Two on Two: AL East Preview
By Rich Lederer and Patrick Sullivan

We kick off the 2007 Two on Two series today with the American League East. Peter Abraham is the Yankees beat writer for The Journal News and The LoHud Yankees Blog. His blog has become indispensable reading for Yankees fans. He is currently in Tampa covering the team, mixing play-by-play coverage of spring games with insightful behind-the-scenes reports, audio interviews with Joe Torre, and humorous comments. Mike Green writes for one the most popular baseball blogs out there, Batter's Box, which is largely devoted to analysis and coverage of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Rich: Thank you, Pete and Mike, for joining Sully and me today to kick off our baseball previews. We decided to come out of the blocks with the AL East. Given the fact that the AL Central sent two teams into the playoffs and one club to the World Series last year, is it still fair to say that the East is the best division in the American League?

Pete: Well, it's certainly better than the AL West. The Central is more interesting in some ways because of the great young players and the presence of Johan Santana. But the best division is the East. The Yankees and Red Sox are loaded and Toronto is far more of a presence the last two years.

Sully: I pretty much feel the same way as Pete in that the East is way better than the West and the Central and East are neck and neck. But I am going to cop out and stop short of calling the East better and say that it's just about a dead heat. Detroit, Cleveland, Minnesota and Chicago are all good teams.

Mike: I think that the Wild Card is likely to come out of the AL Central again this year. The bottom-dwellers in the AL East should be a fair bit better this year, making 95 wins a challenge for two clubs in the division to accomplish.

Sully: Pete, obviously losing Gary Sheffield and Randy Johnson in and of itself is not good but with the Yanks already laden with oldish talent, stockpiling some decent prospects didn't seem like a bad strategy at all. What were your thoughts on this past off-season for New York? What did you like and dislike?

Pete: Losing Randy Johnson and Gary Sheffield sounds bad from afar but in reality it could be little more than a blip. The Yankees won 97 games with only small contributions from Sheffield. Johnson was more effective than he is often given credit for but the Yankees have enough inventory among their starters to make up for his loss and it will come far, far cheaper. Johnson also taxed the bullpen more than the Yankees expected. This was a case of Brian Cashman selling while he could still get a good return. Cashman added seven players during the winter via trades and six of them were pitchers. It's hard to argue with that. In terms of what I disliked, I'm not sure the money invested in Kei Igawa was wise. For $46 million (including the bid) they could have signed an established MLB pitcher, not a fringy lefty from Japan. But obviously it's hard to judge a pitcher none of us has seen.

Sully: This feels strange but in order of 2006 finish it is now time to address the Jays. Mike, what did J.P Ricciardi do well this off-season and which aspects of the team would you like to have seen addressed a little more thoughtfully?

Mike: The signing of Frank Thomas means that the Jay offence should be able to match, or come close to, the Sox and Yankee offences in potency. On the downside, the Jays needed a middle infielder to accompany Aaron Hill. In signing Royce Clayton to fill the role, Ricciardi is hoping that the 37 year old Clayton can rejuvenate his career after several weak offensive and defensive seasons. Ricciardi did pick up Ray Olmedo from the Cincinnati organization during the off-season; it wouldn't surprise me to see Olmedo take the starting job at some point during the season. The back end of the rotation was an issue for the Jays, as it is for most teams. Ricciardi signed two rehabbing starters, John Thomson and Tomo Ohka, to compete for rotation slots, but the success of the team is more likely to depend on the development of the young pitchers Shaun Marcum, Casey Janssen, Dustin McGowan and Francisco Rosario.

Rich: After eight years of finishing in second place, Boston "slipped" last year and found themselves in third and watching the playoffs on TV. Theo Epstein & Co. made some significant changes during the off-season, upgrading in right field and at shortstop while adding strength to the top of the rotation. Could this be a powerhouse team in 2007?

Sully: Yeah I think the Sox will be back in their normal contending position this season. The Red Sox finished 12th in the AL in OPS from the catcher position, 10th at 2nd Base, 13th at shortstop, 12th in center field and 13th in right field. Boston got 34 combined starts from Matt Clement (6.61 ERA), Kyle Snyder (6.02), Lenny DiNardo (7.85) and Jason Johnson (7.36). Before you even factor in the additions Theo et al made, you would have to think the Sox improve on the basis of better health (Jason Varitek, Coco Crisp) and expected bounceback (Josh Beckett) alone.

