Saturday, March 29, 2014

Final Predictions 2014

***The Season Preview and Predictions that follow are not betting advice in any way shape or form.  Please do not bet any money based in any part on these predictions.***

This looks like it will be another great season.  This could be one of the most competitive seasons in years and there are few teams who look like they have no chance at all to make the playoffs.  So get ready because it is a long, fun trip to October.  I hope everyone enjoys the ride as much as I will.

Head of the Class: 
There are a few teams that appear to be head and shoulders above the rest of their division and are clear cut favorites to dominate.  The Tigers, Dodgers, Reds and Nationals look to be the favorites but each have serious issues to contend with.  No one is a sure thing.

Look Out Below:
There could be some serious fall off for some teams like the Phillies, Indians, Athletics, Rangers and Cardinals.  The Phillies are trying hard to make one more push with the core of players that has given them their greatest success but things are already starting off shaky.  The Indians have a great ace in Justin Masterson but talks of a new contract have broken off and if you don't think something like that can effect a season just ask Cal Ripken who discussed it in his autobiography.  The Athletics  have revamped their pitching staff but have already suffered some injuries and will have to hope they can out slug the Rangers and Angels.  Speaking of pitching injuries, the Rangers have already lost Derek Holland and Matt Harrison for long stretches and have lost significant offensive numbers when David Murphy, Cruz, Pierzynski and Kinsler left.  They replaced them with Fielder and Choo but it may not be enough.

Ready to Strike?:
The Royals have patiently rebuilt their team and had it not been for the slow start last year they likely would have been a playoff team.  With a healthy and focused Royals group and a Tigers team still featuring some serious weaknesses the Royals are in prime position.

Serious Contenders:
The Brewers looked like they were heading toward the bottom again but have nicely rebounded to field a team that could shock a lot of people.  Players like Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura are underrated talents who may keep Milwaukee in the playoff contention.

Rock Bottom:
The Marlins, Cubs, Rockies, White Sox and Astros are clearly at the absolute bottom of the league.  The team with the most hope for the future is the Astros.  Although they have been terrible for the last few years the future looks bright.  In adding Dexter Fowler to a young group that includes Altuve and Jason Castro, the Astros have given a veteran presence to an organization with one of the best farm systems.

Here is a final prediction of what I believe the standings will look like at the end of the year:
American League East
1. Boston Red Sox
2. Tampa Bay Rays
3. New York Yankees
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Toronto Blue Jays

American League Central
1. Detroit Tigers
2. Kansas City Royals (First Wild Card)
3. Cleveland Indians
4. Minnesota Twins
5. Chicago White Sox

 American League West
1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2. Oakland Athletics (Second Wild Card)
3. Texas Rangers
4. Seattle Mariners
5. Houston Astros

Wild Card Game:  Kansas City Royals over Oakland Athletics
American League Divisional Series: 
Detroit Tigers over Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Boston Red Sox over Kansas City Royals
American League Championship Series:
Boston Red Sox over Detroit Tigers

American League Most Valuable Player: Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
American League Cy Young Award Winner: James Shields (Kansas City Royals)

1. Washington Nationals
2. Atlanta Braves
3. Philadelphia Phillies
4. New York Mets
5. Miami Marlins

1. Cincinnati Reds
2. St. Louis Cardinals (Wild Card)
3. Milwaukee Brewers
4. Pittsburgh Pirates
5. Chicago Cubs

1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. San Francisco Giants (Second Wild Card)
3. Arizona Diamondbacks
4. San Diego Padres
5. Colorado Rockies

National League Wild Card Game: 
St.Louis Cardinals over San Francisco Giants
National League Division Series:
Washington Nationals over St.Louis Cardinals
Los Angeles Dodgers over Cincinnati Reds
National League Championship Series: 
Los Angeles Dodgers over Washington Nationals

National League Most Valuable Player:  Buster Posey (San Francisco Giants)
National League Cy Young Award Winner:  Stephen Strasburg (Washington Nationals)

Los Angeles Dodgers 
Boston Red Sox

If my predictions are correct (don't worry, they never are) this season will be a rematch of the 1916 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the Brooklyn Robins (who are now the Los Angeles Dodgers).  During Game 2 of the 1916 World Series, two pitchers matched up in the longest extra inning game in World Series History.  Boston's pitcher went the entire game throwing shutout ball.  Brooklyn's pitcher threw the entire game without allowing a run before giving up a walk, sac bunt and an RBI single in the bottom of the final frame to end the game at 1-0.  Who were the two pitchers in this game and how many innings did it last?

Answer to Last Week's Trivia Question:
Because the Diamondbacks and Rockies are newer organizations and the Padres don't have a tremendously rich history, the NL West has the reputation of not being as successful as a division when compared to the other two National League divisions.  The first team from the West to represent the National League in the World Series after the 1994 switch to the three division format was the 1998 Padres.  The Diamondbacks followed that up in 2001 and the Giants lost to the Angels in 2002. The Rockies were next in 2007.  The Giants won the World Series in both 2010 and 2012 making it 6 National League titles for the divisions.  Surprisingly, despite the winning tradition, the Dodgers are the only team from this division not to have appeared in the World Series since the new divisional format began in 1994.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

2014 National League West Preview

***The Division Preview that follows is not betting advice in any way shape or form.  Please do not bet any money based in any part on these predictions.***

Don't forget to check out the American League EastAmerican League Central, and American League West National League East  and National League CentralPreviews and check back next week for the Final Predictions.

Los Angeles Dodgers
Who's New?:
J.C. Boscan (C) free agent from Cubs
Miguel Olivo (C) free agent from Marlins
Brendan Harris (IF) free agent from Rangers,
Justin Turner (IF) free agent from Mets
Dan Haren (SP) free agent from Nationals,
Paul Maholm (SP) free agent from Braves
Chris Perez (RP) free agent from Indians,
Jamie Wright (RP) free agent from Rays

Who Left?: 
Nick Punto (IF) free agent to Athletics,
Skip Schumacher (IF) free agent to Reds,
Mark Ellis (2B) free agent to Cardinals,
 John Baker (C) free agent to Cubs
Michael Young (IF) retired
Jerry Hairston (IF) unsigned free agent
Ted Lilly (SP) retired,
Rickey Nolasco (SP) free agent to Twins,
Edinson Volquez (SP) free agent to Pirates,
Jonathan Sanchez (SP) free agent to Cubs
Chris Capuano (SP) free agent to Red Sox
Pete Moylan (RP) free agent to Astros,
Ronald Belisario (RP) free agent to White Sox,
Carlos Marmol (RP) free agent to Marlins
Winter Headlines: 
Mattingly's battle for recognition.  
Kershaw wins Cy Young gets big extension.
What to Expect?:
The Dodgers have a surplus of All Star outfielders.  That would seem to be a plus but last year they said they had a surplus of starting pitchers yet they somehow were scrambling for starters at the trade deadline.  The question this year is what they can expect from the outfielders and whether they should expect a repeat of the success of last year.  Ethier, Crawford and Kemp all seem to have health issues and Puig seems to be a bit immature at times.  The pitching rotation of Kershaw, Greinke and Ryu is set at the top and the signing of Haren and Maholm gives them some depth.  Both Beckett and Billingsley are hoping to come back healthy.  Billingsley says he feels like his recovery has given him a brand new arm.  Expect this team to be on top all season long and be the favorite coming out of the National League at the end of the year.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
There is a perception that the Dodgers are buying themselves a championship and it is true that many of the key players came via major trades.  Realistically the Dodgers have many players who are home grown.  Billingsley, Kemp, Ethier, A.J. Ellis and Kershaw all came of age with the Dodgers.  True this team has spent money the last two years but many of the players have suffered through tough times with the previous ownership.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Dodgers Fans Want?:
The Dodgers have a strong outfield, a strong pitching rotation and half of a good infield.  Their main problem spots are coming from Second Base, Third Base and the bullpen.  The Dodgers signed Brendan Harris from the Rangers but he has been inconsistent and the backup of Dee Gordon has not been the success the team had hoped.  The team will start the season with unproven Alex Guerrero at second but Harris and Gordon will compete for the job as well.  Juan Uribe is back at third and the fans will always remember his huge Home Run in the playoffs but  Uribe's regular season numbers with the Dodgers had fans booing right up until the end of the regular season.  The bull pen remains a question and was a big reason they were not able to win it all last year.  Also, don't forget the rift between Mattingly and ownership over the long term contract.  On the surface this has healed but it could still be simmering behind closed doors.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Matt Kemp has been a big part of the success of the Dodgers since he came into the league in 2006.  Unfortunately, injuries took a major toll last year.  When Kemp missed time with injuries Puig stepped in and took over.  Kemp will still be a big contributor and leader to any success the Dodgers have but don't expect him to challenge for a Triple Crown the way he did a few years ago.
Expect Great Things From:
Clayton Kershaw is one of the best pitchers in the league and is clearly the ace of the staff.  Just behind him is Zach Greinke.  These two have a long way to go before they see comparisons to Koufax and Drysdale but having two top line starters at the front of the rotation is a help.  Hyun Jin Ryu had a bit of a slow start in his first month (although he pitched better than his record) and he became one of the most consistent players on the team.  Expect these three to keep the Dodgers at the top of the division, regardless of the rest of the rotation.
Is This His Last Chance?:
Entering the 2012 season Dan Haren looked almost unhittable in the preseason.  With the high expectations for the Halos that year it was expected that Haren and Weaver would take the Angels to the promised land.  Haren immediately suffered from back problems and spent time on the DL for the first time in his career.  Since then Haren has struggled.  He was expected to help the Nationals in 2013 but health again played a part  Haren will need to find his old form if the Dodger are going to take the next step.
Prediction:1st in NL West

