Thursday, June 16, 2011

Season 16 preview-AL North

Here we go again. Another season has begun, off season is pretty much over and each and every team is tied for best record in the league again. After a season in which I really slacked on the blog, my plan this season is to get back to what is acceptable with this thing. I know, everyone can't wait to see what I have to say about their teams so they can call me an idiot and try to prove that I don't know what I'm talking about. I would like to point out that I did a pretty good job in the AL last season though. I predicted 3 of 4 division winners and gave a pretty good prediction of each divisions finishes. I was 12 for 16 on division finishes in the AL. Take that to the bank and cash it. Seriously though, I hope everyone enjoys reading these as much as I enjoy writing them. Um, actually I hope you enjoy reading these much more than that because writing these can be a pain in the ass. One last thing I have to add. I would like to thank all the owners that have been a part of this league, especially those that have been here for quite a while, for making this league so much fun for me. I would also like to thank the few new owners for joining and hope that you guys can find as much fun as I have in this league and stick around a while. I hope everyone has an enjoyable season and gets their teams going in the right directions.

AL North
By now everyone that is not a part of this division is tired of seeing me put in print how great of a division this is and seeing the stats and info to back it up. Well guys, I'm sorry but I'm going to do it again. I think most divisions wish they could put together what this division has. In each of the past 5 seasons, the AL North has put 3 teams in the post season. They have 34 post season appearances in all. As a matter of fact, you have to go all the way back to season 6, to see an ALCS without a team from this division in it. They have 2 World Champs, and 4 World Series appearances. The division has produced thirteen 100 win seasons and each team has accomplished that feat at least twice. Last season was much of the same in the AL North. Syracuse won the division for the fifth straight season, with Milwaukee and Ottawa securing the Wild Card spots. Milwaukee, found themselves in the ALCS for the second time in four seasons after finishing third in this grueling division.

Syracuse Snow Pirates
Season 15 record- 109-53(AL North Champs)
5 year record- 550-260

Offense- Average-5th(.271), OBP-4th(.338), Slg-3rd(.461), Runs-4th(856), HR-3rd(262), SB-15th(24)
Defense- Fielding %-1st(.991), Plus Plays-1st(83), Minus Plays-2nd(25)
Pitching- ERA-1st(3.46), OAV-1st(.239), SO-6th(1065), Saves-1st(58/72)

Key Additions-None
Key Losses-RF Rob Lee(FA), 3B Rob McNamara(FA)

After back to back World Series appearances, a threepeat as AL champs wasn't meant to be. The defending World Champs really had nowhere to go but down, but I doubt management expected a 3 games to 1 loss to division rival Milwaukee in the DCS. Arguably one of the best teams in the AL during the regular season just couldn't carry that success into the playoffs. It seems they are content with what they have and didn't make any big moves to bring in some help. They did however lose a couple key players that have been big parts for this team the past few seasons in Lee and McNamara. Those are blows to the offense for sure. The team has been at the top of the rankings offensively for quite some time and while they slipped a bit last season they were still a tough team to pitch to. The team does still have some good hitting and shouldn't drop too much in the rankings if at all. The team was atop the league defensively again last season and heading into season 16, not much has changed. They are still an elite defensive team. One of the best pitching teams for years, this group should continue to be among the best group of arms in Pine Tar. I think this is still an elite team without the losses or adding anything to it, just maybe not as elite as they were. I have no doubt that this team will finish near the top of the league once again this season.

Ottawa Otters
Season 15 record- 97-65
5 year record- 491-319

Offense- Average-3rd(.283), OBP-3rd(.345), Slg-5th(.455), Runs-3rd(908), HR-7th(226), SB-6th(134)
Defense- Fielding %-2nd(.987), Plus Plays-12th(44), Minus Plays-7th(30)
Pitching- ERA-3rd(3.93), OAV-2nd(.244), SO-5th(1084), Saves-16th(30/47)

Key Additions-3B Freddy Cuddyer(FA)
Key Losses-SP Greg DeJean(FA), LF Nap Clements(FA), 2B Jeremy Stanley(FA)

