Big League Blurbs 2011: AL Update #1

AL East

  1. New York Yankees(10-6): The Yanks are currently sitting atop the AL East and are the only team in the division with a winning record. Their only losing series to date was against the Red Sox in Boston and they have yet to lose back to back games. Brett Gardner is struggling hard at the plate with a .128 batting average while Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon are showing promise on the hill. The Bombers will need to get more longevity out of their starters as they have only 1 off day between now and May 25th.
  2. Tampa Bay Rays(9-10): There is not a hotter team in the American League right now than Tampa Bay; 8-2 in their last 10. Out of the gate this season looked like a lost cause for the Rays. They could not hit, lost Evan Longoria to an oblique injury and Manny Ramirez suddenly retired to avoid a suspension for drug use. Sam Fuld has emerged as a pleasant surprise for Tampa and the rotation is holding their own. Longoria is still on the shelf but looks to return next week.
  3. Baltimore Orioles(8-10): After starting the season 6-1 the Orioles lost 8 straight at the hands of the Rangers, Yanks, Indians and Twins. It is a wonder if the Buck Showalter effect has faded in B’more already. It is also a wonder how the team is nearly .500 at this point. I see them at a .500 team this year but they have gotten no consistency on offense or in the rotation outside of promising rookie Zach Britton. Although it appears to moving in the right direction, in comparison to last year, the Birds’ pen is still dreadful. Things may not be getting better any time soon; 4 out of next 5 opponents are Yankees, Red Sox, White Sox & Rays.
  4. Toronto Blue Jays(8-10): There are still question marks all over the place with this Toronto team but one positive this week was that strikeout artist Brandon Morrow was activated from the DL. The trio of Morrow, Ricky Romero and Kyle Drabek(struggling with control but 3.00 ERA regardless in the early going) can win a lot of games for the Jays. Still my pick to finish in the basement of the AL East they have been more impressive than I thought. Don’t look now but Jose Bautista is on pace for 43 home runs; maybe he was not an enigma in 2010.
  5. Boston Red Sox(7-11): Who would have thought with 10% of the season gone that Boston would be sitting 4 games under .500 and be last in the American League East. The BoSox luckily have not buried themselves after a brutally poor start and no one has ran away with this division. The media is saying that Josh Beckett “looks like the Beckett of old.” Don’t forget that he has a 3.92 career ERA and is not a notoriously good regular season pitcher. He made his bones as a stud in the postseason. There should be serious concern about the consistency of Lackey and Dice-K, even some about Buchholz possible regression but to a lesser degree. One fact that we can all agree on is that this team eventually will start hitting. Carl Crawford’s bat will certainly return to form and Youk will start banging the ball around. Youkilis left last night’s game after fouling a ball off his shin but X-Rays were negative.

