Pitching vs. Hitting: Who is the AL West Favorite - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
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Pitching vs. Hitting: Who is the AL West Favorite



    Now that we know who will be taking the ball to start and finish games for the Rangers this season, we can turn our attention to other questions.

    With a week to go until the start of real baseball, there's no bigger question than whether or not the Rangers will make it two straight AL West division titles. As of right now, the biggest stumbling block to that quest is in Oakland.

    The Mariners need a lot of help before they are going to be in position to challenge for a playoff spot again while the Angels seem to be at least one big bat short of a lineup that can score enough runs to hang in the race. That's sort of where the A's were at this time last year, something they remedied by nabbing the Angels' designated hitter from 2010.

    Hideki Matsui isn't the only new name in the A's lineup -- Josh Willingham and David DeJesus are also now in Oakland -- but he's the biggest sign of the team's focus on putting up more runs. If Matsui can anchor the heart of the order with the same kind of consistent production he's provided the Yankees and Angels over the last two years, the A's will score more runs than they did last season.

    If they also get a healthy Coco Crisp and a comeback season from Kurt Suzuki, the difference in scoring could be significant. That's a lot of ifs, but they come on the back of a team that has the pitching staff and defense to be a winning team even without premier offensive output.

    That brings us back to the Rangers. Even with Oakland's additions, the Rangers are clearly still a superior offensive team to the A's. They are also strong defensively and strong in relief, but their rotation falls short of Oakland's right now. If pitchers like Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill take steps forward, a sizable gap will grow even more immense.

    Ordinarily you would like the team with the better pitching over the long haul. The question that needs to be answered is how much better Oakland's offense is going to be this season. A serious uptick would really turn up the heat on the Rangers pitching staff, but any downturn from the Rangers pitchers would make it much easier for the A's to close the gap.

    Either way, the bounces of the ball could force them to make another move on the level with the Cliff Lee deal, only this time it would be calibrated to get to the playoffs instead of helping the team advance once they get there.