Yesterday we revealed the staff’s predictions for the American League and the World Series. Today it is the staff’s picks for the AL individual awards.
Robinson Cano was the leading vote getter among the staff. Myself, Brian, Fish and Delia will think hitting in the 3 hole will help him put up even more fabulous numbers. I think his protection going from Nick Swisher to Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira will help him see better pitchers than he saw last year. The other votes were split among Cabrera, Fielder and Bautista. Mike D sees no reason why Cabrera won’t be able to pound out another MVP season, while Matt S. thinks his teammate Fielder will put on a show. Those two teammates may have to deal with their votes canceling each other out. If the Jays do not make the playoffs it may be tough for Bautista to win with so many great players in the AL. The surprise I think is no votes were put in for Albert Pujols.
Matt Moore is the majority choice among the staff for very good reason.Moore threw 7 shutout innings in Game 1 of the ALDS against a potent Rangers lineup. That has everybody excited about him this year. I choose Lawrie to be a little different and because I think he will put up a very nice year. Lawrie hit .293, with 9 HR’s, 25 RBI, and a .953 OPS in 150 AB’s last year. He also had a big spring training. Delia is the only one going with the most experienced rookie Yu Darvish.
AL CY Young:
The first thing that jumps out at me the most is the bold picks by Mike P and Brian for Matt Moore to win the AL CY Young as a rookie. Despite his great talent, winning the CY Young as a rookie would be amazing, especially pitching in the AL East. In 1981 Fernando Valenzuela became the first and only rookie CY Young award winner, so Moore winning would be historic. Sabathia and Verlander tied Moore with 2 votes. Fish has Sabathia over Verlander because he thinks Sabathia’s BABIP will go down from .318 while Verlander’s will go up from .236. He also does not like Verlander’s defense behind him. Matt S. thinks the new rotation will take pressure off Sabathia. Mike D and Delia are sticking with Verlander until he proves otherwise. I was the only one to give Weaver a vote because of his improved team and him getting to face Oakland and Seattle so much.
AL Manager of the Year:
Matt B: Mike Scioscia Mike P: Joe Maddon Delia: Joe Girardi Matt S: Joe Maddon Brian: Mike Scioscia Fish: John Farrell Mike D: Mike Scioscia
Manager of the year usually comes from a surprise team that makes the playoffs. However, with so many strong teams in the AL not many surprises are being selected outside the top 6 teams. This makes predicting manager of the year this year very difficult. Scioscia is the leader among the staff with 3 votes and is Maddon 2nd with 2 votes. Delia was the only one to vote for Girardi. I think being the manger of the Yankees gives him no chance. If he did not get consideration last year when the Red Sox were projected by seemingly everybody to beat the Yankees than he never will.
The MLB season starts tomorrow (not including those ridiculous Japan games) and the Yankees Fans Unite staff has made their predictions on the standings and awards for the 2012 MLB season. The awards will be posted tomorrow. We did the AL only since that’s what we focus on most with the Yankees.
AL East: Well let’s get this out of the way early since I know everybody is wondering. It is almost unanimous among the staff that the Yankees will win the AL East. Myself, Matt S, Mike D, Brian, Fish and Delia all have the Yankees taking the division. Mike P stands alone in taking the Rays. Mike P’s reasoning is that he thinks the Rays have the best rotation in MLB, enough hitting to support them, and they have great prospects to help them once August rolls around. Everybody who picked the Yankees likes the balance of their team among the offense, starting rotation, and bullpen and think they are no worse than their 97 win team from a year ago.
Shortly after Michael Pineda ended his miserable 2.2 innings against the Phillies, Yankees fans were horrified to learn that he had been pitching with a sore right shoulder. After taking an MRI yesterday morning, Pineda has been diagnosed with tendinitis and is now on the 15-Day DL. This unfortunate turn of events eliminates Pineda’s chances of starting the regular season in the Yankees’ MLB rotation. The Yankees will now fill the rotation with Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, and Freddy Garcia behind C.C. Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda. This injury comes on the heels of a substantial amount of scrutiny over Pineda’s low velocity, and many share the opinion that Pineda just hasn’t looked right all spring.
Although the team is yet to play one game of regular season ball, the trade of Montero for Pineda is already being called a disaster by some. The Yankees undoubtedly gave up quite a lot for Michael Pineda and Jose Campos, losing an absolute stud of a hitter in Montero and a nice pitching piece in Hector Noesi. Montero has looked excellent thus far for the Mariners with a .306/.366/.556 line in Spring Training to this point. In 5 IP, Noesi has a 1.80 ERA and has held opponents to a .176 BAA. Meanwhile, Michael Pineda’s has an ERA of 5.68 and a .324 BAA, and both his velocity and control have been sub-par (4.74 BB/9).
As grim as it looks for Pineda heading into the 2012 regular season, is it really already time to abandon all hopes for the trade to be a success? Some fans think the answer to that question is yes.
