part four we switch over to the American League, and find what
may be… top to bottom… the most competitive division in baseball.
not completely fair.
four teams here.
three of them have a legitimate shot to win it… one with solid
pitching and another with playoff experience. And the fourth appears
to preparing for July by stockpiling a few trade chips.
What I expect in 2010: 89-73, playoffs
they did in 2009: 85-77
personnel changes: Put Cliff Lee in their rotation and
then place Chone Figgins on the field. In a funny way… you could
say both of these were at the expense of California. Figgins directly…
and Lee is, without much of a debate, at least the equivalent
of John Lackey (who left for Boston). Either way, the Mariners
got stronger. Alot stronger. California loses… Seattle gains.
What I don’t get is the Milton Bradley acquisition. I suppose
to get rid of Carlos Silva it makes some sense… still, it’s Milton
Bradley. (And… despite my concerns… if it works, it will work
wonderfully since he should be hitting behind Ichiro and Figgins.
Bradley has zero worthy of complaining about heading in to this
season.) Eric Byrnes and Casey Kotchman could contribute. Overall,
a nice job here. Could be good enough to win the division.
expectations: Out in the West I think the Mariners have
a real shot to take the division. No one is strong enough to win
95 or more… and yet, if you picked any one team that could do
it, for me it would be the Mariners. Hernandez… Lee… and now room
to wait and see with Erik Bedard instead of praying he delivers
(and the comfort of holding off on him until June as he recovers
Figgins won’t solve all of the problems on his own, but this is
still the land of Ichiro, and the addition of Figgins makes this
club a bit more dynamic… a bit more explosive… and heck, maybe
even a bit unpredictable and dangerous. (That’s two guys with
a mentality that they are in scoring position once they reach
outfield is going to be brilliant on defense, and Kotchman offers
a good glove to an improving infield. (This is easily the best
defensive Mariner infield since John Olerud left. Not even close,
and maybe their best ever. Don’t read that as an amazing, breathtaking
infield. The outfield is scary, breathtaking good. But this infield
will be solid.)
don’t expect long losing streaks… I don’t see them losing games
they should win with silly errors… and in a division where no
one is going to run away, I’m predicting a first place finish.
I’m not alone. And remember the bandwagon. With everyone jumping
on, you should probably be betting on California or Texas out
it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): Cliff Lee.
year I had my doubts. Basically, the story goes like this… guy
comes out of a concession stand job to win the Cy Young award.
How? How does anyone look at Lee’s career and expect that again?
I know that’s not completely fair… 18-5 with a sub-4 ERA in 2005
was advance warning… but we’re talking 22-3 with a 2.54!
then in 2009 he gets traded to Philly and I’ll be darned if he
didn’t look pretty good. I will be quiet now as far as Lee is
concerned and having questions.
he’s 31. And he’s being counted on to deliver along with Felix
Hernandez and provide this club with some of the strongest top-of-the-rotation
stuff in the American League. I think he’s shown himself to be
capable of it. But he is definitely the player to watch.
what about Aardsma? Is he going to pitch well again? Was 2009
an accurate reflection of his ability? Can he even be close? (Again…
I say yes. While 2009 was a fantastic season for Aardsma that
showed improvements over his career numbers, a quick look over
his record shows he’s always averaged about a strikeout per inning
and a walk every two innings. I think alot could be said for a
different home park and a strong outfield defense behind him.)
think the answers are good, but these are questions that could
sink some pretty well drawn plans.
What I expect in 2010: 87-75
they did in 2009: 97-65, playoffs
personnel changes: Here’s where the Angels are in trouble…
because the big news, good and bad, was who they managed to get
rid of. Gary Matthews, Jr. was a hrrible signing to begin with,
but he’s gone now. (Yeah! Well done California, well done.) They
also lost several players, like Chone Figgins and John Lackey.
(Umm… not so well done.) And the reality is, Hideki Matsui and
Fernando Rodney aren’t helping make up for all the departures.
