Who's improved the most this offseason? Who's lost the most talent? Here's a quick who's who of AL and NL contenders. I did alright last year with my preseason calls, nailing the A's, Nationals, Yankees, Reds, Tigers, Rangers and Braves as playoff teams and I wildly missed by picking the Phillies to win the East and the Orioles to finish dead last in the American League. Let me know what I got right and what I shanked in this year's edition of my preseason PR.
I'll put my predicted win-loss total next to the team name, and a quick reason why I placed the team where I did.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers (101-61)
Show me where this team is lacking. Barring a slew of injuries, particularly to the pitching staff, this team is going to win a lot of games this year. That's what happens when you have the biggest payroll in American sports history on your side. Kemp, Ramirez, Ethier, Gonzalez, Greinke, Kershaw, the list goes on and on. They'll be pressed by the Giants in their division, but their overall pitching and hitting quality is the best in the league if healthy. Solid investment, Mr. Johnson.
2. Los Angeles Angels (93-69)
Keep in mind this is a power rankings article, not a predictions article. The Angels have assembled possibly the most potent top half of a lineup in baseball history. Having Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton, and Albert Pujols to start the game off for you means you'll have no trouble scoring runs. I think the Angels have the best all-around team on paper in the American League, but they don't play games on paper. The A's and Rangers have much better pitching than them, so this division could get wild! 3.
Washington Nationals (92-70)
The Phillies will be better this year, as will the Braves. But the Nationals have the pitching depth and star power to stay in the drivers seat in the NL East. I anticipate the race for the title in this dvision to be the tightest in baseball. Strasburg is freed from all limitations, Gonzalez is the best 2 Starter in baseball and the fact that Zimmermann is a 3 starter is unfair. If the lineup can scratch enough runs across, the Nats can bring their "Natitude" back to the October Party. 4.
Oakland Athletics (96-66)
UH OH. This is where I think I'll lose a few of you. The A's have the most depth in baseball by a mile. Actually, by many miles. 8 capable starting pitchers, 5 capable starting outfielders, a deep bullpen and the deepest infield in baseball. If there are two constants in this sport, it's the injury bug and the importance of pitching depth. No team is better equipped to deal with both. The A's are ready for the big time this year, and they're going to do it without any star power (outside of Cespedes). Get ready, all you big market teams. Your worst freaking nightmare is about to become reality. 5.
Atlanta Braves (91-71)
The Upton brothers only add to an already potent lineup, which would be aided by a healthy Brian McCann. The pitching staff is outstanding as well, particularly in the back end of the bullpen. Kimbrel, Venters and O'Flaherty ensure that any lead is safe and any 7th, 8th and 9th inning rally by the oppostition will be squashed. This team will make the playoffs if the bullpen stays relatively healthy. 6.
Tampa Bay Rays (94-68)
Joe Maddon is a mad genius. Along with Oakland's Bob Melvin and Billy Beane, the Tampa Bay braintrust represents the last hope for small market baseball. The Rays have assembled a top-tier pitching staff and a top-tier bullpen to go along with a young and talented lineup. Much like Oakland and Washington, if the lineup can produce just enough to support it's pitching, look out. The Yankees, Sox and Jays will have their hands full! 7.
Cincinnati Reds (91-71)
I'm of the belief that if Johnny Cueto wasn't injured in Game 1 of the NLDS, the Reds would have won the National League. The pitching is there, with Cueto and Latos being supported by Chapman and Broxton in the late innings. The hitting is there, with Votto and Philips being assisted by Choo and Bruce. If they can stay healthy they'll return to the playoffs. 8.
St. Louis Cardinals (88-74)
If Chris Carpenter's season and career weren't in jeopardy, I'd rank them higher. They have the best top-to-bottom lineup in the Central, and a very underrated pitching staff. Don't forget the value of veteran leadership, and don't forget that this team was 1 game away from back-to-back pennants. 9.
New York Yankees (89-73)
Talent, prestige, unlimited resources, and a rabid fan base will usually ensure you constant success (see United, Manchester). But age will catch up the Yankees this year, and it's not impossible to envision a postseason without the pinstripes. They lack pitching depth and a quality bullpen outside of Mariano, and they'll be without A-Rod for the entire season in all likelihood. Panic time in the Big Apple? 10.
Detroit Tigers (89-73)
Verlander. Fielder. Cabrera. And they get to play in baseball's worst division, bar none. This will be more of a cakewalk than last season was. Detroit will cruise to the Central title behind star power in the lineup, which gets Victor Martinez back, and a stellar rotation. 11.
Texas Rangers (86-66) They rank number one in the category "least improved teams of the offseason." They lost Hamilton, Napoli, Dempster, Uehara, and gained next to nothing. Lance Berkman is a good hitter, but he is not Josh Hamilton. AJ Pierzynksi is a decent hitter and a declining defensive catcher, he is not Mike Napoli. This team is headed downward fast, and the loss of team leader Michael Young will hurt. The Angels and A's will steamroll the Texans into third place this year. Count on it. 12.
Toronto Blue Jays (88-74)
They rank number one in the category "most improved teams of the offseason." They basically took everything of value off of the Marlins' hands. They went from a weak pitching staff to a top 10 staff by adding Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle. This project will take time to gel, however, and playing in a division with 4 other good teams almost ensures a struggle to top 90 wins. 13.
Philadelphia Phillies (88-74)
They rank number one in the category "PICK A SIDE. YOU CANNOT BE TALENTED AND BAD AT THE SAME TIME." Sorry, I'm still angry about betting big on them last year. But if the core of Utley, Howard, Rollins and Ruiz can create enough run support for Halladay, Lee and Hamels, they'll be just fine. Health is the key here. They're an old team with a lot of talent. The Yankees of the NL. But the NL is much weaker than the AL, and I can see them making the playoffs as a wild card. 14.
