|  Baseball Index  |  Peter Gammons Bio


AL West spring preview

Special to

Other divisions:

AL East | AL Central | NL East | NL Central | NL West

Oakland Athletics
2000: 91-70, 1st place, lost to Yankees in ALDS

Offseason transactions: Traded 2B Randy Velarde to Texas for RHPs Aaron Harang and Ryan Cullen. Traded OF Matt Stairs to Cubs for RHP Eric Ireland. Traded C Miguel Olivo to White Sox for RH Rel. Chad Bradford. Traded OF Ben Grieve, SS Angel Berroa and C A.J. Hinch in a three-way deal with Tampa Bay and Kansas City for OF Johnny Damon, IF Mark Ellis and RHP Cory Lidle. Signed FA LHP Mark Guthrie. Lost FA RHP Kevin Appier. RH Rel. Doug Jones retired. Signed 2B Miguel Cairo.

Rookies and other strangers: 2B Jose Ortiz (.351, 24, 108, AAA). RHP Jon Ratliff (11-6, AAA). LH Rel. Todd Belitz (1-3, AAA). OF Eric Byrnes (.301, 5, AAA). RHP Justin Miller (10-7, A-AA-AAA). 1B/OF Mario Valdez (.344, .441 OBP, .579 SLG, AAA).

Runs scored/allowed: 947-813, +134

Runs: 947
Slugging/On-base pct.: .458/.360
OPS: .818
Home runs: 239
BB/K: 750/1159
SB/CS: 40-15
1-2-3 OBP: .340/.358/.462

Damon gives them a dynamic element at the order, as long as he doesn't start as slowly as he usually does. Terrence Long did a nice job in the leadoff spot with 18 homers and 80 RBI after coming up in May, but he is more of 6-7 hitter right now. They hope the talented Ortiz can go into the two-hole, although he doesn't have Velarde's experience there. They got 56 homers from Eric Chavez and Miguel Tejada last season, and the A's think they can add at least 10 to that. There are three keys: 1) John Jaha's comeback after; 2) the development of Adam Piatt in right field; and 3) Jeremy Giambi's power progression. The strike zone shouldn't impact them too much, as the A's simply use rule one from Ted Williams' book: get a good pitch to hit, and don't swing until you get it.

Runs allowed/ERA: 813/4.58
OPS: .771
Groundball/flyball ratio: 1.38
Starters: 71-53, 4.62
Starters' innings pitched: 971.1
Quality starts: 83
Bullpen: 20-17, 4.48
Saves-opportunities: 43-62
Appearances/innings: 381/464

The A's have a young No. 1 in Cy Young runner-up Tim Hudson, Barry Zito had a 2.72 ERA after coming up and all Mark Mulder has to do is regain his release point and breaking ball to shave the 5.44 ERA and .523 slugging percentage by left-handed hitters. One thing that will be difficult to duplicate is the 30 wins they got from Gil Heredia and Kevin Appier (who is gone). Omar Olivares will get a chance to regain his starting role, but it likely will come down to Lidle or Guthrie, who's been wanting to start for years.

If Jason Isringhausen holds up, he finishes a strong bullpen, with the invaluable Jim Mecir, Jeff Tam and Bradford, who has nearly a 6-1 GB/FB ratio. There is some power and a lot of contrasts in this pen.

Errors: 134
Unearned runs allowed: 83
Opponents SB pct.: 70

The A's don't sweat the little stuff. Offensively, they know stolen bases don't win pennants, and they think offense ahead of defense. In some cases, it's a problem, and those 134 errors and 83 unearned runs were high for a team with the league's second-best record. Ortiz probably isn't as good as Velarde, although moving Grieve and Stairs will improve the outfield defense. Hudson and friends earn their wins. Ramon Hernandez is underrated behind the plate.

Ballpark factors, 1998-2000
Runs per game: 13th
Home runs per at-bat: 11th

The Al Davis Mausoleum has always been a pitcher-friendly park, at least at night, with a lot of foul territory. The fact that the A's love groundball pitchers makes it tougher to beat them at home.

Spring training questions
Can Mulder turn it around? Who's the fifth starter? Can Jaha bounce back? Are Ortiz and Piatt ready to produce?

