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Oakland Athletics

AL West Preview: 3 teams for 3 playoff spots?

I started writing this post not knowing which team–the Oakland A’s, Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles or the Texas Rangers–would win the division. More accurately, as I type these very letters, I just don’t know who’s coming out on top. All we know for sure about the AL West this year is that the Seattle Mariners, a decent team in their own right, will finish fourth, and limping into last place will be the 107 loss Houston Astros, whose first season in the American League after 52 years in the NL will not be a warm welcome.
But just like any conflicted teenage girl, let’s man up on MAMBINO and list off some simple pros and cons for each team:
Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles
Pros: If everyone stays on the field, the Angels are going to have the most bruising, fearless offense in the division. AL MVP runner-up Mike Trout leads off the line-up, followed by a conga line of mashers: 1B Albert Pujols, OF Josh Hamilton, DH Mark Trumbo and 2B Howie Kendrick. Even their bit players, C Chris Ianetta, SS Erick Aybar, 3B Alberto Callaspo and Peter Bourjos, are all league average hitters at worst. The offense is built to play any way they need to; they’ve got enough patient hitters to manufacture walks, enough athletes to steal bases and enough destroyers to knock the ball into the stands. Health permitting, this could be the most potent line-up in Angels history.… Read more...

MAMBINO’s MLB Playoff Preview, Part 1: Wildcard and (a couple) Divisional Series

The second Wild Card slot has added in another dramatic cadence to what has been in recent years an extremely exciting last week of the season. In four out of the past five seasons, playoff spots weren’t settled until Game 162 out of 162, with the Rockies, Phillies, White Sox, Twins, Rays and Cardinals all eeking out monumental, last-second comebacks. The drama has been so fantastically unreal that the Commissioner Bud Selig, who miraculously looks like the best out of the four major sports right this moment, decided to heighten it starting in 2012 by adding another contender to the mix.

More teams than ever before were in the postseason hunt up until the final series of the year, including the freshly eliminated Dodgers, Brewers, Angels, Rays and White Sox. For the uninitiated, the playoffs begin today, when the two American League Wild Cards, the AL West deposed Texas Rangers and the Baltimore Orioles and the two National League Wild Cards, the reigning champion St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves, face off in a sudden death game to see who goes on to play the two teams with the best records in their respective leagues. As opposed to years past, the margin of benefit between being a division titlist and a Wild Card team just became canyon-like. If you’re a divisonal winner, you’re at least guaranteed a five-game series. A Wild Card winner? All you get is a one-game playoff to play the best team in your league, and a giant choco-taco full of crap. Needless to say, it’s infinitely advantageous to win the division. But even as tenuous as this sounds for the teams playing, you know who this sucks most for? THE GREAT MAMBINO.

That’s right. US. Since the Divisional Series matchups aren’t set yet, here we are previewing two one-game playoffs and only two out of the four divisional series. What about us, Bud? Your loyal bloggers? Who do this for nothing but the love of the game and the mountains of women that come with being an amateur writer? C’mon, man. Think about us, for once. Ass.  

Regardless of my personal vendettas, we here at MAMBINO would never intentionally deprive our dozens….AND DOZENS of followers. From the hearts and minds of MAMBINO HQ are our picks for tomorrow’s playoff games and the two Divisional Series that are set:

American League Wild Card Game: Texas Rangers over Baltimore Orioles

El Miz:
The Texas Rangers have limped into the postseason, fading down the back stretch before getting swept by the Oakland A’s and losing what looked like a certain third-straight AL West crown on the last day of the season.  All is not lost, however, as the Rangers and Baltimore Orioles will square off thanks to the new one-game play-in for the Wild Card (actually, we would have had the same result even if MLB didn’t change the rules, as the Rangers and Orioles finished with the exact same 93 wins).

So how does Texas have any chance?  They are playing arguably the hottest team in baseball and the dreaded “team of destiny” thanks to Baltimore’s incredible 29-9 record in 1-run games, the best winning percentage since the Brooklyn Bridegrooms way back when President Benjamin Harrison was in the White House…you know, 1890. 

First, Texas is at home, which has got to help since Camden Yards would have been an absolute madhouse with their first taste of the postseason since 1997. Second, Texas is throwing Yu Darvish.

Texas paid $51.7 million dollars to Darvish’s former team just to be able to negotiate with him (the total deal cost $11Read more...

Burning Qs for the 2012 MLB Season (Part 1)

Whoa! The 2012 MLB season snuck up on us like a new Rihanna LP – unexpected and yet, we’re incredibly happy it’s here. Like, way too happy.

As is tradition with the birth of every new season, we’re greeting it on MAMBINO like you would any old friend; with incredibly invasive questions, exploring the greatest weaknesses, storylines and potential surprises in the next year.

