Another year, another season! 2010 looks to be another good one. The Marlins don’t look like they’re about to run away with their division, but the Rays have a fighting chance this year. I’m getting ahead of myself, so let’s back up and go through this division by division like we do every year.
After a (glorious) season where the Yankees didn’t make it to the playoffs for once, the Bronx Bombers came back with a vengeance and took it all. The Yanks may have lost Damon and Matsui, but they’re still in a strong position in the AL East and look poised to make the playoffs in the division. Players are getting older on that team and the pitching isn’t as strong as they’d like, but, barring some kind of major injury, I stand by that prediction.
The Red Sox also made a few big moves, getting rid of Jason Bay and adding in Adrián Beltré, and they’re projected to have a solid season with strong defense and slightly weakened bat strength. I think a lot of how well they do this year depends on whether or not they’re able to produce runs at the plate with David Ortiz, who did not perform to standards last year.
My favorite in the East, the Tampa Bay Rays, have had a super strong spring. With the best spring record of the AL, they could upset the Yankees or Red Sox if and only if their rotation and bullpen return to 2008 form. The offense is there, the defense on the field is there, it’s just a matter of making outs. Will Rafael Soriano be enough to solve their closer woes? That alone will tell you what this team will do this year.
I’m excited to see what the Orioles put together this year. Their investment in youth is starting to bear fruit as prospects make their way onto the field, but this young, inexperienced team is up against juggernauts in the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays. I’m going to call this a building year for the Orioles, even if that’s selling them a bit short. They would have a good chance in any other division, but not the East.
There are few teams in baseball that bore me more than the Blue Jays (:cough: Royals, Pirates, and Padres :cough:). This is a team that acknowledged that they have no chance to make a run of it by trading Roy Halladay to the Phillies.
Remember that I’m a Rays fanboy and my positioning makes sense. I think the Rays have a strong chance to take the AL wild card this year.
For a while there, this division was the Twins’ to lose. Then the second best closer in the game, Joe Nathan, went down for the season, muddying up the waters. Add in that the team is moving to a brand new ballpark and things could get interesting. Gone are the super-competitive advantages of the Metrodome, replaced by what will be a SUPER frigid open-air ballpark that will take some getting used to. When it comes to Joe Mauer, I’m reminded of the fictional words of Michael Bluth, “You gotta lock that down.” Lucky for the Twins, they managed to get that done with an eight-year, 184 M$ contract. It should help.
I hear a lot about Chicago’s rotation being so vastly improved, but it’s almost always followed by the caveat that Peavy needs to pitch well. It’s been a long while since his 2007 Cy Young campaign and he hasn’t been able to remain healthy. Despite how much Obama loves this team, I can’t stand A. J. Pierzynski and, by extension, the team.
Detroit has a team that I want to love. Those poor guys live in a third world city that is on the verge of absolute collapse. They keep giving Dontrelle Willis chances to succeed (and he might be in the rotation this year), but I’m not sure that they will be able to keep up with the Twins this year thanks to weak pitching. I’ll be keeping an eye on these guys.
The Indians may be on the upswing and ready to bounce back, but I’m not ready to believe that yet. I don’t see much happening for this team.
Kansas City has an awful team aside from Zack Greinke.
Despite their stupid long name, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have had one of the most consistent teams of the century. They contend every year and make it to the playoffs almost every year. It’s hard to ignore how solid this team is. Unfortunately, they’ve been fighting a war of attrition these past two years with Texas and Seattle getting closer and closer to robbing AL West dominance away from them. They gained Matsui, but lost vital starter Lackey. Will it be enough?
Seattle wants it this year. They went and signed Cliff Lee and even took the risk of signing the volatile Milton Bradley to bolster their bats. Things were looking great for Seattle until Cliff Lee ended up on the DL and Milton Bradley got himself ejected from two straight spring training games. Will they be able to keep it all together and make a real run for the West?
The Rangers are solid, but they have a lot of reliance on players like Josh Hamilton who are very injury prone. They’ve been just short of the playoffs for several years now and they’re real hungry for it.
