Atlanta has had control of this division for the past couple of seasons with impressive leads. They won the division by 19 games last season, after winning it by 33 games the season before. Durham made a nice improvement last season and showed signs of getting back in this division title picture. New ownership came in and brought a team to Boston. The team had a lot of work to do to get that team back on track and in doing so were still respectable. Chicago took some steps backward after finishing second in the division in season 14 to finish at the bottom last season. If things hold in this division then we won't see any interesting finishes this season, but let's take a look at what each team looks like before settling for any predictions.
Atlanta Red Tide
Season 15 record- 95-67(AL East Champ)
5 year record- 428-382
Offense- Average-14th(.254), OBP-10th(.327), Slg-8th(.442), Runs-9th(786), HR-4th(252), SB-11th(92)
Defense- Fielding-5th(.986), Plus Plays-3rd(76), Minus Plays-4th(27)
Pitching- ERA-2nd(3.72), OAV-3rd(.247), SO-16th(954), Saves-2nd(47/58)
Key Additions-LF Nap Clements(FA)
Key Losses-LF Alvin Reed(FA)
This team in Atlanta, after 7 seasons of below 500 ball, have moved into the upper class of the AL. A second straight division title last season wrapped up the teams 5th title in their history. Unfortunately, the success hasn't followed them into the post season. For the second straight season they lost in the first round of the post season. The weakness of the club last season, the hitting needed to be upgraded and the team brought in Nap Clements to help that cause. That is surely an upgrade from Alvin Reed, whom they lost, even though Reed was a pretty good hitter. The team has some really good young hitters in Stratton and North and the teams top power hitter Tommy Parker returns. The offense should be better than it was last season, but I don't think it is a strength. The defense was in the top half of the league last season and I don't think that will change. They have a pretty good fielding team. The pitching staff was one of the best in the AL last season. The pitching talent by looks is average, and I think the fielding helped the pitchers over achieve. They do have some really good pitchers though, so it's not like the pitching on the team is all average. I still think this team is a playoff team and should win over 90 games again. I don't think they made the moves to make this team the team to beat in the AL though.
Season 15 record- 76-86
5 year record- 364-446
Offense- Average-7th(.268), OBP-7th(.331), Slg-4th(.456), Runs-8th(800), HR-1st(273), SB-16th(11)
Defense- Fielding %-2nd(.987), Plus Plays-3rd(76), Minus Plays-12th(39)
Pitching- ERA-11th(5.04), OAV-12th(.279), SO-10th(1022), Saves-5th(46/63)
Key Losses-SP Tony Ramirez(FA)
Durham took some big steps forward last season, improving their win total by 10 games and finishing second in the division. The team hasn't had a winning record since season 10, even though they won the division in season 13. They have a very young roster that should continue to get better. Last season, the offense was just above average in the AL, and actually finished first in homers. The team only stole 11 bases last season and could use a little bit of a threat on the base paths. They didn't make any major moves in the off season to upgrade the offense, but with a young team, that isn't really necessary. The hitting on this squad appears to be pretty much the same as last season, close to average. They have some power, but so will most teams when they come to Durham to play. The homerun totals were definitely aided by the park. Last season this team finished near the top of the league in fielding. There are some good fielders on this team and Faulk is a young and very good shortstop. I'm not sure this is a top 3 fielding bunch but they are good and should finish in the upper half of the league again. The pitching staff was not very good last season, but as with the offense, it's tough to be good in Durham. They have some good pitchers, especially in the bullpen, on this team. The rotation could use a couple good arms, but the bullpen is the strength on this staff. As bad as the pitching was last season, they finished fifth in saves. The problem I see is that they don't have many groundball pitchers and that will hurt a team that plays in a hitters ballpark. This team isn't bad, but I don't think they have what it takes to move into the top spot of the division. I think they'll struggle to break 80 wins, but it's not out of the question.
Season 15 record- 68-94
5 year record- 353-457
Offense- Average-10th(.263), OBP-9th(.328), Slg-10th(.421), Runs-14th(748), HR-10th(206), SB-13th(75)
Defense- Fielding %-10th(.982), Plus Plays-8th(53), Minus Plays-6th(29)
Pitching- ERA-14th(5.23), OAV-16th(.293), SO-8th(1043), Saves-13th(39/58)
Key Losses-RP Phillip Allen(FA)
After many seasons of ups and downs, and many trades and signings, that had this team looking like they had no direction at all, new ownership came in last season and appears to have put a plan in place for this team. This team has had many owners and has never really had any direction at all. Aside from winning the division with the franchises only winning season back in season 12, this franchise has been a disaster. The new ownership seems to be taking a different approach and didn't go out and trade away all of the future for a couple good players that won't put them on top of the division for long. They stayed quiet in free agency, and made no trades at all. The only player they lost of any value was an aging relief pitcher. The team has a really young roster of players as only 4 players are above the age of 30. Last seasons big IFA signing, Rico Tatis, should make a push for rookie of the year and they have some other good youngsters to mix with him. Last season this offense was just below average and close to the bottom of the league in scoring runs. I think they should be a little better this season and possibly closer to the above average crowd. The thing that hurts them is the depth. After the top hitters on this team there isn't much. The fielding was close to average last season and it probably will be again. The fielding doesn't impress me much and could use an upgrade here or there. The pitching ranked near the bottom of the league last season. The starting pitching isn't very good, but they do have a few good arms in the pen. Overall, this is a below average staff and possibly close to the bottom of the league. This season, the team will continue to rebuild and work it's way toward hopefully a brighter future. They have some of the tools in place and with a few more seasons could get to that point.
Chicago Wind Tunnel
Season 15 record- 59-103
5 year record- 358-452
Offense- Average-12th(.259), OBP-12th(.326), Slg-15th(.396), Runs-10th(769), HR-16th(169), SB-2nd(205)
Defense- Fielding %-15th(.978), Plus Plays-12th(44), Minus Plays-13th(52)
Pitching- ERA-15th(5.32), OAV-14th(.283), SO-14th(984), Saves-11th(40/56)
Last season was a new low for this franchise, winning a franchise low 59 games. After many seasons of being at the top of the division, this franchise has fallen on hard times recently. The good thing for this franchise is that they are young and inexpensive, which gives the team the funds to try and rebuild. The ownership has put many of their funds into the draft scouting and should be able to find some good players and build through the draft. Last season the teams offense ranked in the bottom half of the league. The team did finish second in steals. The offense will probably be about the same this season. Their strength is in speed, and they should be able to finish near the top again in steals. The defense was just bad last season. I don't see any reason to believe that will change. They still lack a true shortstop and the team is just not very good with the gloves. The pitching was also pretty bad last season. I don't think that will change this season either. The pitching staff is loaded with average to below average talent. Hopefully for this team, the money spent in the draft will start paying off soon as the fans in Chicago, while used to losing teams, won't settle for losing much longer.
I believe this is still Atlanta's division to lose. Atlanta appears to be the only real playoff contender in the division and the other teams are just playing for respectability. Durham is improving and could push Atlanta for some of the season. Boston doesn't appear to be a contender, but I don't think they are very far off from being one. Chicago should struggle again this season as they continue to rebuild.