The American League West proved to be one of the most intriguing divisions in baseball this season. The defending champion Houston Astros were a lock to contend for the title. A recap of the American League West shows that three of five teams (the Los Angeles Angels, the Seattle Mariners, and the Oakland Athletics) were dubbed as the team to challenge Houston.
Houston Astros- Alex Bregman Emerges
Jose Altuve is arguably the face of the Astros, but 2018 is Alex Bregman’s break out campaign. With Altuve, Carlos Correa, and George Springer spending time on the disabled list this season, Bregman has stepped up in a huge way for Houston.
In his first All-Star season, Bregman leads the league in doubles with 50 and has 30 home runs and 100 RBI. Also, he is posting career highs in OBP (.401) and slugging percentage (.553) to boast a great OPS of .953. Throw in a Home Run Derby appearance and an All-Star Game MVP award to make this the best season of Bregman’s young career.
Oakland A’s- That Moneyball Magic
The A’s are relevant this season, and they are making a run at dethroning two of the American League’s juggernauts. At the end of play on September 16th, Oakland is 30 games over .500 and only four and a half games out of first place in the West. They are also threatening the New York Yankees, and are only one and a half games back of the top Wild Card spot.
It is almost expected that the A’s will be competitive for a couple years, then struggle after trading players they cannot pay, before returning to contending for a couple years. One can only imagine how potent the team can be if they had the money to keep their cores together.
Seattle Mariners-Same Old Mariners
Earlier in the season, the Mariners looked prime to make the playoffs for the first time since 2001, the longest current drought in professional sports. The team was dangerous too, challenging the Astros for the division lead.
But they have fallen on hard times as of late. A negative run differential at the All-Star Break indicated that they were bound to slow down eventually, but they have completely fallen out of playoff contention. The recent closed-door scuffle between players is evidence to support the idea that the team is collapsing. A once promising year has turned into another year of high expectations that were not met in Seattle.
Los Angeles Angels-Trout and Ohtani
Trout continues to post otherworldly numbers that draw comparisons to Mickey Mantle from an objective standpoint. It is a shame that he gets buried in a team that only has one playoff appearance and no wins to show for it since his debut.
Ohtani created quite a stir in the off-season. The two-way stud has been called the ‘Babe Ruth of Japan’ for his ability to be a dominant pitcher and hit for power. So far it has been a successful trial for the two-way player. He is the first player since Ruth to hit 15 home runs and pitch 50 innings in the same season. A torn UCL will hold him out of pitching duties next season, but he should still contribute with his bat if cleared to still hit post surgery.
Both players have suffered from injury this season, and without them, the team does not have much to boast about.
Texas Rangers-Beltre’s victory lap
The Ranger’s window has officially closed. The team that won consecutive pennants in 2010-2011 as well as a couple other division titles along the way is heading in the wrong direction.
Once Cole Hamels was traded to the Chicago Cubs, the main draw for this team has been their third basemen, Adrian Beltre. He reached the 3,000 hit plateau in 2017 and now sits 30 home runs shy of being the seventh player ever with 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. If 2018 is not the last year of his Hall of Fame career, he will look to reach those marks in 2019.
The Astros were expected to win the division again, but the Angels were supposed to contend after adding Ohtani among other key signings. After it was clear that the team realistically consisted of Trout and Ohtani, the Mariners were making a push to dethrone Houston. Ultimately it is the surprise A’s that are pressuring the Astros down the stretch.
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