I have to do it, everyone else is. I have to give my valued opinion concerning the outcome of the Major League Baseball season. For whatever reason, it is important for every single baseball writer, analyst, and former player to announce to the world who they think is going to be on top of each division in six months (then in July, we will revisit each pick and change our minds). I tend to think that some of the writers for a certain network (read: ESPN) make outrageous picks just so the other people on said network (once again, read: ESPN) will have something to talk/write about. Which usually fills at least a few weeks of dead time between the start of spring training and the beginning of the season in April. Unlike said writers, I am actually going to put some thought, and (analysis) into my predictions.
Lets start with the American league, which we all realize is where the majority of the real Major League Teams are. (last seasons records in parentheses)
1. Boston Redsox (96-66)
I realize this is a bit of a Homer pick, as I moonlight as a Redsox fan. I do however think that this team will match, or at least come very close to matching last years record.
The Rotation has had a shaky start to the season. Curt Schilling is going to be on the DL for what looks like an extended period of time. Josh Beckett is going to start the season on the DL, but I expect another Cy Young caliber season. I fully expect Daisuke Matsuzaka to live up to the hype, with a year of experience under his belt. I think Jon Lester is going to be suprisingly good (prior to being diagnosed with Lymphoma, he was more hightly regarded than Yankees savior Phil Hughes). Wakefield is getting old, but it hasnt seemed to effect his performance so much as his health. Clay Bucholz is as talented as any young pitcher in the league. Kyle Snyder is terrible, and Julian Tavarez is Julian Tavarez.
The Sox have one of the most balanced lineups in the league. The top five of Pedroia, Youkilis, Ortiz, Manny, and Lowell are as good as any. I expect Manny to have an MVP type season if he is able to say healthy. He looks great (although he sort of looks like the Predator).
The Bullpen is deep and talented. It doesnt get any better than Riverdancer Jon Papelbon.
2. Toronto Blue Jays (83-79)
That’s right, I said Toronto Blue Jays, not New York Yankees. The question for the Jays, as it is for everyone, is can they pitch enough. I think they can. I expect Roy Halladay to return to his Cy Young production. If A.J. Burnett can stay healthy (I feel like I have said that before), he is as talented as anyone (The Jen and I watched him pitch in person last year, very fun). I think Dustin McGowan, and Shaun Marcum are going to each win 15.
The lineup is centered around ultra-talented RF Alex Rios (one of Terry’s favorites). If Vernon Wells can return to the type of production he displayed two seasons ago (.303 36 102), this team is going to be interesting to watch.
Another big “if”, B.J. Ryan’s health may ultimately decide how deep the Jays Pen is. Comming back from Tommy Johns, (and on Terry’s fantasy team), Ryan’s health is very important to the success of this team.
3. New York Yankees (94-68)
I declared this team dead last July, only to watch dumbfounded, as they roared back to win the wild card. So I hate to write them off again this year, only to look like an idiot. I understand the concept behind Brian Cashman’s strategy of winning with young pitching. I just dont see it paying off this year. I am still unsure how this team won as many games as it did last year. (I still have visions of 15-year-old Tyler Clippard shutting down the Mets in interleague last year). Andy Pettite’s Elbow, sans-HGH is a huge problem. Wang continues to win way too many games with smoke and mirrors (one of the lowest K/9 innings pitched in the league).
I continue to be throughly underwellemed by Phil Hughes, and Ian Kenndedy looks like a AAAA pitcher to me. I suppose they can always count on Kei Igawa (Recently voted ugliest man in the league) to give you a solid 3 innings of 8 run ball.
The lineup is as good as it ever is. There is some question about first base if Giambi is the DH. It is hard to see Posada repeating last years production (.338 BA, career .277, maybe spending a little time haning out with Roger and Andy?). And I continue to struggle to see what everyone is so enamoured about with Melky Cabrera. He peforms at Major League average, nothing more, and plays good defense. Carlos Beltran he is not (Jacboy Ellsbury he is not).