Ottawa has been another really tough team for quite a while now. They've been close to the top of the league but just not good enough to take over the top spot in the division from Syracuse. The team put together a very impressive regular season in season 15, but got to the playoffs and ended their season with a 3 games to 2 loss to Los Angeles in the Wild Card round. So what did they do in the off season? They went and took one of LA's top players as the teams only major addition. They declined the options on a few of their own top players and seen them go to other teams in free agency. Is this a sign of decline or just a few moves that needed to be made? Well offensively Ottawa was one of the better teams in the AL last season and looking at the roster it seems they will be again. They still have good contact hitters and a couple guys that will hit some homers. They should get some steals out of Presley to add a threat of speed, but besides that the team will probably not be stealing a lot of bases. The fielding on this team is impressive and should finish near the top of the league again. The pitching should be good again this season as well. The rotation is good and they have some good arms in the bullpen as well. They should finish toward the top of the AL in pitching. This team is going to be good again this season, but a slip in win total wouldn't surprise me. I doubt this is a 100 win team, but I also doubt they are below a 90 win team. Ottawa should challenge for a wild card spot as I don't think they have the talent to take the top spot in the division this season.

Milwaukee Cream Citys
Season 15 record- 88-74(ALCS runner up)
5 year record- 480-330

Offense- Average-2nd(.286), OBP-2nd(.350), Slg-2nd(.462), Runs-2nd(916), HR-9th(218), SB-8th(99)
Defense- Fielding %-14th(.979), Plus Plays-6th(62), Minus Plays-11th(37)
Pitching- ERA-6th(4.43), OAV-6th(.264), SO-9th(1027), Saves-11th(40/54)

Key Additions-SP Russell Wheeler(FA)
Key Losses-SP John Ashley(FA)

Here is the example of a team that under achieved in the regular season and turned it on in the playoffs. Already a dangerous squad with a top offense, the team lacked defense and elite pitching. They finished near the top of the league in pitching but well off the pace of the top teams in the AL. The team was much more successful in season 14 during the regular season but found no success in the post season that season. Last season was the exact opposite. The question will be this season if they can get to the top. The offense, while not losing any major pieces is still intact. They don't have much power and they aren't the best contact hitters but they produce quality at bats. They can steal some bases but are not real threats on the bases. The pitching rotation is fairly average if not a bit below average. Wheeler will help some as he is the only player that I label as a key addition. The loss of the aging John Ashley won't really hurt the team. The bullpen is decent but not in the upper part of the league.  The defense wasn't a bright spot of this team last season and I doubt they will be again. My prediction for this team is that they won't match the success from last season. I think the are going to struggle to make the post season this time around and don't really match up well with the top teams in this division.

Minnesota PeaceFrog
Season 15 record- 68-94
5 year record- 339-451

Offense- Average-15th(.252), OBP-15th(.318), Slg-12th(.417), Runs-15th(731), HR-6th(233), SB-10th(93)
Defense- Fielding %-6th(.985), Plus Plays-5th(66), Minus Plays-7th(30)
Pitching- ERA-9th(4.88), OAV-10th(.272), SO-15th(955), Saves-14th(36/62)

Key Additions-C Stretch Wilkinson(Rule V)
Key Losses-None

This once proud franchise continued the rebuild process last season and found themselves in last place of a tough division for a fifth consecutive season. The team did improve upon the previous seasons win total and showed some positive signs as they continue to move forward. The offense finished in the upper half of the league in homers and the defense was at the top of the league as well. Committed to the process, ownership has chose not to make any splash signings in free agency and stick to the plan. Offensively, the team was bad for the most part last season, even though they did hit some bombs to keep the crowds excited. It looks to be pretty much the same this season as the team surely has some power but not much contact and overall hitting abilities. The fielding on the team is good, but not great. I can see this being the strength of the team, but they aren't among the best in the league. The starting rotation is solid and should eat up some innings. The bullpen isn't too bad either. I think they will improve upon last seasons numbers and should get some good pitching this season. To sum up this team, I think they will finish at the bottom again, but it won't be long until they are challenging once again. They have some players in the minors that should be ready to help out this club soon and get this team back to being one of the better teams in the AL.

I don't see a whole lot of improvement across the division as the teams chose to stay with what they have. That isn't really a bad thing though. Syracuse should be the team to beat once again with Ottawa right behind them. Milwaukee is the team that has me puzzled. I'm not sure if they have the team to challenge for the division but they could be a playoff team again. I'm just not sure. Minnesota will continue to rebuild, but I think they are closer this season and will start to make a real push next season.

1. Syracuse
2. Ottawa
3. Milwaukee
4. Minnesota

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