AL Central

  1. Cleveland Indians(13-6): A new top dog in the AL Central? I don’t know about all that but Cleveland has been very impressive thus far in 2011. What makes their great start even more notable is that Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Santana are stuggling at the plate and ace Fausto Carmona has pitched poorly. Can they stand to get even better or will everyone else just come back to Earth? Asdrubal Cabrera carried them on his back for a few games and Justin Masterson and Josh Tomlin may have finally found their niche. For a team that was expected to finish 4th or 5th here they must be very satisfied.
  2. Kansas City Royals(12-7): Well look at we have here. Another team who was expected to be sitting in the basement all season yet they have the 2nd best record in the league. Jeff Francis and Bruce Chen has given the Royals a lift with their arms and Alex Gordon seems to have finally figured it out at the plate after all these years. Gordon is batting .354/.393/.544 with 12 extra base hits. I hope everyone out there has made their attempt to snatch him up in your fantasy leagues.
  3. Detroit Tigers(9-10): Here is the first of the 3 teams who are actually expected to battle for this division crown. Nearly every player on the Tigers roster has been a letdown outside of a few. Miguel Cabrera has been his typical self and Justin Verlander despite his 1-2 record has been solid. Phil Coke has been a pleasant surprise as a starting pitcher with his 2.75 ERA so far but Austin Jackson is killing Detroit at the plate with a .157 average and 24 strikeouts over 70 at bats. A regression was expected for AJax due to his absurdly high BAbip in 2010 but this poor of a showing has shocked many.
  4. Chicago White Sox(8-11): My World Series pick is not looking so good right now is it? The ChiSox have not been able to close games out at all this year. The bullpen appeared to be a strength on this team and it has become an absolute circus. Matt Thornton and Chris Sale who were supposed to lock down the end of the game can not get anyone out. The big bopper that I believed to put this team over the top, Adam Dunn, has not started off well and is likely having a hard time adjusting to the American League. I expected Dunn to lead the AL in homers but he is batting a mere .178 with 2 jacks. One final note is that Carlos Quentin is showing us that spring training really does mean very little; he looked lost at the plate in ST and has busted out so far with a .310 average, 4 homers and 14 RBIs.
  5. Minnesota Twins(7-12): Although only slightly worse than the two teams just ahead of them in the Central I believe that Minnesota is in the worst shape of all. I was always shocked that they found a way to make the playoffs each and every season because I simply did not see what made them so good. Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are both struggling and have appeared to come down with some sort of virus that is really messing with their bodies. Former All Star closer Joe Nathan has already been knocked out of his closing position; I guess his bounce back from Tommy John is not going to be very smooth after all. I would not be surprised if they find a way to battle until the end since they always do but this start is not promising.

AL West

  1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim(12-7): As of the other day Jered Weaver had as many wins at the New York Mets with 5. I have not seen pitching brilliance like this in a long time. Weaver looks well on his way to the 2011 Cy Young award. The 2nd reason I picked this team to win the West, Dan Haren, has not been to shabby himself. They have combined to go 9-0 with a 1.19 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 68 April innings. Utter brilliance. They made the smart move by putting Jordan Walden in as their closer and he will be much more effective than Rodney ever could be. It only took Vernon Wells 74 at bats but he finally hit his first homer as an Angel; earn that paycheck Vern. The pitching will be the story in LA all year.
  2. Texas Rangers(11-7): The Rangers should keep pace with the Angels all season but how they respond long term without Josh Hamilton for two months is still yet to be seen. No team started better than the Rangers but they have only won 4 out of their last 10 and 2-5 since losing Hamilton to the shoulder injury. Alexi Ogando, chosen to be the 5th starter in the 11th hour, has looked absolutely filthy in his first 3 starts. He still has plenty of room for improvement but this should prove to be a successful year for him. The Rangers also have to be happy with themselves for not shipping off Michael Young this offseason. They will need his experience and consistent bat now more than ever as they try to fill the gap left my the Hamilton injury.
  3. Oakland Athletics(9-10): The story out of Oakland year in and year out seems to be that they pitch great and can’t hit. It is no surprise that they have not even one regular on offense hitting anywhere near .300 but have 5 starters with an ERA of 3.00 or lower. As good as the pitching is, it will be very difficult for this team(a preseason favorite by many to win the West) to win with such an anemic offense. Dallas Braden just hit the DL so they will hope Tyson Ross can fill in for the time being but I feel like they will be okay with the 4-some of Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Brandon McCarthy who have all baffled hitters to this point.
  4. Seattle Mariners(7-13): No surprise here that the Mariners have the worst record in the American League considering they lost 100 games last season. Last night Felix Hernandez had a dominant start against the joke of an Oakland offense discussed above but the few starts previously have not been Felixesque. He is sitting at 2-2 with a 3.38 ERA and 31 Ks in 34 inning and people are wondering what’s wrong with Hernandez. After last year’s dominant showing we expect him to go out and give 8 innings of 2 run ball or better every 5th day; I don’t know if those are fair expectations. It is hard to believe that a team can struggle more at the plate than Oakland but the Mariners are in this early season. Even potential Hall of Famer Ichiro, who has been a lock for a .310+ average and 200 hits every year since 2001 is off to a slow start(.274 avg with 23 hits.) Seattle should be sitting in this same spot in my next blurbs update.
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About jacarfagno

Live, Breathe, and Bleed Baseball
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