Last season, I waxed somewhat anecdotal about how I hadn't studied for my Fantasy Baseball draft, and the end result was that I ended up finishing 3rd, higher than I'd finished in about 7 years. I can't quite say that my American League predictions ended up nearly as well, but then again, who the hell thought the Tampa Bay Rays would turn into a modern-day version of the 1969 Mets?
The point, as usual, is that most of the time, I don't have any idea what I'm talking about.
I still know relatively little about the makeup of most of the teams in the American League. I still think it's the Fatboy league, strategy-free and full of tiny ballparks and pitchers with an average ERA of 4.80. I believe this makes me just as qualified to make predictions as anyone else who really takes their preseason predictions seriously. As with yesterday's NL Preview, we're hitting rapid-fire and blasting right through this sucker.
1) Boston Red Sox (95-67)
The three best teams, perhaps, in all of Baseball reside int his division. This will throw off their records somewhat since they'll all beat up on each other, and I think it will come down to who has the best head for pressurized games down the stretch. And I think the Red Sox boast the best set of heads. Though it remains to be seen if Ortiz is healthy, there are no questions when it comes to Pedroia, Youkilis or Jason Bay. Their pitching is just as solid, top to bottom, and even if the back of the rotation guys like Brad Penny and John Smoltz can't hack it, they have so much depth that they'll be able to cover it up.
2) Tampa Bay Rays (93-69)
They came out of nowhere last year and they're not going anywhere for a while. They have the pitching to keep up with Boston, without question. Though it's guys like Shields, Kazmir and David Price that get all the ink, I think the guy who's going to stand out for them is Matt Garza, and he's likely the 4th starter. Their offense doesn't quite have the punch of Boston's, but you can't not like the young nucleus of Upton, Longoria and Carlos Pena, and giving Pat Burrell a chance to hit in those AL Ballparks on a regular basis can't hurt him at all. I think they'll hang around right to the end and win the Wildcard.
3) New York Yankees (92-70)
Operating in the Media Vaccuum in New York, all we've been subjected to over the past few months is the Yankee hype machine talking about how this team is the best ever, they're going to win 110 games and nobody will be able to touch them. Sabathia will win 20, Joba will win 20 and other teams may as well not show up. I find this kind of funny when the Yankees are boasting a starting rotation featuring 3 guys who have a history of breaking down (Wang, Burnett, Joba), one more who's basically past it (Pettitte), and major question marks at 6 Offensive positions (Cano, Jeter, Gardner, Damon, Posada, Matsui). And that's not even touching on the Alex Rodriguez circus, who probably won't play until Mid-May at the earliest. If they start slow, and that's a very distinct possibility, they could be in a lot of trouble by time he comes back. Don't be so quick to drink the Kool-Aid. This team has some severe flaws.
4) Toronto Blue Jays (79-83)
They're woefully unexciting and hopelessly buried behind the big 3. They have a very solid pitching rotation, even after losing Burnett, and that should keep them somewhat respectable. But an offense that features Vernon Wells and a horrible mishmash of over-the-hill veterans, middling utility guys and one hotshot rookie (Travis Snider) won't be able to hold up their end of the bargain. Another depressing season for my friends at the Tao of Stieb.
5) Baltimore Orioles (72-90)
I think they'll be better than their record shows, but this division is so topheavy, that they will more than likely just get killed on a regular basis. I know there's some talent here, but I don't think it's worth digging to hard to find it.
1) Minnesota Twins (87-75)
This is probably the most wide-open division in Baseball, though the Twins seem to be the prohibitive favorite. In the final season at the Baggie, the Twins have retained much of the team that was able to take them all the way down to a Play-in game, which they lost 1-0 to John Danks and the White Sox. But this is a smart, heady team that has a lot of guys who just know how to beat you. I love their outfield trio of Denard Span, Carlos Gomez and Jason Kubel, and of course Morneau can carry the load. And then, to top it off, two words: Joe Crede.
2) Chicago White Sox (85-77)
Much like last year, they'll hang around all the way to the end. It's not going to be pretty, they'll probably get a few good meltdowns out of Ozzie Guillen, and they'll probably have their troubles at the back end of the rotation with Contreras and Bartolo Colon, but they have solid mix of veterans and youth, and I wouldn't be all that surprised if they won the division.
3) Cleveland Indians (82-80)
This team that was one win away from sneaking into the World Series a couple of years ago has fallen rudely back to the heap. I don't think Cliff Lee is quite capable of duplicating his numbers from last season, and Carl Freakin' Pavano is the 3rd starter. Their lineup is also basically Grady Sizemore and a bunch of guys who will hit .275 with 15-20 HRs and 60-70 RBI. Yawn City.
4) Kansas City Royals (75-87)
They won't finish last, and they'll actually look better this year. I think the Royals have finally turned the corner here, and might actually be moving in a positive direction. They've added some veteran talent in Coco Crisp and Mike Jacobs to complement their emerging stars Alex Gordon, Mark Teahen, Mike Aviles and David DeJesus. Pitching is still questionable, they'll take their lumps, but they have an outstanding bullpen that nobody really knows much about, and Joakim Soria is probably one of the AL's best kept secrets. Look for them to surprise.
5) Detroit Tigers (74-88)
This team is a train wreck.
1) Anaheim Angels (91-71)
I guess so. I think they're everyone's pick because nobody thinks much of the rest of the division. I find them woefully unexciting, but they're clearly one of the more talented teams in the game.
2) Oakland Athletics (83-79)
I think they're going to hit a little more than last year, although should they fall out of the race early, Free Agent to be Matt Holliday will probably be dealt, and Eric Chavez will get hurt, and they also have Jason Giambi and Nomar Garciaparra, which would be a fabulous middle of the lineup punch were it 10 years ago. But I think the fate of the team hinges on how long it takes for them to call up Corey Wimberly. Any guy who boasts the best-looking use of stirrups, well, probably ever deserves to play in the Majors.
3) Texas Rangers (75-87)
4) Seattle Mariners (73-89)
They make me very tired.
AL MVP: Evan Longoria, TB
AL Cy Young: Roy Halladay, TOR
AL Rookie of the Year: Taylor Teagarden, TEX
ALDS: Minnesota over Boston, Tampa Bay over Anaheim
ALCS: Minnesota over Tampa Bay
Figured I'd take something resembling a risk with these picks. Satisfied? Yeah, me too.