Tag Archives: Season Preview

2016 Season Preview: Division Winners

Ah, Spring. There’s something special in the air this time of year. It’s that deceivingly warm April sunshine—pleasant for now, but you know better than to not pack a jacket. It’s the freshly-mowed grass that just smells like hope. Hope for a new baseball season, a fresh start, and for the 29 teams that aren’t defending World Series champions, hope that maybe, just maybe, this could be the year.

But the most beautiful thing about this time of year are the picks. It’s preseason prediction week, and this is when the claws come out. Everyone’s got an opinion about which teams will over- or under-perform this year, and thanks to the wonder of the internet, we get to read every last one of them.

As you read about the teams which I expect to excel in 2016, please note that my picks are probably wrong—just like yours, as well as the rest of the predictions out there. Let’s face it: no one can ever predict this sport. An unexpected contender will emerge from obscurity and make the playoffs. Expected 100-win teams will plummet, and start eyeing next year’s early draft picks. The real beauty is in the unknown, and that’s why we watch.

National League Wildcard: Diamondbacks over Cardinals

The Diamondbacks are the tailgating drivers in the rearview mirrors of the usual NL West contenders—obnoxious, and closer than they appear.

A somewhat under-the-radar breakout season by A.J. Pollock last year should’ve removed any doubts about these guys being for real, as he and perennial MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt look to terrorize the league all the way to a playoff spot. New additions Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller give them a very formidable rotation—don’t be surprised if the D’backs hang around for a while this Postseason.

The Cardinals find a way every year. They’ll withstand the departures of Jason Heyward and John Lackey with the help of a new infusion of youth—Kolten Wong, Carlos Martínez and Randal Grichuk are now the core of this team, and will be for several years to come.

With the veteran guidance of Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright, count on the Redbirds to be around come October, but they’ll need some luck if they want to advance.

American League Wildcard: Rays over Royals

The Rays finished a distant fourth in the AL East last year, but in a division that is pretty much up for grabs, they have a good shot.

They’re built on the defensive wizardry of Kevin Kiermaier, and a very strong pitching staff whose 3.74 ERA ranked fourth in the AL last year. Keep an eye out for the long-awaited return of pitcher Matt Moore, and a potential breakout season for fellow lefty Drew “seriously, that’s all we got for David Price?” Smyly, who since joining the Rays in Mid-2014 has quietly posted a sub-1.00 WHIP in 114.1 innings.

The defending champion Royals will be tough to oust in the Postseason, but I’ll take Rays ace Chris Archer any day in a winner-take-all Wildcard match.

National League Division Series: Nationals over Diamondbacks

There’s no reason to think the Nationals, who were NL East favorites across the board a year ago, should be any less so in 2016.

When ace Max Scherzer is on his game, he’s the most unhittable pitcher in baseball. Anthony Rendon will be looking to bounce back from an injury-plagued 2015, and his .412 spring batting average is an indication that he’s planning on starting the new season strong.

New manager Dusty Baker is a proven winner in October, and he should be able to guide his new club to a first-round Postseason series victory.

National League Division Series: Giants over Cubs

The Giants’ mix of established veterans, boosted by the signing of free agent pitchers Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, will make them a very well-balanced team.

People know about Buster Posey, but the real MVP of this ball club might be Joe Panik. With only 42 strikeouts last season, his ability to put the ball in play is the key to the Giants’ offense.

The Cubs put the nation on notice last year that these kids are truly ready for the big stage, with an NLCS appearance that capped a very successful season. Despite the playoff run being cut short, that experience will only make them more of a force.

Expect Kris Bryant to build on his Rookie of the Year campaign, and for Jake Arrieta to silence the critics by showing that last year’s Cy Young season was no fluke.

The Giants are the favorites in this series, because the Cubs’ youth has been shown to be volatile in the Postseason. But a Bumgarner/Arrieta matchup in Game 1 will be one for the ages.

American League Division Series: Indians over Rays

The Indians finished 2015 just a game above .500, but that doesn’t tell the whole story: they ended the season on a 32-21 run, much of which was keyed by the performance of rookie shortstop Francisco Lindor, who was called up midseason. Now, with Lindor leading the charge, the Indians are one of the strongest teams in the league, both offensively and defensively. Jason Kipnis, who also started to find his groove in the middle of last season, will also be a major contributor, along with Michael Brantley, who will be on the Disabled List to start the season, but should return in early May.