San Francisco Giants
Who's New: 
Michael Morse (OF) free agent fom Orioles
Tyler Colvin (OF) free agent from Rockies
 Tim Hudson (SP) free agent from Braves,
David Huff (SP) trade from Yankees
Juan Gutierrez (RP) free agent from Angels
Kameron Loe (RP) free agent from Braves
Who Left:  
Johnny Monell (C) trade to Orioles,
Guillermo Moscoso (C) free agent to Japan
Jeff Francoeur (IF) free agent to Indians
 Francisco Paguero (OF) free agent to Orioles,
 Kensuke Tanaka (OF) free agent to RAngers,
Andres Torres (OF) unsigned free agent
Barry Zito (SP) unsigned free agent
Chad Gaudin (RP) free agent to Phillies
Jose Mijares (RP) free agent to Red Sox
Winter Headlines:  
Lincecum returns for one more try,
Zito gone ending hopes of Zito Hudson reunion?
Posey will not move to first.
What to Expect?:
The Giants had a season that left their fans saying "what the hell just happened?"  They defended their World Series win with a shocking fall from the playoffs.  Cain, Bumgarner, Lincecum and Vogelsong all fell off.  The Giant's have not added much to the team but expect them to bounce back to the competitive form of the previous few years.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
The Giants have a long and proud history dating back to the start of the National League.  The history stretches long before the 1950's move to San Francisco and includes such luminaries in the history of the game like Mays, McCovey, Ott, Terry, McGraw and Mathewson.  Besides, it is always great to have the Giants and Dodgers battling for the top spot.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Giants Fans Want?:
The pitching staff had a disastrous season last year (making it two years in a row for Lincecum).  The strength of the World Series Championship teams came solely from the success of the pitching staff.  If Cain, Baumgarner and Vogelsong struggle again it could be a long season.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Tim Hudson has been a strong presence in playoff team rotations since the early 2000's starting with the A's and then the Braves.  Hudson was having a good year again last year but suffered a gruesome injury late in the season.  Hudson turns 39 in July and overcoming an injury of that sort is not as easily done at his age  Hudson is projected as the fourth starter so the pressure will be less but don't expect more more than about 10 wins.
Expect Great Things From:
Buster Posey is a special type of player.  A catcher who is great defenisvely, hits for average and hits for power.  There had been talks of Posey moving to first but the Giants have denied that and Giants fans should be happy he is staying put behind the plate.  Posey is one of the best Catchers of this generation.  His numbers were down slightly last year but expect Posey to bounce back this year and lead the Giants to the playoffs again.
Is This His Last Chance?:
Tim Lincecum is a two time Cy Young winner and finished in the top ten in voting two additional times.  He made 4 All Star Teams and even pitched a no hitter last year.  Unfortunately what looked like the start to a Hall of Fame career has turned into a game by game proposition.  Lincecum was given a new two year contract but the Giants seem to have lost patience with his struggles.
Prediction:2nd in NL West.  Wild Card

Arizona Diamondbacks:
Who's New: 
Blake Lailli (C) from Brewers,
Henry Blanco (C) free agent from Mariners
Shelley Duncan (1B) free agent from Rays,
 Mark Trumbo (OF/DH) trade from Angels,
Bronson Arroyo (SP) free agent from Reds
Addison Reed (RP) trade from White Sox,
Oliver Perez (RP) free agent from Mariners
Who Left:  
Willie Bloomquist (IF) free agent to Mariners, 
Wil Nieves (C) free agent to Phillies, 
Josh Wilson (SS) free agent to Rangers,
Eric Hinske (1B) released
Adam Eaton (OF) trade to White Sox,
Shawn Camp (RP) free agent to Phillies,
Heath Bell (RP) trade to Rays,
David Holmberg (RP) trade to Reds,
Tyler Skaags (RP) traded to Angels,
Matt Davidson (RP) traded to White Sox
Tony Sipp (RP) free agent to Padres
What to Expect?:
Arizona surprised a lot of people last year by staying in contention late into the final month and it was due mostly to Paul Goldschmidt and Patrick Corbin.  The team has made only two major additions in Mark Trumbo and Bronson Arroyo and may have overachieved last year.  Expect them to stay towards the middle of the division and possibly challenge for the final wild card spot but with a talented Dodgers and Giants team in this division don't expect a lot.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Diamondback Fans Want?:
The talent level outside of a few players is just not there.  Corbin, Goldschmidt and Prado are great but Corbin is now out for the season.  Trumbo has flashes of greatness but there is always a question of adjustment in switching leagues (ask B.J. Upton and Albert Pujols).The Diamondbacks are not a terrible team but they are not in the same league as the top teams.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Mark Trumbo was perceived to be on the verge of becoming a star in the American League if only the Angels didn't have so many Angels in the outfield.  Trumbo was tried at third base for awhile but that was a disaster.  He was moved to first base when Pujols was out but his best numbers came from the DH spot.  There is nowhere Trumbo can hide in the NL and he will need to improve his defense.  By the end of the year Trumbo should start to come around but his first few months may be a rough transition.
Expect Great Things From:
Paul Goldschmidt seemed to have it all figured out last year.  After showing some major flashes of potential in the previous years Goldschmidt finally had an MVP caliber year.  Expect him to continue that growth and become a star in the league.
Is This His Last Chance?:
Bronson Arroyo has been with the Reds since 2006.  He came to Cincinnati after a successful run with the Red Sox as part of the 2004 World Series team.  His time with the Reds was an up and down experience but as Cueto, Latos and Bailey moved their way to the top of the rotation, Arroyo found himself falling towards the back of it.  Arroyo could add a great veteran presence for some of the younger players but entering his 15th year in the Majors could mean he is on his way out.
Prediction: 3rd in NL West

San Diego Padres
Who's New:  
Alberto Gonzales (IF) free agent from Yankees, 
Ryan Jackson (IF) trade from Astros,
Rob Johnson (C) free agent from Cardinals
 Seth Smith (OF) trade from A's, 
Josh Johnson (SP) free agent from Blue Jays,
Jesse Hahn (SP) trade from Rays 
Joaquin Benoit (RP) free agent from Tigers
Alex Torres (RP) trade from Rays
Tony Sipp (RP) free agent from Diamondbacks
Who Left:
Jesus Guzman (1B) traded to Astros
Ronny Cedeno (SS) free agent to Phillies
Mark Kotsay (OF) retired,
Anthony Bass (OF) trad to Astros,  
Logan Forsythe (OF) trade to Rays
Ben Francisco (OF) unsigned free agent
 Jeff Decker (RP) trade to Pirates,
Anthony Bass (RP) trade to Astros
Colt Hynes (RP) to Indians,
Tommy Layne (RP) free agent to Red Sox,
Miles Mikolas (RP) traded to Pirates,
Luke Gregerson (RP) trade to A's,
Brad Brach (RP) trade to Orioles,
Sean O'Sullivan (RP) free agent to Phillies,
Brad Boxberger (RP) trade to Rays
Clayton Richard (RP) unsigned free agent
What to Expect?:
The Padres are still working to build a winner and they certainly have some great pieces in place.  The pitching rotation has potential to surprise a lot of people but they are not quite on the level of the Giants and Dodgers.  The Padres, if healthy, have an outside shot to be able to stay in the Wild Card race late into the season but it is a very long shot that they will finish in a playoff spot.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Padres Fans Want?:
The pitching staff has a lot of potential to surprise but the inconsistent arms could also lead to a big disappointment.  Last year, with a lot of these same pieces in place, the Padres looked poised to jump up in the division and when the Dodgers and Giants got off to slow starts they had a window to build a lead.  Instead the Rockies and Diamondbacks fought their way to the top and the Padres just fought the Dodgers.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Huston Street has had some amazing seasons as a closer, especially during his time in Colorado.  The problem in San Diego is not that his skills have diminished but his opportunities to save will be diminished.
Expect Great Things From:
Chase Headley was set to have a great year in 2013 but jammed his shoulder early in the season and he never quite got going until September. Headley looks to be starting the season in the same way this year and any chance the Padres have of winning rides with Headley.
Is This His Last Chance?:
Josh Johnson became a center of controversy during his last year in Miami.  Ozzie Guillien questioned why he was being praised for being average when he had the potential to be great.  Johnson, and the rest of the Marlins, ended that season terribly but it was hoped that a change in scenery to Toronto last year would help.  It didn't.  Johnson was unable to fulfill his potential there.  If the Padres hope to have a chance at the playoffs and if Johnson hopes to continue his career he will need to show he is capable of reaching his potential.
Prediction:4th place in NL West