The Bullpen beyond Mariano (who has to get old at some point, unless again, he is spending a little time with Roger and Andy), and Joba the Mutt is a bit of a question mark. Who knows about LaTroy Hawkins and Kyle Farnsworth.
I just dont see this team making the playoffs this year.
4. Tampa Bay Rays (66-96)
Perennial cellar dwellars no more. Just the kind of team that I love to cheer for. Young guys, playing very hard, very aggressive on the bases. Through good drafting and savvy trades (thank you Jim Duquette), the Rays finally have the makings of a decent rotation. Scott Kazmir’s health is a concern, as it always is. James Shields (again, on Terry’s fantasy team) looks to be the goods. Matt Garza (whom Terry has also seen pitch live) is very good, and what’s better, he knows it. The farm system is loaded with young talented pitchers, that will only help the Rays in the future.
Carl Crawford is among the best kept secrets in the league. Jonny Gomes swings very hard, and when he makes contact the ball goes very far (and the dude can fight, just ask Shelly Duncan). Carlos Pena will be hard pressed to repeat last years out-of-this-world numbers, but if he even comes close they Rays should score some runs.
The achilles heal of this team continues to be the bullpen. Troy Percival, Dan Wheeler, and Al Reyes give this team three veterans, beyond that it is a crap shoot. This team is definately improving.
5. Baltimore Orioles (66-96)
The Orioles are clearly in the stages of rebuilding (especially if trades for Brian Roberts and Melvin Mora go down). Tight fisted Ebenezer Scroodge wanna be owner Peter Angelos finally allowed team President Andy McPhail to unload some of the teams talent this offseason (somehow he managed to trade Miguel Tejada the day before his name showed up in the Mitchell Report). In return the Orioles received a ton of young talent. None more talented that OF Adam Jones whom the Orioles received from Seattle in the Erik Bedard trade. The rotation looks to be shaky. Human rain delay Steve Trachsel seems to have found his way into a spot, so at least you know the games will be at least 4 hours every fifth day.
The lineup has some very talented young players. Nick Markakis is one of the better young outfielders in the game.
The bullpen is full of questions marks, starting with expected closer George Sherrill, who also game over in the Bedard trade.
The Orioles will struggle this year, but look to be building something promising for the future.
1. Clevland Indians (96-66)
I understand that Detroit is the “in” pick this spring. I can see why people would look at that lineup and see them being hard to beat in the Central. I however continue to think that Pitching is the most important thing. The Indians have pleanty of it. Last year’s Cy Young winner C.C. Sabathia looks great again this spring. Fausto Carmona is only getting better (which is hard to believe as Terry and The Jen were there in Boston two years ago during his failed attempt at being the closer of the future).
This team scores a lot of runs. Grady Sizemore (once again, on Terry’s fantasy team) and Travis Hafner had very “down” years last year, Look for both of them to bounce back. Victor Martinez is going to get more ABs as a firstbasemen and DH. Franklin Gutierrez has flashed potential and Garky (Ryan Garko, see Terry’s fantasy team) are both strong performers.
The Bullpen is the real difference maker for this team in their division. Jo Bo (Joe Borowski) is a blown save waiting to happen, but the rest of the pen is very strong, headed by a pair of Rafael’s (Bentancourt and Perez).
Detroit Tigers (88-74)
As mentioned above, the Tigers are the hot pick in the central, and to represent the AL in the World Series. I think the Tigers will make the Playoffs, but as the wild card.
I dont like the rotation. Verlander is one of the better pitchers in the league, and Bonderman is better than average (and on my fantasy team). Kenny Rogers, Dontrelle Willis, and Nate Robertson are all question marks to me. I supect that Willis is not going to have a good year. He posted a 5.17 ERA last year in a HUGE park in Miami. I see him getting killed this year in the tough Central.
The Lineup is by far the strength of this team. When Granderson is healthy some combination of Granderson-Polanco-Cabrera-Ordonez-Sheffield-Guillen-Rodriguez-Rentareia-Jones and Inge are going to score a million runs (that was Hyperbole).
