With Opening Day right around the corner and the O's WAR projections up, it's a good time to put out my projected standings. I was hoping to go one team at a time, but I've found that I lose momentum when trying to comment on all 30 teams separately (and even here I noticed that my comments got shorter as I went along - maybe that has something to do with decreasing levels of familiarity as I move from AL East to NL West). As always, I reserve bragging rights for getting just about anything correct.
BOS - 95
The have a good offense, a good defense, a good rotation, a good bullpen, good depth, good payroll flexibility, and some good trade chips. Hard to ask for much more (maybe a catcher).
NYY - 94
Losing A-Rod for any length of time really hurts their chances, as the offense just isn't as great as it used to be. If they hadn't signed Teixeira, then it would actually look merely OK. The rotation might be the best in baseball though, and they've finally put together a solid bullpen in front of the consistently amazing Mariano Rivera. There is a lot of downside on the roster though, so I think that they could beat the Red Sox or come in third with equal probability.
TBR - 92
The best front-office in baseball now. The defense will regress some but Upton (among others) may break out in a big way. If they had even half of the resources of Evil Empires I & II then they would be perennial contenders. As it is, they need to make the most out of the pieces that they've assembled now.
BAL - 76
The pitching's a mess but the position players are above average. Looking to compete in '10-'11, hopefully.
TOR - 76
They have some talented players, but unless top prospect Travis Snider comes out of the gate swinging a big stick the offense isn't going to be very good. Injuries and free agent defections have taken their toll on the pitching staff, and it's possible that if they play poorly enough in the first half that Roy Halladay may be traded (which might lock up last place). It's not a good sign when a team picks up so many O's castoffs (Millar, Fahey, and Burris - plus Adam Loewen).
CLE - 86
Big disappointment last year, though they found an ace in Cliff Lee and turned things around towards the end of the season. Travis Hafner may be done, but I think Fausto Carmona and Victor Martinez will bounce back. If they make the playoffs, Grady Sizemore may be adding an MVP plaque to his Gold Gloves.
DET - 82
Nobodies talking about them scoring 1,000 runs this year, even though Miguel Cabrera quietly led the AL in home runs in 2008. The lack of pitching will hold them back, even if Justin Verlander turns things around.
MIN - 81
Joe Mauer's injury is huge - if he can't play much this season then I don't think the Twins have much of a chance. The rotation will carry them a long way though.
KCR - 75
If only they weren't hamstrung by such stupid free agent signings. There was no reason to give Horacio Ramirez, Kyle Farnsworth, and Willie Bloomquist the kinds of contracts they did (to go along with the Jose Guillen mistake of last year). They do have a lot of talent on the roster though, and locking up Zach Greinke was a good decision.
CHW - 74
Question marks all over the place, but at least they'll hit a bunch of home runs. A lot of their success last year was "flukey" and regression to the mean will not be kind.
LAA - 85
Injuries in the rotation and a glut of outfielders that aren't particularly good at either hitting or fielding (or both) are cause for concern. While still the favorites, it wouldn't take much for another team to steal their crown. They somehow won 100 games last year, so I'm hesitant to be any harsher.
OAK - 82
Billy Beane is really going for it this year, with the additions of Matt Holliday, Jason Giambi, and Orlando Cabrera, as well as the decision to start pitching prospects Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill in the rotation. I have too many doubts about the pitching staff (when adjusted for their pitcher friendly ballpark) to think they'll win the division, but their chances are at least decent.
SEA - 76
If the new front office wasn't saddled with the Carlos Silva and Jarrod Washburn contracts then they might have been able to turn the team around enough to contend more seriously. As it is, they've gotten better cheaply and - with a few breaks - could actually overtake the teams in front of them.
TEX - 72
Just like in Baltimore, the question is pitching. At least the O's have assembled a good defensive club though. The farm system is loaded though, so it's only a matter of time.
NYM - 90
Santana, Wright, Reyes, and Beltran are the core of a championship level team. How much they get from the rest of the roster will determine if they're sitting at home in October again. At least the bullpen shouldn't blow it for them again this year.
PHI - 86
That Chase Utley is likely to return from surgery much sooner than originally expected is a big plus, but I still have doubts about the rotation (health of Hamels and production otherwise) and the decline of Ryan Howard. Trading out Pat Burrell, $13 M, and a draft pick for Raul Ibanez was the kind of move that should result in a team missing the playoffs.
ATL - 85
They've restocked the rotation, but might need a little more offense if Chipper Jones misses more than his usual time this season (and he's not likely to flirt with .400 again for very long).
FLA - 74
Hanley Ramirez is really good, but a lot of other guys will see some regression this year. May they enjoy trying to figure out how to make Hayden Penn a quality staring pitcher.
WSH - 73
Not nearly as bad as their record last year, and they're moving in the right direction with the firing of Jim Bowden. They've got some offense and some pitching, but just not enough of either yet to contend with the big names in the division.
CHC - 93
Best team in the NL. Easily the best team in the NL if Rich Harden and Milton Bradley stay healthy (ha ha).
STL - 83
Albert Pujols is seriously a beast. Year-in, year-out. It's pretty neat to watch the guy that may go down as the greatest right-handed hitter of all time. Oh, and the Card's have some other players that are OK.
MIL - 83
Can Yovanni Gallardo really be the #1 starter on a team that wants to go to the playoffs already? At least the middle of the order should put up a lot of runs for them.
CIN - 78
A popular dark-horse pick because of a rotation with a lot of potential, but I have too many doubts about the offense.
HOU - 72
Way over-preformed last year, and are pretty bad outside of Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman. But they can't trade them and rebuild. Or sign more guys and contend. Or wait for help from the minors. Yikes.
PIT - 67
Just not a good team, but heading in the right direction. It's nice for the O's that the Pirates are around, as they've been bad for longer and don't look like they'll pull out of it sooner.
LAD - 88
Will Manny play full-effort all year? Will Russell Martin play third-base some more? Will Juan Pierre play much at all?
ARI - 86
Don't really understand letting Randy Johnson go and then singing Jon Garland, but Webb and Haren at the top of the rotation solves a lot of problems.
SFG - 78
Brian Sabean has actually done a relatively good job with the team since the Bonds era ended. The biggest question is probably if all of the people that said that Tim Lincecum's size and motion made him a health-risk will be proven right. I don't think so, but if he does go down then it'll be another long year by the Bay.
COL - 75
Their magical run to the World Series was based largely on production on defense that regressed last year. Will a healthy Troy Tulowitzki help them bring that back?
SDP - 73
Their ballpark hides that fact that the pitching may be more of an issue than the offense.