On the pitching side, don’t count out Carlos Carrasco for Cy Young consideration, whose 10.6 K/9 last year ranked third in the American League.

This will be an excellent series if you like good defense, but the Indians are just a bit more of a well-rounded ball club.

American League Division Series: Rangers over Yankees

The Rangers won the AL West last year thanks in part to the midseason acquisition of Cole Hamels, who solidified the rotation, the main weak spot of the team. Now he’s back for another year, and Yu Darvish, who should still be considered one of the best strikeout pitchers in the game, will rejoin the rotation this summer.

If their offense, which was never a problem, can hold up, the Rangers will have a very formidable Postseason squad.

The Yankees squeezed a lot of value out of aging veterans last year, and you have to wonder how much they realistically have left.

But what they’re expected to lose from the old guys, they’ll make up for with young talent. 22-year-old Luis Severino will be one of the kids on whom the Yankees pin their playoff hopes. 27-year-old Michael Pineda should be hitting his prime years, and, one would hope, his full potential. And maybe, just maybe, a change of scenery is all Starlin Castro (still just 26!) needed to regain his All-Star form.

National League Championship Series: Giants over Nationals

The Giants get to face their old manager, and the Nats get to face their old center fielder. I foresee a well-fought series in a rematch of the 2014 NLDS, but the Giants have been here before, and will prevail.

American League Championship Series: Indians over Rangers

The Indians have the edge in terms of pitching and defense, which is what wins in October.

World Series: Indians over Giants

A rematch of the 1954 Series, which the Indians are probably still sore about losing?

Juan Uribe trying to win his third ring with as many different teams?

Carlos Santana playing the National Anthem AND playing in the game? (Okay, it’s two different guys, but still)

This series will have it all, and will probably go the full seven games. I’m giving it to the Indians, who deserve to see an end to that nagging championship drought.

My only question is whether they’ll bring back Coach Lou Brown for an on-field ceremony—or hell, even let him manage the series. It’s what the world needs.

Toronto Blue Jays 2015 Season Preview

This is one of a series of posts in which I will be breaking down every team in baseball. I am by no means a credible source—merely a casual fan who knows a little about baseball and would like to share my observations.

Today we look at the Blue Jays, a team striving for relevance, with hopes to erase their now 20-year-long postseason drought. With a couple new faces in town, there are reasons to believe this could be the year that happens.

Projected Lineup: SS Jose Reyes, 3B Josh Donaldson*, RF Jose Bautista, DH Edwin Encarnacion, C Russell Martin*, LF Michael Saunders*, 1B Justin Smoak*, 2B Devon Travis, CF Dalton Pompey

Projected Rotation: RHP R.A. Dickey, LHP Mark Buehrle, RHP Drew Hutchison, RHP Marcus Stroman, RHP Marco Estrada*

* new additions

Part of me really wants the Blue Jays to be good. If for nothing else, so Drake can have a cause in life.

You’ve got to respect the Toronto native’s loyalty, but it’s starting to get sad to see all his teams lose, with him standing idly by on the sidelines. Nothing would help Drake’s reputation more than a championship for the city of Toronto. But until that day happens, he’s stuck going to the club on Tuesdays to avoid the shame of being seen around town.

The Jays have a good chance this year. With a flurry of moves this winter, they’re fielding a much more complete-looking team than they did a season ago. And it wasn’t just about adding talent, either—the Jays added guys with playoff experience, which was paramount for the team with the longest current postseason drought in Major League Baseball. Simple logic, really—bring in guys who know how to win in October, and maybe you’ll win in October.

Russell Martin is the new catcher, after inking a five-year deal to come play for his hometown team. Martin is an on-base machine—his .402 on-base percentage ranked second in the National League last season. He’s a defensive force—his 37 runners caught stealing was tops in all of baseball. But what Martin really brings to the Jays is some much needed leadership. If the Jays surprise people this year and put together a playoff run, Martin will be leading the charge.

The Jays also have a couple of secret weapons at their disposal. They will be introducing a new youth movement in their quest for relevance this year, a trick which can be very effective that I like to call the “Knoblauch effect”.

