MLB 2011 after 100-games
An American League review


An introduction to realignment 101: You have a better idea?

Let’s dive right into the argument here. And to begin…

I’m tired. (And cranky.) So I really don’t want to stretch this out into a fourteen page examination of each and every possibility.

Contraction? Expansion? That would be one of the easiest ways to do this. Drop down to 28 teams and split into two 14-team leagues. Add up… which would be just colossally stupid… and 32 teams works for balance as well.


I happen to like the designated hitter, mainly because of the consistency. It’s not so much that the pitcher is an easy out… there are several that aren’t, and it is quite admirable to be impressed by those that have figured out that at least learning how to bunt can be a huge benefit to your own efforts on the mound. But a designated hitter doesn’t play one day and sit four. There is a rhythm and consistency to good hitting, and heading to the bat rack every fifth game doesn’t… to me… feature the best.

We are not going to debate the pros and cons of how National League parks hurt American League teams because of how the rosters are built or whatever. And we are not going to dive into the mess of going all DH or all no-DH. We will not spend hours looking at whether or not season-long interleague is as bad as it sounds.

Contraction… designated hitter… I don’t have the time (or patience) for it today.

Instead… I have a set of suggestions that result in a balanced, division heavy schedule. Here we go…

Item number one – Adjust the leagues to be fifteen teams each. (Yeah… that’s right… interleague play every day. Six teams in the NL Central and four in the AL West annoys me more than anything else in baseball that needs help right now.)

Item number two, part one – Thirty interleague games per year. (Ok… I sense some of you pulling away from me. Stay with me…)

The thirty interleague games allows for: (1) A full American League division playing a full National League division. (2) Both a home and an away three-game series against each team.

So… no more of the not playing the same schedules... no more crying over when or where the DH was or wasn’t used. Five teams in the opposing division… two sets of three game series against each team… thirty games.

Item number two, part two – A home and away series against each of the same-league, non-division opponents.

Item number two, part three – Eighteen games… nine home and nine away… against each division opponent.

Item number two, the math – 30 interleague games plus 60 non-divisional league games plus 72 division games equals 162 games.

For now, the idea is simple… You rotate against the other league once every three years. You play each of the non-divisional league opponents every year. And, you play an even number of divisional games.

Yes… I see many of the problems. DH differences between the leagues… additional interleague contests… and so on. It’s meant to be a suggestion.

We can tinker with things so the American League East is not likely to be decided by Boston being on the road the last week of September against Houston and Cincinnati while New York is battling Toronto and Tampa. We can set up road trips so Baltimore doesn’t have to go to the west coast five times in a single season.

What we have to stop is pretending that the world needs six games of Mets and Yankees or Dodgers and Angels every season.

American League East

Standings and observations:

Team Currently On pace for I predicted
Boston 62-37 101-61 97-65
New York 59-40 97-65 92-70
Tampa Bay 53-47 86-76 85-77
Toronto 51-51 81-81 79-83
Baltimore 40-58 66-96 75-87

Quite a shame for the Rays… they’ve fought valiantly all season, and yet they are looking up at two teams that should easily clear 95-wins. And I don’t see how Tampa can go 42-18 the rest of the way to compete with that pace.

Realistically the only question here is whether or not the Yankees can compete with the Red Sox. Now… before you throw up your hands and try starting some sort of “Yankees suck” chant in agreement or defense of Derek Jeter in disagreement, let’s make this simple…

If Boston and New York play each other, Boston can right now say they expect Beckett and Lester to be there first two pitching options. Hard to say what order… the third option is Buchholz, and he has to return from the DL… the opening round would have been played and the length and usage of staff could possibly adjust who goes when. But there’s your top two, and with Buchholz, the top three. New York will send Sabathia and… who?


Because there you have it. Who pitches games two or three? If you tell me the consideration for number two is being given to Burnett or Colon or Garcia (and we can go on), the reality is those guys are no better or more reliable than Lackey. Yes… that’s exactly what I’m saying… arguably the fourth and fifth best starters on Boston’s team are better than any potential second starter in New York.

We can argue offense and bullpen and how things have played out over the past two… five… ten years in all sorts of numbers.

All I’m asking is… all things being equal… if you could, today, set up the rotation with confidence for the playoffs… who do the Yankees pick to pitch game two?

Hey… maybe Colon is awesome. Maybe he does it. The thing is… well, I’ll try to quote Robert Fulghum (my words may be off, but they’re close)… “The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but you better bet that way.”

Trade possibilities for the needy: I’m hearing all sorts of things I don’t like for Boston.

Carlos Beltran. Honestly it’s too expensive for a player that gives you nothing in 2012 (no draft picks, and he’s likely leaving since Boston wants Khalish or Reddick in right and they won’t even try to keep him). He’s also an injury risk.

