1. Boston (97 wins)
I think there’s a chance that Boston will be better or just as good at 9 of 10 spots in the lineup (with left field as the question mark). The starting pitching is very good, and very deep, and the bullpen is deep. Why I might be wrong: Youkilis and Pedroia could come back to earth. Big Papi might be done. Dice-K ‘livin’ on the edge’ becomes ‘divin’ off a cliff.’ And the reconstructed bullpen is not as good as it looks on paper.
2. New York (94)
Two words: Sabathia and Teixeira. The offense will be much improved, but not to historic standards. And one of the young starters will step up behind C.C. and the others. Why I might be wrong: This team is still depending on a lot of old players. If Sabathia breaks down (which is a high possibility with as much as he pitched last year), they are not particularly deep in the rotation. The bullpen leading up to Mariano is still a little iffy. Wang may not come back as his old self.
3. Tampa Bay (89)
This team is bound to regress to the mean. The bullpen will not be as good, and they won’t score enough runs to keep up with New York and Boston. Why I might be wrong: They are the anti-Yankees. With such a young team, there is significant upside. Longoria may become the next Pujols, and Upton may blossom into a star.
4. Toronto (81)
Toronto was the best in the league at preventing runs last year, but with the loss of Shawn Marcum (who was very underrated last season) and a diminished bullpen, they will fall to the middle of the pack. This is bad because they aren’t very good at scoring runs. Why I might be wrong: The offense could be better than I think, and Halladay may carry them closer to 90 wins.
5. Baltimore (73)
The Orioles had a middle of the pack offense and a horrific pitching staff. I see no reason this will change. Yes, they have some young players who may improve, but they also have older players who are likely to decline. Why I might be wrong: I won’t be. They are not very good.
1. Cleveland (91)
The Indians were very unlucky last year and could easily have been the best team in the division. I think the pitching will be better (Carmona couldn’t have been much worse), and the offense will be at least as good and probably better (especially if Travis Hafner remembers how to hit). Why I might be wrong: The pitching good be dreadful (especially if Cliff Lee falls off a cliff) and the offense might once again be a middle-of-the-pack outfit.
2. Chicago (90)
The While Sox are good at scoring runs and good at preventing them. They just won’t be as good as Cleveland this year (though it’s virtually a tie, but I had to make a call). If Quentin’s healthy for the whole season, the team could get better offensively. Why I might be wrong: Quentin and Dye might not put up numbers, and the starting pitching could collapse.
3. Minnesota (85)
I really wanted to put the Twins higher, but I can’t, especially with Mauer being hurt. The Twins can score runs, but preventing them will be a challenge this year. Why I might be wrong: The young outfield might be better, Mauer could be healthy, and the starters could be at least as strong as 2008.
4. Kansas City (75)
The Royals are the chic pick to be this year’s Rays. Two big problems: Turnarounds like that are not likely, and the roster doesn’t scream at me: Turnaround. (Of course, I didn’t see the Rays coming last year either.) Why I might be wrong: There are reasons to like this team. Improved OF defense with Coco Crisp. Some young potential stars in the infield (Gordon, Aviles, Butler) could break out. And the pitching could take a big step forward. I still think they finish 3rd at best.
5. Detroit (71)
The Tigers are not likely to be good at preventing runs, and I think their offense will decline substantially. Cabrera and Granderson are studs, but the rest of the lineup is old and not very good. The pitching will continue to be awful. Why I might be wrong: If their top four pitchers (Verlander, Jackson, Galarraga, Bonderman) hit their potential, this team could compete for the division or wild card. Not likely.
1. Los Angeles (84)
This team was very lucky last year, with a great record despite a middle-of-the-pack run differential. But a good pitching staff and a weak division will get the Angels into the playoffs again. Why I might be wrong: Guerrero might explode at any moment, and Abreu’s defense in left field could cost them a couple of key, close games.
2. Oakland (82)
The A’s were the worst in the league at scoring runs last season, but that should change dramatically with the addition of Holliday and Giambi. If Nomar ends up playing more 3B than Chavez, that could help as well. Why I might be wrong: If the young starters make the leap, Oakland could run away with the division.
3. Texas (69)
The Rangers are the anti-Oakland: A killer lineup, really crappy pitching. The problem is that I think the hitting will regress, and the pitching will still stink. Let’s just hope Josh Hamilton is in the home run derby again this year. Why I might be wrong: If the pitching is even decent, this team could contend in a very weak division.
4. Seattle (62)
The Mariners had the unfortunate circumstance of not being able to prevent runs or score a lot. Only Ichiro is a plus positional player. The pitching should be better (it can’t be much worse), but not enough to catch anyone else in this division. Why I might be wrong: The pitching could be a lot better (see: Felix Hernandez) and Beltre could return to his 2004 form. Yes, I’m grasping at straws.
Boston beats Los Angeles
Cleveland beats New York
Cleveland beats Boston