Season 33: 98-64, won Division, advanced to WS, lost to Pittsburgh
Offseason: The Angels had to negotiate a couple of free-agent potholes this offseason. The big one was the loss of 20-game winner (and lifetime 3.12 ERA) Pedro Nunez, who bolted to Detroit for a big-$ deal. They also lost long-time lineup bulwark Orlando Acosta, who despite showing some signs of decline was a good performer last year. They replaced some, maybe most, of Nunez' innings with FA's Adrian Caruso (pitches over splits theory) and Lariel Blanco (going strong at 38). 2nd-year man Lorenzo Saenz (.702 OPD last season) takes over right field. Angels' management also tells us they'll bring up AAA left-handers Santos Chavez (Sea 31 IFA) and Erasmo Miranda (Sea 30 IFA) at Game 20. Not sure what their roles will be but you have to think they'll get a chance to start.
Outlook: MVP Enerio Amaro was the AL's dominant offensive force last year, but the Angels are far from dependent on him. They scored 833 runs last year (4th), and did it with contact (.269 BA - 2nd), power (255 HR's - 1st), and patience (551 BB's - 6th). They even run some - 134 steals. They had the 2nd-best AL ERA (3.72)...may have to spread Nunez 240+ innings around more this year, hut should be able to compensate.
The Angels have now won 90+ games 10 of the last 11 seasons, and gone to the WS 6 times in that stretch. Don't against either this year.
Season 33: 66-96
Offseason: The Eswalin Camacho era is over in Seattle. Camacho posted 233 wins and a 3.02 career ERA over his (likely HOF) 17-year career. With his departure and those of DH Larry Sewell, RP Rabbit Martin, SS Richard Mohr, and SP Dave Frascatore, plus last year's 66-96 record, it seems the Mariners are entering rebuild mode. They did re-sign SP Zach Lennon and brought in a handful of low-cost FA's, but the real focus is now on rookies Dan Lorenzen (SP), Stan Jackson (SP), Carlos Odor (LF), Rafael Gutierrez (SS), 2nd-year C Deven Carter, and RF Gerald Crane (now recovered from last year's nasty forearm injury).
Outlook: Partly sunny (lots of young players) with frequent showers (losing streaks). Having Crane back for a full campaign certainly helps...the team should be reasonably competitive. Plus, they're getting youngsters onto the roster and the payroll's headed the right way (and more relief next year when they can dump Wiki Saenz' contract). Not a threat to make the playoffs this year, but things are going the right way.
Season 33: 74-88
Offseason: Arizona re-signed it's 2 biggest free agents - RP Esmerling Vazquez and Clinton Skinner - losing only C/DH Henry Young. They mined the FA fields for pitchers Jerry Baker (very nice 1-innings specialist for near the minimum), swingman Lee McCarthy (good but fragile arm), middle man Sam Lynn, and lefty-hitting C Patrick Boyer. The made a trade for 2B Bryant Cashner, and tapped the farm system for RF Luis Mendoza (Season 32 #7), SP Erv Daley (Sea 30 #1), and RP Tom Williams (Sea 32 #34)...some serious young talent has arrived.
Outlook: After struggling through his rookie season, SP Patrick Hunter (the #7 overral pick in Sea 29) showed signs last year of realizing his immense talent. If he realizes it fully this year...and is joined in that realization by former #1 pick Daley...watch out, the Snakes could do some damage. With an above-average offense (and that's with SS Sodowsky having a down year), they only won 74 last year. See where I'm going? If Hunter and Daley find it and the pitching is greatly improved (5.07 ERA - dead last in Sea 33)...and if Sodowsky bounces back (and his early 1.018 OPS suggest he will)...they "Could Be A Contendah!"
D'Backs, can we talk about defense? 200 errors and bad plays led to an astounding 101 unearned runs last year. And they'll probably be in that ballpark again - Vince Hawkins in CF is a bad plan, and 3B Adam Andrelczyk with his patented 7-hop throws to 1B is an even worse one (but hey, he's hitting). Sodowsky at SS will be responsible for 40-50 of those errors and bad plays.
What the hey, you can't fix everything at once. They're ripping the cover off the ball, they're 10-4 and everybody's having fun. They'll be much improved, but won't catch the Angels.
Season 33: 90-72, Wild Card, advanced to 2nd Round and lost to Anaheim
Offseason: Last year's surprise playoff team had to deal with the loss of 6 significant contributors in FA, so they had their offseason work cut out for them. The started by re-signing SP's Rosado and Hiljus, and added Jesus Francisco from St. Louis, so the backbone of their staff is locked up. Those signings chewed up a lot of cash, so they had to promote a number of rookies to the staff. We probably all have some less-than-talented arms for mopup and LR slots, but Joaquin Floriman and Brandon Boyer on a ML roster? Seriously?
Outlook: Not quite sure what's going on with the A's. 2 of their Big 3 starters are pitching well (Hiljus has started poorly), but the rest of the staff has been atrocious (7.65 ERA), and the offense is off last year's pace by a fair amount. The situation seems salvageable, but some fast action is needed.
I love seeing a team like Arizona make the big leap into contention. Hopefully they'll maintain the pace, but something tells me they won't actually hit .300+ all year. Ultimately their defense will keep them from challenging the Angels.