Colorado Rockies:
Who's New:  
Justin  Mourneau (1B) free agent from Pirates, 
Michael McKenry (C) free agent from Pirates
Paul Janish (SS) free agent from Braves
Brandon Barnes (OF) trade from Astros,
Drew Stubbs (OF) trade from Indians,
Jason Priddie (OF) free agent from Orioles
Pedro Hernandez (SP) free agent from Twins,
Brett Anderson (SP) trade from Athletics,
Greg Burke (RP) free agent from Mets,
LaTroy Hawkins (RP) free agent from Mets,
Jordan Lyles (RP) trade from Astros,
Boone Logan (RP) free agent from Yankees,
Franklin Morales (RP) trade from Red Sox,
Nick Masset (RP) free agent from Reds
Who Left:  
Todd Helton (1B) retired,
 Jonathan Herrera (IF) trade to Red Sox,
Yorvit Torrealba (C) free agent to Angels
Dexter Fowler (OF) trade to Astros,
 Drew Pomeranz (OF) trade to Athletics,
Tyler Colvin (OF) free agent to Giants
Jordan Lyles (SP) trade to Astros,
Jeff Manship (SP) free agent to Phillies,
Jeff Francis (SP) free agent to Reds
Jon Garland (SP) released
Roy Oswalt (SP) unsigned free agent
Chris Volstad (RP) free agent to Angels,
Logan Kensing (RP) free agent to Mariners
Edgmer Escalona (RP) free agent to Orioles,
Josh Outman (RP) trade to Indians,
Hisaniru Takahashi (RP) free agent to Japan
Mitchell Boggs (RP) free agent to White Sox
Raphael Betancourt  (RP) unsigned free agent
Winter Headlines:  
Tulo not for sale but Fowler goes cheap. (Tem refused to move Tulowitski but traded Dexter Fowler for almost nothing)
Helton gone. (Todd Helton, Mr. Rockie, retired and will have his number retired on 8/17)
What to Expect?:
The Rockies were surprisingly not terrible last year and even stayed competitive to the all star break.  They have now lost several of their main stars including Todd Helton and Dexter Fowler.  The replacements of Justin Morneau and Drew Stubbs are not terrible but they are not likely to have the same impact as the players they are replacing.  With a strong Dodgers and Giants team in this division and a competitive Diamondbacks group expect the Rockies to sink back to the bottom of the division this year.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
These guys are the small market underdog in the big market division.  The Giants and Dodgers can out spend this team  any day and have done so.  The Rockies have built their team (mostly) from the ground up.  They still have a big mountain to climb before competing with the big boys.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Rockies Fans Want?:
Simple.  They just don't have the talent.  There was a perception at the winter meetings that the Rockies were very active, and they were.  The problem is that the moves they made did not add anyone who could change the organization.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
During the early 2000's, as the Twins organization rebuilt itself Justin Mourneau had a huge part in that success, even winning an MVP award.  Since then he has suffered greatly with the effects of concussions which have decreased his playing time and his productivity.  Mourneau is healthy now and should be productive but don't expect him to win another MVP award.
Expect Great Things From:
2013 was the exact opposite of 2012 for Troy Tulowitzki.   In 2012 Tulo fought through injuries and missed the greater part of the season.  A healthy 2013 led to a great season for Tulo with 25 HR, 80 RBI and a .312 average.  In fact it was one of his best seasons of his career so far.  Look for Tulo to improve on that great season.
Is This His Last Chance?:
LaTroy Hawkins has been pitching in the major leagues since 1995.  He has had a great career but at 40 years old Hawkins has yet to play for a World Series team.  He signed a one year deal with Colorado but it is not likely that the Rockies will get him the ring.
Prediction:5th in NL West

With three teams in this division less than 50 years old there is a perception that this division is under represented in the World Series.  Since the start of three division play in 1994 how many times has the National League Champion come from the National League West?

Answer to Last Week's Question:
The Cubs last won the World Series in 1908, although the Tinker, Evers and Chance era Cubs made it back to the World Series in 1910.  With Evers missing action due to a fractured ankle the A's won easily 4 games to 1.  The Cubs would not return to the World Series until they lost to the Red Sox in 1918,  Another eleven year gap between appearances led to another loss as Hack Wilson was blamed for a 10 run inning that turned the tide towards the A's and 4-1 series loss in 1929.  1932 saw the Cubs swept out of the World Series by Ruth, Gehrig and the Yankees. 1935 saw Hank Greenberg and the Tigers beat the Cubs in revenge for the 1907 and 1908 losses.  In 1938 they were swept again by DiMaggio and the Yankees. 1945 saw them lose again to Hank Greenberg and the Tigers, this time in seven games and the famous curse was cast.  The Cubs would wait nearly 40 years before getting their next chance at the post season as 1984 saw Leon Durham get the blame for a team collapse against the Padres in the NLCS.  Five years later Andre Dawson would lead the Cubs to the 1989 NLCS only to lose to the Giants.  Sammy Sosa led the Cubs to the 1998 NLDS but the Cubs were swept by the Braves. Five more years in between appearances led to 2003's debacle with Steve Bartman getting the blame.  The 2007 Cubs surprised many people by winning their division but could not advance past the first round.  The 2008 Cubs had the best record in the National League but fell to Manny Ramirez and the Dodgers.  2008 was their 12th appearance since the 1910 loss to the Athletics.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

2014 National League Central Preview

***The Division Preview that follows is not betting advice in any way shape or form.  Please do not bet any money based in any part on these predictions.***

Don't forget to check out the American League EastAmerican League Central, and American League West  and National League East Previews and check back next week for the National League West Preview

Cincinnati Reds:
Who's New: 
Brayan Pena (C) free agent from Tigers,
Skip Schumacher (IF) free agent from Dodgers,
Bryan Anderson (C) free agent from White Sox
Chris Nelson (3B) free agent from Angels
Ramon Santiago (IF) free agent from Tigers
Jason Bourgeois (OF) free agent from Rays,
Neil Thomas (OF) free agent from Cubs
Roger Berardina (OF) free agent from Phillies
David Holmberg (SP) trade from Diamondbacks,
Chien Ming Wang (SP) free agent from Blue Jays
Jeff Francis (SP) free agent from Rockies
Who Left: 
Ryan Hannigan (C) trade to Rays,
Cesar Izturis (SS) free agent to Astros
Shin Soo Choo (OF) to Rangers,
Xavier Paul (OF) free agent to Orioles
Derrick Robinson (OF) unsinged free agent
Greg Reynolds (SP) free agent to Japan
Bronson Arroyo (SP) free agent to Diamondbacks
Zach Duke (RP) free agent to Brewers
Nick Masset (RP) free agent to Rockies
Winter Headlines: 
Dusty hits the road but is Price right?
What to Expect?:
Nothing against Brian Price but he's no Dusty Baker, at least not yet.  After a first round exit this year the Reds decided it was time to move on without Dusty. It may end up being one of the worst decisions this leadership group has ever made. That being said, the core group of Votto, Phillips, Bruce and Frazier are still there and the rotation looks solid with Cueto, Latos, Bailey and Leake meaning the Reds are still probably the most talented team in this division.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
Last year I predicted the Reds would win it all.  Things started off badly from the beginning.  They lost their clean up hitter on opening day.  Their ace went down and missed most of the year.  Their second ace pitched fantastically but somehow couldn't win.  The Reds deserve some good luck for once.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Reds Fans Want?:
The Reds lost their lead off hitter Choo to free agency and have done nothing to replace him.  Theoretically Billy Hamilton will be the lead off hitter but there are questions of his ability to play at the Major League level.  Add to that the change of manager and things in Cincinnati are still questionable.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Billy Hamilton set a record for stolen bases in the minor leagues a few years ago.  The question is how will he do at the next level.  He did not have much chance to show his talent last year but with Choo gone Hamilton will get his chance to show what he can do.
Expect Great Things From:
Brandon Phillips has developed into one of the best players in the league but for some reason his name came up in trade rumors over the off season.  In 2012 when Joey Votto went out for an extended period it was Phillips that stepped up.  When the team started slowly in 2013 Phillips got the team back on track.  Expect Phillips to do what he always does: perform at a high level.
Prediction:1st in NL Central

St. Louis Cardinals
Who's New:  
Jhonny Peralta (SS) free agent from Tigers,
Mark Ellis (2B) free agent from Dodgers,
Peter Bourjos (OF) trade from Angels, 
Pat Nesheck (RP) free agent from Athletics
Who Left?: 
David Freese (3b) trade to Angels,
Brock Peterson (1B) free agent to Nationals
Ty Wigginton (IF) free agent to Marlins
Rob Johnson (C) free agent to Padres
Carlos Betran (OF) free agent to Yankees,
Adron Chambers (OF) free agent to Astros
Jake Westbrook (SP) unsigned free agent
Fernando Salas (RP) trade to Angels,
Edward Mujica (RP) free agent to Red Sox,
John Axford (RP) free agent to Indians, Brock Peterson (1B) free agent to Nationals
Winter Headlines:  
Beltran and Freese gone.  Will the pitching hold up?
What to Expect?:
For the last few years Cardinals fans have dealt with the loss of major stars and expected the worst.  They have been pleasantly surprised with the results.  This year they lost Beltran, Freese and Mujica and done little to replace them.  Still, with the success that Mike Matheny has had in filling holes and the success of the organization overall it is hard to count this team out.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
The Cardinals organization has quietly built itself into the best organization in baseball.  Despite the loss of Pujols, Carpenter, Beltran and Freese, the Cardinals still seem to find ways to win.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Cardinals Fans Want?:
The Cardinals continue to lose big names without replacing them.  They have been able to find players in a number of ways, mostly by listening to the smart baseball minds in the organization.  Even the best baseball minds make mistakes.  At what point will the baseball trust in St.Louis fail?
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Matt Holliday is generally considered a super star by many baseball experts but there are numerous holes in his game.  He is capable of great things but at times seems to have mental lapses that lead to mistakes at the worst possible time.  Expect Holliday to perform well but don't look for him to fill the holes left by the loss of Furcal, Beltran and Freese.
Expect Great Things From:
Yadier Molina is sometimes overlooked in the Cardinals current run.  In 2006 when the Cardinals won their first World Series since 1982, Molina hit the game winning Home Run to propel them to the World Series.  When they pushed to another title in 2011 Molina was the quiet leader.  Molina always seems to be at the center of the good things that happen in St. Louis.
Is This His Last Chance?:
Adam Wainwright missed all of the 2011 season as the Cardinals won the World Series.  He bounced back to a 14-13 season in 2012 and went 19-9 in 2013 while pitching well over 200 innings.  Wainwright is clearly a great pitcher but how many innings can an arm that missed an entire season just a few short years ago take?
Prediction: 2nd in NL East. Wild Card