Sometimes during the mid-season dog days, a team’s offense might start to drag. Then they’ll call up from the minors an MLB-ready kid to help jump-start the offense—a kid to whom no pitchers know how to pitch, and against whom no managers know how to defend. A secret weapon.

By the end of this season, we’ll see the Jays employing youngsters Devon Travis and Dalton Pompey at second base and center field, respectively. These call-ups, in addition to giving the offense a new look, will also serve to fill gaping holes at each of their respective positions. They won’t win Rookie of the Year honors, but Pompey is a big stolen base threat, and Travis brings a solid glove to the second base position.

A side note: Dalton Pompey’s walk-up song is not “Pompeii”, which is an absolute travesty.

As for the pitching, Marcus Stroman emerged as the ace of the staff with a breakout season last year, posting a 3.29 ERA in twenty starts. The sky will be the limit for Stroman this season, and he’ll be good, but he won’t be the reason these Jays remain in contention. No, that will be the stone-cold consistency of veterans R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle. Each averaged 6 1/3 innings per start in 2014. And while neither their stats or velocity jump off the charts, saving the bullpen and handing over the lead more often than not is how you win games.

Speaking of which—that bullpen has been the one area of neglect over the offseason. Brett Cecil is apparently the closer now, because there are no other options on staff. And it isn’t that he’s a bad choice, but with Cecil confined to the ninth inning, the Jays really limit their ability to use lefty pitchers for matchups earlier in the game. Besides Cecil, the only lefty projected to be in the ‘pen is Aaron Loup.

But they might have another secret weapon: 21-year old Daniel Norris, one of the team’s top pitching prospects, has been flying through the minors, and if he has a good spring, the team might deem him MLB-ready. He also happens to be a lefty. If he makes the big league club, the bullpen would be the ideal spot for him. And just like that, the team fixes its lefty problem.

Overall, the Blue Jays have a good mix of veterans and young talent. If they can stay healthy, a Wildcard berth is a very real possibility.

Projected Finish: 89-73, Second place in AL East, Wildcard berth

Detroit Tigers 2014 Season Preview

This is one of a series of posts in which I will be breaking down every team in baseball. I am by no means a credible source—merely a casual fan who knows a little about baseball and would like to share my observations.

Today we look at the Tigers, who are looking to improve their luck in the postseason, after three straight unsuccessful Octobers. There are high hopes that a healthy Miguel Cabrera can lead the charge this year, and bring that long-awaited championship to Detroit.

Projected Lineup: 2B Ian Kinsler, RF Torii Hunter, 1B Miguel Cabrera, DH Victor Martinez, CF Austin Jackson, C Alex Avila, 3B Nick Castellanos, LF Don Kelly, SS Andrew Romine

Many well-respected baseball blogs out there have the Tigers as a shoo-in to win the AL Central.

Then there’s my blog, where respect went out the window a long time ago.

The Tigers are far from a sure thing. Let me remind you that they only won the division by one game last year. They’ll be hard-pressed to repeat that performance after losing Prince Fielder, Jhonny Peralta, Omar Infante, Doug Fister and Joaquin Benoit. That’s a fifth of the team. That’s like asking Guns N’ Roses to play “Sweet Child O’ Mine” without Slash.

But it’s not all bad news. Just as Guns N’ Roses attempted to replace Slash with that Buckethead guy (who you can’t deny was pretty awesome for a while), the Tigers added some new guys too. Most notably, they brought Ian Kinsler over from the Rangers.

Kinsler has an important thing working for him: he’s angry. He recently went on record calling Texas GM Jon Daniels a “sleazeball” and basically a big poophead for trading away a franchise player who was an integral part of two pennant-winning squads. That anger will lead to a strong drive to outperform his former team, so look for Kinsler to push hard for a championship this year, something Texas never got to enjoy.

The Tigers also added Joe Nathan, who is now 39 years old, but seems to have plenty left in the tank: last year, his 1.39 ERA and 0.897 WHIP were among the best in baseball. And now he’s back in the AL Central, in the freezing cold of Detroit every night, conditions where he seems to thrive (If you’re curious, Nathan has a career 1.52 ERA at Comerica Park).

