Sizing up the AL West
Examining the Bartolo Colon-less A's rotation, surging Mariners, falling Angels
1. What kind of impact does Bartolo Colon's 50-game suspension have on the AL West race?
Mark Saxon (@markasaxon), ESPN Los Angeles: Minimal. I don't think Oakland is good enough to catch Texas, anyway. It does, of course, have some impact on the wild-card race. But we're talking about Bartolo Colon. He was having a very good year, but it's not like he's Felix Hernandez or something.
Mark Simon (@msimonespn), ESPN Stats & Info: So long as A.J. Griffin comes back in two weeks, I think the impact is minimal. Griffin's return would set up Oakland's rotation for what will be a brutally tough September. Tyson Ross has to fill in for Colon for two starts, and though Ross' numbers are not good this season, he's allowed two runs in 10 2/3 innings in his last two Triple-A starts.
Hudson Belinsky (@hudsonbelinsky), Halos Daily: Colon's suspension might have a positive impact on the A's playoff chances. While Ross will slide into the rotation right now, rookie Dan Straily figures to get another shot at the big leagues before the end of the season. Most of the teams on Oakland's schedule have not yet seen the right-hander, who impressed scouts in his ascent to the majors earlier this season. In general, Oakland has a deep staff and might have been the only team in baseball that could weather such a big blow.
2. Should the rest of the division be worried about facing the suddenly awesome Mariners?
Saxon: A little bit. The Angels, for example, play Seattle nine more times. If the Mariners keep this resurgence going, it's going to be bad news for Mike Scioscia and his team. I'm sure they would much prefer Seattle to be in give-up mode.
Simon: Sure. Seattle is a respectable 17-19 against the Athletics, Angels and Rangers and is particularly dangerous against those teams at home. You never know how an average team will respond at the end of a season, but the Mariners look like one taking the season's end seriously. I may be off on this, but this strikes me as interesting: If the Mariners pitch Hernandez every fifth day the rest of the season (there's one situation where the fifth day is an off day and they'd pitch him the next day), he could face the Angels three times and the Rangers twice but miss the Athletics in both remaining series against them.
Belinsky: Sort of. The M's have a strong pitching staff that's capable of putting the offense into winnable situations. However, Seattle is 9-12 against teams with better records since the All-Star break and 16-1 against clubs with worse records. The team is definitely good enough to give the Rangers, A's and Angels trouble, but I wouldn't expect the M's to make a run into the postseason because of where they stand and the strength of their schedule going forward.
3. Who's the biggest X factor in this division down the stretch?
Saxon: I'll go with Ervin Santana. But for the Angels to have any prayer of getting a wild-card spot, they'll need a total turnaround from their staff. Santana has pitched well in his last four starts, and it comes at a good time because the other four guys have struggled. The Angels have already lost the division, in my opinion. And if they don't reach the playoffs, they're going to be viewed as the league's biggest underachievers.
Simon: Zack Greinke. I remember when that trade was made, I predicted Greinke would close the season with a 10-2 record. After his first start for the Angels, I felt confident I'd be right. But these last four are head-scratchers. You'd think that 22 percent fly ball/home run rate would revert to something more normal for Greinke, wouldn't you?
Belinsky: Stephen Drew wouldn't be a bad bet. It's unlikely that the Rangers lose this division, but Drew has been a dynamic player in the past and has what it takes to bring some more life to Oakland's offense. He could be much better than the A's alternatives and provide a statistical boost in addition to the "we're going for it" boost that some players may feel as they sneak through the dog days of August.