Hmm, I don't know why this jargon is showing up^^. It doesn't show up when I'm writing my post and I can't get rid of it. Just ignore it. Sorry
With the start of the season only a week away, I thought I'd look at my Sox and the AL East this year.
Boston: Boston has a new look this year, with Marco Scutero the latest in the revolving door that is the Red Sox short stop position, Adrian Beltre at 3rd base and Mike Cameron in center field. The Sox don't quite have the firepower of past teams, with Manny Ramirez long gone and Jason Bay moved on. However, this team is better defensively and still capable on offense. Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez and Kevin Youkilis form a very nice top part of the lineup. David Ortiz, Mike Cameron, J.D. Drew, Adrian Beltre and Marco Scutero round out the lineup.
A nice thing about this Sox team is that they have depth. The outfield has two capable backups in Jeremy Hermida and Josh Reddick, who made a name for himself last year. The Sox also acquired Bill Hall, who can play second base, third base and outfield. Also, veterans Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek can provide quality time in the field should Beltre or Martinez be injured. Also, Marco Scutero is backed up by Jed Lowrie, who has showed promise, but has struggled with consistency.
The Sox are blessed with a multitude of quality pitchers this season. John Lackey, Josh Beckett and Jon Lester as a good a threesome as there is in all the major leagues. Clay Buchholz looked very good at the end of last season, and as we all know from that no-hitter, he has a wealth of potential. Then of course, there is Japanese import Daisuke Matsuzaka, who has struggled with consistency and injuries. If either Dice-K or Buchholz encounters issues, the ever-present veteran Tim Wakefield will be around to eat innings and be a quality 5th starter. The Sox also acquired Boof Bonser, who can help out of the bullpen or start in a pinch.
This Sox team has the potential to be superb, or merely decent, depending on how several key players perform. If David Ortiz can bounce back, that would provide a big lift to the Sox. He doesn't even need to hit .300 with 40 homers, but if he could hit .270-.280 with 25-30 homers, that would be huge. Another key is Adrian Beltre. If he can regain his form of several years ago, that would be brilliant for the Sox, but if he could even get to 15 homers, that would be solid. Finally, Matsuzaka could be huge for this team. If he performs well and avoids injuries, he could pitch like a #2 starter. He has struggled with command in the past, but if he can deliver, the Sox will be in excellent shape. Overall, the Sox should be right in the mix again this year for the AL East title, and the AL pennant. If the pitching is as good as expected, and the offense can deliver, this team could be going deep into October
New York: This division will again be a two horse race between the Red Sox and – who else? – the Yankees. The Yankees have a once again potent lineup, led by Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira. The Yanks this year are in a sense the opposite of the Red Sox. They will have no trouble producing offense, with the aforementioned three, Robinson Cano, and newcomers Curtis Granderson and Nick Johnson also contributing. The lineup will be rounded up by Brett Gardner, Jorge Posada and Nick Swisher.
This is a potent lineup to say the least. Derek Jeter and Nick Johnson will be able to get on a base a lot for A-Rod and Teixeira, who should be in line for huge years. The bottom of the Yanks lineup is still very strong, with Cano, Granderson and Posada all capable hitters. And you won’t find much better options for the bottom two spots than Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner.
The pitching is less certain for the Yankees. They are led by C.C. Sabathia who should be superb as always. After that though, it gets murky. A.J. Burnett has loads of talent, but struggled with inconsistency all of last year. How he performs will be huge for the Yankees. Javier Vazquez was excellent last year for Atlanta, but can he do the same in the Big Apple against AL hitters? Andy Pettite should be solid but not spectacular, which is what you hope for in a fourth starter. Phil Hughes just recently won the fifth rotation spot, but he is a big question mark. He has great potential, but has struggled with consistency a great deal. This relegates Joba Chamberlain to the bullpen, where he, along with Mariano Rivera will anchor a good bullpen. But will the starters be able to give them leads to protect?
Overall, I think the Yankees will be in the playoffs once again this year. Their pitching is not great, but it doesn’t need to be with an offense like they have. If their pitching can remain solid, their offense should be able to get them plenty of wins. A big player to watch is A.J. Burnett. If he can consistently deliver his top stuff, that helps the Yanks in a big way, and makes them that much tougher to beat. However, isn’t it often said that pitching wins championships? Regardless, the Yankees should be playing in October again this year.
Tampa Bay: Tampa Bay will be an alright team this year, but I just can’t see them overtaking either the Sox or Yankees in the division. The Rays’ lineup is led by Evan Longoria, who, along with Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena, will be counted on to provided the offense this year. Jason Bartlett is a solid leadoff hitter, and Ben Zobrist exploded onto the scene last year. B.J. Upton had a terrible year last year and will be looking to rebound.
The lineup is rounded out by Dioner Navarro, Pat Burrell, and Matt Joyce. This offense won’t be racking up runs like the Yankees, but they will be able to put runs on the board at a decent clip. The key is Upton – if he can deliver on his potential, and have a great year, the Rays’ offense will be so much better. I will also be interested to see if Ben Zobrist can continue his success from last year. If so, that too will aid the offense greatly.
