2013 Preview: The American League West

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For the past few days we’ve been previewing the 2013 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the American League West.

For the second straight year the Los Angeles Angels have signed the biggest slugger on the free agent market. This time, however, we feel like it’s going to finally work.  Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, and Mark Trumbo form a potent core. Jered Weaver is an ace. There may be some issues with the rest of the pitching staff, but we’re liking the Angels’ chances.

Not to sell the Rangers short. They’re sort of retrenching this year, transitioning off of Josh Hamilton and preparing to integrate youngsters Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt into the lineup either late this year or as 2014 kicks off, but they’re still an insanely talented team that, for whatever reason, people always want to sleep on until, once again, they’re in the playoffs.

How did the A’s do it last year? We have no idea. But they’re trying to do it again this year and, as always, the proceedings will be an exercise in plate-spinning, smoke, mirrors and unexpectedly good performances from guys everyone else gave up on at some point.

The Mariners are on the right track, but still a work in progress.

American League newcomers the Houston Astros will pop champagne corks if they don’t lose 100 games. And given how thoroughly they’ve torn down in order to rebuild, it will be an accomplishment worth celebrating if it does indeed come to pass.

Below are our team-by-team previews of the AL West, followed by our HBT Extra feature on the division. Enjoy!

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Aaron Judge set a new postseason strikeout record

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For a few days, it looked like Aaron Judge was finally hitting his stride in the postseason. He was still striking out at a regular clip, piling more and more strikeouts atop the 16 he racked up in the Division Series, but he was mashing, too. He engineered a three-run homer during Game 3 of the Championship Series, followed by another blast and game-tying double in Game 4. His one-out double helped pad a five-run lead in Game 5, while his 425-footer off of Brad Peacock barely made a dent during a 7-1 loss in Game 6. And then Lance McCullers‘ curveball found and fooled him, as it did five of the 14 batters it met in Game 7:

The strikeout was Judge’s first of the evening and 27th since the start of the playoffs. No other major league batter has racked up that many strikeouts in a single postseason, though Alfonso Soriano’s 26-strikeout record in 2003 comes the closest. Within that record, Judge also collected three golden sombreros (four strikeouts in a single game), narrowly avoiding the dreaded platinum sombrero (five strikeouts in a single game).

It’s an unfortunate footnote to a spectacular year for the rookie outfielder, who decimated the competition with 52 home runs and 8.2 fWAR during the regular season and was a pivotal part of the Yankees’ playoff run. Thankfully, the image of McCullers’ curveball darting just under Judge’s bat won’t be the image that sticks with us for years to come. Instead, it’ll look something like this: