Saturday, February 11, 2017

Season 37 AL East Preview

Season 36:  97-65, won Division (6 straight), lost to Minnesota in ALCS 
GM: Spistol

Just a few tweaks to the 6-time defending East champs.  A trade brought in RP Tom Williams (4.32 ERA in 3 seasons in Arizona), and utilityman Laynce Taubensee (.741 OPS in 4 seasons in Milwaukee, playing mostly 2B and CF) signed as a FA.  They also re-signed 1B Matt Lawrence (.241/32/86) and RP Jimmy Griffin (3.46 ERA in just 26 IP). 


The Sox scored 840+ runs for the 5th straight year in Season 36, thanks to the fruits of their Season 30 and 31 drafts. Season 30 saw them grab Ronnie Burns (.253/38/114) 5th, and Season 31 produced Peter Magnusson (.271/51/145) at the 11th spot.  Magnusson only missed his 3rd straight AL MPV thanks to the heroics of Michael Aoki (he did notably pick up his first 2B Gold Glove), and Burns, in addition to his power, contributed 21 good plays in the outfield.

1B Lawrence (32 HR), SS/OF Danry Santiago (28 HR), DH Curtis Smith (25 HR) and Gold Glove LF Eddie Hines (23 HR) assist in the power-based attack (league-leading 259 HR).  They balance the power with pretty good on-base skills (.334 - 4th) and better than average base-stealing (147 steals and only 50 caught).

Boston wins even with average pitching (4.20 ERA - 8th). The Grey/Mateo/Black/Knorr/Johnson rotation is starting to age, but should be OK for another year.  Closer Dan Lambert is the only real star on the staff - he just keeps knocking out 30-save seasons.  Between the starters and Lambert, they try to keep the cost down and score a couple of good seasons a year from their anonymous mid-relievers.

They do help out their pitchers with excellent defense - .988 fielding % and an impressive 94 good plays.  They probably get more + plays in the outfield than any AL team, with Burns, Santiago and Hines totaling 44 OF + plays last year.

Season 36: 90-72, Wild Card, advanced to Division Series and lost to Boston
GM: jgnjr

Acquired CF Luis Montanez via trade and signed free agents Jamie Suzuki (C), Lorenzo Saenz (OF), Carlos Perez (C), and Brian Chang (CF).

We noted the youth movement in Cleveland in last year's preview; younger teams frequently improve, but you can't overlook the Tribe's 42 one-run wins last year.  If they have the same number of 1-run games this year(58, an unusually big number in itself) and win 48.5% of them (last year's expected winning %), that's 28 wins...a full 14 less than last year.

Math aside, there's plenty to like.  DH Rudy House OPS'd .911, his best in a full season.  1B Lou Owen (.308/27/82) had his best ML season.   OF Philip Rose (.291/34/96) continued his hot hitting of the previous 2 seasons.  Their bullpen produced 5 sub-3.10 seasons.  And I like Dan Lewis as a "late bloomer"...he's posted a 5.28 ERA in 2 ML seasons, but he looks capable of better.

Last year's 90 wins was a mirage fueled by the 1-run anomaly.  It's still an improving team, but their starting from an expectation of somewhere around .500.  I think they'll be better than that and contend for a wild card again.

Baltimore Orioles
Season 36:  71-91
GM:  NormanW5

No free agents this year for the Birds, just a trade - P Ricky Kalish - and a bunch of promotions - RP Ernie Volstad, OF Patrick Collins, SP Salvador Ciriaco,  and SP Preston Feldman (maybe he can afford that dental work now).

Last year we pointed out Baltimore's rising stars (Flip Harris, Keith Townsend, Chip Caminiti) but lamented their many limitations.  It was probably 50-50 that they would improve on a couple of 77-win seasons, but they slid back to 71.

This may have been the year for the Orioles to start filling some holes in free agency.  In addition to the 4 stars mentioned above, this year they brought up Season 34's # 13 pick, Patrick Collins.  He's another credible power threat, although he won't help a critical need - more baserunners (.316 OBP last year).  Magglio Rodriguez and his 97 batting eye would've fit in well here - instead they're going with near-minor leaguers at 1B, DH and RF.

Beyond Harris and SP Derek Helton, the staff is a grab-bag of low-end scufflers.  Appropriate (and extremely economical) for a rebuild, which is what the Birds have decided they are, for at least one more year.

Season 36:  70-92
GM:  fsubwj

Traded for P's Hyun-Jin Dong and Ken Adams.  Promoted 2B Bryant Mulder (250 AB last year), and CF Grant Spencer.

Another team on the verge of contention that has apparently decided to build again this year.  The Yankees have done a great job of getting a lot of young talent up to the Majors - now they've just got to plug a few holes to be a long-time playoff contender.

Surprisingly, New York was last in runs scored in the AL last year with just 647.  New 2B Mulder will help there, although I suspect he'll add more in the power department than in the critical (team OBP last year was .308, and Didi Gongorra was their top on-baser with .338).  

Vin Gumbs has established himself as one of the AL's top starters.  Cy Young contention is just a matter of when he gets the run support (even without it he won 15 last year). Brace Wooster is a capable innings-eater who cold conceivably be a #3 starter on a contending team.  And Mendy Dietz has performed well in a variety of relief roles - mostly closer. Rosell Miro's talent has yet to kick in.  Beyond those 4, they could use upgrades to more reliable hurlers.

There's a lot here to base a winner on - still a few bats and a couple of good arms away though.

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