MLB 2012 – American League Preseason Predictions
Spring Training is in full swing, and I’m excited to see about 10 Tigers games on T.V. over the next month. It’ll be nice to get a first-hand look at my favorite team before they make the return trip to Detroit. But I enjoy seeing how other teams are doing, because their success or failure could be directly linked to wins and/or losses for the Tigers throughout the season. Since the spring has only just begun, it’s of course too early to tell how the pennant races will turn out in September. But, that won’t stop me from hopefully getting everyone revved up for the season to come. So here we are, your BVTSB MLB Preseason Predictions.
The American League East is always going to be a tough division to pick this early on. It seems like every year at least two of the teams in the postseason are from the A.L. East. But, looking at what the teams have to offer this year, I’m going to say that the New York Yankees will win this division. I know, it’s probably the safe bet. They are the Yankees, after all. But, they’re also the most intact and competitive of all the teams in that division.
The only real loss for the Yankees during the offseason was Jorge Posada, and even that can’t be considered much of a loss, since he didn’t really contribute to the team before the postseason last year. His days as an all-star catcher were behind him, his bat had fallen all but flat, and retirement looked like a sure thing after the 2011 season. But that’s the only real loss. Tex is still at first, Cano was given more money, A-Rod and Jeter are as lacking in range as ever, and the team can continue to buy extra talent. The only question mark for the Yankees will be the rotation behind Sabathia. A.J. Burnett signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but he didn’t even make the postseason roster as a starter last year. His days in New York were over, especially considering that young talent was on the way. Ivan Nova looked great in the couple starts I got to see him in last year, and you could tell that he had serious potential. If he can avoid a sophomore slump, and fall in as a number two or three pitcher, then that’s one less spot that the Yankees will have to worry about.
I see the division lining up as follows:
- New York Yankees
- Boston Red Sox
- Tampa Bay Rays
- Toronto Blue Jays
- Baltimore Orioles
Again, not exactly a shocking revelation that I would have the Blue Jays and Orioles at the bottom of the division. The Jays aren’t a bad team, but they’re playing in a no-win division. (At least not without some serious collapses, or a run unlike anything seen in the last decade.) Tampa Bay always stands a chance of taking second place in that division, as they did in 2011. But, no matter what issues the Red Sox have to face in new leadership and departing players, like Varitek, they’re still a serious threat. Maybe they won’t be able to put it together long enough and the Rays will capitalize again. But I think it’s just more likely that they stay competitive with the Yankees, and end up in a solid second.
I’m not going to sugar coat this in any way. You can call it bias, you can call it a fix on my part or a lack of objectivity, but the truth of the matter is that the Tigers are, in a lot of ways, stacked this year. And in a division where everyone else is beyond terrible, it should be a runaway pennant. Which I’ll take any day. The Detroit Tigers are going to win the A.L. Central.
The Tigers did nothing but upgrade in the offseason. And it wasn’t a bunch of little upgrades; it was one big (both metaphorically, and physically) upgrade in Prince Fielder. Sure, the Tigers will take a hit on defense with the big men at first and third. But they’re going to hit, and hit well. If the first few games of spring were any indication (and they weren’t in any way), then Prince is all set to keep destroying opponents. The rotation is set with the first four spots, and it looks like some of the minor league pitchers looking for that fifth rotation spot have really come to play this spring. Andy Oliver jumped out at me so far with six scoreless innings thus far. Granted, three of those innings came against Florida Southern, but they’re happening. Oliver should have broken the rotation last year, but he’s just never been able to put it together in big league starts. Let’s hope that this is the start of things to come, and that he has finally turned that MLB corner. The division should shake out as follows:
- Detroit Tigers
- Cleveland Indians
- Chicago White Sox
- Minnesota Twins
- Kansas City Royals
No offense to the Royals, but the Twins have one of the best managers in the game, and even if the players keep being terrible for the most part, Ron Gardenhire will get that team up from the very bottom of the division. But they’re not going to be much better than last year, especially with two of their best players (Kubel and Cuddeyer) not being resigned in the offseason. The White Sox should be interesting to watch, because they too let major players walk away (failed to resign Mark Buhrle and traded Carlos Quentin) and fired Ozzie Guillen. They’ll be lucky to stay ahead of the Royals or Twins in this division, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they really sucked it up and fell to the bottom this year. Too bad Grady Sizemore is injured again for Cleveland and Fausto Carmona is still stuck on the restricted list. Otherwise they might have had a chance to barely compete. Oh well. Better luck in 2013.
This division shapes up to once again be a battle between the Angels and Rangers. The problem is that the Angels will likely come out of the battle ahead this year. So let’s just say it: the Los Angeles Angels will be the winners of the A.L. West. Yes, Albert Pujols has a lot to do with that fact. Adding a weapon like that to your roster should make the Rangers scared of things to come. The Angels also add to their newfound power a pitching rotation that’s as good as any in baseball. Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, and Ervin Santana can compete with the best pitchers (barring any unforeseen pouting, a la Weaver against the Tigers at Comerica Park), and C.J. Wilson makes that a four-deep rotation that can seriously compete. He may not be the ace on the Angels’ staff, but Wilson was the ace on the Rangers’ staff last year, and did a lot for his team. Now the Angels have a solid four-man rotation that will help carry them through the bad offensive days. Which means the division will probably shape up as follows:
- Los Angeles Angels
- Texas Rangers
- Oakland Athletics
- Seattle Mariners
Let’s face facts: You can never count out the Texas Rangers, which means they’re going to hang around. But Yu Darvish is an untested rookie, and the Angels added that offensive power. No matter how many runs you tack on by hitting double after double, it’s always going to be in the back of your mind that Pujols can put it out of the park in his next at-bat. As for the Athletics and Mariners, they didn’t get any better this year. Sure, the A’s picked up Yoenis Cespedes and resigned Coco Crisp. But they also gave away their (arguably) best pitchers in Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey. Not exactly a win there. As for the Mariners, they need to do some serious retooling if they’re ever going to compete again.
Want some good (or bad, depending on your personal view of baseball) news? There are now going to be TWO wildcard teams every year. They’ll play each other in a one-game playoff right after the regular season. Which means I get to pick two wildcard teams for the league. I’m going with the Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers.
As I said before, Boston is too good to not hang with the Yankees during the regular season, and that’ll probably mean they’ll take the first wildcard spot by a landslide. Now, the other spot could go to the Tampa Bay Rays, but I think the Rangers will at least perform near where they were the last two seasons. Whether or not that’ll be enough to win the division remains to be seen (I don’t think so). But it should at least be enough to keep them ahead of Tampa Bay, and get that second wildcard spot in the American League. That’ll ultimately lead to a Boston-Texas playoff game for that final spot in the ALDS in October.
That’s it for now. As Spring Training continues, and teams finalize their rosters for opening day, I’ll bring you plenty more coverage. Then we’ll have a lot of time over the next seven months to get into the nuances of baseball. As for the National League picks, look for them tomorrow. So until then.