Tuesday, December 20, 2011

AL North Season 18 preview

Well I'm back for another season of blogging the previews. Some more giving the good teams praise, tearing down the bad teams hopes and dreams, and well, just previewing the mediocre bunch. It's always fun times for me, even though the previews take quite a bit of time to get out. I have decided to go back to my old style as I favored it over the changes I made last season. Plus it was a bit quicker to get done and still to the point. I hope everyone enjoys them and doesn't get their feelings hurt too much. It's all in fun and if I give you a bad review you can just let me know that I really don't know crap about this game anyway, based on my 0 World Series titles.  
AL North
Seriously? Ok, this division is really starting to get on my nerves now. They seemed like they were taking a step back last season by actually letting other teams in the league think they had shots at the wild card spots. Really they were only toying with those other teams. Once again the division was led by that dominant team in Syracuse. Not only did they win the division for a seventh season in a row, but they became the first team in Pine Tar history to win back to back championships. I do believe that after my previews last season the owner of that team said that I had too much faith in their team. Oh, was I so right though. Yes, that's right, I was RIGHT. That owner was recently voted into our Owner Hall of Fame and I think they should be disqualified for questioning my abilities to predict there fortunes. Seriously though, that team was tough last season. Hartford, a team under new ownership continued the regular season wild card success that they've enjoyed now for the past seven seasons and made the post season for a 14th straight season. What an awesome run. Milwaukee also made the post season as a wild card for a seventh straight season. Yes, you did see that correct. This division has sent both wild card teams to the post season for 7 straight seasons. Unfortunately for the wild card teams, it's always the same two. They just can't get over the hump and take the division. The team in Minnesota was sold to new ownership in the off season as the previous owner must have given up trying in this division. They've now moved to Dover and after another season of increasing the win total are looking to make it back to the post season after missing for the past 7 seasons.

Syracuse Snow Pirates
Season 17 record- 109-53(AL North Champs, World Series Champs)
5 year record- 532-278

Offense- Average-9th(.272), OBP-10th(.337), Slg-5th(.466), Runs-8th(842), HR-2nd(286), SB-15th(50)
Defense- Fld %-2nd(.991), Plus Plays-1st(101), Minus Plays-2nd(11)
Pitching- ERA-1st(3.22), OAV-1st(.230), SO-4th(1086), Saves-1st(62/68)

Key Additions- CF Enos Jones(FA), RP Felipe Lee(FA)
Key Losses- 3B/OF Kory Garland(FA)

After taking home the championship the past 2 seasons the fans of this franchise have high expectations. They have now won the title 3 times in the past 5 seasons and been to the World Series in 4 of the past 5 seasons. They've also won 100 games in 6 of the last 7 seasons. This franchise has been the franchise that other teams have measured themselves against over that time. Hall of Fame owner prezuiwf sure has figured out how to keep it going in Syracuse even though they are starting to worry about how much longer than can keep it up. Ownership stated that financial problems led to the loss of Garland this off season and they also worry about some of the stars of this team that are getting older. They are expected to bring up Don Aoki to inject a little bit into an offense that really has got it done the past few seasons. Yes, I said it, even the World Champs have issues. The offense has been just average lately. They have power, but the power hitters in the lineup aren't reliable hitters. Overall, this offense looks still average to me. They aren't bad, but they really need to have good seasons for this team to repeat again. Defensively, this team is at the top of the league every season. The really know how to build a defense in Syracuse. The fielding is great once again this season and every pitcher loves the benefit of a good defense. Speaking of pitching, Syracuse has plenty of good pitching. The rotation is unreal. The stamina for the rotation is low, but when they throw strikes and get outs they'll still get deep into games. They have a phenomenal bullpen to back the starters up though. This pitching staff is built to win games for them even without the big scoring offense. Syracuse looks like a top team again this season and even though the offense isn't great, they don't really need it to be. If the offense remains average then Syracuse could end up with a 3peat.

Hartford HuntersSeason 17 record- 85-77(Wild Card)
5 year record- 468-342

Offense- Average-3rd(.284), OBP-2nd(.351), Slg-4th(.467), Runs-7th(862), HR-5th(246), SB-16th(49)
Defense- Fld %-14th(.979), Plus Plays-11th(41), Minus Plays-11th(47)
Pitching- ERA-9th(4.81), OAV-10th(.278), SO-12th(1013), Saves-3rd(53/69)

Key Additions- None
Key Losses- RP Felipe Lee(FA)

Under the new ownership of Batboys last season, this team still found themselves in the post season with another wild card berth. The negative for this team was that they have dropped in win total each of the past 3 seasons. Ultimately it didn't matter. They took second in the division which was a step up from the previous season. They relied heavily on the offense to carry them last season and finished near the top of the league in most offensive categories. Having a team that plays half their games in the offensive park in Hartford, that is a good strategy. They don't really have much power on the team, but in that park they can get away with it and still produce some good power numbers from average power hitters. They do have some good hitters in the lineup though. The lineup they can produce is much better than average and could do well in most parks anyway as evidence of their .289 road average from last season shows. They also hit just below half of the teams homers on the road. Maybe the hitters park isn't as much an advantage as led to believe. Where it hurt though was the pitching. The staff only allowed opponents to hit .270 on the road and had a 4.31 ERA away from home last season compared to .286/ 5.30. The pitching staff isn't bad. They have some good starters in the rotation and a few good arms in the pen. The fielding surely didn't help the pitchers last season though. They finished near the bottom of the league. They really lack good fielders at most positions and the range at the key positions just isn't there. This team will have to lean heavily on the offense this season again, but the pitching could do better than the results showed last season. The defense likely won't allow that to happen. I believe this is a playoff contender again, but they'll have to battle it out to make it, again.

