First One To 85 Wins It

Mediocrity is the new black, at least on the west coast. After last year’s debacle of a division called the NL West, where the Dodgers won the division by finishing 84-78, the parity-by-lousiness looks to be shifting to the American League West this year. The Replacement Level Yankees blog just finished up their simulation extravaganza for the American League, and the aggregate of the CHONE/PECOTA/ZIPS/THT/CAIRO/MARCEL simulations (6,000 in all) has the Angels leading the division with an average of 85.4 wins. The A’s come in at 81.1, the Mariners at 77.8, and the Rangers at 72.1.

That’s not good, and it gets worse – these projections are likely too optimsitic for the top three teams.

The Angels are going to open the season with John Lackey, Ervin Santana, and Kelvim Escobar on the disabled list. There are legitimate questions about how well and how often those three will be taking the hill, and an Angels rotation without those three isn’t much of a rotation at all.

Justin Duchscherer is undergoing arthroscopic surgery next week – how long he’ll be sidelined is up in the air, and it wouldn’t be surprising to anyone if his innings pitched for the season was something approximating zero. With Duchscherer out indefinitely, the A’s are essentially counting on five starting pitchers who have never pitched a full season in the big leagues.

The Mariners ability to take advantage of the injury bug hitting the two division favorites took a hit yesterday when Brandon Morrow announced that he wanted to head back to the bullpen and the team shipped Jeff Clement back to Triple-A to start the season.

The only team that hasn’t experienced a recent bout of bad news is the Texas Rangers, but they’re also the only team who the projection systems didn’t think had a real shot at winning the division this year – their simulated playoff odds were 3%.

This division is bad. Four flawed teams fighting for one playoff spot that none of them will deserve. Bad rotations, bad line-ups, bad defense… there’s no shortage of problems floating around the American League West this year. The only thing the division currently has an abundance of is injured pitchers.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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