We’ve finally reached the end of Ground Rule Double’s season preview. Thanks to everyone who has been reading along, and I hope that you will continue reading once the season really gets underway. Today we finish with the American League division winners.
Boston Red Sox
2007 Record: 96-66
Manager: Terry Francona
Sean Casey, 1B
Eric Gagne, RP
Matt Clement, SP
Doug Mirabelli, C
Last season’s champs shouldn’t miss a beat once they return from Japan and the season truly begins for them. With virtually the same lineup and pitching staff from last season it really isn’t much of a stretch to say that the Red Sox are favorites once again this season.
If anything was to knock the Red Sox from the top it is the problems they are already dealing with on their starting rotation. Curt Schilling was placed on the 60-day DL during spring training, and the team is hoping he will return by the All-Star break. Team ace Josh Beckett did not make the trip to Japan, and has been placed on the 15-day DL. The team is hoping that Beckett will return to the mound by April 4th in Toronto. If neither Schilling or Beckett can fight through their injuries, or if the injuries are worse than previously thought the starting rotation then has some major problems. The young arms of Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester will become very important.
The only change to the everyday lineup for the Red Sox will be the addition of wunderkind Jacoby Ellsbury. With the rest of the lineup still containing the names David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez the Red Sox have one of the best lineups in baseball. If the Red Sox pitching needs some help they will definitely get it from this lineup.
The Red Sox are a great ballclub. If the new arms on the mound can make up for losing Schilling and Beckett this team should stroll into the playoffs in good shape. I’m not saying that the Red Sox are going to roll easily to a division crown, but they’re not going to have much trouble getting there.
2007 Record: 88-74
Manager: Jim Leyland
Miguel Cabrera, 3B
Dontrelle Willis, SP
Edgar Renteria, SS
Jacque Jones, OF
Denny Bautista, RP
Omar Infante, SS
Andrew Miller, SP
Cameron Maybin, OF
Chad Durbin, RP
Jair Jurrgens, SP
Mike Rabelo, C
At one point last season it looked like the Tigers were going to cruise into the postseason. Then a post All-Star break collapse happened and the team finished eight games behind the Indians in the Central. Owner Mike Ilitch and GM Dave Dombrowski wasted little time before they starting wheeling and dealing. The end result is a team with a scary lineup and a huge question mark in the bullpen.
It is safe to say that the pitching was the problem with last season’s Tigers. The starting rotation was hurt and patchwork for much of the season, and the bullpen had problems getting people out. The team made few changes to the pitching and this scares many pundits. The rotation when healthy and productive is very good. Justin Verlander is a top-flight 20-win pitcher, and if Jeremy Bonderman stays healthy and consistent he can be right there with him. The bullpen is in disarray if you look at it on paper. If you ask Leyland he seems to think things are OK, but losing Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney for parts of this season is going to hurt. The team will make a move at some point this season for bullpen help.
Last season’s Tigers lineup finished in the top 10 of every major batting category last season. This season they are adding Renteria, Jones and Cabrera to that lineup. What they have created for themselves is a lineup that you cannot pitch around, and where everyone in that lineup could hurt you. The Tigers are going to score tons of runs, and even have people thinking that this could be an 1,000 run team.
While the Tigers do have some problems with pitching they also have the deadliest lineup in baseball. The hope with many in Detroit is that the pitchers will be relaxed on the mound knowing that the offense can bail him out if needed. The Tigers and Indians should prove to be one of the best division races this season.
Los Angeles Angels
2007 Record: 94-68
Manager: Mike Scioscia
Torii Hunter, OF
Jon Garland, SP
Orlando Cabrera, SS
The Angels have been needed another bat to compliment Vladimir Guerrero, and they finally got one this offseason with the signing of Hunter. Add to that a good trade that brings a proven pitcher into the rotation, and allows the Angels to use their youth and you have the makings for another good campaign for Mike Scioscia.
John Lackey had 19 wins last season, and Kelvim Escobar followed with 18, the addition Garland to the rotation will only help. Garland was great for the White Sox a couple seasons ago, and should regain his form on a winning team in LA. The bullpen is still rock solid and anchored by closer Francisco Rodriguez.
The lineup gets some much needed pop with the addition of Hunter. In the past the Angels were one of the best at producing runs, but with two power hitters in their lineup they may not have to work as hard this season. With speed and power this lineup will give a lot of pitchers headaches this season.
The Angels went out and got what they needed to improve their ballclub. Adding Hunter and Garland to a team that won the division last season makes the Angels the odds on favorite to win it again this season. The Angels show that a good farm system and smart management will put a good product on the field.