Rich: How does everyone see the Orioles and Devil Rays. Can either team be a factor this year or are they just also rans?

Pete: They cannot be factors in terms of winning the division or even contending. But they can be annoying to the contenders. Tampa Bay is doing the right things to be good in 2010 or so. Baltimore I just don't understand. They should have made that trade with Anaheim involving Miguel Tejada. Spending so much on the bullpen is also fraught with risk.

Mike: I think that the Rays and Orioles will both be better than last year. The Rays have about the same odds as the 1967 Red Sox of winning. There is enough talent there to win (they might have the best outfield in baseball, and Scott Kazmir and Jeff Niemann could make a fine top of rotation), but the chance of it all being harnessed in 2007 is very small. Joe Maddon has a very difficult job, handling trying young personalities and integrating them into a cohesive whole. The Orioles' major problem last year was with their pitching staff, as they gave up almost 900 runs. I am a believer in Mazzone magic, and with the development of Adam Loewen and Daniel Cabrera, and the additions of Kris Benson, Danys Baez and Chad Bradford, they could easily chop 80-100 runs off that figure. Still, when a club's upside is 80 wins or so, it is hardly cause for celebration.

Sully: The Rays are absolutely headed in the right direction but are not there yet. Baltimore, on the other hand, I mean who the hell knows? No plan, no farm, no chance for the forseeable future. And it's too bad because Baltimore is a proud franchise with a rich tradition.

Rich: OK, let's drill down and take a closer look at each of the five teams. We'll start with the defending champs. Except for whoever is going to play first base, that lineup looks like it's better than what most of us could put together in a ten-team fantasy baseball league.

Pete: I wrote this last season and I will probably write it again this season but the Yankees could score 1,000 runs. Bobby Abreu is a great fit with his OBP and having Melky Cabrera as a reserve should keep Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui fresher and more effective. You can go on and on, the lineup is insane. The only weakness, if any, is that it's very left-handed.

Rich: Everybody thinks of a team like the Angels as aggressive on the bases when, in fact, the so-called Bronx Bombers were second in the AL in SB with the highest SB % in the league.

Mike: The Yankee offence is a sabermetrician's dream. They led the league in team OBP by 12 points over Boston last year, and look poised to repeat to me. They have enough power and speed to move baserunners around, but the strength of the club is getting them on.

Sully: Pete, what are the variables that will dictate success or failure for the Yanks this season? Of course health is always an issue but what other factors are out there? When will we see Philip Hughes and how good will he be? Does Robinson Cano stay healthy and break out this season?

Pete: Cano could be their second or third best player before the season is out. He seems in much better condition this spring, which could help him stay healthy. Their only question is starting pitching. But with Hughes on the horizon along with others, they should be OK. They will control Hughes' innings for a few months in Scranton then spring him loose around the All-Star break. Then there is the chance Roger shows up. Do you guys sees Clemens coming back to the AL? I do.

Rich: I still think Houston has the hometown edge but would not be at all surprised if Roger pits the Yankees against the Red Sox and goes to the team with the best combination of salary and wins come Memorial Day, especially if the Astros are not looking like a playoff contender. What's the scoop out of Florida, Pete?

Pete: Roger is working out with Koby at the Houston camp. Meanwhile Randy Hendricks was here in Tampa the other day and Derek Jeter sends text messages to the Rocket all the time. Based on the feel I get from Andy Pettitte, he and Clemens were tired of the lack of run support in Houston and I'm not sure Carlos Lee changes that enough. I'll admit, I hope he comes to the Yankees. He makes great copy.

Sully: You know I am hoping for the storybook homecoming and reconciliation but like Rich, think Houston has the edge.

Pete: Sully (and I grew up near Boston, I know like 16 guys named Sully), do you think the Sox can resist using Jonathan Pabelbon to close? I can't see Joel Piniero being the man for a true contender.

