Sunday, March 18, 2007

American League Breakdown (III of III)

A.L. East:

2007 will not be a year where yet again it is between the Sox and the Yanks. There are going to be some unfamiliar franchises making some noise and pushing for a playoff birth. With that said, in 2007 the East crown belongs and will remain in the Bronx until proven otherwise.

The Baltimore Orioles have a closer that converted 33 out of 38 save opportunities and a decent starting pitcher with Erik Bedard (33 starts, 15 wins, ERA of 3.75 in'06). On the offensive side, their lineup has some respectable names as well: Tejada, Mora, Millar, Gibbons, Payton and Corey Patterson are all above average. That's the good for Baltimore. Problem is that there is some bad as well; and there's a lot of it in the form of starting pitchers. After Bedard, the remaining 5 had ERAs that were either approaching or above 5 and were all (except Jaret Wright) sub .500. They are just bad. So bad in fact, that the Orioles are going to end Tampa's reign of 2 years for last place.

The 2007 Boston Red Sox will likely be the place to tune in if you're a soap opera fan as there is going to be plenty of drama. Let's set aside for a moment that David Ortiz is the clutch hitter in Major League Baseball and that Jon Lester will be the feel good comeback story of the year. Schilling is a year older (and no he is not Clemens Part Deux in the form of getting better with age) and injury prone. Beckett is inconsistent and posted an ERA above 5 and expect to see a repeat of that if not worse as the Boston Media is ready to turn him into Road Kill. And until someone shows that a Japan born pitcher can make an impact for an entire MLB season, Dice-K will not perform to the Cy Young standards that everyone seems to think he will produce. Compound the questionable pitching with the signing of JD Drew - who is good, but not well liked or respected and could prove to be a distraction for the team with his Manny-like focus. Bottom line is, this will be the worse year Boston has had in some time and may end with several several trades, a pledge to re-build with some youth, and possibly Francona's firing.

Now it gets interesting because, for the first time ever, Tampa Bay is actually going to be a factor. I know, it feels weird even typing that last sentence. Tampa has the best young pitcher in Scott Kazmir. They also have some young players in the field that have shown promise so far and may be ready to take it to the next level in Baldelli, Crawford, and Cantu. 1B Ty Wigginton is heading into prime (24HRs .275 avg. in '06). Plus, and I think it will prove to be a big plus, Tampa signed the best player that was up for bidding in the Japan auction in Third Baseman Akinori Iwamura. They also have a class act for a manager in Joe Maddon. Add it all up, and you have a 2007 that could be their best year yet (not a high bar to raise for sure) finishing Third.

Toronto may have a long over due return to greatness this year and place them as a leading candidate at making the Wild Card. When you look at the offensive lineup that the Blue Jays can pencil in, and then look at their '06 numbers (HRs/Avg.) it is impressive: Reed Johnson (12/.319), Alex Rios (17/.302), Troy Glaus (38/.252), Lyle Overby (22/.312), Big Hurt Thomas (39/.270) and of course superstar Vernon Wells (32/303). On pitching, while Tampa may have the best young pitcher, Toronto has the best pitcher in Roy Halladay. A.J. Burnett could improve but is a solid #2. Even though I think that B.J. Ryan is overrated, his numbers suggest otherwise with a 1.37 ERA and converting 38 out of 42 save opportunities. The GM and owner for this club should get credit for investing in their team in order to boost performance. Oddly, an area where they should have gone shopping and didn't will what ends up costing them a real shot at winning the East - that is the Manager John Gibbons. He is their weak link and has exhibited poor role model traits. Some compare him to a Lou Pinella or Billy Martin - but he's not. He's in over his head and from time to time it shows - as it will this year. If you want a shot at greatness, you have to have a great leader, talent will not be enough and Gibbons is no great leader. The Jays make a playoff push, make a run for the division, may make the Wild Card, but to get at the big machine, they need a better manager and Gibbons will be gone when '08 comes around.

A detailed Yankee breakdown will be coming in about a week. Until then, and to just recap, here's the projected finish for you to chew on. In 2007, the final AL East standings will be:
  1. Yankees
  2. Blue Jays
  3. Devil Rays
  4. Red Sox
  5. Orioles

7 comments:

old professor said...

Mid-Relief,

You may have had too much to drink on St. Patrick's Day. No way the Tampa Bay Devil Rays are going to finish third. This year, the East will be one of the most competitive divisions in baseball. The Red Sox have a very good rotation, the Yankees while solid at the top three, have some questions at #'s 4 & 5.

Baltimore will be out of the race again. All of the positive items you mentioned about them were there last year and they could not compete. Jared Wright will be serviceable. Losing Benson to surgery will hurt.

If and this is a big if, Toronto's rotation can stay healthy, they will challenge to the end. When all is said and done, the Yankees will have just enough to get by the Blue Jays and Red Sox. Whoever does not win the east will be in strong contention for the wild card.

By the way, Mussina looked sharp in his last start and Pavano look very good with his location. Errors by the Yankees spoiled what should have been a great game for both pitchers.

Crash said...

The Devil Rays have no starting pitching after Kazmir, no bullpen, and no closer. Sounds like a combination that is built for the AL East. They may have the best outfield in the game...and they'll need it because their pitchers will be giving it up. Unfortunately they may have the worse infield in the game as well. Offensively they're pretty solid. Look for the D'Rays to be mathematically eliminate from the playoffs April 2. They will be battling the O's for last place in the east.

Toronto does finish ahead of Boston again this year, but probably about 7.5 behind the Yanks.Halladay will again be the leading contender for the CY Young until his arm falls off just after the all-star break.

old professor said...

It looks as if the Jeff Karstens train has hit a speed bump. He was roughed up against a division rival - the blue jays. The loss was not necessarily all his fault. With all of the outfielders the team has, why would Torre put Cairo in left field? The man is a utility infielder who has on special occassions (his birthday) has been put in the outfield. His lack of experience and the wind playing with a fly ball opened up the gates against Karstens.

With less than three weeks to go in the Spring, the time for experimenting with utility infielders playing the outfield is over.

Karstens is fighting for the number 5 slot in the rotation and they put Cairo in left field. I wonder if Torre ever heard the names Thompson, Reese, Sardhina,or Tabata.

Mid Releif said...

I think Reese has played well enough that Melkey might be on the block.

old professor said...

Slight injury strikes Yankee rotation - NO it is not Pavano, but Andy Pettitte is suffering from back spasms. Maybe Karstens is destined for the rotation after all.

Igwa looked sharp after the second inning against the Phillies - he may have saved himself a bus ride to AAA.

Anonymous said...

On Igawa looking sharp - you must not be referring to last night's game against the Phil's.

Control problems in terms of balls and strikes. Too many pitches, too many balls, kept falling behind in the count.

old professor said...

As a matter of fact, I was referring to the game against the Phillies. The two hits given up by Igawa were in the same inning and with no outs. He pitched out of the jam. Yes, he threw a lot of pitches, but he was still effective to the point of no runs allowed and going five innings. The view now is he will stay with the club as they break camp and be the fifth starter.

I believe any manager will take two hits allowed, five innings plus and no runs allowed and tolerate a lot of pitches. That is what they got for a whole season last year everytime Jared Wright took the mound - Five innings, a lot of pitches, several walks a few hits and in some instances a whole lot of runs.

Igawa is a definate upgrade to Wright and several years younger.

By the way is Spring ERA is now 3.00.

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