My main concern is the Tigers’ offense. With the departed Fielder no longer holding the lineup together, there is a sharp decline in production after the first four hitters. The five hole looks to be occupied by either Torii Hunter or Austin Jackson, neither of whom are viewed as especially intimidating power threats. And from there, it gets worse: Alex Avila put up career lows in nearly every offensive category last season, and then you’ve got rookie Nick Castellanos, a Rajai Davis/Don Kelly platoon, and fringe major leaguer Andrew Romine. Not quite Murderer’s Row.

With Victor Martinez and Max Scherzer each in contract years, the fuse is short for the Tigers as they are currently configured. We could easily see the Tigers’ front office making a big push around midseason, acquiring a few big names in an effort to help the cause. Because there’s no holding back this year in Detroit—after three straight years of postseason runs which were cut short, it’s championship or bust.

Projected Finish: 87-75, Second place in AL Central

Minnesota Twins 2014 Season Preview

This is one of a series of posts in which I will be breaking down every team in baseball. I am by no means a credible source—merely a casual fan who knows a little about baseball and would like to share my observations.

Today we look at the Twins, who have an intimidating group of prospects on their way, none of whom will be a factor this season. It’s the story of, “Yeah, we’re bad now, but just wait…”

Projected Lineup: CF Aaron Hicks, 2B Brian Dozier, 1B Joe Mauer, LF Josh Willingham, RF Oswaldo Arcia, 3B Trevor Plouffe, DH Jason Kubel, C Josmil Pinto, SS Pedro Florimon

In lieu of a traditional preview, here is a month-by-month breakdown of what to expect from the Twins this season. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t end well.


It quickly becomes apparent that Opening Day starter Ricky Nolasco is not an “ace”, which comes as a complete surprise to the Twins’ front office, who handed him the largest free agent contract in franchise history this winter. The team releases him, citing a breach of contract for masquerading as a good pitcher.

Meanwhile in Double-A New Britain, Byron Buxton hits .375 for the month.


The Twins pull off a rare five-game win streak, thanks to a few guys getting hot at the right time. Then a massive snowstorm hits Minnesota, canceling a week’s worth of games, and the team loses all momentum. They lose their next ten.

Meanwhile in Double-A New Britain, Byron Buxton falls into a horrible slump and hits just .350 for the month.


Joe Mauer, no longer on catchers’ legs, starts stealing bases. He swipes fifteen by midseason, surpassing his career high. Things are great until he celebrates one of his steals against the Yankees one night, and Brian McCann takes exception. Mauer, out of respect for the fellow catcher, apologizes and stops stealing immediately.

Meanwhile, Byron Buxton hits .400 and earns a promotion to Triple-A.


Chris Parmelee, left without a position to play after Mauer’s move to first base, asks the team for a trade. The Twins respond by trading Josh Willingham. Parmelee says, “That’s not what I meant”.

Meanwhile, Byron Buxton doesn’t miss a beat in Triple-A, hitting .350.


Aaron Hicks suffers an injury diving for a fly ball that he had no hope of catching. It’s the perfect scenario to call Buxton up to the big leagues, but the Twins don’t want to start his arbitration clock. Instead, they sign Tsuyoshi Nishioka’s cousin, an outfielder in the Nippon Professional Baseball league who promises to be just as good as Tsuyoshi.

Meanwhile, Byron Buxton steals 40 bases in the month of August.


The Twins finally call Byron Buxton up to the big leagues, but only to use him as a pinch-runner. They refuse to give him an at-bat because they “don’t want to give the rest of the league a good glimpse of our secret weapon”. Buxton still uses the opportunity to steal 20 more bases.

Oh—and it almost goes without saying, but the Twins miss the playoffs. Let’s get ’em next year!

Projected Finish: 67-95, Fifth place in AL Central

Kansas City Royals 2014 Season Preview

This is one of a series of posts in which I will be breaking down every team in baseball. I am by no means a credible source—merely a casual fan who knows a little about baseball and would like to share my observations.

Today we look at the Royals, a young team loaded with talent. Could this finally be the year they turn their fortunes around?

Projected Lineup: RF Norichika Aoki, 2B Omar Infante, 1B Eric Hosmer, DH Billy Butler, LF Alex Gordon, C Salvador Perez, 3B Mike Moustakas, CF Lorenzo Cain, SS Alcides Escobar

The Royals had a big offseason, even dipping their toes into the world of popular music. Lorde’s hit song “Royals” was inspired by her excitement at the team’s signing of Omar Infante. The lyric, “I’ve sever seen a diamond in the flesh” is a reference to the Royals’ World Series drought, and the hope that Infante could be the guy that finally gets them that elusive championship ring.

