I've decided that over the course of the next week or so, I'm going to release some predictions about how I think the year will ultimately shape up in baseball. And where better to start than the ever volatile American League East:
ORDER OF FINISH:
1. Boston Red Sox: (91-71)
2. Tampa Bay Rays: (89-73)*
3. New York Yankees: (86-76)
4. Toronto Blue Jays: (85-77)
5. Baltimore Orioles: (70-92)
* = WC Berth
There's a couple reasons the season will pan out this way. The Red Sox are finally playing the way that they should, and are currently working on a 9-game winning streak and that's with Carl Crawford and Dustin Pedroia playing like Willy Mo Pena and my grandmother, respectively. The Rays keep getting things down, anchored by a stellar young staff and a lineup that STILL hasn't gotten a fully healthy Evan Longoria, who's recovering from an oblique injury. The Yankees are beginning to feel the wear and tear of the years, with Jeter and A-Rod finally slowing down and Granderson guaranteed to eventually stop playing like Barry Bonds. Plus who would start for these guys in the playoffs? CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, and Big Fat Bartolo Colon? That ain't gonna get it done. The Orioles are terrible for obvious reasons (mainly, they're the Orioles) despite once again having promising youngsters. And the Blue Jays are better than you'd think: A fairly good staff (Drabek, Morrow, Romero, and the not-as-bad-as-you-think Jesse Litsch) and an offense consisting of Jose "Lou Gehrig" Bautista and friends. But there's plenty of reason to believe that the Yankees will miss the playoffs this year, and reason to believe that they're not even a top-3 team in their own division.
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Boston Red Sox
What more can you say about the guy? He started off slow, made some adjustments, and is now tearing up Fenway the way he was expected to. A power-hitting lefty who relies on going the other way, Gonzo was practically made to play at Fenway, where the fence is short in right and he can get a double going the other way almost on command. The way he's knocking in runs and hitting for an amazing average (just above .330 as of today), he could be a potential triple-crown candidate. That is, if it weren't for...
DIVISION "MOST SPECTACULAR PLAYER"
Jose Bautista, 3B/OF, Toronto Blue Jays
The best player in baseball as of May 21st. It would be easy to call him the best player in baseball now, given his scorching start to the season, but no one was talking about this guy before the season started, other than to say that you couldn't justify the extension given to him by Toronto (5-yr, $64 million) because he couldn't repeat his last season and his low average would kill his team. Those pundits have been proved as wrong about Bautista as the Governator's wife was about his monogamy. Let's just say that he gets bumped up to MVP if his team makes the playoffs.
DIVISION CY YOUNG:
Josh Beckett, SP, Boston Red Sox
A bounce-back season that realistically, wasn't that hard to see coming. Last year, batters had a .341 BABIP against him (BABIP = batting average on balls in play, a metric used to evaluate how lucky batters got against a pitcher when they made contact), much much higher than his career average of .294. Now, this season the BABIP is lower than normal (.224), but he's getting more ground balls and keeping the ball in the park, so while an ERA below 2.00 is probably unsustainable, something below 3.00 is definitely in range.
Honorable mention: Zach Britton, SP, Baltimore Orioles
DIVISION BEST ROOKIE:
Jeremy Hellickson, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
The kid has some stuff, and the fact that he has even improved after going around the league once leaves every reason that this guy is legit.
AL Central to come tomorrow!