Thursday, March 01, 2007

2007 American League Predictions

New York Yankees (96-66) 94-98 win range
Boston Red Sox (91-71) 89-93 win range
Toronto Blue Jays (88-74) 86-90 win range
Baltimore Orioles (75-87) 73-77 win range
Tampa Bay Devil Rays (69-93) 67-71 win range

Cleveland Indians (94-68) 92-96 win range
*Minnesota Twins (93-69) 91-95 win range
Detroit Tigers (90-72) 88-92 win range
Chicago White Sox (88-74) 86-90 win range
Kansas City Royals (63-99) 61-65 win range

Los Angeles Angels (94-68) 92-96 win range
Oakland Athletics (92-70) 90-94 win range
Texas Rangers (84-78) 82-86 win range
Seattle Mariners (72-90) 70-74 win range

AL MVP: Travis Hafner, Indians
AL CY YOUNG: Johan Santana, Twins
AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Alex Gordon, Royals
ALCS: Yankees over Indians
WS: Yankees over Dodgers
2006 W-L Record: 97-65 (1st)
2006 pW-pL Record: 95-67
2007 Projection: 96-66
Strengths: Offense, disposable cash
Weaknesses: Rotation star quality; bullpen depth; first base
Biggest Change from '06: Kei Igawa
One Reason:
One reason the Yankees will win in '07 is the same reason they've won for years: a strong offense supports a merely capable pitching staff.
One reason the Yankees will lose in '07 is that their lineup isn't as strong as it looks. Everyone's getting older, and replacing Gary Sheffield with Doug Mientkiewicz is pretty significant. The same could be said of their rotation, with questions surrounding Andy Pettite, Chien-Ming Wang, and Kei Igawa, not to mention whomever fills in at 5th starter until Phillip Hughes comes up. Switching out Randy Johnson for Igawa at least gives them fewer age-related issues.
The Yankees are, as always, strong favorites to reach October. For all the questions and concerns there are surrounding the Yankees, we have to remember that the Yanks have similar issues every season for a while now and have still managed to weather the storm and make the postseason. They've got the money, they've got Phillip Hughes, and they've got a much better-run front office with Brian Cashman calling the shots. It will be a tighter race than it was last year, but I think the Bombers still have the edge.
2006 W-L Record: 86-76 (3rd)
2006 pW-pL Record: 81-81
2007 Projection: 95-67
Strengths: Impact hiters, pitching depth, Dice-K
Weaknesses: Bullpen, offensive depth
Biggest Change from '06: Dice-K
One Reason:
One Reason the BoSox will win in '07 is that they've got the impact hitters and the impact pitchers. The supporting cast may not be what it was in 2004, but they've got Manny & Papi in the lineup and Schilling-Matsuzaka-Papelbon-Beckett in the rotation.
One Reason the BoSox will lose in '07 is because their supporting cast really is an issue. The Sox' batting order is strong 1-6 (Lugo, Youkilis, Papi, Manny, Drew, Lowell), but they've got big questions surrounding Jason Varitek, Coco Crisp, and Dustin Pedroia. If those three come through, then the Sox could have the best offense in the league. But if even two of them come up empty, then the Sox will struggle like they did down the stretch last year. The same is true in the bullpen, where Joel Pineiro (I'm still convinced this is a crazy plan) is anchoring a less-than-stellar lot.
(If you read my NL entry and wonder what happened to my prediction that the Sox would win the Series, I changed my mind when I started preparing this entry. Ask me again tomorrow and I may change my mind, but with Boston's bullpen troubles and lineup holes, I don't think they can beat out the Twins, White Sox, A's and maybe even Tigers).
Just like last year, the Sox are a volatile team. If everything goes right, from Matsuzaka's debut to Schilling's conditioning, to Beckett's homers, to Papelbon's transition, to Drew's health, to Crisp's recovery, to Pedroia's debut, to Pineiro's role change, then the Sox are contenders. But that's a whole lot of conditions to meet, and the Sox will have to meet nearly all of them to win the Wild Card.
That 2006 Pythagorean record scares me. Have the Sox really added 15 true wins this offseason?
2006 W-L Record: 87-75 (2nd)
2006 pW-pL Record: 86-76
2007 Projection: 88-74
Strengths: Star pitchers, middle of the order
Weaknesses: Back of rotation, middle infield
Biggest Change from '06: Frank Thomas
One Reason:
One Reason the Jays will win in '07 is that they keep anything big from going wrong. Their offense looks strong, and while they're getting zero production from the middle infield, they should be pretty potent none the less, especially when Adam Lind gets a full-time job. Their rotation isn't very impressive after Halladay and Burnett, but the Jays have several guys (Chacin, Thomson, Ohka) who can at least keep the team in games. The Blue Jays may survive not because they're better than the other teams, but because they have much less potential to suck.
One Reason the Jays will lose in '07 is that they're in the wrong league. It used to be that they were in the wrong division, but with the ascension of the AL Central and the A's-Angels twin towers out west, the Jays aren't going to catch any breaks when it comes to reaching the postseason. It's highly unlikely that the Jays will be the best team in their division, which means they're going to have to compete against four or five other teams in the Wild Card race who are just as good and probably better.
The Jays did finish second last year and show promising improvement that's supported by the Pythagorean numbers. It wouldn't be a terrific surprise if they won 95 games, but they're much less likely to do it than most teams in the race.
2006 W-L Record: 70-92 (4th)
2006 pW-pL Record: 69-93
2007 Projection: 75-87
Strengths: Young Pitching, Nick Markakis, Miguel Tejada
Weaknesses: Everything else
Biggest Change from '06: A full season of Nick Markakis
One Reason:
One Reason the Orioles will win in '07 is they go see the opera "Faust" and get an idea.
One Reason the Orioles will lose in '07 . . . one reason?
It's not the like the Orioles aren't doing anything right. They've graduated some quality arms to the big leagues and have an impact player in right fielder Nick Markakis. But after Tejada, Brian Roberts and Ramon Hernandez, the lineup is pretty drab. Plus there are no guarantees about the potency of their young pitchers, especially Daniel Cabrera. Their farm system has some gems at the lower levels but no one ready to fill holes in the big leagues. There's no reason to expect the Orioles to contend in the near future.
2006 W-L Record: 61-101
2006 pW-pL Record: 65-97
2007 Projection: 69-93
Strengths: Young hitters, farm system
Weaknesses: Pitching staff, mismanagement of prospects, general sucktitude
Biggest Change from '06: (Hopefully) Getting B.J. Upton and Delmon Young in the majors
One Reason:
One Reason the Rays will win in '07 is that their offensive prospects step in and add potency to a depressingly bad lineup. Even with Carl Crawford and a healthy Rocco Baldelli, the '06 Rays finished a distant last in runs scored (4.25 R/G) in the AL. There's a long way to go before they can become a real threat, but they've got the top-notch talent (Upton, Young, Akinori Iwamura) to make a significant impact right away.
One Reason the Rays will lose in '07 is that their pitching staff is equally awful, but with little prospect for improvement. The Rays finished 12th out of 14 AL teams in runs allowed last year (5.28 RA/G). Part of that is due to a bad defense, yes, but even so, there are no saviors in the farm system to help them out here. There is some hope, but nothing like a B.J. Upton or Delmon Young.
Even if the Rays' offense skyrockets up to 4th or 5th place in the league, their pitching is still so bad that it wouldn't guarantee them more than 80 wins or so. The 2007 version of the Devil Rays could be the best ever for the franchise, but that standard is so woefully low that it's hard to get excited about.
Back later with the AL Central.
He deserved this.

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