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A Look Around the AL West

Here we go. One day left to make some moves. The trade deadline is looming over Major League Baseball. The stove is still hot, and GMs are up all night trying to acquire the pieces they need. Well, some of them. With the Astros’ healthy lead fresh out of the All-Star break they are poised to win the AL West for the 4th time in the last 5 seasons. Who counts 2020 anyway? While the other clubs in the division are sellers at the deadline, the Stros have helped to set themselves up for success down the back half and the A’s added a few names to bolster their run. Let’s dive in, bottom to top.

Texas Rangers – 26.5 games back

It was announced on Wednesday that the Arlington Rangers will be shipping their franchise player to the New York Yankees. That’s right, Joey Gallo will shave his beard and don the pinstripes in the Bronx. He will be welcomed – topping their roster in many statistical categories and giving the lineup a boost that they desperately need, and doing it all from the left side of the plate.

Not long ago the Rangers were a force to be reckoned with. The front office in Arlington built a nice young core around players like Nomar Mazara, Jurickson Profar, Joey Gallo, Delino DeShields, et all. The plan didn’t pan out, and after earning a few division titles in ’15 and ’16 the Rangers were a far cry from the success the franchise had in ’10 and ’11. For god sakes they were 1 out away from a WS title in ’11. In 2018 they moved to rebuild – again, and while they’re still making moves, nothing has come to fruition just yet. Plain and simple, they are the punching bag of the AL West.

I’m still not sure what they were trying to warn us about. Trading away their best arms in Lance Lynn and Corey Kluber(who threw a few innings in his first start of 2020 then promptly went onto the IL) set them up for even more failure. The long and short of it is that they will not field a decent team for at least a few years, and the Astros needn’t concern themselves with the baseball team from South Oklahoma. Next.

Los Angeles Angels – 11 games back

Allow me to be very clear here – if the Angels were not in the AL West I would be furious with how this franchise has managed the squander the career of the greatest player of our time, Mike Trout. This man goes out time and time again and proves that he is the greatest to ever do it. Offensively, defensively, and off of the diamond. On May 18 he suffered a calf strain, and he has missed 60+ games this season. Who can fill the media vacuum left behind when Trout isnt hitting a dinger every other at bat?

Enter the next biggest thing in Major League Baseball since the 1929 Yankees – Shohei Ohtani. How can you not love this man? He throws a hundo, he leads the MLB in home runs (36), slugging (.682), and total bases (232). His OPS is good for 2nd at 1.044 and if he didnt have a shitpile roster around him, he’d have a hell of lot more than 78 RBIs which is still good for 3rd. There is an aura of innocence surrounding him wherever he goes. He’s here to play the game, and he’s having a good time doing it.

So why is his team 11 games out of the division lead and endlessly floating around .500 win percentage? Seriously, the Angels have been .500 17 times so far this season. 1-1, 9-9, 10-10, 11-11, 12-12, 13-13, 32-32, 33-33, 35-35, 36-36, 41-41, 42-42, 44-44, 45-45, 46-46, 49-49 and 50-50. This is not a joke. Besides for Ohtani throwing gas, and Dylan Bundy performing an impressive level, the rest of their starting rotation is abysmal. While they have come out of the All-Star break throwing well with a .210BA against, Sandoval is subpar and they’re leaning on guys like Jaime Barria to eat innings against a division rival in the Oakland Athletics. Their bullpen is as bad as the Astros and the offense is non-existent without its stars like Trout and Rendon(plagued by a hamstring injury). The LAA are happy to have one front and center superstar and sell some tickets. At least Ohtani gives the fanbase something to pine over. They are not a franchise that chases titles – at least not this past decade. Moving on.

Seattle Mariners – 8 games back

What can be said about a GM who trades away his best reliever to a division rival during a home series against said rival? Holy shit – did that just happen? Jerry Dipoto did that on the day after his squad came back from a 7-0 deficit to win it 11-8 handing the Astros their most embarrassing regular season loss of all time, in my opinion. Kendall Graveman and Rafael Montero were told they were traded to the Houston Astros, to pack their shit, walk over to the other clubhouse and tell Abraham Toro and Joe Smith they need to head to the M’s clubhouse and suit up. Dipoto reportedly stayed up in his office and didn’t even face the team to tell them about the transaction. Scott Servais had to deliver the news to a tear-filled bunch of grown men with their heads in their hands.

The came as a shock to the Mariners’ locker room which reportedly erupted in anger, sadness, and a slew of other emotions. Property was destroyed. Vulgar language was raining down like hellfire. According to the Seattle Times un-named players were quoted saying the following:

  • “An hour ago, it was great,” said one player. “It was probably better than it’s ever been. And now, it’s the worst.”
  • Multiple pitchers emerged from the clubhouse with tears still in their eyes from saying goodbye to Graveman.
  • “You should’ve seen it earlier,” said a veteran player about the initial reaction.
  • Several players opted not to speak on the record about the move, but their anger was palpable. Sources said equipment was broken and smashed while one player “went absolutely mad.”
  • “Betrayed” was a word used often.
@RyanDivish on Twitter

Historically the Astros-Mariners matchup has been very one-sided. Via the Astros game notes, The Astros are 99-61 (.618) vs. SEA, which is the best record by any team against any single opponent in MLB history (min. 150 games). With the Ms selling the farm at the trade deadline it doesn’t look like that is set to change any time soon.