Ok, that might not be 100% true.

But the Royals did add some impressive pieces this winter, including Infante and new right fielder Nori Aoki.

The two veterans are welcome additions to a lineup full of ever-improving youngsters. Eric Hosmer leads the youth movement, continuing to develop more as a hitter each year, to the point where you can pretty much call him a superstar now and no one would argue. He really turned it on in the second half last season, hitting .323 after the All-Star Break. And it wasn’t just a few disconnected hot streaks—rather, he stayed very consistent: hitting .324 in July, .323 in August, and .324 in September.

The Royals also boast one of the best defenses in baseball, with three incumbent Gold Glove Award winners, including Hosmer, catcher Salvador Perez and left fielder Alex Gordon. Alcides Escobar also has been known to flash the leather once in a while, when he needs to remind Ned Yost to keep his bat in the lineup. Basically, the Royals’ defense is an array of vacuums that inhale fly balls (they even have a guy named Dyson—you can’t make this stuff up!), which will be a huge advantage in close games and critical situations.

It also helps to have a lights-out closer to shut the door. Greg Holland notched 47 saves last year with an ERA of 1.21. There may not be a more dominant closer in the game, and that’s taking into full consideration that guy in Atlanta. For the record, Holland was better than Craig Kimbrel—let me just say those words again, because I don’t get a chance to say them often—better than Craig Kimbrel last year in WHIP (.866 to Kimbrel’s .881) and strikeouts per nine innings (13.8 to Kimbrel’s 13.2).

One more guy to keep an eye on this year is rookie Yordano Ventura. He won a rotation spot out of camp after blowing everybody away this spring with a fastball that routinely clocks at 100 mph. How well he does this year will depend on the strength of his secondary pitches, but one thing’s for sure—he’ll be fun to watch.

These Royals have the talent to make a strong charge into the postseason, and the youth to keep getting better for years to come. And for those who doubt them—they don’t care. They’re driving Cadillacs in their dreams.

Projected Finish: 91-71, First place in AL Central

Oakland Athletics 2014 Season Preview

This is one of a series of posts in which I will be breaking down every team in baseball. I am by no means a credible source—merely a casual fan who knows a little about baseball and would like to share my observations.

Today we look at those scrappy Oakland A’s, who year after year continue to defy all logic and on-paper projections by completely exceeding everyone’s expectations. The A’s are why the championship isn’t won on paper; they are why we play the games.

Projected Lineup: CF Coco Crisp, 3B Josh Donaldson, SS Jed Lowrie, DH Brandon Moss, LF Yoenis Cespedes, RF Josh Reddick, C John Jaso, 2B Eric Sogard, 1B Daric Barton

The past 30 days have not been good for elbows, and Jarrod Parker’s right one in particular is causing problems for the A’s, having rendered one of the team’s best pitchers out of commission for the entire season.

To make up for the loss of Parker, the A’s are counting on a full season from the young Sonny Gray. Not only does Gray have amazing stuff, but he’s the perfect pitcher for the A’s because his name is the perpetual answer to “What’s the weather like in the Bay Area?”. This guy faced off against Justin Verlander in one of the more epic pitchers’ duels of the postseason, and is more than capable of handling the spotlight.

So before you write the A’s off this year, consider that they’ve won the AL West in each of the last two seasons. And the primary reason for that is depth. The A’s refuse to let the injury bug affect them, because they keep multiple starting options available at nearly every position. So just as Derek Norris would spell John Jaso, or Alberto Callaspo would step in if Eric Sogard’s newfound Twitter fame went to his head, Gray and the rest of the A’s young starters will easily make up for the loss of Parker.

Another guy providing depth this year for the A’s will be new outfielder Craig Gentry. A career .288/.376/.399 hitter against lefties, he’ll sub for Brandon Moss when the team is facing a southpaw, and provide an added speed threat as well.