2001 team song: "Triple Face Boogie (Boogie my scruples away)"

Seattle Mariners
2000: 91-71, 2nd place, 1/2-game back, won wild card, beat White Sox in ALDS, lost to Yankees in ALCS

Offseason transactions: Signed OF Ichiro Suzuiki. Signed FA RH Rel. Jeff Nelson, 2B Bret Boone. Lost FAs SS Alex Rodriguez, OF Rickey Henderson, C Joe Oliver, RH Rel. Jose Mesa. Waived RHP Frank Rodriguez.

Rookies and other strangers: RHP Greg Wooten (17-3, 15 BB, AA). RHP Joel Piniero (9-2, AA-AAA). LHP Ryan Anderson (5-8, AAA).

Runs scored/allowed: 907-780, +127

Runs: 907
Slugging/On-base pct.: .442/.361
OPS: .803
Home runs: 198
BB/K: 775/1073
SB/CS: 122/56
1-2-3 OBP: .348/.343/.417

Losing Junior Griffey and Rodriguez in consecutive winters has left what once was one of the league's best offenses with a lot of holes. They hope Suzuki really is what Lou Piniella thinks he is -- a Johnny Damon-clone -- and that he can jumpstart an offense that didn't get much out out of the top of the order. Suzuki won seven consecutive batting titles in Japan.

Edgar Martinez is still a great hitter, but with A-Rod and his 41 homers and 134 RBI gone, they need a better season from John Olerud, another 26 homers from Jay Buhner, the 21-homer David Bell of '99 (as opposed to last year's 11 homer-Bell), more production from Carlos Guillen at shortstop -- after he came back from the minors he was a better player -- and a comeback from one-time All-Star Dan Wilson, who fell to five homers. Piniella does have Chris Widger for depth. Mike Cameron hit 19 homers and played superbly in center. Pat Gillick has searched the Internet for power at third base, with no luck. Mark McLemore is a marvelous person to have to play everywhere and get everyone juiced.

Runs allowed/ERA: 780/4.49
OPS: .755
Groundball/flyball ratio: 1.07
Starters: 71-47, 4.56
Starters' innings pitched: 956.2
Quality starts: 69
Bullpen: 20-24, 4.36
Saves-opportunities: 44-60
Appearances/innings: 383/458

Gillick and Piniella know that Safeco Field can be a huge home-field advantage because it is a pitchers' park, and they can use flyball pitchers (hence the 1.07 GB/FB ratio). They had the best ERA in the division, and that was with only 69 quality starts and 956.2 innings out of the starters. They can be better, if Jamie Moyer is healthy (his shoulder was a problem early, and his season ended with a line drive off the kneecap before the ALCS) and bounces back from his 5.49 ERA. Remember, their best starter, Freddy Garcia, made only 20 starts, and while Gil Meche is out until August, they can use Paul Abbott, John Halama (14-9) and Brett Tomko. All Aaron Sele does is win 16-18 games a year. By July, Anderson, Piniero and Wooten could be useful.

Kazuhiro Sasaki turned into one of the best closers in the league after an early struggle, and Piniella rode his pen a long way. Nelson, Arthur Rhodes and Jose Paniagua are solid setup men.

Errors: 99
Unearned runs allowed: 60
Opponents SB pct.: 68

Rodriguez is a loss here as well, unless Guillen regains the quickness he had before he broke his leg. With Boone, Bell and Olerud, they will catch the ball and turn double plays, while Cameron and Suzuki cover a lot of ground in center and right. If Wilson, who has worn down over the years, could ever come back, he would be a big plus, for his ability to handle pitchers.

Ballpark factors, 1998-2000
Runs per game: 14th
Home runs per at-bat: 12th

Pitching, defense and three-run home runs. Who did you think managed Piniella and Gillick when they played together in Elmira? Earl Weaver, of course.

Spring training questions

Can Guillen come back to his promise, Bell rediscover his power and Wilson come back? Is Suzuki the real deal, or will they pound him up and in? Is Moyer back? Are Anderson, Piniero and Wooten close?

