2010 American League Preview and Predictions

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By Mike Ivcic

Opening Day is here – regardless of the fact that the Yankees and Red Sox played last night. And so, with that comes the return of “The Tenth Inning,” a weekly look at all things baseball. We begin this year with an abbreviated preview, starting in the AL in a division-by-division manner.

AL East
1. New York Yankees
2. Boston Red Sox
3. Tampa Bay Rays
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Toronto Blue Jays
This Yankees’ window of opportunity is closing, especially with the trades for Curtis Granderson and Javier Vazquez. There are only some many more innings left in Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera, and while players like Robinson Cano and Joba Chamberlain are on the younger side, they will need more youth in the next year or two. That said, they’re the best team right now in baseball, so they get to play “favorite” for one more year. Boston and Tampa can both pose legitimate threats, however, and the clock is ticking in Florida as Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena are both free agents after this season. They’ll need better starting pitching than they got last year, while Boston will simply need to stay healthy. If they can do that, the Red Sox will likely be the AL Wild Card again. Toronto and Baltimore are both rebuilding, and the Orioles have more major-league-ready talent, so they’ll likely finish fourth. The Roy Halladay trade will make the Blue Jays worse this season, but the talent they received from Philadelphia in the deal – specifically Kyle Drabek – means it won’t be more than a year or two before they surpass Baltimore and possibly challenge the old guard once again.

AL Central
1. Detroit Tigers
2. Chicago White Sox
3. Minnesota Twins
4. Cleveland Indians
5. Kansas City Royals
The Twins are probably the most talented team in this division, but Jon Rauch isn’t Joe Nathan. As a Mets fan remembering back to 2008, not having a good back-end of the bullpen can cost a team a division title. Losing one of the top five closers in the game means Detroit – with Johnny Damon – and Chicago – with a young rotation and a full season from Alexis Rios – will likely jump the Twins in the standings, despite the new ballpark and the extension of Joe Mauer. The Indians and Royals are both Longshots, though they both have the potential to win a few games and not finish last. The key to this division really is Miguel Cabrera. If he plays to his top level, he’ll be able to carry the Tigers and win the division. The White Sox are solid, but unspectacular, meaning they’ll likely need a sub par season from someone else to finish first. They got the bump from the Twins losing Nathan, but Detroit has more talent and should hold off Chicago for the 3 seed in the AL.

AL West
1. Los Angeles Angels
2. Seattle Mariners
3. Texas Rangers
4. Oakland Athletics
The question in this division for the past few seasons has always been, “When will someone beat the Angels?” The answer: soon, but not this year. Sure, Texas now has Vladimir Guerrero and can smack the ball all over the yard, but can they get another season out of their pitching staff like they put together in 2009? Seattle has a plethora of young players, traded for a second ace in Cliff Lee, and supplemented it with veterans like Chone Figgins and Milton Bradley, but can they stand the test of a full-season playoff run after fading in ’09? The best bet here is still Los Angeles, who brings enough talent back despite the defections, and added Hideki Matsui as the DH to rebuild the lineup. That said, the Mariners are the one and only team I could see spoiling another two-team playoff season out of the AL East. They certainly have the pitching in the rotation – probably even better than the Angles after losing Lackey – but might still be one year away from making it back to the postseason.

ALDS
New York over Detroit
Boston over Los Angeles

ALCS
New York over Boston

Look for my weekly baseball column all season long, every Monday for the Ultimate Capper.

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