Tuesday, April 07, 2009
American League West...
If it wasn't for the lowly A.L. Central this would be the worst division in baseball. The Angels, the defending champs, have gotten older. Tori Hunter and Vlad Guerrero are terrific, but not what they once were. They added subpar defensive outfielder, Bobby Abreu, a steady hitter with limited power, definitely not the Manny they needed. They lost their closer Francisco Rodriguez. Lucky for them the rest of the division is atrocious. The A's brought back the aging Jason Giambi and are counting on numbers from the frequently injured Eric Chavez at 3rd base. Their starting rotation was decimated by trades last year. Newly acquired Matt Holiday's numbers will no longer have Coors Field inflation. The Texas Rangers are all offense, no pitching. Their ace Kevin Milwood, wouldn't be most teams number #4 starter. The Seattle Mariners, coming off a 100 loss season, have a new manager and a new G.M. They brought back Ken Griffey Jr. for nostalgia purposes, but he won't match the departed Raul Ibanez's offensive numbers.
Order of Finish
1. LA Angels (over 89.5 wins)
2. Oakland A's (under 81.5 wins)
3. Texas Rangers (under 73.5 wins)
4. Seattle Mariners (under 72.5 wins)
American League Central...
The Minnesota Twins always seem to find a way. Last year minus Johan Santana, minus Tori Hunter, minus Carlos Silva they battled through 162 games to force a one game playoff for the division crown. They still have Mauer and Morneau. And the Clarion Content is crazy about their young arms. Francisco Liriano is a Cy Young candidate. We told you about former minor league ERA champ, Kevin Slowey, eons ago. Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn and Glen Perkins look great rounding out the rotation. Joe Nathan anchors a solid bullpen. The Cleveland Indians are expecting a bounce back year. Here at the Clarion Content we could see it from their offense, Victor Martinez was hurt, Grady Sizemore underperformed. But their pitching is hugely suspect, Carl Pavano #3?!? Can Cliff Lee repeat his miraculous '08 campaign, we doubt it. The Chicago White Sox under the feisty Ozzie Guillen and crusty Kenny Williams always manage to hang around. We are concerned that their stars are aging; Jermaine Dye, Jim Thome, Paul Konerko. Even with the departure of solid starter Javier Vazquez, they should have enough pitching to be competitive until the All-Star break, then it will depend on whether Williams and the Sox braintrust decide to unload stars for prospects or add pitching for a post-season run this year. The Kansas City Royals are everybody's trendy off-season pick. And they are probably better, but remember that getting to .500 would be six game improvement. Is it really reasonable to expect more than that? There are a lot of young kids in the mix. Finally the Detroit Tigers, we have them booked for fire sale mid-summer. The Dontrelle Willis acquisition has been a disaster and the rest of their pitching staff has fallen apart along with it. Miguel Cabrera and Carlos Guillen could be on the market.
Order of Finish
1. Minnesota Twins (over 83.5 wins)
2. Chicago White Sox (over 79.5 wins)
3. Cleveland Indians (under 85.5 wins)
4. Kansas City Royals (over 75.5 wins)
5. Detroit Tigers (under 89.5 wins)
American League East...
There is however one division of quality in the American League, the A.L. East. Last year's defending American League champs, the Tampa Bay Rays figure to have a fight on their hands from the Boston Red Sox and the free spending New York Yankees. The Yankees, of course, made the splashiest acquisitions, the fat, fat man C.C. Sabathia, the injury-prone, coming off of a career year A.J. Burnett and an All-Star with a great glove, switch-hitter Mark Teixiera. Yet the Curse of the A-Rod still looms. Will the Yankees play great without Alex, only to have him come in and ruin the vibe? Or will they play lousy without him, putting so much pressure on Rodriguez to perform that he starts his annual big game wilting a couple months earlier? Either way, it just doesn't feel like the Yankees year. Volatile skipper Joe Girardi is wound tighter than steel cable. G.M. Brian Cashman is also under the gun. Says here, not enough healthy pitching, too much pressure on Teixiera and Rodriguez, drag the Yanks down to third place, behind both the Red Sox and the Rays. The Red Sox are loaded even without Manny. The rightside of their infield sports two homegrown MVP caliber talents Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia. They have more pitching than one can shake a stick at, Beckett, Dice-K, Lester, Penny and Wakefield, with Smoltz, Buchholz and Justin Masterson waiting in the wings, not to mention Jonathan Papelbon to close. The Rays have pitching and young talent too. Led by B.J. Upton, Evan Longoria and Carl Crawford, their offense will be potent. They added Pat Burrell to D.H. He should be productive. Their real strength might be the bullpen, which has lots of good set-up men and David Price in Durham waiting in the wings. The Baltimore Orioles have a passel of promising young talent from outfielders Nick Markakis and Adam Jones to second baseman Brian Roberts. That and a smidgen of pitching probably won't get them to .500 in the toughest division in the league. The Toronto Blue Jays have spent the last several years underperforming expectations. This year their one phenomenal pitcher Roy Halladay will truly have to go it alone. A.J. Burnett split via free agency. Young arms Dustin McGowan and Shaun Marcum are hurt. This could be the year the bottom really falls out.
Order of Finish
1. Boston Red Sox (over 94.5 wins)
2. Tampa Bay Rays (over 87.5 wins)
3. New York Yankees (under 97.5 wins)
4. Baltimore Orioles (over 73.5 wins)
5. Toronto Blue Jays (under 80.5 wins)
Tomorrow the National League preview...
This division is as dismal as you say. Look for Texas to stay in the hunt later than usual - with a boost to the rotation from Durham's own southpaw Matt Harrison - and possibly finish ahead of Oakland.
Though winless as of this writing, the lost Tribe won't wander in the desert all season. Last year no young arm I saw impressed me like Fausto Carmona. Look for Cleveland to win the division crown, holding off the late surge from the Twins.
Boston (over 95)
New York (over 95)
Toronto (over 80)
Tampa Bay (under 85)
Baltimore (over 73.5 ... but not by much!)
No way the Yankees finish below last years flukey Tampa Bay Deviled Eggs. The Clarion may have the (durham) Bull's-eye view on the Sox, again one of the best teams in baseball, but might be confusing the local AAA talent with the real deals at the top. Look for the Yankees and Red Sox superior pitching and offense to make them the AL's top seed and wild card in 2009, while the rest of the division languishes around .500
While you know that the Clarion Content's predictions are usually a jinx, there was no 'reverse the curse' attempt by picking the Yanks under. There is genuine concern that A-Fraud's injury will linger. The bullpen is thin beyond Mariano. And the Rays are good, believe it!
Thanks for the heads up on Matt Harrison.