Tuesday, April 2, 2013

AL East Season 23 Preview

This division featured a great race last season for the division title. Boston put the pressure on Durham for most of the season. Durham ultimately took the division title for the fourth straight season and ended up making the World Series for the first time in team history. The fell short against Iowa City though and will be looking to make up for that this season. Boston made huge improvements last season and solidified themselves as one of the better teams in the AL. It was only the second time in franchise history that they made the playoffs and in doing so also set the franchise record for wins. This is a team on the rise. Rochester has hovered around .500 the past few seasons and they continued an 11 season playoff drought. They may not improved by the team record, but they are an improving young team. Pittsburgh continued it's rebuild last season and finished with 61 victories which was one more than the previous season.

Durham Doormats
Average.2971Fielding %.9838ERA3.821
Home Runs2971Double Plays4059Opp. Avg..2614
Ops..8761+ Plays4413Stike Outs11911
Runs10071- Plays407Saves631

Season 20 record- 109-53(AL East Champ; AL Champ)
Last 5 seasons- 489-321

Key Off Season Moves
Signed 2B Fred Inge to extension
Signed CF Eric Lindsey to extension
Signed RP Rudy Jameson
Promoted SS Sun-Woo Lee

Offense-I think Durham had by far the best offense in Pine Tar last season. They did everything good except steal bases, and they even stole bases decently enough. In the off season they made sure to lock up a couple key players in Fred Inge and Eric Lindsey to long term deals. That keeps two of their top offensive players in the fold through season 27. This team is loaded offensively. Julio Navarro, Ernest Christiansen, Billy Haynes, Bengie Trajano, Pep Pride, Willie Martinez and Hector Janssen are all really good hitters. This lineup is dangerous and should be the class of the league again this season.

Defense-Durham's only weakness is defense. It's not much of a weakness though as they were an average team defensively last season. Shortstop Erubiel Baez is a below average shortstop without a lot of range and only a decent arm. Eric Lindsey is a solid centerfielder, but not great. Sun-Woo Lee was promoted in the off season, and I'm not sure where he'll play, but he's a slightly worse option at short than Baez. He'd be a great secondbaseman though. The team isn't bad defensively, but they are just decent. They'll finish near the middle again this season.

Pitching-Durham had the #1 staff in the AL last season, and that's especially impressive considering they are in a pretty heavy hitters park. Willie Jacquez is the ace of the staff and he's a dynamite #1. He put up Cy Young type numbers last season. Any other season he'd have run away with it. Orlando Cruz is a pretty good starter as well, but he's only good for around 5 innings per start with his low stamina. Victor Maranon, Joe Grace, and Enrique Lopez are all pretty good middle to back end of the rotation starters. With a really good rotation in the fold, you'd think that was their strength. It's not. The bullpen is quite possibly one of the best in Pine Tar. Rudy Jameson was signed in the off season and he'll be a great addition for the late innings. Add him to last seasons addition of Ubaldo Bennett who is also a really good bullpen arm. Miguel Gonzales is this teams closer and he's been pretty phenomenal at doing it. That's three shut down arms in the late innings. This pitching staff is going to rank near the top again.

Projection-Durham is going to be tough to knock from the top of this division. They have a great offense, great pitching and average defense. That should be enough for them to match last seasons win total. That might be tough to accomplish, but it's within reach. Even if they somehow don't win the division title, then they should take a wild card spot for sure. This team is built to win it all this season though.

Owner Interview-
Me-This was an average team for a long time, but they were never a bad team. It took you a long time to build this team, but you never really had a top pick in the draft because the team was always at least competitive. Now they have become a great team that has staying power. What was your strategy in rebuilding the team? Has everything gone to plan? The team keeps moving forward and last season you made the World Series but fell just short. What are the expectations this season? What is your teams strength and weakness?

alogman1-My strategy for rebuilding was to build heavily around prospects and supplement with trades and free agent signings where needed. It did not exactly go to plan as I did not expect to linger in mediocrity as long as I did, I thought I would see better results sooner. As far as expectations for this season go, at minimum make the playoffs and winning another division title would be nice. 
As far as the playoffs go, it's tough to set expectations, as I'd say it's at least 50% luck who wins, especially in a shorter 5 game series. Anything can happen there. Just gotta hope for the best. Our ballpark is both our biggest strength and weakness. It helps a lot on offense, and those numbers are fun to look at, but pitching becomes a lot more unpredictable. It's a lot harder to find pitchers that can succeed in Durham.