The Bullpen is the weakness of this team. Todd Jones continues to smoke and mirrors his way into the closers role, but with Joel Zumaya (and his 103 MPH fastball), and Fernando Rodney hurt, there are not a ton of options.
This team is talented, no doubt, but head and shoulders the best team in the AL it is not.
3. Minnesota Twins (79-83)
The loss of Johan Santana is going to hurt this team, there is no way around that fact. The Twins are not however in full-on, Orioles-rebuilding mode.
The rotation has in odd mix of young and old and young and injured. Livan Hernandez will eat 200+ innings (and everything else in sight), but will post a 5.00+ era while doing it. Kevin Slowey, Scott Baker, and Boof (who changed his name to Boof) Bonser are all young and talented. Francisco Liriano is as talented as any left handed pitcher in the league, the question as it so often seems to be with these young pitchers is, can he stay healthy?
The Twins trot out a very talented young lineup. J. Mo, and J. Mau (Morneau and Mauer, I came up with the nicknames like three years ago when they both way underperformed), are two of the best in the game. Delmon Young (traded from Tampa for Matt Garza and others) brings his talent, and his headcasey-ness, Michael Cuddyer is steady, Jason Kubel is always hurt, Brendan Harris is an upgrade offensively, and former Met prospect Carlos Gomez is a bit of an unknown quantity.
The Bullpen is a real strength for this team. Joe Nathan (and his sporty new contract) is one of the leagues most reliable closers, Pat Neshek is awesome (as is his website) Jesse Crain, Dennys Reyes, Juan Rincon and Matt Guirrer round out a strong pen.
If the stars allign for this team (read: Liriano’s elbow, Nathan remains a Twin), the Twins might sneak up and be a factor in August and September.
Kansas City Royals (69-93)
This is a very intriguing team. The Royals have followed a similar path to the Rays. Good young players that are slowly starting to produce at the Major league level.
The Gil Meche signing was laughed at last offseason, now it looks like a bargain. Brian Bannister (another former Met, great move Omar) was in contention for Rookie of the Year in the AL, and if Zach Grinke can keep his head on his shoulders, the rotation is not “terrible”
The Royals lineup is going to be a fun one to watch. David DeJesus is fairly productive. I expect Alex Gordon to have a monster bounce back year. 21 year old Billy Butler looks legit. And Mark Teahan can hit.
The Bullpen is going to be a problem. Joakim Soria won the closers job last season and should be solid, beyond that the Royals have some questions to answer.
This team is on the rise, but will not challenge for the divison or the wild card this season.
Chicago White Sox (72-90)
The Sox are going to struggle this year. Trading away pitching (Jon Garland for Orlando Cabera) seems a bit odd.
Mark Buehrle heads a staff that consists of Javier Vazquez, John Danks, 88 year-old Jose Contreras, and Gavin Floyd. The Sox will win some games, but .500 is going to hard to reach.
The lineup looks potent on paper. Jim Thome’s health is always a question. Which Jermaine Dye are the Sox going to get(2006: .315 44hr 120rbi, 2007: .254 28 78)? Konerko is a year older. Pierzynski is bound to get on everybody’s nerves at some point (ask the Twins and the Giants). The additions of Carlos Quentin and Nick Swisher (who Terry and The Jen have been within a stones throw of) should help the offense.
The Bullpen beyond Big and Tall poster boy Bobby Jenks is a huge question mark. Octavio Dotel if healthy (is there an echo) is effective.
The Sox look like an odd assortment of old and young, as if Kenny Williams could not decide if this time was going to be good or bad.
1. Oakland A’s (76-86)
Thats Right, I said Oakland A’s. The “White Elephant” of the AL West. Billy Beane traded away some very talented Major League players this offseason, and appears to have gotten back many very talented young players. This team would be better this year with Nick Swisher and Dan Haren. There is no doubt about that. I just never sleep on Oakland.
