installment of Jim Bianchine sounds off on MLB at the break.  Last, but not least, the AL WEST

TEXAS RANGERS (52-34)

IMG_2783After successive World Series trips the Rangers, for good reason, are considered the class of the American League.

Want further proof? They rank first in baseball hitting .280 and third in the AL with a 3.72 ERA.

With so many stars it is hard to find a place to begin, but most would start with All-Star slugger Josh Hamilton who is tied for first in the AL with 27 homers, tops in the league with 75 RBIs and is hitting .308.

In a loaded lineup, fellow All-Star Adrian Beltre (15-54) is fifth in the AL in hitting (.326) and slick All-Star infielder Elvis Andrus is hitting .293. Add All-Star second baseman Ian Kinsler (.279) All-Star catcher Mike Napoli (12 hrs) and the beat goes on. Want more? Throw in David Murphy (.288) and slugger Nelson Cruz (.267-11-53) for good measure.

This team is not hitting heavy. All-star hurler Matt Harrison (11-4, 3.10),  Colby  Lewis (3.51 ERA) and Yu Darvish (10-5, 3.59) with a closer the likes of All-Star Joe Nathan (18 SV, 1.73) and the Rangers have it all.

Well they have it all but a ring.

LOS ANGELES ANGELS (48-38 -4)

While many feel the Rangers are once again the clearcut ruler of not only the division but the American League, the heavy spending Angels may actually stack up quite well against their division rivals.

And while the main focus was on their signing superstar Albert Pujols to a mega deal, he may be only a portion of the reason the Angels will likely put all kinds of heat on the Rangers.

Pujols is not the.story, but just a small part of it to date. Off to a woeful start, King Albert seems to have settled in (.268-14-51) to his new league and that could spell real trouble for AL foes. But trouble comes in bunches when facing LA from some unexpected sources.

Rookie sensation Mike Trout (.341-12-40) not only leads the league in batting but is an All-Star which is pretty good since he was not penciled in the starting lineup in off-season projections.

However young star .Mark Trumbo was and has had a great first half (.306-22-57) as expected

For the Angels, third in hitting in the league (.268) all the pieces are there to contend. Torri Hunter (.270) is a proven star while  Kendrys Morales (.289) and Howard  Kendrick (.276) give the Angels a lineup that just may rival the Rangers if the aforementioned trio enjoys a solid second half.

If it takes balance to win, the Angels have it. Led by All-Star right-hander Jered Weaver (10-1, 3rd AL in wins) the Angels boast the second best staff ERA 3.61 in the AL. Former Ranger C.J. Wilson (9-5) gives them a solid 1-2 punch, but LA has to find consistency in the rest of the rotation from ailing Dan Harren, Jerome Williams and inconsistent Ervin  Santana.

What could separate the Rangers from the Angels is the lack of a dominant closer like Nathan as a lot rests on a suspect bullpen, one somewhat by committee.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS (43-43 -9)

At first glance the A’s sporting a .500 record may appear to be the result of sorcery. The field a lineup of few anyone has ever heard of.

But their magic is in their pitching which ranks first in the AL (3.38). Brandon McCarthy (6-3, 2.54),  Jarrod Parker (5-4, 2.86) and Tom Milone (8-6, 3.57) form a serious trio of starters. Throw in Bartolo Colon taken from the scrap heap who has held his own (6-7, 3.80) and it is little wonder why the A’s are even, despite next to no run support.

And yet when it comes to hitting or lack thereof, it is shocking this team hasn’t fallen into a black hole. Talk about imbalance. It may be true little known Josh Reddick has 20 homers in the first half and Cepedes (.263-9-36), who was slowed by a trip to the DL, shows why people expect big things from the Cuban defector, the team ranks last in hitting in the majors at .225, scoring only 319 runs. By comparison, the Rangers have scored 443. And by comparison the Rangers are nine games ahead of them. Yet .500 is still an accomplishment all things considered.

SEATTLE MARINERS (36-51 -16 ½)

The Mariners have earned the worst record in the American League. It has not happened by chance as the team has next to no pop in the lineup, there is no longer a stick that can hurt you with the decline of Ichiro Suzuki (.261) once a perennial All-Star and potential batting champ.

Even ardent baseball fans would be hard-pressed to name many of the everyday players on the team from the Puget Sound and if it were not for pitching this team would be on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean floor.

The M’s do not have a player, be it regular or reserve hitting above .267. However they do have some pitching that quite obviously get no support. Still they have Felix Hernandez who somehow managed to go 6-5, thanks largely to his 3.13 ERA

Kevin Millwood (3.69), at times reminds fans of his days in Atlanta and Jason  Vargas (8-7) has his moments, but there is little hope on the horizon in the Great White North.