Well it’s a no brainer @ this point the Rays are my choice to finish in third and out of the playoffs. The Rays, however could be one of the five best teams in baseball this season, however like the Yankees and Red Sox, they have the bad luck of being in the same division.
The Rays are my pick to finish in part because there is no way thier luck will be as good as 2008. The Rays needed every ounce of fortune to go thier way, just to finish two games against the Boston Red Sox. They also needed the Yankees to have thier worst season in over a decade. There is just no way all the stars align for this band of over-achievers this season.
The Rays still have the same pitching as last year, maybe better with David Price waiting in the wings. With that being said, the Rays sustained no injuries to thier pitching staff last season. Something the Yankees and Red Sox experienced to a large degree last year. The Rays bullpen also looks to be not as good as a year ago. Thier closer is still Troy Percicval, someone who does not strike fear in the hearts and bats of hitters in the American League East.
The Rays offense may have improved slighty with the addition of Pat Burrell and Red Sox alum Gabe Kapler. However thier offense needed to improve alot, and it didnt. The Rays can’t simply rely on pitching and defense if they want to win the American League and the pennat this year. The Rays do have the horses in the farm system to make a deal at some point this season, if they are still in contention, which they should be.
With all this being said, the Rays could very well be the best team in the American League once again. BJ Upton and Evan Longoria are year older and more experienced, and they both have now tasted October glory. It looks to be on paper on of the most exciting pennant races this century. One thing is for sure, starting today, we will have 162 games to find out.
Okay for part two of the official prediction it gets a little tougher. The difference between the Sox, Yankees and Rays this season should be eye lash thin. There are many variables and moving parts, ie trades and injuries. However with all that being said, I think the Fort Knox Bombers will be the American League wild card team in 2009.
Yankee offense- Forget that the Yankees lost sluggers Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu, none of that matters. This offense is as potent as it has ever been, probably the best one they have fielded this decade. Even with A-Fraud on the shelf for a month or so, this team is going to score plenty of runs. The Yanks will toy with Johnny Damon and Derek Jeter flip flopping the lead-off spot. Doesn’t matter, both guys are good hitters and great OBP guys. With that type of action ahead of them, look for Mark Teixiera and A-fraud to have a big season. The Yankees are not just top heavy either, the have speed and power all they way thru the line up. Consider this, Xavier Nady and Robinson Cano will be near the bottom of this line up, with a speedster at the bottom in Brett Gardner.
Yes indeed, everything will be roses for the Yankees this year. If you are a fan of high powered offenses in baseball, then this is the team to watch. On the flip side, the Yanks have a few guys getting older, Jeter, Damon and Pasoda, and A-Fraud will be playing with an injury for the rest of the year. However if anyone of these pieces faulter, look for the Yanks to open up the pocket books and make some type of trade.
Pitching- The Yankees have THE best staff in baseball, period end of the story, no arguement. 1-5 the Yankees are loaded with starting pitchers that would make the Atlanta Braves of the 90’s jealous. The Yanks turned on the printing press yet again this off-season, and then spent over 300 million on 2 starting pitchers, and people say there is a recession. The Yankees pitching staff is so devasting that thier last years opening day ace, is now thier #3 starter (Chien Ming Wang). Andy Pettite, whom most teams would be happy to have as thier 2 or 3 starter, is the Yankees #5 pitcher. To make matters even worse for opposing teams, is the fact that these pitchers will be able to work with a margin of error. The Yankees offense should easily average over 5.5 runs a game or so, more than enough for each and every member of this staff.
Bullpen- Alas there is a ***** in this armour after all. Like all Yankees teams since thier dynasty run, they have a flaw that is bad enough to sink the ship. Sure they will score alot of runs, sure they have a great offense. However they will need it, because the 7th and 8th innings could be a little hairy for them. The Yanks are hoping that lefty Demaso Marte comes around to be the set-up guy, however he looked badly overmatched last season. Mary-Ann Rivera should still be a reliable closer, although he ain’t no spring chicken either. I’m sure he has enough left in his tank though to terrorize hitters in the American League East in 2009 though.
So there it is, the second place team in the A.L. East. I hope I am wrong about this, and the Yanks actually finish third. Maybe A-Fraud’s injuries keep him in check all year. Maybe the other guys don’t play to form, maybe Jeter gets old overnight….whew sorry about..I was just day dreamin….
