Friday, March 22, 2013

MLB Preview / A.L. East

It's just a little more than two weeks away! Can you feel the excitement? I sure can, and how does 2013 prepare to follow-up a season for the ages in 2012?

Well let's take a look at the teams and see how they may fair in 2013 shall we...


The Yankees won the division last season with a 95-67 record, we witnessed the Orioles making the post-season for the first time in 15 years, the Rays quietly won 90 games, while everything that could go wrong in "Beantown" did go wrong, and Toronto dealt with injuries & the same old problems.

This year we may see more teeter-totter action in this division, we'll start with the...

O' Fans won't be seeing too much of this in 2013.


Bang for his buck? The Orioles' Buck Showalter certainly got the most out of his team, and will show why everything happened to line up the right way for the O's to win one of the Wild Card spots, last season. The Orioles won 93 games, when technically they should have won around 82 games, they only had a scoring differential of 7 runs. I was curious to see if there was any other MLB team that could have had less of a differential and a worst record through Pythagorean -- sure enough, my first thought... the 1987 Minnesota Twins who had the lowest wins total for a World Champion (prior to 2006) with 85 wins, their Pythagorean record was actually below .500 with a 79-83 record, and the team was outscored 806-786. That's what we call winning ugly!

The Orioles made no significant moves during the off-season to better themselves while Toronto has made huge splashes, as Boston also has made moves to better their situation. A full season of an inconsistent lead-off man in Nate McLouth is not the answer. His career year was in 2008, and at best it was 26 HR's and a OPS of .853 -- until his arrival in late 12' for Baltimore, the last time he played decently was in 2009, so we are talking about 3 consecutive disappointing seasons now. They get Nick Markakis back, but once again, not an additional move here. Brian Roberts is full of question marks, with his rehabilitating hip & string of concussions -- if he bounces back, that can be a plus, but he'll be 36 in October, and has played a total of 115 games the last three seasons! Adam Jones finally had his breakout year, now can he repeat this year-in and year-out. Chris Davis's career bounced back nicely with 33 HR's & 85 RBI's & it's going to be fun to watch the development of Manny Machado.

The problem is the pitching once again, they got a nice surprise in Jason Hammel before his knee started bothering him, Miguel Gonzalez was signed out of the Mexican League and became one of their more dependable starters, and Wei-Yin Chen adjusted quickly to the Majors. My problem is that Chen led the staff with 192.2 innings, the next guy was Tommy Hunter with 133.2 innings -- and he's not projected to be in the rotation. If they can get some solid innings-eaters that would be great, bring some consistency to this staff that probably hasn't been seen since the early 90's, during the days of Mike Mussina, Scott Erickson & Kevin Brown. Notable consistent guys, not often-injured, journeymen vets! Plus I am also wondering if Chen is going to get figured out like most Asians that come over here (as in Dice-K, Nomo & others). 

The bullpen should be pretty good, then again they were handed over many leads last season, this year may be taxing on these arms, Pedro Strop can once again become a dominating set-up man for Jim Johnson if he can kick his wild pitching habits.

When I look at this roster and the division they have to play, with their mediocre pitching staff -- I feel it will be a return to Baltimore normalcy, I know Baltimore fans don't want to hear it, but you better embrace for the worst in 2013 -- You'll still be a competitive team, but in this case a last place competitive team. There's always optimism!

Best Move: Alexi Casilla? Scooped up off Waivers from Minnesota, an insurance policy in case Brian Roberts doesn't work out. Jair Jurrjens could be a huge move, if he can shake the injury bug & return to his 2008-2009 form, a change of scenery could help bring back his confidence.

Worst Move: No bad additions really, because frankly there wasn't any real additions besides the two above, it would have been nice to see a free agent starting pitcher with 200+ consistent innings per-year come in.

Best Possible Outcome: Possibly fourth place, but I don't see it happening when I look at everyone else's rosters.

Worst Possible Outcome: Horrible injuries to franchise cornerstones Machado, Jones or Matt Wieters, that could effect their careers. Also fans' high expectations hitting the fan.

Farrell looks forward to righting the Boston ship.


Just like with every Boston Red Sox season, especially in recent years, and for all teams for that matter -- Injuries will dictate this season for the Red Sox. I feel they addressed areas, and now that the division is in flux that they can try a few of their youngsters on the farm as well. No need for Red Sox Nation to push the panic button anytime soon, they just need players like Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia to stay off the D.L. 

Getting rid of Josh Reddick was a mistake, while I'm not sure what to think about free-swinger Will Middlebrooks. I know Pedro Ciriaco surprised many Boston fans last year, but I just feel he's nothing special overall, just another player getting a huge break during a dismal season for the franchise. Adding J.D.'s younger brother Stephen Drew wasn't a bad move, I think he'll help hold down the fort as short until prospect Jose Inglesias takes over there full-time.

