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What's wrong with the AL West?

The Astros aren't the only surprise in the AL West. It's also surprising to see just how bad the other teams are.

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The American League West is a mess. Well, not the Astros, but we knew that coming into the season. Here, I took a screenshot of my predictions before the season, in case you don't believe me.


The other four teams, though, are a mess. All four would be in last place in the AL East, which isn't exactly filled with teams on a roll, and only the White Sox and Indians have been worse in the American League. The AL West was supposed to be one of the more competitive divisions in baseball. What happened?

It's still early. There's still plenty of time for all these teams to turn their seasons around, so it's time to play doctor and see what's wrong with them. No, oh no, wait, put those back on, it's time to play mechanic and figure out how to get each team moving again.

Oakland A's

What's wrong with them?
Almost all of the new acquisitions are flopping or, even worse, doing what you might have expected. Mark Canha has been good, and Marcus Semien still looks like a building block, but those were some of the low-profile additions. The high-profile additions -- Billy Butler, Brett Lawrie and Ben Zobrist -- haven't contributed as much as they would have expected, and there are different worries about all three.

Lawrie looks absolutely confused at the plate, striking out 32 times and walking just thrice in 112 plate appearances. We've covered an awful night previously, but it's worth noting that things aren't getting better. Don't look at what Josh Donaldson is doing, DON'T LOOK AT ... I just told you not to look. Lawrie might be fine, but this is increasingly looking like something that will need to be fixed somewhere other than the starting lineup. The plate discipline is alarming.

Zobrist has been hurt, dealing with a banged-up knee that required surgery, and he'll miss at least a month, maybe two. This is the first problem he's had with his knee in his career, and it's messing up the A's something fierce. All of the best-laid plans went through Zobrist and his ability to play different positions and switch-hit. Now they're dealing with a whole lot of Eric Sogard again, when it seemed like the point of the offseason was to avoid that.

Butler has been hitting like Butler, which sort of makes you want to see the notes that convinced Billy Beane that things would be different.

Oh, and the bullpen has been a pail of laundry detergent in the dishwasher. Get a mop, it's a mess. Other than Evan Scribner, every reliever can pitch much better than this.

Can it be fixed?
Maybe. Probably? Zobrist (and Coco Crisp) coming back will help quite a bit, as will the return of A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker, from a depth standpoint. Stop me if you've heard this one, but the A's are substantially underperforming their expected won-loss record. If they keep outscoring other teams, they'll be fine. They just have to allocate the runs better. They can't control that, but the odds are that the universe will do it for them.

Gimme one weird stat that sums their season up
In 200 at-bats against left-handed pitchers, the A's have hit .222/.288/.289. That's good for a 577 OPS, which is exactly what Yovani Gallardo had in 2011, as well as what Oliver Perez had in 2009. When a left-hander is on the mound, the A's collectively turn into a lineup of pitchers.

Los Angeles Angels

What's wrong with them?
Hey, let's call this glass half-full. They have Mike Trout! He's whapping dingers and swiping bases, and he's also playing the heck out of the outfield. There's nothing wrong with the Angels that a little Trout can't fix.

Except for the everything else, at least. Chris Iannetta is lost when he's behind the plate or standing next to it with a bat. Matt Joyce has been one of the worst hitters in either league. Jered Weaver is pitching like Livan Hernandez bit him, and it's not like you can expect C.J. Wilson to make up for everything. Matt Shoemaker is looking hittable, which is a huge concern, considering that he's spent most of his professional career looking hittable, save last season.

And Albert Pujols is old, slow and creaky. Let's just ...


/drives to Starbucks
/orders mocha
/waits for drink
/puts a dash of nutmeg on it
/takes sip
/spits coffee everywhere thinking about that damned contract

Never gets old. I mean, he does. Looking at just how much is left on the contract, though. Never gets old.

Can it be fixed?
I'm much less optimistic about this one, if only because it's harder to see where the cavalry is. Some players clearly aren't going to be this awful all season (Erick Aybar, Joyce), but it looks like this is the real Weaver and Pujols. Tyler Skaggs will help, but they'll need more than that.

