The Astros have yet to clinch the American League West title. Instead, the Mariners, who are supposed to be in a rebuilding mode, are the ones busy calculating their magic number after breaking quickly out of the gate. This long season is only getting started, but maybe the AL West
The Astros have yet to clinch the American League West title. Instead, the Mariners, who are supposed to be in a rebuilding mode, are the ones busy calculating their magic number after breaking quickly out of the gate. This long season is only getting started, but maybe the AL West will be more competitive than the cakewalk that almost everybody expected the Astros to enjoy.
With a week under our belts, let's take a look at what we have learned -- and are yet to learn -- about each of the clubs in the AL West.
One thing we have learned: The Angels have the makings of a good bullpen, with a 1.47 ERA and a .203 opponents' batting average through six games. Six of eight relievers had yet to allow a run. But they need to get closer Cody Allen a few save opportunities.
One thing we still don’t know: Who is going to protect Mike Trout at the plate? A team with a .178 batting average after six games is not giving opposing pitchers any reason to throw Trout a strike. Albert Pujols … are you still there? Justin Bour … 1-for-18? They obviously miss Justin Upton and Shohei Ohtani.
One number: .170 That’s the Angels' batting average with runners in scoring position. They are 3-for-21 (.143) with two outs in those situations.
One thing we have learned: The Astros' decision to walk away from Dallas Keuchel may work out if Brad Peacock makes a successful transition back to the rotation. He cooled down the Rangers' red-hot offense by holding them to one run on two hits over 6 2/3 innings in a 2-1 win on Monday.
One thing we don’t know: What are the Astros going to get out of the catching position? Robinson Chirinos can hit the ball out of the park on occasion, but he was let go by the Rangers last season because of his lack of defense. This is an area the Astros will have to monitor as the season progresses.
One number: .592 After six games, the Astros’ OPS against lefties (.898) is 306 points higher than against right-handers. They have a lineup that leans heavily to the right side.
One thing we have learned: The Athletics are once again showing the ability to assemble a rotation out of spare parts and a tight budget. Through eight games, their starting five of Marco Estrada, Brett Anderson, Aaron Brooks, Frankie Montas and Mike Fiers are a combined 5-1 with a 1.84 ERA.
One thing we don’t know: Will the Athletics find a way to extend Khris Davis beyond this season? There reportedly have been some contract extension talks and Davis has shown a willingness to stay in Oakland at a reasonable rate. He also has five home runs in his first eight games, but the A's are judicious with their payroll.
One number: .111 That’s the combined batting average (3-for-27) of the four players that manager Bob Melvin used in the sixth spot in the order through eight games.
One thing we’ve learned: These guys can hit. The Mariners are off to a surprising 7-1 start in large part because they’ve averaged seven runs while hitting 17 homers in their first eight games, including two in Tokyo. With a rebuilt lineup that no longer features Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz or Jean Segura, they still teed off on Boston’s vaunted rotation in a four-game series in Seattle and then swept the Angels.
One thing we don’t know: How will the bullpen hold up? A group already thin on experience lost closer Hunter Strickland for 2-3 months to a strained lat, leaving manager Scott Servais employing an all-hands-on-deck philosophy. Four different relievers -- Nick Rumbelow, Chasen Bradford, Roenis Elias and Anthony Swarzak -- have saved the four straight wins since Strickland went down last Friday.
One number: 19. The Mariners have outscored their opponents by a whopping 19 runs in the first three innings in their first eight games. Those quick starts have helped overcome some shaky defense and the aforementioned uncertain bullpen.
One thing we have learned: The Rangers have tried to take a more disciplined approach at the plate and that has shown up in the first five games. Their strikeout rate has gone down slightly -- one strikeout per 4.26 plate appearances as opposed to 4.15 last year -- but they score a walk every 7.67 plate apprearances, much better than their one per 11.1 last season.
One thing we still don’t know: How will Edinson Volquez, Drew Smyly and Shelby Miller do in their recovery from Tommy John surgery? The Rangers got a combined 10 2/3 innings from them in the first turn through the rotation. They are all healthy, but they can’t be a burden on the bullpen.
One number: 11.1 That’s the number of pitches per inning for closer Jose Leclerc. The Rangers love that because they want him to be efficient with his pitches. They are going to rely heavily on him, especially early before the bullpen gets settled.
T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.