Siberian Baseball

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

American League Preview - 2008

For the record, I just copied and pasted last year's preview template because I wanted to reuse the formatting that looked so stellar last season, so if this looks familiar, that's why.

The funny thing is that much of the breakdowns from last year are still in place, only amped up a little bit. The Red Sox and Yankees are stacked as usual, only a little more so. The Tigers, who I tabbed as last year's smart pick in the AL Central are the smart pick there again, only more so. The AL West is another murky shootout again this year, with beefed up lineups for the Angels and Mariners.

So, the more things change, the more they stay the same, but with legitimate contenders rising in the West, and perennial doormats in Kansas City and Tampa Bay taking steps to move out of the basement, the refrain I'm hearing in a lot of preview pieces is that the era of easy wins from the usual also-rans is drawing to a close.

Will there be a few teams that completely go in the tank? Sure there will, there always are, but at the base level, the thought process is solid. Maybe teams don't take 75 percent of each series in Kansas City any more, thus dropping the overall win totals for the division leaders. Whether that actually shows up in 85- to 90-win division champs remains to be seen, but on the surface, it's easier for the team-specific bloggers to say nice things this year about all of their teams.

Even those teams that suck.

AL East

The Sexy Pick: Red Sox to repeat as champs. The core and more have been kept together - as opposed to 2005, which saw roughly half of the starting rotation bail out after the World Series - and it's not much of a stretch to say that the team is still upgrading with their youth movement from last October. Even pitching injuries haven't slowed Boston much, with Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester ready to take over as Curt Schilling heals and Bartolo Colon plays himself out of the majors.

(Update: Hey, look, I'm a genius at prognostication!)

The Smart Money Pick: This honestly has to be the Red Sox again. The big divide is whether they will win it in a runaway, or have to fight it out with the Yankees, a beefed up Blue Jays and Tampa Bay, which looks ready to be more competitive than they have been in the past.

Bonus Coverage: This is the division most likely to see the gap in win totals closed, with Tampa and Toronto leveling the playing field with New York and Boston. Tampa has added Jason Bartlett and Matt Garza from Minnesota via a trade and will bring blue chip prospect Evan Longoria in at third base. Garza joins Scott Kazmir and James Shields to provide a viable 1-2-3 in their rotation and their trademark strength in the outfield is in place as well.

This will be the year that teams get nervous when playing the Rays.

My Picks (with last year's final standing and record):

Boston Red Sox (1st 96-66)
New York Yankees (2nd 94-68)
Toronto Blue Jays (3rd 83-79)
Tampa Bay Devil Rays (5th 66-96)
Baltimore Orioles (4th 69-93)

AL Central

The Sexy Pick: Cleveland. Budding players, emerging stars and a stunning lack of concern for the problems with their closer position. That's word-for-word what I said last year and it holds true with a small substitution.

The closer situation seems cleaner - somehow Joe Borowski keeps putting up the numbers and this year doesn't feature a last-minute retirement from the consensus closer - but the starting rotation seems weak. The team's official depth chart has seven starters and once you get past C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona you have Paul Byrd, Jake Westbrook, Aaron Laffey and Cliff Lee.

This is still the team that put Boston on the ropes in last year's playoffs and held off Detroit to win the division. No reason they can't do that again.

The Smart Money Pick: Detroit Tigers. In becoming the mini-Yankees, Detroit has assembled a serviceable All-Star team and landed one and a half major players in Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. It remains to be seen whether or not Willis gets back on track as the young gun he was a few years ago, but with the Tigers behind him in the field instead of the Marlins, he can't do any worse.

Add Edgar Renteria at short and the Tigers are the favorite in the weak AL Central.

Bonus Coverage: The Sporting News has the division picked as Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, Kansas City and Minnesota. Good for you, Royals, you've arrived. Minnesota fans shouldn't expect much this year as they continue their slide into their new ballpark with Joe Mauer and the Rochester Red Wings. As much as they've proven in the past that they "find ways to win" it's a lot tougher without your signature player and the top left-handed pitcher in the game.

My Picks:

Detroit Tigers (2nd 88-74)
Cleveland Indians (1st 96-66)
Chicago White Sox (4th 72-90)
Minnesota Twins (3rd 79-83)
Kansas City Royals (5th 69-93)

AL West

The Sexy Pick: The Mariners addition of Erik Bedard gives them an immediate ace at the top of the rotation, with Felix Hernandez and Jarrod Washburn filling in at two and three. Carlos Silva and Miguel Bautista should worry Seattle fans at the bottom of that rotation.

The Smart Money Pick: While Seattle is taking the conservative approach of building a winning team, the Angels are trying to win now. Owner Arte Moreno wasn't on board for their World Series run, which has to eat him up and it's interesting to see the team pursing free agents as they make serious runs at the championship each year.

Torii Hunter is a solid pick up, Jon Garland is a big name who has never performed well in his new home stadium (lifetime ERA of 4.94, roughly a half a run higher than his career numbers). The Angels will need to get off the line quickly, despite pitching injuries to start the season.

My Picks:
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (1st 94-68)
Seattle Mariners (2nd 88-74)
Texas Rangers (4th 75-87)
Oakland A's (3rd 76-86)

The Round Up:

The Red Sox out of the East, the Tigers in the Central and the Angels out West. For the Wild Card, I have to go with Cleveland, based on how well they did last year and the fact that the AL East tends to eat its young with the division beating the hell out of each other. With the gap in the East closing as the Central is widening, I think the numbers will fall in place for the Indians.

(Photo from:

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