2001 team song: "Continental Trailways Blues"

Anaheim Angels
2000: 82-80, 3rd place, 9.5 games back

Offseason transactions: Traded RHP Seth Etherton to Cincinnati for SS Wilmy Caceres, Signed FAs RHP Pat Rapp, RHP Ismael Valdes, DH Jose Canseco, 1B Wally Joyner and C Jorge Fabregas. Lost FAs Mark Petkovsek, OF Ron Gant, LHP Kent Mercker. Lost RHP Jason Dickson, LHP Scott Karl (refused assignment).

Rookies and other strangers: RHP Scot Shields (7-13, AAA). OF Gary Johnson (.315, 23 HR, A-AA). RHP John Lackey (15-9, A-AA-AAA).

Runs scored/allowed: 864-869, -5

Runs: 864
Slugging/On-base pct.: .472/.352
OPS: .824
Home runs: 236
BB/K: 608/1024
SB/CS: 93/52
1-2-3 OBP: .404/.352/.366

The Angels had five players hit between 25 and 47 homers; unfortunately, Mo Vaughn is now out for the season. Darin Erstad is their catalyst and the clubhlouse leader, with his fiery play, and the fact that he and Garret Anderson (35 HR, 117 RBI) hit very well against lefties makes this lineup difficult to match up against. Tim Salmon says he wants to stay, and they hope Gary DiSarcina comes back from shoulder surgery. He is no A-Rod or Nomar, but he gets a ton of big hits. Unnoted: Molina has become a solid receiver and added 14 homers and 71 RBI. Injuries would be a big problem, because there isn't much depth except for Scott Spiezio and his band Sand Frog.

Runs allowed/ERA: 869/5.00
OPS: .804
Groundball/flyball ratio: 1.20
Starters: 53-56, 5.54
Starters' innings pitched: 896
Quality starts: 58
Bullpen: 29-24, 4.13
Saves-opportunities: 46-68
Appearances/innings: 441/552

Where does one start? Shigetoshi Hasegawa led the staff in wins, with 10; Ramon Ortiz led their starters with eight. Jarrod Washburn was their only starter with an ERA under 5.00, but he had shoulder problems then a strain in the back of his shoulder. Their bullpen had to make the most appearances and threw the most innings as 16 different pitchers started games, a tribute to the job Mike Scioscia and Bud Black did with what they had. Ortiz and Scott Schoeneweis can win, even if Schoeneweis won only three games after April. Rapp eats innings, and now they have to see if Ismael Valdes can fufill the promise he once showed -- until going 32-42 the last four seasons. Washburn has pitched well when healthy, Matt Wise came back off arm trouble to show flashes of middle-rotation capability and Brian Cooper was occasionally OK. Anaheim does have pitching prospects down below, but they're two years away.

Troy Percival did not have his normal year for various reasons and ended up with a league-leading 10 blown saves. He should be back strong, with Hasegawa and lefty Mike Holtz (who held lefties to a .205 average). Al Levine worked 51 games. They need some depth, but the problem is getting the starters going.

Errors: 134
Unearned runs allowed: 64
Opponents' SB pct.: 64

The 134 errors didn't help the pitching, especially when Schoeneweis led the league in groundball ratio. Molina was one of the league's most improved players, and while Joyner won't hit with Mo, he will be a defensive upgrade.

Ballpark factors, 1998-2000
Runs per game: 9th
Home runs per at-bat: 5th

Spring training questions
How will Scioscia assemble the starting rotation and fill out the middle spots? Is Percival fully healthy? What has Joyner got left? Can Canseco stay healthy in spring training? Can DiSarcina come back by May, or do they look at Caceres or go back to Benji Gil?

2001 team song: "The Return of the Grievous Angel"

Texas Rangers
2000: 71-91, 4th place, 20.5 games back

Offseason transactions: Signed FAs SS Alex Rodriguez, 1B Andres Galarraga, 3B Ken Caminiti, RH Rel. Jeff Brantley, RH Rel. Mark Petkovsek., LHP Chris Haney. Traded SS Royce Clayton to White Sox for RHPs Aaron Myette and Brian Schmack. Traded LHP Matt Perisho to Detroit for RHP Kevin Mobley and Brandon Villafuerte. Lost FAs John Wetteland, 2B Luis Alicea. Acquired 2B Randy Velarde from Oakland for Ps Aaron Harang and Ryan Cullen.