I feel that Jon Lester will bounce back from his rough 2012, and it will be nice if John Lackey can be the Lackey of his Angels' days -- if so, the Sox will certainly be on the right track. Getting Ryan Dempster as their fourth starter, can't be a bad move, considering he'll log many innings. The #5 spot in the rotation at this moment belongs to Felix Doubront. Watch out for the possibility of Rubby De La Rosa, coming off Tommy John surgery -- has a powerful arm, acquired from the Dodgers in the big blockbuster trade last season.

The bullpen might be one of the absolute best in the Majors, with closer Joel Hanrahan, setup man (former closer) Andrew Bailey, Koji Uehara (Former O's & Ranger reliever) & Junichi Tazawa who also has closer stuff. Andrew Miller and Franklin Morales both seem to be rejuvenating their careers in Boston as well. 

The staff with the strong bullpen, plus good health to me, puts them above the Yankees. The Yankees have suffered too many injuries to big major pieces -- Boston's rotation is definitely key, I do wonder how Victorino will do in a full-season in the A.L., and with Jonny Gomes playing in left field when he's not known for his glove.

Best Move: Possibly a move that went under the radar with catcher David Ross. Ross leads all MLB catchers with a 3.33 ERA when he's behind the plate over the last four games & a minimum of 200 games. Might steal more and more of Jarrod Saltalamacchia's playing time, if Jarrod doesn't improve his plate discipline. 

Plus acquiring Manager John Farrell from the Blue Jays was a great move, which will bring peace and stability to the clubhouse compared to the mess that was Bobby Valentine.

Worst Move: Their defensive setup, I know the David Ortiz is going to be the regular DH, but the team has players on the field who are also practically DH's in Mike Napoli & Jonny Gomes. Sacrificing defense usually comes back and bites teams in the butt -- Suddenly, all I can think of right now is the 2008 Detroit Tigers (but they had more problems than just defense).

Best Outcome: The Rays anemic offense is worse than before, while the Jays pull a Miami -- Boston stays healthy, the rotation & lineup hold it together, while the bullpen is untouchable -- winning the division. But the percentages are really low for this outcome to pull through.

Worst Outcome: Just as bad as last season, and finishing below Baltimore -- with fans already looking forward to the Patriots' preseason games.

We will see this reaction a lot for Yankees in 13'.


The Yankees showed many chinks in their armor by season's end, Alex Rodriguez's downward spiral was complete (being benched a few times in the ALCS) while a reborn Derek Jeter hit the skids with an injury to his ankle. The whole lineup (including Robinson Cano) went limp, and by the end the team looked really old beyond it's years. Plus you know it's bad when Raul Ibanez is making everyone look bad.

Their off-season moves looked more identical to the typical year-to-year transaction wires of the Pittsburgh Pirates, than the moves we are used to seeing by the "Evil Empire". Kevin Youkilis? Travis Hafner? Juan Rivera? Dan Johnson? What?! Are the Steinbrenner sons targeting the AARP fan base? To make matters worse, on top of the weak additions, they suffered mega losses in injuries to Curtis Granderson & Mark Teixiera, plus now the recent announcement of Mariano Rivera retiring at season's end only adds to the fact that the Yankees might be a sinking ship -- which is already making this mid-season & 2014 off-season the more interesting. At this point, will we see newly-appointed hitting coach Marcus Thames get some at-bats? The way I look at it, he mind as well, he's got more pop than some of their roster players.

The weak lineup will make the rotation the key to making it or breaking it for the Yankees. C.C. Sabathia is a horse, I sometimes question when the weight will catch up with him, like it has done with other big leaguers like the Bartolo Colon's of the world. He seems to get more and more of these little injuries, and we know how these can eventually mount up. The thing is Sabathia's track record says otherwise, and that we should expect another typical solid year from C.C. Hiroki Kuroda just turned 38, and is coming off a really good season with the Yankees, he's having a good Spring, which means he should be in for another good season as the #2 starter for New York. Andy Pettitte was a good presence when healthy, and the Yankees hope to get as much of his experience on the mound as possible. Ivan Nova, has one of the filthiest breaking balls, the only problem is that his fastball kills him, Yankees are hoping for the positive Nova effects, compared to the bad. Sure you can have worst #5 starters than Phil Hughes (Career 4.39 ERA & 1.29 WHIP, high percentage fly-ball pitcher), than again you probably won't find one more frustrating as well.

The Yankees always get the best out of their bullpen -- no real reason to cover that area, if they can Joba Chamberlain to return to what we saw in 2008 or 2009, big plus! 