However, by already describing the trade with words like “disaster” and “apocalyptic” based on the very short time Michael Pineda has been a Yankee, I think many fans are jumping the gun much too soon. When evaluating a trade, it is extremely important to remember that every deal is a two-sided deal. While it is certainly a possibility that Michael Pineda might not live up to expectations placed on him, the same is just as true with Jesus Montero. When Brian Cashman and Mariners’ GM Jack Zduriencik agreed to the blockbuster trade, they both accepted a substantial amount of risk. Pineda might never become the #1 starter that many think he can be, and Montero might never become the Miguel Cabrera-like hitter that he is supposed to become. While this is merely looking at hypotheticals, there is one thing that is known for sure in the case of both players. There is a tremendous amount of time for each player to proove the trade good or bad for his respective team.
Despite the National League winning the last two championships, the American League has always been considered the dominant league. That gap has widened even further this offseason. Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, two of the NL’s biggest slugger’s, have gone over to the AL and will make the competition ever fiercer. Also, the Yankees got what most people would consider a number two starter in Michael Pineda to further bolster the team that led the AL in wins last year. There are likely six teams that will fight for four playoff spots, without considering a surprise team cropping up. With the addition of the second wild card team winning the division will be of utmost importance for the Yankees.
The battle for the Yankees to get into the playoff will probably come down to five teams for three spots as I see the Tigers as a virtual lock to win the AL Central. They won it by 15 games last year and that was without Prince Fielder. In fact if you asked me right now I would say they are the team to beat in the entire AL. I know they will have issues on defense, but when Fielder and Miguel Cabrera hit over .310, with about 35 HR’s, and about 115 RBI each it will not matter as much. They also have a very nice top of the rotation in Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, and Max Scherzer and a very good back end of the bullpen.
The Yankees will in all likelihood be battling the Rays, Red Sox, Rangers, and Angels for the other 3 playoff spots. Right now I would consider the Yankees the favorite in the AL East. They won it last year with 97 wins and improved more than the Red Sox or the Rays did with the addition of Michael Pineda. I would consider the Rays a close 2nd and the Red Sox 3rd. The Sox have issues all over the diamond right now. Their outfield is a mess right now as Carl Crawford might not be ready to start the year and they still have a hole in RF, even though they signed Cody Ross. I do not understand them replacing Marco Scutaro with Mike Aviles at SS. They still have issues at the backend of the rotation as nobody knows how Daniel Bard will transform to the rotation. Their backend of the bullpen is also completely new and will have to prove themselves. Meanwhile, the Rays might have the best rotation in MLB and I like the acquisition of Carlos Pena to provide more power to their offense. But, the Yankees definitely have the edge over the Rays in offense and bullpen and they are not that far off in the rotation, which I think puts them over the top.
If the Yankees were to not win the AL East they will face a stiff competition for the wild card spots and not just from the AL East. Whoever doesn’t win the AL West between the Angels and Rangers will be battling for the wild card spots. The Angels greatly improved themselves with the additions of C.J. Wilson and Albert Pujols. They also have one of the best rotations in the MLB led by Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson, and Ervin Santana. The Rangers have one of the best offenses in MLB led by Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Mike Napoli, Adrian Beltre, and Elvis Andrus. Yu Darvish will try to replace Wilson in the rotation and Neftali Feliz will make an interesting jump to the rotation. Both of these teams are legitimate threats to the Yankees.
As you can see the AL will be an absolute dogfight this year with all of these talented teams. All of this is subject to change of course with injuries and trades. You also know their will be a surprise team that will compete who I did not talk about. The Yankees have their work cut out for them in the AL this year, but if they play to their potential they should not have much of a problem.
Good evening all. This is your open thread so feel to talk about whatever you like. As always I will give some news and notes to get you going.
* All the arbitration cases for the Yankees are now done as LHP Boone Logan avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $1.875 million contract.
* Yankees finally completed the deal with Kuroda today.
* Mariners skipper Eric Wedge said Wednesday that there’s a “good possibility” that 38-year-old outfielder Ichiro Suzuki is moved away from the leadoff spot.
* Tigers manager Jim Leyland confirmed Thursday that Miguel Cabrera will indeed make the move over to third base to accommodate Prince Fielder at first base.
We’re going to take a short break from the AL East and preview the reigning AL Central champs, the Detroit Tigers. I had the pleasure of interviewing Lee Panas of Tiger Tales.
Now as you may have heard, Victor Martinez was recently reported to have torn his ACL and will be out for the 2012 season. This interview took place before that came out, so I was unable to ask Lee about the impact of the injury. However, he does have a good piece out about how much the Tigers will be losing without Martinez in the everyday lineup.
Keeping the injury in mind, let’s get started…
1. The Tigers certainly excelled in 2011, reaching the ALCS (after ousting the Yanks, I might add). Could you reflect on why you think they were able to achieve success? In extension, what do you think the team could have done better at, in order to get beyond the ALCS?
