With Oakland so far ahead of the Mariners, winning the American League’s Western Division isn’t very likely. So the Mariners’ competition isn’t among their division anymore. Instead, they are one of seven American League teams vying for two wild-card spots—the “MAY I, BRO?” division: the Mariners, Angels, Yankees, Indians, Blue Jays, Royals, and Orioles. You know the good-pitching, poor-hitting M’s. Let’s see what they’re up against as the season’s second half begins.
The Los Angeles Angels are back with the relentless offense of their heyday. Mike Trout and a rejuvenated Albert Pujols lead the charge. But those dangerous Angels teams of the mid-2000s also had a terrific bullpen. This team doesn’t, relying on veteran set-up man Joe Smith to close after his predecessor was so bad they traded him. Remaining games vs. Mariners: 10.
Mariano Rivera finally retires, and who leads the AL in saves? Again, the New York Yankees. Their weak rotation needs buttressing from the bullpen, and new closer David Robertson shoulders the load. Unfortunately the Yankees’ lineup of superannuated superstars can barely shoulder their bats. Derek Jeter and Ichiro combined have fewer extra base hits than Robinson Cano has doubles. RGVM: 0.
The Cleveland Indians’ Lonnie Chisenhall (age 25) and Michael Brantley (27) have been among the league’s top hitters, striking for both average and power. But high-priced veterans are letting the team down; Nick Swisher (33) and Michael Bourn (31) have been awful. RGVM: 3.
The Toronto Blue Jays are best in the AL in hitting home runs, with Edwin Encarnacion’s 26 leading the way. Five other Jays are in double-figures. They aren’t so good at staying healthy. Three of the Jays’ four starting infielders are on the DL, with Encarnacion the latest to get hurt. RGVM: 0.
The Kansas City Royals have the AL’s fewest strikeouts and fewest walks; they put the ball in play and make you try to field it. Maybe they’ve taken it too far, as they also have by far the fewest homers in the AL. They’re on a pace to hit just 96, which would be the worst total for an American League team since 1992. RGVM: 0.
One of the hottest topics of the Mariners’ offseason was whether they should sign Nelson Cruz. Many M’s fans were horrified by the thought, seeing him as an aging slugger in the mold of recent signees Mike Morse, Raúl Ibañez, and Jack Cust. Happily (then), the Baltimore Orioles signed Cruz, who unhappily (now) has singlehandedly kept the Orioles in contention with 29 first-half homers. Cruz’s bat has obscured the Orioles’ many other deficiencies, especially their poor starting pitching. RGVM: 7.