2011 Quick League Preview – AL

As the season looms it appears to be that time where I make predictions that are sure to make me look stupid in October, if anyone ever bothered to check.  Before I get to the actual predictions, I’ll start with my first reaction to each team:

Angels: My first reaction is that they don’t have any pitching beyond Haren and Weaver, and the middle of their lineup isn’t very impressive. But Haren and Weaver have the potential to be great, so they could be decent, I just don’t think it’s enough.

Athletics: I’ve bought in to the strength of this team’s starting rotation. Their lineup isn’t great, but I think it’s better than most people realize. They may not have a stud ace, but the rotation including Cahill, Anderson, Gonzalez and Braden is very very good and quite deep.

Blue Jays: I’m not sure if there’s a real #2 pitcher, let alone a #1 in this group. That’s gonna really hurt them. Their hitting is ok, but the lineup isn’t that impressive, especially if Bautista doesn’t hit 50+ HRs again this year.

Indians: People are saying they could be surprisingly good if Hafner and Sizemore are able to play effectively this year. And I don’t argue with that. But even with that, their pitching won’t be enough, surprisingly good for them still doesn’t make them all that good.

Mariners: They are the worst team in a so so division, it isn’t gonna be pretty. They have very little to speak of offensively, even with Ichiro and Figgins at the top of the lineup. The rotation starts and ends with Felix, although that may be a little unfair to Justin Vargas. One bright spot might be Michael Pineda, a 22 year old starter who could end up being a strong #2 to Hernandez, if the King sticks around.

Orioles: The O’s are another team that people are predicting some real improvement from, and I think they’re right. Brian Matusz isn’t an ace, but he’s going to be very good. Guthrie, Bergeson and Arrieta are all decent, throw in anything out of Duchscherer they have a not-too-bad rotation going there. The lineup is also much stronger, but alot will ride on how healthy Brian Roberts can stay, and how quickly Derek Lee and Vlad age this year.

Rangers: Probably most people’s pick to win the West, I have my doubts. That lineup is still quite formidable, and the middle spots of Hamilton, Beltre, Cruz and Kinsler could be downright scary. But the pitching is what worries me. No Cliff Lee, and way too much riding on C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis to be given the crown just yet.

Rays: Thanks to the World Series run, people expect the Rays to be contenders for the foreseeable future. I have my doubts. Longoria is great, but the lineup outside of him raises quite a few question marks. Their pitching is still strong across the board, and if they do win, it’s because of that.

Red Sox: This is probably the best team in the league, going in to the season. Strong hitting through the top 7 lineup spots or so, including superstars like Adrian Gonzalez, Pedroia and Youkilis is only half of the equation. Their pitching staff looks great with Lester, Beckett and Buchholz. If Lackey and Dice-K do anything worthwhile, they’ll be real tough to beat.

Royals: They were bad with Grienke. This year they’re just gonna be awful. There’s not much to like in the lineup, even their good hitters aren’t that good for their positions. Their pitching is just plain bad, if Toronto is lacking a 1 and 2 starter, KC is lacking a #1, #2 and #3.

Tigers: The lineup isn’t good but probably not great, and I have my doubts about what Miguel Cabrera can provide. They have strong pitching, Verlander and Scherzer could be the best 1-2 punch in the central. Questions about Caberera, the top of the lineup and the back of the rotation keep them from being an easy favorite.

Twins: They’ve probably got the best overall lineup in the Central. They will have struggles with the rotation, Liriano is still great, but it’s important that Pavano stays good and Baker is effective. If that happens, and Morneau stays healthy, they might be considered a favorite.

White Sox: Since they’re the last Central team on this list, I’ll say that all three of the top teams in the division are pretty good, and none are great. Despite the fact that Juan Pierre is probably going to hit leadoff, Chicago might have the strongest lineup, at least 2-9, in the Central. Their pitching is strong once again, and if they get real production out of Peavy, they are probably the team most likely to run away with the division. That being said, the Central might come down to the last day of the season, or game 163, once again.

Yankees: With all the talk of this team’s demise, PECOTA has them finishing 2 games behind Boston for the 2nd best record in the AL. Their lineup is still very strong, especially in that ARod, Teixeira, Cano, Swisher section, and if Jeter recovers at all it’s strong from top to bottom. It probably had fewer holes than Boston’s, too. The big difference is in the pitching. I think CC and Hughes can be as good at the top as anyone. The questions will be centered around the ability of AJ Burnett to not totally suck again, and any production out of the 4th and 5th spots. If those go well, they’ll be very good. If not, they’ll only be pretty good.

Here are my final predictions for the AL:

AL East: Red Sox
AL Central: White Sox
AL West: A’s
AL Wild Card: Yankees

ALCS: Red Sox vs. Yankees

AL Champs: Red Sox

AL MVP: Robinson Cano, Yankees
AL Cy Young: Jon Lester, Red Sox
AL Rookie: Jeremy Hellickson, Rays
AL Manager: Bob Geren, A’s

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