(Really. Now don’t cheat… who would you rather have as your designated
hitter… Matsui or Guerrero. See? That’s actually a tough one because
you know Guerrero is brittle now. But the reality is both of them
are effectively locked in as designated hitters. Let’s repeat
the first line of this section… the Angels are in trouble.)
expectations: Of last year’s American League playoff
teams, this is the only one that is visibly weaker.
no longer have a true top-notch pitcher in the rotation. And honestly…
if you recall all those years when people used to wonder when
the Angels were going to get some support in the batting order
for Guerrero, then you understand what things are going to be
like for Torii Hunter.
one thing you can say is that they won’t lose many games they
it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): On the
bright side, Rodney could bring some stability to the Angels.
And the reality is, this is a club you shouldn’t simply dismiss.
Brian Fuentes can establish himself as the club’s closer and Scot
Shields is healthy, suddenly Rodney joins the mix and the Angels
look really good from the seventh inning on. (No… that’s really
good. Really, really good.)
Scioscia is aggressive… and he has been doing without alot of
offensive power for quite some time. (At least, making it appear
that he is doing without.) So the batting order could actually
be a bit stronger than before with Hideki Matsui involved. I love
Guerrero. I do. But keep in mind, Matsui and Abreu are unappreciated,
professional hitters. Abreu works counts and Matsui can be a wizard
with the bat. Torii Hunter may have some support after all.
real question then is left to the starting rotation. If one of
the youngsters can step up and become the ace of the staff, the
Angels could win the division again. But that means finding a
17 to 20 game winner. I see depth. I see good guys. I don’t see
a winner of 15-plus.
or do I? These Angels are going to get a full season from Scott
Kazmir. Thought I forgot him… didn’t you? This is a guy that actually
scared both New York and Boston when he pitched for Tampa Bay.
He’s not afraid of big games, and he might just be pitching with
a major chip on his shoulder this season. So let’s think about
this… if you want to pitch for a solid organization… with a chance
every year to make the playoffs… where there is as little media
pressure as is possible… yeah, the Angels are that club. Kazmir
is in a good spot. And, it would not be insane for someone to
suggest that the best pitcher in the AL West is Kazmir. He’ll
need to prove it… and alot of people will wonder if you’ve seen
Seattle’s staff if you say it… but you could certainly say it
without people laughing at you. And yes, that is a bunch of other
interesting arms in the rotation with him, including Jered Weaver
and the newly acquired Joel Pineiro. This starting staff could
destroy my expectations of them.)
What I expect in 2010: 86-76
they did in 2009: 87-75
personnel changes: Weird few months between seasons.
For instance… they took a flyer a few years back on Kevin Millwood.
In December they traded him to Baltimore and now take a flyer
on Rich Harden. When you have the money, I think any chances you
take for a million… two million… heck, five million dollars can
be worth it. The problem is… and I’ll get to this… when you take
those flyers with expectations. In other news, while I love Vlad,
I just can’t say bringing in Vladimir Guerrero is a significant
move for the club. (Actually, for virtually the same reasons.
And we’ll get to that.) And we are now officially at three teams
willing to try Khalil Greene because he looked good before he
ever played a major league game.
expectations: I want to believe in the Rangers… maybe
even give them a shot at the division… but I can’t. Let’s get
to my rant on taking chances…
recent years, the Boston Red Sox have done an amazing job bringing
in low cost, zero risk players that could have made huge impacts.
Brad Penny… John Smoltz… Bartolo Colon… and there are plenty of
others. I can’t tell you the results show that it was worth it
or not. Penny and Smoltz did much better once they left Boston.
Colon had his moments. What I can tell you is that Boston lost
absolutely nothing by bringing those three in (and others over
recent years). And, had Rich Harden or Ben Sheets been available
at around $5 million for one year, I think Boston would have moved
the trick though… Schilling… Pedro… Beckett… Lester… and now Lackey…
and what you can see is that over the past seven years or so Boston
never signed these zero risk pitchers (or, honestly position players)
thinking that they had to be tremendous contributors. Heck… they
didn’t sign them believing they would be tremendous contributors.
They signed them because they might be contributors and were worth
taking a chance. And that’s why the term “zero risk” is appropriate.
move to Texas.
Rich Harden a “zero risk” pitcher for them?
made the playoffs in 2009 after letting go of Penny and Smoltz.
There is no way Texas even sniffs the playoffs without Harden
contributing. And now you see why I have them falling short.
are other reasons involved…
Josh Hamilton the player we saw in 2008… or is that just a nice
Greene… when I started this he was an interesting addition… as
I continued working on this he wasn’t coming to spring training
and… yeah, he’s gone.
