Tuesday, February 5, 2008

American League Preview: AL East

Lets run down the best league in baseball one division at a time. Starting with the…

The Eastern Division

Baltimore Orioles:
2007: 69-93 4th East
2008 Projection: 67-95 5th East

Looks like the Orioles are in for another rough season at Camden Yards. Interim manager Dave Trembley will be returning this season after leading the O’s to a 40-53 record after taking over on June 18th of last year. The Orioles are a statistical nightmare with the only shimmer of light coming from leading the AL in stolen bases with 144. After a December 13th deal that sent 2002 MVP Miguel Tejada to the Astros for Luke Scott, Troy Patton, Matt Albers, Dennis Sarfate, and Mike Costanzo the O’s are in real trouble. The only hope is that Trembley can mold some of the young talent and take his squad out of the cellar after a year or two of prospect development, I don’t see any miracles happening in Baltimore.

Tampa Bay Rays:
2007: 66-96 (30 GB) 5th East
2008 Projection: 70-92 4th East

Tampa Bay wants to leave 2007 in the past, they’ve dropped the Devil and are going with a more hip rhyming scheme. Next task: Fix their pitching at any and all costs. They came up ranked 14th in ERA, BAA, OPS, SV, and WHIP. Over the last four years Joe Madden has taken them to a combined 154-221 record, hardly anything to write home about.

1. James Shield: 12-8 ERA 3.75 (Resigned to a 4 year contract worth 11.25 million)
2. Scott Kazmir: 13-9 ERA 3.48
3. Matt Garza; 5-7 ERA 3.69
4. Edwin Jackson: 5-15 ERA 5.76
5. Andy Sonnastine: 6-10 ERA 5.85
Silver Lining: Between them they have an average of two years in the show between them. Let’s hope they are still developing.

With a salary sitting around 35 million a year and ranked 28th in spending they have another year to develop before major deals need to be made. Outlook: Sports Radio keeps talking about the Bulls and how they were #2 once.

New York Yankees:
2007: 94-68 (2 GB) : 2nd East, AL Wildcard
2008 Projection: 85- 72 3rd in the East

In 2007 the Yanks were first in every major statistical batting category. My issue with the Yankees can be seen from a couple different perspectives. First i’m not sold on Joe Girardi’s managing credentials. I don’t know if he has what it takes to even finish out his three year contract. I think the amount of pressure on him from the City, the Press, and the Management is enough to make a man weaker than Torre crack. Secondly, I think that age is becoming a huge factor. Its nice to have a blank check when it comes to signing talent, but there comes a point where the all-star team you are assembling doesn’t come together. I am a big believer in a balance between young players and seasoned veterans making a team what it is. Just because you have the payroll of the Red Sox doesn’t mean you have the chemistry, just ask ARod and Jeter. That being said I do realize they won 94 games last season and made the playoffs, as a fan you should take that any day. The issue is that it is New York and looking at postseason performances, something just isn’t clicking.

Off-season Dealings:

LaTroy Hawkins: 1 Year
Mariano Rivera: 3 Years
ARod: 10 Years
Andy Pettitte: 1 Year
Jose Molina: 2 Years
Jorge Posada: 4 Years
Bobby Abreu; Exercise 2008 Option

Bottom Line: Play like the veterans you are, realize you play in New York, forget some of you played with Girardi or miss the playoffs.

Toronto Blue Jays:
2007: 83-79 (13 GB) 3rd in the East
2008: 89- 73 : 2nd in the East

The Jays were the surprise team in the East and arguably in the AL, but received little to no attention. A well above average Blue Jays team doesn’t exactly sell as many newspapers as an underachieving Yankees team. The fact of the matter is that where the Red Sox were #1 in almost every statistical pitching category, the Jays were #2. The Jays squad posted a 4.00 ERA, BAA of .251, an OPS of .706, a WHIP of 1.29, and had 91 Quality Saves all second in the AL. That leaves us with lackluster offensive production that landed them completely unimpressive numbers. That is not taking anything away from a team that was injury plagued all season. Despite major blows to their lineup their pitching still managed to propel them to a respectable record.

2007 Injuries:
Roy Halladay, Lyle Overbay, Vernon Wells, A.J Burnett, Troy Glaus, Reed Johnson, Gustavo Chacin, B.J Ryan

Off-season Moves:
Acquired Scott Rolen and David Eckstein: 1 Year Deal
Catcher Rod Barajas: 1 Year deal
Pitcher Scott Downs : 3 Years
IF Marco Scutaro: 2 Years
Jason Frasor: 1 Year
Gustavo Chacin: 1 Year
Brian Tallet: 1 Year

Bottom Line: Stay Healthy. Eckstein and Rolen are great additions to this club, and if the pitching stays health there is no reason they shouldn’t win close to 90 games. Unfortunately, I still think they miss the playoffs considering the strength of the AL Central this year.

Boston Red Sox:
2007: 96-66 : 1st East, AL Champs, World Series Champs
2008 Projection: 92-70 1st East and another ALCS visit

The Red Sox held off the surging Yankees to claim the Eastern Division last year then cruised to the ALCS/World Series against the Tribe. It’s hard to critique a team that seems to have found the balance of pitching and offensive production. As far as batting is concerned they were 2nd in the AL in On Base % (.362), 3rd in Runs (867) and Slugging (.444), and 5th in average (.279). On the pitching side they were first in the AL in ERA (3.87), Average Against (.247), OPS (.705), and WHIP (1.27). The only major statistical categories they did not sit on top of were Saves (2nd at 45) and Quality Starts (6th at 84).

Off Season Moves:
David Aardsma acquired from the White Sox for Willy Mota and Miguel Socolovich

Contract Extensions and Deals:
Kyle Snyder : 1 Year
Javier Lopez: 1 Year
Doug Mirabelli: 1 Year
Mike Timlin: 1 Year

Bottom Line:
As long as the Sox keep up the chemistry and poise they have in recent years, as well as keeping their rotation healthy we should see them make another run at a pennant.

The East will again be a lopsided contest. While the Red Sox and the Yankees are always the two teams to beat, do not count the Blue Jays out. I think they have all the ingredients to make a run at second place and even a wildcard spot. That being said I think that the odds of that are slim seeing as two of the three best teams in the American League call the Central Division home.

4Real Out...