Milwaukee Brewers
Who's New: 
Irving Falu (IF) free agent from Royals,
Matt Pagnozzi (C) free agent from Astros,
Lyle Overbay (1B) free agent from Yankees
Mark Reynolds (3B) free agent from Yankees
Matt Garza (SP) free agent from Rangers
Wil Smith (SP) trade from Royals,
Zach Duke (RP) free agent from Reds
Francisco Rodriguez (RP) free agent from Orioles
Who Left:  
Blake Lali (1B) free agent to Diamondbacks,
Alex Gonzalez (IF) free agent to Orioles
Yuniesky Betancourt (IF) unsigned free agent
 Norichiki Aoka (OF) trade to Royals,
Corey Hart (OF) free agent to Mariners
Chris Narveson (SP) free agent from Japan
Aaron Laffey (SP) free agent to Orioles
Burke Badenhop (RP) trade to Red Sox,
Michael Gonzales (RP) free agent to Nationals
Winter Headlines: Braun's return
What to Expect?:
The Brewers had a nice run over the last few years but 2013 was a struggle.  The team fell off severely as they dealt with the Ryan Braun situation.  They have now lost Corey Hart who was a big piece of the Brewers recent success.  They are in a strong division but for some reason I can't count them out of playoff contention just yet.  With players like Jean Segura, Carlos Gomez and Aramis Ramirez this team could be very dangerous.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
The Brewers team had some truly terrible years before this current run of success.  All they have to show for this recent history is two failed playoff appearances.  The Brewers are on the brink of heading for another dark period and it would be nice to see them have some more success before the decline.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Brewers Fans Want?:
The Brewers have lost most of the key players of their playoff runs and the one remaining key piece is in disgrace.  If Braun fails and the pitching does not perform up to their potential it could take quite some time before the Brewers are able to compete again.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Ryan Braun left the team last year in disgrace.  He will return for the full year this year and will be a great player again.  Just don't expect him to win an MVP.
Expect Great Things From:
Jean Segura was a great surprise for the Brewers last year in a season of turmoil.  He was near the top of the league in batting for most of the year and was the one bright spot for the team.  Expect Segura to continue to improve.
Is This His Last Chance?:
Matt Garza was a big contributor to the Rays playoff runs before moving on the Cubs.  With the Cubs he did not have the success they had hoped for and he was moved to the Rangers at the deadline last year.  All the Rangers got was a 4-5 record and a high ERA.  Garza, when healthy, has the potential to be an ace but continuing arm problems could sideline his career.
Prediction:3rd in NL Central

Pittsburgh Pirates:
Who's New: 
Chris Stewart (C) trade from Yankees,
Travis Ishikawa (1B) free agent from White Sox, 
Michael Martinez (IF) free agent from Phillies, 
Travis McGuinness (1B) trade from Rangers
Omir Santos (C) free agent from Indians
 Jeff Decker (OF) trade from Padres,
 Edinson Volquez (SP) free agent from Dodgers,
Cody Eppeley (RP) free agent from Twins,
Miles Mikolas (RP) trade from Padres,
Duke Welker (RP) trade from Twins,
Who Left:
Garrett Jones (1B) free agent to Marlins,
 Justin Mourneau (1B) free agent to Rockies,
John Buck (C) free agent to Mariners
Michael McKenry (C) free agent to Rockies
Brandon Inge (IF) released
Marlon Byrd (OF) free agent to Phillies,
Felix Pie (OF) unsigned free agent
Kris Johnson (SP) traded to Twins,
A.J. Burnett (SP) free agent to Phillies
James McDonald (SP) free agent to Cubs
Mike Mikolas (RP) trade to Rangers
Kyle Farnsworth (RP) free agent to Mets
Chris Leroux (RP) free agent to Yankees
Jeff Karstens (RP) unsigned free agent
Winter Headlines: 
Follow up to playoffs?
Hurdle MOY, McCutcheon MVP
What to Expect?:
The Pirates had a magical year in 2013 but fell short.  They return an MVP and a Manager of the Year but the pitching staff remains a question.  Fortunately for Pittsburgh the Reds and Cardinals appear to have gotten weaker as well but the Brewers have improved.  The Pirates will need some upgrades in pitching but they should still be able to compete.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
The Pirates are one of the small market teams that have suffered while other free spending teams have thrived.  The Pirates reached the playoffs for the first time in over two decades and are looking to prove it was not just a fluke.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Pirates Fans Want?:
Last season was a magical season in Pittsburgh.  The problem is the pitching staff has taken a hit that it may not be able to recover from.  Losing A.J.Burnett, the leader of the staff, and replacing him with Edinson Volquez is not reassuring.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Wandy Rodriguez is a very good pitcher.  he proved that in Houston ofr several years and has had a strong year and a half in Pittsburgh.  Rodriguez is not an ace and will not be able to fill Burnett's shoes.
Expect Great Things From:
Andrew McCutcheon has been one of the unknown star players in the league for the last three years until he was finally recognized as the MVP last year.  McCutcheon should continue to get better and will hopefully be the next great player in the Pirates long history joining the names of Wagner, Waner, Clemente and Bonds.
Is This His Last Chance?:
Edinson Volquez had a great start to his career in Cincinnati but the last few years have been a struggle. After a few difficult years in San Diego and a failed late season stint with the Dodgers, Volquez is taking a shot at helping the Pirates.  If he fails in Pittsburgh he may not get another shot.
Prediction: 4th in NL Central

Chicago Cubs
Who's New: 
George Kottras (C) trade from Royals,
John Baker (C) free agent from Dodgers,
Ryan Roberts (IF) free agent from Rays,
Chris Valaika (IF) trade from Marlins
Emilio Bonifacio (IF) free agent fromRoyals
Casper Wells (OF) free agent from Phillies,
Justin Ruggiano (OF) trade from Marlins,
Chris Coghlan (OF) free agent from Marlins
Liam Hendricks (SP) waiver claim from Twins,
Jonathan Sanchez (SP) free agent from Dodgers
Jason Hammel (SP) free agent from Orioles
James McDonald (SP) free agent from Pirates
Chris Valaika (P) free agent from Marlins,
Wesley Wright (RP) free agent from Rays,
Jose Veras (RP) free agent from Tigers
Who Left: 
 J.C. Boscan (C) free agent to Dodgers,
Dioner Navarro (C) free agent to Blue Jays,
Cody Ranson (3B) released
Brian Bougosevic (OF) trade to Marlins,
Cole Gillespe (OF) free agent to Mariners,
Thomas Neal (OF) free agent to Reds
Dave Sappelt (OF) free agent to Phillies
Daniel Bard (OF) free agent to Rangers
Scott Baker (SP) free agent to Mariners
Eduardo Sanchez (RP) free agent to Tigers,
Zach Putnam (RP) free agent toWhite sox,
Michael Bowden (RP) free agent to Japan
Henry Alberto Rodriguez (RP) free agent to Marlins
Daniel Bard (RP) free agent to Rangers
Matt Guerrier (RP) free agent to Twins
Kevin Gregg (RP) unsigned free agent
Winter Headlines:
The Cubs get a new mascot.
What to Expect?:
Open the Cubs website and you will see their new slogan: Committed.  The Cubs have started their rebuilding process and appear to have a five year plan in place.  The problem is that until they can see if that five year plan is working there may be some truly terrible teams.  They definitely have some potentially great players in Ruggiano, Barney, Castro, Rizzo and Samardzjia but it is not enough to compete now.  In fact, some of those pieces may be moved for minor leaguers to help facilitate the five year plan.  The slogan may mean they are committed to winning but if could also be a warning that they will be committed to the asylum if things don't go the way they planned.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
Being a cursed organization is one thing.  Not winning a World Series for over 100 years is more than just a curse.  There is no longer suffering organization in sports than the Chicago Cubs.  They not only haven't won since 1908, they have had very few close calls.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Cubs Fans Want?:
There is definitely talent on this team.  Most of the infield has great potential and there are a few veteran presences on the pitching staff that can help the team along.  The Cubs should be improved over last year's disappointment but don't expect them to challenge the top four in this division just yet.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Starlin Castro  had a great first two years in the league and fell off each of the last two.  Castro has the ability to become a star in this league and the organization is working with him to get the most out of his talent.  If the Cub five year plan is effective Castro will need to be part of it but don't expect him to emerge as a star just yet.
Expect Great Things From:
Anthony Rizzo hit 23 Home Runs last year and drove in 80 RBI.  Somehow he only hit .233 for the year and struck out 127 times.  If Rizzo is able to improve his patience at the plate and make better decisions expect Rizzo to become the Cubs' All Star Representative.
Is This His Last Chance?:
Edwin Jackson was expected to be a Dodgers ace when he first entered the league.  That didn't happen.  He moved on to the Rays, Tigers, White Sox, Diamondbacks,Cardinals, White Sox again, Nationals and now the Cubs.  At every stop he has impressed the fan bases with his ability.  Though he has never become the superstar that was expected by the Dodgers he has become a very good pitcher.  The problem with journeymen players is that they sometimes get a reputation for being expendale and at some point run out of suitors.  Will the Cubs be the last stop for Jackson?
Prediction: 5th place in NL Central

