Mike Trout

Photo via Bleacher Report

It’s back!

Baseball that is. And that means that Sweet Chin Muzak is back as well. I sure wrote a whole helluva lot about the San Francisco Giants postseason and I’m not sure I’m ready for baseball season to begin just yet, but just like time, baseball waits for no one.

For the first time (and hopefully not the last), we’re writing a baseball preview for Popblerd. These aren’t just my words either. Most of the Heat Check crew (Mary, Darrin, Stephen, and myself) are on board as is KJ, who you might remember from our 10 Yard Fight football columns.

We’re going to preview every division with each writer taking one division, except I’ll go twice.

AL East

Mary: Division winner – Tampa Bay Rays
Darrin: Division winner – Baltimore Orioles
KJ: Division winner – Toronto Blue Jays
GG: Division winner – Tampa Bay Rays

Preview by Stephen: Division winner – Tampa Bay Rays

With all apologies to Bruce Bochy, Joe Maddon is the smartest manager in baseball today (platooning, righty defensive shifts, usage of bullpen). His management essentially is worth 5 wins above an average manager. Being competitive in the toughest division on a shoe string budget is the Rays’ forte. Losing James Shields hurts but the Rays have a stock pile of arms (Alex Cobb, Chris Archer) to make up for the loss. Losing BJ Upton hurts as well, but I believe Wil Myers will fit in perfectly when he’s called up.

As we see with super teams, they never rarely pan out. There’s lots of question marks with the Blue Jays, especially with the history of injuries to Josh Johnson and Joey Bats. Can Edwin Encarnacion continue his 2012 career year? PECOTA says no, along with father time and I’ll go with that.

Injuries, injuries, and injuries will be storyline the first half of the season for the Bronx Bombers (that nickname lost all meaning with this 2013 team). A-Rod, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira being out early on hurts the offense drastically, but the pitching can keep the team afloat. If not for the injuries, they’d be able to compete for a wild card. Because of them, they’ll fall short. Oh, also Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart are the platooning catchers until Austin Romine is called up. Not exactly Johnny Bench or Jorge Posada.

The Red Sox will get better as the season goes, but I view their offseason as just plugging up holes until their young talent develops. They’re a .500 ball club, but the pitching is average and outside of David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia, finding offense will be very difficult.

Every sabermetrics fan did not buy into the Orioles sustaining a repeat of their great 2012 season. Their won/loss record in one run games was pure luck or randomness or whatever you want to call it. You cannot sustain that sort of trend, especially going into a new season. They did nothing to upgrade their team. I’d be surprised if they win 75 games. I am excited to see Dylan Bundy pitch though. He’s the second best prospect in the big leagues behind Jurickson Profar.

Al Central

Mary: Division winner – Detroit Tigers
Darrin: Division winner – Detroit Tigers
KJ: Division winner – Detroit Tigers
Stephen: Division winner – Detroit Tigers

Preview by GG: Division winner – Detroit Tigers

I think what was lost in the 2012 World Series loss to the Giants is how well the Tigers pitched in that series save for game one when their newly minted 180-million dollar ace Justin Verlander was Pablo Sandoval-ed. They lost games two through four 2-0, 2-0, and 4-3. It was their offense that failed to come through, not their pitching. They get Victor Martinez back and picked up Torii Hunter. Hunter may not be that big of an upgrade offensively, but he can still go get the baseball. Their starting staff is very solid even if it’s all right-handed. Starter Anibal Sanchez is their fourth guy and he’s probably a number two guy on many big league teams.

As long as Prince Fielder never has to face Jeremy Affeldt again.

Via MLB Gifs

Via MLB Gifs

Okay, that was a cheap shot. I should’ve posted this gif instead.

Via MLB Gifs

Via MLB Gifs

Okay, that was a cheaper shot. I’ll stop.

While I did have fun poking at the Detroit Tigers a bit (who everyone thought was a shoe-in to win the World Series before getting swept), I think they’re head and shoulders above the rest of the division. I don’t think a wild card comes from this division.

The Indians, Royals, and White Sox are all very close in talent. What will separate the teams? To me, the White Sox have the best starting staff, the Indians the best defense, and the Royals, the best possible offense. Whether or not the Royals will hit like they can is definitely a big question and that’s why I have them finishing in third. I think the Indians will hit just enough to finish just above .500 and Ubaldo Jimenez will bounce back to be one of the better number two starters in the American League. The Royals and White Sox will finish very closely behind them. The Royals are such an interesting team because of how many great prospects they have in their every day lineup. If two or three of them break out, they may be able to finish above the Indians. I like the White Sox’ make-up, but my worry is that they’re banking on Chris Sale who was a reliever just two years ago and Jake Peavy whose picture is in the dictionary when you look up the word injury. And even though I drafted him on both of my fantasy baseball teams, Paul Konerko is going to stop being good at some point right?

That leaves the Twins who roll out a lineup that leaves a lot to be desired. I’m still mad at Joe Mauer for hitting clean-up for Team USA in the WBC even though it was Joe Torre filling out the lineup. I think Joe should’ve told Joe that he’s much better suited to hit in the second slot because of his supreme ability to get on base. Is he even a power hitter these days? They’re banking on Justin Morneau to hit in the middle of that lineup and drive in runs, but his career has suffered since his concussion in 2010. But it’s their pitching staff that’s terrible. Vance Worley and Kevin Correia are not only in their starting rotation, they are the guys who are supposed to carry that rotation. Sad times for Minnesota fans. Well, they can just replay the 1987 and 1991 World Series DVDs instead of watch the actual games.

AL West

Mary: Division winner – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Darrin: Division winner – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Stephen: Division winner – Texas Rangers
GG: Division winner – Texas Rangers

Preview by KJ: Division winner – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

I was told to make it one sentence. I’ll make it three short sentences. Mike Trout. Albert Pujols. Josh Hamilton. If any of them have half the season that they usually have, or in Trout’s case, had last year while playing in just 139 games, then the Angels should be the best out West.

Picking the Seattle Mariners second in the West might be a homer pick but why can’t they surprise us like the Oakland A’s surprised us last year? Mike Morse and Kendrys Morales add pop to a lineup that was desperate for some. The rotation is anchored by one of the best in the biz, Felix Hernandez. I’m going with the prediction that with some decent years by their young players, they’ll surprise us.

Adrian Beltre won’t have Josh Hamilton around him. Nelson Cruz may be suspended for a bit based on his possible participation in PEDs from the Miami clinic, and if he’s not suspended he’ll probably be on the DL off and on all season. Lance Berkman and A.J. Pierzynski are old. I just don’t see how the Rangers make a run at the West.

Like last year, the Oakland A’s put together a mish-mash of players that few baseball fans knew (though I do dig Yoenis Cespedes). Sorry, unlike last year’s surprising run, this team will not overachieve. Heck, they won’t even underachieve!

I almost forgot the Houston Astros switched to the American League. I almost forgot they fielded a Major League team.

Tomorrow, we’ll rank the National League.

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