Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Angels Nation 2012 Season Preview

So, the 2012 Season kicked off last night in Japan, as the Mariners topped to the A's, 3-1 in extra innings.  While that game will likely have little impact on the rest of the season, it's incredibly significant in that it starts off the 2012 season.  A season which many Angels fans are hoping is our return to not only the postseason, but to the World Series and beyond.  I'll take a look at each of the other 5 divisions in baseball before turning it around to look at our Angels, and our division foes.  Also, picks for awards and postseason championships.

NL West
Projected Standings:

1st -San Francisco - 94-68
Colorado - 85-77
Arizona - 84-78
Los Angeles - 80-82
San Diego - 70-92

Divisional Recap:
San Francisco, while still not having much in the way of offense, is getting back their star catcher in Buster Posey, and that young rotation is only getting better. This is a very winnable division (as Arizona showed last year), and the Giants are primed to make it back to the postseason.  The Dodgers could improve now that they have been sold to the group headed by Magic Johnson, but it might take them some time to turn dollars into wins.  Colorado could compete for a playoff spot, but needs more pitching to have a chance.

NL Central
Projected Standings:

2nd - Milwaukee - 93-69
St. Louis - 84-78
Cincinnati - 82-80
Chicago - 81-81
Pittsburgh - 79-83
Houston - 59-103

Divisional Recap:
Houston will go days on days without wins, and the rest of the division is pretty close, but in the end, I think the Brewers have the pitching (both in the rotation and the bullpen) to pull away in September.  The Cardinals or Reds could make a push for that 2nd Wild Card spot, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

NL East
Projected Standings:

3rd - Philadelphia - 90-72
4th - Miami - 88-74
5th - Washington - 87-75
Atlanta - 79-83
New York - 65-97

Divisional Recap:
Miami and Washington went out and got a lot better in the offseason, while Philadelphia stood their ground, and while they still might have the best 1-2-3 punch in all of baseball in that rotation, they are going to lose Utley and Ryan Howard for big chunks of time due to injuries.  Can Jim Thome, Placido Polanco and Jimmy Rollins really carry that offense?  Atlanta takes a step back after their epic collapse at the end of the 2011 season, and the Mets continue to be the Mets.

AL Central
Projected Standings:

3rd - Detroit - 95-67
Cleveland - 83-79
Minnesota - 78-84
Kansas City - 75-87
Chicago - 70-92

Divisional Recap:
Detroit looks like the clear winner in this division, which might be the worst in baseball if Cleveland and Kansas City take a step back from their 2011 campaigns.  I still don't trust the lineup around Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera, nor the rotation after Justin Verlander.  If Morneau and Mauer bounce back in Minnesota, they have the supporting pieces to make a decent run, but that is a big "if".  Chicago is going to be bad.  They lost their manager and their ace to Miami, and everyone else just got a year older, on an already old team.

AL East
Projected Standings:

1st - New York - 101-61
4th - Tampa Bay - 95-67
5th - Toronto - 90-72
Boston - 81-81
Baltimore - 70-92

Divisional Recap:
I think after the collapse last year, coupled with Bobby Valentine's antics and a team that is just asking for that one injury to either Ellsbury or Gonzalez to completely cripple their season, Boston is not ready to make the jump back into the postseason.  The Yankees had the offense last year, but no one in that rotation wanted to step up behind CC Sabathia.  Now they have an improved offense, and a bolstered Roation, which includes sophomore studs Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova, as well as former Dodger Hiroki Kuroda.  They also have Raul Ibanez playing at DH, who is going to LOVE the short porch and jet stream out to right field.  Tampa Bay might have the best overall pitching staff in all of baseball behind the Angels, and if their hitting can keep things going (despite not really having any stars outside of Longoria), they should lock up the first wild card spot pretty easily, unless Longoria goes down, which opens up things for Boston or Texas.  The Blue Jays are much better this year, and if they can find a pitcher at the trade deadline to compliment Ricky Romero, they might be the scariest team in baseball come Mid-August.  The Orioles are going to be better, but under the weight of being in the best division in baseball, they will struggle all year long once again.

AL West 
Projected Standings

2nd - Angels - 100-62
Texas - 88-74
Seattle - 70-92
Oakland - 58-104

Oakland - Yes, this is the worst team in baseball.  After watching them over the last month in spring training, and seeing their game against another terrible team last night, this is just a bad baseball club.  They have little to no offense to speak of (outside of Jemile Weeks and Cuban import Cespedes), and there isn't much going on in the rotation after Brendan McCarthy (especially with Dallas Braden out with an injury until at least May).  This should be an easy victory every time out for the Halos, and I'll have to rename my favorite segment "I Wish We Could Play Oakland All Year Long".  If this club can find something to rally behind (like McCarthy or Cespedes), a best case scenario would be 3rd place ahead of Seattle, but Seattle has better young hitters and maybe the best pitcher in baseball.  The Athletics have Coco Crisp and Bartolo Colon.

Seattle - This is a team on the rise, granted, there wont be anywhere for them to go with Anaheim and Texas leaps and bounds ahead of them in the division, but they will be fun to watch all season long.  Once they begin to weed out some of the crap (Figgins, Brendan Ryan, etc) and plug in young, exciting players, they could be the Angels biggest competition for the next decade of Pujols.  Until then, they still have King Felix, who is probably the best pitcher in baseball, and Ichiro, who with four hits last night, looks like he back to the same old Ichiro.  They are a little shaky in the rotation behind Felix, but they are good enough to finish within 10 games of .500.

