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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Major League Baseball Predictions: The American League


x-Toronto Blue Jays 93-69
z-Tampa Bay Rays 88-74
Baltimore Orioles 85-77
New York Yankees 84-78
Boston Red Sox 78-84

No, it isn’t upside down. Canada’s Jays went out and got half a rotation by picking up R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, and Mark Buehrle. If both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion stay healthy, they could combine for 90 Home Runs and nearly 250 RBI. Brett Lawrie is an up-and-coming star, and Jose Reyes will at the very least get on base frequently and score runs. The main questions for the Jays this season are the bullpen and staying healthy. The bullpen was shaky last year and last year’s Tigers saw how important an effective bullpen can be, and Toronto was badly damaged by injures last year. Still, as long as they can gel as a team and stay relatively healthy, this team has the tools necessary to win the division.

Tampa Bay lost James Shields, but the fact of the matter is that they are still an extremely strong team when it comes to pitching, and that’s why they’ve been a consistent contender since 2008. However, their offense has always been a liability, and we don’t really know for sure how good Wil Myers will be and when he will make it to the big leagues. Sure, Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist are great, but Tampa’s going to miss B.J. Upton and what offensive threats they do have are going to be under a ton of pressure. They'll contend, but I think they will fall just short like they did the last two years.

Baltimore was a big surprise last year, but they have been the victim of a lot of criticism in the baseball media-most analysts seem to think last year was a fluke year because of the run differential and the amount of 1-run games they won last year. This is not without reason: their rotation is still relatively unproven, and their offense is not deep. Adam Jones is a star, and the combination of Matt Wieters and Nick Markakis will help as well, but I don't see this team going to the postseason. The bullpen is phenomenal, but I'm not sure if Jim Johnson can return to form after imploding in the ALDS. They'll finish over .500 and contend, certainly-possibly still be a threat in September, but I think the O's are going to fall short this year.

The 2013 Yankees look really, really fragile. They lost Nick Swisher, Raul Ibanez, and Russell Martin. Alex Rodriguez has become a laughingstock. Derek Jeter is getting old and nobody's really sure how he'll rebound from injury. Curtis Granderson is out for at least a month. Mark Teixiera is in decline. Mariano Rivera's back for one more year but is he going to be the closer we remember? And in a very non-Yankee fashion they didn't do much to improve their team by going out and trading or signing big free agents. Their pitching is good, but it was largely saved by the bats last year and I'm very skeptical that they're going to perform like they did last year. They'll look like the spitting image of the 2012 Phillies if they don't do anything serious in the near future.

And rounding out the East, the Boston Red Sox. This team is definitely improved from last year's embarrassing 69-93 season, but I don't think they are going to be a playoff contender. True, they'll score more runs with Victorino and Napoli supporting Big Papi, Pedroia, Middlebrooks, a healthy Jacoby Ellsbury, and Saltalamacchia, but the rest of the division is too good, the pitching is full of question marks (Lester will rebound, but Lackey is a huge if, and Ryan Dempster struggled in the American League-behind that there isn't much. The decent bullpen won't get enough opportunities to convert quality starts to wins.

AL Central

x-Detroit Tigers 95-67
Kansas City Royals 84-78
Chicago White Sox 80-82
Cleveland Indians 76-86
Minnesota Twins 72-90

Detroit is far and away the best team in this division-the rotation has baseball's premier pitchers in Justin Verlander, and Max Scherzer and Doug Fister are both up-and-coming stars. I think the offense will be even better this year as guys like Austin Jackson mature. Victor Martinez will protect Fielder and Cabrera. If the bullpen can improve, the Tigers will run away with this division.

The Royals quietly picked up both Ervin Santana and James Shields, adding two proven starters and bolstering an otherwise very questionable rotation, and they have some great talent at the dish with Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas, and Eric Hosmer. If they stay healthy and produce to their potential, this team could contend for a Wild Card spot, but I believe they will fall short because of the lack of consistency behind Shields and Santana.

Third in the standings sit the Chicago White Sox. Da Sox challenged the Tigers for much of the 2012 season but eventually ran out of gas as August turned into September. And they did virtually nothing to improve their team in the offseason. Kevin Youkilis left for the Yankees. Veteran A.J. Pierzynski, as much as he is maligned as an awful teammate, will be missed for his presence behind the dish, and behind Jake Peavy and Chris Sale, there’s not much starting pitching in this team. Paul Konerko and Gordon Beckham can’t carry this team offensively themselves, and the bullpen is really nothing special. They won’t be bad, but I doubt they’ll get too close to the playoffs.

