Sunday, February 26, 2006

Fox Sports Dot Com Likes the Sox. I like Their '06 Predictions.

This, from Fox Sports, gave me a big smile this morning. Let's see if that smile rubs off on you. I like stuff like that. And for brevity's sake, I only ran the Red Sox and Yankees summaries in the article. Here you go..... Red Sox are favorites in AL East
2006 predicted order of finish: AL East

1. Red Sox
2. Yankees*
3. Blue Jays
4. Orioles
5. Devil Rays

*Predicted AL wild-card winner

Boston Red Sox

2005 runs scored (AL rank): 910 (1st)

2005 runs allowed (AL rank): 805 (11th)

2005 starters ERA (AL rank): 4.56 (7th)

2005 bullpen ERA (AL rank): 5.17 (14th)

Boston last season had the best offense in all of baseball, and most of the principals are back for 2006 (albeit another year older). In center, Coco Crisp should roughly approximate Johnny Damon's level of plate production, and the right-handed fly-ball stroke of shortstop Alex Gonzalez should play reasonably well at Fenway. Also, among J.T. Snow, Kevin Youkilis and Mike Lowell (who's a strong rebound candidate) they should be able to cobble together solid production at first and third. Expect the Sox to once again lead the majors in runs scored.

The rotation should be improved. Curt Schilling is reportedly at last recovered from ankle surgery, David Wells showed up to camp on time, and Josh Beckett is newly in the fold. If nothing else, the Sox have a surfeit of arms they can run through. Tim Wakefield, Matt Clement, Bronson Arroyo and, if need be, Jon Papelbon give the Sox rotation depth that they haven't enjoyed in quite a while. It won't be a league-leading corps, but expect Boston starters to improve as a unit.

According to ERA, the Red Sox bullpen was the worst in the AL last season. In 2006, things are bound to get better. Keith Foulke is throwing with more velocity this spring, Mike Timlin returns, Craig Hansen will work a full season, Papelbon will open the year in the pen, David Riske comes over from Cleveland, and Julian Tavarez and Rudy Seanez were signed on the free-agent market. That's going to be a vastly improved unit.
Curt Schilling is looking to rebound from an injury-plagued 2005 campaign.
Overall, the Sox will thump, play capable defense, trot out a solid rotation and benefit from a significantly ramped-up bullpen. That all adds up to an AL East crown.*** Peter here. Yeah baby!!!***

New York Yankees

2005 runs scored (AL rank): 886 (2nd)

2005 runs allowed (AL rank): 789 (9th)

2005 starters' ERA (AL rank): 4.59 (8th)

2005 bullpen ERA (AL rank): 4.43 (10th)

The Yankees were a lot like the Red Sox last season: great offensive attack, sub-optimal rotation and a downright bad bullpen (to be more specific, a downright bad bullpen other than Mariano Rivera and Tom Gordon).
Most notable, of course, is that the Yanks have belatedly gotten around to adding a legitimate center fielder. They overpaid for Johnny Damon, but he does plug the sucking organizational chest wound that's been with them for about half a decade. He's an upgrade — offensively and defensively — over decline-phase Bernie Williams and the assorted fauna they ran out there last season.
If there's a concern throughout the lineup, it's this: the average age of the Yankees regulars on opening day will be just over 32. New York is aging at a number of key positions, and they face the unseemly proposition of having to play Jason Giambi in the field on a daily basis. They'll score runs, but you can expect further decline from guys like Giambi, Jorge Posada, Gary Sheffield and Bernie Williams.
There's also the matter of the woeful Yankees bench. You can make the case that the Yankees roster, as currently constructed, has the worst assemblage of reserves in all of baseball. Andy Phillips would make a useful platoon partner for Cano, but there's nothing in the way of a lefty bat on the bench and no pinch hitter of note behind Phillips.

The rotation is deep and should benefit from having Damon behind them and from getting full-season doses of Shawn Chacon and Chien-Ming Wang. The Yanks would do well to limit Jaret Wright to low-leverage bullpen innings or just cut bait on him allogether.
As for the bullpen, Kyle Farnsworth replaces Gordon, and the Yanks should be adequate from the left side. It's not as strong as Boston's revamped pen, and it should place middle of pack in terms of relief ERA.***Peter here. Not as strong as the Boston pen! I like. This guy's a genius!***
On the whole, you have an 800-run offense, a moderately improved team defense and rotation and a bullpen that's about the same. That won't be enough to catch Boston, but the Yankees will claim the AL wild card.

***Peter here. I like what I see, and I'm not the only one. Now go and have a great Sunday, or watch the movie Pleasantville on DVD for Don Knotts' marvelous role of a quirky TV repairman who is so much more. Above all, be happy. After all, you make ME happy.***

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