Last year, around this time, I began previewing the Cubs player by player, one a day, until opening day. I really don't feel like doing that. At all. Read the old ones. Half of them are still here, so, just change the date and forget I ever said Derrek Lee would be the team's most important player in 2008 and that he'd hit 35 homers again. Just forget that. I am, however, going to preview all thirty teams, use the SKORAG (Start Kyle Orton Random Ass Guess) system to project their record, and the standings. I was Highly, HIGHLY successful at this last year, so pay attention, friendo.
Starting alphabetically with the junior circuit-
American League East
1. Boston Red Sox 94-68
Even with the Yankees additions of Sabathia and Burnett, I'd still take their pitching rotation over anyone else's in that division. Beckett, Daisuke, Lester, and Wakefield are a great 1-4, and they need only one of either Brad Penny or John Smoltz to lock up the 5th spot, and both seem healthy this spring. Their lineup is solid, even if Lowell, Oritz, and Varitek are well past their prime, and players like Youkilis, Pedroia, and Jason Bay give them a balanced lineup. Pedroia's overrated because of where he plays and his "grit," but that doesn't mean he's not a damn good baseball player.
2. New York Yankees 90-72
I'm not impressed really, and I personally think I'm giving them too much credit by saying they'll win 90. That rotation's not as impressive as it's cost would imply. Sabathia's a beast, but god only knows what damage Ned Yost may have done to him last year. Burnett's health is always in question, especially after a career high 221 innings ( and an unimpressive 4.07 ERA) last year. Chien-Ming Wang is coming off an injury and was never as good as they claimed he was to begin with. Andy Pettite is old, and Joba Chamberlain, despite ESPN's mancrush, has yet to do...anything in his major league career. Beyond the rotation? They have no outfield to speak off, unless Johnny Damon's .836 OPS last year blew you away (for the record, thats .101 points below the OPS Edmonds had with the Cubs last year). Xavier Nady was lackluster after he got traded last to the Yankees last year, Nick Swisher's bad enough that his attitude couldn't find a place in the White Sox' clubhouse, and they've got something known as a Melky Cabrera in center field. Jorge Posada's old and only played in 51 games last year, no one knows when A-Rod will play again, and neither Robinson Cano or Captain Clutch hit as well as an .800 OPS last year (Cano was actually Worse than Fukudome (.715 vs. .738). Simply put, this team will be a disappointment, and sadly, Joe Girardi will get the blame.
3. Tampa Bay Rays 89-73
I love the Rays. I really do. My gut tells me to put them ahead of the Yankees, so, when the season comes and the win the damn division again, I'll use that as my pathetic excuse. I like their lineup, even if the outfield's a little weak unless BJ Upton can post his 2007 numbers rather than his 2008 numbers, but Carlos Pena, Evan Longoria, and Pat Burrell make a solid middle of the lineup, and Dioner Navarro's a nice player to have behind the plate. They have a better rotation than the Yankees, as Scott Kazmir, James Shields, Matt Garza, and Andy Sonnanstine were a very solid 1-4 last year, and rookie David Price looks like he could end up being better than all four of them.
4. Toronto Blue Jays 75-87
They appear to be in some dire financial trouble, and rumors that Halladay could wind up on the trading block have popped up all winter. They have no one in the rotation after Hallady and Justin Lisch, and their lineup is God Awful, unless you still maintain the illusion that Vernon Wells is a star, or believe that Alexis Rios will become one. Lyle Overbay used to be a nice imitation Mark Grace, but now he's just bad.
5. Baltimore Orioles 70-92
Their rotation drops off completely after Jeremy Guthrie and Japanese import Uehara, their most likely bottom three starters are Danys Baez, a veteran who hasn't started a game since 2002, Adam freakin' Eaton, and our beloved Rich Hill. They let Felix Pie and Ryan Freel compete for the job in left field this spring, and neither won, meaning Ty Wiggington is the most likely starter. Adam Jones is a project in center, Nick Markakis is a stud in right, Aubrey Huff had a nice year last year at first, Luke Scott is their DH for now but seems to be trade bait, and their big free agent additions were Cesar Izturis and Gregg Zaun. Seriously. They have ultra-prospect Matt Wieters waiting to take over for Zaun once they've waited until June and postponed his arbitration clock, but the hole at shortstop's just plain ugly. They swear they're going to add free agents soon, but this team's going to stay at the bottom for a while.
1.Cleveland Indians 89-73
Their rotation is weak unless Fausto Carmona proves 2007 wasn't a fluke, but their bullpen is solid, and if Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez wake up and don't suck, they could have a nice lineup with those two, DeRosa, Shin Soo Choo, and the best centerfielder in baseball-Grady Sizemore. This division just sucks.
