Monday, March 29, 2010

AL East Predictions

AL EAST
1. TAMPA BAY
2. BOSTON (Wild Card)
3. NY YANKEES
4. BALTIMORE
5. TORONTO

I'll deal with the first three teams together, because I have similar things to say about each of them. The Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays are three of the five best teams in baseball in my opinion, with the Phillies and Cardinals being the other two. When you have three teams that are that good in one place, playing for one and maybe two playoff spots, anything can happen. Basically I think it's close to a coin flip. And when I say coin flip, I mean which team has the most players exceed expectations, and perhaps more importantly which team avoids injury and regression the most. While I think the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays would be listed in that order in terms of talent on paper, it is the stuff I just mentioned, and not paper, that will decide the division and if one of them is the Wild Card.

And I think this stuff evens itself out for each team. The Yankees have the most talent, but they also have three pitchers coming off of World Series runs, and the track record for pitchers the season following World Series runs has not been pretty recently. They are also relying on four players at advanced ages, and three new players they have to introduce to the lineup, all of whom are replacing key pieces of the 2009 championship team.

The Rays are the youngest and deepest of the three, making them most prepared to deal with injury in at least most spots, be it by filling from within or using their talent to trade for talent in places they need it. Related, their team is a bit more fluid, where they aren't as reliant on as many key players the way the Yankees and Red Sox are. They just have a lot of talent top to bottom, and that makes it more likely they will get players to exceed expectations. The downside is they don't have as many key players, or players at all, that are experienced in winning over the long season and making things happen when they need to. Didn't stop them two years ago, which is why they are part of this conversation, but they also showed how difficult it can be last year, which is where they can slip again.

The Red Sox are somewhere in between the Yankees and Rays in my opinion. They are less talented than the Yankees and probably about on par with the Rays. They are less exposed to injury/regression than the Yankees but more so than the Rays. They are more capable of filling from within than the Yankees but less so than the Rays. All three teams have the ability to make acquisitions in areas that become of need during the season for varying reasons (Rays - prospects, Yankees and Red Sox - combination of prospects and money).

So I think it's a toss up between these three. I'll put the Yankees third because I think they might be more likely to experience injury/regression than the other two, and also because I'm not above picking them in the exact same spot I did last year when they won the World Series, something I will do every year until they don't win the World Series. I think the Rays will edge the Red Sox because the Sox offense is potentially weak, and a more balanced Rays team might be able to get more wins as a result over 162. But I think these teams could finish in any order depending on what happens during the season, they are that close. I'm just guessing here, and though picking divisions is inherently guessing, I think this division between these three teams is more of a guessing game than most.

As DV and many other said in his post yesterday, the Orioles are a team on the rise. I talked about their outfield as being one that could become the best in baseball at some point soon in this post last year, and they appear to be on their way to entering that conversation. Between Wieters and their young pitching they are not going to be a fun team to play this year, and one that will probably make this division even tougher to pick in a year or two if they stay on this path because they will be at a similar level to the three teams mentioned above.

The Blue Jays are probably not going to win a lot of games this year, but I have a lot of respect for what new GM Alex Anthopoulos did this winter. He recognized that his team had flaws and was not going to win the way they were going with the current roster. He didn't waste any time going half-way, trying to rebuild and appease the fans at the same time, which usually doesn't work unless you are a major team in a major market with a major checkbook. Instead he jumped into rebuilding mode with two feet and acquired some very serious young talent that could join the young talent they already have on the Major League roster and in their system to start a solid foundation for the future. If they keep going like this, they could be a team to watch in a few years as well. The Yankees raised the bar, the Red Sox followed, and the Rays have joined the party. Now the Orioles and Blue Jays are on their way, trying to reach that level themselves. While it's great for baseball that the bar has been raised in this way - not just for this division but for all of baseball - it's going to make this a very tough division for years to come.

9 comments:

jason said...

i saw your predictions then did not bother reading the post.. that is all

the gm at work said...

I must say, I really enjoy the Doomsday Pat a lot better than the Pat I had to deal with after the Yankees won the World Series. His points make sense, especially if his suspicions that all the pitchers' arms are going to fall off prove to be true as they have for several other World Series pitchers in previous years.

Anonymous said...

PF

For someone who gets as put-off by the Sports Guy as you do, you two have much in common (not including the nasally voice Simmons has which is so annoying that I can't even listen to his podcasts). Picking the Yankees to finish third was such a shameful reverse-jinx/attempt to recreate good karma that even the most down on his luck gambler would blush. And I'd have done the same thing if I were in your shoes.

That being said, I think your evaluation of the Sox, Yankees, and Rays is accurate. If you look at all three teams though, the Yankees are the strongest and the Rays the weakest. If absolutely everything went right for Boston and everything went wrong for New York, then the Sox could win the division. But I don't see that happening. The Yankees will finish first, followed by the Red Sox, Rays, Orioles, and Blue Jays. Really, I don't think the Rays are as good as everyone else does. I think 2008 was lighting in a bottle not only in the sense that those Rays played at or near their capacity, but also because the Yankees experienced a down year. I don't see either of those things happening this year.

--the Gunn

Patrick said...

jason -

good job outta you.

gm -

important to note i am not predicting that the pitchers - or team in general - will have injuries or regress. i guess you could say i am suspicious of it. but nobody can predict these things, and i think the most accurate way of saying it is just that, amongst these three teams, i think the yankees are the most exposed to it. however, i also feel they are the most talented on paper, which is what turns this thing into a coin flip for me. a coin flip in which the yankees could finish third as easily as they could finish first or second.

gunn -

this is what you wrote in my prediction post last year:

"PF

I would flip New York and Tampa. I realize that the Rays have a lot young talent and all Sox fans saw that last year. However, the Rays also played a little bit above their heads last year and a lot of things went right. I'm not saying that the Rays are going to win 78 games, but even if they fall back to earth and win 86-89 games that won't be enough to win the division or the wild card.