Also under the radar this winter (as is everything the A’s do) was the team’s total revamp of the bullpen. A bit uncharacteristically, the A’s went out and paid top dollar for a closer, bringing in Jim Johnson from the Orioles to fill the vacancy left by Grant Balfour. I’m a big believer in Johnson, and though he may have slightly underperformed last year, stat guys will all tell you his inflated numbers were due to a high BABIP (.330) and high HR/FB rate (11.4%).

(I love that I always have the hypothetical “stat guys” to fall back on. It makes me feel like far less of a nerd for having looked up those stats myself.)

The A’s didn’t stop there with their bullpen revamp—they also added set-up man Luke Gregerson, lefty reliever Fernando Abad, and injured lefty specialist Eric O’Flaherty (so like the A’s to sign an injured pitcher), who is expected to return from Tommy John Surgery later in the year.

The point is, the A’s will be alright. Year after year, everybody keeps writing them off, but they keep winning. You all should know better by now. These guys can make it as far as they want to, provided they don’t have to face Justin Verlander in an elimination game.

Projected Finish: 89-73, 2nd place in AL West; Wildcard berth

Texas Rangers 2014 Season Preview

This is one of a series of posts in which I will be breaking down every team in baseball. I am by no means a credible source—merely a casual fan who knows a little about baseball and would like to share my observations.

Today we look at the Rangers, the perennial powerhouse team in the AL West. They say everything’s bigger in Texas—and that includes opposing pitchers’ earned run averages.

Projected Lineup: LF Shin-Soo Choo, SS Elvis Andrus, 1B Prince Fielder, 3B Adrian Beltre, RF Alex Rios, DH Mitch Moreland, 2B Jurickson ProfarC J.P. Arencibia, CF Leonys Martin

The Rangers have the best pitcher on the planet, and even though Yu Darvish only pitches every fifth day, he’ll take the team pretty far. The question is, will it be far enough?

The rest of the rotation is filled with question marks. Tanner Scheppers will be in the starting rotation for the first time this year, after a great 2013 in which he was lights-out in the setup role. But he has never pitched more than 80 innings in any professional season. It remains to be seen how Scheppers will handle the workload of a full season, but the Rangers don’t have many other options—Derek Holland is out until at least midseason with a knee injury, and Matt Harrison is dealing with some injuries of his own.

And speaking of the injury bug, the Rangers are also now faced with a quandary at second base, with Jurickson Profar now on the shelf for 2-3 months. With Ian Kinsler now in Detroit, they don’t really have a major league second baseman to speak of.

Ah—but wait! There’s a prospect on the horizon.

A guy who General Manager Jon Daniels picked up on a whim in the Rule 5 Draft, because he saw a certain level of discipline rare in players these days. That’s right, I’m talking about Russell Wilson, a middle infielder in the organization who is currently on the inactive list because of what he calls “other obligations”. But once he’s finished screwing around with those extracurricular activities, he’s a lock for the second base job.

And man, I’m excited. He’s the type of guy who just screams “champion”. You know?

Even if Wilson doesn’t show up, the Rangers have a great new-look offense which should carry the team. The Rangers’ addressed their need for left-handed bats, and added Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder to an already potent lineup. Choo is one of the best on-base threats in the game, and will be crucial to the Rangers’ success. But even more crucial will be the guy hitting between Choo and Fielder, Elvis Andrus. Andrus is a career .306 hitter with a runner on first and less than two outs—which, hitting behind Choo, is a situation he’ll be facing a lot.

What do you get when you add all that up? You get Fielder and Adrian Beltre hitting with a lot of ducks on the pond. Cha-ching.

My only real concern with the team is the questionable closer situation. Neftali Feliz is back in the fold after his recovery from Tommy John surgery, but he hasn’t pitched in a high-stakes situation in almost two years. Joakim Soria, likewise. No one has been further from the ninth inning than these two guys, outside of that family of four who leaves the ballpark in the sixth to beat the traffic.

So here’s a dark horse to win the closer role: Alexi Ogando. The Rangers have moved him to the bullpen, a decision which may have had something to do with his career numbers in relief: 7-1, 110 strikeouts in 113.1 innings, and a 2.46 ERA. And that’s not even counting his postseason numbers, which are even better.

The Rangers definitely have the pieces to contend in this stacked division. And if they’re really lucky—they’ll put together another unsuccessful championship run.

Projected Finish: 94-68, First place in AL West