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AL West: Young Guns
Glancing at AL West lineups, it doesn't take an expert to recognize the division's offensive ineptitude. Oakland won the pennant last season while batting .260 (25th in MLB) with a .412 slugging percentage (27th). Outside of the Rangers, no team finished in the top half of the mamjors in runs scored or home runs ... and that was before the division lost big boppers Carlos Lee and Frank Thomas in the offseason.
But what the league lacks in offense, it makes up in pitching. Both the A's and Angels finished last season in the top seven in the majors in team ERA and the Rangers joined those two in the top seven in bullpen ERA. In the AL West, arms, not bats, are king. And this year should be no different.
Much of the division's finest pitching talent is young -- like carded-at-the-bar young. Whether starters, relievers or closers, a number of AL West hurlers enter the '07 campaign with an integral role and a birth date in the Reagan Administration.
Here's my top 10 best Reaganites (pitchers born between 1981 and 1989) in the AL West. In a tight division with little offensive pop (don't take it personally, Vlad and Tex), this group of adolescent arms will play a key role in deciding the final pecking order ... whether they can legally rent a car or not.
10. Chad Gaudin, A's, 24
2006 key stats: 64 IP, 3,09 ERA, 36 K, 42 BB
Skinny: After a solid year in the 'pen, Gaudin earns a chance in the rotation with the injury to Esteban Loaiza.
9. Brandon Morrow, Mariners, 22
2006 key stats: 16 IP, 2.25 ERA, 17 Ks in low-level minor leagues Skinny: Picked fifth overall in the 2006 draft, the fireballer made the Opening Day roster after just 10 months in pro baseball. He'll work out of a bullpen that lost Rafael Soriano (trade) and Mark Lowe (injury) from last season.
8. Robinson Tejeda, Rangers, 25
2006 key stats: 5-5, 4.28 ERA, 40 K, 32 BB
Skinny: Tejeda boasts an impressive arsenal of pitches, highlighted by a live fastball, but consistency is a big question for Texas' fourth starter.
7. Brandon McCarthy, Rangers, 23
2006 key stats: 84.2 IP, 4.68 ERA, 69 K, 33 BB
Skinny: Finally given a chance to start in Arlington, McCarthy will serve as the Rangers' No. 3 and must prove Texas made the right move in giving up top pitching prospect John Danks.
6. Ervin Santana, Angels, 24
2006 key stats: 16-8, 4.28 ERA, 141 K, 70 BB
Skinny: Santana, who excelled last season while mostly using just two pitches (fastball and changeup), claims he perfected a tight-spinning slider during spring training.
5. Rich Harden, A's, 25
2006 key stats: 4-0, 4.24 ERA, 49 K, 26 BB
Skinny: If he can stay off the DL (big "if"), he'll put together monster numbers on the strength of a high 90s fastball and unique splitter.
4. Jered Weaver, Angels, 24
2006 key stats: 11-2, 2.56 ERA, 105 K, 33 BB
Skinny: Currently on the DL for biceps tendonitis, Weaver must prove he can handle the grind of an entire season in the bigs. In 19 starts last season, Weaver showed highly advanced command of his pitches.
3. Felix Hernandez, Mariners, 20
2006 key stats: 12-14, 4.52 ERA, 176 K, 60 BB
Skinny: As evidenced by his Opening Day start against the A's, when he has command of his filthy arsenal, he's virtually unhittable.
2. Huston Street, A's, 23
2006 key stats: 37 saves, 3.81 ERA, 67 K, 13 BB
Skinny: Following a brilliant Rookie of the Year season in '05, Street's sophomore campaign was much more of a roller-coaster ride.
1. Francisco Rodriguez, Angels, 25
2006 key stats: 47 saves, 1.73 ERA, 98 K, 28 BB
Skinny: Yes, somehow he's still only 25. And yes, he may be the most dominant closer in the game today.
K-Fraud?Since taking the 2002 playoffs by storm, K-Rod has established himself as one of the nastiest pitchers in the game. But is his filthiness a byproduct of ball doctoring? "The Cheaters Guide to Baseball Blog" caught the Angels closer repeatedly going to his hat during his opening-day save. A close inspection of the pictures reveal some sort of white substance on the brim of his hat.
Labels: AL West
posted by SI.com | View comments |
In terms of pitchers doctoring the balls, nobody should be surprised by the fact that K-rod does it. EVERYONE in the game does it. Kenny Rogers does it. Joe Nathan does it. I have a feeling that Johan Santana does it as well, on the basis that he goes to his right wrist to rub it after every pitch. It's just an attempt by pitchers to even the score in a hitters dominant game. I mean, seriously, take a look at the MLB baseball. It has no seams, and somehow these guys still get amazing movement on their pitches.
Yeah, anonymous, I totally agree with you. Why do you think Tony La Russa didn't care about Kenny Rogers's substance in the World Series? Because his Cardinals pitchers probably do the same thing. The way I see it, (with anything short of steroids), if you ain't cheatin', you ain't tryin'.
NOT............It was determined that it was rosin powder on his hat from the bag....good try though;)
K-Fraud...? What D***che thought up that piece of wordplay. Its no coincidence the man who is calling K-Rod a cheater, has a book on the subject coming out right now. After all these years there hasn't even been a mention of suspiscion? It a pathetic move by an even more pathetic man.
Ask yourself, in a 1 run game is K-Rod the guy you would want on the mound? He has shades of mitch williams where he can't throw a strike & he gets beat on longballs. Not saying he's not a great closer, but there is still a mighty force in Mariano Rivera that K-Rod will never be able to usurp, as while he has the arsenal he doesnt have the control. He may very well end up being the all time saves leader if he keeps racking 50 per yr.
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