2012 Sabermetrics: Every American League Team's Calculated Projection for 2012
No one can predict the future, but I am going to try my best. With pitchers and catchers due to report in a couple of weeks, most teams are going to go into spring training as is. There have been some big moves made in the offseason and we have yet to find out if they are going to be good enough to get them to the postseason.
I started every team's projection with their 2011 expected win-loss. I adjusted the amount of runs scored and allowed by calculating the difference of RAR (runs above replacement) between last year's and this year's starter by using recent career averages. For rookies I use the season projection at Rotochamp. The 2012 lineup I go by for every team is by MLB Depth Charts.
I want to also remind readers that this projection does NOT factor in possible injuries or loss of jobs to prospects. It took a ton of work and research and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
AL East: New York Yankees
2011 Record: 97-65
2011 Expected W-L: 101-61
Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda gives the Yankees some more solid starters behind CC Sabathia. They also have the option of leaving out A.J Burnett from the rotation as they also have Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia as possible fifth starters. David Robertson is a great setup man behind Mariano Rivera but will most likely regress a bit as his stats are inhuman to keep up.
Losing Jesus Montero is not much of a big deal as a DH is easy to find and cheap to pick up. The only concern is that the infield is starting to age with a average age of 33.5 years old. Curtis Granderson's career averages also don't back up his 2011 MVP-caliber season.
The Yankees still have one of the top five offenses and now are arguably in the top five for pitching as well. If only the AL East was an easier division I'd see them win over 100 games.
2012 Projected W-L: 100-62
First AL East
AL East: Boston Red Sox
2011 Record: 90-72
2011 Expected W-L: 94-68
With Jon Lester and Josh Beckett again anchoring the rotation and Clay Buchholz coming back for hopefully a full season, the Red Sox are set for their top three starters but that's it. The Red Sox have Carlos Silva, Aaron Cook, Alfredo Aceves and Daniel Bard in line for the bottom two spots. Not that great of a selection but I guess anything would be better than John Lackey. Their bullpen lost Jonathan Papelbon but they have solid closing options in Andrew Bailey and Mark Melancon whom they both traded for.
Expect bounce-back years from Kevin Youkilis and Carl Crawford whom both had down years. The Sox traded away both Marco Scutaro and Jed Lowrie leaving Nick Punto to be in line to start Opening Day at shortstop. Cody Ross is an improvement over the J.D Drew and Josh Reddick platoon in right but not significantly.
The Red Sox have some positives and negatives that weigh each other out. In the end if they don't get injured or collapse again, they are in line to have a similar season.
2012 Projected W-L: 94-68
2nd AL East
AL East: Tampa Bay Rays
2011 Record: 91-71
2011 Expected W-L: 91-71
The pitching from Tampa Bay one through five is very impressive. Every night each starter gives the team a very good chance of winning. The bullpen is a little weak but the ability of each starter able to go deep into games counters that. The only little hiccup in the rotation is Jeremy Hellickson as his 2011 FIP is greatly higher than his ERA; a sign that he is going to regress. Matt Moore was amazing in the minors but can he make the transition to the majors smoothly?
Pitching wins games but hitting wins championships. The Tampa Bay lineup is very anemic minus Evan Longoria. They lost Casey Kotchman and Johnny Damon to free agency and in turn signed Carlos Pena and Luke Scott. Those were smart pickups by Friedman but they are not projected to as well as those players that left last year.
Best move the Rays could make is to trade either one of their extra starters for a shortstop that can hit if they want to contend again this year. On paper they show that they are going to regress but Tampa Bay always seems to surprise people.
2012 Projected W-L: 85-77
Third AL East
AL East: Toronto Blue Jays
2011 Record: 81-81
2011 Expected W-L: 79-83
In 2011, every thing behind Ricky Romero was a question mark for most of the season. Brandon Morrow is no longer on an innings or pitch limit which will let the Blue Jays have possibly two reliable 200-inning men this year. The bullpen is looking a lot better as well with Sergio Santos and Francisco Cordero as new options this year. Behind the top three starters though the water gets murky as Dustin McGowan hasn't pitched in the big leagues since 2008, Brett Cecil has suddenly lost and gained back his velocity.
The Blue Jays have a lot of power, but couldn't get on base last year. And if Moneyball has taught us anything, you need to be on base to score more runs. They have the positive of having Brett Lawrie and Eric Thames for a full season now but if they want to contend they need bounce-back seasons from Adam Lind and Colby Rasmus.