Sully: Well given how good Boston's lineup and starting pitching should be, I think they will have the luxury of figuring out who the closer should be on the go (I see the bullpen getting the ball with a lot of 6-2 type leads). The value proposition of having Papelbon in the rotation is straightforward - better to get 200 innings out of a premium talent that 70. Between Brendan Donnelly, Pineiro, J.C. Romero, Devern Hansack, Mike Timlin, Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen, there is a decent chance that by mid-May or so one of these guys will have emerged. But if it is apparent that the back end of the Sox pen is costing them, I think they will move Papelbon back to Closer by June 1.

Mike: Exactly. My money is on Donnelly to be the Sox closer. The club will be better off, as long as Papelbon can post an ERA in the 3.5-3.8 range as a starter. I think he can.

Rich: I'm not quite as sanguine as it relates Donnelly or Boston's bullpen overall. Without Papelbon closing games, I think it is the one weak link of the team. I wouldn't be comfortable handing the ball to any of those aforementioned middle relievers with the game on the line in the eighth or ninth inning on a regular basis. I wonder if either Hansen can grow up in a hurry or Bryce Cox can fly through the minors to give the Red Sox some relief, if you will. In the meantime, I'm concerned that the Boston media will have a field day blaming management for putting Paps in the rotation and not having a legitimate closer to replace him.

Pete: I have not been to Fort Myers yet but I keep hearing stories about Daisuke Matsuzaka's amazing arm strength and endless bullpen sessions. How Boston uses him (every five days or every six) will be a story to watch. He's a fascinating pitcher but you wonder if this is one case where the hype outweighs reality. It seems like every time everybody is sure about something, it's just not the case. Do you guys think he's an ace or merely a very good starter?

Mike: I wish I knew. Using Jay starters as measuring sticks, he is somewhere in the A.J. Burnett - Roy Halladay range. Even at the bottom of the range, where it is probably safest to guess that he will fit, he helps the Sox.

Sully: Wow, lukewarm on Matsuzaka are we? He's 26 and has a track record of dominance at high levels of play. I see no reason to project him to be anything short of a top-10 AL starting pitcher.

Rich: Back in December, I predicted that he would win 14-16 games, with a 3.50-4.00 ERA and 150-180 strikeouts. Call him an ace or a very good pitcher, that's an outstanding pitching line for someone in the AL East.

Mike: Sounds right to me. Speaking of uncertainty and pitchers, what do you think about Burnett? He was a .500 pitcher through his 20s despite having first-rate stuff and decent control, with injuries and emotional issues playing an important part. More of the same, or a blooming into a fully developed effective pitcher?

Rich: I've always liked Burnett. Like you said, Mike, he has great stuff. A 95+ mph fastball and a hammer curve that generate lots of strikeouts and groundballs. My kind of pitcher. With A.J., it's all about his health. If he can give Toronto 200 innings, he will be one of the most productive pitchers in the league and the five-year, $55 million contract he signed after the 2005 season will look like a bargain in today's inflated market for starters.

Sully: I love A.J. as much as the next guy but he has pitched 200 innings twice in six full seasons so I would say that it seems a bit unlikely that he will reach that mark. On the hitting side, Adam Lind seems like a guy that is ready to help immediately. Any chance of him taking Reed Johnson's job?

Mike: Not at the start of the season. The club has made it pretty clear that he will start the season in Syracuse. But, in the event of injury to any of the outfielders or to Thomas, Lind will be up in a flash (although Lind can only play leftfield, Johnson can play all three positions and Alexis Rios could play a very fine defensive centerfield if required). Lind has a sweet swing, and I expect him in Toronto for good by July at the latest.

Rich: It seems to me that Lind is ready to play at the big league level. I don't know what else there is for him to prove in the minors. The guy has hit well at every level and put up a line of .394/.496/.596 at Syracuse last year, then went .367/.415/.600 in a cup of coffee with the Jays in September. Speaking of major league ready prospects, I bet J.P. wishes he had drafted Troy Tulowitzki rather than Ricky Romero with the #6 overall pick in 2005. Toronto could sure use a shortstop.

Mike: That they can. It would have been nice if they had put up more of a fight for Julio Lugo. Bad enough to not get him, but for a divisional rival to get him at a reasonable price really hurts.