*-Please be aware that these predictions are based on the rosters as set in the middle of March.  There are still several key free agents unsigned which could alter these previews.  Also, injuries during spring training could alter my outlook.  Check back next week for the NL West Preview and continue following to see my final predictions at the start of the season.

The Cubs won the National League in 1906, 1907, 1908 and 1910 during the Tinker, Evers and Chance years.  They have not been as consistently in contention since.  How many post season appearances have the Cubs made since they lost the 1910 World Series?

Answer to Last Week's Trivia Question:
The divisional format in 1969 with the East and West starting play that year.  Here are the Eastern Division Rookies of The Year since then:
Carl Morton (Expos)1970
John Matlack (Mets)1972
Bake  McBride (Cardinals) 1974
Andre Dawson (Expos)1977
Daryl Strawberry (Mets) 1983
Doc Gooden (Mets) 1984
Vince Coleman (Cardinals) 1985
Todd Worrell (Cardinals) 1986
Jerome Walton (Cubs) 1989
Scott Rolen (Phillies) 1997
Rafael Furcal (Braves) 2000
Dontrelle Willis (Marlins) 2003
Ryan Howard (Phillies) 2005
Hanley Ramirez (Marlins) 2007
Chris Coghlan (Marlins) 2009
Craig Kimbrel (Braves) 2011
Bryce Harper (Nationals) 2012
Jose Fernandez (Marlins) 2013

Saturday, March 8, 2014

2014 National League East Preview

***The Division Preview that follows is not betting advice in any way shape or form.  Please do not bet any money based in any part on these predictions.***

Don't forget to check out the American League East, American League Central, and American League West Previews and check back next week for the National League Central Preview. 

Washington Nationals:
Who's New: 
Brock Peterson (1B) free agent from Cardinals
Jamey Carroll (IF) free agent from Royals
Chris Snyder (C) free agent from Orioles
Koyie Hill (C) free agent from Cubs
Jamey Carroll (3B) free agent from Royals
Jose Lobaton (C) trade from Rays
Nate McLouth (OF) free agent from Orioles,
Doug Fister (SP) trade from Tigers
Daniel Stanage (RP) free agent from Angels,
Jerry Blevins (RP) trade from Athletics,
Luis Ayala (RP) free agent from Braves
Who Left: 
Ferando Abad (IF) free agent to A's,
Ian Krol (C) trade to Tigers,
Steve Lombardozi (2B) trade to Tigers,
Chris Marrero (1B) free agent to Orioles
Chad Tracy (1B) free agent to Angels
Dan Haren (SP) free agent to Dodgers,
Nathan Karns (SP) trade to Rays
Mark Lowe (RP) free agent to Rays,
Yunesky Maya (RP) free agent to Braves
Winter Headlines:
Regrets from last year. Slow start led to insurmountable deficit
Davey Johnson's out, Matt Williams is in as manager
What to Expect?:
This team is the clear class of this division.  They have certainly improved with the addition of Doug Fister to the rotation, which was already potentially the best in the league.  With Strasburg, Gonzales, Zimmerman, Detwiler and now Fister the Nationals are set to make a deep run in the playoffs. Their offense could be a bit of an issue but their defense is solid.  They even made some quiet, great additions late in the offseasn by adding Jamey Carroll and Jose Lobaton.  Carroll will quietly, professionally go about his business and will quietly help this team in ways the casual fan won't notice.  Now if they can avoid the slow start from last season they may do what was expected of them in 2013.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
The Nationals have had a tough history full of under achievement, poor teams and unfulfilled expectations.  For players like Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and Stephen Strasburg who have struggled through the worst of times with the Nats, it would be nice to see them fulfill their potential.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Nationals Fans Want?:
Matt Williams may be a great manager but only time will tell.  The Nationals seem to have a great rotation but some how this team always seems to underachieve.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Ryan Zimmerman has had a great career.  Not a Hall of Fame career but a solid, respectable career which puts him on the Nationals Mount Rushmore.  Injuries and age have started to take their toll and it would be nice to see someone who has put so much effort into creating something special in DC get something back but his best days appear to be behind him.
Expect Great Things From:
Stephen Strasburg has improved every year since joining the Majors and you can expect him to continue to improve. His 8-9 record last year was deceptive as he certainly pitched well enough to win more games.  If the Nationals offense rebounds this year you can expect Strasburg to chase 20 wins for the first time in his career.
Prediction: 1st Place in NL East


Atlanta Braves
Who's New?: 
Steven LeRud (C) free agent from Phillies,
Gavin Floyd (SP) free gent from White Sox,
Yunesky Maya (RP) free agent from Nationals
Who Left?:  
Brian McCann (C) free agent to Yankees,
Blake DeWitt (3B) released
Paul Janish (SS) free agent to Rockies
Eliot Johnson (IF) free agent to Indians
Reed Johnson (OF) free agent to Marlins
Tim Hudson (SP) free agent to Giants,
Paul Maholm (SP) free agent to Dodgers
Scott Downs (RP) free agent to White Sox
Kameron Lowe (RP) free agent to Giants
Eric O'Flaherty (RP) free agent to Athletics
Christian Martinez (RP) released
Luis Ayala (RP) free agent to Nationals
Winter Headlines: 
The Roads out of town are crowded but few people are taking the road in. (The Braves lost several key players but don't make any major additions).
Freeman is anything but free for the Braves. (Freddie Freeman signs long term deal with team record amount)
What to Expect?:
The Braves had a great start to last season, sprinting out of the gate to a 15-5 record.  They slowed down towards the middle of the season but picked up again towards the end, running away with the Eastern Division.  They struggled in the playoffs against a strong Dodgers team ending a disappointing season.    The Braves return a largely changed team and hope to get more out of the moves they made last off season.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
The Braves organization has been one of the most consistently competitive teams over the last 20+ years but have only one World Series title to show for it.  The team became an overnight success in 1991 and hard luck losers in the 1991 and 1992 World Series.  The team made 13 straight post season appearances and won only one World Series.  The team has built a new core group of young players and are set to make another long term run.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Braves Fans Want?:
The Braves have lost several players.  The two major losses are Tim Hudson, the veteran leader of the pitching staff, and Brian McCann, the veteran All Star Catcher.  The Braves still have a hole at second base (Dan Uggla has struggled since signing a big contract) and face questions of effectiveness with Gattis behind the plate and B.J. Upton in center.  The biggest question is the rotation.  Losing Hudson and Maholm, the two veteran leaders, could lead to a big drop off in the win column.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Justin Upton got off to an amazing start last year and was a big reason for the quick start of the team.  He was not able to keep that pace (no one could ever be expected to keep that pace for a whole season) and fell back to an average season.  You can expect Upton to be a big contributor to any success the Braves might have but don't expect him to win an MVP.
Expect Great Things From:
Jason Heyward has only been in the league for a few short years but they have been some truly great years.  Heyward has improved continuously and even continued to hit after his frightful injury last year.  Heyward is one of the best hitters in the game and Braves fans will hopefully enjoy watching him play for years to come.
Is This His Last Chance?:
Dan Uggla has struggled since joining the Braves, although he has had a few shining moments.  His numbers and production dropped enough last year that he was left off the post season roster.  Uggla has two years left on his contract but how long can the Braves keep him if his numbers don't improve?
Prediction: 2nd place in NL East