Toronto is very close to contending, all they may need is another power bat in the lineup or to trade for a starter at the trade deadline.
2012 Projected W-L: 85-77
Fourth AL East
AL East: Baltimore Orioles
2011 Record: 69-93
2011 Expected W-L: 67-95
The Orioles pitching was absolutely horrendous in 2011. They allowed 860 runs in 2011, the most in the majors. They added Tsuyoshi Wada over the offseason but there is not enough data to say he will improve the Orioles pitching in 2011. Their bullpen is still intact from last year with Jim Johnson leading the way.
The Orioles do have a decent offense led by outfielders Nick Markakis and Adam Jones. They lost Vladimir Guerrero to free agency and in turn signed Wilson Betemit which is not an upgrade nor a downgrade. Brian Roberts is back but he is not expected to make much of a difference.
Baltimore is going to have to do a lot to get out of the AL East basement as every position is in need of an upgrade except the outfield.
2012 Projected W-L: 63-99
Fifth AL East
AL Central: Detroit Tigers
2011 Record: 95-67
2011 Expected W-L: 88-74
Justin Verlander is not expected to repeat his MVP season where he went 24-5 but still should put up very good numbers. Doug Fister is back for an entire season and Brad Penny, who was one of the worst starters in the MLB last year, is gone and replaced with possibly top prospect Jacob Turner.
Even with the loss of Victor Martinez, the offense is looking better with a three-four punch of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder combined with full seasons from Delmon Young and Brennen Boesch. Removing Brandon Inge from the lineup was an improvement in its own right as well.
If the Tigers had a better expected W-L last year they would have been projected to win 100 games in the weak AL Central.
2012 Projected W-L: 95-67
First Place AL Central
AL Central: Kansas City Royals
2011 Record: 71-91
2011 Expected W-L: 78-84
The Rotation improved with Jonathan Sanchez replacing Jeff Francis and the bullpen has a solid back end with Joakim Soria and Jonathan Broxton. Aaron Crow has a powerful arm and he should do well in a transition into a starter. Luke Hochevar needs to break out this year though if the pitching is going to make a big impact.
Kansas City has a promising young core built in place and they seem to be all growing together. Hosmer, Cain and Moustakas are all projected to have an even better year in 2012. Billy Butler is an exceptional hitter for a DH and could keep pace with Big Papi this year.
Kansas City's lack of pitching depth is what hurts them. They had the second-worst ERA in the majors in 2011 at 4.82. They need an impact starter before anything else if they want to be considered as contenders. The good news is, though, they look to have their first winning season since 2003.
2012 Projected W-L: 83-79
Second AL Central
AL Central: Cleveland Indians
2011 Record: 80-82
2011 Expected W-L: 75-87
Cleveland's last two trades bolstered their rotation adding Ubaldo Jimenez and Derek Lowe. Fausto Carmona is dealing with fraud charges so he was left off the lineup. The breakout star to watch out for is Carlos Carrasco as he could easily replace an aging Derek Lowe or a struggling Kevin Slowey.
This is were Cleveland shines, they have one of the best offensive outfields in baseball if they can stay healthy. Jason Kipnis for an entire year and Asdrubal Cabrera following up a Silver Slugging season will help their pitching out with some run support.
The Cleveland Indians are going to need a miracle to dethrone Detroit from atop of the AL Central. They were leading last year till they started to break down mentally and physically; and as I see it they're still trying to piece everything back together.
2012 Projected W-L: 81-81
Third AL Central
AL Central: Minnesota Twins
2011 Record: 63-99
2011 Expected W-L: 62-100
The entire pitching staff had a down year in 2011 giving up 804 runs, second worst in the majors. Plagued with injuries and inconsistencies, The Twins were dismal on the mound. The positive, though, is that they can't get much worse, if anything they should get better slightly.
They lost Michael Cuddyer to free agency, but Josh Willingham is a more economical signing and is worth the money he is getting paid. Many players are coming back from injuries in 2011 and the one that should have the most impact is Joe Mauer. Drew Butera should not be allowed to play after his dismal season and the Twins seem to think the same way signing Ryan Doumit as the new backup catcher.
