Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Baseball! Predictions! (AL)

I have to do this. Here goes. Predictions and comments. Who knows what they're worth...

American League East:
1. Boston - I am morally obligated to choose them to win. One of these years the Yankees have to lose - the Sox have had better teams the last couple years, so one of these years they'll win the division. Both teams this year are hard to predict, though. Both have very old pitching staffs that had major problems last year - both have done a nice job stocking up on arms for the pen (which is more important than people think. Seasons, and especially post-seasons, are won, probably, by the third starter and the third guy out of the pen - Derek Lowe and Freddy Garcia, Alan Embree and Neil Cotts - as much as by the stars), but the Sox did a better job of improving the rotation (adding Beckett), and they are getting younger at the same time (with Beckett, Papelbon, Hanson, etc.) In fact, with Crisp and Pena and maybe Youkilis playing, the Sox have gotten younger across the board - not a lot, the core is still old (though not as old as NY) - but they seem to be doing a better job of moving to the next generation - replacing older useful mediocrities like Millar with younger useful mediocrities like Pena and Youkilis. The Yankees just keep getting older and more likely to see every single member of the team (except Alex Rodriguez) go on the DL at the same time.
2. NY - they're still going to win 95, unless every single member of the team (except Alex Rodriguez) goes on the DL at the same time... (or if Alex Rodriguez goes on the DL. Without him, they're toast.)
3. Toronto - and if Father Time arrives in Boston and or New York in fighting trim - Toronto is good enough to step into any openings afforded. But it's probably safer to bet on aged but Proven (that has to be capitalized) folks like Schilling or Johnson than on younger arms who can't stay on the field all year, like Burnett.
4. Tampa Bay - another team that can't stay awful forever. They were hitting the hell out fo the ball by the end of last yearm and could get better, if Baldelli is back, when Young and Upton are ready.... They need some more pitchers to emerge, but Kazmir is a good start.
5. Baltimore - everyone hates this team - with good reason. But - this is where we learn just how good Leo Mazzone is. The arms they have can't be any worse than John Thomsen and Jorge Sosa can they? We'll soon find out.

AL Central:
1. Chicago - I suppose I have to pick them. They are 6 deep at starting pitcher; they have a deep pen; they have a decent offense, with some guys who could get better (Iguchi) and Jim Thome... they were, legitimately, the best team in baseball last year, so they could be this year again.
2. Cleveland - I think they're going to be okay. They lost Millwood, but got Byrd, who is okay; the rest of the rotation is solid - the pen is respectable (though Wickman is scary); they have a ton of offense. So why not? They'd need some breaks, I think, to catch Chicago, or the wild card contenders in the other two divisions.
3. Minnesota - plenty of pitching. No offense. But they catch the ball and play the game right, so they will hang around.
4. Detroit - if the pitching continues to develop, if Bonderman and company can improve, which is very possible - they might be into a modest sort of contention. They have some nice young position players, though I don't think they have enough to push Cleveland. Minnesota? with a couple breaks, why not?
5. Kansas City - no. Going nowhere. Deserve the failure they get - a horrible organization. Take Zach Greinke - they monkeyed with him, screwed him up, gave him no runs, and turned him into a basket case.... I'll lay dollars to donuts in a year or two after they release him or trade him to Atlanta, maybe Baltimore if Mazzone is Mazzone, maybe Oakland or St. Louis, he'll blossom. I'd say Boston or NY, because those organizations know what to do with pitchers - but those are tough tough tough places to play... but somewhere...

AL West:
1. Oakland - the pitching is as good as ever; Swisher and Johnson are a year older; Crosby should be healthy - they came close last year... I suspect they'll be back on top.
2. California - I can't keep track of what they're calling themselves, so screw it - let's go old school! They are a pretty darned good team - plenty of pitching, some nice players coming up, Vlad. I think Oakland's better though - a year older, and that should make a lot of difference with all their youth (Swisher, Johnson, Crosby, Harden, Haren, Blanton, Street, etc.)
3. Texas - ho hum. Outslug everyone but Boston and NY, get out pitched by everyone but KC. added a bunch of innings eaters, but the likes of Adam Eaton in their ballpark doesn't inspire confidence.
4. Seattle - do they still have a team? Can Jamie Moyer collect social security checks? Why don't they just bring in the Japanese national team? Along with Felix Hernandez, of course (who's younger than Jamie Moyer has big league experience.)

Good Lord. I think I may have to break this into multiple posts.

So boring stuff:
Playoffs - Boston - Chicago - Oakland + NY (oh, but don't I hope this is Cleveland, or even Toronto)
Winner: No idea. I'll say Boston, simply because I don't intend to pick against them.
MVP - friggin' A Rod again. (He deserved it last year. Quite handily, much as I hate to say it.)
Cy Young - Santana wins three in a row - or would if the voters were sane.
Rookie of the Year - lord; I haven't thought about this. Francisco Liriano sounds reasonable.

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