No One Is Running Away With the AL West Right Now

The AL West was supposed to be one of the best divisions in baseball. Three weeks into 2024, it is arguably the worst.

José Leclerc and teammate Jonah Heim of the Texas Rangers celebrate the team's win over the Houston Astros following the game at Globe Life Field.
ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 6: José Leclerc #25 and teammate Jonah Heim #28 of the Texas Rangers celebrate the team's win over the Houston Astros following the game at Globe Life Field on April 6, 2024 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

Many baseball experts and fans alike saw the AL West as one of the toughest divisions heading into the 2024 season. Nearly three weeks in, and that isn’t the case – not by a long shot.

Sure, three weeks into a six-month, 162-game grind is a super small sample size. But the reality is that no one in the AL West is taking advantage of the slow starts of their rivals.

After taking the series finale against the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday, the Texas Rangers rose one game above .500 with a 10-9 record. That is not the start that Texas was hoping for. Even so, with the shoddy play by everyone else in the division, they find themselves clinging to a half-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels for first place.

Yes, that is correct. There is currently only one team above .500 in the AL West. Nobody is sprinting out of the gate.

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Oakland Athletics

One team that nobody gave, or gives, a chance to make the playoffs is the Oakland Athletics. They have the vibe of the fictionalized Cleveland team portrayed in the cult classic baseball movie Major League.

The owner’s only dream is to move the team and has put together a subpar group of players to make it happen. Yet, just like in the movie, this team in Oakland is currently playing above their heads.

Now, it isn’t like the A’s are going to shock the world. But despite owner John Fisher’s commitment to not spend money on the team, they are currently 8-11 on the season and have won six of their last 10.

One of the interesting things about the Athletics’ start to the season is that they are 4-2 on the road. Winning games outside of Oakland will serve them well in the future. The team will be stopping over in Sacramento for at least three years before eventually reaching its official next destination – Las Vegas.

Los Angeles Angels

“That’s the way baseball go.” Those are the profound words of new Angels’ manager Ron Washington. It’s been over a decade since he first uttered the phrase, but he could use those words to describe his team’s 2024 campaign thus far.

When a team loses the greatest player on the planet in free agency, that team isn’t supposed to get better. Yet so far, that is exactly what has happened.

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Many people had already written off Mike Trout due to his numerous injuries over the last three years. Well, Trout is back, and with vengeance. He is currently tied for the MLB lead in home runs with eight and ranks eighth with a 1.053 OPS.

The Angels beat the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday to reclaim a .500 record on the season. Even with a 9-9 record, they find themselves only half a game back of the Rangers for first place in the AL West.

This likely will not last, but the longer the other teams in the division keep scuffling, the better chance the Angels have of staying in the race throughout the season.

Seattle Mariners

Not much has been going well for the Seattle Mariners in 2024.

Superstar center fielder Julio Rodríguez is off to an atrocious start. Through the team’s first 19 games, Rodríguez is slashing a putrid .219/.269/.260. He hit two doubles on Wednesday, which is one more extra-base hit than he had in his first 18 games combined.

This slump isn’t going to continue for the two-time Silver Slugger Award winner. But there is reason to worry about the rest of the Mariners’ offense.

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Only four teams have scored fewer runs than Seattle’s 66 this season. Mitch Haniger is raking, but he can’t carry the team alone.

But who am I kidding? This Mariners team is structured around top-tier pitching. In fact, the M’s had one of the top rotations in the game coming into 2024. For this team to succeed, the pitching staff needs to lead the way.

And yet, even the rotation is struggling. Mariners starters have a 4.50 ERA through 19 games. Last year, they had a 3.89 ERA on the season, fourth-best in MLB.

Texas Rangers

The Rangers have started their quest to repeat as World Series champions in mediocre fashion. After a hot 6-2 start to the season, Texas is 4-6 over its last ten contests. Yet, the Rangers still find themselves in first place in the AL West.

Injuries have plagued the Rangers from the outset. Both of their starting corner infielders, third baseman Josh Jung and first baseman Nathaniel Lowe, have missed significant time.

For a team that smashed the baseball all of last season, the offense has been a bit lackluster. They have had a few scoring outbursts but have been held in check more often than not. If the Rangers are going to pick up the pace, the offense will need to carry the load.

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Pitching-wise, it has been like playing musical chairs. Max Scherzer, Tyler Mahle, and Jacob deGrom opened the season on the IL, and more injuries have popped up since. It is all hands on deck within the organization.

Although Michael Lorenzen has now slid into the rotation, the team is still short on arms. In fact, Jack Leiter will be called up to make his first MLB start on Thursday. This comes after Cody Bradford hit the IL with a back injury. The Rangers are facing a tough stretch of games with very few off days. Because of that, Leiter will get the spot start on Thursday. After that, the team will determine how to use him further.

Houston Astros

While the Rangers have suffered substantial injuries to both their position players and pitchers, the Houston Astros lead the league in rotation injuries.

They could fill an entire rotation with their injured starters, and it would be the envy of nearly every team. Justin Verlander, Framber Valdez, Luis Garcia, Lance McCullers Jr., and Jose Urquidy are all currently out.

Verlander will be back on Friday. That should be a huge boost to a team that has had to throw anybody and everyone. Valdez is hoping to return soon after his minimum 15 days on the IL are up.

To say that the dynasty is over this early in the season would be foolish. Houston still has a great offense, and as the starters come back and get healthy, this is a team that should not be counted out.

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The only hole so far in the lineup is veteran first baseman José Abreu. In 57 plate appearances, he is hitting – or should I say not hitting – .078/.158/.098. The 37-year-old veteran is clearly pressing, and who can blame him?

Down on the farm, Joey Loperfido just keeps hitting dingers. In his first 64 at-bats, he has 10 bombs and is slashing .297/.397/.797. Yes, the kid needs to strike out less, but my goodness, those numbers are silly.

Sitting at 6-14 to start the season, something has to give for the Astros. A jolt of energy from Loperfido and a healthy Verlander could be just what they need to right the ship.

The AL West Is Up for Grabs

An MLB team can’t win a division over the first three weeks of a season, but they can give themselves a robust buffer in the standings. With the average to below-average starts for all five teams, nobody is running away with the AL West.

If the teams in this division don’t turn things around, they run the risk of being a one-playoff-team group. In recent years, the AL Central has often been the division in which only one team makes the postseason. Could that happen to the AL West this year?

It is way too early to be thinking about Wild Card standings, but trends are trends. Until some teams set sail and start winning at a decent clip, the American League West will be a logjam of mediocrity.

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