2013 AL West Preview: A Wide Open Division


A 2013 AL West Preview is hard to organize.

Going into the 2013 season, the AL West may play out to be the tightest divisional race in MLB.  The defending champion Athletics have solidified their roster with key role players, the Angels signed one of the biggest free agents this past off season (Josh Hamilton) and the Rangers should come back strong after just missing the West title in 2012. The young Mariners may even fly under the radar and contend for part of the season.

Using Baseball Prospectus’s Division Percentage (the amount of times the team won the division in simulated seasons using their PECOTA projection system) as well as 2012’s win-loss records versus Bill James’ Pythagorean W-L (the predicted W-L record based on runs scored versus runs against) to evaluate the AL West, we can come to the conclusion that the race for the division will be a tight one.

So, here we go with a 2013 AL West preview:

Feb. 21, 2113; Tempe, AZ, USA: Los Angeles Angels players (from left), infielder Mark Trumbo , outfielder Mike Trout , first baseman Albert Pujols and outfielder Josh Hamilton pose for a portrait during photo day at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Angels

2013 Div. Pct. – 48.2%

2012 W-L: 89 – 73

Pyth W-L: 88-74

This past offseason the Angels added one of the biggest free agents on the market, Josh Hamilton.  Coming off a season where his effort was questioned, look for Hamilton to prove he was worth signing.

Adding his bat to an already stellar line-up of Trout, Pujols and Trumbo puts the Angels as the front runners this year winner their division in almost 50% of simulations. 2012 saw the Angels slightly under perform based on their Pythagorean W-L, but with Hamilton’s new bat and a starting rotation including Jered Weaver, CJ Wilson and Tommy Hanson, the Angels should contend all season for the division title.

Jul 8, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler (5) runs to first base after hitting the game winning single during the 13th inning of the game against the Minnesota Twins at Rangers Ballpark. The Rangers beat the Twins 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Texas Rangers

2013 Div. Pct. – 29.2%

2012 W-L: 93 – 69

Pyth W-L: 91 – 71

The Rangers of 2012 missed winning the division title by 1 game, which many attribute to the departed Josh Hamilton and his performance down the stretch. With his distraction now gone, the Rangers can focus on winning the division.

Taking the division in about 1 out of every 3 simulations, the Rangers will make the AL West race tight.  If their extremely young starting rotation can improve on their runs allowed (6th in Earned Runs), with an offense first in runs scored, their Pythagorean W-L record should improve and I would expect to see this team compete for the AL West title.

October 3, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics celebrates on the field after the win against the Texas Rangers at O.co Coliseum. The Oakland Athletics defeated the Texas Rangers 12-5 to become the American League west champions. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Oakland Athletics

2013 Div. Pct. – 15.3%

2012 W-L: 94 – 68

Pyth W-L: 92 – 70

Oakland was the Dark Horse team of 2012, coming out of nowhere to take the AL West.  As you can see from their W-L record, they slightly over preformed their Pythagorean W-L record.

However, their 2012 Pythagorean W-L record was still better than the Rangers, meaning 2012 was not a fluke.  The Athletics had one of the highest run differentials in baseball last year, meaning luck had little to do with their success (unlike the Baltimore Orioles).  The A’s dominated with their pitching and with the youth on the team I except the same success from last year.

With the additions of Jed Lowrie and Hiro Nakajima and another year for improvement from Yoenis Cespedes, an improvement from their average offense should keep the A’s in the divisional race all year. Although the A’s won the division in 1 out of 7 simulations, the Athletics should be contenders all season.

Aug 15, 2012; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez (34) does an interview with the media after the final out of a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle Mariners

2013 Div. Pct. – 7.2%

2012 W-L: 75 – 87

Pyth W-L: 77 – 85

The Mariners are a team that was slightly unlucky last year, and is one of the youngest teams in baseball.  Taking into account both these factors, Seattle has an outside shot at winning the division in 2013.  Mariners fans are still looking for breakout seasons from young position players Dustin Ackley, Kyle Seager, Michael Saunders and Justin Smoak.

These young hitters are Seattle’s wild card, a team that was last in the AL in runs.  Their pitching staff put up surprisingly good numbers in 2012, so an improvement from the offense should see the Pythagorean W-L improve alongside. Baseball Prospectus shows the Mariners have an outside shot at winning the division, so if their young hitters can produce I would not be surprised if the Mariners are in the conversation come September.

July 16, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; Houston Astros center fielder Jordan Schafer (1) celebrates with third baseman Chris Johnson (23) and teammates after a 2-0 win against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Astros

2013 Div. Pct. – 0.1%

2012 W-L: 55 – 107

Pyth W-L: 59 – 103

The Astros were a terrible team in 2012. A new GM has them rebuilding from scratch.  Baseball Prospectus’s odds of 0.1% are effectively 0, so we can safely assume the Astros will not be contending in 2013.