Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Signor Baseball's 2011 AL Preview

Time to oil up the old Wilson A2000, rub a little Tiger balm into the shoulder, and practice talking with a mouthful of sunflowers seeds, 'cause rounding third and stumbling for home, here comes Signor Baseball's 2011 American League Preview.

Did the Rangers really look that good in the AL playoffs or were the Yankees just flat? Josh Hamilton is great, no doubt about it. They will score a lot of runs, but without Cliff Lee as an anchor I'm not so sure about their pitching. Plus, last time I checked they were still in Texas and you know how I feel about Rick Perry's Republic of Texas, ya'll. (See Signor Baseball's NL preview.)
So, I'm picking the Angels, even though I'm not sure they have an everyday Major League catcher on the roster and their starting outfield looks really old. They do have a very good manager and a lot of money to throw around. Their pitching isn't as good as the A's and their offense isn't as good as the Rangers, but I think the combination may be good enough to win in a close race.
The A's, unlike the Pirates and the Royals, have found a way to be competitive on a shoestring budget. They have smart baseball people and don't make too many mistakes with their limited resources. They also have loads of pitching. Now, if they can just score some runs they'll make it a tight three team race.
Over the last 20 years, the Mariners have had four sure-fire, first ballot Hall of Famers on their rosters for extended periods of time and they still never made it to the Series. Seattle fans can look forward to a surplus of good coffee, the Experience Music Project, watching Ichiro get another 200 hits, scattered clouds with a 90% chance of rain, and a 75 win season.

Minnesota, Chicago, or Detroit? Take your pick. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. All have better hitting than pitching.
The Twins should probably be the favorite, even though they don't look as formidable on paper as Chicago. They play consistently solid baseball (until they face the Yankees in the playoffs when they turn into the Keystone Kops). Throw in a good manager and perennial all-stars in Mauer, Morneau and Liriano. If Nathan is healthy and Pavano pitches well, I think they'll find a way to repeat.
The White Sox feature the consistently entertaining existentialist raps of Ozzie Guillen, a lot of power and some good starting pitching. What more do you need? Maybe a bullpen you can hand a lead over to and not regret it. And it sure wouldn't hurt if Jake Peavey was healthy at last.
The Tigers have a lot of "ifs". If Verlander remains healthy, and if Porcello and Scherzer continue to improve, and if Valverde can save 50 games, and if Cabrera can stay away from the sauce, then maybe they have a shot.
The Cleveland Indians don't get nearly enough sympathy. They haven't won a World Series since the Truman administration. Three years ago their starting rotation included Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia. (And a fellow named LeBron used to play for the Cavs, but that's another story.) I've been to Cleveland. It's not that bad a place. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is there. It's on a lake. Ian Hunter wrote a great song about it. And there's a really cool amusement park about an hour's drive away. So why do people flee at the first opportunity?
Kansas City is the Pittsburgh of the American League. They're in the eighth or ninth year of a five year rebuilding plan. Wouldn't want to rush things.

Boston went all "evil empire" on us again and copied the Yankee method of buying everything they could get their hands on. Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez add a ridiculous amount of punch to a lineup that was already potent. But, and let's all say it together, "they'll only go as far as their pitching takes them." Beckett, Lester, Lackey, Dice-K and that knucleballer who is about my age, (by the way, can anybody name a left handed knuckleballer besides Wilbur Wood?), certainly look like a formidable rotation. But each of them has had health issues in the past, so... And I wonder if Papelbon isn't turning into a little bit of a headcase? Not a good thing for a closer.
The Yankees will probably have to settle for second place and the wild card. Everybody's a year older on what was already an old team, the starting pitching after CC and Hughes is shaky, and if you believe all those sabermetric guys Derek Jeter has the lateral range of your grandmother in her walker. Still, they are the Yankees, A-Rod has had a great spring, Tex is healthy again, Cano is a stud, Mo Rivera remains The Man, and now he has a reliable set-up guy, so maybe AJ Burnett will turn it around and Garcia and Nova will be solid as four and five starters. And I'm guessing that Jeter and Posada have a little left in the tank before they're shipped off to the old folks' home. Besides, if things aren't going well by July, they'll just bust out the checkbook and go shopping.
The Rays may be on the outside looking in this year. A very good team stuck in a division with two slightly better teams. Of course, if the Yankees really are that old, or the Red Sox falter just a little, Tampa will be right there to jump ahead of them. Lots of good young pitching and still enough hitting, even without Carl Crawford. Ugliest ballpark in the AL hands down.
The Orioles are on the upswing at last. Buck Showalter has a history of building good teams and then getting fired just before they make it to the Series. It's still early in his Baltimore tenure, so all is sweetness and light. If he stays true to form, give him another couple of years before he pisses everybody off and then it's back to Baseball Tonight for Buck. In the meantime, the Mark Reynolds' Strike-Out-O-Meter is tuned up and ready to go.
Toronto should petition the league to be moved to another division. The Blue Jays would be contenders in the Central. In the East they'll just be also rans, no matter how many home runs Jose Bautista hits. (And there is no effin way he'll hit 54 again.) O Canada.

Another Caveat: Signor Baseball reminds you that he has been wrong before and he will be wrong again, so for the love of God don't bet the kids' college money based on any of the above. Play ball!

No comments: