Tuesday, April 03, 2007

 

MLB Opening Day

The snow is falling and the temperature is once again sub-zero, so that means it must be time for some b..b..b..baseball.

AL East:

The Blue Jays have beefed up again and look to finally make it back to the playoffs. With the addition of Frank Thomas to a line-up that already features Vernon Wells, Troy Glaus, Lyle Overbay, Alex Rios, and Reed Johnson, the Jays should have no trouble scoring runs. The key will be to keep their pitchers healthy. Last year they finished in 2nd place, 10 games back of the Yankees, but top-3 pitchers Roy Halladay, AJ Burnett, and Gustavo Chacin all missed significant time. If those three can stay healthy and pitch effectively, Toronto should be able to contend with New York and Boston for the division crown and a playoff spot.

The Yankees will smash the ball as always, but starting pitching is a question mark. Carl Pavano has missed a year and a half due to injury, while Mike Mussina is starting to get older. Chien-Ming Wang is still somewhat unproven after being New York's top pitcher last season. Still, the Yankees will be the team to beat in the AL East.

Boston will contend as well, but the batting order gets a little thin after David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, especially if free-agent JD Drew gets injured again. Their pitching is solid, but not spectacular with 40+ year old Curt Schilling as the ace. Japanese phenom Daisuke Matsuzaka could be excellent, but is unproven in North America.

In Baltimore, the Orioles have a respectable pitching staff and Miguel Tejada can put up huge offensive numbers, but the line-up might be a little thin to compete with the big three ahead of them.

The hapless Tampa Bay Devil Rays will need everyone to perform up to their capabilities to avoid 100 losses this year. You have to feel sorry for Carl Crawford who is an all-star talent stuck in a horribly run organization.

AL Central:

This division might be the best in baseball, possibly only rivalled by the AL East.

The Detroit Tigers come in as defending AL pennant winners, but might have over-achieved last year. They have great depth in the batting order as there is not a single easy out 1 through 9. The pitching staff is young and powerful. The Tigers should be able to win games 2-1 or 8-7 and they're definately a threat to get back into the playoffs.

Minnesota stoll the Tigers' division title on the final day of last year, but were swept in the playoffs. The Twins will be in tough this year with two pitchers gone. Fransico Liriano will miss the entire season after having surgery last year, and Brad Radke retired. But with Cy Young winner Johan Santana, MVP Justin Morneau, and catcher Joe Mauer all back in the fold the Twins will be a tough opponent.

Chicago missed the playoffs last year after winning the World Series, so they should have renewed hunger. They are a similar team to Detroit with a great balance of hitting and pitching. Hurler Mark Buehrle rebounding from a disappointing 12-13 season will be key for the White Sox.

The Cleveland Indians won 93 games two years ago, but were a big disappointment last year. They will look to return to form, but might be just a step below the aforementioned three teams. DH Travis Hafner can hit home runs with ease, but the Indians are devoid of any other stars in their batting order. They have good enough pitching to win low scoring games, however. But the playoffs might be a stretch in the Central.

Simply put, it sucks to be the KC Royals at this point. They have improved their squad over last season, and the pitching staff could surprise and be effective. But still it seems unlikely that they'll avoid the AL Central basement.

AL West

The West is the most wide open division in the AL heading into the season.

The Angles will compete as always with Vladimir Guererro putting up MVP-type numbers. The strength of the pitching staff might actually lay in the bull-pen. The starters are not as strong as in recent years, but decent enough that the Angels should be able to build leads and turn them over the releivers to nurse home.

Oakland lost another big free agent in Barry Zito, but they always find a way to be competitive. Pitchers Harden, Haren, and Blanton give them the best 1-2-3 punch in the division, while the batting order features a solid depth of players who can score runs by grinding out singles and doubles, even though they lack power.

The Rangers have taken the approach of loading up on long-ball hitters to win high-scoring games for years, and things look the same this year. The pitching staff is not at the level of the Angels or Athletics, but Mark Teixiera, Michael Young, and Hank Blalock will try to make up the difference with home runs. As always, they have a chance, but the all offense and limited pitching strategy has failed them repeatedly, so it could be another year of no playoffs.

The Mariners also have a chance this year. Adrian Beltre, Richie Sexson, and Ichiro should score some runs, and their pitching staff doesn't get much credit, but could actually be fairly decent. After a few 90+ win seasons, Seattle has struggled the last few years. Don't expect big things from them, but .500 isn't out of the question.

AL Prediction:

New York, Chicago, Oakland, and Toronto with the wild card.

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