Best Move: Re-upping Ichiro Suzuki (even though a bit expensive at $13 for two years), if they lose, well at least he'll keep bringing in fans. Their recent signing of recently released Brennan Boesch could become a nice move, if everything goes south for the season, expect Boesch to get plenty of playing time to figure himself out.

Worst Move: Overpaying for veterans such as Youkilis & Hafner, and then showing fans signs of desperation by talking to Johnny Damon, Derrek Lee & recently retired Chipper Jones.

Best Possible Outcome: No one in this division is a 100% clear-winner, but even so, at best and that's a lot of Yankee aura in play -- second place. But to do all that, the stars all have to all align, A-Rod bounces back (that's not going to happen), and Granderson & Teixeira get on a roll right away when they come back from the D.L. and to tell you the truth, Teixiera has been declining in my opinion the last few years as it is, without the injuries!

Worst Possible Outcome: It gets so bad that they trade Robinson Cano away for huge stash of prospects during the season, before they allow him to sign somewhere like the Angels, Dodgers or Tigers when he comes up for free agency in 2014. Likely won't see that, and they'll take their chances. I just don't know why Cano would stick around with them when they don't appear to have a real game-plan.

Will Myers - compared to Dale Murphy by scouts, Rays will take that for sure.


The Rays' DNA is built on great pitching, strong defense & low-cost bargain basement deals that pay huge dividends. Under GM Andrew Friedman, the Rays have shown what it takes to be a small market team by putting out a good product even if the fans still don't know how to support their team. The team is led by Joe Maddon, possibly baseball's best manager in the game, I seriously think it's time that we start recognizing that this guy definitely knows what he's doing, and knows how to keep his young teams loose and ready.

The pitching staff ended up posting the league's best ERA since 1990, and even though they parted with the soul of their rotation in James Shields (trading him to K.C.), the rotation is still rather remarkable. The rotation is anchored by reigning Cy Young Winner David Price, not only did he go 20-5 with a 2.56 ERA, he also went 10-2 against his division rivals in 2012 (Career record vs. A.L. East is now 33-11)! Jeremy Hellickson, the #2 starter has one of the lowest ERA's among starting pitchers in the last two seasons; he posted a 10-11 record, 3.11 ERA & 124 K's in 177 innings. Matt Moore, according to Maddon still has his best to come in future seasons, as he broke the Rays' rookie strikeout record (175 K's). Alex Cobb also showed promise, going 11-9, 4.03 ERA & 106 K's (136.1 IP). Most teams would love to have the Rays' "problems" when it comes to their #5 slot, Jeff Niemann currently holds it, but the problem is he can't stay healthy -- he has a career record 40-26. If Nieman fails, the front-runner is Chris Archer -- a big-time prospect. Plus it doesn't hurt that there's other options in Jake Odorizzi (former MIL/KC prospect), Alex Colome & Alex Torres; and then there is Roberto Hernandez (formerly known as Fausto Carmona) who also has a shot.

The Rays lineup wishes it was as good as the rotation, the key is to get their offense rolling -- the problem is that the team falters when Evan Longoria is out of the line-up. He's capable of 30+ HRs & 100 RBI's every year (if healthy) -- but once again injuries plagued him in 2012; he batted .289, 17 HR & 55 RBI during 74 games & 273 at-bats. The team was sub-.500 without him.

Desmond Jennings gets to finally play his natural position of center field, now that B.J. Upton departed for Atlanta. Jennings stole 31 bases & could steal 50 if he gets his OBP up to around .350 possibly, Jennings won't deliver too much HRs, but he was good enough for 13. He just needs to work on raising his average & on-base percentage -- a spark plug at the top of the lineup would do the lineup wonders. Matt Joyce continues to be allergic to southpaws, Ben Zobrist will find some spot on the field & lineup -- meanwhile he'll keep the RF position warm for phenom Will Myers (acquired from K.C. in the Shields deal). Zobrist could find himself at 2B more often if newly acquired Kelly Johnson keeps repeating his recent years' numbers. All Tampa can ask of Yunel Escobar, is for him to grow up -- chances of that happening, remain to be seen.

Personally as a Tiger fan, I wish we had the 2012 Fernando Rodney than say the 2007-2009 version, and it's interesting that his MLB record of 0.60 ERA, brought his career ERA down to 3.75. So it's probably fair to say we shouldn't expect a repeat, considering his lowest ERA's prior to 2012 was a 2.86 ERA in 2005 (44 Innings) & 3.52 ERA in 2006 (71.2 Innings). Also, i'm not quite sure what the whole shooting an imaginary arrow in the air, has to do with closing a game out.

Best Move: Trusting their farm to step up into the rotation while moving James Shields (while he's still valuable) to K.C. for a young stud in Myers to help take the load off Evan Longoria.