Cleveland has improved in the offseason but they’re still a few years away from contention. Terry Francona will prove to be a good manager (BOSTON MISSES YOU, TITO!), and they picked up Nick Swisher, Drew Stubbs, and Mark Reynolds. But the fact is, the rotation these guys have is abysmal. They have no lefties and the righties they have are pretty awful too. Unless they come out of nowhere like Baltimore or Oakland did last year, don’t expect too much from this team.

And last, the Minnesota Twins. Much like the Indians, they have a decent offense but next to no pitching. Sorry, but Scott Diamond can’t pitch every game, and Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau won’t be around forever.

AL West

x-Anaheim Angels 96-66
y-Oakland Athletics 90-72
Texas Rangers 85-77
Seattle Mariners 79-83
Houston Astros 51-111

I’m still not entirely sure why the Anaheim Angels (And yes, it’s the Anaheim Angels, I still think changing the name to “LA Angels of Anaheim” was flat-out stupid) went out and picked up Josh Hamilton. They have plenty of power in their lineup already with Trout, Trumbo, and Pujols. On paper, this team is far and away the best in the West, but as we saw last year-that doesn’t guarantee much. Behind Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, the rotation is still relatively pedestrian. The bullpen has been improved, but it’s still not guaranteed to be lights out, especially in this difficult division. Still, this is the Halos’ division to lose. They’re going to look really stupid if they end up missing the playoffs again.

Call it whatever you want: Moneyball 2. Revenge of Moneyball. Moneyball meets Major League. The Oakland A’s were just plain fun to follow last year.  They’ve improved in some ways-they have Nakajima at SS, Chris Young bolsters an already deep outfield, and Jay behind the dish. I think Cespedes will be even better this year if he stays healthy. And as long as Grant Balfour comes back from his arm surgery, the bullpen trio of him, Cook, and Doolittle will be lights-out. Brett Anderson heads a young and improving rotation. However-this team’s offense is going to be under huge pressure to keep up with Trout, Trumbo, Pujols, and Hamilton. And while the A’s may have the advantage in their pitching, I think the Angels will still win the division. Keep in mind that the Rangers are still a threat and the Mariners look to be getting better. Oakland will get the first Wild Card this year.

Texas sits in third-they lost Michael Young, Mike Napoli, and Josh Hamilton, as well Koji Uehara in the bullpen. You also won’t be seeing Dempster or Oswalt making starts for Texas anymore. Don’t get me wrong-Darvish, Harrison, and Holland are very talented and will keep the Rangers afloat in this tough division, but Netfali Feliz and Nelson Cruz are still a liability. Mike Ott and Jurickson Profar will be interesting to see come up but Texas of all teams should know that you can’t win divisions, let alone pennants or championships with just good offense. I think they’ll contend, but fall short towards the end of the season.

Seattle signed King Felix Hernandez to a mammoth contract this offseason, and he’s truly the face of the franchise, especially since Ichiro Suzuki is gone. Kendrys Morales, Michael Morse, and Robert Andino are now wearing Seattle’s green and blue, and this should bode well for the offense, which has been lackluster since...well, Edgar Martinez, John Olerud, and Brett Boone were smashing home runs almost ten years ago. Justin Smoak and Kyle Seager could be a threat if they start to adjust. However, the real problem on this team is the rotation-after King Felix, this rotation is full of unproven arms, and unless they end up doing what the A’s did last year, I don’t see Seattle contending just yet.

Last, and in this case, definitely least, is the Houston Astros. It’s not really a surprise to anyone that this team will be extraordinarily lucky if they win 70 games in this tough division. They have no rotation, and very little offensively behind Jose Altuve, their budding second baseman. They’ll be competing with the Marlins for MLB’s Quadruple-A team this year.

x-Clinch Division title
y-Clinch First Wild Card
z-Clinch Second Wild Card

So, in conclusion:

The Blue Jays, Tigers, and Angels are your division winners.
Oakland (1) and Tampa Bay (2) win the Wild Cards.

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