Talent abound in the AL East


matsui250_121708.jpgWHEN LAST WE LEFT OUR HEROES …
… We were in the midst of our subjective position-by-position ranking of the teams in the American League East, with the intention of trying to discern, however unscientifically, how these teams rank in terms of talent. We’re using a simple scoring system: if a team’s player ranks first out of five at a position it receives five points. If it ranks fourth, it receives four points, and on down the line. Having reviewed all the fielding positions (scroll down, pilgrims), the score was Red Sox 31, Yankees 26, Rays 25, Orioles 21, Blue Jays 17 with designated hitter and the pitching staffs yet to go.

Designated Hitter:
1. Red Sox: David Ortiz
2. Yankees: Hideki Matsui
3. Orioles: Aubrey Huff
4. Blue Jays: Travis Snider
5. Rays: Free parking

As with many of these entries, there is a great deal of conjecture here. Will Ortiz be completely healthy? He wasn’t half bad when he was hurting. Will Hideki Matsui’s knee problems be a thing of the past? Will Huff revert to his previously mild levels of production for a DH? How will 21-year-old Snider hit over a full season? Who is the Rays’ DH? The correct signing could jump the Rays up to second place or third place on this list. For now, THE SCORE: Red Sox 36, Yankees 30, Rays 26, Orioles 24, Jays 19.

No. 1 Starter:
1. Yankees: CC Sabathia
2. Blue Jays: Roy Halladay
3. Red Sox: Jon Lester
4. Rays: James Shields
5. Orioles: Jeremy Guthrie

You want to take Halladay over Sabathia, I won’t argue with you. THE SCORE: Red Sox 39, Yankees 35, Rays 28, Orioles 25, Jays 23.

No. 2 Starter:
1. Rays: Scott Kazmir
2. Yankees: Joba Chamberlain
3. Red Sox: Josh Beckett
4. Blue Jays: Dustin McGowan?
5. Orioles: Garrett Olson?

These numbered starter designations are somewhat arbitrary, so if you want to debate who should be sorted where that’s fine. Kazmir rates over Chamberlain on the basis of greater experience; Chamberlain rates over Beckett because of the latter’s health problems this season. Speaking of health problems, it’s not quite clear when McGowan will be back from surgery to repair a frayed labrum. Between injuries (Shaun Marcum is likely out for the season) and the free-agent defection of A.J. Burnett, the Jays have really had a hole blown in their starting rotation. As for the Orioles, their rotation is scary anonymous — and likely scary bad.
THE SCORE: Red Sox 42, Yankees 39, Rays 33, Orioles 26, Blue Jays 25.

No. 3 Starter:
1. Red Sox: Daisuke Matsuzaka
2. Yankees: Burnett
3. Rays: Matt Garza
4. Blue Jays: Jesse Litsch
5. Orioles: Chris Waters

The wild card here is Burnett’s health, Matsuzaka’s ability to dance between walks for another year, and if Garza can take the wonderful things he did to the Red Sox in the ALCS into the regular season.
THE SCORE: Red Sox 47, Yankees 43, Rays 36, Blue Jays 27, Orioles 26.

No. 4 Starter:
1. Yankees: Chien-Ming Wang
2. Rays: Andy Sonnanstine
3. Blue Jays: David Purcey
4. Red Sox: Tim Wakefield
5. Orioles: Radhames Liz

I’m going on feel here. It’s all guesswork at this point, except that Wang should trump the lot if he stays healthy — although David Price could be listed here, and perhaps he blows everyone else away. Liz could turn out to be the best Orioles pitcher, or the worst. He certainly has the potential to be good, but the Orioles aren’t very good at tapping potential. Sending an unrefined pitcher to the O’s is like hiring a porpoise to sniff out truffles.
THE SCORE: Red Sox 49, Yankees 48, Rays 40, Blue Jays 30, Orioles 27.

No. 5 Starter:
1. Yankees: Right now it’s probably Phil Hughes, but they could sign anyone.
2. Rays: Price, barring a Spring Training breakdown.
3. Red Sox: Clay Buchholz likely gets first dibs.
4. Blue Jays: I don’t think they know, either.
5. Orioles: Just what do you want from me, already?

Three pitchers with great potential, two unknowns. I think they call that a full house. The top three could shake out in any order, particularly if Hughes is secretly Derek Lowe or Lefty Grove, Price proves to be Wade Davis or Jeff Niemann or someone like that … Or if Buchholz turns back into Charlie Zink.
THE SCORE: Yankees 53, Red Sox 52, Rays 44, Jays 32, Orioles 28.

