February 5, 2010 11:30:39
Posted By Sean S
It is not easy for me to post this. For the first time since 2006, I am not picking the Angels to finish in first place. I don't think they are out of the race at all. The 5 game difference between them and the Rangers is well within the range of error. Both Western divisions as well as the American League central are "anything goes" divisions, All of the teams should consider themselves as having a chance if things break right.
For the Angels to beat this projection (and they usually do beat my projections) they'll need Kendry Morales to prove 2009 was no fluke, Howie Kendrick to finally play a full season and do so without going into a batting funk, Brandon Wood to justify the faith the organization has placed in him after three years of AAA, Ervin Santana to get his velocity back to where it was in 2008, and Scott Kazmir to get back to where he was in 2007. Really, if 3 out of those 5 things happen the Angels should be strong.
When you play that optimistic "what if" game though, you have to consider what happens if things break right for your opponents too. What if Vladimir Guerrero, who hit .300 and slugged .498 in the second half, is free from injury and takes advantage of his hitter's paradise? What if the real Josh Hamilton is the one who looked like a superstar in 2008 instead of the medical case of 2009? What if Elvis Andrus, only 20 last year, breaks out as the next superstar shortstop?
If things go right for Texas, they have the talent to go to their first ever world series.
Normally, projections do not forecast the same range of wins and losses as will happen in real life. We expect that a few teams will win 95+ games, but are not sure exactly which ones, and if you pick any one team (Yankees excepted) the odds are they won't win that many games.
But yet I'm projecting 99 wins for the defending world champions. I think this is the highest projection I've ever had, for any team. I had them at 97 last year and they beat it by 6. I like the moves they have made in the last year. Curtis Granderson is a tremendous player who helps on offense and defense (at least against righties). Javier Vazquez was one of the best pitchers in baseball last year, and Nick Johnson is OBP Jesus. The Yankees are insanely talented, even more so than usual. The breaks of the season could mean that Boston wins the East, or even Tampa Bay, but the talent spread is so huge in this division that Baltimore and Toronto have basically no chance.
The Twins already looked to be the favorites once more in the central, but upgraded by a win or two yesterday by adding the O-Dog, Orlando Hudson. He will keep the group of Nick Punto, Brendan Harris, and Alexi Casilla from playing more, which can only help. And hopefully tells Joe Mauer they want to win and convinces him to sign an extension.
Philadelphia might have blown it by trading Cliff Lee instead of Joe Blanton. Halladay/Lee would have been the best 1-2 combo since Johnson/Schilling. We'll see if they can hold off a very strong Atlanta club.
Thanks to resigning Matt Holliday, the St Louis Pujols should have a comfortable season in the NL central. Most of the teams in that division don't spend enough money to compete. Then there are the Cubs and Astros, who have spent on some real albatrosses. I like the young talent in Cincinnati, but they probably aren't ready to challenge prince Albert just yet.