2005 MLB American League Preview ]]> include($base_url . “/includes/header.htm”); ?>
| 2005 MLB American League Preview |
By Tony George and Monique Little
Baltimore – The O’s added SammySosa to an offense that was already stacked with Javy Lopez, MiguelTejeda, and Melvin Mora. Baltimore won’t have trouble scoringruns. Whether or not their pitching can hold is the question.Baltimore has a fine young pitcher in Rodrigo Lopez. He posteda 3.59 ERA. Lopez will only continue to get better with experienceand maturing. Last season we saw Daniel Cabrera put up good numbersearly on for Baltimore but then fade, while his ERA climbed to5.00. Cabrera has good potential. He flirted with a no hitterlast season. Expect him to improve more this season. The leaderof the O’s pitching staff is Sidney Ponson. Ponson had an ERAof 5.30 last season and pitched badly. He can turn it up a notchwhen he is on, but he is far to inconsistent. The rest of theO’s starting rotation is inconsistent as well which isn’t goodat hitter friendly, Camden Yards. The O’s bullpen isn’t bad though.They added Steve Kline who is solid with a 1.79 ERA. They alsohave Steve Reed, John Parrish, and Ted Williams, all with ERA’sunder four. Baltimore will use BJ Ryan as their closer. Ryan had122 K’s in just 87 innings last season.
Overall, Baltimore will put up runs offensively,but their starting pitching isn’t nearly consistent enough tochallenge in a division with Boston and the Yankees.
Boston – The World Series Champshave a new look to their starting rotation. Pedro is gone. Sois Derek Lowe. Their replacements are Wade Miller, Matt Clement,and David Wells. Signing Wade Miller has the potential to be avery wise move by the Sox if he can stay healthy. Miller was avery good pitcher in Houston who keeps his ERA in the three’s.David Wells bears watching in bean town. Wells is getting olderand doesn’t keep himself in the best of shape. Back problems area constant concern with him, along with other ailments. It willbe curious to see how he does pitching at Fenway, with it’s shortporch on the left side. Matt Clement is a flaky pitcher. Whenhe is on, he can seem un-hittable, but there are times he isn’tsharp and is very hittable. Knuckle ball pitcher, Tim Wakefieldis the same way. When the knuckle ball is working he can makea hitter look bad, when the knuckle ball isn’t dancing aroundthe strike zone, he is very easy to hit. Boston also has BronsonArroyo. He was lights out in the playoffs. I am high on Arroyo.He is an aggressive pitcher who goes after hitters. Sometimeshe will get burned with a long ball, but he has plenty up side.Either Arroyo or Wakefield will end up in the bullpen. Bostonwon’t keep both in the starting rotation as long as everyone elseis healthy. Last but not least, the Red Sox still have Curt Schillingto lead their staff. Schilling is slowly getting healthy afterhaving surgery in the off-season. He may be spotty for a few startsuntil he regains his rhythm, but once he gets going — no worries.
The Red Sox bullpen is fairly solid. They stillhave Foulke who is one of the best closers in the game. Timlinand Embree are still there as set up guys. Boston added Matt Manteiin the offeseason. He bears watching. Mantei used to be an excellentcloser for Arizona. He has been hurt by injuries though and isno longer closing. If he is healthy, he will be a solid man inthe bullpen.
Offensively, Boston’s lineup remains in tact.Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Johnny Damon, Jason Varitek and allthe rest are still there. The Sox added a great SS, in Edgar Reneteria.He is super defensively and can hit. Boston has a solid benchtoo.
Overall, this season will be interesting forthe Red Sox. Their starting pitching will be the key. There aresome ifs. If Miller, Clement, and Wells can remain healthy andconsistent Boston will get into the post season and go places.That is a big if though. The Red Sox starting pitching this seasonreminds me of the Yankees pitching last season and we all knowhow that ended up. Offensively, Boston will be fine. It’s thepitching in beantown that bears close watching this season.
