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AL West in Review: May Edition

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The AL West saw a lot of movement in the standings during the month of May and our resident AL West contributors — Justin Oosterwyk, Kegan Crawford, and Stuart Carruthers — break down each team’s performance during the month of May as well as what to expect next.

Los Angeles Angels: Justin Oosterwyk

The Angels have been off to a successful start to the season. Despite having an eight-game losing streak, they still only sit six and a half games behind the Houston Astros. They are off to a better start than they were last year when they battled injuries the whole season, they are two games above .500, and are in the conversation of being a playoff team.

The Angels Offense

What has helped the Angels get off to this great start has been their offense. In their 48 games, the offense has scored 225 runs which leads all American League teams. It has shown how valuable Mike Trout has been this season by leading most statistical categories for the Angels. Trout has a batting average of .310, with 13 home runs and 28 runs batted in. Thankfully, he has not had to do it alone with Shohei Ohtani, Anthony Rendon, Jared Walsh, and Brandon Marsh giving support.

The Angels are top ten in many hitting categories including batting average and second in categories such as OPS, slugging percentage, and home runs. This team has been led by their bats and as long as they stay healthy this team can compete to get into the playoff for the first time in eight years.

The Angels Pitching Still Needs Help

The pitching is better than in years past but there is still not a dominant starter in the rotation. Their best starter by earned run average has been Patrick Sandoval with a 2.70 ERA. Syndergaard has also had a solid season coming off his injury with a 3.08 ERA. In the rotation, the pitcher that has been a head-scratcher is Reid Detmers. Coming off the no-hitter, he has not shown dominant stuff that was expected from him coming up from the minors. He has a 4.65 ERA and has let up seven home runs in 40.2 innings pitched. To become a solid starter, Detmers will need to figure out how to become more consistent.

The relievers have been solid but not great. Raisel Iglesias has 11 saves with a 3.70 ERA and 24 home runs. Their best statistical relievers which include Jimmy Herget, Oliver Ortega, Ryan Tepera, and Aaron Loup have let up 42 earned runs which is something that can be improved upon. Maybe at the trade deadline, they can get help in both roles to solidify this team.

As a pitching staff, they rank eleventh in earned run average, 18th in earned runs, and 20th in strikeouts this season. It will be interesting to see what this front office will do to try and get a dominant starter or reliever to make this team a possible world series contender.

What’s Next for the Angels

The next stretch for the Angels is not an easy road. There next three series are against the Angels, Phillies, and the Red Sox. And if we look even further, they have the Met and Dodgers in the middle of June. The next three-game set will be interesting to see after getting swept by the Blue Jays even though they competed in all four games. And even though the Phillies and Red Sox are not doing well record-wise, they still have players such as Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, J.D. Martinez, and Rafael Devers. To get stay relevant winning a few of these series will be imperative to keep up with the Astros and stay relevant in the American League wild-card race.

Texas Rangers: Justin Oosterwyk

The Rangers are sitting third in the American League West with a 23-24 record and seven games out of third place. In their last ten games, they are 6-4 and coming off a four-game winning streak against the Athletics. Based on the additions they made in the offseason there has been a definite improvement from last year. But the only reason why they are in third is due to the very slow start by both the Seattle Mariners and the Athletics seemingly tanking this season. It will be interesting to see if the Rangers can keep up this pace and if the Mariners can snap out of this beginning of the season funk.

The Under-Performing Rangers Offense

There has not been a player that has stepped out this year on the offensive side for the Rangers. Corey Seager has put up some power stats with 10 home runs but is only batting .232 on the year. The other big bat that they signed this off-season was Marcus Semien who is off to an extremely slow start. He is batting .198 with one home run and 17 runs batted in.  Adolis García had an okay start as well with 29 runs batted in with seven home runs and a .220 batting average.

Overall as a team, they are all over the place when it comes to their offensive numbers. They are ranked 21st in batting average, 10th in home runs, and 12th in runs scored. The main issue is the two-star players they signed in the offseason (Corey Seager and Marcus Semien) have drastically underperformed. Especially Semien with only one home run in 46 games played. It will be interesting to see if they give young players a chance if they keep playing sub-.500 baseball.

