Saturday, March 29, 2008

American League Predictions

With the official Opening Day tomorrow night (I refuse to count those games in Japan), I figured it was time to go on record with my predictions for the 2008 baseball season. I will start with the American League in this post, and then later today I will post my predictions for the National League. Finally, tomorrow, I will make predictions for each player on the Phillies, plus go more in-depth with the National League East. Let's get started with the AL.

AL East
1. Red Sox
The defending Champs lose no one of significance from their roster, except an old Curt Schilling. Don't underestimate how good Manny Ramirez is going to be in his walk year. They still have a great blend of youth (Ellsbury, Pedroia) coupled with veterans who can still get it done (Lowell, Varitek), the only thing that could hold them back is if Josh Beckett continues to have injury issues.

2. Yankees
I'm not as high on this team as most people. They have so little pitching that if one or both of Andy Pettite or Mike Mussina finally breaks down, this team is dead. They are relying on Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy, who haven't proven anything yet, in the back end of the rotation, and Joba Chamberlain is good, but overrated. The lineup is great, as always, but they are going to lose a lot of 8-7 games.

3. Blue Jays
Toronto could have been a threat for second place before they had a slew of injuries, including our old friend Scott Rolen, who will miss a month. Their lineup has some good mashers, but they could have found a better leadoff hitter than David Eckstein. Roy Halladay and A.J. Burnett keep this team around .500.

4. Rays
The gap between the Blue Jays and Rays is closing. Tampa Bay has three good, young pitchers in Scott Kazmir, James Shields and Matt Garza, and their lineup is a good combination of speed (Carl Crawford) and power (Carlos Pena). I still can't believe Pena hit 46 home runs last year. The Rays would be even better if they let Evan Longoria start the season in the majors, but they are trying to save money by keeping him in AAA. This team will approach .500 for the season, but fall just short.

5. Orioles
The worst team in baseball. Quick, name an Oriole besides Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts. Better yet, name their Opening Day starting pitcher. If you answered Jeremy Guthrie, sadly, you are correct. The only thing Orioles fans have to look forward to is watching Adam Jones, who the O's got for Erik Bedard, blossom into a star player. This team will likely lose 100 games, especially with Kevin Millar as their cleanup hitter.

AL Central
1. Indians
People seem to forget that this team was one win away from the World Series last year. Everyone of importance returns to the team that has the best balance of pitching and hitting of any team in the American League. Their rotation goes 4 deep with guys that can win 15+ games (Sabathia, Carmona, Westbrook, Byrd), and there are 6 guys in their lineup who will hit 20+ home runs (Sizemore, Hafner, Martinez, Peralta, Garko, Blake). While everyone is talking about the Tigers and their great offseason, the Indians quietly stood pat and are hoping another year of experience will help their young guys reach their full potential.

2. Tigers (Wild Card)
The lineup is amazing. To put it in perspective, they will have former MVP Ivan Rodriquez, while he isn't the star player he once was, batting 9th! This team will easily score 1000 runs. However, they will also give up a ton of runs. Their pitching staff is suspect at best. Everyone talks about the addition of Dontrelle Willis, but do you realize he had an ERA of 5.17 in the National League last year? How high will his ERA be now that he has to pitch to DH's? And, are they really going to count on Todd Jones as their closer again? Lastly, don't underestimate the short-term impact Curtis Granderson's injury will have on the offense. Not having him setting the table for the big bats will slow the offense down.

3. White Sox
This team just isn't that good. I wanted to put them lower, but the Twins and Royals are even worse. This will probably be the year that Ozzie Guillen implodes trying to will this mediocre them to victory. The lineup is still pretty good, and Nick Swisher will make a solid impact hitting if he ends up hitting in the #6 spot (he's not a leadoff hitter), but this team is too old (Jose Contreras has to be at least 60) and didn't do enough to improve their pitching in the offseason (Gavin Floyd is their #5 starter!). They will finish below .500.

4. Twins
The Twins are a tough team to gauge because they are always better on the field than they look on paper. Losing Johan Santana and having Francisco Liriano start the season in the minors would kill most team’s pitching, but expect Scott Baker and Boof Bonser to be adequate replacements. Their hitting doesn't look that strong, either, but I bet Delmon Young has a big year. If speedy Carlos Gomez, a prospect the got from the Mets, can learn to hit a little, this team should remain competitive and will finish only slightly behind the White Sox.

5. Royals
Many publications are predicting the Royals emerge from the AL Central cellar, but I'm not buying it. What do they have? Pitching? Nope, Gil Meche is their best starter. Hitting? Forget it, Jose Guillen is their cleanup hitter. If all of the young guys actually produce they have a chance to rise from the cellar, but when has anything gone right for the Royals?

AL West
1. Mariners

Seattle quietly had a really good offseason. With the addition of Erik Bedard, the rotation is deep, and the always underrated Brad Wilkerson will add a lot to an already solid lineup. This team just doesn't have any holes. They have Ichiro for speed, Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre for power, solid catching with Kenji Johjima, and an ace closer in J.J. Putz. They will squeak by the injury-riddled Angels to win the division this year.

2. Angels
Two weeks ago I would have picked them to win the division without even thinking twice. Now, with the possibly career-ending injury to 18-game winner Kelvin Escobar and 19-game winner John Lackey out for about a month, the pitching looks incredibly weak. It'll be Jon Garland, unproven Ervin Santana, streaky Jered Weaver and not much else in their rotation. The hitters will do their thing, and they will feature a really good defensive outfield (Matthews Jr., Hunter and Vlad), but you don't win without pitching. After a slow start, they will come on late in the season but miss the playoffs by a few games.

3. A's
This team is better than you think. They traded away a slew of talent, some great (Dan Haren), some old (Mark Kotsay) and some overrated (Nick Swisher), but they still have some pieces left. Catcher Kurt Suzuki is great behind the plate, although he needs to learn how to hit major league pitching. First baseman Daric Barton and center fielder Chris Denorfia are good young hitters who will do some damage. Plus, the pitching staff isn't totally decimated, with Joe Blanton and Rich Harden leading the way. There is a decent mix of youth and veterans on this team, and as long as Billy Beane doesn't trade everyone away, they will be competitive. Look at their first two games against the Red Sox. They would have won both if usually reliable Huston Street hadn't blown the first game. Expect them to flirt with .500 but fall short by the end of the year.

4. Rangers
This team has no pitching. Kevin Millwood, who had a 5.16 ERA is their "ace". Former Phillie Vicente Padilla, whose ERA approached 6 last year, is their #2. Their closer is C.J. Wilson. They brought in Eddie Guardado to be their setup guy. They could easily give up 1000 runs. Their hitting isn't that great, either, especially when they are relying on crazy Milton Bradley to hit in the middle of their order. Feel bad for Michael Young, their talented second baseman. It's going to be a long year in Texas.

Red Sox over Tigers
Indians over Mariners

Indians over Red Sox
This time the Indians won't choke.

MVP: Alex Rodriguez
Simply the best player in baseball, he'll hit 50 bombs and drive in 150 again.

CY Young: C.C. Sabathia
Another repeat winner, but expect 20+ wins before he becomes a free agent at seasons end.

Agree or disagree with my predictions? Want to make your own? Include your thoughts in the comment section. Check back later for my National League predictions.

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