The Twins were absolutely awful in 2011 and the weird thing was that no one predicted it. Looks like the M&M Twins had a lot of sympathy pains for each other as they both just couldn’t stay healthy. With such low standards and a bunch of All-Stars coming back from injuries, the only thing this team could do is get better. Now the question is how much could they get better?
2012 Projected W-L: 72-90
Fourth AL Central
AL Central: Chicago White Sox
2011 Record: 79-83
2011 Expected W-L: 75-87
Chicago lost a couple of pieces of their bullpen and rotation, can the replacements fill in smoothly? Matt Thornton is projected to save close to 30 games but Chris Sale is still a big question mark. Mark Buehrle is gone but he wasn't worth the $48 million that the Marlins gave him as he is an slightly above-average pitcher at best right now.
Adam Dunn can’t be expected to bat .159 again and the young outfielders De Aza and Lillibridge have huge potential. The loss of Carlos Quentin hurts the most as that is an easy 20 homers and 80 RBI right there.
The Sox were worse then their 2011 record shows and that really hurt them as they are on the decline still. This hurts even more with every team in the AL Central improving with the returns of injured All-Stars and the signing of new ones. All the White Sox can hope for is a resurgence from Adam Dunn that might not be wise to count on.
Projected 2012 W-L: 71-91
Fifth AL Central
AL West: Los Angeles Angels
2011 Record: 86-76
2011 Expected W-L: 85-77
With the signing of C.J Wilson, the Angels have one of the best if not the best rotation in baseball. Fernando Rodney was lost to free agency but his loss does not make a difference whatsoever on the projection.
Albert Pujols signing has kind of overshadowed the return of Kendry Morales who was a top-tier slugging first baseman before he was injured. His bat should fit nicely into the DH spot. Mark Trumbo is most likely going to be tested out at third base so the Angels can keep his productive bat in the lineup for a sophomore season. The only problem with the offense maybe be a struggling Vernon Wells or Torii Hunter but the Angels have top prospect Mike Trout as backup.
The Angels have all their bases covered and improved everywhere this season. This is probably the year that they finally push Texas off the top of the AL West hill.
Projected 2012 W-L: 94-68
First AL West
AL West: Texas Rangers
2011 Record: 96-66
2011 Expected W-L: 98-64
C.J Wilson leaving the rotation is a hard hit to the pitching staff but Yu Darvish should fill in fine for him. Otherwise the pitching staff is mainly intact.
This is where the Texas Rangers lost most of their runs in the calculations. Many Rangers had career years and are not expected to produce at the same level. This mainly applies to Mike Napoli as his 1.046 OPS is very inflated compared to his three-year career average of .850 OPS.
Texas wants to win the World Series badly after coming so close two years in a row but the Angels say 2012 is theirs. What Texas needs to do is sign another starter (maybe Roy Oswalt?) and move Feliz back to the bullpen where he belongs.
2012 Projected W-L: 93-69
Second AL West
AL West: Seattle Mariners
2011 Record: 67-95
2011 Expected W-L: 67-95
Felix Hernandez is starting Opening Day again and he is not facing any competition at all. With all new faces in the bottom three spots, Seattle is looking to put the 2011 season behind them. Hisashi Iwakuma could be a bust or perform well enough for a Eiji Sawamura Award (Japanese Cy Young) like he won in 2008.
Do you know who hit the most home runs with the Mariner's in 2011? Maybe Justin Smoak? Or Mike Carp? Nope, it's catcher Miguel Olivo. The offense was dead last in runs last season and should benefit from full seasons from Dustin Ackley, Mike Carp and Jesus Montero.
2012 Projected W-L: 70-92
Third AL West
AL West: Oakland Athletics
2011 Record: 74-88
2011 Expected W-L: 77-85
Brandon McCarthy is a reliable starter but the reliability ends there. The rest of the rotation is most likely going to be prospects filling the hole till they develop and Bartolo Colon. Every Oakland Athletic player you actually knew the name of has been traded away as this franchise is not in any position to make a playoff push.
Jemile Weeks is the star of the lineup with his ability to get on base and the speed to cause some problems. Their two biggest power hitters are now gone and now hope Josh Reddick realizes some of his potential this year.
Oakland really needs to move out of the Bay Area as the San Francisco Giants are just across the river and are a lot easier to like when they actually win. The San Jose Athletics just doesn't flow though.
2012 Projected W-L: 65-97
Fourth AL West