Posted on: March 30, 2010 8:50 pm
With the start of the baseball season less than one week away (yes, a week , with Red Sox vs. Yankees on Sunday Night Baseball), it means only thing: it is time to dust off the magic eight-balls, look into the future and predict where the 30 teams will end up at the end of the season.
(I should point out that I won a pool last season in which we made predictions about the 2009 season before its start, and so needless to say, when I use the word "prediction" I am really meaning "cerifiable locks and spoilers" for the 2010 season.
Let's start with the American League East:
1. Boston Red Sox
2. New York Yankees
3. Tampa Bay Rays
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Toronto Blue Jays
Yes, I know the Yankees are defending champs, and they had a great 2009 season. But I am not impressed with the moves that they made to stay atop the best division in baseball. CBSSports.com has the Yankees, Sox, and Rays as the top three teams in baseball heading into Opening Day, and with those other teams, the Yankees needed to do better than Javier Vasquez and Curtis Granderson. Vasquez will disappoint again as he did during his first tour in New York (he's simply an N.L. pitcher) and Granderson has to fill the roles of three outfielders (Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, and Melky Cabrera - also with no Xavier Nady returning). As for the rest of the team, well this year simply makes them one year older. The Sox will indeed have enough offense to back the best all around pitching staff in baseball. The Rays remain essentially the same, but will get more from Pat Burrell and B.J. Upton. The Orioles have good, but raw, young talent (this will be Adam Jones' coming out party), enough to leapfrog the Blue Jays out of last place, who will be the designated whipping-boy of the mighty A.L. East.
1. Minnesota Twins
2. Chicago White Sox
3. Detriot Tigers
4. Cleveland Indians
5. Kansas City Royals
Traditionally a mediocre division, the Central is shapping up to be... well, mediocre, again . Last year, the Twins made a late run to win the division last season, and they have improved by adding players such as Orlando Hudson, and have enough to overcome the loss of closer Joe Nathan. (This only means that the Twins will not have to wait to the last day of the season to win the division with only 85 wins.) The White Sox have gotten better, with a very strong rotation headed by Mark Buerhle and Jake Peavy. But their success is not automatic, with Buerhle falling off after his perfect game, and Peavy struggling from injuries recently, and offensively, they will be forced to rely on busts (Alex Rios), aging veterans (Paul Konerko, Andruw Jones) and still developing youngsters (Gordon Beckam, Alexei Ramirez) to fill in around Carlos Quentin. Detriot remains a couple of starters away from the playoffs, while Cleveland and Kansas City will compete for "quickest A.L. team to 100 losses."
1. Seattle Mariners
2. Texas Rangers
3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
4. Oakland Athletics
Possibly the most interesting and exciting division in baseball in 2010. The Mariners stand as one of the most improved teams in all of baseball, adding Cliff Lee, Chone Figgins and Casey Kotchman. The Lee-Felix Hernandez 1-2 punch is one of the best in baseball. The Rangers also figure to be stronger, with ample pitching and an always impressive offense. But, perhaps most importantly for the Mariners and Rangers is what is absent from the Angels, long the dominant team in this division. They lost depth everywhere, but remain the same fundamental team of the small ball philosophy, which can always prove to be difficult to play against in September. They have a decent lineup, but no power outside of Kendry Morales, and Matsui and Joel Piniero were not the solutions to the holes in the lineup and rotation left by Figgins and John Lackey, and their bullpen also remains an issue. As for Oakland, not all is as bad as it seems. They have serious young pitching depth and a their first real base-stealer/leadoff hitter since Rickey Henderson in Rajai Davis. They, like the Orioles, are definitely moving in the right direction, but luckily for the Athletics they play in sunny California in the now suddenly wide-open A.L. West, which could start to attract a free-agent bat or two.
A.L. Wild Card:
New York Yankees
Is there any chance that the Wild Card will come out of any division besides the A.L. East in the forseeable future? I really cannot envision a situation where that would come about. Although the Rangers and White Sox may be worthy of post-season play, there is no way that two teams from the Central or West will win more games than either the Sox, Yankees, or Rays. Whoever wins the East should do so with around 100 wins, where the second place team will likely have at least 95, and that is just too many games for anyone else to keep pace.
Red Sox vs. Twins
Mariners vs. Yankees
These teams matchup well with each other, but it comes down to the Red Sox and Yankees having more talent in the bottom half of their roster. The Twins do not have the depth in the rotation to hang with Boston, and the Yankees overpowering style of offense will lead to another ALCS rivalry.