Pete: I remember the 2005 Winter Meetings, J.P. was the prom king because of all the money he spent and spent wisely, or so it seemed. It has to start to pay off this season or the ownership in Toronto will want to know why. I think the Jays will have a sense of urgency.

Sully: There are just too many problems with Toronto for me to be a real believer. While Troy Glaus, Thomas and Vernon Wells constitute a nice offensive backbone, the rest of the lineup is filled with mediocrity and really, the shortstop situation is downright inexcusable. The bullpen is excellent but the starting pitching is as thin as the lineup. Halladay and Burnett are an excellent 1-2 but 3 through 5 gets ugly quick for Toronto. So I see Toronto as a little too top heavy to be a real threat.

Rich: Second baseman Aaron Hill and right fielder Alex Rios ranked first in the AL at their respective positions in John Dewan's plus/minus system. The team's outfield defense looks terrific with Johnson, Wells, and Rios. At the same time, Toronto hit 121 HR at home and only 78 on the road. Maybe the strong offense is an illusion and perhaps the team is more about pitching and defense than not.

Mike: The home/road split was partially fluke. Rogers Center is a good home run park, but not that good. Rios has really only had one-half season of star performance, but I like his chances of keeping it up. He changed his approach at the plate, and went from being a groundball hitter and not pulling the ball to a pull fly-ball hitter. Overall, I am a little more positive than Sully about the club (heck, I live here), but I will concede that their perch on second place is tenuous.

Rich: In some ways, I feel sorry for Toronto fans. Competing in the AL East is not easy. The Blue Jays boosted payroll by more than 50% last year and just signed Wells to one of the biggest contracts in baseball history, yet the club still trails the Yankees by over $100 million and the Red Sox by tens of millions in annual compensation. The franchise is betwixt and between. The Jays are not quite good enough to make the playoffs nor so awful as to get one of the top couple of draft picks every year like Tampa Bay.

Sully: Jamie Walker, Danys Baez, Chad Bradford, Jay Payton, Aubrey Huff and Steve Trachsel. That's a lot of change and some of it positive but we are talking about a 70-win team in 2006. The wheels are spinning, but are the O's moving at all?

Rich: That Baez contract was one of the worst signings of the off-season. I don't know what they see in him but it is indicative of a lack of vision on the part of management.

Pete: Here's my question about the O's: who's running the joint? Mike Flanagan ostensibly but Peter Angelos shoots down trades and Jim Duquette seems to be running a lot of things behind the scenes. They need a unified plan and one voice. In a division of strong GMs, Baltimore lacks that.

Rich: I guess it's not much fun to be a current O's fan either. Long gone are the days of Earl Weaver, all those 20-game winners, and that great infield defense. It's been ten years since the team played .500. As Sully said, this was a proud franchise. But it has been stuck in fourth place for a long time and Tampa Bay is going to pass them soon.

Mike: One game I play is to try and imagine a scenario by which each club could win the division. The only way I can get there for the Orioles is for Adam Loewen, Erik Bedard and Daniel Cabrera to turn into Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz overnight. I strain to get Bedard into Glavine's shoes, but no matter how hard I try, I cannot imagine the other two making miraculous transformations in one season. The best case scenario for the O's, to my mind, is that the young arms take a stride forward, but even there, the offensive firepower is not likely to be there in the future when the arms are ready.

Pete: Where do you guys stand on the Devil Rays? I've gotten to know owner Stu Sternberg a bit and he seems to be doing the right things. They've opened academies in Latin America, increased spending on scouting and development and signed some young players to long-term deals. But in this division, it's still a long way up. Are they at long last going in the right direction?

Rich: Absolutely. I'll give the new ownership and management some of the credit but most of it is simply due to the fact that the team has consistently had one of the first picks in the amateur draft and many of these players are now at the point where they should begin to pay dividends. The outfield of Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli, and Delmon Young is oozing with talent and athleticism while two of the future infielders in Evan Longoria and Reid Brignac are within a year or two of making their impact felt in Tampa. The Rays also have a a top-of-the-rotation starter in Scott Kazmir plus a number of quality arms in the farm system, but I wouldn't expect pitching to be an area of strength until 2009, at the earliest.