Philadelphia Phillies
Who's New: 
Reid Brignac (SS) free agent from Yankees,
Wil Nieves (C) free agent from Diamondbacks, 
Lou Marson (C) free agent from Indians, 
Marlon Byrd (OF)free agent from Pirates,
Clete Thomas (OF) free agent from Twins,
Jeff Manship (OF) free agent from Rockies,
Dave Sappelt (OF) free agent from Cubs
Roberto Hernandez (SP) free agent from Rays,
Chad Gaudin (SP) free agent from Giants
A.J. Burnett (SP) Free agent from Pirates
Shawn Camp (RP) free agent from Cubs,
Brad Lincoln (RP) trade from Blue Jays,
Sean O'Sullivan (P) free agent from Padres,
Chris Bootcheck (RP) free agent from Yankees,
Who Left: 
Steve LeRud (C) free agent to Braves
Erik Kratz (C) trade to Blue Jays
Michael Martinez (IF) free agent to Pirates,
Roger Bernadina (IF) free agent to Reds
Pete Orr (IF) free agent to Brewers
Casper Wells (OF) free agent to Cubs,
Laynce Nix (OF) released
Roy Halladay (SP) retired, 
John Lannan (SP) free agent to Mets
Zach Miner (SP) free agent to Mariners
J.C. Ramirez (RP) free agent to Indians,
Chad Durbin (RP) released
Winter Headlines:  
Is the window closed?
No Halladay. No Chance?
What to Expect?:
What was once a team on the verge of a dynasty is now on the verge of becoming a collection of relics.  Although Utley had another strong season, 2013 was a disaster for this team.  Halladay, Ruiz and Howard all missed time and the Phils never were really in the race.  Phillies fans may get one last push out of this aging group but don't count on it.  Utley and Hamels have already missed time this spring.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
Phillies fans are heading into the tail end of the Golden Age of Phillies baseball.  For a team that has been around since the birth of the National League it seems odd to say it but the last ten years have clearly been the best period of the franchise's history.  As Utley, Rollins, Howard, Hamels, Ruiz and Lee age it would be nice to see some of them go out with a bang.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Phillies Fans Want?:
This team is clearly on the decline and the farm system does not appear to have enough to replenish or replace the aging stars.  Hamels will not be ready for opening day and Utley is still having injury issues. If the Phillies are not in contention for a playoff spot by the trading deadline some of the veteran pieces may be moved.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Marlon Byrd did a lot to help the Pirates reach the playoffs but Byrd has struggled for several seasons leading up to last year.  Byrd certainly may have an impact in Philadelphia but don't expect him to lead the Phillies to the World Series.
Expect Great Things From:
Chase Utley is clearly one of the greatest Phillies to ever play the game.  Utley may not be able to lead the Phillies to the World Series but Phillies fans can expect to see Utley perform like a future Hall of Famer for as long as his body holds out.
Is This His Last Chance?:
Jimmy Rollins has been the leader of the Phillies team since he entered the league in 2000.  Rollins has given Phillies fans memories that will be talked about for generations but as he gets older the chances for him to make more memories of that level decreases. How much longer can Rollins play?
Prediction:3rd place in NL East

New York Mets
Who's New:  
Tyler Teagarden (C) free agent from Orioles
Chris Young (OF) free agent from A's,
Curtis Granderson (OF) free agent from Yankees,
Bartolo Colon (SP) free agent from Athletics,
John Lannan (SP) free agent from Phillies
Kyle Farnsworth (RP) free agent from Pirates
Jose Valverde (RP) free agent from Tigers
Who Left:  
Justin Turner (IF) free agent to Dodgers
Jordany Valdespino (OF) free agent to Marlins
Rick Ankiel (OF) retired
 LaTroy Hawkins (SP) free agent to Rockies
Shaun Marcum (SP) free agent to Indians
Aaron Harang (SP) free agent to Indians
Greg Burke (RP) free agent to Rockies
David Aardsma (RP) free agent to Indians
Scott Atchison (RP) free agent to Indians
Tim Byrdak (RP) unsigned free agent.
Pedro Feliciano (RP) unsigned free agent
Frank Francisco (RP) unsigned free agent
Winter Headlines: 
With singing of Colon and Granderson which direction is this team headed?
What to Expect?:
Mets fans can be happy that the team seems to be improving and building a strong foundation on young players like Matt Harvey and Travis d'Arnaud but don't expect the playoffs this year.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
Mets fans have seen this team struggle in recent years.  The ownership group has been stuck with money problems that hampered the rebuilding process. The team seems to have turned a corner and are heading towards building a strong foundation.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Mets Fans Want?:
Adding Granderson and Colon will definitely help the team improve but there are still a lot of holes (specifically at Catcher until d'Arnaud fully develops and the middle infield).  The Mets are moving in the right direction but they may still be a few years away.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Curtis Granderson has been an American League superstar for nearly a decade but as we saw with B.J. Upton in Atlanta last year there can still sometimes be an adjustment period when switching leagues.  Granderson should still be productive in the NL but don't expect him to spark a playoff run, especially with the lack of support in the lineup.
Expect Great Things From:
David Wright is truly a great player.  He has suffered with the Mets organization for his entire career. Wright will continue to be a great player, and may even benefit from the presence of Granderson.
Is This His Last Chance?:
Ike Davis has shown flashes of great play but his inconsistency has landed him in the dog house with the Mets front office.  He has been the subject of several trade rumors over the last few months and if he is unable to fulfill his potential he may be playing somewhere else soon.
Prediction: 4th Place in NL East.

Miami Marlins
Who's New:
Jarod Saltalamachia (C) free agent from Red Sox,
Garrett Jones (1B) free agent from Pirates,
Jordany Valdespino (IF) free agent from Mets
Ty Wigginton (IF) free agent from Cardinals
Jeff Baker (IF) free agent from Rangers
 Brian Bogosevich (OF) trade from Cubs,
Reed Johnson (OF) free agent from Braves
Carter Capps (RP) trade from Mariners
Rodriguez Henry Alberto (RP) free agent from Cubs
Carlos Marmol (RP) free agent from Dodgers
Chaz Roe (RP) free agent from Rangers
Who Left:
Chris Valaika (IF)free agent to Cubs,
 Logan Morrison (1B) trade to Mariners,
Miguel Oliva (C) free agent to Dodgers
Koyie Hill (C) free agent to Marlins
Casey Kotchman (1B) released
Justin Ruggiano (OF) trade to Cubs,
Chris Coughlan (OF) free agent to Cubs
Matt Diaz (OF) retired
Austin Kearns (OF) unsigned free agent
Zach Phillips (RP) free agent to Japan,
Chad Qualls (RP) free agent to Astros,
Ryan Webb (RP) free agent to Orioles,
Duane Below (RP) free agent to Tigers
John Maine (RP) unsigned free agent
What to Expect?:
With the exception of Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez there is little talent on this team.  Last year was said to be Stanton's audition for the trade deadline but injuries and a slow first half kept Stanton in Miami.  There is little chance that this year will turn out better and more likely could be worse than last year.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
While the ownership group has appeared to have betrayed the fan base the players are still giving a full effort.  For players stuck in Miami it is a sad season knowing that there is little chance of winning and little support from the front office.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Marlins Fans Want?:
There is little talent on this team and little support from the front office.  Suffice it to say there is very little chance of competing this year or in the near future.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Jose Fernandez won the rookie of the year award last year and should be able to continue his success but don't expect him to lead this team out of the cellar. There is little talent behind him in the rotation and the bullpen is shaky enough that he may often lose games that he should win.
Expect Great Things From:
Giancarlo Stanton, if healthy, has the chance to be a special player.  It would be helpful if he had some bigger bats in the lineup but regardless he should impress the Miami fans.
Is This His Last Chance?:
Rafael Furcal has been one of the best Shortstops in the league for nearly a decade, though he rarely gets credit.  For years with the Dodgers and later a few years in St.Louis, Furcal was the spark that ignited the offense on multiple playoff teams.  Unfortunately, Furcal does not have the talent around him in Miami that it would take to ignite a playoff run in Miami.
Prediction: 5th Place in NL East

*-Please be aware that these predictions are based on the rosters as set in the middle of February.  There are still several key free agents unsigned which could alter these previews.  Also, injuries during spring training could alter my outlook.  Check back next week for the AL Central Preview and continue following to see my final predictions at the start of the season.

Jose Fernandez of the Marlins won the 2013 Rookie of the Year.  Since the creation of the National League East in 1969, how many times has the Rookie of the Year winner come from the National League East (include Jose Fernandez)?

Answer to Last Week's Trivia Question:
The American League West has produced a large number of Cy Young Winners starting with Jim Perry of the Twins in 1970 and Vida Blue of the A's in 1971. Here are the rest:
Catfish Hunter (A's) 1974
LaMar Hoyt (White Sox)1983
Bret Saberhagen (Royals) 1985
Frank Viola (Twins) 1988
Bret Saberhagen (Royals) 1989
Bob Welch (A's) 1990
Dennis Eckersley (A's) 1992
Jack McDowell (White Sox) 1993
Randy Johnson (Mariners) 1995
Barry Zito (A's) 2002
Bartolo Colon (Angels) 2005
Felix Hernandez (Mariners) 2010

Saturday, March 1, 2014

2014 American League West Preview

***The Division Preview that follows is not betting advice in any way shape or form.  Please do not bet any money based in any part on these predictions.***

Don't forget to check out the American League East and American League Central Previews and check back next week for the National League East Preview. 

