Alex Ciepley: I think this division is going to be pretty competitive, top to bottom. The Angels may have the worst name, but they seem to have the fewest question marks.
Jon Weisman: I think their organizational depth will carry them.
Mike Carminati: I'm pretty confident of this order: Colts, Rangers, M's. The A's are the wildcard. They could finish anywhere depending on how their young rotation responds. And I don't expect any big mid-season trades--this is a one-year rebuild of the staff.
Will Carroll: I did a radio interview and the Yahoo! host joked that BP writers must have pictures of Billy Beane up on our walls, like some teeny-bopper crush. I hate that type of thinking. The fact is, the A's are just better.
Cliff Corcoran: Interesting choice of words there, Will. I think they're the only team in the division that didn't get better over the winter. Not that I disapprove of their moves, but they're going to need this year to get their pitching and Swisher settled
and will tread water as a result. They beat their Pythagorean record by five games last year, if they underperform their expected record this year they may have to watch out for the Mariners.
Scott Long: It's just hard to imagine the A's will be able to match past performance with so many unproven guys taking the mound.
Derek Smart: The Angels are going to have more trouble scoring runs than some might think--that infield could be just brutal offensively.
Will: I don't like the Angels lineup. I can't really put my finger on it because I like the Finley signing. Maybe it's my lack of confidence in their pen or their odd roster construction.
Ken Arneson: I keep staring at the Angels' projected OBPs and wonder how the heck they're gonna score any runs. PECOTA projects the worst OBP in the A's entire lineup to be Bobby Crosby at .338. With Kennedy hurt and Kotchman inexplicably blocked by Erstad, the Angels only have two players in their entire lineup projected higher than that: Guerrero and McPherson. And maybe DaVanon, if he's the DH. The Angels' pitching is solid, but with Kennedy out, I don't like their defense.
Mike: Meanwhile, the Rangers' fate relies on their rotation.
Ken: I'm guessing the Rangers pitching will be worse than their hitting is good.
Cliff: I do like that they're giving rotation spots to young guys like Chris Young and Ricardo Rodriguez. Also I think Hidalgo could be a big boost hitting in Arlington, especially when you think about what the Rangers had in the outfield last year. I could see them winning in the high 80s, which should be enough to outpace the A's.
Alex C: Chris Young! Tiger pride.
Scott: If the Ranger hitters can show more consistency in road parks and Cordero closes games out like last year, they could compete with The O.C. Halos. (now that's a good name).
Ken: Finally, the Mariners have the same OBP problems as the Angels.
Will: The Mariners won't be much better and won't be until they figure out why they kill all their young pitchers.
Scott: I didn't like the massive contracts the Mariners gave to Beltre and Sexton and suspect they'll struggle to get past 75 wins.
Derek: The Mariners will see their hopes disappear in mid-April when the shrapnel from Sexson's exploding shoulder extensively wounds Beltre, ending his season.
Cliff: The contracts were foolish, but I think they'll get a boost out of those two, at least this year. If Sexson goes down, Bucky Jacobsen should be able to give them more than what they got out of Olerud last year (PECOTA gives him a tad less OBP, but more than 100 points more slugging), and Beltre is replacing what was left of Edgar Martinez last year.
Meanwhile, I very much like their decision to give starting jobs to Jeremy Reed (who replaces a bunch of spare parts) and Miguel Oliva. I see them pushing .500. If the A's stumble badly, the M's could finish third.
Alex Belth: This is the most intriguing division in the league. Can't wait to see how it pans out.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Alex B: Indians Twins White Sox Tigers Royals Alex C: Twins Tigers Indians White Sox Royals Cliff: Twins White Sox Indians Tigers Royals Derek: Indians Twins Tigers White Sox Royals Jon: Twins Indians White Sox Tigers Royals Ken: Indians Twins White Sox Tigers Royals Mike: Twins Indians Tigers White Sox Royals Scott: Twins White Sox Indians Tigers Royals Will: Indians Twins Tigers White Sox Royals
Scott: The Twins are right with the Angels for great bullpens, and Santana doesn't need Matchbox 20 to help him top the charts.