We’ve rounded up the MAMBINO stable better than Billy Crystal and Daniel Stern could, and written down some questions that HAD to be answered before the 2012 MLB season kicks off in earnest next week (yes, I realize that we’re ignoring “Opening Day” which is an opening series in Japan with the A’s and Mariners that started last Wednesday. No disrespect to my Japanese forefathers, but we’re pretending that baseball isn’t going on yet because those two teams are glorified Triple A squads. It’s not about Japan. For real. It was 80 years ago, everyone’s gotten over it).

Is the Phillies’ window closing? 

Pucklius: So here’s a fun fact for you. The Cincinnati Reds, Colorado Rockies and some baseball-like organization known as the “New York Mets” all finished with losing records last year. Here’s another fun fact for you. All of these teams scored more runs last season than the Philadelphia Phillies.

As far as I can tell, prognosticators tabbing the Phillies for a sixth consecutive NL East title are doing so out of sheer habit and laziness while ignoring the fact that the Braves have been rising for years and the Marlins, who won’t be as good as Jeffrey Loria thinks but will still be good, have a solid crop of young talent (Josh Johnson, GianCarlo Stanton, Logan Morrison) that has been overshadowed by the big name free agent signings (Jose Reyes, Mark Beurhle) as well as some guy named Hanley Ramirez, all of which has closed the gap considerably. The Phillies meanwhile have an almost ancient short stop in Jimmy Rollins, an aging Chase Utley, who hit a paltry .259 last season and won’t be healthy for the start of this one, and a grand total of one player, Hunter Pence, who had a plus-.300 batting average (.314) or a plus-.500 slugging percentage (.502). Meanwhile, Ryan Howard, who according to recent sabermetric-centric story in ESPN Magazine doesn’t help a team that much more than he hurts one anyway, won’t even play until as late as June following a torn Achilles tendon on the final out of Philadelphia’s 2011 postseason. Essentially, this means that if you somehow manage to get lucky and score 4 or 5 runs against the Phillies remarkable starting rotation you probably have a pretty decent chance of beating them — and in the pitchers nightmare that is Citizens Bank Park, scoring 4 or 5 runs isn’t something a competent Major League offense should find all that hard to do. Just imagine what that offense will put up when it finds itself in places where batting average and runs created go to die like Citi Field or Petco Park.

I should note that Philadelphia did win 102 games last season — and outscored opponents by a league-best 184 runs — but those numbers are almost entirely a result of a stellar pitching rotation. Now, that rotation is stellar, and far be it from me to question the abilities of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, but Roy Oswalt is gone and Vance Worley, who struggled last September, and Joe Blanton are the likely men to jump into his position. They do not inspire the same kind of fear and th… Read more...

YOUR…2011 MLB AL West Projections

Projected Finish:
1. Oakland Athletics
2. Anaheim Angels
3. Texas Rangers
4. Seattle Mariners

If last year’s World Series taught me anything, it’s God has forsaken us. The Giants can win the title. The Giants won the title. Four months later, the shock still hasn’t worn off, as Cody Ross does the Macarena naked around his NLCS MVP trophy and Juan Uribe uses his championship bonus money to clean his guns. Someone in the Bay Area struck a deal with the devil to end one of the most underrated curses of all time.

But if there’s something else that last year’s World Series taught me, it’s that pitching and defense win championships. As currently constituted, this, along with a couple other factors, give the Oakland A’s the decided preseason advantage in the AL West. On the defensive side, nearly every Athletic is an above-average fielder, save for Josh Willingham in left. They imported enough players that you may or may not have heard of (Josh Willingham, David DeJesus, Hideki Matsui) to generate some offense for them. And then there’s the pitching.

Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Dallas Braden all had ERAs under 3.50. Anderson and Cahill were born in 1988, Gonzalez in 1985 and the oldest of this foursome at 31, Dallas Braden, threw a perfect game last year. They are young and relatively inexperienced, but talented – just as talented as say, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgardner and Jonathan Sanchez. Behind them, Brad Ziegler, Andrew Bailey, Michael Wuertz, Brian Fuentes and Grant Balfour comprise what should be one of, if not the best bullpen in the league. If everything goes right for this young club, they could have a pretty decent run in the fall.

The other advantage the A’s have? The division is not very good. The Rangers made a surprise run to the series, but with the subtraction of Cliff Lee, they needed to add pitching – so they went out and got Adrian Beltre. Obviously, I’ve got a lot of love for the guy. This, with a combination of a World Series hangover will keep them from duplicating the success they had last season. The Angels too needed help – but not in the pitching department (their rotation is underrated as presently constituted, with Ervin Santana, Dan Haren, Jered Weaver, Joel Pineiro and whatever is left of Scott Kazmir’s shoulder), but in the hitting department. While Vernon Wells is not Jayson Werth or Carl Crawford (though he has the contract to match), he is still a better than average MLB player, and will help them. They are similarly mediocre to the A’s, and I think we will see a division battle unfolding all summer.

The Mariners are in another category by themselves – they have the best pitcher in the league in Felix Hernandez, but conversely one of the worst bullpens and lineups in the majors. I would be surprised if they lost less than 90 games.… Read more...