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American League Preview

Yesterday I talked about the National League and how it seems that the leagues are beginning to converge a little bit and be slightly more evenly matched. While that is true, there is still simply more talent in the American League. That isn’t likely to change in 2011 as the biggest spenders in baseball were in the American League. The junior circuit continued to spend in this past off-season, and has altered the landscape to an extent. Based on talent movement and general year-to-year differences, the American League has a very real chance of seeing four different teams make the playoffs than a year ago. By the same token, I’m not sure it would shock anybody if the same four teams made the playoffs. It looks to be an interesting year.

In the American League Central, there is a very clear divide between the three teams who have a shot and the two teams who don’t. If you’re reading this blog, you know for certain that the Royals are one of the teams who do not have a shot. Never fear, faithful readers. There’s an entire day dedicated to them tomorrow. The Indians are the other team, of course. While both the Royals and Indians have some intriguing young talent, the real big boys in the division are the White Sox, Tigers and Twins.

I’ll start with the Tigers because on paper I think they’re the best team. It’s hard to match their solid starting rotation with a good bullpen and a nice offense. Adding Victor Martinez was huge for them, and if Miguel Cabrera can stay sober, those two will have a fun summer together. The White Sox also interest me because of their acquisition of Adam Dunn. Dunn is no Thome, but the Sox haven’t had a basher like that since Thome was there. It’ll be interesting to see if he can take the DH role. I think he will and he’ll hit 40 homers. The Twins are always there and always competitive, but I just don’t think this is their year as the White Sox take the division.

Onto the American League East, which might be baseball’s best division. Even the bottom tier teams in this division (Blue Jays and Orioles) have an opportunity to have nice seasons. The Blue Jays finished well over .500 last year and finished fourth. It’s tough to play in the East. I think they’ll be about as good and finish in the exact same spot. The Orioles are sort of on the right path as they have lots of young talent, but they’re still relying a little too much on veterans to fill holes. They’re in last place for one more year before they get competitive again. That leaves the three big boys, the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees.

The Rays figure to still be good this year in spite of losing what seems like 2/3 of their roster. They still have an excellent starting staff as well as a top five farm system to supplement talent. Their bullpen is going to be patched together, but if anyone can make do with that, it’s Joe Maddon. The Yankees are the Yankees. They’ve got power, they’ve got some speed, they have the potential to have a fantastic bullpen. Their weakness is their starters. If Burnett and Hughes pitch well, they’ll be fine. If they don’t, it could be a (relatively) long season in New York. I pick the Red Sox to win the division here, and the Rays (yes, the Rays) to take the Wild Card over the Yankees.

The American League West is quite possibly baseball’s most boring division. The Mariners are terrible, but seem to be on a weird every other year pattern of being decent. I don’t see that repeating again this year, although watching Felix Hernandez pitch is a lot of fun. The Angels are a team somewhat in turmoil. They seemingly went after everybody under the sun this past offseason and came up woefully short on almost everyone. That is until they were given the privilege of paying Vernon Wells way too much money to patrol left field. I get the feeling that will be one of those deals that ends up not looking terrible in the end, but right now it looks pretty bad. I just don’t see the Angels being especially good in 2011, though they have the available funds to make a move to improve as the season progresses. The A’s and the Rangers are, in my mind, the class of this division.

The A’s are the upstarts, which is just how they like it. They went out and acquired some offense in Josh Willingham, David DeJesus and Hideki Matsui. Those three seem to fit really nicely on an Oakland team with a lot of good players, but nobody outstanding. The pitching staff is where it’s at, though, for the A’s. Their starting rotation is young, good and ready to break out. I think they have a chance to have a similar story to the Giants of last season. In the bullpen, Billy Beane spent some money out there and built what looks to be an excellent unit. The A’s are going to be good. I just don’t think they’ll be as good as Texas. Yes, they lost Cliff Lee, but I have a feeling that their offense will pick up that slack as they’ve added Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli to an already potent attack. Plus, they now have the money to go out and get a guy for the rotation like they did last year. If the Brewers are out of it, don’t you think they might dangle a Zack Greinke? It’d be interesting. So I pick the Rangers to win the West again.

Should be an exciting season. I know I can’t wait for it to get going. Tomorrow is Opening Day and with it comes a plethora of Royals thoughts. Stay tuned…

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  1. Patrick
    March 30, 2011 at 10:46 am

    I really think that the White Sox are a very interesting team this year (second to the Royals, but the Royals are mostly interesting because of the prospects coming up). They are counting on Peavy as their number 5 starter, which if he’s healthy, that is insane. They have a lot of heavy hitters as well. Kenny Williams went all out this offseason, and I think they win the central and maybe make some noise in the playoffs.

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