Mike: The key issue for the D-Rays will be the development of their infield defence. The signing of Akinori Iwamura helps significantly. It sounds as though the Rays have decided for now to keep him at third base, where he is a Gold Glove quality fielder. Ben Zobrist is an adequate defensive shortstop, but Jorge Cantu is a liability at second base. For now, the plan seems to be try B.J. Upton there at least part of the time. If that doesn't work, Longoria and Iwamura will be tried in some combination at second and third. The progress of the infield defence will play an important role in the paths of the young pitching prospects, J.P. Howell, Jamie Shields, Andy Sonnanstine and Jason Hammel. I am more optimistic than Rich about the progress of the Ray pitching; I expect Howell and Jeff Niemann to take a step forward in 2007.

Rich: If Niemann can stay healthy, he should be a stud in due time. Howell and Shields are capable big-league starters and both should be in the rotation this year. I'm not that high on Hammel and am unsure about how Sonnanstine's stuff will play in the AL East, but they will both be in the mix for a spot at the back end of the rotation this year and next, respectively. What I really like though are a few guys deeper down in the system. Wade Davis and Jacob McGee were two of the best pitchers in the Low Class A Midwest League and Mitch Talbot, who the Rays stole from the Astros in the Aubrey Huff rent-a-player deal, was exceptional in the Double A Southern League playoffs last year.

Mike: Sonnanstine will probably start the season in triple A. Even if the rotation does improve, as I think it will, the bullpen looks miserable to me. Are there any bright lights there that I am not seeing?

Sully: I like Shawn Camp and Chad Orvella, but I can pretty much take or leave the rest of that pen.

Rich: All right, let's go around the room a few times with some concluding thoughts. If there is an MVP, Cy Young, and/or Rookie of the Year out of this division, who do you see grabbing each of those awards?

Pete: There are certainly multiple candidates out of this division. This will probably come back to haunt me, but A-Rod for MVP and Matsuzaka for Rookie of the Year. The Cy Young probably comes out of the Central but I see big seasons for Wang and Beckett. Wang was close to 21 or 22 wins last season.

Mike: The usual suspects, Jeter, A-Rod, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, are again the most likely MVP candidates from the AL East. Instead of one of these four, I'll go on a hunch with two longshot breakout candidates, Carl Crawford and Alex Rios. Matsuzaka for Rookie of the Year makes sense to me, as does Pete's view that the Cy Young winner will come out fo the Central. The best pitcher in the division, and a Cy Young candidate, will once again be Roy Halladay.

Rich: I have a difficult time thinking of Matsuzaka as a rookie but, until the rules are changed, I'm gonna go with him as the ROY. As far as MVP goes, I think this just may be David Ortiz's year. There are a number of Martin Scorseses in this division who could get it based on lifetime achievement, but I sense that Big Papi is going to wear down the voters this time around. Cy Young? If not Santana, then how about Roy Halladay? I could see him winning 16 to 18 games with an ERA in the low 3s. I know that doesn't sound Cy Youngish but those numbers were good enough for Brandon Webb to win it in the NL last year.

Sully: I am not sure I have a lot to add to that. Matsuzaka seems like a great ROY candidate and a dark horse Cy Young winner too. In any order, Ortiz, Manny, Jeter, A-Rod and Tejada are the five best players in the division while Halladay is clearly the best starter. Switching gears a bit, what will be the biggest surprise this year? I am going to go with Boston's bullpen. I'll come off like a homer here but I think new pitching coach John Farrell has enough arms to put together a quality pen, and with the offense and starting pitching as good as it is, they will be able to withstand the inevitable bullpen woes it will take for Terry Francona to figure out everyone's role. But come summer, Boston's bullpen will be a strength.

Pete: The biggest surprise will be the trouble Boston has scoring. Their offense is a house of cards and I don't mean St. Louis. Manny quit on them last season and could do so at any time this season. J.D. Drew's placid personality will be a bad fit in Boston. Coco Crisp and Jason Varitek need bounce-back seasons. I think what we saw of them late season is what they are.

