5. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – 2011 Record (86-76)
2nd place in division.
With Texas emerging as a perennial American League super power, the Angels run of yearly domination in the West has subsided. The team is young, but super talented, and with a new GM on board, they’re hungry to take back their division.
The biggest moves needed to made address their starting pitching. After the big three of Weaver, Haren and Santana, their starters were incredibly unforgiving.
With the bats there were some issues as well. Vernon Wells is coming off his worse career year, only hitting .218. He hit 25 home runs and said that he was swinging for the fence too much. This off -season he is working on getting back to his regular form.
Rookies Mark Trumbo, and Mike Trout are legit. Trumbo put up Rookie of the Year type numbers, crushing 29 home runs, filling in for the injured Kendrys Morales who was out the entire season, still trying to recover from his broken ankle.
One of my sources spoke with a leading MLB injury expert, who told him she wouldn’t be surprised if Morales isn’t ever able to play again. Serious stuff. But if Morales does return, with a matured Trumbo, Trout, and a speedy Peter Bourjos (regarded by some as the fastest white guy ever seen on dirt), watch out. This lineup could be loaded, surrounding a rejuvenated Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter.
4. Minnesota Twins – 2011 Record (63-99)
5th place in division
Hard to believe this was a playoff team just two years ago, with most of the same pieces. Look up ‘injury’ in the dictionary. You’ll see a pair of twins lying right next to the description. And yes, they are lying, not standing.
Pitching wasn’t the only issue here, as the Twins have always gotten by with mediocrity in that department it seems (Scott Baker was the only to throw under a 4.00 ERA), but injuries mired the Twins all season long.
The jury is still out on Justin Morneau and whether or not he’ll ever be the same after his severe concussion. He wasn’t the same in 2011, that’s for sure. The former MVP only hit .227.
Joe Mauer seemed to have played hurt most of the year as well, only hitting .287, well below his career average. And Jason Kubel and highly regarded Japanese export Tsuyoshi Nishioka were also out half the year with injuries. I think the last time I saw this much ‘unluckiness,’ if you will, I was probably watching a Friday The 13th movie.
Don’t be surprised if they put Mauer at first base this season, at least part time. Minnesota just signed former Pirate catcher Ryan Doumit.
Michael Cuddyer was about the lone bright spot for the Twins last year, hopefully they can re-sign him and if they find some pitching and some health, expect a large improvement in the win column.
3. Chicago White Sox – 2011 Record (79-83)
3rd place in division
It was arguable the White Sox had the most talent in the entire league aside from Boston last spring. When you’re lineup is that stacked and you are considered by some as favorites to take the division, a 3rd place finish doesn’t bode well. There always has to be a scapegoat, and former manager Ozzie Guillen is now in South Beach. If the Sox don’t turn things around this year, it could be GM Ken Williams’ head this next time around.
Chicago decided to hire former Sox all-star third baseman, Robin Ventura to be their new manager, and he’ll have his hands full.
Adam Dunn is coming off a year in which is considered possibly the worst all-time by a full-time starter, only batting .159. And oh ya, he still has 3 years left on his 56 million dollar contract. Ouch? Yes. But that’s not all…
Because Alex Rios and Juan Pierre also couldn’t get it going, that left a major hole in the lineup, a hole which could have been filled by highly touted prospect Dayan Viciedo, who was mashing in the minors. However, GM Ken Williams refused to bring him up in order to let his older veterans play it out. That didn’t work.
Pierre won’t be back in 2012, but they are hopefully looking to sign long time ace Mark Buehrle again. With bringing in Chris Sale as a full-time starter, hopefully Phil Humber can regain his dominant first half form, and the trio of Floyd, Danks and Peavy can bounce back and lead the Sox back into contention. At least this is what South siders are hoping for, which is probably more than the north siders can hope right now….
2. Atlanta Braves – 2011 Record (89-73)
2nd place in division
Ten games up in the Wild Card as late as September and Atlanta misses the playoffs? How do you blow the largest lead in National League history? Untimely hitting and horrific pitching, that’s how.
You can’t blame it on Dan Uggla, who hit a whopping 21 home runs and averaged .296 after the all-star break. You can’t blame Freddie Freeman, Chipper Jones and Michael Bourn, who all hovered around .300 post-break. But then again, maybe everyone is to blame?
Maybe there doesn’t need to be scapegoat here. Maybe the Braves just choked, not getting the right hits at the right time. But one thing is for certain, after Tim Hudson (2.83 ERA), no other starter showed up.
Here are your post all-star break ERA’s : Brandon Beachy (4.12), Jair Jurrjens (5.88), Derek Lowe (6.20), Tommy Hanson (8.10, 26 innings pitched).
The Braves have a farm system that is stacked and full of young arms. They’ll be back for major redemption in ’12.
1. Boston Red Sox – 2011 Record (90-72)
2nd place in division
Oh, Boston. The mother of all scapegoats. You had a manager and a GM that gave you your first two championships in 86 years, and with one month of bad play you forced them out of town. Hey, at least the Cubs are thrilled.
No need to blame this downfall on the clubhouse video games, beers or chicken (heck, those things bring guys together!) No doubt, this being the worst choke job in AL history (Sox were up 8 ½ games on the Rays on September 1st) this was a pitchers worst nightmare.
Jon Lester and Josh Beckett showed up, of course, throwing a 2nd half ERA of 3.72 and 3.73. Very respectable. However just as we checked out the Brave’s stats, check out these Red Sox pitching numbers post-all star break:
Andrew Miller (6.59 ERA), John Lackey (6.00 ERA), Tim Wakefield (5.55 ERA).
Not good. At all. This kids, is how you have a stacked lineup with MVP candidates like Adrian Gonzalez, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz, and still lose.
Boston will hire their new manager. They’ll make a few changes (hopefully finding some starting pitching) and they’ll be right back in the saddle of contention next season.
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