San Francisco Giants (85-77)
Matt Cain is very good. Madison Bumgarner is very good. Ryan Vogelsong is very good. Lincecum and Zito are 40 million dollars worth of nothing. The lineup was worst in the league in power and OPS last year, and managed to win it all with pitching. That doesn't happen again this year. Posey and Sandoval have injury issues and there is no adequate depth to account for a possible DL stint for their stars. It's 2011 all over again. 15.
Boston Red Sox (83-79)
They'll be far better than last year, but they lack the pitching to keep up with the Rays and Jays and lack the lineup to keep pace with the Yankees. Replacing Bobby V with Farrell will help the pitching and adding solid players to patrol the corner outfield and bullpen will help them stay competitive throughout the whole year. It's a tough division to rack up wins, though. Maybe next year. 16.
Chicago White Sox (80-82)
They have power hitting and power pitching. They lack the ability to get on base, close out games, and field. It's going to be tough for them to win games not started by Chris Sale and Jake Peavy this year. Offense and veteran leadership can only get you so far. They're similar to the Cardinals, but minus the pitching. 17.
Arizona Diamondbacks (79-83)
They have improved their staff and bullpen this offseason and are looking to build around budding stars Aaron Hill, Paul Goldschmidt, and Miguel Montero. This is a team to watch, they have the depth and the all around ability to surprise. They need to put it all together and get a little lucky to find success in a division with the Giants and Dodgers. 18.
Kansas City Royals (77-85)
I wrote a small piece a while ago on how the Royals represent the quintessential debate in all of sports: is it really possible to "win now" by sacrificing young talent for prime players? I think the Rays have shown that stockpiling young players is more sustainable and better for an organization than risking it all on one season. The Royals need Hosmer, Gordon, Moustakas, Francoeur, and most importantly James Shields and the young Royals staff to shock the world. It's not likely.
19. Baltimore Orioles (75-87)
Buck Showalter was the best manager in baseball not named Bob Melvin last year. He somehow parlayed a team that couldn't pitch and couldn't hit for average into 92 wins. Baseball is cruel to Cinderellas like this, and the O's will see a significant decline this year due to a horrendous starting staff and a vastly improved AL East. 20.
Cleveland Indians (74-88)
The Tribe went out there and got the best available manager in the game. Tito Francona will help them avoid the historic collapse they dealt with last year......wait didn't Tito's 2011 Red Sox do something similar to that? Agh. It must be a nightmare being an Indians fan. They make seemingly huge strides at least once a decade and then either woefully underperform or collapse in epic fashion. They're the Minnesota Vikings of baseball, which is painful to read for fans of both organizations. 21.
Milwaukee Brewers (77-85)
Ryan Braun is the best hitter in the National League. He's been tasked with winning games for an anemic pitching staff for the entirety of his career, and it'll be similarly challenging this year. Yovani Gallardo is literally the only serviceable starting pitcher on this team, the dropoff after him is immense. They have a potent offense with no pitching. Twins, Rockies, Brewers. A lesson in drafting. 22.
Seattle Mariners (77-85)
Felix Hernandez is the best pitcher in the American League. He's been tasked with winning games for an anemic offense for the entirety of his career, and it'll be similarly challenging this year. Did I just say that? It stinks being a star player on a crummy team. They added Morse and Morales in hopes that they'd launch some bombs over Safeco's newly short fences. It'll help, but there's not enough pitching both in the pen and the starting staff behind the King. 23.
San Diego Padres (70-92)
That Mat Latos trade seemed like a heist for the Padres last year didn't it? Whoops, we all missed that one badly. Volquez struggled, Grandal tested positive for steroids and the Reds got a phenomenal talent that solified their rotation for years. This year will be more of the same for a franchise, and a city, that has never won a title. 24.
Chicago Cubs (70-92)
The loveable losers face another year of....uh....loveable losing. On a serious note, is there a worse nickname in sports than "Loveable Losers"? This franchise needs some love. Unfortunately donating 52 million dollars to the Edwin Jackson "I Can't Throw Strikes Foundation" is not going to help. They have some talent in Castro and Soriano, and their staff will be better. But it's bleak on the North Side.
25. Pittsburgh Pirates (68-94)
Along with Miami, they possess the worst front office in baseball. Senseless moves and a lack of discipline in signing free agents will doom the Bucco organization into it's 21st consecutive season of misery. Much like Colorado, they have a superstar (McCutchen) and refuse to put a pitching staff together to support his talents. 26.
Minnesota Twins (65-97)
No pitching. Great hitting. The only reason they're not lower than the Rockies is that they play in a pitcher's park that will help their dismal staff stay relatively respectable and take away countless homers from Joe Mauer and make his contract more and more painful. 27.
New York Mets (66-96)
Sandy Alderson was tasked with saving the team from spiralling salaries, avoiding win-now trades, and building for the long term future. It's tough to be the face of a rebuild in New York City, but the Mets should be able to start out well like they always do. But by July, the last remnants of the 2006-09 Mets that looked to be a budding powerhouse will be gone. Except David Wright, may he be given all the grace in the world. 28.
Colorado Rockies (60-102)
They are squandering the careers of Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. Two of the best players in baseball are trapped on a team with such bad pitching that whoever the Rockies send to the hill on Opening Day will send the stadium into laughter rather than applause. 29.
Miami Marlins (56-106)
This is what a firesale does. Marlins fans are used to it by now. 30.
Houston Astros (44-118)
God help us all. They are an abomination.
Which is the best divsion in baseball?
AL WEST (32 votes)
AL EAST (5 votes)
NL EAST (0 votes)
37 total votes