The 2011 Tigers were able to win because they had a core of star players which allowed them to overcome a few weak spots. They had one of the highest-scoring teams in the league primarily because of four players – first baseman Miguel Cabrera, catcher Alex Avila, shortstop Jhonny Peralta and designated hitter Victor Martinez. This allowed them to score consistently, despite offensive voids at second base, third base, center field and right field. On the pitching side, they had the best pitcher in the league in Justin Verlander. He allowed them to survive gaping holes in the fourth and fifth spots of the rotation. The acquisition of Doug Fister, who actually pitched better than Verlander down the stretch, was also huge. They relied upon Jose Valverde and Joaquin Benoit to do the bulk of the relief work while trying to fill the back of the pen with youngsters.
Luck also played a factor in their success. They had the good fortune of playing in a division in transition where no other team won more than 80 games. They also won more games than their run differential suggested they should have won. This was the result of a great record in close games. Valverde was partly responsible for that, but good fortune also probably played a role.
I consider the playoffs to be mostly a crap shoot. The Tigers happened to have some key offensive players – Avila, Martinez and Delmon Young – get hurt at the same time, which put them at a disadvantage versus the high-powered Rangers offense in the ALCS. The Tigers also could have benefited from a deeper bullpen.
2. The story of 2011, or at least the end-of-the-year awards, was Justin Verlander. Fans of other teams have an outside look at how terrific a pitcher he is, but from a Tiger fan’s perspective, what does he mean to the organization?
As indicated above, the Tigers 2011 success was largely due to a group of star players. Verlander was obviously one of those players and he can be counted upon to excel again for the next few years. Because the Tigers have an ace in Verlander, they can afford to carry a young developing pitcher in the number five slot as they may do this year. Verlander’s ability to pitch deep into games all season long also helps to save the bullpen for other pitchers. Finally, one of the best things about Verlander is that fans know that the team is likely to get a great performance and probably a win every fifth game.
Miguel Cabrera plays a similar role among position players. They are pretty much guaranteed an outstanding season from him, so it’s not too much of a concern if they have one or two sub-par hitters elsewhere in the line-up.
3. Although they have shown some interest in several starting pitchers, the Tigers have had a relatively quiet offseason. Why do you think that is? Is it that the team doesn’t really have any gaping holes or weaknesses?
The quiet off-season has been a bit surprising, but I don’t think they are done yet. They have been relatively inactive partly because their biggest offensive needs – second baseman, third baseman and lead-off hitter – are not easy things to find this winter. I expect them to be heavily involved in the Yoenis Cespedes sweepstakes. They have scouted him for a long time and I believe owner Mike Illitch is willing to open up his wallet to sign a potentially exciting young player. That doesn’t mean they will get Cespedes, but I believe they will be one of the finalists. If they fail to get him, I think they may get more aggressive in pursuing a trade for a lead-off hitter or third baseman. They have now pretty much settled on a Ramon Santiago / Ryan Raburn platoon at second.
The Tigers have made a couple of smaller moves which should help. The addition of Gerald Laird gives the Tigers a real backup catcher which allows them to rest Avila more often. Hopefully, with fewer games played, Avila will be stronger at the end of 2012 than he was last year. The move also means that Martinez can be a full-time designated hitter which should help keep him healthier. They have also addressed their bullpen depth with the signing of veteran reliever Octavio Dotel.
4. What is the general confidence level in the Tigers going into the 2012 season?
I still want to see the Tigers make more improvements, but I think they are the favorites to win the AL Central even if they stand pat. The Indians should be better and the Royals have an emerging young offense, but I believe the Tigers still have the most talent in the division. An upgrade at third base, a lead-off man or a proven fifth starter would certainly add to a fan’s confidence in the Tigers. One of the biggest factors in every season, of course, is health. An injury to one of their star players especially Verlander would change everything, but that is something you can’t worry about too much until it happens.
5. How do you feel about the current state of the Tigers’ prospects, and minor-league system? Are there any prospects that you think could have an impact on the 2012 team?
In general, the Tigers do not have a lot of prospects who project to be stars in the majors. However, their top prospect Jacob Turner has the potential to eventually be a top of the rotation starter and could make an impact as early as this season. He’ll probably get an opportunity to make the club as the fifth starter coming out of spring training. If he doesn’t make the opening day roster, then we can expect him to get starts later in the season. Other prospects with a shot at the fifth spot include Duane Below, Andy Oliver, Drew Smyly and Adam Wilk.
None of their hitting prospects figure to play much of a role in the Tigers 2012 season. Their most promising position player in the minors is third baseman Nick Castellanos, but he is probably a couple of years away. Other youngsters include outfielders Danry Vasquez and Avisail Garcia, and catchers Rob Brantly and James McCann, all of which need more development time.
6. Lastly, how do you project the team will do in 2012?
It’s too early for my final projection but, at the moment, I project 92 wins and a division title. As I said earlier, I think the playoffs are a crap-shoot generally won by the team which gets hot at the right time. The Cardinals were a perfect example of that last year. Hopefully, it will be the Tigers turn this year.