Texas - Lets see, they lost their Ace to their biggest rival, and their rotation of constantly injured sluggers are all a year older and a few years slower (thanks to those injuries).  But they are still apparently the toast of the AL West, according to many "experts".  To me, this team is relying on too many "maybes" and "ifs".  Yu Darvish will probably start out well, but he is set up for failure.  Getting used to that Mid-Summer Texas heat is going to be brutal after a lifetime in temperate Japan.  Neftali Feliz, their former closer, is being moved into the rotation.  This didn't work for someone like Joba Chamerblain (who just went out for the season in a freak trampoline accident), and historically hasn't worked well for anyone.  Speaking of which, the oft-injured Joe Nathan is taking over for Feliz in the closer role.  Can he stay healthy for a full season?  Next "if": can the lineup stay together?  Odds are not good.  Cruz, Kinsler, Hamilton and Andrus are all injury prone, and what happens if they all go down around the same time?  Then its Mid-Summer and Darvish has fallen off the deep end, and Feliz can't keep his stamina up, forcing Ron Washington to go to the bullpen earlier than he'd like to?  Also, lets face it, the rotation behind Feliz and Darvish just isn't very good.  It's a serviceable Major League Rotation, but this "AL Powerhouse" club isn't going to win 100 games with Colby Lewis as the 3rd starter.

Angels - The Angels got better EVERYWHERE in the offseason, even where they didn't need it.  The pitching staff, which had the best ERA in the AL last year, added C.J. Wilson, Jason Isringhausen and LaTroy Hawkins.  Three former all-stars.  Isringhausen and Hawkins are going to bring depth and experience to an already solid bullpen featuring Walden, Downs, Takahashi and Jepsen.  They will help groom the youngsters into better big league bullpen arms, as well as suck up innings if Wilson, Santana or Haren have an off night.  The Angels starting rotation was solid in 2011, even if Chatwood was inconsistent, and Jerome Williams didn't come on till late.  Swap out Chatwood with Rangers ace C.J. Wilson and give Jerome Williams a full season, and they Angels will be tough to score runs on in ANY game.

As if that wasn't enough, they went ahead and added the best hitter in baseball (possibly ever), got a catcher who can actually get on base and keep rallies alive, oh and are getting back an all-star caliber DH in Kendrys Morales.  Pujols brings consistency to an inconsistent lineup, and there isn't anything else I can say about his talent that I or someone else hasn't already said 100 times.  He will make everyone around him better.  Kendrick, Morales and Hunter are going to see better pitches to hit, and will likely have more guys on when they get to back.  Chris Ianetta will bring some consistency to the plate from the catchers position.  While he is no Mike Napoli (I still think that move single-handedly got Tony Reagins fired), he will be a huge improvement over Jeff Mathis and Bobby Wilson.  Throw in Vernon Wells, who can only get better this season (and will now have much less stress with Pujols and Morales in that lineup) hitting 6th or 7th, and this is, top to bottom, one of the most complete lineups in all of baseball.  Only the Yankees and Red Sox might be more talented 1 through 9.  Coming off the bench, we have Bobby Abreu (although I doubt that will last long), either Alberto Callaspo or Mark Trumbo, Hank Conger/Bobby Wilson and Macier Izturis.  That is a bench that any manager would love to have.

Playoff Predictions

Wild Card Round:
Washington Nationals over Miami Marlins
Tampa Bay Rays over Toronto Blue Jays

League Division Series:
San Francisco Giants over Washington Nationals
Milwaukee Brewers over Philadelphia Phillies
Los Angeles Angels over Tampa Bay Rays
New York Yankees over Detroit Tigers

League Championship Series:
San Francisco Giants over Milwaukee Brewers, 4-2
Los Angeles Angels over New York Yankees, 4-1

World Series:
Los Angeles Angels over San Francisco Giants, 4-3 (AL Wins All-Star Game)

Award Predictions

NL - Ryan Zimmerman
AL - Robinson Cano

Cy Young:
NL - Tim Lincecum
AL - Jered Weaver

Rookie of the Year:
NL - Tyler Skaggs
AL - Matt Moore

Manager of the Year:
NL - Ron Roenicke
AL - Joe Maddon

Misc. Angels Awards:
Silver Slugger:
1B - Albert Pujols
DH - Kendrys Morales

Golden Glove:
1B - Albert Pujols
SS - Erick Aybar
OF - Peter Bourjos


  1. I can't help but feel a little bias in your predictions. I can't say I agree with your prediction for the Braves, since it's basically the same team from last year, and Jason Heyward isn't injured yet. The Mets are abysmal, the Nationals have very little outside of Zimmerman and Strasberg and Miami will have clubhouse issues, mainly stemming from Hanley Ramirez.

  2. Oh, its totally biased, but I promise biased.

    The Braves feel like a team with no direction. Chipper's departure could give the guys something to rally around, but Uggla is inconsistent, McCann seems to end up on the DL more than a starting catcher should. That pitching is, to be fair, a little disappointing (outside of Kimbrel).