Triple-A catcher Jett Bandy isn't supposed to fix everything (or be anything more than a backup), but I'd like to believe that somewhere, Jett Bandy is in a locker room and thinking, "Jett Bandy can fix everything. Just give Jett Bandy that chance."

Gimme one weird stat that sums their season up
In the six games in which the Angels have scored six runs or more, their pitching has been at its best, with a 2.68 ERA. That's kind of a waste, fellas. But it does offer some hope, seeing as that specific permutation is unlikely to continue. Eventually the good pitching will come in the games they need it.

Seattle Mariners

What's wrong with them?
First, a mea culpa for Nelson Cruz. I was wrong. I was very wrong. He is not a failure, and my breath is awful. I can't express just how wrong I was.

The rest of the Mariners hitters are doing their thing, though. Low averages. Low on-base percentages. Limited power. While I wouldn't be worried about Robinson Cano or Kyle Seager just yet, it's looking like age and experience aren't a magic elixir for all of the young hitters.

Fine, that's to be expected. But if they don't have the pitching -- the thing that was the absolute given -- they could lose 90 games. It turns out that James Paxton and Taijuan Walker are young pitchers, and young pitchers tend to steal your good china and leave in the middle of the night. If Hisashi Iwakuma comes back and pitches as well as expected, the Mariners can survive a few hiccups. If they don't get any help from the 60 percent of the rotation that's failed them thus far, though ...

Can it be fixed?
Yes. They can all pitch better. Cano and Seager can hit better, which should help when Cruz's Game Genie turns off. The talent is all still there, and they should continue to be a competent, pitching-first team.

If they were going to contend, though, I would have expected one of Dustin Ackley, Brad Miller, or Mike Zunino to do something/anything. As is, they have a lineup filled with Justin Smoak, even if the actual Justin Smoak is far away. That's a nifty trick, albeit a counterproductive one.

Gimme one weird stat that sums their season up
The Mariners have had the bases loaded and no outs three different times this year. Those plate appearances have ended with two double plays and a fielder's choice. (They're hitting .167/.200/.222 overall with the bases loaded.)

Texas Rangers

What's wrong with them?
So this guy came in and asked for money, and the Rangers were all, "Money for what?" And the guy was all, "Protection." And the Rangers were all, "We're not paying you. Get out of our ballpark." And then the guy broke every single one of the Rangers' players

Put the Rangers' season this way: Elvis Andrus is hitting .240. His on-base percentage is .298. He's hitting a few doubles here and there, but he hasn't been a good hitter, by any measure. Yet he has been the third-best hitter on the Rangers this season. His 616 OPS ranks third among Rangers starters, putting him ahead of Leonys Martin, Adrian Beltre, Shin-Soo Choo, Rougned Odor, Robinson Chirinos, and Jake Smolinski. The entire team is hitting like the 2014 Padres, except they're not playing in Petco.

The Rangers' best starter has been Nick Martinez, who has been extremely lucky, and Colby Lewis, who probably has a ceiling of "OK" in his twilight years. Yu Darvish is hurt. Derek Holland is hurt. No team makes me drink in the morning quite like the Rangers.

Can it be fixed?
Go away. Drinking.

Although, it's nice to see Prince Fielder hitting again. Baseball is better when Fielder is hitting baseballs hard. Really, most of those hitters up there should be a lot better, and I'll wager that they all find a hot streak sooner rather than later. Even Choo. But there's just no way the Rangers will have enough pitching to ride that tidal wave anywhere close to .500.

Gimme one weird stat that sums their season up
The Rangers have hit into the fewest double plays in the American League. That's good! Until you realize that's because they never have anyone on first base.

Updated AL West predictions

Do we all buy into the Astros now? Has a month convinced us that the balance of power has shifted.

One more month, and then I'll concede. Until then ...

1. A's
2. Angels
3. Astros
4. Mariners
5. Rangers

Don't get caught up in 30 games or so. But don't ignore them, either. Someone's going to emerge from the pack, but at least one of these disappointing teams is going to keep on disappointing.