Saturday, April 3, 2010
2010 MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL PREVIEWS
The Major League Baseball 2010 season gets going on Sunday, April 4 when the defending World Series champion New York Yankees open the season at Fenway Park in Boston against their arch rivals, the Boston Red Sox.
Many teams have new looks this year, including the Chicago White Sox and Cubs as well as the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels and defending National League champions, the Philadelphia Phillies.
In recent years, the divide of the top teams from the bottom has increased as the smaller market teams struggle to compete with the likes of the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Angels and Phillies.
This year seems to offer more of the same it appears as the Yankees look to defend their crown and the Phillies again are looking like the team to beat in the National League.
The following offers a breakdown of the American and National Leagues, division by division with fearless forecasts for the post-season and World Series as well.
(note: Wild Card teams listed in italics)
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST: 1. New York Yankees; 2. Boston Red Sox; 3. Tampa Bay Rays; 4. Baltimore Orioles; 5. Toronto Blue Jays.
This appears to be a two-team race between perennial powers NY Yankees and Boston with perhaps the Rays offering some resistance for the top two spots. The Orioles and Jays are a long way from the top in this division.
The Yankees added speedster Curtis Granderson (from the Tigers) to their power packed line up while showing Johnny Damon the door. The pitching is solid and had better be because the Red Sox added John Lackey to their formidable staff and along with Chicago White Sox, they can boast one of the top (if not the top) starting rotation in baseball. Especially exceptional is Boston's top three starters including Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Lackey, plus closer deluxe Jonathon Papelbon.
Barring any major surprises (or injuries), this division should once again be a battle between the Yanks and Bosox.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL: 1. Chicago White Sox; 2. Detroit Tigers; 3. Minnesota Twins; 4. Kansas City Royals; 5. Cleveland Indians.
The White Sox have a strong starting rotation with Jake Peavy, Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, John Danks and Freddy Garcia and closer Bobby Jenks in the pen.
The lineup is indeed different with Juan Pierre now in the leadoff spot and gone is Jermaine Dye and Jim Thome. Newcomer Mark Teahan comes over from the Royals and will play third base.
The Tigers and Twins will definitely be competitors in this division.
Damon comes over from the Yankees and has post-season experience to add to the Tigers' roster. This team can win this division if their pitching comes through. Remember that the Tigers boasted one of the top pitching staffs just four short years ago and the majority of those guys are still on the team.
The Twins saw their near lock for the division busted wide open when closer Joe Nathan was lost for the season due to elbow surgery. In his place will be Jon Rauch, a journeyman pitcher who started his career with the White Sox ten years ago.
2009 MVP Joe Mauer returns and anchors a solid lineup for the Twins, who will be seeking their sixth AL Central division title in nine years in 2010.
Kansas City and Cleveland will battle each other to avoid the cellar.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST: 1. Los Angeles Angels; 2. Texas Rangers; 3. Seattle Mariners; 4. Oakland A's.
The Angels appear poised to win again out West with solid pitching and World Series MVP Hideki Matsui coming over from the Bronx to join them.
Manager Mike Scioscia is one of the best in the game and should be able to guide the 'Halos to another division crown. Now if only they can get over the hump and return to their first World Series since 2002.
Texas and Seattle are teams on the rise and could threaten the Angels if things break their way consistently. The Oakland A's are rebuilding.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST: 1. Philadelphia Phillies; 2. Atlanta Braves; 3. Florida Marlins; 4, New York Mets; 5. Washington Nationals.
The Phillies want to win another World Series and appear poised to get there for the third straight year, where they won it all in 2008.
Adding starting pitcher Roy Halladay to the mix doesn't hurt and along with Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, A.J. Happ and Jamie Moyer, gives Philadelphia a strong rotation.
The Phillies lineup is solid from top to bottom and Brad Lidge will look to bounce back to his stellar performance in '08 as the closer.
The Braves and Marlins are up and coming contenders and showed they can hang with the Phillies in the NL East.
The Mets are classic under achievers, evidenced by their 92 losses a year ago and some of that can be blamed on injuries. But at some point, they have to look in the mirror and start performing on the field too.
The Nationals are a disaster.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL: 1. St. Louis Cardinals; 2. Chicago Cubs; 3. Cincinnati Reds; 4. Milwaukee Brewers; 5. Houston Astros; 6. Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Cardinals and Cubs should battle each other for the division crown once again. The Cards drew away last year after seeing the Cubs take a brief lead in late July, only to fade big time down the stretch.
St. Louis is loaded and has reigning NL MVP Albert Pujols back once again, to team with Ryan Ludwick and strike fear into opponents on a regular basis. The pitching is led by Cris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. Ryan Franklin is a top notch closer as well.
The Cubs have some work to do to catch the Red Birds. Derrek Lee returns after a big-time season a year ago and along with oft-injured Aramis Ramirez, should provide plenty of pop to the lineup.
The pitching has question marks as the team will feature many unproven youngsters in 2010. A big season from Carlos Marmol in the bullpen will definitely help the likes of starters Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Ryan Dempster and Randy Wells.
The Reds and Brewers both can be thorns in the sides of the top two teams in this division. Milwaukee's lineup is a good one and the Reds have promising young pitching to go with as manager Dusty Baker looks to the future with this team.
The Astros and Pirates... forget about it.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST: 1. Los Angeles Dodgers; 2. Colorado Rockies; 3. San Francisco Giants; 4. Arizona Diamondbacks; 5. San Diego Padres.
Dodgers manager Joe Torre has solid collection of arms on the mound with Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, Hiroki Kuroda and James McDonald. In the bullpen is a solid right-left combo of closer Jonathan Broxton and George Sherrill.
Manny Ramirez anchors a strong offense that also has speed.
The Rockies, last season's wild card team, can once again contend with Los Angeles provided they get steady performance from their pitchers. The lineup is good and they have closer Huston Street as well.
The Giants will only get better and are led by two-time Cy Young Award winning pitcher Tim Lincecum. Their lineup is a question mark and time will tell if these guys are ready to really get after the likes of the Dodgers and Rockies.
The Diamondbacks are rebuilding and have two quality starters in Dan Haren and Brandon Webb to go with young talent in their batting order.
The San Diego Padres no longer have ace pitcher Jake Peavy and will look to their promising young talent both in the lineup and on the pitching mound.
AL Playoffs: Yankees over White Sox; Red Sox over Angels.
NL Playoffs: Phillies over Cubs; Cardinals over Dodgers.
AL Championship Series: Yankees over Red Sox.
NL Championship Series: Phillies over Cardinals.
WORLD SERIES: Phillies over Yankees.