Boston Pilgrims
Average.2776Fielding %.9872ERA3.973
Home Runs19410Double Plays4185Opp. Avg..2491
Ops..7837+ Plays931Stike Outs10617
Runs8209- Plays221Saves532

Season 20 record- 101-61(Wild Card)
Last 5 seasons- 408-402

Key Off Season Moves
Traded for OF Enos Jones
Traded for 3B Kenneth Cedeno
Signed OF Tito Rayburn to extension

Offense-The offense in Boston was average last season. They hit well, but didn't hit for power or score runs at a good rate. Mateo Nunez had a phenomenal season, but he can't be expected to put up numbers like that regularly. The addition of Enos Jones should help the offense this season. The team also features players like Danny Guerrero, Efrain Matsumoto and Matt Jaha in their lineup. Jaha is the guy that I'd expect to have a breakout season as he is capable of it. This offense isn't great, but I'd put them as slightly above average. They have some good pieces, but could use a couple more.

Defense-Boston is the team that has the absolute best defense in the AL if not all of Pine Tar. You can look up and down the lineup and see good gloves and they even have good gloves on the bench. Yusmeiro Julio is a gold glove caliber shortstop. Tito Rayburn is a former gold glove second baseman that could very well earn one in centerfield this season. There just really isn't much of a weakness defensively for Boston.

Pitching-The pitching was also one of the best in the league last season. Diego Valbuena was lights out on his way to a second Cy Young award last season. He's followed in the rotation by Moises Olmedo, Bucky Simpson and Hipolito Owen. All 3 are really good starters. Hades Phillips is the closer in just his second season in the big leagues and he's going to be a good one. Javy Mendoza and Nash Casanova are also great options down in the bullpen. This pitching staff is really good. With the help of a great defense this team is going to be tough to score runs against this season.

Projection-Boston is going to be right there with Durham all season long. These two should battle it out until the end. Boston could very well take the division, but if not then they should be a sure thing for a wild card spot. No matter how they get into the post season, this team has a very good shot at winning it all this season.

Owner Interview-
Me-Last season your team made a huge improvement from season 21. Was it the Valbuena signing? Did you expect that big of an improvement? You've been building this team for 7 seasons to get to that point. Did you expect to have more success sooner, or is this about when you expected the team to turn it on? Are there any players in the minors that are going to be superstars when they arrive? What can we expect this season from Boston?

kjmulli-Yeah, I knew that just one ace was going to help everything else fall into place with this team. I can't say I knew that we'd win 101 games, but I knew we would be a playoff team with Valbuena. I definitely expected success sooner but when it didn't come after 5.5 seasons, I kind of had to tear it down a little bit and trade guys like Rico Tatis, Houston Baptist and Pepper Sanders in season 20. I expect this team to be on pace for 100+ wins again this season. We upgraded in RF with Enos Jones and at 3B with Kenneth Cedeno. Hopefully the MVP runner-up Mateo Nunez can come close to what he did last season (I certainly don't expect him to duplicate that season). We've got a couple guys in the minors waiting for their turn, most notably Gerry Redding who will be brought up after a handful of games to serve as a setup a guy alongside Nash Casanova and give us hands-down the best bullpen in the league. For now, that's the only guy we definitely plan on bringing up this season. With all of the cap space we have, we'll keep an eye on the trade market and should any front line starting pitching become available we'll be in the hunt.

Rochester Retards
Average.2689Fielding %.9836ERA4.9112
Home Runs2346Double Plays4681Opp. Avg..28014
Ops..7798+ Plays3915Stike Outs10549
Runs8675- Plays458Saves3611

Season 20 record- 78-84
Last 5 seasons- 381-429

Key Off Season Moves
Signed SP Vinny Grace

Offense-Rochester had an average offense last season, but they were able to finish fifth in runs scored. The guy that drives this offense is last seasons HR derby champ and season 21 MVP, Russell Powell. He's only 25 years old and he's already an accomplished star. Tony Caballero, is another very young rising star who puts up MVP type numbers as well. Kazuhiro Kuroda, can sure get on base as he has a career .418 OBP. The offense isn't very deep, but what they have at the top is some great talent. This is an above average offense that has the potential to be great.

Defense-The defense was solid last season. They flashed some good gloves, but they lacked good range. They could use an upgrade at shortstop. They have a couple of guys that can play it, but they are both below average. They do have solid gloves at other positions though. Victor Flaherty is the right fielder and he has a great glove for that spot. I'm just not sure where everyone is going to play at this time so it's really hard to judge. The lack of a true shortstop though will allow me to give them a below average grade.