Jeff Francoeur. Really? Really? I mean… to be fair… .269, 13 home runs, and a nice season for a 27-year old player. But he’s up and down from year to year, and .268 with 20 homers is about what you could consider an average year. More to the point… his career on-base percentage is .311, with a .319 on-base this season. Folks… the guy Boston wants out of the line-up is struggling to a .317 on-base percentage this year. That’s right… J.D. “don’t let the door hit you in the ass” Drew at his worst is getting on base at about the same clip that Francoeur is right now at his best. Ta-dah!

Both Boston and New York should be burning up phone lines with Oakland and San Diego for relief pitching. Breslow and Adams will be the big targets there… but the A’s and Padres have multiple arms that might be sent out in a deal.

Funny thing is… with the trade deadline approaching, I wonder if Boston can trust Buchholz returning and the arms they have in place (both here and the minors). I suppose I would not be stunned to see them call to look for a middle-of-the-rotation starter that clubs may not really be focusing upon… see…

I mentioned in the NL column that Boston might be willing to do some things where overpaying was a part of the deal, and that probably is an important thought… because I would guess Boston is looking at a starter on the top of their trade wish list. I don’t know that for certain though… but pitching trumps right field. And here’s again is why they could make some waves…

The Red Sox have a funny situation developing where they need roster spots on the 40-man for 2012. I don’t know all the deals in place or what they really need to do… but absolutely heard no less than Theo say during an interview that it’s a nice problem to have, and they need to get creative to keep the players in the organization. And I wholeheartedly believe that Boston would rather add an extra player into a trade and use him as a chip to get a player they really want instead of not adding him in and losing both the trade and the prospect after the season to something like Rule 5.

In short… Boston might just figure out how to surprise us. But they won’t do it for Carlos Beltran. It’s going to need to be someone that stays with them after 2011.

Don’t believe the hype: I’m going with the Yankees here.

At the risk of jinxing everything… a couple of years ago Boston leaped out to a huge head-to-head advantage. By the end of September they were running about even. This year though, Boston has handled their starters (including Sabathia), is scoring more runs, and overall has bounced back from a rough start to become a team that seems level-headed, focused and on automatic pilot from game to game.

While New York could bash their way past Cleveland or Detroit if they, by some strange turn of events wind up facing the Indians or Tigers in the opening round, I don’t see how they can beat up Texas or Boston. In fact, I think the Yankees lose in the opening round of the playoffs.

But I digress.

Simply put… I don’t like New York to be ready to keep things going all season and win the division, and I don’t like their roster against what I see as other playoff rosters. They may be looking good for the postseason… they need help.

I like Boston to investigate some really interesting trade possibilities. Theo and the management group always seem to be on the cusp of pulling off a blockbuster at the trade deadline… only to fall short, in no small part because of how complex the trade was. This year though, as I mentioned when kicking these review off, the Red Sox have some pieces they may lose in a numbers game. If we’re asking them to trade too much for Hunter Pence… they won’t. On the other hand… the question this year may be trade four prospects for Hunter Pence in a deal that overpays for him or lose three of those prospects for nothing when you have no room on the 40-man… and that is a totally different situation. Again though… Theo has a habit of setting things up only to fall short.

The Blue Jays seem to be kicking the tires and are getting active on trades for some long-term deals… ones that make no sense for 2011, but actually add pieces for 2012, 2013 and beyond. (And I say make no sense because they won’t catch Boston, New York, and likely not even Tampa. But next year… especially if another playoff team is added… worth watching what they are up to.)

What I expect: Boston and New York in the playoffs. Tampa to reach an impressive 90-wins. Toronto to break even. Baltimore to be below .500 but telling us about the organizational hope for the future.

American League Central

Standings and observations:

Team Currently On pace for I predicted
Detroit 54-47 87-75 88-74
Cleveland 51-48 83-79 72-90
Chicago 49-51 79-83 88-74
Minnesota 47-54 75-87 88-74
Kansas City 42-59 67-95 68-94

Unfortunately, everything is beginning to take focus here in the Central… and by that I mean the Indians are no longer controlling much. They have fallen behind the Tigers… and the White Sox and Twins, while not necessarily back in the race (our previously discussed below .500 at 100 rule), are no longer so far behind they can’t even be seen.

Detroit in first place.

Minnesota since my 40-game review… 35-27.

Chicago since my 40-game review… 32-26.


Cleveland since my 40-game review?


Need I say more?

We’ve watched Detroit blink before as the season drags on… so let’s not just hand this to them. While Chicago and Minnesota are both below even, as I just outlined, they are playing better, and they are easily closer than weeks remaining and have plenty of head-to-head contests. In short… the within 5-games rule with competition that isn’t looking particularly dominant is absolutely worthy of consideration here.

Just like the NL Central, one or two good trades could prove difference-makers for teams in this division.

Trade possibilities for the needy: I keep hearing about the White Sox. (Which, of course, means to expect nothing from the White Sox. Never jump on a bandwagon with everyone else.)