Rookies and other strangers: RHPs Pat Mahomes, Pete Munro, Kevin Foster, OF Ruben Sierra. 1B Carlos Pena (.299, 28, 105, AA). 2B Jason Romano (.271, 8, AA). INF Mike Young (.286, 10, AA). RHP Danny Kolb (4-1, 0.98, AA). RHP Spike Lundberg (14-7, AA).

Runs scored/allowed: 848-974, -126

Runs: 848
Slugging/On-base pct.: .446/.352
OPS: .798
Home runs: 173
BB/K: 580/922
SB/CS: 68/47
1-2-3 OBP: .340/.355/.379

When Doug Melvin traded Juan Gonzalez, he knew that the Rangers run of three postseasons in four years was closing, and that he had to retool in a hurry. Well, some things didn't work, including Justin Thompson's injuries and the bullpen collapse. Rusty Greer was never healthy, Gabe Kapler got off to a slow start, Ruben Mateo went down June 2 (when they were two games over .500), then Pudge Rodriguez got hurt ... but check this offense now. Which Rodriguez is the better player? You'd get a lot of votes for Pudge, which will raise a complex contract issue this spring. Greer, if healthy, will get on base, and so will Velarde. A-Rod. Rafael Palmeiro. I.-Rod. That makes Galarraga and Caminiti role players. Then consider that once hitting coach Rudy Jarmarillo gave Kapler a leg lift, he hit .344 with 10 homers in the second half. Then Mateo. Ricky Ledee is around, so is Frank Catalanotto, who can hit. The runs will pour in.

Runs allowed/ERA: 974/5.52
Groundball/flyball ratio: 1.08
Starters: 50-67, 5.56
Starters' innings pitched: 944
Quality starts: 69
Bullpen: 21-24, 5.44
Saves-opportunities: 39-66
Appearances/innings: 415/485

But they do have to stop the other teams, and other than Rick Helling the starters won 34 times in 127 starts. Ugh. Helling led the league in starts and won 16 games. Kenny Rogers at 36 still fields his position as well as anyone in the game, but his 5.00 ERA over his last 18 starts meant a postseason operation to remove bone chips. The catchers think Doug Davis will win, and for all his physical problems, Ryan Glynn showed glimpses of promise. Darrin Oliver had as many stints on the DL as wins -- two. Thompson may or mat not be back in June; he hasn't pitched since August 1999. Myette could be a sleeper. He got off to a bad start because of some injury problems, then was lost in the crowd of terrific young White Sox pitchers. Watch Lundberg also. He wins.

With John Wetteland troubled by a bad back, the bullpen had problems all season. He likely is gone, and John Oates has to recreate the bullpen. Tim Crabtree (2-for-9 in saves) gets first call to close. Jeff Zimmerman is 5-8, 5.06 since his dazzling first half in '99 as he searches for his slider. Francisco Cordero has close stuff. Brantley has the soul; it's his stuff that's hard to measure. Many feel they'll deal for someone like Ugueth Urbina, but that remains to be seen.

Errors: 135
Unearned runs allowed: 98
Opponents SB pct.: 64

They were first in errors and first in unearned runs. If Galarraga, Caminiti and Velarde are healthy, plus A-Rod, things will be much better. Greer/Kapler/Mateo is a better outfield than many realize, and having Pudge the entire season stops opponents.

Ballpark factors, 1998-2000
Runs per game: 1st
Home runs per at-bat: 1st

It's an offensive park, great for left-handed hitters and groundball pitchers, although the field itself has bad home/road error totals.

Spring training questions
Can Davis and Glynn step in, and how close is Thompson? How will Oates build the bullpen, or will Melvin have to trade? Are I-Rod, Greer, Mateo, Caminiti and Galarraga healthy? Can Ledee get the self-image to reach his potential?

2001 team song: "Texas Oil"

Send this story to a friend | Most sent stories Help | Advertiser Info | Contact Us | Tools | Site Map | Jobs at
Copyright ©2000 ESPN Internet Ventures. Terms of Use and Privacy Policy and Safety Information are applicable to this site.