Cliff: Good thing, because Matchbox 20 couldn't help Ichiro get a hit in 2005.
Will: The Twins are as good as last year, but I don't think they'll have as much luck and Ryan has a hard time dealing "his guys." It's a danger of a development-focused organization.
Cliff: I don't know, I look at this team and I see Mauer, Morneau, Cuddyer, Bartlett, Ford, and now word that Nick Punto might have a shot at the second base job and Terry Tiffee might have a shot at a spot off the bench.
I think the Twins may have finally figured out this new wave of talent, and just in time for Santana to be the greatest pitcher since Pedro Martinez's heyday.
Mike: Though I'm concerned about Mauer's health, I just like the young Twins. They'll be fun to watch. The same goes for the Indians, though I think they are still a year away. I expect these two separate from the rest.
Derek: Look! Look, everyone! It's a bandwagon! And it's going to Cleveland! Yaaaaay!
Alex B: I'm all over the Indians bandwagon. They were my sleeper pick last year and although they are a darling choice this year, I'll stick with them.
Will: Put me on the bandwagon. The Indians have built this team back up quietly, but steadily. They fit together, have solid coaching, and enough depth to go out and make an acquisition if they need to. They could use someone like Urbina at the back of the pen.
Scott: OK everyone, it's time to take a deep breath on this Indians stampede. The team doesn't have a quality 1 or 2 in their rotation and relied on a team of guys hitting above their heads in 2004 to stay in the race. I just don't see that bullpen getting them past 81 wins.
Jon: The Indians will make a run, but they have too many starting rotation questions.
Cliff: I'm enjoying watching this young team gel, but what it comes down to is that they didn't really do much of anything to improve on last year. Kevin Millwood is a nice idea, but he could be finished. If they see some regression from guys like Hafner and Westbrook and Sabathia's current DL stay is more than a 15-days-and-done problem, they could be in trouble.
I just can't see them getting past 85 wins, and that means they'll have to battle the White Sox if they want to move into second place.
Derek: After the White Sox won the division in 2000, when looking at their team and the minor league system behind them, did anyone really think they'd fall so far so fast?
Alex C: What a waste in Chicago. Similar to how the Phils underperformed last year, the White Sox have squandered a lot of talent recently. Unlike the Phils, the Sox's window has shut.
Scott: But the Sox have the best overall AL starting staff outside of the Yankees and Red Sox, plus solid relief pitching. Only the Frank Thomas injury question mark and Ozzie Guillen being the manager keeps me from putting them on top.
Cliff: A full season of Freddy Garcia and some of that El Duque black magic in addition to Buehrle could keep the Indians at bay and off-set yet another craptacular trade (Lee/Podsednik) by Kenny Williams.
Scott: The Tigers, though, overachieved last year and then spent big money in the off-season on two guys (Percival and Ordonez) who FEMA wouldn't insure.
Alex C: See, and I think the Tigers will surprise with a good year due to a pretty decent starting rotation.
Cliff: What's amazing about the Tigers' 29-game improvement last year is that they did it while underperforming their Pythagorean record by seven games (of course they underperformed by six games the year before, so the net change is about the same). I think the fact that they released Alex Sanchez and have yanked Bobby Higginson out of the line-up and appear ready to release him is a sign that this organization is finally headed in the right direction.
Mike: I can't believe I picked the Royals last year--Stairs AND Long?!? What, did they lose a bet?
Will: The Royals were good a couple years ago ... what happened?
Ken: I think this division has three layers: The Twins and the Indians are the top layer; young teams with upside. Just for kicks, I'll go with the Indians. Their biggest problem last year was the bullpen, and I think it will be better. The White Sox and Tigers are the next layer; they each have a few good players and a few holes. The Royals, meanwhile, have Greinke, DeJesus, Sweeney, a regulation golf course, and four bonus putting greens.