I have so much apathy for the Athletics. I’m sure their team is pretty good and has a chance this year, but it never seems to pan out for Oakland.
I’m going out on a major limb there. I could be dead wrong.
My favorite division also contains two of my least favorite teams in baseball, both of which are set to have great seasons. Last year’s NL Champions, the Philadelphia Phillies, are still just as good with Roy Halladay instead of Cliff Lee. They’ve still got a great lineup with good pitching and, even without their closer, they should still have a solid season. They are The Team To Beat (TM) in the East.
Atlanta, my least favorite team, has got stars in their eyes for Jason Heyward, a top-prospect who made the team this spring. Heyward’s bat, combined with Hanson and Kawakami’s arms, could be very formidable in the East. This is a team that worries me.
The Mets have had such terrible luck recently that it’s almost bound to start swinging back in the other direction…right? With an adjusted outfield to help home runs, their offense might perform a little better, but that injury-riddled team is not looking all that much better this year. If they outperform the Marlins, I’ll be surprised.
Speaking of teams that won’t outperform the Marlins, Washington is almost guaranteed to make marginal improvements this year. Their rotation is still a mess, but veterans like Chien-Ming Wang and Liván Hernández can combine with the brilliance of Stephen Strasburg and the promising performance of Drew Storen and produce what might actually be a major league rotation. The lineup needs some work to score runs, but pitching is infinitely more important for a team that wants to win.
Speaking of a team that emphasizes pitching, we’ve finally arrived at my favorite team, the Florida Marlins. Over the off-season they finalized a strong contract for Josh Johnson and kept Dan Uggla, keeping the rotation and lineups strong. Combined with Hanley Ramirez and Chris Coghlan destroying NL pitching and Ricky Nolasco’s brilliant performance on the mound, this is a solid team with only a few holes that need filling. If Cameron Maybin and Gaby Sanchez live up to their potential, I don’t see much standing in this team’s way. There’s always a question of pitching with the back end of the rotation, but Chris Volstad has been looking good of late and Anibal Sanchez fluctuates, but trends on the better side most times. The real question is in the bullpen where the Fish will be relying on Leo Núñez to close games. I’m not confident in Núñez yet.
The Central has a chance to be interesting this year with strong squads being fielded by St. Louis, Cincinnati, and “this is our last chance for a while” Chicago. St. Louis has the best chance here thanks to strong pitchers Carpenter and Wainwright and their strong offense in Pujols and Holliday. Cincinnati has been a dark horse so many years in a row now that they’d better start performing. The promise of Aroldis Chapman could push them ahead if the offense follows, but otherwise the team has a strong uphill climb. The Cubbies don’t have much time left before they have to start “rebuilding”. If they don’t put together a playoff season this year, it might be a while before we see one happen again. I still love Fukudome, even if the Cubs don’t. He’s a consistent and solid player.
I don’t know much about Milwaukee’s squad this year, but they’re usually a solid team, but I didn’t hear much in the offseason that would convince me they were ready to push ahead of last year’s performance.
The rest of the Central, the Pirates and the Astros, really don’t make an impact in baseball nowadays. Pittsburgh is really a AAAA team and Houston has failed to make any kind of splash in a long while.
Colorado made the biggest turnaround I’ve seen since the last time they did it in 2007 to win the wild card last year and make the playoffs. After that strong finish and with LA’s messy divorce keeping them from making significant progress on their team, I see Colorado as the frontrunners in this division.
A messy divorce has been draining Dodger ownership of cash and the ability to run their team. At best, the Dodgers remain as good as they were last year. Realistically, they fall behind the Rockies and maybe even the Giants too.
Solid pitching, but not much offense. It’s been the same story for years now. A strong team only because it keeps the run count down on the opposing team.
What about the Padres?
I’m bound to be dead wrong, per usual, but we’ll see how I’m doing in July and again in September. I can’t wait for Sunday/Monday!