New York Yankees – The Yankeeshad a total collapse in the playoffs last season because of pitching.That problem has been corrected this season. New York added RandyJohnson, Carl Pavanno, and Jaret Wright to a staff that alreadyconsists of Mike Mussina and Kevin Brown. Randy Johnson will behis usual self, throwing for strikes. He is getting older andhas bad knees, but if Randy is healthy, there aren’t many whoare better. Carl Pavanno was a good addition. His ERA was 3.06last season. The pressure of pitching in NY won’t bother him.Pavanno is good at getting out of jams, and he was the most dependablepitcher the Marlins had last season. Jaret Wright had the bestseason he has had in many years pitching in Atlanta last season.He worked with Leo Mazzione and now gets to work with Mel Stottlemyer.They are two of the best pitching coaches in the game. Wrightposted a 3.28 ERA last season. If he can duplicate anything closeto that, NY will be ecstatic. Mike Mussina started off slow lastyear but turned it around late and was solid in the playoffs.NY needs him to get off to a fast start this year. Rounding outthe rotation is Kevin Brown. When talking about Kevin Brown itall comes down to his back. If his back is fine, he will pitchgreat. Back issues have been a constant problem with him in recentyears though.
The Yankees have added to their bullpen by bringMike Stanton back. Stanton posted a 3.16 ERA last season and heis used to pitching for the Yankees. New York added Felix Rodriguez.Felix is solid and pitched well in San Francisco. Both of theseguys should take the load off of Tom Gordon and Paul Quantril.Quantril and Gordon were over worked last season because theywere the only dependable players NY had other than Mariano Rivera.If Steve Karsay can finally stay healthy and be productive inthe bullpen, the Yankees should consider that a bonus.
Offensively, I expect a big season from JasonGiambi. He has looked impressive in spring training. He was doggedlast season by injuries and stories of steroids. The Yankees werelooking to get out of his contract but couldn’t. Giambi is outto prove he can still play — steroid free. I think he’ll be fine.The Yankees had no trouble scoring runs last season and shouldn’tthis year. Their line up remains the same with Jeter, ARod, Matsui,Sheffield and Posada. New York brought back Tino Martinez to playfirst base. Martinez has scene his better days, but he still hit23 home runs last season and drove in 73 runs.
I am not impressed with the Yankees bench, ifone of the regulars should sustain a lengthy injury. Overall,the Yankees offense is solid and with them having addressed theirpitching needs, they are primed to play well into October.
Tampa – The D-Rays didn’t improvethemselves in the off-season. Their pitching consists of Hendricksonwho had an ERA of 4.81 last season, Brazelton whose ERA was 4.77,Scott Kazmir ERA 5.67 and Doug Waechter ERA 6.01. Tampa addedHideo Nomo but he struggled mighty last season in LA with an ERAover eight! Yikes! The best pitcher they had last season was VictorZambrano and he left for the Mets.
Tampa has a pretty descent bullpen, but closerDany Baez had a 3.57 ERA and is just OK. Offensively, the D-Raysare without Rocco Baldelli who is injured. That leaves Tampa withonly one player in their present lineup with over 80 RBI’s lastseason.
Tampa got hot for a bit last season and it lookedlike they were ready to take the next step forward. This season,they didn’t do anything to help themselves and will probably takea step back.
Toronto– The Bluejays were a big flop last year. This season they havetwo pitchers in their rotation who if they can build upon lastseason’s success, should give Toronto a decent four starting pitchers.David Busch posted a 3.66 ERA, and Adolfo Chacin’s ERA was 2.57.Those two players will round out the Jays rotation led by RoyHalladay and Ted Lilly. If Toronto can find a fifth starter, onpaper they don’t look too bad.
Toronto will use Miguel Batista as their closer.He was a starting pitcher last season, but how he will do as acloser bears watching. Justin Speier posted an ERA of 3.91 lastyear and should make a good set up man. The rest of the Bluejaysbullpen is suspect though. Billy Koch is unpredictable and ScottSchoenweis isn’t always very good. Kerry Lightenberg is good whenhealthy. He could be a boost.
Offensively, Toronto will miss Carlos Delgado.Cory Koskie and Vernon Wells will provide offense but Torontoneeds someone else, like Eric Hinske. Hinske had a great rookieseason then dropped off considerably last season. The Jays needhim to step up.
Overall, Toronto has some starting pitching thaton paper looks descent and their bullpen has question marks butthere is potential. Their offense is lacking though. If Torontois to make any improvements this season their pitching will haveto be huge.
