Monday, March 24, 2008

2008 Season MLB Preview: AL

Now is time for my super quick-hitting baseball preview. In the spirit of blogging I will try and keep all the pieces brief.

First though I want to briefly comment on Mike's earlier "Same/Better/Worse" post. I love the idea (thanks D&C) but I'd say that we could expect WORSE from Mike Lowell and BETTER from Julio Lugo.

Here's why.

All last year I was waiting for the proverbial "other shoe to drop" with Lowell. Of course it never did. Maybe I should be more sold on Mike Lowell than I am, but something tells me that for at least one of the last two years of his contract he will be relegated to mascot status on the bench as the token "good guy" from a championship team that they like to keep around.

As for Lugo, well he can't suck any worse than he did last year. Can he???? I'm with Mike though, the Jed Lowrie Era cannot start soon enough.

Oh, and PS, watch out Mike. All the bandwagon hoppers are going to be out for blood on you for daring to say that Kevin Youkilis is not the greatest first baseman in all of baseball. I stand by my Poor Man's Paul O'Neill comment until proven otherwise. If Youk can somehow this year manage to play productively from April - Playoffs without a 2 month suckfest all while dropping the preening and whining act, I will happily start rethinking my stance on him.

And now for my actual preview. We'll do the AL today and the NL tomorrow.

AL MVP (bandwagon pick) - Miguel Cabrera, Detroit

Really the only reason not to think that this pick will come through is the prospect of Miguel Cabrera pulling a reverse Subway Jared and piling back on all that weight he has lost this offseason now that he has a $153M contract in tow. Honestly though, the Tigers will be THE team that will be watched all year and if Miggy goes .330/35/135 like he could then it will be tough to not give him the award.

AL MVP (Neil's Boring Pick) - ARod, NYY
Say what you will about ARod - and I detest him - but he is certainly at the point where he should be the favorite for the MVP at the outset of every season until proven otherwise.

AL MVP (Neil's Sleeper Pick) - Adrian Beltre, Seattle
If the Angels pitching staff remains as injury prone all year as they have been to date, then there is a great chance that Seattle can steal the AL West. If they do that, they'll need Felix Hernandez and Erik Bedard to win about 35 games between them and they'll need Beltre to hit like a beast. Let's say that Beltre pulls a Matt Holliday and carries the Mariners down the stretch and leads them to the AL West title. And maybe he even has a few signature moments. Wouldn't that be enough to steal it from somebody with slightly better stats who may be playing in a less exciting race? That is not a rhetorical question, the answer is yes.

AL MVP (Neil's Super Sleeper Pick) - JJ Putz, Seattle
This follows similar logic to the above, except here imagine that Seattle wins the division and there are about five worthy but not overwhelming offensive candidates. And then there is Putz who saves 50 games, wins 7 more, strikes out 100 batters in 75 innings, and posts an ERA in the low 1 range. I think that may do it.

AL Cy Young (Bandwagon Pick) - Justin Verlander, Detroit
This seems about right to me. He should be able to win 20 games assuming Todd Jones does not blow too many wins for him. Plus he should also strike out around 200 and have an ERA in the low threes. Smells like a Cy Young.

AL Cy Young (Neil's Pick) - Erik Bedard, Seattle
If he never got hurt last year, Bedard was cruising to the Cy Young. This year, if he can start 30 games and pitch like he has the past few years he should win 15-20, strikeout 250+, and have an ERA in the low 2s. Pretty nice season.

AL Cy Young (Sleeper Pick) - Scott Kazmir, Tampa Bay
Let's see, after an awful first half last year he lead the AL in strikeouts. Also, he is on a much improved team this year. If he can pitch to his ability from Day One and keep his walks under control he will certainly put himself in the conversation.

AL Cy Young (Super Sleeper Pick) - Francisco Liriano, Minnesota
It would be a nice story right? I don't see this happening, but you never know. I will not expound on the heartache he caused my fantasy team back in 2006 though as it is still too painful to talk about.

AL Surprise Team (Good) - Minnesota Twins, 88 victories
Sure they lost Torii Hunter and Johan Santana. But you know what, they still have 4 starters (Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Boof Bonser) who can all be above average - think 2005 White Sox - and while they have crap at some positions, they will get strong production from 5 of them 1B (Justin Morneau), the corner OF spots (Delmon Young and Michael Cuddyer), C (Joe Mauer), and DH (Jason Kubel who I can almost promise you a 30 HR season from). Not that bad right? If those guys hit plus one or two more, their pitching is decent, and Joe Nathan does his thing in the 9th, this is a team that could very well surprise.

AL Surprise Team (Bad) - Detroit Tigers, 85 victories and no playoffs
I already discussed this a few weeks ago but I think their lineup is overrated (lots of creaky veterans and guys coming off of career years), their starting pitching after Verlander sucks, and their bullpen is a nightmare waiting to happen so therefore I just can't hop on the bandwagon. I could be wrong, but I smell disappointment from these guys.

AL Playoff Teams (I'm not predicting playoffs because I'm such a homer I'd obviously go with the Sox)
Cleveland (AL Central champs, best record)
Boston (AL East champs, second best record)
NYY (Wild Card)
Seattle (AL West champ)

OK, that be it. Tomorrow I'll get you the NL.

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