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Michael Taylor 16th Mar 2009 - 22:58

MLB 2009 - AL West betting preview

There wasn't a whole lot to report on from the AL West in 2008 other than the Angels were awesome and Texas looked a lot better than they have in the past decade.

Ultimately it could have been the weakness of the West that led to the Angels early ejection from post-season play as their preparation was hindered by a lack of regular, strong opposition.

Will the gap close this year in what is fast becoming baseball's most predictable division?

LA Angels of Anaheim

Mike Scioscia led the Angels to a 100 game winning season in 2008 and they should be around about that mark once again in what looks like a very one sided division.

The acquisition of Bobby Abreu could be a masterstroke by GM Tony Reagins as he fits perfectly into the Angels style of play, i.e. patient at the plate, quick, fields his position well and understands how to win. He should also provide great protection for Vlad Guerrero, if the big man can stay healthy.

On a pitching front the Angels just have so much strength in all areas and with John Lackey ready to play a full season he could easily win this year's Cy Young. Francisco Rodriguez's departure does leave a hole at closer but in a team that offers so many save opportunities I have every confidence somebody will step up to the plate for Mike Scioscia.

Key Player: Bobby Abreu Prediction: 1st Odds to win AL West: 4/9

Oakland Athletics

The Athletics are another franchise that went for broke in the off-season bringing in some of the biggest stars in baseball as free agents, but I still don't feel convinced that they can contend with the perennial powerhouse Angels.

Matt Holliday is unquestionably a great pick-up and he should prove that he doesn't need to be in Colorado to hit the long ball, however, the logic in signing Jason Giambi and Nomar Garciaparra does escape me.

The injury prone duo have long since seen better days and even if both stay healthy the A's would line up with the most immobile infield in the American League. It seems the more logical option would have been to invest in pitching as that is a considerable area of weakness.

Key Player: Matt Holliday Prediction: 3rd Odds to win AL West: 11/4

Seattle Mariners

Ken Griffey Jr returns to where he first flourished but it would take a real fairytale for the Mariners to even turn this into a winning season.

Junior is past it, the line-up is weak and if it wasn't for Ichiro it would be fairly difficult to say anything positive about the Mariners. The Japanese lead-off is in a league of his own and, with the contract extension which he signed in 08, fans in Washington at least have something to look forward to.

Starting rotation wise it isn't all bad news. Erik Bedard is solid; Jarrod Washburn's end of season form was sensational and there is a lot more to come from big Felix Hernandez - although he may be better served as trade bait to strengthen in several other areas.

Key Player: Ichiro Prediction: 4th Odds to win AL West: 10/1

Texas Rangers

For a large part of last season the Rangers kept themselves in with a shot of the Wild Card only to fade away after the All-Star break but this did signal a massive improvement for the Arlington underachievers.

A lot of credit has to go to Josh Hamilton who started his rehabilitation into Major League Baseball like the number one draft choice that he once was. If the ex-drug addict can come out and play in the same manner again then good times are ahead, especially if Michael Young, Ian Kinsler and David Murphy can provide support.

It's the same old story pitching wise though as Kevin Millwood is left anchoring a shocking rotation in a hitters ballpark. Texas will fall short again but the gap on LA could get smaller.

Key Player: Josh Hamilton Prediction: 2nd Odds to win AL West: 9/1

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