The first half of the MLB season has come and gone. Already we have seen three no-hitters, Albert Pujols join the 500-homer club, and Jose Abreu have one of the best breakout years in recent memory. If the second half is anything like the first then we are in for a very exciting ending to the 2014 season. With the all-star break finally upon us it is important that we use this time to take a step back and look at how every team is faring at this point in the season. For this article we will break down the teams in the american league west to see what kind of position they are each in.
1. Oakland Athletics, Record: (59-36), Current position: 1.5 games in first place.
Three and a half months into the season the Oakland Athletics are in the best position among all major league teams. At 59-36 they own the best record in baseball and sit 1.5 games ahead of the Angels for first place in the AL west. The A's have owned the west for the past two years and are in control of it once again thanks in large part to their offense which is currently ranked second in the MLB. On offense Oakland is lead by a quartet of all stars composed of infielders Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss, as well as catcher Derek Norris and outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. Together the four all stars have combined to hit 63 home runs and have driven in a total of 224 runs.
On the other side of the ball the A's boast two more all stars in pitchers Scott Kazmir and Sean Doolittle. Doolittle has posted a 2.89 ERA in 42 games out of the bullpen and opposing hitters are batting just .172 against him. Kazmir meanwhile has lead the way for the Oakland starting rotation posting an 11-3 record and a 2.38 ERA through 19 starts this year. Kazmir and Doolittle are just two members of an Oakland pitching staff that is currently ranked second in the majors. For someone who claims to not rely on star power, Athletics general manager Billy Beane has built a star-studded team that may just finish 2014 as the best team in major league baseball.
2. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Record: (57-37), Current position: 1.5 GB first place.
It was previously mentioned that the Oakland Athletics, the best team in baseball, currently have the second best offense in baseball. That is because as good as the Oakland offense has been they have been eclipsed by the team that sits 1.5 games behind them; the Los Angeles Angels. At 57-37 the Angels currently sit in second place in the american league west and are 6.5 games ahead of the Seattle Mariners for first place in the american league wild card race. The Los Angeles offense has been lead by the 22 home runs and 73 RBI's of young phenom Mike Trout who has arguably become the best player in all of baseball. Shortstop Erik Aybar has also had a breakthrough year, driving in 50 runs for the Angels and scoring 47 more for them. It is no surprise that Trout and Aybar will be representing the Angels at the all star game in Minnesota.
An inconsistent bullpen plagued the Angels for a large part of the first half but the recent acquisition of reliever Jason Grilli and Joe Smith's shift to the closer role has helped the Los Angeles bullpen become more effective as of late. The Angels expected their starting rotation to lead by the veteran arms of Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, but injuries have limited the amount of productivity the pair have been able to contribute. Los Angeles has instead been lead by youngster Garret Richards whose 2.55 ERA is the fourth best in the American League. The Angels may not be the best team in baseball yet, but they are certainly the hottest team heading into the season's second half, having gone 9-1 in their last 10 games.
3. Seattle Mariners, Record: (51-44), Current position: 8 GB first place.
Though the Mariners may not have a top tier offense, they certainly can lay claim to one of baseball's best pitching staffs. Seattle's staff is ranked third in the majors behind only Washington and Oakland, and is ranked two spots higher than a Dodgers pitching staff that has thrown two no-hitters this season. This impressive feat is thanks in large part to the success of ace, Felix Hernandez, and closer, Fernando Rodney. Hernandez is once again putting up big numbers for the Mariners, his 2.12 ERA is the best in the entire American League. His 11 wins also tie him with Max Scherzer and Garret Richards for third most in the American League. Rodney on the other hand currently leads all American League closers with 27 saves.
On offense, Seattle is lead by arguably the best second baseman in baseball in Robinson Cano. After a slow start to the season, Cano has picked things up and currently boasts a .334 batting average and a .462 slugging percentage. He has driven in 57 runs for Seattle and has belted 7 homers. Third baseman Kyle Seager has also posted an impressive slugging percentage of .493 while driving in 63 runs for the Mariners. At 8 games behind first place in the division, the Mariners face an uphill battle if they hope to contend for a divisional crown, but the stellar pitching of Felix Hernandez and Fernando Rodney has them currently holding the American League's second wildcard spot 2.5 games ahead of the Royals and Blue Jays. It is no surprise then that Hernandez and Rodney will join Seager and Cano as all stars in Minnesota and it is even less of a surprise that Hernandez will have the honor of starting the all star game for the American League.
4. Houston Astros, Record: (40-56), Current Position: 19.5 GB first place.
The Houston Astros are a franchise in the rebuilding process. It comes as no shock then that this year's team is not contending for a playoff spot. The Astros have struggled to get anything going offensively this year as they sport the second worst offense in the American League. The fact that they have scored less than 400 runs and have the worst team batting average in the AL has not done much to strengthen their offensive cause either.
Houston's pitching has fared no better than its offense thus far as the Astro's pitching staff's combined ERA of 4.42 is the third highest in all of baseball. As bad as the Astros have been this season there has been a few bright spots in 2014. Second Baseman Jose Altuve has established himself as one of the best second basemen in the league. His .335 batting average is currently second best in the American League and his stellar defensive play has made fans stand up and cheer on more than one occasion. When you combine his .373 on base percentage with his 41 stolen bases, it is no surprise that Altuve will be Houston's lone representative at the all star game. In addition to Altuve, young players like Matt Dominguez and George Springer have also shown flashes of brilliance which gives Astros fans hope for a brighter future.
5. Texas Rangers, Record: (38-57), Current Position: 21.0 GB first place.
The Texas Rangers are arguably the most disappointing team in all of baseball this season. In just a span of three years, the Rangers have gone from the American League's best team to its weakest. Long gone are the days when they appeared in back-to-back world series' and were on two separate occasions just one out away from claiming the franchise's first world title. Players like C.J. Wilson, Mike Napoli, and Josh Hamilton that helped make those teams so great now play elsewhere. At 38-57 Texas currently holds the worst record in the MLB. The once elite Rangers offense is now more mediocre being ranked 9th in the American League with a combined team batting average of just .260.
Despite being the worst team in baseball, the Rangers will still be sending two players to the all star game in Adrian Beltre and Yu Darvish. Beltre continues to be one of the most consistently productive hitters in all of baseball. His .337 batting average is the best in the American League and is second in the majors to only Troy Tulowitzki's .345 average. At 2.97, Yu Darvish's ERA is one of the best in the American League. His 142 strikeouts also put him ahead of Yankees phenom Masahiro Tanaka in that respective category. The fact that Beltre and Darvish's stellar play has not been enough to will the Rangers to a competitive year may be proof that it is time for them to stop trying to recapture the glory of seasons past and usher in a rebuilding era in Arlignton.