MLB: AL West Quarterly Report

It’s a Two-Team Race Out West

For the most part, the AL West has gone according to plan so far through the first quarter of the 2022 MLB season. The Houston Astros were the preseason favorite and they’ve played like it, with a healthy Justin Verlander headlining an impressive starting rotation while a very deep lineup produces at a very consistent clip. Their main competition, as of the AL West Quarterly Report, is none other than the ultra-talented Los Angeles Angels who might finally be putting everything together.

The rest of the division hasn’t fared as well with the Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics well off the pace. Let’s look at how all five teams have done through 25% of the season along with some MLB betting trends to watch.

Houston Astros: 27-16 (-225 to win the division)

Regardless of who the Houston Astros might lose in free agency, they seem to never skip a beat. Even after Carlos Correa signed with the Minnesota Twins this past offseason, the Astros plugged Jeremy Peña in at shortstop and — like the rest of Houston’s big bats — he has absolutely raked so far this season. From José Altuve to Yordan Álvarez to Kyle Tucker and others, Houston’s top six bats might be the best group in baseball.

The rotation has been just as good, if not better. Verlander looks like the AL Cy Young favorite while guys like Framber Valdez and Luis García have pitched great. The bullpen is also stellar which rounds out an extremely balanced roster. That’s why the Astros are looking so promising at the AL West Quarterly Report.

Houston’s preseason win total over/under was just 92½ wins and it looks like the Astros will blow by that number. Their odds to win the division have fallen to -225 from -150 even though the Los Angeles Angels are just a few games behind. That’s a sign of how impressive Houston has been. The Astros, as +400, also have the second-best odds to win the AL pennant.

Los Angeles Angels: 26-17 (+200 to win the division)

The Astros’ only close contender for the division crown looks like the Angels, who have ridden incredible offensive performances from Mike Trout and Taylor Ward to an impressive start. Shohei Ohtani has been great at the plate and on the mound, the latter as part of a surprisingly effective rotation.

Los Angeles, like Houston, has been a solid all-around team. Sure, it helps that Trout and Ward both have OPS’s of higher than 1.000 but the appeal of the Angels is a lot of high-end talent and — in prior years — they haven’t found enough from their supplementary players. That hasn’t been an issue in 2022 and it feels more sustainable than in previous seasons because of their improved depth across the board.

They look poised to eclipse their 84½ win total and, even if they aren’t able to keep up with the Astros for a full season, their division odds have dropped from +350 to +200 because of how they’ve established themselves through 43 games. Plus, as with any surprise team, the Angels have been incredibly profitable to bet on. If you were to wager $100 on the Angels’ moneyline for each of their games, you would be $385 in the green.

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Texas Rangers: 18-22 (+10000 to win the division)

The Texas Rangers got off to a miserable start this season and it felt like another lost year in Arlington even after an active offseason which saw the Rangers pick up Corey Seager, Marcus Semien and Jon Gray. But, in recent weeks, Texas has made the climb back toward .500 and is certainly within striking distance of a playoff spot in the expanded postseason field.

Interestingly, only three Rangers batters — Jonah Heim, Seager and Kole Calhoun — have been above-average in terms of OPS+ and, with a uneven starting rotation, the peripheral numbers suggest that Texas is lucky to be just four games under .500 as of this AL West Quarterly Report. The bullpen has been a bright spot, however, this is a big change from recent Rangers seasons.

Texas is in a decent spot to hit the over (74½ wins) but there’s almost no chance that the Rangers — currently +10000 to win the AL West after being +1800 to do so before the year — overcome Houston or Los Angeles in the division. If Semien is able to return to his 2021 form, though, that would be enormous for Texas’ chances of hanging around .500. The Rangers have gained nothing from him right after signing Semien to a big free-agent deal.

Seattle Mariners: 18-25 (+1400 to win the division)

Thanks to a crushing four-game road sweep at the hands of the Boston Red Sox this past weekend, the Seattle Mariners find themselves toward the bottom of the AL West. That’s a pretty disappointing place for Seattle to be after the Mariners won 90 games in 2021 and seemed to be turning a corner into being a legitimate contender in the division.

Ty France and J.P. Crawford have been awesome in the lineup and Julio Rodríguez looks like a future star, but Seattle’s pitching has been underwhelming, especially in the rotation. Reigning Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray hasn’t found his footing yet in the Pacific Northwest, Chris Flexen has struggled and basically the entire bullpen has had major run prevention issues. The magic from 2021 has yet to reappear.

Seattle’s preseason over/under was set at 84½ wins which doesn’t look very attainable right now but it’s definitely within the realm of possibility. Their odds to win the AL West have ballooned from +500 to +1400. It just goes to show that the Mariners played well above their heads a season ago and just haven’t been good enough in 2022 to sustain that level of performance. This is still a young team with plenty of room to grow.

Oakland Athletics: 17-27 (+22500 to win the division)

The Oakland Athletics being well-below .500 at this point of the season is far from a surprise after they either traded or let go in free agency an enormous chunk of their 86-win team from 2021. The current roster is extremely offensively challenged which has overshadowed what has been a decent pitching staff, led by Frankie Montas and the scorching-hot Paul Blackburn, who has a 1.91 ERA.

When you have just three position-player regulars with OPS’s above 100, though, it’s tough to win many MLB games and the A’s have demonstrated that to a tee. Vegas predicted as much, labeling Oakland as a 68½-win team which seems to be right on point. There is some exciting young talent on this team, and in the high minors, but it’ll take time for those players to figure things out in the big leagues. This team isn’t going anywhere right now.

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