Chicago White Sox – On paperI like the White Sox. They have a rotation that consists of Buehrle,Garcia. Hernandez, Contreas, and Garland. Their starting pitchinglooks good especially if Hernandez can stay healthy. Buehrle,Garcia, and Hernandez all had ERA’s under four last season. JohnGarland has potential to be an adequate fourth or fifth starterif he can be more consistent. I am not a fan of Jose Contreras.He is bad when runners get on base. He turns into a differentpitcher who leaves the ball up too high in the strike zone andloses focus. I think he is a bust. The White Sox need someoneelse. They have Dustin Hermanson but he isn’t that good either.
Chicago has a good bullpen. They are in needof one or two players to step up and bridge the gap a bit butotherwise aren’t bad. Shingo Takatsu is a good closer. He hada 2.31 ERA and allowed just 40 hits and 17 runs in 62 innings.He also struck out 50. Damaso Marte is a good set up man for Takatsu.Marte had 68 K’s in 73 innings. He has been solid the last threeseasons. I look for Luis Vizcaino to bridge the gap in the bullpen.He posted a 3.75 ERA last season and has pitched well 2 of thelast 3 years. He had 63 K’s in 72 innings pitched last year. IfChicago can get one more player to step up in the pen, they willhave one of the best bullpens in the AL.
Offensively, the White Sox look pretty good.Paul Konerko, Juan Uribe, Joe Crede, Aaron Rowand, and JermaineDye all hit 20+ home runs last season and drove in at least 69RBI’s each. I think Dye will have a good year in Chicago. TheSox also have Frank Thomas. Their bench isn’t bad either.
Overall, I like the look of this White Sox team.I think they will challenge for the division and if their fourthand fifth starting pitchers can contribute, this team can go places.
Cleveland – I seeCleveland in the middle of the pack in this division. Their startingpitching isn’t bad, but it isn’t as strong as Minnesota’s andChicago. Cleveland’s pitching is led by Jake Westbrook and CCSabathia. Westbrook had his best season last year, posting a 3.38ERA. Sabathia is dependable with a 4.12 ERA. The Indians addedKevin Millwood who struggled last season in Philly. Millwood isa good pitcher, better than the season he had last year. I lookfor him to bounce back and contribute around 15 wins. Clevelandneeds a fourth and fifth starter. It looks like Cliff Lee withhis 5.43 ERA of last year, and Scott Elarton with his 5.90 ERAwill fill those spots. Elarton can be good at times and he hasshown good things this spring. The Indians need consistency fromat least Elarton or Lee, preferably both.
Cleveland’s bullpen is just average, in my opinion.Bob Wickman is healthy and will serve as the closer. They havea couple other guys who are adequate and they added on ArthurRhodes. When Rhodes is effective, he can be useful.
Offensively, Cleveland will score a few runs.Co Co Crisp is a good young player who contributed 15 home runsand 71 RBI’s. They also have Ron Belliard and Casey Blake. Clevelandwill miss Matt Lawton. They could use another hitter. The Tribehave an excellent farm system and have talented hitters waitingin Triple A.
Overall, Cleveland has a decent team. If theyget another pitcher and hitter, they will improve more.
Detroit – The Tigers are oneof my sleeper teams. They had a very good offense last seasonand improved upon it this season by adding Magglio Ordonez. Ordonezwas injured last season, but when healthy is a dangerous hitter.The Tigers already have Pudge Rogriguez, although his nicknameof Pudge doesn’t really fit anymore. Rodriguez dropped close totwenty pounds in the offseason. He is in great shape. This isthe lightest he has been in a very long time and it will be interestingto see if the weight loss will diminsh his power. Rodriguez hit.334 last season with 19 home runs and 86 RBI’s. Detroit alsohas Carlos Gullien, Rhondell White, Carlos Pena, and Omar Infante.The Tigers have one of the best lead off hitters in the game inAlex Sanchez. Sanchez is super fast and great at bunting his wayonto first base. The Tiger’s bench is strong which helps hugeduring a long season.
Detroit’s starting pitching doesn’t have anyonewith ERA’s under 4.0, but they aren’t bad either. Jason Johnsonhad a bad year last season and needs to step up as the ace ofthe staff. He is capable. Rounding out the rotation is Maroth,Bonderman, Robertson, and Ledezma. Maroth and Bonderman are descent.Bonderman is a good strike out pitcher. Robertson has a 4.90 ERAbut has lowered it in each of the last three seasons. Ledezmahas a good 4.30 ERA. Th
e Tigers bullpen is intriguing. They added TroyPercival who gives them a legit closer now. Percival saved 33games last season and should enjoy pitching in the Tigers spaciousballpark. Urbina will serve as Percival’s set up man. He had 56K’s in 54 innings last season. Detroit added Kyle Farnsworth whoonce was a closer for the Cubs. He can bridge the gap to Urbinaand Percival. Detroit also has Jamie Walker who posted a 3.20ERA last season and struck out 53 hitters in 64 innings.