Graveman put on a smile and held back tears while he spoke to the Houston press for the first time. The man seemed distraught, and rightfully so. The amount of baggage that comes with getting traded goes without saying. He had formed a relationship with the team, front office, bullpen staff, etc. I can empathize with how jarring the news must have been. After all, he was one of, if not the highest performing player on the Mariners. Being traded to a team who has repeatedly pummeled your team has to be a kick in the nuts. We won’t even mention his stance on the Astros cheating scandal – there’s no doubt he has an opinion on that.

That being said – he is now on a winning team with a chance to do great things and help the Astros make a spectacular post-season run. At the time of writing this, he hasn’t even made it out of the dugout to the bullpen. Speaking of which, he looks absolutely miserable in the dugout.

I’ll give him the day off to adjust to his new surroundings, but he better come out of that bullpen painting a Rembrandt during the Giants and Dodgers series. This man is the arm we needed and I feel that after he gets accustomed to the winning culture of the Astros he will relish in it.

Oakland Athletics – 6 games back

Oakland has been the only team in the AL West to give the Astros a run for their money in recent years. Winning the AL West in 2020 gave them some confidence, but it was quickly dashed when the Astros sent them home in the ALDS to let all of that frustration get pent-up for 2021. Currently sitting 6 games back in the AL West, the Athletics made use of the trade deadline to beef up some weak spots in their roster.

A few guys in the line-up are always a threat. Chapman. Olson. And Ramón Laureano has become a thorn in the Astros’ side, although my next point will have Ramon sidelined. News broke Wednesday that the club had acquired Starling Marte from the Marlins who likely takes over in CF for the A’s.

Starling gives the batting order a little more pop – slashing .306 | .407 | .859 he instantly became one of the best bats in the line-up the moment he strolled into the clubhouse.

The A’s starting pitching staff has been cruising they also rank 1st in the MLB with innings pitched. The A’s have been, in recent seasons, a 2nd half team. They tend to win more down the stretch, but their rotation will need some breathers here or there to keep up the pace at which they’ve been clipping. Sean Manaea seems to be the Astros biggest threat from that bunch, but Frankie Mantas and Chris Bassitt also pack a punch and rack up a lot of strikeouts.

Andrew Chafin also came over in recent trades bolstering an already good bullpen. Chafin is tossing 2.06ERA with a .154BA against him in 43 appearances. We call that a problem – between the starting rotation keeping the runs down and the strong relief, the Astros have their work cut out for them to stay ahead in the standings.

Overall they are the Astros biggest problem down the stretch, but the Astros only have 6 games left against Oakland for the rest of the regular season. More on the schedule next.

Houston Astros – leading AL West

After a bullpen implosion and the Astros worst loss, in terms of lead change, in 20 years, General Manager James click got on that phone and went out and got what his team desperately needed – a strong bullpen arm. Kendall Graveman boasts a VERY impressive stat line so far in the 2021 season. ERA of .82, 33IP, 34K, .70 WHIP. This is who the Astros need on the mound in critical situations. The one-run losses are a thing of the past! And Graveman wasn’t the only addition to the bullpen. His Seattle teammate Rafael Montero is coming along with him in exchange for Joe Smith. Besides the Astros losing a sidearm pitcher the two beta boys in this trade have nearly identical numbers so this trade was basically a wash. I hope to see Montero improve with Houston’s pitching coaches.

Yimi Garcia is a nice addition as well. He ain’t like Graveman, but he’s more dependable than some of the arms currently in the Astros bullpen – and the Astros got him for a steal. He’s got a VERY high spin rate on his 4 seamer – in the 94 percentile of MLB. It tops out around 97mph. His curveball spin rate is in the 74 percentile. We all know how Brent Strom can work wonders with guys who weren’t utilizing their repertoire correctly – AHEM Gerrit Cole – and what he can turn them into. It will be a breath of fresh air having a hard throwing reliever to bridge the gap to Pressly or Graveman. Overall, the bullpen was improved drastically witha couple of clutch moves by James Click.

Toro in a Mariners’ uni looks odd so far – but he should be the fan base’s new obsession. The man has hit a homer in each of his last 4 games. Two for the Astros before he took the walk over to the Seattle clubhouse, then 2 more in as many days. He’s the first player in MLB history to hit a home run for and then against the same team in back to back days. I don’t mind the Astros trading him away. They have a lot of depth on the bench for position and utility players.

The Astros have 1 day left to compile their final roster for the remainder of the season. Brian McTaggart reports that Click will be working until the last minute to improve the team.

Concerning the schedule that’s in front of the Astros, after facing the NL Leading Giants for 3 days and the Dodgers for a 2 game set, the series remaining for 2021 are against a lot of struggling clubs. Twins, Rockies, Angels, Royals, Rangers, Mariners, Diamondbacks are all in line. The Padres, Rays, and A’s are the only teams posing a threat down the stretch.

The Stros are up by 6 games in the division and before all is said and done, I think they close the regular season with a dozen games lead. For hard-hitting analysis for the rest of the MLB season follow @CopierCollin and @ApolloHOU on twitter.

About the Author:

Collin is a Houston lifer with a passion for all things H-Town. An undefeated Astros little league team sparked a life-long fandom of the Houston Astros. Watching the Rockets win back-to-back championships as a child became a fabric of his being. The Texans exist. Collin enjoys creating quirky video and image content for Apollo Media and co-hosts the Apollo Hour sometimes-live podcast where he and Dez (and guests) keep the city updated on the latest Houston sports news — with some personal flair baked in for sweetness.


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