Also, your post was right out the Sports Guy's playbook as the "anti-jinx post/column." You're not fooling me, Pat."

--the Gunn"

impressive consistency out of you, both in your comparing of me to the sports guy and in your opinion on the rays. i'm not really running a reverse jinx as much as i'm trying to just keep in consistent (picking the yankees third is not the only thing i'm keeping consistent) from last year for superstitious purposes. just a different way of looking at it i guess. i can't remember exactly what i was trying to do last year, although my guess is it was a combination of a reverse-jinx and actually thinking the yankees were going to finish third. this year it's a combination of wanting to do the same thing as last year and actually thinking the yankees have a very real shot to finish third.

i agree with you that on paper the yankees are the strongest, the rays are the weakest, and the red sox are in the middle. i just don't think it's by that much on any front, close enough that the normal things that are going to happen during a season are going to swing this division. what i mean by that is that in some divisions there is so much separation that even if the best team experiences injuries and the second or third best teams overperform, there is still a very good chance that the best team will still win the division. and the best way i can sum up my feelings for this division is that i absolutely do not think this is the case, making it a coin flip as to who will be able to stay healthy and not get regressions, something none of us can predict. since i think the yankees are probably slightly more exposed than the other two in this regard, i picked them third. but the yankees are also the most talented, it could be someone else even if they do experience injuries/regressions. you could make a case for and against every team, and i just decided to go with the yankees.

you were right about the rays last year when we disagreed, and we disagree a bit again this year. i think the rays are are one of the five best teams in baseball, and with an extra year of experience for the their young players already on the major league roster, in addition to another year of development for all of their prospects ready to potentially join the major league roster this year, i think they may have expanded their capacity. they may not need to play at their absolute capacity to win this year the way they did in 2008 (and i totally agree with you that was the case). they are that talented.

Ross Kaplan said...

Thank you Jason for expressing me exact sentiments. Featherstain's lame attempt at a reverse jinx was the most disgusting act I've seen since Swisher was forced to pitch against the Rays earlier last season.

If I'm to get this straight, you have the Yankees finishing in 3rd despite the fact that the Yankees have probably improved their team from last year while the Red Sox have worsened because the Yankees are more at risk for injury? True last season the Yankees were lucky enough to escape long term injury to any of their major pieces and it's also true that the Yankees are an older team. But I do not believe they are more at risk to suffering a disastrous injury then any of the other AL East contenders.

Let's start with the premise that it is close to impossible to predict injuries. A 38 yo catcher is more likely to suffer an injury then a 25 yo center fielder, but given the length of the baseball season there's a much greater propensity for a freak injury to occur no matter how fit or young a player may be. So that being the case you cannot legitimately use injury risk as a factor in the prediction of final standings.

At this point in time, looking at each roster objectively, I would say the Yankees have the most talented team followed closely by the Rays and Red Sox. Whether that talent translates into the results that each team is capable is something that will change as the season goes on, but on March 30, 2010 the Yankees are my 1st place team.

Anonymous said...

Ross

I think it's clear that you probably aren't at the top of your legal writing class. That's fine with me because legal writing is the worst class I took.

PF

I didn't know I wrote something so similar last year, which is interesting because I generally have a pretty good memory. I apologize for the repetitiveness of this years post. Even so, I believe we agree more than you think--I would never go so far as to say that the Rays are not in the same category as the Red Sox (I think they are), but I don't think they are there with the Yankees. I understand that things can go wrong, teams do get older, production does drop off. But I just see this season as one where all of those things would have to work for the Rays and against the Yankees and Red Sox for the Rays to win the division.

--the Gunn

Patrick said...

ross -


you make some good points, especially that that injuries can happen to any team. but if you simply look at the ledger of the last 5-6 years, the 10-12 teams that made the world series, and then look at their rotation the year after compared to that year, it isn't pretty. that, combined with age - and you can't ignore the likelihood of injury increasing with age, despite that it could happen to younger players too - is why i think the yankees are slightly more exposed to injury than the other two teams in the division, and in a toss up situation, is why i'm picking the yankees to finish third. that and i did it last year, and i'm hoping we have the same results! to be candid, if i picked the yankees to finish first last year, i'd be doing the same this year in this toss up situation.

gunn -

i don't think you need to apologize for writing something so similar last year; rather, i think the consistency is awesome. better than having bandi flip flopping all over the place on us the way he does.

and i wasn't saying we disagree on a lot, i think we probably agree on 95% of our pre-season outlooks. one place i think we do diverge is on the rays, and it isn't by a lot, but it is enough to impact how we think the division shakes out. and i definitely see both sides on the rays, including what you said about them needing to play near capacity and have a lot of things go their way to win. i think that's definitely possible. i just happen to think that while they don't have the upper level talent of the yankees and sox, they have the youth and depth to not only get some breakout seasons from a number of players but also wear teams down over the long marathon of a season with the many different players they have that can beat you.

Patrick said...

more important than anything baseball related today:

WELCOME, COACH LAVIN!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Who's more annoying?

Peter Gammons, Sports Guy or PF?

Tossup.

Also Gunn, legal writing? Is that like when you practice telling your secretary what to write?