The rotation is not flashy. A major reason for the A’s being picked #1 here is Rich Harden. Always a health concern, “if” he can stay healthy, he is as talented as any right handed pitcher in the AL. He displayed that talent the other morning against a Redsox lineup that I have already heralded as the best in the AL (9 k’s in 6 innings). If Harden can stay healthy, and Joe Blanton can perform at a level at or near his career averages, I believe the A’s can pull out the division.
The lineup is a fun mix of young players and veteran performers. Travis Buck is fun to watch if nothing else. Bobby Crosby has not changed bodies with someone in the last three years, so somewhere in there is the guy who won Rookie of the Year. Mike Sweeney fits nicely as DH. Deric Barton looks to be the goods. Jack Cust is a statistical annomoly, as the first player in Major League history to have the highest K’s Per 9, and BB per 9. He either strikes out, walks or hits a home run (like Maahk Bellhorn in his Redsox days). Kurt Suzuki is quickly becoming one of Terry’s favorites. And Jack Hannahan has an aweome name, and awesome hair (Sorry Eric Chavez).
The Bullpen should be strong. Once again, If Huston Street can stay healthy, and do better against Righties, the A’s pen should be fairly strong. (I have an awesome story about the time I threw a ball at Huston Street’s head at the Roger’s Centre during an A’s/Jays game).
2. Seattle Mariners (88-74)
Seattle is a good team. They improved themselves this offseason and look to be at or near the top of the division at seasons end.
The top two in the rotation look to be about as good as anyone. Felix Hernandez is growing into the Ace he was talked about being two years ago. The trade for Eric Badard helps this team win now. The rotation behind these two leaves a lot to be desired. Jared Washburn is average, Miguel Batista is old, and Carlos Silva is overpaid.
Ichiro and Raul Ibanez are the best offensive players on this team. Adrian Beltre still struggles to show the kind of production he displayed (in his contract year, and suspected steriod enhanced year) in L.A. Richie Sexon continues to be a headache for Mariners fans. Jose Vidro is old. Kenji Johjima is a good offensive catcher.
J.J. Putz is among the best closers in the game. Beyond him, the bullpen an unknown.
3. L.A. Angels of Anahiem, Orange County California, USA, North America, Western Hemisphere, The World, The Solar System, The Galaxy, The Universe, All of Existence. (94-68)
This team looked very different two weeks ago. Injuries to the top two starters have put the Angel’s season in question. Kelvim Escobar, the Angel’s number two starter may miss a very significant amount of time. And team’s Ace John Lackey will start the year on the DL. The Angels do boast a very deep rotation, not however an overwhelmingly good one after the top two. Jon Garland, Joe Saunders, Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana and others will be called upon to keep this team afloat while they work through the injuries.
The Lineup continues to be very potent. Chone Figgins, Howie Kendrick, Vlad, and Torii Hunter should be the best performers on this team. The Angels are one of the most aggressive teams in the AL on the basepaths. Casey Kotchman, if healthy (now it is just getting redundant) is very talented.
The Bullpen, specifically the closer Francisco Rodriguez is a real strength. Injuries and ineffectiveness have diminished Scott Shield’s value.
The Angels will be hard pressed to repeat last years easy division win.
4. Texas Rangers (75-87)
One of the few remaining teams in the league that have yet to come to terms with the fact that pitching wins, specifically when you play in a park the size of my daughter’s room.
Kevin Millwood and Vincente Padilla (and his drinking problem) are at the top of a very weak pitching staff. This team is going to give up a ton of runs.
The Ranger’s lineup is respectable. Ian Kinsler is very talented. Michael Young is quietly one of the best hitters in the game. Hank Blalock (when healthy) hits a ton. The addition of Josh Hamilton (Terry’s favorite story in all of baseball, and also on his fantasy team) from the Reds (who inexplicably traded him to Texas, who needs a five tool center fielder who could win the triple crown?) will benefit this offense.
C.J. Wilson (Terry’s fantasy team, although it doesn’t look like such a smart pickup) is expected to be the closer. Joaquin Benoit and Eddie Guardado both have closing experience.
This team continues to be less than mediocre.
NL predictions to come in the comming day/days