Overall, this Detroit team looks pretty decent.They need Jason Johnson to be the pitcher they traded for becauseBonderman and Robertson will only get better. Detroit has assembleda nice bullpen and offensively they will keep their team in thegame. Keep an eye on the Tigers, they have some bite this season.
Kansas City – TheRoyals didn’t do much to improve themselves, as usual. They broughtback Jose Lima. If healthy, Lima gives them needed pitching. ZackGreinke had a good rookie season last year posting a 3.97 ERA.He needs to adjust this season because hitters will certainlyhave made adjustments to him. KC gets Runely Hernandez back aftermissing all of last season with an injury. Hernandez showed greatpotential before getting hurt. It remains to be seen if he canrecapture what he once had. The rest of the Royals pitching ispretty flaky. Brian Anderson, Jimmy Gobble, and Mike Wood allhad ERA’s well over five last season.
Kansas City’s bullpen is unimpressive with Affeldtas their closer. His ERA was close to five. He allowed 49 runsand 91 hits in 76 innings pitched. Scott Sullivan is the set upman with a 4.77 ERA. The rest of the bullpen is average at best.
Offensively, KC will miss Carlos Beltran. Nobodyin their present line up had at least 80 RBI’s last season. AngelBeroa was the AL rookie of the year two years ago but played sobad last season, KC sent him down to the minors to get his headright. The Royals need all the help they can get. They need Berorato contribute.
Overall, things don’t look promising in KC. Lookslike a last place finish in the division. When will they spendsome money, it is sad the number of All Stars and big time playersthey have let fade away.
Minnesota– Pitching is what the Twins will rely on this season. The Twinsare led by last seasons AL CY Young winner, Johan Santana. Santantaposted a 2.61 ERA and was domiant. Rounding out the rotation isBrad Radke, Carlos Silva, Lohse and it looks like Joe Mays willbe the fifth starter. Radke is always reliable. His ERA was 3.48last season. Silva and Loshe can be good at times, but had boutsof inconsistency. Joe Mays was injured all of last season. Heshowed promise before getting hurt.
The Twins bullpen has a good closer in Joe Nathan.He saved 44 games last season and posted a 1.62 ERA. Juan Rinconand J.C. Romero set the stage nicely for Nathan. I would liketo see another player or two step up and be consistent in theTwins bullpen, but otherwise it isn’t bad.
Offensively, Minnesota’s infield will look differentand how the changes at SS and 1B affect their defense bears watchingthis season. The Twins still have Torii Hunter, Jacque Jones,and Shannon Stewart to give them offense.
Overall, the Twins lack the offensive power thatthe White Sox and Detroit have. Minnesota will rely on their pitching.If they are to truly go anywhere, they will need someone to stepup consistently other than Santana and Radke.
Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels -The key for Anaheim this season will be staying injury free andtheir pitchers being consistent. On paper, the Angels have a verygood ballclub.
Offensively, the Angels have the AL MVP, VladimirGuerreo who posted 39 home runs and 126 RBI’s while batting .339last season. The Angels still have Garrett Anderson, Chone Figgins,Darren Erstad, Orlando Cabrera and they added Steve Finley. TheAngels also have a very good bench.
The Angels starting pitching looks good. BartoloColon struggled early last season but finished strong. He is havinga great spring thus far. Jared Washburn needs to show more consistency.The Angels added Paul Byrd in what was a very good addition andthey have Escobar and Lackey.
The Angel bullpen is led by Felix Rodriguez whohad 123 strike outs in 83 innings last season. In addition theyhave Donnelly with a 3.00 ERA, Shields with a 3.33 ERA. Shieldsstruck out 109 hitters in105 innings, and they Yan with a 3.83ERA.
Overall, if the Angels can remain healthy andconsistent, the West is theirs for the taking.
