AL West Mariners Astros Rangers A TCB illustration of the stars of the American League West

Since the mid-2010s, there’s been an expectation in the American League West division that the Houston Astros will win it. There’s a good reason that expectation exists the way it does. Since 2017, the Astros have won six division championships. The only years the team didn’t win the AL West during this stretch were in the shortened 2020 season. So, when you went the distance in the AL West, you knew you had to compete with Houston.

But in 2024, things are different. Much different. The usually dominant Astros have been anything but. Texas, last year’s World Series champions, has been strong again this season in their quest to repeat as champions. But the Rangers haven’t had the easiest journey through the season’s first quarter. A feisty bunch in Seattle has challenged them; the Mariners sit in first place through May 21.

There’s been a surprise in California, but much to their dismay, it’s not the Los Angeles Angels. The Angels lost Mike Trout for a chunk of this season, and unfortunately, that blow might be deft enough to take them out of it entirely.

The race is set to be hot all season long elsewhere. Here are five reasons you should follow the fascinating AL West Division.

An exciting staff in Seattle

Seattle has built an excellent pitching staff that’s been one of the best in the AL. Its starters’ ERA of 3.53 is sixth in the AL, trailing the Boston Red Sox, Kansas City Royals, Baltimore Orioles, and the New York Yankees. Luis Castillo has stood firm, Logan Gilbert has pitched very well, and Bryce Miller has been excellent.

George Kirby‘s peripherals indicate a good trend ahead, and his strikeout numbers have also been great. So long as the Mariners’ arms remain potent, they will stay in the thick of the AL West race.

The exciting offense in… Oakland?

The Oakland Athletics, yes, the Oakland A’s, have been a home-run-happy offense so far. The A’s have hit more home runs than everyone except the Orioles and the Yankees. They’ve hit a whopping 58 home runs thus far this season through May 20. We’re not sure how long this trend will continue, but the A’s have at least this excitement around them. They’re going through a tumultuous and, frankly, ridiculous situation involving their stadium. Fortunately, at least for someone out there, the A’s are swingin’ again.

Kyle Tucker’s prodigious run of home runs

Speaking of home runs, give it up for Kyle Tucker. The lefty-swinging outfielder has honed in on his power. The 27-year-old has two 30-home run seasons, but he might be seeking something more significant this year. He has 15 home runs this year, the second-most in the league. We’re only a quarter into the season, so a 50-homer season is in reach.

No Astro has ever hit 50 home runs in a season. Jeff Bagwell belted 47 home runs in the 2000 season, the franchise record. So Tucker will be chasing history this season at this rate.

Can the Rangers win their first division title in nearly a decade?

While Texas won the World Series last year, the Rangers didn’t win the division. They haven’t won the AL West since 2016. Texas sits three games behind Seattle through May 21. With all the Rangers’ talent, it’s hard to imagine them not competing the rest of the way while they continue to set their pace. So, their chase for the AL West will be something to watch. It’s been nearly a decade since they’ve been able to claim the AL West, so we’ll see if that drought persists.

Can we count out the Astros?

I mean, can we? Houston is 22-27 and five games back of first-place Seattle. The Astros are 14-14 at Minute Maid Park and 8-13 on the road. They’ve allowed 236 runs, the third-most in the division, and own a -7 run differential. This hasn’t been a great team. Houston could turn it around, but that’s a steep hill.

It’s a veteran club with plenty of players who’ve made deep, deep runs into October. So, the Astros’ mettle will be tested like no other this season, which makes them a bit more fascinating to watch.

About Chris Novak

Chris Novak has been talking and writing about sports ever since he can remember. Previously, Novak wrote for and managed sites in the SB Nation network for nearly a decade from 2013-2022