This might be my favorite United Cardinal Bloggers project ever, because I wrote this back in December of 2010. Copy/paste and voila:
American League East – Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox finished last season 7 games behind the Rays with a record of 89-73. Fortunately, they just added Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to a team that scored 818 runs last year and only surrendered 744. I don’t think that 900 runs is beyond their reach, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them end 2011 with a run differential of +175 or higher. Considering the fire sale in Tampa and the inability of the Yankees to land Cliff Lee, I think that the Red Sox just leapfrogged over both of them to the spot of division front-runner.
American League Central – Chicago White Sox. This was the toughest call of all the divisions in my opinion, because the Sox added Adam Dunn, and the Twins are relying on Carl Pavano to be the same pitcher he was last year. I don’t see it happening for the Twins, even with the return of Morneau. With a 1B/DH platoon of Konerko and Dunn, I think that the White Sox have enough offense to score runs with just about anybody in the league on any given night. Over the course of a full season, I think that they can push up into the 92-94 win range and take the division from the Twins.
American League West – Texas Rangers. Even though they lost out on the Cliff Lee sweepstakes, there was a bit to be learned from the bidding. The Rangers made a final offer of 6 yrs / $138M with a 7th year vesting option at $23M. If they choose to take that same $23M/yr and invest it in other players, they can still add useful pieces to their already talented team. Keep in mind, this team added Cliff Lee on July 9th, 2010. At that time, the Rangers were 50-36 and had a 4.5 game lead on the Angels and a 9.5 game lead on the A’s. The Rangers finished the season 90-72 with a 9 game cushion on the A’s. While it might be tempting to think that Lee simply offset the loss of Josh Hamilton for almost 30 games, that would most certainly be erroneous. During his 15 starts with Texas, Lee went 4-6 with a 3.98 era. The Rangers still have plenty of talent, and they have the money to add more.
American League Wild Card – Oakland Athletics. Were you aware that the A’s led the AL in runs allowed with 626? Do you know much about the A’s pitching staff? You’ve probably heard about Dallas Braden – the guy who had the run-in with Alex Rodriguez when A-Rod violated some unwritten rule for touching the sacred dirt on the pitcher’s mound. Did you know that’s he’s the 3rd best starter on the team? Actually, that’s being kind. In the games I’ve watched, I think he’s actually the 4th best starter behind Trevor Cahill (18-8, 2.97 era), Gio Gonzalez (15-9, 3.23 era), and Brett Anderson (7-6, 2.80 era). Don’t get me wrong, though. Braden’s not a slouch with his 11-14 record (including a perfect game) and 3.50 era, it’s just that the other starters didn’t receive nearly as much publicity in 2010. Impressive numbers, yes? I’ll go one better. The Big 4 own a stat that the new “Big 4″ in Philly can’t even come close to matching. Not a single one of them had a salary higher than $750K in 2010! Yes, that’s Moneyball at its finest, but that’s not the only reason I’m picking the A’s for the wild card. I’m looking at what they’ve done with the money they’ve saved. They are loading up to make a run in 2011 with the likes of Hideki Matsui, and Billy Beane might not be done shopping yet. The Twins, Yankees, and Rays could push them for the WC spot, but the A’s may finally have enough offense to hold them at bay.
Like it? Think that the Rangers will get even stronger by dealing Michael Young? Follow gr33nazn on Twitter, and we’ll why Beltre tends to dropoff in non-contract years.