Oakland– Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder are gone. Only Barry Zito remainsfrom the original three pitching staff. Zito must have a strongseason. Rick Harden and Dan Haren will round out the top threespots in the rotation. Oakland needs a fourth and fifth starter.
The A’s bullpen has Octavio Dotel as the closer.He saved 36 games last season and struck out 122 in 85 innings.The rest of the bullpen looks pretty good with Kiko Calero’s 2.78ERA, Ricardo Rincon’s 3.68 ERA, Juan Cruz 2.75 ERA, and JustinDuchscherer’s 3.27 ERA.
The A’s offense isn’t great, it’s just aboveaverage. They still have Eric Chavez, Byrnes, Kotsay, and Crosby.Crosby needs to be more consistent. Even though he had 22 homeruns and 64 RBI’s last season, he still only batted .239. Thatisn’t acceptable.
Overall, Oakland should still hang around thetop of the division, probably second or third. It’s going to behard after losing Hudson and Mulder not to have a drop off. Beingwithout a dependable fourth and fifth starter will hurt Oakland.Their offense is descent enough and their bullpen is solid. Theyjust need to reload their starting pitching.
Texas– The Rangers didn’t do anything to improve their starting pitchingwhich is a shame because they have a good offense. Texas ace oftheir pitching staff is Kenny Rogers. He is getting old and overrated,in my opinion. He finished last season with a 4.76 ERA. Ryan Dreseis a good pitcher with a 4.20 ERA. After those two, the Rangerspitching has some young guns, Juan Dominguez and Ricardo Rodriguez.Dominguez ERA was 3.91 and Rodriguez ERA was 2.03. Both are youngand need more maturing though.
Texas bullpen, which was once a weakness lookspretty good. Codero is a good closer who saved 49 games last season.Almanzar, Franciso, Mahay, and Shouse all own ERA’s in the two’sand three’s.
Offensively, Texas has good hitters. Soriano,Teixeria, Young, Blalock and Mench can all flat out hit. Texasadded Richard Hidalgo. He is a good addition and is good for another20+ home runs and 80+ RBI’s. Texas needs to hit better on theroad. They dropped off away from their hitter friendly ball parkat home last season.
Overall, if Kenny Rogers has more gas in histank, Ryan Drese can build upon last seasons success, and Dominguezand Rodriguez can be more consistent and mature, this Rangersteam will be fun to watch. They certainly have the offense.
Seattle – Seattle struggledwith hitting and pitching last season. Their offense should bebetter this year with the additions of Adrian Beltre and RichieSexson. I expect Brett Boone to have a better year after battingjust .251 last season. The Mariners still have Ichiro who battedan incredible .372 last season.
As much as Seattle’s offense should improve,I am not so sure about their pitching. Jamie Moyer had a bad seasonlast year. He is getting older and might be running out of gas.Pinerio and Frankilin were too inconsistent and Gil Meche is beingshipped out to the bullpen this year and used in middle relief.
Seattle’s bullpen used to be one of it’s strongsuits, not anymore. They have a good closer in Eddie Guardado,but after him there is drop off. Shinetoshi Hasegawa posted a5.16 ERA, JJ Putz had a 4.71 ERA, Ron Villone was good with a2.95 ERA but the rest of the players are no name guys. Seattlebrought back Jeff Nelson but who knows how much he has left.
Overall, Seattle won’t be as handicap on offenseas they were last season but I see them finsihing last becauseof their poor pitching. They will win some games because of theirhitters, but not enough.
Teams to keep an eye on in the AL: Boston, Yankees,Toronto, White Sox, Minnesota, Detroit, Anaheim, and my dark horseTexas.
Boston and the Yankees will battle for East asusual. Toronto should finish third in that division and shouldimprove from last season. The White Sox and Minnesota will battlefor the Central, with Detroit being a surprise and finishing third.I don’t think Anaheim will face much competition for the West.Texas very well finish second in that division.
My pick you ask? No surprise, the New York Yankeesspent enough money to field 2 MLB teams this year in differentdivisions and both would compete if you split up the talent pool.It will not be easy, but look for the Yanks to win the AL.
Tony George can be reached at 800-562-1017 andcan be found at www.sportsaudioshows.com or numerous other largegaming portals on the Internet. Tony enters his 13th year in thehandicapping business, and Monique Little is Tonys lead baseballanalyst and enters her 5th season as lead capper.