Milwaukee Cream Citys
Season 17 record- 84-78(Wild Card)
5 year record- 463-347

Offense- Average-5th(.280), OBP-8th(.341), Slg-8th(.463), Runs-6th(865), HR-6th(239), SB-10th(77)
Defense- Fld %-12th(.981), Plus Plays-10th(46), Minus Plays-9th(44)
Pitching- ERA-8th(4.75), OAV-7th(.267), SO-14th(992), Saves-4th(50/63)

Key Additions- SP Kenny Hogan(FA), 2B/ OF O.T. Munson(FA), RP Esteban Gonzalez(FA),  SP Jose Bravo(FA)
Key Losses- 2B Chin-Hui Wanatabe(FA)

In the 15 seasons for this franchise under the ownership of jquick1, they have always been competitive. While they weren't where they are now, you can always count on the ownership to make moves to try and win now. That has led them to the post season for 7 straight seasons and 8 out of the past 10. They still haven't won a division title, but they are always a threat. The went out this post season and made some signings that should help boost the team from last seasons worst record since season 7. Munson is a solid bat with a good glove. Hogan has been a solid starter in his career that should fit nicely at the back end of the rotation or in long relief. Gonzalez has been a really good setup man the past couple seasons and Jose Bravo has struggled recently, but if he can find the stuff that made him an 18 game winner 3 seasons ago then that could be a big signing. Offensively, this team doesn't have a big power hitter, but they have guys throughout the lineup that can hit homers which will keep them above average in the longball department.
They have some really good hitters on the team, which is why they finished near the top of the AL in average and should again. Last season the team finished less than average defensively. They have some good gloves on the team, but I think it depends on how much the better gloves are able to get into the lineup on if they finish any better this season. The pitching staff is solid, but most of the better arms are bullpen guys. The rotation could use a boost, but I don't think they are bad. They just don't match up with the top rotations in the league. The bullpen was among the league leaders in saves last season and they should be again. When the game is on the line this bullpen should lock it down most of the time. Milwaukee is a good team, but not great. I don't think they have what it takes to win the division and like Hartford could find themselves battling for a post season spot. They should finish close to the win total they had last season.

Dover Dinklebergs
Season 17 record- 78-84
5 year record- 345-465

Offense- Average-12th(.265), OBP-11th(.334), Slg-3rd(.469), Runs-3rd(876), HR-3rd(280), SB-9th(81)
Defense- Fld %-8th(.984), Plus Plays-13th(39), Minus Plays-13th(52)
Pitching- ERA-11th(4.96), OAV-8th(.275), SO-10th(1021), Saves-9th(44/61)

Key Additions- 1B John Pong(tr-Nas), SS Miguel Manzanillo(FA), SP Vinny Evans(FA), 3B Francisco James(FA), SP Karim Ontiveros(FA), SS David Prieto(FA), 1B/ DH Armando Mota(Promoted)
Key Losses- SP Kenny Hogan(FA), OF Don Masato(released), RP Jose Ontiveros(released), 1B Quilvio Cordero(released),  C Stretch Wilkinson(tr-Nas), RP Raul Santiago(tr-Nas), OF/1B Cristobal Mairena(tr-TB)

With new ownership comes change. tmfran takes over a struggling team that has been on the way up the past couple of seasons and made some drastic changes to the roster. Offensively the team hit for power last season, but struggled to get on base. They still have plenty of power this season and with the additions of Pong and Mota, they should have a tough middle of the order. This offense should be much improved and could be pretty tough to stop from scoring runs. Defensively they were just below average last season. Manzanillo, and Prieto give them a huge boost defensively. If this defense isn't a top 5 defense then they did something wrong this season. They aren't quite with Syracuse defensively, but they aren't far off. The pitching last season was average. They added Ontiveros, who is well above average, and Vinny Evans to upgrade the rotation. The rotation isn't great, but it is very solid. The bullpen kind of worries me with this team. It's not bad, but it isn't deep and could struggle some. Overall this is a much improved team and well rounded. They aren't ready to take over the top of the division, but they could move past Milwaukee and Hartford this season and battle for a post season spot.

It's really hard to predict that this division won't send at least 3 teams to the post season again. They could, but other teams in the AL are catching up and those days could end this season. I do think that every team in this division could end up with a winning record. They are all tough and have really good strengths. Syracuse is still the team to beat. I think they take the division again with another 100 win season. My second pick has to be Dover. New owner, new city, new finish. They are the most well rounded team in the division, but not quite as good as the others in some things. I'm even saying they make the post season for sure. Hartford is my third place team. They still look good, but I think they are a fringe playoff team. They'll have a tougher time getting in. Milwaukee is last and about the same as Hartford. Last doesn't get you in the post season, but in this division it is still respectable and means you had a good season.

1.) Syracuse
2.) Dover
3.) Hartford
4.) Milwaukee

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