Friday, May 11, 2012

AL Grades Reviewed

Last week I posted a review of my preseason divisional rankings.  We’re over 30 games in now and some trends are starting to appear.  Sample size problems still can skew things somewhat, but when you reason and look at underlying factors, some conclusions can be drawn.  Now, let’s see how I did picking these division standings, shall we?

AL East Preseason Prediction
Tampa Bay Rays
Boston Red Sox
New York Yankees
Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles

Current AL East Standings
Baltimore Orioles
Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays (2.0)
New York Yankees (2.5)
Boston Red Sox (7.5)

Well, I certainly didn’t expect to see the O’s atop the standings in mid May, and neither did anyone else.  Can they stay there?  I think we all know the answer to that question.  They’ve gotten off to quick starts before but they simply don’t have what it takes to hang for 162 games in this division.  The Rays are even with the O’s currently and have been playing really good baseball, despite Longoria being on the shelf.  The starting pitching has been fantastic for Tampa Bay and that should continue.  The one thing they could use is bullpen depth.  New York is playing well, too, and Jeter is out of his mind right now.  He just became the fastest Yankee player to 50 hits in a season in history, despite the fact that he’s getting pretty old.  We all know about Rivera, so the bullpen is something to watch.  Toronto can slug but can they do anything else?  Starting pitching is a relative strength, but it’s nothing that’s going to carry them to the playoffs.  I missed on my Boston prediction, but I did throw out a ton of caution with them, mostly on injuries.  And, sure enough, they’ve been incredibly bitten by the injury bug.  Starting pitching is a problem for them as is their bullpen and outfield.  Will Middlebrooks is the lone bright spot.

I still like the Rays to win this division.  New York should challenge them all year long and the Red Sox will likely put a little mid-summer run together but I expect it to be too little too late.  The grind of the season should put Toronto and Baltimore where they belong eventually.

My Prediction Grade: C+

Preseason AL Central Prediction
Detroit Tigers
Cleveland Indians
Kansas City Royals
Minnesota Twins
Chicago White Sox

Current AL Central Standings
Cleveland Indians
Detroit Tigers (2.0)
Chicago White Sox (3.5)
Kansas City Royals (6.5)
Minnesota Twins (10.0)

Cleveland has been surprisingly solid so far.  They’re a scrappy bunch of ball players.  Starting pitching is a little problematic, which I expect to catch up with them, but their bullpen is decent, especially with Chris Perez starting to iron things out.  Detroit isn’t mashing quite as much as expected, but I think that will pick up once things heat up.  Make no doubt about it, they can still rake, but I don’t think we’ve seen them at full mojo yet.  Their starting pitching has been very good, especially with the successful addition of Drew Smyly.  The bullpen is another matter: ugly.  Chicago has been a surprise, with Jake Peavy and Adam Dunn have huge bounce-back campaigns, right about the time most of us had written them off.  Despite some bullpen uncertainties, they have a chance to hang in there for a while.  Kansas City has been up and down thus far.  Hosmer and Moustakas haven’t carried the team as much as expected and their starting pitching has been hit or miss.  Minnesota has been terrible and should likely stay that way.  Ron Gardenhire is starting to feel his seat get warm, but really that team is just somewhat devoid of talent.

If Detroit can iron out it’s bullpen woes, especially if they can acquire someone to stabilize things, they should catch the Indians no problem.  Cleveland is capable of keeping it close, though.  I don’t think Chicago is a serious contender, Kansas City doesn’t have what it will take to win the division and Minnesota severely under-gunned.

My Prediction Grade: A-

Preseason AL West Predictions
Texas Rangers
Los Angeles Angels
Seattle Mariners
Oakland Athletics

Current AL West Standings
Texas Rangers
Oakland Athletics (5.0)
Seattle Mariners (6.5)
Los Angeles Angels (7.5)

Let’s face it, the Rangers just may be the best team in baseball.  The big gamble on Yu Darvish appears to have paid off and we already knew they had one of the best in the game with Josh Hamilton.  A strong cast surrounds him and the Rangers have more than enough pitching to stay in front.  Oakland has been surprising, riding strong starting pitching and bullpen performances to a .500 record.  Jarrod Parker and Tommy Milone are legit big league pitchers.  The offense is hit or miss (mostly miss) but Cespedes is adjusting fairly well to American ball.  Seattle is incredibly inconsistent.  They’ve struggled to score at times, then will hang an occasional 7 or 8-spot.  King Felix and Jason Vargas are the only reliable starters while youngsters Jesus Montero, Kyle Seager, Mike Carp and Dustin Ackley are starting to thrive at the plate.  Los Angeles has been a total surprise letdown.  Pujols’ struggles have been well documented, but the rest of the team hasn’t been stunning either.  Many players are off to slow starts and the franchise appears to continues to be plagued by the Vernon Wells trade.  Starting pitching has been a relative strength, but the bullpen is troubled, led by Jordan Walden’s sturggles and both Scot Downs’ and LaTroy Hawkins’ injuries.  They should pick it up, but they’ll have a long ways to go to catch the Rangers.

Texas should run away with this thing.  Unless severe injuries cause trouble, they look like the head of the class.  With their deep farm system, they can sustain trouble and make it through.  I like Los Angeles to pour it on here soon and easily surpass Oakland and Seattle by mid-summer.  The battle for not-last should be a tight one between the A’s and M’s. 

My Prediction Grade: A

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