Detroit has been willing to add payroll in the past, but I honestly expect them to look for tinkering-level moves. They already brought in Martinez during the off-season, and added with Peralta and Cabrera they have a good lineup. There sure is a place or two they could put an everyday player, but unlike resources we’ve seen in Boston, New York and Philadelphia, eventually the pockets can’t support adding the contracts. They could use a starter… even with Justin Verlander leading the way, pitchers like Scherzer and Porcello are getting wins without dominant numbers. But the starter of a quality they could use likely isn’t on the market, and definitely not at a price they can afford.

Minnesota was originally looking like sellers. I’m not certain that has changed… they close the gap to 5 games or less, and then fall back quickly to 7 or 8. But I do believe the fragility of their club (read: Mauer and his annual injury that turns into debates about his catching stability) has them at least thinking about 2012 and beyond, and looking at some options that could be based on sending away Cuddyer. I doubt they will… instead something like trading Slowey is what to look for… but somehow the Twins always manage to get something in before the end of July.

And then, back to my Chicago comment. Mark Buehrle leaves for one club and one club only… St. Louis. Done with that one. Won’t happen. What I see looking interesting is stuff like Edwin Jackson on the market… conversations about Carlos Quentin (huge possibility for Boston… he’s 28 and isn’t hideous with his on-base and power numbers, despite some shaky year-to-year comparisons that include never being in more than 130 games… he likely could be earned for at most three minor leaguers, and they wouldn’t have to be minor leaguers that hurt). Still… they expected to contend this year. Just like Colorado, I can’t see a team that thought they could be in the postseason in 2011 looking to send away players they’ll need to replace to contend in 2012.

Don’t believe the hype: Chicago.

Any club getting seasons like Dunn and Rios are turning in cannot be considered a serious threat for a playoff spot.

Oh sure… they have played very well to return to the race. And they have some quality parts and even-keeled veterans. But I’m just not trusting them to be better when I consider what my eyes see and the numbers say. They are getting bad contributions from important roster spots.

What I expect: The White Sox are tough to take seriously when you can pitch to most of their batting order.

And the Twins… well… there’s a reason they end up leaving the playoffs so quickly. They are solid team, and one that normally maintains a fairly consistent approach to the regular season. (At times they lose in bunches… at times the win in bunches… and at the end of the year they are always good to approach 90-wins.) But they are by no means a scary team. 100-games in and they still sit 7-below even. Heck, at 47-54 they need to 43-17 over the last 60 to get to 90-wins. As I just pointed out… they recently went 35-27 over about 60. 40-20 gets them to 87-wins, and that is a pace they haven’t hit all season. They’re toast.

And so… it’s Detroit. If they can stay consistent… and basically winning more than they lose would get it done… the division is theirs. But we have seen the great fade before. There’s a reason you play the games.

American League West

Standings and observations:

Team Currently On pace for I predicted
Texas 58-44 92-70 88-74
California 55-47 87-75 84-78
Oakland 44-57 71-91 80-82
Seattle 43-58 69-93 64-98

About a week ago, or maybe two, the surprising Seattle Mariners were a handful of games out of first place and sitting on a record that was fairly impressive. 43-44? Not bad all things considered. And then… freefall. The 162-game season is full of dips and dives and streaks. Judging it day-to-day does not work.

Oakland and Seattle are out of it… and California is playing a bit above their heads.

Trade possibilities for the needy: Wow.

See… Oakland is going to unload relievers, and basically will listen if the price is right on other players. And Seattle… well, they don’t have much, but what they have you could make an offer on.

But there is nothing there for the Rangers or Angels to chase. Neither club needs pitching as much as, say, the Yankees. So yeah… New York will overpay if someone hits the market worthy of considering. Same deal with hitting… where while they could absolutely place some quality players if the opportunity is there, you have teams like San Francisco in dire need of hitting, Boston looking to place someone in right or at short if it makes sense to go after the player… and basically there is nothing spectacular to consider.

One thing to kick the tires on… watch the Rangers and the market for relief pitching. Mike Adams… I don’t think they can land him… he fits a huge need. The Rangers want to redesign their staff next season, and Adams is under control beyond this year. So not only would he be a great addition this season… he also would contribute mightily to future plans.

Don’t believe the hype: California.

Sure… solid front-of-the-rotation pitching. Names you recognize here and there on the roster. But read for them exactly what I said about Minnesota. While the pitching has some dominant parts (and Mauer counts as a dominant part for Minnesota), the reality is that they are not made of load-bearing, dominate-a-series, playoff-marquee names. Get to the playoffs? Sure. They can and do. Win in the playoffs? No.

In Texas they are trying to put together a deep club that can compete in the playoffs. And while the lead may only be 3 today… the reality is that’s a strong 3. Sure… the Angels have Haren and Weaver and a not-too-shabby-in-2011 Santana. (Weaver is one of the best in the game right now.) Texas is impressive as well. Alexi Ogando has been an unreal surprise… C.J. Wilson has been as tough a pitcher to face as you might find… and then there is Harrison and Lewis rounding out a nice four player option. Heck… 102 games and five Texas pitchers account for just about 100 of the starts.

Yup… I don’t think the Angels close that gap.

What I expect: Texas is winning this division… and the only real question is do they face the Yankees to open the playoffs.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at