Stay tuned for part three tommorrow…………………..
Well after an extended spring, we are on the cusp of finally playing games that count, games that will be played with a regular line up and games closed by somebody I know..Jonathan Papelbon…versus some kid whose name I can’t pronounce. Every year I take a hard look at every team in the divsion and try to predict where they are going to finish. This year is gonna be tough, there are a lot of factors that may cause the end result. However based on what we have here on paper and the here in now, it is prediction time.
In first place, winning the East by an eye-lash, I have the Boston Red Sox. Hey this should come as no suprise, this is Red Sox Nation Daily, not Yankee Planet. Of course this prediction is made based on facts, not heart.
The 2009 Red Sox will be an interesting unit, one that will be similiar to a National League team, especially in the late innings. The Sox will not hit as good as they have in previous years, however they will not need to. They will be able to win games all sorts of ways this season, win big, win small, win via the pitchers duel, whatever your poison the Sox will win that way. Some nights the offense is going to be slow and unbearable to watch, however they will be bailed out by thier pitchers.
Offense- It ain’t gonna be pretty this year, thats for sure. There are question marks surrounding Mike Lowell and David Ortiz, and of course Nancy Drew has already had problems staying up right in spring training. With that being said, the Sox will still field a potent line-up night in and night out. Jacoby Ellsbury looks to be a year better and wiser, and Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedoria will both continue to blossom into bigtime players. Jason Bay is in a contract year, so he should have alot to prove as well, and his bat should be pretty explosive again for the Sox. Bottom line is this, with the pitching the Sox will have on the field every day, it will allow this offense just enough room to breathe.
Pitching- Okay so the Sox don’t have the best starting staff in the league, thats true, however what team is as deep as the Red Sox. The Sox are so deep, they sent thier best spring training pitcher down to Pawtucket ( Clay Bucholtz), and they did not even have to rush future Hall of Famer John Smoltz through spring training. The Sox also have Daniel Bard in the minors, this flame thrower hits 100 mph with ease with his fastball, something tells me this kid will be heard from in 2009.
Last years team, one that fell 3 outs short of the World Series started out the season banged up, and had to throw piece mill staffs out for most of the season. This year that is not the case, as Josh Beckett looks to rebound from a dreadful injury plagued year in 2008. Jon Lester most likely will emerge as the co-ace of this squad as well. Lester has added another pitch to his deadly assortment of pitches, and his cutter looks as deadly as it did last year. Dice-K has had a pretty good spring this year, becoming the MVP of the World Baseball classic and throwing some strikes along the way. The Sox have worked with Dice to improve his command of the zone. Hopefully Dice-k can be as good or close to his 18 win campaign last season.
There are a few question marks at the back end of the rotation however. Like how much does Tim Wakefield have left in the tank. It appeared last year he faded badly and did not have much left. Personally I had hoped he would retire, however such was not the case, and we find ourselves with Shakey Wakey as our #4 starter. Wakefield’s starts are much like a “box of chocalates, you never know what you are going to get.” For the moment it appears that Brad Penny is the the 5th starter. I am starting to think that Theo Epstein has a thing for chubby pitchers..aka Curt Schilling/David Wells/Bartolo Colon and now Penny, better keep the clubhouse fridge stocked up. The good thing about the Penny experiment is the Sox have alot of outs and back-up plans as far as that goes.
Bullpen- Usually I do not go all hip-hop on my blog, but the 2009 Red Sox bullpen is just plain ole thug nasty. The Sox have three closers in thier pen, and several set up guys, and oh yea by the way…they will at some point have to make room for John Smoltz…you may have heard of him, he has 200 saves and 200 wins. This unit looks to protect a lead like a chastity belt protects virtue. Being as deep as they are the Sox can keep a guy like Manny Delcarmen in the earlier innings where he belongs, and they also have a ton of flexibility with Okijima and Ramirez as well as Javier Lopez. All in all, this bullpen looks to be one of the best pens that Theo Espstein has ever put together in his time in Boston. In this group lies the key to all of the 2009 Boston Red Sox fortunes.
Coming up next next is my AL East second place prediction, or otherwise know as the American League wild card team.