Closer:
1. Yankees: Mariano Rivera
2. Red Sox: Jonathan Papelbon
3. Blue Jays: B.J. Ryan
4. Rays: Troy Percival
5. Orioles: George Sherrill

No shame in being third in this group. I’m not going to score middle relief because it’s far too volatile, but if I had to rank them right now, I would pick the Yankees, Blue Jays and Rays in some order ahead of the Red Sox and Orioles. That makes our FINAL SCORE: Yankees 58, Red Sox 56, Rays 46, Jays 35, Orioles 29.

So, there you have it. One version of the talent spread among the teams of the AL East. By switching just a few assumptions, you could easily flip the Red Sox over the Yankees, or bring the Rays a lot closer. There are so many moves yet to happen the whole thing could change … except the Orioles being last. That’s set in stone.

TV TIME AGAIN
I’ll again be chatting from the cyber-closet with Bob and the gang on the YES Hot Stove show, 6:30 p.m. EST on Thursday. Once again, I’ll be looking for your input, so feel free to comment here or in our pre-show thread, which we’ll open up tomorrow. I hope you will tune in.

8 Comments

Great couple of columns, Steve. Your assessments are very fair, although I would change rotation spots for Chamberlain and Wang, which is what I would assume the Yanks will do. Concurrently, it also would put the Yanks ahead by more points since Chamberlain would top the no. 4 starter pile. Also, I have a little more faith in Damon than you do though. This is his walk year, so barring injury, I’m expecting the full package to be on display. Same for Matsui. Which, hey, I think it helps the Yanks greatly to have these guys playing hard for new contracts. Anyways, good stuff; you should follow this up by comparing Marvel and DC’s lineups at Wholesome Reading!

I’m a big fan of your blog and NoMaas.org … I read Pete Abraham’s blog just because he picks up the scoop faster than anyone, poor analysis. However, he has a good point about Joba, because of work load, he should be the 5th starter. What are your thoughts on this?

Sorry, forgot to mention Replacement Level Yankees Weblog as the other site that I read frequently.

Great analysis on the teams in the East. Its definitely debatable who is better Halladay or Sabathia, Elias ranks Sabathia a few points higher. I’m looking forward to this match up when the Yankees play the Jays. I’m convinced the Yankees have the best pitching rotation regardless of whether the #5 starter is Pettite or Hughes or someone else.

The introductions of Sabathia and Burnett should be interesting to watch. Looking forward to the comments on the Hot Stove.

Not so sure I would place Pap below Rivera but a great couple of articles. Thanks!

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

I really enjoyed your rankings as it gives us fans something to argue over during a long and usually uneventful (although not recently) off season. That said, I cannot comprehend how such an astute writer could plug Joba Chamberlain as the Yankees number 2 starter. First off, it has basically been established that the Yankees are going to be cautious with Joba?s innings this year and plan on sticking to their infamous 40 innings rule which has been pinned to every young pitching prospect in their system. (For those curious the rule is that the Yankees will not allow a young pitcher to throw more than 40 innings above his previous season total). That alone makes him the fifth starter since the Yanks will undoubtedly have to skip him throughout the season to keep his innings down. Notwithstanding this rule, how could you have put Joba above Wang when prior to his injury Wang was the clear cut ace of this team. I am so tired of how the fans and media have anointed Joba as the second coming. I understand that he has electric stuff, with a high 90?s fast ball and four well-developed pitches. But can we at least let him pitch a full season before we place him ahead of Wang who has won 19 games each of his last two complete seasons. Not to mention that the Yanks just paid 85 million for Burnett who won 18 games last year on a team with no offense. I agree that Joba is going to be a star pitcher for years to come, but I think we are expecting too much, too quick. If anyone expects him to be 17-9 with a 3.3 ERA next season they need a reality check. Player development takes more than one year.

Try Matsui about 4th or 5th on that list. Sorry but Japans favorite player is old and decrepit, and can no longer play a full season…. Should have moved him when they had the chance in the 07 off season…

I’d have to just point out htat the Yankees will have the best pitching staff in the AL, to say the least. All of Their 5 starters ranked either 1st or 2nd on THIS list, which is saying something, and the best closer in the history of baseball. The bullpen was close to solid last year and i dont see it changing for the worse at all this year.

AL Pennant, anyone?

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