Climbing the Ladder with the American League 6/29/08
As the halfway point of the season comes and goes, we take a look back at the predictions made at the beginning of the season.
American League East
2008 Mid-Season Standings and Revised Predictions
Boston Red Sox
1st Place AL East, 50-33
Prediction: 1st place AL East
At the halfway point in the 2008 season, the Boston Red Sox lead the Majors Leagues in wins and rank second in winning percentage at .602 behind the Chicago Cubs. Boston has been able to maintain their first place spot in the American League East despite battling injuries through out the first half of the season. It’s hard to imagine that the following list of players have spent time on the DL during the first half of the season: Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, David Ortiz, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Clay Buchholz, Alex Cora, Brandon Moss, Mike Timlin, Mike Lowell, Bartolo Colon, and Sean Casey. The depth of the Red Sox system has done a good job filling in when needed and has really allowed Boston to play well enough to win when hurt and dominate when healthy. I don’t see anyone in the American League East taking first place from the Red Sox and Boston has really shown the difference between themselves and all other teams in the East.
Tampa Bay Rays
2nd Place AL East, 48-32
Prediction: 3rd place, AL East
The story of the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays has been a remarkable one. Tampa has finally been able to do something with the 10 years worth of first round picks and it is largely due to improvements in three key areas: pitching, defense, and bullpen. I originally predicted the Rays to finish 4th in the East but have since moved them up one spot to finish 3rd. I think their tremendous first half play has really made them the third legitimate contender in the East but I have a feeling that the Yankees’ play over the last few weeks is just a preview of what’s to come.
New York Yankees
3rd Place AL East, 44-37
Prediction: 2nd Place AL East
The New York Yankees have really turned it on over the last few weeks and have moved themselves from 5th to 3rd in the standings. Injuries have really taken a toll on the Yankees this season but they have not been able to play through the pain. I would expect the Yankees to throw any arm they have in the minors into the starting rotation in hopes that one can stick. If that doesn’t work, it will be interesting to see if Brian Cashman and company make a move. Neither the Yankees nor the Red Sox were willing to wager the future to acquire Johan Santana during the off season, so I can not expect anything has changed in 6 months. I predict that the Yankees will have a strong second half to beat out the Rays for second place in the East and win the wild card.
4th Place AL East, 41-38
Prediction: 5th Place AL East
The Major League ready talent the Orioles received in the Bedard and Tejada deals has made an impact with the team so far this season. Baltimore has played above its head in 2008 and it can’t be expected that the O’s will play .500 ball to finish the season. With such a strong presence at the top of the standings, I would expect the Orioles to be sellers during the next month, and make strides to further improve their farm system in hopes of restoring the team to what it once was.
Toronto Blue Jays
5th Place AL East, 39-42
Prediction: 4th Place AL East
Toronto remains the only team in the American League East under the .500 mark. Despite the ups and downs of a baseball season, Toronto’s pitching has remained its strength. With the contracts of some key members of its staff expiring soon, Toronto will most likely move some arms in hopes of making the team better in 2009. The Blue Jay offense is finally starting to come around so expect Baltimore and Toronto to battle for worst in the East.
American League Central
Chicago White Sox
1st Place AL Central, 45-35
Prediction: 1st Place AL Central
What separates the Chicago White Sox from the rest of the top teams in the Central is their pitching. If you look at the standings, the White Sox, Twins and Tigers have all scored a similar amount of runs. The major difference in the top three is their runs allowed. Chicago has allowed just 310 runs compared to the 385 by the Twins and the 386 by the Tigers. Pitching and defense win championships and Chicago has tremendous pitching. This team has what it takes to ride out the rest of the season in first.
2nd Place AL Central, 44-37
Prediction: 3rd Place AL Central
It would be expected that any team who loses Johan Santana, Tori Hunter, and Matt Garza would regress a little the following season. Despite their losses, the Twins have actually played pretty good baseball this season. I do not think Minnesota has the players to remain competitive for the rest of the season but their first half has been impressive. The Twins are a perfect example of a team being better as a whole than the sum of its parts. Better luck next year.
3rd Place AL Central, 40-40
Prediction: 2nd Place AL Central
After one of the most disappointing beginnings to a season that a club could have, the Detroit Tigers have turned things around and are now a .500 team. Detroit’s offense has made up for lost time and really turned it on, helping the Tigers go 8-2 over their last 10 games. Detroit’s pitching has also made tremendous strides since early April and the number of quality starts have begun to pile up. The Tigers are poised to have an excellent second half and will need to remain healthy if they want to take a shot at the division- leading White Sox.
4th Place AL Central, 37-44
Prediction: 4th Place AL Central
What a disappointing first half of the season for the Cleveland Indians, who were within one game of going to the World Series last season. Injuries, slow starts and poor play on the field are to blame for the 37-44 record so far and with the Indians rumored to be big time sellers in July, the season may be all but over for the Tribe. Cleveland will not be able to afford to re-sign ace C.C. Sabathia at the end of the season and may also not want to spend the millions of dollars it takes to sign the first round draft picks they would receive from him walking. Cleveland’s best plan of attack would be to trade Sabathia to the highest bidder and look to 2009.
Kansas City Royals
5th Place AL Central, 37-44
Prediction: 5th Place AL Central
The Kansas City Royal’s season was over just as fast as it began. After being the feel good story for the first few weeks of 2008, the Royals turned back into…well…the Royals. Although Kansas City has made some improvements from last year, there is still a long way to go until they will be able to compete in the Central.
American League West
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
1st Place AL West, 48-33
Prediction: 1st Place AL West
The LA Angels have proven to be as good a team as they were last season, but now with the ability to score runs and hit for power. At the mid-way point of the season, the Angels are clearly the second best team in the American League and will most likely face the Chicago White Sox in the American League Divisional Series. With stellar pitching, a great bullpen and an offense that can put up runs, the Angels are the clear favorite in the West.
2nd Place AL West, 44-36
Prediction: 2nd Place AL West
No one could have predicted that the Athletics would have the first half that they’ve had. The A’s have once again pieced together a winning team with the gems that GM Billy Beane has acquired through trade. Some question whether the cycle of moving stars for talent may end up costing the A’s a championship. Critics argue that by keeping the team on the verge of being great but moving the stars before they have a chance to be is hurting the team more than it is helping. Are the A’s good enough to win the wild card? I think so. The only thing that will hurt the A’s chances is if Beane trades away their young stars in an attempt to rebuild.
3rd Place AL West, 41-41
Prediction: 3rd Place AL West
The Texas Rangers have struggled to win games all season. Their offense has kept them in games, but their pitching has kept them out of games. Texas’s run differential (-15) shows that the Rangers should be slightly under .500 and as time goes on, I believe they will finish the season with a losing record. The Rangers really need to bolster their pitching staff if they want to compete in the West or even for the Wild Card. The Rangers have been a franchise known for favoring offense in recent years and it has never been more apparent than now that teams need pitching to win.
4th Place AL West, 30-50
Prediction: 4th Place AL West
Seattle has taken the disappointing start of the season by the Tigers and trumped their efforts. I predicted the Mariners to be fighting for the division at the beginning of the season and boy was I wrong. Seattle has been bad at everything they’ve done this season and have very little to offer in terms of moving talent for prospects. The roster is filled with awful players with huge contracts and is in dire need of revamping. Although Seattle isn’t as bad as their record shows, I do not see them making any headway in the standings from now till the end of the season.