The Pitching Staff: A Train Wreck Other than Martin Perez

Through May, the Rangers starters have been terrible other than Martin Perez. Martin Perez has pitched nine games and has a 3-2 record. He has a 1.60 earned run average with 44 strikeouts in 56 innings pitched. Past him, the rest of the staff has not done particularly well. The other four starting pitchers have a 4.89 earned run average combined. The other four pitchers have not given the same results as Perez has which has hurt this team. And with the lack of offense, makes it hard to stay competitive in games.

The relievers have done well with closer Joe Barlow having eight saves in 16 innings of work with a 1.65 earned run average. John King has done well as well with a 2.84 earned run average in 19 innings of work and Brock Burke has a 1.09 earned run average. These relievers can be used as possible trade pieces if they are completely out of the race.

Overall, the teams pitching numbers are average. They are ranked 15th in average earned run average, 17th in earned runs, and 14th in strikeouts. They are not in the bottom half of the league yet but with improvements, they can become a better overall team.

What’s Next?

In their next three series, they have games against the Guardians, White Sox, and Astros. There are a lot of winnable games, but they can result in losses too because of the inconsistency with the offense and defense. With this stretch, it will be interesting to see if they can play .500 baseball against some competitive baseball teams. If they are below .500 it will be interesting to see if they use some of their better players as selling pieces at the trade deadline. Pieces like Martin Perez and some of the relievers are pieces that can bolster their farm system for future seasons.

Houston Astros: Kegan Crawford

This season so far has been great for the Astros, especially the month of May. The Astros entered the month of May two and a half games behind the Angels for the AL West but now sit at six and a half games above the Angels for the division. After sweeping the Oakland A’s the Astros concluded their month of May with a 22-8 record which is the second-best behind only the Los Angeles Dodgers. May wasn’t a tough month for the Astros, as they faced teams such as the Twins, Rangers, Red Sox, Nationals, and others to which the Astros went on a 12-game win streak during the month.

The offense for the Astros has been great, but at times it has underperformed compared to what Astros fans are accustomed to seeing. However, being that it was only the second month of the season, there’s still time for improvement. Guys like Jose Altuve, Jeremy Peña, and Yordan Álvarez cannot carry the Astros offense all season. Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel struggled the most during May, Yuli did have a great road trip during the month in which he batted over .300, but he quickly simmered down. As for Bregman, he started the season off great, but during the month of May, aside from drawing walks and the occasional doubles, it was as if Bregman wasn’t there, which isn’t normal for someone of his caliber. Going into the month of June, the Astros still have time to figure out the offense, but if they don’t it could be the reason for a playoff exit come October.

The pitching has been doing extremely well for Houston during May with three pitchers nearly throwing no-hitters. Veteran Justin Verlander continued his dominance with just one bad performance so far in which he gave up six runs to the Mariners. The rest of the pitching staff has been stellar, Framber Valdez threw his first complete game in his final start in May, Luis Garcia took a no-hitter into the fifth, José Urquidy tied his career-high in strikeouts against the Rangers, Jake Odorizzi became an all-star-like pitcher before suffering an injury, and Cristian Javier has been excellent. The bullpen has been dominant as well, which has caused Houston to have an astonishing team ERA of 2.84, behind only the Dodgers.

If the pitching can stay like this for the Astros, we could be seeing another title coming to Houston.

Seattle Mariners: Stuart Carruthers

Good news Mariners fans; the month of May is over. After a solid month of April, going 11-10, the Mariners fell flat on their face by going 10-18 in May. Before the start of the season, Mariners fans knew May would be the toughest month. Facing teams such as the Rays, Astros, Mets, Blue Jays, Red Sox, and even a red-hot Marlins team, is not easy. The Mariners found no momentum. Every time something good happened, the feeling was short-term relief knowing the feeling wouldn’t last. 

We’ll start with the negatives first. The Mariners dug themselves a hole. They go into June with a 21-28 record, not ideal but also not unattainable to get out of either. The lineup, rotation, and bullpen all struggled. The lineup had a mediocre .243/.306/.386/.703 slash line, you can thank Ty France for those numbers being as good as they are. A reason the offense didn’t live up to expectations was Mitch Haniger sustaining a high-ankle sprain in late April. The Mariners will have to make do without Haniger until the middle of July at least. Outfielder Jarred Kelenic was optioned to AAA Tacoma after struggling again at the big league level. Jesse Winker has continued to struggle. Winker has a long track record of hitting, he should bounce back at some point.

