Saturday, April 03, 2010

Trend's Baseball Predictions - The American League

As America's annual national nightmare finally comes to an end tomorrow night, it seems like a good time to embarrass myself again by trying to predict how the baseball season will shake down, with the AL today, NL predictions tomorrow, and playoff predictions on Monday.

AL East
1. New York Yankees (98-64)
2. Boston Red Sox* (94-68)
3. Tampa Bay Rays (88-74)
4. Baltimore Orioles (84-78)
5. Toronto Blue Jays (72-90)

It kills me to pick the Yankees, but they looked really good last year, even with distractions (questions about Rodriguez's use of performance enhancers, the usual Steinbrenner-lite distractions), and I don't see them failing to replicate that performance this year. I'm not yet convinced Burnett will be as good as he was last year, but he proved me wrong last year, so who knows. Yes, they're another year older, but they just look really strong. Red Sox are right behind them, I think. I'm curious to see how the small-ball approach they seem to be taking will work out in Fenway; I don't think it will fail, but I am interested in seeing if it's a noticeable difference from the days of Ramirez-[good] Ortiz-Drew-Lowell. The Rays suffer from being in a really, really good division; I think they'll be game, but just won't make it this year. The Orioles have done a great job assembling a young corps of hitters, and it looks like pitching is finally catching up, too (in a 100%-related story: Peter Angelos is keeping his mitts off the everyday-decisions). They in no way will make a run for the title or even the Wild Card, but they will really make things interesting and tough for the rest of the division. Meanwhile, I expect the Jays' rebuilding efforts to not be enough to overcome their raw talent, and it will be a typical losing-season for rebuilding teams.

AL Central
1. Minnesota (86-76)
2. Detroit (84-78)
3. Chicago (84-78)
4. Kansas City (83-79)
5. Cleveland (80-82)

This is the toughest division to pick, just because it's just such a high rate of mediocrity. Nobody jumps out as an obvious choice to win the division; Minnesota is missing a closer, the Sox don't have a lot of offense, there are some real questions about the back-end of the Tigers' rotation and their bullpen's health, the Royals are an enigma in the hitting and the non-Greinke pitching areas, and the Indians are rebuilding. This will probably be the weakest division in all of baseball; I expect nobody to emerge here, as well as other divisions to take advantage and pound the Central. I'm going to go with Minnesota, just because their issues seem the slightest within the Central. I expect Ozzie Guillen to be increasingly frustrated with what will probably be a lot of 2-1 losses. I can't even begin to figure out Detroit, especially after that collapse last year. I'd even say the Indians are going to be completely out of the running, but with spring suggesting that Hafner, Sizemore, and (most importantly) Carmona back in their old forms, the chance for LaPorta and Brantley to start getting regular starts, and an arsenal of young hitters and arms who could be called up later in the season, it's impossible to even completely rule out the Indians (though it seems highly unlikely). Even if they are terrible this year, I like that we apparently have the only manager who cites VORP in his decisions when talking to journalists. Overall, I think it will be a close race to the end, much like last year, and given the mediocrity of each team on paper, I wouldn't be surprised to see all five teams actually in it until the end. That's not to say any one looks good or the division is that good; quite the opposite, in fact. Still, if things play out the way they seem they could (and they probably won't), it will be entertaining until the bitter end, when the "winner" can go on and get swept out of the ALDS.

AL West

1. Texas (90-72)
2. Anaheim (89-73)
3. Seattle (87-75)
4. Oakland (71-91)

I was all set to put Seattle on the top of this list, but then Lee got hurt with the same type of injury that ended up derailing his 2007 season, and I couldn't do it. I think it will be a really close race in this division, with Seattle and Anaheim in contention throughout, but I think the Rangers may have it in them this year. Oakland is going to be game, but I just think don't have it in them, and as long as they're playing in Al Davis's mausoleum, the Raiders' stink is going to affect them. That said, I don't have a lot of conviction on the Rangers, and I suspect that whoever wins it, it will go down to the wire.