Wednesday, March 16, 2011

2011 MLB Final Standings Predictions: AL EAST

Boston Red Sox 95 - 67
Why this team is Interesting? The Red Sox are the best team in baseball.  But that's not all that makes them interesting.  How will new stars Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford do in their debuts?  No reason to think they will be less than spectacular.  Especially Gonzalez, who's opposite field swing seems tailor made to bash doubles off of the Monster.

The Red Sox aren't perfect though.  There are questions.  How will Jacoby Ellsbury bounce back from his 2010 lost to injury?  What does JD Drew have left?  Is Jarrod Saltalamacchia a major league quality starting catcher?  Is Kevin Youkilis still a major league quality third baseman?  How will Dustin Pedroia  come back?  What do Josh Beckett, John Lackey and Dice-K Matsuzaka have left in the tank?  Is Papelbon still good?  Who's the shortstop, Jed Lowrie or Marco Scutaro?

Seems like a lot of questions for 'The Best Team in Baseball'.  But the Red Sox have plan B's for about every issue that could pop up.  In the OF that Plan B is Ryan Kalish.  Kalish is ready to step in should Elsbury or Drew not be up to par.  Scutaro and Lawrie are the Plan B's in the IF.  Scooter or Jed can man 2nd or 3rd if Pedey and Youk can't.  Youk can go to 1st if Gonzalez' shoulder isn't ready.  Gonzalez can DH if Papi can't go.  In the bullpen, Daniel Bard is ready to take over as closer, if Paps isn't getting it done.  Bard might close even if Papelbon is tres bon, Bard is that good.

This team is deep and has moving parts.  That's why they are #1 in the AL East and #1 in baseball.

New York Yankees 94 - 68
Why is this team interesting?  Because they 'Got Rings!'.  Because they are the New York Frickin' Yankees.  Because they have a $220 million payroll.  A-Rod!  Jeter!  The Spirit of the Bambino.

Actually, it is because despite all the problems in the rotation, they're practically as good as the Red Sox. If you like 10 - 8 games.  This is your team 2 out of every 5 games.  The lineup is absolutely stacked.  If we have to ask some questions we can ask: How will Russ Martin come back?  Will the Yankees be forced to go to Jesus Monterro earlier than they'd like at catcher?  How much does Jeter have left?  Is Robbie Cano 2010 good or 'only' 2009 good?  What exactly does Brett Gardner give them?  That doesn't sound too scary.   But, then we have the rotation.  CC Sabathia, we know what to expect.  220 innings of fine pitching.  Phil Hughes looked like a solid major league starter for most of last year.-but that's only 1 season.  What's up with AJ Burnett?  Is 2010 what the Yanks can expect going forward?  Can he bounce back?  Can Freddy Garcia be the Freddy Garcia of...2006?  That was a while ago.  Who's the 5th starter?  Ivan Nova?  Bartolo Colon?  20 year old Manuel Banuelos?  Yikes!

Tampa Rays 84 - 78
Why is this team interesting? Because they'd be the favorites in just about any other division.  They lost some key players, most notably Carl Crawford, but when one leaves it seems they have two more to replace him.  They also have the best unrecognized player in baseball in Evan Longoria.  Check this out:
You'll want to take a closer look, but that's Even Longoria who has provided the 3rd most WAR in the league over the past 3 combined seasons.

This is a retooling year for the Rays, but that just makes them more interesting.  Neiman, Davis, and Hellickson aren't name brands but they are young and exciting pitchers the Rays are plugging into their rotation this year.  Jake McGee isn't far behind and will probably pitch in the bullpen this season.  Desmond Jennings (aka Carl Crawford v2.0) isn't far behind, but until he's ready, you'll just have to make due watching Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez.  That might be worth the price of admission alone.

Toronto Blue Jays 79 - 83
Why is this team interesting?  They smash home runs all over the field.  Well, mostly down the left-field line.  The Jays lead the majors with 257 home runs last season (46 more than the 2nd place Yankees).  You may have heard of Joey Bats (Jose Bautista) who hit 54 of those.  Now, Joey probably won't hit 54 again (though I'm bullish on at least 40) and some big hitters from last year are gone (Vernon Wells-31, John Buck-20, Lyle Overbay-20).  But!  New Jays catcher, JP Arencibia, has hit 53 home runs the last 2 years in AAA.  He can hit.  Travis Snider, who has 25 home runs in 675 major league plate appearances, figure to finally get full time playing time.  He can hit.  Adam Lind looks to bounce back to his 35 home run output of last season.  He can hit.

The Jays can hit, but that's not all folks.  They have some pitchers as well.  Ricky Romero put together a 4 WAR season in just his 2nd year in the league.  Brandon Morrow struck out almost 11 per 9 innings last year in his first year as a full time starter.  Number 1 prospect Kyle Drabek looks to crack the rotation.

This is better than a .500 team.  Too bad they will take their share of losses against the Red Sox, Yankees and Rays.  This is the best #4 team in baseball.

Baltimore Orioles 76 - 86
Why is this team interesting?  Because if they weren't in the AL East they'd be the 'Sexy Sleeper Pick For 2011'.  If a few things break right, the Orioles could be a very good team.  But 'if's don't cut it in the AL East.

Two years ago Matt Weiters was hailed as 'Baseball Jesus'.  While he hasn't been divine he's been pretty damn good.  He's been a perfectly average catcher as a 23 and 24 year old in 'Baseball's Toughest Division' (imagine booming God voice).  This could be the year that he ascends to his rightful place as the Orioles' best player.

Similarly, most of the players in the Orioles' lineup could be on the upswing.  Derek Lee is coming off of a down year as are Brian Roberts and JJ Hardy.  Mark Reynolds is a definite upgrade over the junk the O's threw out at the hot corner last season.  Adam Jones doesn't look like he's going to reach the potential he was expected to have when he was traded for Eric Bedard.  But, he'll be 26 this season and many players turn it on at this age.  Nick Markakis has been down in 2009 and 2010 after being up in 2007 and 2008.  He's young enough that a return to those levels isn't out of the question.

The rotation is full of young players who should, naturally, be improving.  Jeremy Guthrie is a solid, not-spectacular, starter.   Brian Matusz has a chance to be spectacular. Jake Arrieta also has that possibility.

If everything broke right, this team would win the AL Central easily.  But, this is the AL East, the best they can really hope for is 4th.

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