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim:
Who's New:  
David Freese (3B) trade from Cardinals,
John McDonald (IF) free agent from Red Sox
Yorvit Torrealba (C) free agent from Rockies
Raul Ibanez (OF) free agent from Mariners,
Brennan Bosch (OF) free agent from Yankees
Chad Tracy (OF) free agent from Nationals
Tyler Skaags (SP) trade from Diamondbacks, 
Wade LeBlanc (RP) from Houston,
Chris Volstad (RP) from Rockies,
Joe Smith (RP) free agent from Indians,
Frenando Salas (RP) trade from Cardinals,
Hector Santiago (RP) trade from White Sox,
Clay Repada (RP) free agent from Indians
Brandon Lyon (RP) free agent from Red Sox

Who Left:  
Chris Nelson (3B) free agent to Reds
Peter Bourjos (CF)  trade to Cardinals,
Mark Trumbo (DH/OF) trade to the Diamondbacks,
Brad Hawpe (OF) released
Jason Vargas (SP) free agent to Royals,
Jerome Williams (SP) free agent to Astros
Barry Enright (SP) free agent to Phillies
Tommy Hanson (SP) free agent to Rangers
Daniel Stange (RP) free agent to Nationals
Robert Coello (RP) free agent to Yankees
Juan Gutierrez (RP) free agent to Giants
Tommy Hanson (RP) released
Ryan Madson (RP) unsigned free agent
Scott Cousins (RP) free agent to Red Sox
Winter Headlines: 
New coaching staff: Don Baylor, Gary DiSarcina.
Pujols says ankle is 99.9 percent healthy.
Trout best player in the league?
Rebuilt bull pen.
Mark Mulder looks good in comeback attempt until injury ends experiment.
What to Expect?:
People in southern California are frustrated.  The Angels paid big money for C.J. Wilson and Pujols in 2012 and for Hamilton in 2013.  Add to that the spectacular additions of young talent Peter Bourjos, Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout and theoretically this should be a World Series contender every year.  Instead, Trumbo and Bourjos are gone and the Angels are on the verge of losing their manager and General Manager.  The addition of Angels legends Don Baylor and Gary DiSarcina to the coaching staff may help take some pressure off of Scioscia and a healthy Pujols and Weaver should play a big part as well.  If the revamped bullpen can support closer Ernesto Frieri this team may reach their potential.  Although the top three teams in this division are very close all three have pitching issues and the Angels seem to have the offense that will get them past the pitching issues.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
The perception is that this is an underachieving, over paid group of guys.  Realistically, the payroll is high but these are professional guys who have suffered through difficult injuries and have fought hard to come up just short several years in a row.  Each year they seem to get off to a slow start and have bullpen troubles that put them far enough behind that they can't catch up.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Angels Fans Want?:
The Angels have added Raul Ibanez to the outfield for some insurance.  Alberto Callaspo had been a solid third baseman for several years in Anaheim but they have upgraded with David Freese. The problem, as it has been the last three years, is the bullpen.  The pitching staff has been the big reason for the struggles in the big A and although it has been greatly revamped for the upcoming season there are still major questions.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Josh Hamilton's numbers were down greatly from his days in Texas.  If we're being honest the season was a bit of a disaster for him.  The more he struggled the harder he seemed to work and the worse the season got.  The stories this winter are that Hamilton is working hard and has refocused on training and is ready for a big season, though he is already injured this spring and may miss up to two weeks.  That being said, don't expect 40 Home Runs and 120 RBI's but 20-25 Home Runs and 90-100 RBI is a reasonable expectation.
Expect Great Things From:
Albert Pujols, according to most people, has been a disappointment for the first two years of his big contract.  In reality it is a false perception. True, his first month of 2012 was a slow month but Pujols greatly improved over the rest of the season.  Although the team did not reach the playoffs it was largely due to the bullpen and not Pujols.  Albert's numbers were down greatly last year but Pujols was trying to play through a major foot injury that was clearly effecting him.  At times it appeared to be painful for Pujols to even jog from the dug out to first base.  After a surgery to repair the foot and an off season program expect Pujols to come back strong.
Prediction:1st in AL West

Oakland Athletics
Who's New?: 
Nick Punto (IF) from Dodgers,
Fernando Abad (IF) free agent from Nationals,
Craig Gentry (OF) trade from Rangers,
Sam Fuld (OF) free agent from Rays
Philip Humber (SP) free agent from Astros,
Scott Kazmir (SP) free agent from Indians,
Josh Lindblom (SP) trade from Rangers,
Drew Pomeranz (SP) trade from Rockies
Luke Gregerson (RP) trade from Padres,
Jim Johnson (RP) trade from Orioles,
Eric O'Flaherty (RP) free agent from Braves
Who Left?: 
Jemile Weeks (2B) trade to Orioles, 
Kurt Suzuki (C) free agent to Twins
Scott Sizemore (2B) free agent to Yankees
Chris Young (OF) free agent to Mets,
Michael Choice (OF) trade from Rangers,
Bartolo Colon (P) free agent to Mets,
Brett Anderson (SP) trade to Rockies,
Seth Smith (RP) trade to Padres,
Jerry Blevins (RP) trade to Nationals,
Hideki Okajima (RP) free agent to Japan,
Grant Balfour (RP) free agent to Rays
Pedro Figueroa (RP) released
Chris Resop (RP) free agent to Royals
Pat Neshek (RP) free agent to Cardinals
Winter Headlines:
Retooled Pitching Staff.
What to Expect?:
The A's and Billy Beane have surprised people two years in a row.  In 2012 they shocked the Rangers by winning the division on the last day with a budget team.  They retooled the team for 2013 and surprised everyone again.  For 2014 they have again revamped the team.  Expectations should be tempered as some of the new acquisitions, like Scott Kazmir, Jim Johnson and Craig Gentry have had major ups and downs in their career.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
Billy Beane always seems to find a way to win on a small budget.  Anyone who roots for a team that is not in a major market should be rooting for this group.  While the Rangers and Angels (and in some cases even the Mariners) seem to be spending at will, the A's are winning the old fashioned way.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Athletics Fans Want?:
As good as the team has been the last few years, they have not exactly dominated the west.  The Angels truly should have won this division the last three years and the A's allowed the Rangers to hang around late in the season both seasons before winning the division late.  With a retooled pitching staff there are still major questions.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Jim Johnson was a big acquisition from the Orioles.  Johnson was an All Star and nearly perfect when the Orioles made the playoffs in 2012 but struggled at times in 2013.  He will be replacing Grant Balfour, who played a major part in Oakland's success the last few years.  Don't expect Johnson to dominate the way Balfour did.
Expect Great Things From:
There was a perception last year that Yoenis Cespedes had a big fall off when his average dropped from .290 to .240.  True, the average was a big drop due mostly to injuries, but despite the low average, Cespedes managed to improve in Home Runs and Runs Scored and was only 2 RBI behind his rookie pace.  A healthy Cespedes could compete for an MVP.
Is This His Last Chance?:
Scott Kazmir has had an interesting career.  He was involved in a trade from the Mets to the Rays that basically got Jim Duquette fired as GM in New York. The pressure on Kazmir to become the ace of the Rays staff were tremendous and as the Rays went from joke to contender, Kazmir played a big part.  When he was traded to the Angels, it was expected that he would be the final piece for an Angels dynasty.  That quickly turned into a 9-15 season followed by stints in the minors and a year in Colorado.  Last year Kazmir went 10-9 for an Indian playoff team but it was hardly what was expected of Kazmir when he entered the league.  With big playoff hopes in Oakland this year Kazmir will need to prove he can fulfill the potential that was once seen in him.
Prediction: 2nd in AL West.  American League Wild Card

