Thursday, April 2, 2009

2009 American League Predictions

Opening Day is just around the corner, so it's time for me to weigh in with my predictions for the 2009 baseball season. This season figures to be an interesting one as our hometown Phillies look to defend their crown as World F'n Champions. My season preview will be broken down into three parts with my predictions for the American League in this post, my predictions for the National League tomorrow and finally a piece with all of my individual projections for each player on the Phillies coming this weekend. I hope to improve on my predictions from last year, where I predicted the Cubs winning the World Series over the Indians, but really how could I do any worse?

AL East
1. Red Sox

With no more Manny, it's all about pitching for the Sox. With Josh Beckett, Dice K and Jon Lester bringing up the front of the rotation and John Smoltz, Justin Masterson and Clay Buchholz ready to fill in should Tim Wakefield or Brad Penny falter, their rotation is completely stacked. Add in Papelbon closing out games and you have the best pitching staff in baseball. The lineup isn't bad, either, although I'm shocked they are still allowing Jason Varitek to swing a bat for this team.

2. Yankees (Wild Card)
You have to like the moves they made this offseason, picking up the best available arm and the best available bat. While I don't think Mark Teixeira will be that much of a difference maker, CC Sabathia will improve the rotation by leaps and bounds. CC pushes everyone down a spot and gives them much more depth on the pitching staff. I do think the bullpen will be suspect, but the lineup will mash just like it always does.

3. Rays
It will be a let down season for last year's Cinderella story. It's not that the Rays necessarily got worse in the offseason, though, their slip in the standings will be due more to how good the Yankees and Red Sox are. This Rays team is still solid, well-rounded club and you could argue that they are the 3rd best team in the league, not just this division. It will be fun to see what Pat Burrell does in a DH role that he was made for.

4. Blue Jays
Poor Toronto, they really aren't that bad of a team, they just have no shot in the AL East. You put them in the AL Central or West, and they would have a shot at making the playoffs, but they will be a distant 4th in the East this year. They didn't do anything in the offseason to make themselves better, instead the Jays will rely on rookies to fill the few holes they have. They have an excellent bullpen and a rotation that is anchored by a dominant-when-healthy Roy Halladay, but that just isn't enough in this division.

5. Orioles
I really, really wanted to pick the Orioles ahead of the Blue Jays because I love their lineup. Nick Markakis is a star in the making, Aubrey Huff quietly crushed 32 homers last year and they will have phenom Matt Wieters behind the plate before midseason. Unfortunately, I took one look at their rotation and immediately slotted them in last place. Their ace is Jeremy Guthrie, a quality pitcher, but from there it gets really ugly: Adam Eaton is their 3rd starter and the rest of the rotation is filled with unproven and inconsistent players. Needless to say, they will lose a lot of games 11-8 this year.

AL Central
1. Indians

I picked the Indians to win the Central last year and they completely bombed, so why am I picking them again this year? Because last season was a one year blip for an incredibly talented team. No team that features box score filler Grady Sizemore in the lineup and the rejuvenated Cliff Lee on the mound can be held down for long. While it is a little scary that Carl Pavano holds down a spot in their rotation, the Indians will have a bounce back year. Of course, if Victor Martinez hits just 2 homers again and Travis Hafner can't stay healthy and hits .197 again then you can expect them to quickly fall back towards the AL Central cellar.

2. Twins
The Twins are so much better in real life than the are on paper. They don't have a particularly scary lineup and their rotation doesn't blow anyone away, but they play the game the "right way" (whatever that is) and they do all the little things that win games. As long as Joe Mauer comes back fully healthy, the Twins will make it a tight race with the Indians.

3. White Sox
The Other Sox are built like a steroid-era AL team with the way they rely on the long ball to generate their runs. While it is impressive that Carlos Quentin, Jermaine Dye and Jim Thome all smashed over 30 homers last year, there is no guarantee that Quentin wasn't a one year wonder and that age won't catch up to Dye and Thome. Mark Buehrle and ex-Phillie Gavin Floyd lead a good rotation, but I think this hit-or-miss lineup is going to miss way too much this year.

4. Tigers
Talk about the ultimate disappointment. Like everyone else, I thought the Tigers were going to score 1000 runs with how stacked their lineup was last season. While they did manage 821 runs, they also gave up 857 along the way. With the recent release of Gary Sheffield, now the worry might be that their lineup is too feeble to compete with no offense to speak of at catcher, third or short. The pitching staff won't be bailing the Tigers out anytime soon, either.

5. Royals
Like the Orioles, I am tempted to move the Royals up to 4th place because they are rapidly improving. It all starts with the pitching staff as Gil Meche continues to prove he is worth the money and Zack Greinke somehow found a way to win 13 games on a bad team last season. The lineup is getting better, too, with Coco Crisp at the top and an underrated Mark Teahen hitting 3rd. Give this team one more year in the cellar and then watch out in 2010.

AL West
1. Angels

Even though the pitching staff is being led by Jered Weaver until the cavalry comes back from their myriad injuries, the Angels are still the class of the AL West. Former Phillie Bobby Abreu will make a nice addition to the middle of the lineup that is starting to show its age as Vlad Guerrero and Torii Hunter's bats are slowing down. The Angels are just a well balanced team with enough speed and power in the lineup and a strong bullpen holding things down in all the close games they always end up being in.

2. A's
The A's have a first place offense but a completely unproven rotation. Seriously, after Justin Duchscherer, I am betting most people that don't live in the Bay Area can't name another starter in the Oakland rotation. Fortunately, they do have a number of really good, young arms, just like they always do, but it's way too soon to tell if they will be good enough to compete. The offense, which was just awful last year, suddenly looks pretty good with the additions of Matt Holliday, Orlando Cabrera and Jason Giambi. They even have Nomar coming of the bench! Unfortunately, there are just too many question marks in the rotation and the bullpen to seriously consider them for the division crown.

3. Rangers
Will this team ever get any real pitching? Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla at the top of a rotation is still a recipe for disaster. The Rangers didn't make a single move to upgrade their pitching staff that gave up 967 runs last season, so no matter how good their lineup looks, they will always be stuck at the bottom of the division. They are lucky the Mariners are so awful.

4. Mariners
All you need to know about the Mariners is they are so desperate to get fans to come to the ballpark they signed Ken Griffey Jr. to finish out his career for this last place team. You have to feel for Feliz Hernandez because this lineup will waste at least a dozen of his quality starts this season. You also have to feel for Ichiro, but I have a feeling he is going to be looking to get out of town after this season, anyway.

Red Sox over Indians
Yankees over Angels

Red Sox over Yankees
Should be another epic series between these rivals

MVP: Grady Sizemore
If he can get his batting average close to .300 and the Indians win their division, his usual season of 30 homers, 90 RBI and 35 steals should help him bring home the hardware.

CY Young: C.C. Sabathia
The new King of New York will shine in the limelight, easily winning 20 games as he once again blows through American League lineups.

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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