Some links for baseball nerds: Baseball Think Factory Baseball Prospectus Baseball-Reference.com
Baseball Think Factory's "ZiPS" projections for Boston
and Tampa Bay
. They haven't done the Yankees yet, and their projections for Toronto
Looking at the Sox and Rays:
- Both have a gaping hole in their lineups at Catcher. Dioner Navarro and Jason Varitek are both "clubhouse guys" now. At least Navarro is young enough to give him the benefit of the doubt wrt room for improvement. Varitek can only get worse, methinks.
- 1B is a strength for both teams and SS is a question mark for both. The ZiPS projections for Youkilis and Peña look conservative to me. I think they're both good for 100 RBI and 80 R. Pedroia + Lowell + Lowrie/Lugo looks pretty even with Iwamura + Longoria + Bartlett to me.
- BJ Upton is the superior CF, but I like Boston's outfield more than Tampa Bay's. Even if Bay stumbles around the Green Monster for a while, a .900 OPS will more than make up for it. J.D. Drew missed a lot of games last year, even by his standards, but brought his OPS back to .900. If he gets back to playing 140 games, 30 doubles and 100 RBI is perfectly plausible.
- Designated Hitter obviously favors the Red Sox, but I think Pat Burrell is a great acquisition for the Rays.
- Starting pitching seems to favor the Sox, for their massively superior depth. Beckett & Matsuzaka should be the equal of Kazmir & Shields, and Garza and Lester are equally likely to continue their '08 success. The Sox take off after that, though, with Smoltz, Wakefield, Penny, Masterson, and Buchholz compared against the Rays' Andy Sonnanstine and... um... er... ZiPS seems to like Tampa Bay's David Price, who has all of 14 IP in the majors, but no more than it likes Boston's Michael Bowden and his 5 major-league innings. Still, if Shields, Garza and Sonnanstine pitch like they did last year, and Kazmir goes 200 innings, the Rays won't need a ton of depth to replace Edwin Jackson. They did, after all, win 97 games last year.
- The Sox depth in the bullpen is also superior to the Rays', although I think the ZiPS projection for Saito is over-generous. He's a 39-yr-old coming from a low-pressure baseball town and a pitcher-friendly stadium in a pitcher-friendly league, to Fenway Park and the American League East. Sox-Yankees games can get so loud, infielders have to use sign language to talk to each other. Joe Torre is keeping Saito in his prayers, I imagine.
The Yankees have improved a lot this off-season, and the Blue Jays haven't, although the Jays seriously underperformed last year, and should improve a little even if they field the exact same team. The AL East could well be a four-horse race into August, and four 90-win teams isn't out of the question (I don't know if that's ever happened before).