AL East Preview: Loaded

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AL East Preview: Loaded

Baseball is back my friends, and you know what means. Yes, aimless, random predictions disguised as true analysis. I guess I’ll throw my hat in the ring.

Here’s the idea. I’ll go division by division, and then lay out the awards and finally a playoffs and World Series prediction. It will look something like this:

Today: AL East

In a few days: NL East

A few days (or weeks) after that: AL Central

Probably during Spring Break, so you know it’ll be hard hitting stuff: NL Central

All within the last few days before Opening Day because I will fall way far behind and throw things together faster than my freshman English paper: AL West, NL West, Awards, and Playoffs

At the very least, I’ll be coming out with one article a week and should get everything finished up by the end of February/beginning of March.

Time to begin.

Can you say loaded? C’mon, you can do it.

                (The AL East is loaded)

                (Loaded)

                (Low-did-ah)

Damn Yankees. After their gigantic spending spree, its hard to imagine that they won’t at least see a marked increase in success this year, most likely getting back into the playoffs after a short absence. But, the only thing working against this team will be chemistry.

                (Don’t forget about A-Roid, I mean A-Rod)

                (Should Joe Girardi be managing?)

                (Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera are still getting playing time?)

                (They’re relying on A.J. “I just got PAID” Burnett to log significant innings?)

                (Really, AJ Burnett?)

Alright, rest easy Sox nation, the Yanks have more problems than chemistry. Still, Mark Teixeira and C.C. Sabathia, Tex especially, will most likely be good signings in the long run and the overall lineup will be as strong as ever.

The question with this team will lie in the pitching staff. Chien-Ming Wang is consistent, if unspectacular. Sabathia had a fantastic second half in ’08 and got a Cy Young Award in ’07, but also logged around 500 innings total in those years, and seems destined for a breakdown.

(Not to mention he is bigger than most left tackles.)

(Stop it, that was a low blow.)

The back end of the rotation will start the season as Burnett, Andy Pettitte and Joba Chamberlain. You have to believe that Phil Hughes will get his fair share of starts because the Bombers won’t want to admit that they and everyone else was dead wrong about him. That’s a pretty fair group, but outside of Pettitte and maybe Chamberlain, pretty unpredictable.

They will be good. No doubt about it. Sadly for me and my Sox, they have a lot of upside as a group. It wouldn’t surprise me if all the pieces come together and they run away with the division, and it also wouldn’t surprise if the moves don't work like they expect.

They will most likely find a happy medium between the two, somewhere around 88-93 wins.

I feel bad for the Blue Jays. If they were in any other division, they would have a fighter’s chance.

Not in this one.

Toronto didn’t bring in anyone new, with the exception of super prospect Travis Snider. He’s young and only a few years out of high school, but his production has forced the hand. For this team to have any kind of success, he has to come in and have an Evan Longoria-type season and reinvigorate this franchise—one that has been stagnant for many years.

Vernon Wells and Alex Rios also have to step up their game and lead that offense because the pitching staff, outside of Roy Halladay, will struggle mightily. I mean, I’m sorry. Jesse Litsch, David Purcey, Scott Richmond, and Brian Burres don’t scare me.

They don’t even scare the Queens County Intramural Softball League.

This team will hover around .500 all year.

Baltimore will be interesting. The outfield is really intriguing. Nick Markakis is an up-and-coming stud. Adam Jones showed flashes late last year. Mix in Felix Pie and you have an exciting young group with loads of potential.

And then there’s the catcher.

Gregg Zaun is penciled in as the opening day starter, and there is no indication that this will change. This is a guy coming off a career year of six homers, 30 RBI and a monstrous .237 batting average. In his long and illustrious career he has...

Stop. Just stop it. I can’t even joke about it.

A lot of pressure has been put on uber prospect Matt Wieters. Whether Zaun starts or not, this guy is going to get his share of the PT and the job sooner than later. Hopefully it works out, because from everything I’ve read, this is a good player and a good guy. We will just have to wait and see.

The pitching staff has some good parts (Jeremy Guthrie, George Sherill) and some new blood (Radhames Liz). The person who interests me is Rich Hill. He was supposed to be the next guy for the Cubs, but fell off the planet last year. If he can get back to his earlier form, the O’s might have pulled a coup.

Bottom line, this team is on the rise.

And now for the two big boys from last year. Between the Rays, Sox, and Yankees, this is looking to be one of the better races in recent memory. The thing that makes it really interesting is that one of these three will miss the playoffs altogether, no matter what.

Now, that being said, it's not guaranteed that the runner up will get the wild card, but the chance that happens seems pretty high. Anyway, moving on.

Tampa Bay is good and getting better with age—Just like fine wine.

They didn’t lose much from the World Series team and brought in Pat Burrell and Matt Joyce. Burrell can most likely be penciled for 25-30 HR’s and 90-100 ribeyes. Joyce is the guy from Detroit who a lot of people like that the Rays picked up. The right field spot has been sewed up for now by these two, most likely Joyce.

B.J. Upton had a good regular season last year, save for power, and the power came in the postseason. It’s a safe bet he improves upon those power numbers this year and still gets his 40 steals or, making him a Carl Crawford clone with better defense.

The starting rotation is really strong, with the top four guys returning and David Price replacing Edwin Jackson. I think the Rays will take that switch. Just a guess.

There’s no reason to think this team doesn’t get better.

That’s not good for the Red Sox. They really didn’t make any huge moves this offseason. Trust me, it’s not a big offseason when your biggest moves are Brad Penny and Takashi Saito. That’s a given.

Still, the offense is very solid, with Jason Bay being an able replacement for Manny Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia having breakout seasons.

The pitching staff will also be strong again.

Josh Beckett had a down year in twenty oh eight and should improve this year.

Matsuzaka’s numbers look real good when you peek at them, but his 1.32 WHIP was still a little high. It might not matter if he improves on that or not because he seems to have a knack for getting the big outs he needs when there are guys on base.

The bottom line for Boston is that they really didn’t do anything to move the team forward for 2009, the front office just kept them on the same level. I don’t know if that means that big moves are coming, but I do know that this team most likely won’t improve on last year by much.

I also know that New York made a ton of moves, and Tampa Bay has a lot of young guys who are getting better.

This division is going to be fantastic. The top three teams might be the best in baseball, at the least all in the top five to seven. You don’t see that much in sports. Here’s my guess how the division will break down.

1.       Tampa Bay

2.       Boston

3.       New York

4.       Baltimore

5.       Toronto

I could write some more, but in the interest of not pushing this baby past 1500 words and putting you into a coma, I’ll wrap it up. Look for the NL East soon. 

 

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