Result: Red Sox, Yankees, both in 4
Red Sox vs. Yankees
The two best teams in the A.L. will feature two of the best rotations in baseball. The Yankees have the advantage on the offensive side, but the Red Sox have the pitching depth. The Yankees would likely have to use CC Sabathia twice in the ALDS, while the Sox can afford to only use their starters once, which means that the Beckett/Lackey/Lester order is preserved for this series. The Sox bullpen is also stronger, as is their bench.
Result: Red Sox in 6
N.L. previews coming soon.
Tags: Adam Jones, Alex Rios, Alexei Ramirez, Andruw Jones, B.J. Upton, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Carlos Quentin, Casey Kotchman, Chicago White Sox, Chone Figgins, Cleveland Indians, Cliff Lee, Curtis Granderson, Detroit Tigers, Felix Hernandez, Gordon Beckham, Hideki Matsui, Jake Peavy, Javier Vasquez, Joe Nathan, Joel Piniero, John Lackey, Johnny Damon, Kansas City Royals, Kendry Morales, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Mark Buerhle, Melky Cabrera, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees, Opening Day, Orlando Hudson, Pat Burrell, Paul Konerko, Rajai Davis, Rickey Henderson, Seattle Mariners, Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays, Xavier Nady
Posted on: April 17, 2008 10:54 pm
The Sox managed a split of the two game series against the Yankees, getting excellent starting pitching and some explosive home runs. Some thoughts on the game:
The Sox could not get their ace on the mound soon enough on this road trip, and Josh Beckett did exactly what a stopper should do. After missing a good portion of spring training, Beckett is now, for the first time, at full strength. His fastball was consistently overpowering the Yankee hitters for most of the night. He had on rough inning in the fifth, where he gave up all of the runs that the Yankees would score off of him. Beckett threw a lot of fastballs, only mixing in occasional curve-balls, and fewer change-ups, and got most of the Yankees out on the fastball. But it was not Beckett’s effective start that the Sox will ultimately benefit most out of. He went eight innings, and gave the bullpen a much needed day of rest after being worked extensively for the past few days. Beckett did today what he did all of last season which is show that he is one of the top five pitchers in the game and can effects the fortunes of an entire team, and by giving the bullpen the night off, he helps the team for tomorrow’s game, as everyone will be available.
Strange though it may seem to other teams based on the way that they pitch to him, but Manny Ramirez is an excellent hitter who is absolutely locked in at the early point in the year. Mike Mussina, no where near the pitcher he once was with the Orioles, gave him two 87 MPH fastballs on the inner half of the plate, and Ramirez crushed them into what must have totaled nearly 1,000 feet of home runs. Ramirez hit a home run and a two run double off of Mussina during the series this past weekend, and he is now leading the majors in home runs and RBIs. Ramirez, who is surprising loquacious and cheerful with two options for $40 million looming at the end of this year, has not had a hot start to the season in recent years. Ramirez typically heats up with the weather, and really starts to hit his stride by the end of May and on into June. He had a quote the other day when asked about David Ortiz’s struggles, and he said that it was early in the season, and Ortiz would come around, but until then, Ramirez would do all of the hitting for him. Ramirez was my preseason pick to win the A.L. MVP.
The excuse first circulated last year when the Sox acquired Eric Gagne, a life-time closer, who was highly ineffective as a set-up man. Some were saying that as a closer, so much of the success comes as a result of the adrenaline and how pumped up a pitcher gets when he has to come in and save the game. Tonight, Jonathan Papelbon entered the game with a four run lead, so a non-save situation, and gave up the first run that he has ever given up in his career in April, and then promptly gives up a solo home run to Melky Cabrera. While it seems unlikely that closers cannot pitch effectively with the lead unless they enter in a save situation, even the best do not seem to have the same intensity when they come in in a non-save situation. But, when the lead was cut to two, Papelbon looked as if he took his intensity to the next level and struck out Hideki Matsui for the final. Also, Papelbon struck out two in the ninth, which now gives him a staggering 16 strikeouts on the season in eight innings. His 16 K’s ranks sixth in the A.L.
Kyle Farnsworth took out the Yankees frustration against Ramirez when he came up in third at-bat by throwing a pitch behind the head of Ramirez. Intentionally throwing at a batter is obviously an extremely gray area, but there are few things more grizzly than seeing an already errant thrower leave a pitch anywhere near a team’s best hitter. Ramirez was inches from taking a 95 MPH heater off of the back of his head. Both benched were warned, but, and this has nothing to do with Red Sox and Yankees, if a pitcher makes that blatant of an attempt, with the first pitch he threw in the game, to hit a batter, Farnsworth has to be ejected. That way, the issue of retaliation is eliminated for the Sox, because Farnsworth, and possible Joe Girardi, are ejected and Beckett does not have to worry about facing a suspension if he decides to hit a member of the Yankees.