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Posts Tagged ‘Michael Young’

The AL West shapes up as a showdown of pitching vs. offense, with the team that used to set the standard now entrenched as an also-ran and a rebuilding effort in the Great Northwest. In what should be essentially a two-team race, the nod goes to the A’s and their young guns.

Oakland surprised many by posting the best rotation ERA in the league last season. Despite trading Vin Mazzaro to Kansas City this offseason, the A’s still look to have easily the best rotation in their division, while adding Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes to what was an already impressive bullpen may give the team the best top-to-bottom staff in the league. Given their ages, one can only expect the rotation, led by Brett Anderson and strike-out machine Gio Gonzalez to continue to improve. While the offense is still underwhelming, adding Hideki Matsui, Josh Willingham and David DeJesus to the under-rated Daric Barton and Kurt Suzuki should provide enough punch to lead the A’s to their first division title since 2006.

The defending league champions will miss the departed Vladimir Guerrero‘s bat, but that’s not the piece that looks to derail the Texas Rangers bid to repeat. Losing Cliff Lee and not replacing him with anyone has led them to scramble to find starters from their relief corps and a few reclamation projects, such as Brandon Webb. The Rangers will still hit – any team that includes Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Michael Young and Ian Kinsler will score runs. Adding Mike Napoli should help, but the Adrian Beltre signing is one of those “buyer beware” type deals: Beltre’s bat has a history of coming alive only in contract years, although his glove work remains impeccable. Expect Texas to be involved in a lot of 10-8 type games.

The Angels once were considered the standard of excellence in the division, making the playoffs 6 times in an 8 year span from 2002 – 2009. Last year, the team finished below .500 and they’ll struggle to reach that mark again this year. Provided Scott Kazmir can recapture some lost magic and Joel Piniero can continue to wiggle out of jams, the rotation looks to be better than average. But the once-feared bullpen is no longer a sure thing, now led by the erratic Fernando Rodney as the closer. The line-up is ill-suited to playing manager Mike Scioscia‘s style, featuring aging players now playing out of position – with the curious addition of Vernon Wells joining former stars Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu, as well as rookie Peter Bourjos in the outfield rotation. The Angels will be further hampered by 1B Kendry Morales uncertain status; reports suggest he may not return until May from last season’s freakish broken leg.

Finally, there’s the Mariners. Last year’s pre-season Cinderella pick collapsed by April 30th and went downhill from there. At least, this season doesn’t bring those types of expectations to Seattle – which is a good thing. If Erik Bedard is healthy again, he could prove a nice one-two pairing with reigning Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez. CF Franklin Gutierrez seemed to regress last year, but the talent is still there and he may have experienced the dreaded “sophomore slump.” Seattle fans will also be able to root for Ichiro Suzuki to make it 11 consecutive seasons with 200+ hits and 25+ steals, a feat never before accomplished in major league baseball.

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The 2011 Yankees work out during Spring Training

It’s that time of year. Spring training games are underway and baseball fans everywhere are having heated discussions about who will finish where. It’s kind of silly, really. As any Yankee fan can tell you, “You can’t predict baseball.” Still, we make the effort – never mind that mid-season injuries, trades and call-ups always alter the picture. Add in the players who have break-out years (seriously, who thought Jose Bautista would slug 54 homers in 2010?) or unexpectedly terrible ones (think Carlos Lee), and predicting anything this time of year becomes an exercise in futility. But it is a fun exercise, so here I go.

I’ll start by posting the expected finish of team, including record. How did I come to this? I ran 100 season simulations, based on a program I originally wrote for picking football games. Of course, this assumes I’ve correctly guessed every team’s roster on Opening Day and that nobody suffers a significant injury. It’s worked well for me in picking the NFL (as those of you who followed my picks on Twitter last year probably know), but this is the first time I’ve ever tried it in baseball. By the way, the division names double as links, you can hit them to get to a more in-depth prognostication.

AL East

  1. New York Yankees,     105-57    0 GB
  2. Boston Red Sox,     105-57    0 GB
  3. Tampa Bay Rays    95-67    10 GB
  4. Baltimore Orioles    94-68    11 GB
  5. Toronto Blue Jays    67-95    38 GB

AL Central

  1. Minnesota Twins    87-75    0 GB
  2. Chicago White Sox    84-78     3 GB
  3. Detroit Tigers        71-91    16 GB
  4. Kansas City Royals    55-97    32 GB
  5. Cleveland Indians    45-107    42 GB

AL West

  1. Oakland A’s        97-95     0 GB
  2. Texas Rangers        85-77    12 GB
  3. Anaheim Angels    83-79    14 GB
  4. Seattle Mariners    64-98    33 GB

Yes, the AL East is that good. And yes, Cleveland is that bad.

Season’s biggest surprise: The Oriole starting rotation. I know, you probably think I lost my mind. But the O’s may have the best stable of young arms in the league, with Jake Arrieta (25), Brian Matusz (24), Brad Bergesen (25) and Chris Tillman(23). Add in a resurgent Justin Duchscherer and the steady Jeremy Guthrie, and that’s a lot of promise.

Season’s biggest bust: Texas. They’re really going to miss not re-signing Cliff Lee. Not to mention the whole Michael Young saga is a great case study in how to blow up team chemistry.

MVP candidate: Robinson Cano. If you thought last year was special, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

CY Young Candidate: Since this award seems given to somebody from a losing team lately, I’ll stay with the trend. Here’s a vote for Joakim Soria.

As always, I look forward to your feedback. And…PLAY BALL!!!

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