Pitching-This was an area the team struggled last season. Ownership is actively trying to upgrade this so it could get better. John McNamara is a solid young pitcher and still getting better, but he's not a true ace. The addition of Vinny Grace should be an upgrade to the rotation. The rotation isn't very strong though. The bullpen is pretty average. Ryan Maloney is a nice arm for late in the game and will likely be the teams closer this season. Alan Denham is a solid setup man. The pitching staff as a whole is not very good though. I think they'll finish close to the bottom again this season unless the team is able to find a trade partner for an upgrade.

Projection-Rochester is a team that has been on it's way up lately and should continue that trend. The offense has some great players that are young. This team has a good foundation to build around and will likely be a team to beat in a few seasons, but not this season. A winning record is possible, but in a tough AL this team will likely be left out of the post season.

Owner Interview-
Me-Well you moved this team into being competitive. When is the next step forward? This team has been on the verge of breaking through for the past 3 seasons, but fall just short. What do you feel like you need that can put you over the hump? Do you have any stars coming up through the system that will make an impact? Tell me what we can expect to happen in Rochester this season.

wylie715-What we really need to contend is more pitching. John McNamara, who was called up at the end of last season should grow into an ace. We also have Jack Brown, Juan Palmiera and Josias Avilla in the minors, but at best they are a year away, if not more. As far as offense, most of my impact prospects are already up, but we do have Sam Goulet and Brent Murray in AAA who might help. I'm ging to try to trade either of both of them for some more pitching, or maybe make my current RF, Victor Flaherty available. I think we may improve our record by a few games but don't know if that will be enough to contend. We've got some tough competition.

Pittsburgh Psychics
Average.2698Fielding %.98110ERA5.2114
Home Runs14114Double Plays37014Opp. Avg..28315
Ops..71912+ Plays579Stike Outs101212
Runs70414- Plays6316Saves3413

Season 20 record- 61-101
Last 5 seasons- 395-415

Key Off Season Moves
Selected OF Brian Hume in Rule V
Selected OF Osvaldo Quinones in Rule V

Offense-Pittsburgh hit for a decent average last season, but they just weren't very good at scoring runs and didn't hit for power or steal bases. Coco Stratton is one of the best hitting catchers in Pine Tar, and is the only real power threat in the lineup. Ron Hudek  and Chip Rogers are also a couple solid hitters in this lineup. The addition of Brian Hume in the Rule V draft will help this offense. He has some power and decent on base abilities. The offense is still below average, but it doesn't look as bad as last season.

Defense-The defense was slightly below average last season, but they had a lot of minus plays. The best option at shortstop is Junior Green. He's got a below average glove, but he makes up for it with good range and great arm strength. Travis Fiore is another option at short, but he's just average. Daniel Smith is a really good fielding centerfielder with a very strong arm. Clay Aldred is the secondbaseman and he gives them really good range to go with a good glove. The defense looks good to me. I'm not sure what the deal with the minus plays was, but this is an above average defense.

Pitching-The pitching ranked near the bottom of the league. This was not really addressed in the off season. Butch Simmons is the only pitcher that is really solid in the rotation. I really like youngsters J.R. Mcdonald and Tyler White coming out of the bullpen though. This really is not a very good pitching staff though. I think they'll end up close to last seasons numbers.

Projection-This team is in full rebuild mode. They have some pieces in place offensively and have a good defense, but the pitching is too much to overcome. The offense lacks depth as well though and won't be good enough to make up for the pitching problems. It's going to be a long season in Pittsburgh.

Owner Interview-
Me-Well there's no denying that this team has been trending downward. I assume that means that you are rebuilding this team? If you could pick the ideal player to build around, describe him. What is the plan over the next few seasons? What can we expect from Pittsburgh this season?

blues_bros-Yes, we have been on a downward trend. We are in complete rebuild mode. I look at it as a fun challendge. I plan on building the team around pitching primarily, which I hope to get through the draft or international market. Secondly, I will focus on building a fast, singles & double hitting team with good defense. This coming season will be a strugle as I begin to rebuild. Good thing is my salary is low which leaves me with many options... FA, Intenraiton Players, etc. in the coming years.

Durham is a very good team that will be tough to knock from the top of this division. They are a true threat to win a championship this season. 100+ wins again is very likely. Boston is right there with them. They should put the pressure on Durham and could also be a 100+ win team. It's going to be a great battle between the two of them this season. Rochester is a young team on the rise, but they are lacking the pitching to contend. I  think they can improve the team record, but they likely won't make the post season. Pittsburgh will continue rebuilding this season as they have too many holes to contend.

1. Durham
2. Boston
3. Rochester
4. Pittsburgh

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