Texas Rangers:
Who's New:  
Prince Fielder (1b) trade from Tigers,
J. P. Arincebia (C) free agent from Blue Jays,
Brent Lillibridge (3B) free agent from Yankees,
Josh Wilson (SS) free agent from Diamondbacks,
Michael Choice (OF) trade from Athletics,
Kensuke Tanaka (OF) free agent from Giants,
Shin Soo Choo (OF) free agent from Reds,
Tommy Hanson (SP) free agent from Angels
Jose Contreras (P) free agent from Red Sox,
Justin Germano (RP) free agent from Blue Jays,
Mike Mikolas (RP) trade from Pirates
Pedro Figueroa (RP) waiver claim from Athletics
Daniel Bard (RP) free agent from Cubs
Who Left:  
Brendan Harris (IF) free agent to Dodgers,
Lance Berkman (DH/1B) retired
Jeff Baker (IF) free agent to Marlins
Ian Kinsler (2B) trade to Tigers,
A.J. Pierzynski (C) free agent to Red Sox,
Chris McGuinness (IF) trade to Pirates
David Murphy (OF) free agent to Indians,
Craig Gentry (OF) trade to A's,
Nelson Cruz (OF) free agent to Orioles
Josh Lindblom (SP) trade to A's,
Matt Garza (SP) free agent to Brewers
Joe Nathan (RP) free agent to Tigers,
Travis Blackley (RP) unsigned free agent.
Winter Headlines:  
Profar or Andrus?  Answered by trade of Kinsler
Fielder impact over Kinsler tenure.
Rangers show lack of loyalty again.
Choo chooses Rangers
What to Expect?:
What to expect is a great question.  The Rangers seem to surprise people one minute and disappoint people the next.  Texas lost several key players this year again (Pierzynski, Murphy, Gentry, Nathan, Cruz and Kinsler) but they made some major moves as well (Choo and Fielder).  Last year when Hamilton and Young were allowed to leave Michael Young complained that the Rangers ownership had a lack of loyalty to their players. When Kinsler was traded it appeared that Young's charges could be applied again.  Ron Washington has done a great job as manager but at what point does the ownership allow too many of their long time veteran leaders to get away?  In addition to the loss of leaders through trades and free agency there is the pitching issues.  Derek Holland, looked on as the number two starter (and was looked at as the key to the rotation) will be out until near the all star break making a questionable rotation even more of a liability.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
Ron Washington is one of the best managers in the game and he constantly has this team in contention. Like Joe Maddon in Tampa, Washington is often able to do more with less.  After surprising everyone with a 2010 World Series appearance and coming within inches of winning it all in 2011 the Rangers had a disappointing end to 2012 and 2013.  For the few who remain from those teams it would be nice to see them win.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Rangers Fans Want?:
Despite adding Fielder and Choo the Rangers may have lost too much.  It is not just the number of players that have left since the World Series appearances it is more a matter of the heart and soul that has left.  The World Series teams were led by Hamilton, Kinsler, Young, C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, Elvis Andrus, Nelson Cruz, Adrian Beltre and Cliff Lee.  Only Andrus and Beltre remain from that group.  It is true that Fielder and Choo will be strong additions but neither seems to have the leadership quality of the men who have left.  The pitching staff, past Yu Darvish, is a mess.  The team was relying heavily on  Derek Holland (who was only 10-9 in 2013) who will now be out until the All Star Break after having leg surgery and the bullpen appears to be a jigsaw puzzle with no real closer.  They will try using Neftali Feliz as closer again but the results have been hit or miss each time he tries to fill that position.  Although this is a strong team the pitching is the main reason I am picking them third.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Jurickson Profar has been pretty much anointed as the next great middle infielder.  The team even decided to move one of the faces of the franchise to allow him to play full time.  Granted it was a small sample size in 2013 but he only hit .234.  Profar will likely be much better than that small sample size (and his defense should get him consideration for a Gold Glove) but don't expect him to replace Kinsler's numbers.
Expect Great Things From:
Prince Fielder may not be the leader that Kinsler and Young were but his numbers may skyrocket in Texas.  The balls in Texas seem to fly farther faster during the summer months than in most parks and with Fielder's power you can expect his Home Run and RBI totals to soar.
Is This His Last Chance?:
Neftali Feliz has been the off and on closer for the last few years.  He was expected to contribute greatly to the Rangers last season but injuries sidelined him  for the better part of the year.  Feliz will have little time to ease back into the position as Joe Nathan has left for Detroit.  Feliz will need to be near perfect for the Rangers to compete.
Prediction: 3rd in AL West

Seattle Mariners
Who's New:
Robinson Cano (2B) free agent from Yankees, 
Logan Morrison (1B) trade from Marlins,
John Buck (C) free agent from Pirates
Wilie Bloomquist (OF) free agent from Diamondbacks,
Corey Hart (OF) free agent from Brewers,
Cole Gillespie (OF) free agent from Cubs,
Scott Baker (SP) free agent from Cubs
Zach Miner (SP) free agent from Phillies
Ramon Ramirez (RP) free agent from Rays
Logan Kensing (RP) free agent from Rockies
Who Left:  
Henry Blanco (C) free agent to Diamondbacks,
Kendrys Morales (1B/DH)  unsigned free agent
Raul Ibanez (OF) free agent to Angels
Jason Bay (OF) released
Carlos Peguero (OF) trade to Royals
Oliver Perez (SP) unsigned free agent
Joe Saunders (SP) unsigned free agent
Carter Capps (RP) trade to Marlins,
Winter Headlines: 
Poor Lloyd McClendon.
Cano asks for respect.  Gets money instead.
Can the top three starters lead to a surprise Mariners success.
What to Expect?:
Why do bad teams happen to good people?  Lloyd McClendon may be a good manager but it will be hard to tell.  McClendon is getting his second chance at managing and for the second time he will be taking over a team that has little chance to win.  The Mariners potentially have a great top of their rotation with Hernandez, Iwakuma and a young Taijuan Walker.  Although Iwakuma and Walker are already injured in spring training and will be out for an unknown amount of time.  These three (when healthy) should keep the Mariners in many games but the bullpen and offense may not be strong enough to win all of the games started by these three.  The Mariners spent a lot of money to get Cano from the Yankees but there is little hope that his numbers will be good enough to help this team compete with the rest of the division.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
There are some likable players on this team, like Felix Hernandez, who have been with this team for a long time and have seen some truly low times.  The Mariners often make a loud off season noise but it rarely works out for them.  The Mariners have been around since 1977 and have had very few moments to celebrate.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Mariners Fans Want?:
Although the Mariners made a big splash with Cano and some smaller ripples with signings like Corey Hart, and Logan Morrison, there is still not enough talent here to compete with the top three in this division. The strength of the team was intended to be the starting pitching with Hernandez, Iwakuma and Walker.  With Walker and Iwakuma already suffering injuries this season could  dissolve before it even starts.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Robinson Cano is a great player but there is very little support in Seattle.  With fewer big bats in the lineup it would be odd to expect the opposition to pitch to him in dangerous situations. Expect Cano to hit 20-25 Home Runs but don't expect him to raise a world series trophy in Seattle.
Expect Great Things From:
Felix Hernandez is one of the top pitchers in the league and regardless of how bad the team behind him is King Felix will always shine.  Hernandez's numbers will be great but don't expect those numbers to automatically translate into wins.
Is This His Last Chance?:
Lloyd McClendon is getting his second chance to manage but unfortunately he is getting a well below average team.  McClendon is a good manager but often managers who lead bad teams don't get many chances to prove they can manage.
Prediction:4th in AL West

Houston Astros

Who's New:  
Jesus Guzman (1B) trade from Padres, 
Cesar Izturis (SS) free agent from Reds
Dexter Fowler (OF) trade from Rockies,
Adron Chambers (OF) free agent from Cardinals
Scott Feldman (SP) free agent from Orioles,
Jerome Williams (SP) free agent from Angels
Anthony Bass (RP) trade from Padres,
Pete Moylan (RP) free agent from Dodgers,
Chad Qualls (RP) free agent from Marlins,
Matt Albers (RP) free agent from Indians,
Jesse Crain (RP) free agent from Rays
Who Left:  
Brandon Laird (IF) free agent to Royals,
Matt Pagnozzi (C) free agent to Brewers, 
Ryan Jackson (IF) trade to Padres,
Brandon Barnes (OF) trade to Rockies
Trevor Crowe (OF) free agent to Tigers
Philip Humber (SP) to Athletics,
Jordan Lyles (SP) trade to Rockies,
Eric Bedard (SP)free agent to Rays
Wade LeBlanc (RP) to Angels,
Edgar Gonzalez (RP) free agent to Reds
What to Expect?:
The Astros are making efforts to improve. They have upgraded their bullpen with Pete Moylan, Chad Qualls and Matt Albers.  They have improved their offense and defense with Dexter Fowler and they are working hard to improve the team.  Listening to their first spring training game the other night, the Astros announcers talked about the improved attitude this year.  There is much more optimism and a feeling of a light at the end of the tunnel.  The realistic truth is they are probably a few years away from competing for a division or wild card spot but their improvement makes this division the toughest in the AL.
Why Should You Root for These Guys?:
The Astros organization has come close to winning it all several times but they have rarely, in their brief history, been this far from competition.  It would be nice to see them surprise some people for the benefit of some players who are under rated stars.
Why Might This Season Not Turn Out the Way Astros Fans Want?:
The team has improved from two years ago to last year and the improvement should continue this year but truth be told it is not enough at this point to compete.  The offense and bullpen have been improved but the starting pitching is still atrocious.  The Astros are working on a five year plan and this year may be the tipping point to either confirm they are moving in the right direction or to tell them to scrap it all and start over.
Don't Expect Too Much From Him:
Dexter Fowler is easily the biggest addition the Astros have made but there is not enough in the lineup or rotation to expect Fowler to make a drastic impact.  Fowler will definitely improve the team and will likely benefit Jose Altuve in the lineup but Fowler will not lead this team to the playoffs.  At least not this year.
Expect Great Things From:
Jose Altuve is probably the most under rated second baseman in the league.  He may not have huge power numbers (he has only 14 Home Runs in three years) and his strike outs are a bit higher than you would normally like for a top of the lineup guy but Altuve is on the verge of becoming a great player.  Expect Altuve to hit near .300, steal 30 bases and hit about 25-30 doubles.  With some extra help in the lineup from Fowler, Altuve could take the next step in becoming a star in the league.
Prediction:5th place in AL West

*-Please be aware that these predictions are based on the rosters as set at the end of February.  There are still several key free agents unsigned which could alter these previews.  Also, injuries during spring training could alter my outlook.  Check back next week for the NL East Preview and continue following to see my final predictions at the start of the season.  

The Angels, Athletics and Rangers have great offenses but their pitching staffs leave a lot to be desired.  Seattle has a great top of their rotation but little offensive support.  Pitching clearly is the key in this division.  How many American League West pitchers have won the Cy Young Award?

Answer to Last Week's Question:
Congratulations to TJD for last week's trivia question.
The American League Central division was founded in 1994 and contained the White Sox, Twins, Royals, Indians and Brewers.  When the league expanded to add the Diamondbacks and Devil Rays in 1998 there was a need to move one American League team to the National League to avoid having uneven numbers in each league.  The Brewers were moved to the National League Central.  The Tigers moved from the American League East to the American League Central.  The division has remained in that format since then.