Saturday, March 05, 2005

Matty's Baseball Mini-Primer '05

I started this as a look at up-and-coming teams in the league, but I got too into it and it turned into entire capsules on all the divisions.  It's not researched, everything is off the top of my head, but hopefully it'll be somewhat enjoyable to read.


AL East
As with all things, we start in the AL East.  The Red Sox should win 100 games.  Period.  They're too good not to.  I think the Yankees could win that many as well.  Or not.  It really depends on injuries for them, but they should make the playoffs or come really close trying.  They're hitting is too good, and their pitching is too deep (though the quality of their starters is debatable).  I think the Blue Jays will be better this year (more Halladay, for one), and if they stay in the race into June they can add lots of payroll thanks to the new owner.  I'm not sold on the O's who should score runs again, but probably won't prevent many.  The Rays, like always, have nothing and will suck.

AL Central
I think this could be the year that a team sneaks in and beats out the Twins.  I'm not sure it'll happen but it could.  The Twins probably have the best starting pitching in the division, based mostly on Santana and Radke. I'd give them 90ish wins.  I think a team that could take a big jump this year is the Indians.  I know this is a relatively popular pick, but they scored so many runs last year with such a young lineup that, taken as a whole they'll likely do it again.  The Indians problem is the same as everyone else's: pitching.  They have some young studs (jake westbrooke, cc sabathia) who need to step up, and who are a year older and a year more likely to do so.  I'd pick the Indians as a team that could sneak into the playoffs.  The Tigers are over-rated (hard to believe for a team that hasn't finished .500 for twelve seasons), but they just don't have any pitching after Bonderman, who is still 21 or 22.  Bonderman should improve, but after him they have nobody.  Despite trading Carlos Lee for Scott Posednik (shudder!) the White Sox actually had a good offseason.  They have quite a decent front five too, so, if their lineup produces they could give the Indians and Twins a run for the division.  KC is toast.

AL West
I really think the A's can win this division, so I guess, right there, that's your upset pick.  They almost won last season, and they improved their offense and their bullpen a whole lot over the offseason.  The question for them is their starting pitching.  Zito should be fine, and Blaton and Harden are coming into their own as top-of-the-rotation starters.  That leaves Danny Haren (formerly of the Cardinals) and someone else (from the Braves) who they got in the Mulder and Hudson trades.  I've looked this up and based on the stats I've seen both those new guys will be good to very good pitchers for their slots in the rotation. The only question is 'when?'  So, the A's winning the west is another 'upset' pick I guess.  The Angels are good, but I'm just not sold on their starters.  Also, they have a number of guys who are injury-prone which could come back to bite them.  The Rangers are the Indians last year. They can hit real well, but they still STILL don't have any pitching.  (Come on, guys, it's only been 5 years now!  Sheesh...)  Seattle should score more runs thanks to Beltre and Sexson, but again (sensing a theme here?) they don't have much in the way of starting pitchers.  I think they will finish last again.

NL East
This division is more wide open than everyone thinks it is, which means it's really wide open.  The Braves have added one good starting pitcher, but have lost immeasurable offense and, thus far, haven't replaced it.  They have a few young guys who could play well, but they haven't brought in anyone who can reproduce JD Drew's numbers.  They have the best rotation in the division, and for that you have to consider them the favorite, but I think they'll have trouble scoring runs all year long.  Mondesi + Hunter does not = Drew.  The Mets are intriguing.  I'm not as concerned about their bullpen, though I doubt it'll be a high point for them.  I think they're going to have trouble in the back of their rotation.  I think Benson will be decent, better than what most non-Mets fans are expecting, and I think Pedro will be terrific, but I'm not on the Glavine Wagon.  His numbers have been slipping for the past few years.  That guy they picked up from TB for Kazmir, Zambrano, he's as over-rated as anyone could be.  So he throws hard? So what?  It doesn't do you any good if you can't hit the broadside of a barn.  With Beltran and a healthy Floyd in their lineup, plus a year of Reyes (maybe?) and Wright, their offense should score more runs.  I'm just not so solid on the 3-5 of their rotation.  

The Marlins suddenly have some offense.  Now if only Josh Beckett and AJ Burnett can stay healthy.  They added Leiter and Delgado, too.  They should be a solid team, though they'll give the Mets and Nats a run for their money in terms of the Worst Bullpen in the Division title.  The Phils are interesting.  They could be very good, if things come together, but more likely they'll win about 84 or 85 games again and miss the playoffs.  I like the Lieber signing, at least for this season and next and letting Milton go was a sign that Ed Wade isn't a total moron.  They should score runs, as the 2-6 of their lineup are good.  Their bullpen is good too, though better with the guy they shipped to the Yankees for the desiccated remains of Kenny Lofton.  If two out of three of Padilla, Myers and Wolf remain healthy and improve this year then the Phils will make a good run, but it's tough to pin yr hopes on guys who haven't ever either been healthy for a full season or thrown well for a full season.  I think to make the playoffs the Phils will have to add some players at mid-season to cover up for some deficiencies, and as Wade has never really done that successfully before, it's tough to say he will this year.  The Nats could win 70, which for Washington, would be 70 more wins than we've had last year.  Or for that matter, since 1971.  Go Nats!  The Termel Sledge Fan Club starts now!

NL Central
If the Cubs rotation can stay healthy I like them to win this division. Prior should be fine, as should Zambrano, which should be enough to take the division right there.  They also have Wood and Maddux as well, which makes quite the foursome, so if they can score just a few runs (which for them will be harder than it really should be) they should take the division. Also, I think Nomar has his last great offensive season this year.  Last year St. Louis caught lightning in a bottle.  Their offense is for real, but their rotation has nothing but Mulder, and they gave up a couple good young players to get him too.  The Astros lost too much last year, with Beltran and Miller leaving.  They still have Clemens and they should have Pettitte back too, so they'll win a few games if those two old guys don't get hurt. Also, Brad Lidge is the best reliever in baseball.  Seriously. Milwaukee could be the shot in the dark pick to make a run at this division.  If Prior is hurt then Ben Sheets is the best pitcher in this division.  Also, the Brewers have a few young guys coming up who can club the ball.  I haven't looked too much into their team yet, but I've liked what I've heard. Cincinnati and Pittsburgh are going to be bad.

NL West
The Dodgers are going to be a good team.  Drew should be healthy and will replace Beltre's production.  I'll never understand the amount of money that Depodesta threw at Derek Lowe, but at least Lowe should give them a lot of innings.  He can't be any worse than he was last year.  The Giants are going to be one huge media circus this season.  Their everyone's early season pick to miss the most games to injury this year too.  I think the average age on that team is something like 35. Seriously.  San Diego has some good young players, so they should be competitive.  Arizona is run by a bunch of imcompetents, and so is Colorado.  Neither of those teams will sniff .500 after June.


Surprise picks: this year the Indians, A's (if you can call them a surprise) and White Sox in the AL and San Diego, the Brewers and Cubs in the NL.
AL Division Winners: Red Sox, White Sox, A's AL WC: Yankees
NL Division Winners: Braves (somehow), Cubs, Dodgers
NL WC:  Whoever finishes second in
the NL East... probably Florida

--Thanks for reading.

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