Worst Move: No real bad moves, I think during the season if they can land a mature, veteran shortstop (to counter a potential Yunel situation) after the All-Star Break, can really help. James Loney's defense is certainly a step up at first base, but not the power bat that most teams would prefer at first -- at least he'll get on base compared to that of Carlos Pena.

Best Possible Outcome: They ride their arms, have a healthy Longoria, Will Myers wins the A.L. Rookie-of-the-Year Award & they make a serious run for a World Championship.

Worst Possible Outcome: The offense never gets rolling, Longoria misses huge chunks of the season, as the team misses the playoffs.

Oh Canada! & Oh My Goodness, can you feel the excitement?!


The Blue Jays are preparing for an exciting 2013 season for sure, they made some aggressive moves during the off-season that have their fans hungry for something they have not seen since 1993, the post-season. In fact, it appears that they went from a quiet franchise to sudden contender overnight -- the question remains are they contenders or pretenders?

Overall, I say contender. I know that they acquired many of the same Marlins that had Marlin fans excited in 2012, and we all know the outcome of that. The difference is that the Blue Jays have more pieces to work with that already have been on the roster for some time in their team captain Jose Bautista, the big year in Edwin Encarnacion, and starting pitcher Ricky Romero. Then there is the case with Colby Rasmus, if he can find his game & tap into his potential -- it would be a huge boost to their chances, as well as Adam Lind finding his 2009 self. Now add a legit lead-off man & anchor in shortstop in Jose Reyes, add National League Cy Young Winner R.A. Dickey, the possibility of a healthy Josh Johnson, veteran Gold Glove winning ace & innings eater Mark Buehrle. The Blue Jays also signed, controversial PED suspended Melky Cabrera who was riding high at the All-Star Break before everything came crashing down. Pretty good when you can have a Rajai Davis & Maicer Izturis on your bench as well. I like all the versatile tools they added, not to mention that Brett Lawrie & J.P. Arencibia should only get better. There is a lot to like from their bats.

You know you added some depth to the rotation when the Blue Jays' ace Ricky Romero went from first in the rotation, to fifth. Sure, he definitely struggled in 2012, but plenty of that could just be 2012 in general for Toronto's season that witnessed Bautista go down with an injury, and trying out young talent such as the Moises Sierra's & Adeiny Hechavarria's on the team.

If the Blue Jays have a major weakness (and I really wouldn't say it's major), it would have to be the bullpen, they have a closer in Casey Janssen & another closer option in Sergio Santos (who lost the job in 12'), they have good, old consistent lefty Darren Oliver & a young lefty in Aaron Loup. Their righties Brad Lincoln & Steve Delabar showed promise after being acquired last season, as Esmil Rogers seemed to find his groove in Cleveland last season.

So are we to experience a Miami situation here? I really don't think so, is it possible? Sure... all things are possible, but I feel GM Alex Anthopoulos' big moves with the Rogers communications giant backing him, that their moves will come with post-season rewards, will that take them straight to the World Series, we'll certainly find out. If they play loose & don't have the pressure eating away at them, I think things will pay dividends, but we can always have the reverse as well.

Best Move: Acquiring R.A. Dickey screams loudly to me over all the other acquisitions, it spoke volumes that Toronto is very serious on competing for more than just the post-season. The move in my opinion also is the best veteran addition to their starting rotation, not seen since adding the likes of a Jack Morris & Dave Stewart.

Worst Move: Maybe not going after a power-arm for the bullpen, then again that's what trading at mid-season is for. It would have been really interesting if they added someone intimidating as a closer, even.

Best Possible Outcome: First World Championship since 1993 -- at least the playoffs, a powerful step forward.

Worst Possible Outcome: A Miami situation minus the "Fire Sale", some reshuffling, miss the playoffs, wonder what the heck happened in 2013, and try again in 2014. I just don't see them doing worse than 3rd place though.

I want to make another note, before moving on. I am not quite sure about bringing back John Gibbons as the Manager, I know the GM really likes him & maybe even the Jays fans have better insight than me on this situation. But I really thought with all the good names that are out there that don't have a job, that it wouldn't have been a bad idea to go with someone fresh. Remember in my Over/Under Article (March 3rd), the Jays under-achieved plenty, and I like to note that the Manager from 2007-2008 was Gibbons (got fired for Cito Gaston during 2008); then again Gibbons never had the pieces than that he does now. If things go really south in 2013 though, don't be surprised to see Gibbons packing.

1. Tampa Bay Rays
2. Toronto Blue Jays*
3. Boston Red Sox
4. New York Yankees
5. Baltimore Orioles

* - Wild Card Team

NEXT: The American League Central

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