Part five of our annual preview series. This year, we present for each team a 60-word-or-so takeaway from 2020, a 162-word-or-so preview for the 2021 season, a win prediction, and a song to represent the team. For more, visit our season preview index.

Standings by win total prediction

HOU91-71
OAK89-73
LAA81-81
SEA78-84
TEX71-91

Houston Astros

By Ben Carter

60-word Takeaway from 2020

Boo! Boooo! The Astros entered 2020 as the pantomime villain after trash-can gate and for a while seemed to be getting their comeuppance. Injuries and underperformance meant they stuttered to a 29-31 regular season record. But the postseason Astros proved both durable and effective, with a bevy of talented pitchers carrying them to a fourth consecutive Championship Series.

162-word 2021 Season Preview

End of an era? It’s tempting to look at the impending departures of Carlos Correa, Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke and Lance McCullers Jr.and conclude that 2021 represents some Last Dance-esque re-run for one of the American League’s most dominant teams.

On the pitching side certainly there must be some concerns. The Spring Training injury to Framber Valdez was enough to spook GM James Click into the signing of Jake Odorizzi and plenty rests on the shoulders of Greinke to lead what looks likely to be an inexperienced staff once again.

But the Astros continue to field a relentlessly talented roster, stacked with MVP candidates from Alex Bregman to Yordan Alvarez and overflowing with talented young pitchers like Cristian Javier and Luis Garcia.

I wanted so badly to hate this team after trash-can gate but all I ended 2020 with was a begrudging admiration for how good they continue to be. I don’t expect that to change much in 2021.

Win prediction: 91-71

Song to Represent the Team: Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd


Los Angeles Angels

By Brandon Lee

60-word Takeaway from 2020

Coming back from a year off pitching, many were imagining how impactful a 1-WAR week from Shohei Ohtani could be even once over the course of a 60 game season…but alas, 2021 wasn’t kind to the Angels, and was especially cruel to Shohei Ohtani. Despite adding Anthony Rendon, not even expanded playoffs could get the Angels back to October.

162-word 2021 Season Preview

No team is closer to .500 all time (right now, anyway) than the Los Angeles Angels: at 4,735 – 4,753 before Opening Day, they could get to exactly .500 with a 90-72 record this season. In recent history the Angels have been in the neighborhood of .500 for long stretches, and despite a pandemic-shortened season with expanded playoffs they ended 2020 further away from .500 than when they started the season.

Baseball Prospectus says that they would need to reach their 70th percentile outcome in order to win exactly 90 games, which is not impossible but would require the starting rotation to hold it together in a way that hasn’t happened in the decade (!) since Mike Trout’s debut. Newly acquired pitchers in 2021 bring similar “maybe if…” hopes that the Halos have relied on for years, making 90 wins feel like a smidge out of reach. But with Trout, Shohei Ohtani, and Anthony Rendon, this team will at least be watchable. 

Win prediction: 81-81

Song to Represent the Team: Everything Is Average Nowadays by The Kaiser Chiefs


Oakland Athletics

By Nathan White

60-word Takeaway from 2020

Oakland once again moneyed its ball, which won’t change until something something new stadium. If they have a chance, they’ll try within their means. In 2020 that meant adding smart deadline pickups Mike Minor and Tommy La Stella on the way to the second-best AL record (36-24) and division title but losing the ALDS 3-1 to wildcard limp-in Houston (29-31).

162-word 2021 Season Preview

The A’s kept payroll comfortably in the bottom third by not bringing back six free agents (headlined by Liam Hendriks and Marcus Semien) who got a combined $122.5M on the open market. They did bring in Sergio Romo, Trevor Rosenthal and Mitch Moreland on one-year deals, and traded for Elvis Andrus, owed less over two years than the $18M Semien got for one from Toronto.

Last season’s innings leader Chris Bassitt probably isn’t 2.29ERA/3.59FIP/1.16WHIP good, but you don’t have to squint too hard to see an exciting rotation: A healthy Sean Manaea, with a step from Jesus Luzardo, and A.J. Puk waiting in the wings. And, yes, Spring Training stats are meaningless BUT Daulton Jefferies might be good too. Sean Murphy is emerging as a young star at catcher. Andrus can match or better Semien at short, Matt Olson should bounce back, the bullpen has been reasonably restocked, and they’ve shown if they’re in the mix they will add pieces. Money. Ball.

Win prediction: 89-73

Song to Represent the Team: C.R.E.A.M. by the Wu-Tang Clan


Seattle Mariners

By Simon Gutierrez

60-word Takeaway from 2020

In a year that saw baseball somehow prevail in the grip of a global pandemic, the 2020 Mariners quietly overachieved. Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projection system predicted the team of misfit toys would win just 22 games and finish dead last in the A.L. West.  They bested that total by five games and finished, quite surprisingly, in third place, buoyed by the unexpected emergence of post-hype prospect Kyle Lewis and steps forward by pitchers Marco Gonzales and Justus Sheffield.

162-word 2021 Season Preview

The biggest reasons to be excited about the 2021 Mariners won’t be in the Opening Day lineup, or even in the ballpark. Top prospect Jarred Kelenic spent Spring Training launching baseballs into the stratosphere, but figures to be yet another victim of blatant service time manipulation, delaying his inevitable ascendance to the Seattle outfield.  Kelenic boasts a .290/.366/.516 slash line in his minor league career, is a consensus top-5 MLB prospect, and looks to be not only major-league ready, but likely a fixture in the Mariners lineup for years to come.

Close behind him is fellow phenom Julio Rodriguez, who has likewise been blasting baseballs out of Spring Training ballparks, and starting pitcher Logan Gilbert, who has the frame and repertoire of a top-of-the-rotation starter.  In the meantime, new arrival Ty France and a resurrected Mitch Haniger will provide some additional pop in the Seattle lineup, with prodigal son James Paxton bolstering a decent starting rotation.

Win prediction: 78-84

Song to Represent the Team: The New OK by Drive-By Truckers


Texas Rangers

By Mike Carlucci

60-word Takeaway from 2020

What can you say about the Texas Rangers in 2020? What should have been an unveiling of a new stadium was instead a last-place finish in a season without fans. Except for a few playoff games held in their new home, that didn’t feature the Rangers. It’s just odd. Weird. It’s another strange fact that will come up in trivia contests for years to come. Which stadium was empty for its first game? The 2020 Rangers.

162-word 2021 Season Preview

The Rangers open a season without Elvis Andrus for the first time since 2008. Traded to the Oakland A’s and still just 32 somehow, his departure sunsets the Rangers that were in the World Series. The Rangers of Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, and Ian Kinsler. They’ve added Brock Holt! o/ for some fan favorite potential. They added one of the Lowe’s from Tampa Bay, Nate Lowe. And slugger Joey Gallo remains. As does mysterious and disappointing Rougned Odor. Isiah Kiner-Falefa takes over shortstop from the aforementioned Elvis and has big shoes to fill.

A new-look rotation has some familiar veteran names: Kyle Gibson, Mike Foltynewicz, and Jordan Lyles. But also an addition from Japan: Kohei Arihara, and the main return in the Lance Lynn trade, Dane Dunning.

Adding Khris Davis, the one from Oakland, to a lineup with Joey Gallo? That’s a lot of homers and strikeouts.

What does all of this do? It allows the Rangers to field a full team. How does it stack up against the Astros, Angels, and A’s? Probably 70 wins, give or take.

Win prediction: 70-92

Song to Represent the Team: Rock Star by Nickelback (for the Brock Star)

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