2. Chicago White Sox 86-76
If Jon Danks and Gavin Floyd repeat their breakout years, and my hope that this is the year Mark Buerhle's arm falls off proves unfounded, they might have a decent rotation, even if they don't get the "rebound" they want from Jose Contreras. I put "rebound" in "" because I'm not sure what he's supposed to rebound to- that one year wonder he had in 2005, or to his career averages, which are all unimpressive. They also think Bartolo Colon's still alive. They deflect concern's about the down years that Konerko and Thome put up last year, and the ages of their big three (Konerko- 33, Thome- 38, Dye-35) by touting their "youth movement" with players like Alexei Ramirez, Josh Fields, Chris Getz, and Brian Anderson, although the overrated Ramirez had just a .317 OBP last year and walked just 18 times, Fields is a career .233/.303/.454 hitter in 125 major league games, Getz's minor league OPS of .742 leaves everything to be desired, and Anderson's .655 OPS in 597 career AB's is just atrocius. I hate this team.
3. Kansas City Royals 84-78
There's some buzz around them as "this year's Rays," but I'm not biting into them that hard. I do like the talent in the rotation with ace Gil(Ga)Meche, Brian Bannister, the awesome curveball of Zack Greinke, and first round pick Luke Hochevar, and they have a lights out closer in Joakim Soria, though their faith in set-up men (and former Cubs) Juan Cruz and Kyle Farnsworth seems highly misplaced. Their line up isn't spectacular, but it has some serious promise in players like Alex Gordon and Mike Aviles, and players like Coco Crisp, Jose Guillen, Alberto Callaspo, David DeJesus, and Mike Jacobs are decent enough to put together a major league offense. They're maybe a star or two away from really making the leap.
4. Minnesota Twins 81-81
Ron Gardenhire managed to drag this team to 88 wins last year, but even with what's most likely the best rotation in the division (definitely the best if Fransisco Liriano is fully recovered from his surgery in '07), I don't see enough in the lineup to get them back there. Joe Mauer is injured again, and outside of him and Morneau there's not much to look at in this lineup. I liked their decision to pick up Joe Crede, but his bat is highly overrated due to "clutch" and that bandbox on the south side. A .500 season seems very likely for this crew, but everyone's been wrong on the Twins before.
5. Detroit Tigers 76-86
Their offseason moves last year had everyone drooling, and both I and Sports Illustrated had them in the World Series. Once the season started, however, it was obvious this team had more holes in it than OJ's defense. The rotation fell apart, the lineup didn't produce anywhere near expected, and they slumped to 74-88. The rotation they're entering this season with is shaky unless Justin Verlander rebounds, Jeremy Bonderman comes back healthy, and they find a fifth starter that isn't Nate Robertson or Dontrelle Willis, both of whom are utterly pathetic at this point. The lineup's weak outside of Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera, and Curtis Granderson. They're not going anywhere soon.
1. Oakland A's 91-71
It's a little known fact that I can't stand the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, California, United States of America, and that I'm a closet A's fan. Billy Beane's moves to acquire Matt Holliday and Jason Giambi tell me he believes the team can contend this year, and by God, I've got my spoon and I will lap. that. shit. up. There's young talent in the rotation with guys like Dana Eveland and Sean Gallagher, and they have a promising young closer in Brad Ziegler. They have a good enough middle of the order in Giambi, Holliday, and Jack Cust to give them a competitive offense in that division. If Billy says they can win it, then they can.
2. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, California, United States of America 88-74
A lot of people make a big deal out of the 100 games they won last year, but their Pythagorean W-L was just 88-74, meaning they were really f*&king lucky and won some close ball games, as evidenced by the record 62 saves logged by K-Rod last year. Well he's gone, and so are Garrett Anderson and Mark Teixiera. They've added Bobby Abreu and Brian Fuentes, but Abreu is getting older, as is Vladimir Guerrero. They have a pretty solid rotation, but I hate them. Teams that way out-perform their Pythagorean W-L tend to fall back to earth hard, so they'll finish second this year.
3. Texas Rangers 79-83
They'll score runs in that ballpark, Josh Hamilton is great, and they really believe they may have fixed Andruw Jones. Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla are in contract years, and they believe the two will pitch better than they did last year, but even if they don't, the salary they'll clear by letting those two walk will help. They have the top rated farm system in the majors, and for once actually have legitimate starting pitching prospects. They've got some hope for the future, but not this year.
4. Seattle Mariners 66-96
My worst whiff last season was predicting they'd win their division. They lost over 100 games. Then they added Ronny Cedeno.This team just plain sucks. Other than King Felix, there's nothing here worth writing home about, and there doesn't appear to be any real coordinated effort to fix them. If Erik Bedard can rebound, he'll get traded. Don't even bother looking at their lineup. Other than Ken Griffey Jr's farewell tour, there's nothing remotely interesting about them.
Tomorrow- The National League.