The pitching for the Rays is good, but not great. Matt Garza is a solid starter, who, along with James Shields will have to anchor the Rays’ rotation. If they don’t have good years, the Rays will be in big trouble. Jeff Niemann was solid last year for the Rays, with a 13-6 record, and an ERA under 4.00. Wade Davis is a relatively unknown commodity – last year was his first year in the big leagues, and he only started 6 games. He did however, throw a complete game shutout, and if he can find that form this year, the Rays might have a hidden gem. The big question of course, is David Price. Last year, he had a 10-7 record with an ERA of 4.42. Those aren’t bad numbers for a rookie, but frankly, if the Rays are going to challenge the Sox and Yanks this year, he needs to be better. If he can fulfill his enormous potential, the Rays might be able to push the Red Sox and Yankees at the top of the division. The Rays also acquired Rafael Soriano, who will be a much needed stabilizing presence in the bullpen.
Overall, the Rays are a decent team, but they have the misfortune to be stuck with the Red Sox and Yankees. If they were in the AL Central, maybe they could make the playoffs, but I just don’t see it happening here this year. They should be an over .500 team, but I just don’t think they’re good enough to beat Boston or New York. If the pitching is excellent, Ben Zobrist is fantastic, David Price becomes an ace and B.J. Upton regains his lost form, maybe the Rays can challenge. But for now, it looks tough for the Rays.
Baltimore: The Orioles have had a tough last couple of years, but they are showing true potential. Nick Markakis and Adam Jones are their two offensive stars, and they will hopefully be driving in Brian Roberts, who should have a great year, and Nolan Reimgold, who had 15 homers and a .279 batting average in 100 games last year. If Markakis and Jones play well, Roberts gets on base as usual, and Reimgold develops nicely, the top part of this lineup could be very good.
I, like many others, am wondering how Matt Weiters will do this season. He was decent last year in 96 games, batting .288 with 9 homers and 43 RBI, but if we are to believe the hype, he is capable of much, much more. If Weiters can deliver a .290-20-80 season, that would be very good, and anything more would be great.
The O’s lineup is rounded out by veteran Miguel Tejada, Luke Scott, recently acquired Garret Atkins and shortstop Cesar Izturis. Scott is a solid hitter, and Tejada will be looking to prove he still has more in the tank. If he could produce like last year, with a .313 average and 86 RBI, the O’s would be very pleased. Atkins showed he could really hit the ball in Colorado, and will be looking to prove he can do it in Baltimore after a touch year last year.
The Orioles’ rotation is led by Kevin Millwood, who pitched well for Texas last year, winning 13 games and posting an ERA of 3.67. He has showed great durability, starting at least 25 games every season but one since 1998. After three so-so years in Texas, he was very good last year, and will be looking to build on that. Jeremy Guthrie is next, and he will be looking to rebound from a sub par 2009 in which he lost 17 games and had an ERA of 5.04. Instead, he will be looking to regain his 2008 form, when he posted a 3.63 ERA and 6 K/9 innings. Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen and Chris Tillman round out the O’s rotation. All three are promising young pitchers who the O’s hope will learn from Millwood and develop quickly.
The Orioles aren’t ready to challenge the Sox, Yanks, or Rays this year, but in a couple years, they might be. They are young and promising and are hoping to make some good progress this season
Toronto: Unfortunately for Toronto and Jays fans everywhere, this year looks like it’ll be pretty bleak for the Blue Jays. No Roy Halladay anymore, which means 20 fewer guaranteed wins for the Jays. The offense will be lead by Vernon Wells, Aaron Hill, and Adam Lind, who will be looked upon to provide the firepower. Jose Bautista is the leadoff man but he hit only .236 walked less than once a game – hardly a stellar leadoff hitter.
The Jays will also be looking to Edwin Encarnacion and Lyle Overbay for some hitting, although Encarnacion hit only .225 last year. For the Jays to succeed, he needs to do better. John Buck, Travis Snider and Alex Gonzalez round out the lineup, and they are hardly sluggers. If their big three can deliver, Bautista can get on base and Encarnacion can find his stroke, the Jays offense could produce some runs, but if Wells, Lind and Hill falter, and/or they get no help, it could be very tough to score this year.
The rotation is led by Shaun Marcum and Ricky Romero, both of whom are (relatively) young pitchers who show promise. Marcum is coming off a bad injury, but he was showing real potential before the injury, and if he can regain that potential – a winning record with an ERA in the low 3s – the Jays would be in much better shape. Romero looked great as a rookie last year, and the Jays will be looking for him to deliver big time this year. Brandon Morrow, Brian Tallet and Mark Repczynski round out the rotation and all three are question marks. Morrow pitched only 69 innings last year, but the Jays need to him to be a middle of the rotation starter. Tallet wasn’t great last year, with a 5-7 record and a 5.32 ERA, and the Jays will need him to be better. Repczynski started 11 games last year in his first year in the big leagues wasn’t bad at all recording almost a strikeout per inning and compiling a 3.67 ERA.
This looks like it’ll be a tough year for the Jays. They could make some noise if their young pitchers pitch extremely well, and their lineup produces some runs, but it seems that they have too many question marks, especially in the rotation to do much damage.
Final Analysis: I see the final order of finish as thus:
- Red Sox
My reasons for having the Red Sox ahead of the Yankees are twofold: 1) I believe good pitching trumps good hitting and 2) I’m a Red Sox fan and I just like them better. The Sox and Yankees will be battling it out for first spot in the division, and I fully expect that whoever comes in second will get the wild card spot. Tampa Bay will be a good team, but just not good enough to beat the Sox and Yanks. The Orioles are young and improving, but still two years away I believe. As for the Blue Jays, any progress is better than no progress – I think it’ll be a tough year for these Jays, who won’t be terrible, but will be a mediocre team stuck in a tough division and will finish either fourth or last.