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The McCovey Chronicles Guide to Predicting Division Standings:

  1. Pick one underdog team in each league, and just assume everything will go right for them. This is your "surprise pick", and it's how I correctly tabbed the Brewers to win the NL Central last year.
  2. By predicting success for a team you actively dislike, you're just encouraging them. Leave the logic at home, professor.
  3. Pick one favorite in each league, and just assume everything will go wrong for them. This is your "other surprise pick", and it's how I correctly predicted the Yankees would barely clear .500 last year.
  4. The Braves will win their division. Don't be a cowboy. Just accept it.
With that, I'll start with the AL West
  1. Angels, 91-71
  2. A's, 90-72
  3. Mariners, 78-84
  4. Rangers, 77-85
Picking the A's seems like the conventional wisdom right now, and it's easy to see why. Allow me to explain myself in the format of a 5th-grader passing notes in class.

Do you like the A's pitching?

Yes X
No
Maybe so

Of course. A rotation of Zito/Harden/Haren/Loaiza/Blanton has a chance to be the best in baseball.

Do you like the A's hitting?

Yes
No
Maybe so X

Eric Chavez isn't going to have another slugging percentage under .500 until he's 36, and the lineup is filled with competent hitters. Not great, but competent.

Do you like the Angels pitching?

Yes
No
Maybe so X

Last year the Angels had a fluke season from Jarrod Washburn, and top-range performances from John Lackey, Bartolo Colon, and Paul Byrd. A lot had to go right for the rotation to perform as well as they did. Even with Ervin Santana improving and Jeff Weaver taking Washburn's place, the rotation won't be as productive.

Do you like the Angels hitting?

Yes
No
Maybe so X

Everything that applies to the A's offense applies here, as well. Nothing worth doing a jig over, but few guaranteed holes.

With the above in mind, it seems I should pick the A's. I'll go one better, too. I don't just like the A's pitching; I like them like them. From the ace to the mop-up man, that's a staff to be reckoned with.

What makes me pick the Angels, though, is their minor league system. There are going to be injuries to both clubs - Bobby Crosby is a concern for Oakland already - but the Angels will be able to force one of their young minor league beasts into action, and they'll be rewarded for it. One or two of Howie Kendrick, Kendry Morales, or Brandon Wood will do well in their initial turn in the majors, and that's ignoring the possible improvement from the not-yets like Dallas McPherson and Casey Kotchman. The A's, with the possible exception of Daric Barton, don't have that kind of depth in the event of emergency. For some unscientific reason, I think that's going to be the difference.

"Unscientific" being the key word. My predictions are often spectacularly wrong. I dropped $50 on South Africa to win the WBC, because I had a gut feeling that didn't pan out. Curse you, Jared Elario! Visit the McCovey Chronicles store for official McCovey Chronicles grains of salt. And shirts. Don't forget the shirts. Please buy a shirt.