Vladimir Guerrero going to produce? (Love Vlad… can’t get enough
Vlad… and at worst he’ll hit around .300 for them. But… will he
stay in the lineup? He was involved in 100 games last season.
That’s his lowest total since 1998. get him into 140 or more as
the designated hitter and it’s a great move. 120 or less and it
moves into that risky category with Harden.)
which had been a surplus when Boston was calling last season,
and when Texas dealt with Detroit last season… is now a huge question
like the intensity and gritty play I saw at times out of Texas
last year. And because of that I’ll give them a winning record
and an outside shot. But they need several things to work in their
favor, and in addition to what I’ve mentioned, collapses in both
Seattle and Anaheim might be part of that.
it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): I wish
I had a name for you. But I don’t.
Texas has some decent pitchers, but virtually every one of them
is one they hope continues to develop. Seriously… is Boston counting
on Clay Buchholz to be an ace? Then sell me on Tommy Hunter and
company dominating the AL West in 2010.
but if they do.
Ian Kinsler is at second base. And we are now a year removed from
the drama of moving Michael Young to third base. When Texas comes
to town, you’re going to look at the batting order and be stunned
at how difficult they are to get out. Not a great batting order…
just full of headaches. (Seriously. If you’re not a fan of Texas,
then I want you to try a fun experiment. On June 1st I want you
to go to some site… pick any of them… and look up the batting
statistics of the Texas regulars. You’re going to be shocked the
team isn’t about 35-10. Then check the numbers out again on August
1st. And you will wonder why they are no better than in the wild
card race, trailing the Angels and Mariners, and have at best
a 55-45 record while Boston and New York are both solidly over
60 wins already. I mean it… when Texas comes in to play your favorite
team, you’ll be sitting there watching them introduce the clubs
as the first inning gets going, and they’ll show the numbers for
the Texas batting order, and you’re going to say something to
yourself like “I didn’t know he was hitting that well” while cringing
and hoping your starter lasts five innings against them.)
year those headaches had people discussing Texas in August. While
I don’t see it… in 2010 those same causes of headaches and a few
changes could have people talking about Texas in September.
to the pitching… that’s where it could all go right… or horribly
What I expect in 2010: 74-88
they did in 2009: 75-87
personnel changes: Any time I look at Oakland, I always
wonder if they are bringing in players to get better… or bringing
them in so they can trade them later on. Ben Sheets… Kevin Kouzmanoff…
Coco Crisp… I don’t see how any of these guys will help Oakland
in this division. And yet, I could see any of them… for a variety
of reasons… suddenly in demand by July.
expectations: Eric Chavez.
it seem like Chavez has been trouble for Oakland since about 1972?
I’m asking because… well…
Crosby is gone.
starting rotation has effectively been turned over… in fact, pretty
much more than once since the days of Mulder, Hudson and Zito.
there’s Chavez. Part of the 2010 plans. Sort of.
we’re being honest with each other, the A’s are loading up on
trade chips. Ben Sheets… Coco Crisp… it’s a group of “send me
two young AA players under the age of 22 with potential and he
could be yours in July” players.
have no expectations of Justin Duchscherer winning 17+ for Oakland
this year… and if he looks even close to accomplishing that, he
will be wearing a different uniform by the end of June.
this club wins a game this season… you will be kicking things
in the house. Why? Because everything I said about Texas numbers
on offense being surprisingly scary is reversed here. Most of
these guys would have trouble hitting .300 in tee ball.
it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): Simply
put… it can’t go right.
this team will clear 70 wins. If you want to know why that’s amazing…
look back at the other teams in this division. Any of the others
could win the West. And yet Oakland is going to take their share
from them and the rest of the league… win some… lose some… building
the way… some news came in as I was putting the final touches
on this section before editing. News that I honestly could have
included, but it was on the edge of late in the process… and it
didn’t change a single thing about my review of Oakland. They
signed Brett Tomko. (And Jason Jennings.) If Tomko delivers during
spring training… likely… he’ll be on the roster when the season
starts, and a potential trade chip when we arrive at July.
to dream though… Sheets and Tomko do spell a nice pair for a 70-win