As the baseball season draws ever so close, and we start to survey the land of the new 5 team AL West I thought it seemed appropriate to begin taking a look at the teams side by side in various categories. Typically a series like this would look at general things like pitching staff, lineup, defense, but I plan to examine the teams in various specific categories to see who truly has the best roster in the division.
The first category up for consideration will be each team’s projected Opening Day starter. In most cases the pitcher given the honor of starting the first game is the leader of the pitching staff, and the most accomplished on that team. A team’s success often begins and ends with the top of their starting rotation.
1. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners: I’m really getting tired of the A’s facing King Felix to open every single season. But this ranking doesn’t just reflect that. Felix is among the best of the best in the game today, has been for 8 years, and he’s just 26 years old. He’s on a path straight to Cooperstown, and he’s still just getting started. I really wish the Mariners would trade him finally, but sadly that probably won’t happen anytime soon.
2. Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels: He has emerged as one of the most dominant starters in the game, just about even with Felix Hernandez. Weaver has also been an A’s killer over the years, and he’s signed long term with the Angels so he’ll continue to be a thorn in the side of the A’s for years to come. What puts Weaver just behind Felix though is the fact that he has suffered from some shoulder problems recently that could become a chronic problem for him. When he’s healthy though he’s just about unstoppable.
3. Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers: In Yu Darvish’s rookie season he showed flashes of pure dominance, as well as flashes of rabid inconsistency. The switch from NPB to MLB is a major adjustment, and many of Darvish’s struggles can likely be attributed to that fact. In 2013 as he begins to be more and more comfortable in the US and in MLB, his numbers should improve.
4. Brett Anderson, Oakland Athletics: Based on pure talent, Anderson would likely leapfrog Darvish on this list, but Anderson’s extensive injury history has constantly held him back. Anderson hasn’t been able to demonstrate consistent health, and until he can he won’t be able to emerge as one of the top left handers in the game. When he’s right though he’s good, really really good, as he showed us all down the stretch in 2012. We’ll all be crossing our fingers for a healthy 2013 for Brett Anderson.
5. Bud Norris, Houston Astros: Norris is a talented pitcher, there’s no doubt about that. But he’s also the number 1 starter on a team that lost 106 games last year, so his ceiling can only be so high. His peripheral numbers are not spectacular, but not bad either. He strikes out a fair number of hitters, but he walks a ton as well. If he can harness his stuff, he can certainly improve to more than a league average pitcher.
The A’s may fall short at the very front of the rotation compared to the other AL West teams, but where they pull ahead is in the total talent of their rotation. That’s what carried them to the AL West title in 2012. Tomorrow we’ll shift focus towards the offensive side of things, and examine the 3-4-5 hitters in each team’s lineup.