Cliff: See, I see it as the Twins on top, the Royals waaaay down there on the bottom and the other three clumped up in the middle with win totals in the 80s.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Alex B: Yankees Red Sox Orioles Blue Jays Devil Rays Alex C: Red Sox Yankees* Orioles Blue Jays Devil Rays Cliff: Yankees Red Sox* Orioles Blue Jays Devil Rays Derek: Red Sox Yankees* Orioles Blue Jays Devil Rays Jon: Red Sox Yankees* Orioles Blue Jays Devil Rays Ken: Red Sox Yankees* Orioles Blue Jays Devil Rays Mike: Red Sox Yankees* Orioles Blue Jays Devil Rays Scott: Red Sox Yankees* Orioles Blue Jays Devil Rays Will: Red Sox Yankees* Orioles Blue Jays Devil Rays
Jon: Not much new under the sun in the AL Ennui.
Scott: Let's begin with a note to BoSox fans. I rooted for you to win it all. It happened. Congrats. Unfortunately, you were so obnoxious about your team's victory that it exposed that losing was the only thing that made you lovable. Having said that you're still better than the average Yankee fan.
Cliff: Thanks, Scott, I feel less guilty about ragging on your Matchbox 20 reference now.
Alex C: Yankees Suck! I guess they're still going to be the second-best team in baseball, no matter how much ill fortune I will on their blessed little heads.
Mike: I don't want to, but I have to give the edge to the Red Sox. Compare Miller and Clement to Pavano and Wright. I'm not crazy about Womack either, though it'll be great to see Randy Johnson pitching in Yankee Stadium. A lot for the Yankees depends on middle relief.
Then there's the Giambi-Tino show at first, which is a concern. I am really rooting for Giambi to come back big.
Will: The Red Sox might be a better team than they were last season. I think the Yankees are better as well, but not enough to keep the Red Sox and their confidence from pushing past them. Of course, the WC slot isn't a bad thing to have as we've seen the past couple World Series.
Alex B: The Red Sox might be better than the Yanks, and the Bombers may be more frail than ever, but since this is prediction time, I've got to go with my heart and not my head.
Cliff: Me too. That said, even crunching the numbers, I can see the Yanks winning 104 games. Miller and Schilling are on the DL and David Wells' back is a time bomb. Losing Pedro will hurt the Sox more than they know, even if 2004 was his worst year in Boston and it was a smart financial decision to let him go. Giving both Pedro and Varitek what they wanted could have handcuffed the Sox over the next few years.
Will: The rest of the division? Man, they're in the worst position, building for a future that might never come.
Scott: The Orioles and Blue Jays have a chance to stay within striking distance, until just before the trade deadline when the Red Sox and Yanks decide to bring in another high-priced player or two that guarantees another playoff appearance.
Cliff: Right, like Esteban Loaiza and his 8.50 ERA? Or Aaron Boone, who hit for a 91 OPS+ as a Yankee in '03? Don't give the Yankees more credit than they deserve. And how are the Blue Jays going to improve by 20 games this year again?
Mike: Baltimore still needs to have someone pitch (can't they get a decent starter for Jay Gibbons or something?).
Alex C: Sammy Sucks! Even if Sosa doesn't carry as big a stick in Baltimore as they'd hope, that team's offense is going to be fun to watch. Miguel Tejada has, in three years, gone from the upstart who crashed the Holy Shortstop Trinity's party to the best player at his position. Who knew?
Ken: I really want to see the Orioles play the Rangers. We could get some NBA scores there.
The Blue Jays get fourth because Tampa Bay will be almost as bad as Kansas City.
Will: I like the Jays chances of being the team that sneaks up in a couple years, but the Rays are more fun to watch.
Derek: For those who are not fans of the teams, this may be the single most boring division in all of baseball. I can count only four permutations of the final divisional standings that one could legitimately throw out there as a prediction without forcing the Men In White Coats to knock at your door. Sox and Yanks could flip-flop, Jay and Orioles could flip-flop, Rays will be last.
Those are your options, and short of incidents involving tragic misappropriations of space-based weapons platforms, that's where they'll stay.