In the 28 games started in May, the rotation averaged 5.2 innings with an earned run average of 4.30. There were flashes of good headlined by a spectacular debut from George Kirby and a solid month by both Marco Gonzales and Logan Gilbert. Both Gonzales and Gilbert threw exactly 36.2 innings with a 3.44 earned run average. You’d like to see more from reigning Cy Young award winner, Robbie Ray who held a 5.34 earned run average in 30.1 innings. 

In May, the Mariners bullpen threw 85.2 innings to a 5.25 earned run average. That is a major step back from the 2021 season. Drew Steckenrider, a top reliever in 2021, was optioned to AAA Tacoma after struggling. Diego Castillo began the month by giving up nine runs in his first three outings. In those three outings, Castillo managed to get 3 outs and had a batting average against of .714. Castillo did bounce back in his next 5.2 innings by only allowing two runs. Steckenrider and Castillo were not the only guys that struggled. The whole bullpen had their moments where they melted down. Breakout reliever, Erik Swanson was placed on the injured list on May 14th with right shoulder inflammation. The biggest bright spot was Penn Murfee who threw 13.1 innings and only allowed two runs, on seven hits and four walks, while striking out 16.

The Mariners won two series’ in May. The first series win was in Queen’s against the New York Mets. The second was at home against the Astros. These were huge series wins that salvaged the month. They held their own against two, first-place opponents. Julio Rodríguez broke out in May by hitting .309/.339/.527/.866 and he also slugged six home runs. Rodriguez also stole five bases. The first baseman, Ty France continued to hit. In May, France slashed .355/.427/.473/.900. Ty France is carving himself out a path to the Mid-Summer Classic in Los Angeles. Kyle Lewis made his return to the field on May 24th. Lewis is still unable to play in the field due to his knee issues, but in his first four games, he had four hits, including two home runs. Lewis did sustain a concussion after being hit by a pitch and should be out for about a week. Lewis can’t catch a break. Along with Lewis returning soon, pitcher Eric Swanson, catcher Tom Murphy, and pitcher Ken Giles should be joining the team soon.

The schedule should lighten up as the season goes along. The toughest part of the season is behind the Mariners. The Mariners should be adding more depth as guys begin to return from injuries. The Mariners still haven’t played the Angels whom they are chasing in the standings. The two biggest acquisitions from the offseason, Jesse Winker and Robbie Ray have yet to perform as they have in the past. This is still the most all-around talented roster in recent history. The future is still bright. The Mariners are not dead yet, but if they are going to turn the season around, they need to act quickly before they dig a hole that is too big. They ended May winning a series against the Astros, let’s see if they carry the momentum into June.

Oakland Athletics: Kegan Crawford

For a team like the Cinncinati Reds who have entered a rebuilding phase by trading away star players, the A’s haven’t been that bad. The A’s started off the month of May sitting at fourth in the AL West, eventually moving to third, before ending the month in last place. A’s fans know that this season’s goal is to rebuild, but sometimes that can be hard to watch.

The A’s offense hasn’t been good. Oakland only has one player batting above .250, Chad Pinder. Despite this, the A’s are able to stay in games but do struggle at times. Perhaps the best news for A’s fans during the month was that outfielder Ramón Laureano was reinstated after serving his 80-game suspension given last season for using performance-enhancing drugs.

The pitching outside of Frankie Montas hasn’t been great either. The A’s team ERA is an alarming 4.12 which in the AL West, won’t get a team very far. Montas could very well be a target at the trade deadline for many teams looking to add some rotation depth, he has a 3.20 ERA with 71 strikeouts and has been very consistent in his past few outings. The other starters are great, but it’s the bullpen that causes the team ERA to spike.

The A’s are obviously rebuilding and it will take time, but depending on what they chose to do at the trade deadline will determine how long it’ll really take Oakland to be able to compete for another AL West title.

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