Sully: A house of cards, huh Pete? I would say it is quite a leap to suggest that Manny "could quit at any time." He played less than 150 games for the first time in four seasons in 2006. And Drew's personality could very well be perfect for Boston. He seems more or less emotionless and has never cared about fan pressure. He is a career .333/.474/.600 hitter at Citizens Bank Park and I am pretty sure he has heard a "boo" or two there. Crisp and Varitek may need bounce-back seasons for the Sox offense to click, but they are both tremendous candidates to do just that. And the notion that what we saw late in the season from Boston is what they are now is preposterous. Lugo replaces Alex Gonzalez. Drew replaces Trot Nixon, who was just awful late last season. Manny replaces Kevin Youkilis in left field, who replaces Eric Hinske at first. Crisp and Varitek should be healthy. Think Dustin Pedroia will be a career .191/.258/.303 hitter? Do I need to go on?

Rich: Ahh, just for fun, I'll say either A-Rod or Manny gets traded at the deadline.

Mike: The Tampa Bay Devil Rays. After a 61 win season last year, few people expect them to be competitive this year, but I think that they will be. It will probably mean only about 75 wins due to a weak bullpen, but the AL East goliaths will notice.

Rich: It's time to get out your crystal balls and give us your predictions. Who is going to win the division and in what order do you see the standings come October?

Mike: The Yankees will take the division with 92 wins. That might not sound like much, but for a club in a rebuilding year and cutting payroll, it is really quite impressive. Boston, Toronto, Baltimore and Tampa will follow. The margin between top and bottom will be cut in half from last year's 36 games.

Pete: Until somebody beats them, you have to go with the Yankees. Plus they have what looks like the best team. New York, Toronto, Boston, Tampa Bay, Baltimore.

Sully: Boston leaps two places to win the division, and then it's New York, Toronto, Tampa Bay and Baltimore.

Rich: I believe it will come down to the Yankees and Red Sox. Whichever team does the best job at staying healthy and solving its main weakness (first base and a closer, respectively) will have the edge. If that same club also signs Roger Clemens, good night, turn out the lights, the party is over. Toronto will finish in third by a comfortable margin and Tampa Bay will edge Baltimore for fourth.



Just what flavor is the red sox Kool-Aid? I've always wanted to know, and you've obviously gulped down quite a lot of it. :)

Ah, very nice. I may be optimistic but point out where I am off and I would be happy to engage you.

Youk won't hit like a 1B. Varitek is over the hill and done. Drew will get injured. Dice-K has never pitched in the majors and can't be counted on for anything. Beckett is still going to serve up the long ball now that he's in a real league and a real park. Schilling will get hurt. They have a mediocre bullpen. Have fun in 3rd place.

Rich, I don't know if it's all about health with A.J. Burnett. Obviously, that's an huge factor but I think a lot of his success/failure comes down to that ten-cent noggin of his. Guy with that kind of stuff should be a monster.

Youk will hit better than any 1B the Yankees have. Varitek was hurt all last year, he'll be fine. There's no reason to assume Drew will get hurt, especially since he's not in a star role. Dice-K may have never thrown a major-league pitch, but again, there's no reason to discount his abilities (which, at this point, seem superior to Igawa's.) Beckett acknolwedges his problems from last year and will address them. Last year he pounded far too many straight 4-seamers, that won't happen again. There's no reason to assume Schilling will get hurt. The Yankees also have a mediocre bullpen in front of Rivera.

For every injury or question about the Red Sox, you could say the same thing about the Yankees. There's no guarantee Mussina stays healthy. Pettite could get shelled moving back to the AL. Igawa might not be good. Pavano could get hurt again. Proctor could throw another 100 innings and blow his arm out. Matsui might not bounce back from his broken wrist. Damon's shoulder could give out. Posada might show his age.

I could go on for ages. That post was ridiculous, Truth.

Youk won't hit like a 1B.

Doug Mietkiewicz, on the other hand...

Varitek is over the hill and done.

Every projection system out there has him at worst a top 8-10 MLB catcher.

Drew will get injured.

Nah, I say he playes 140 games. And even if he does, Wily Mo Pena is a tremndous 4th OF.

Dice-K has never pitched in the majors and can't be counted on for anything.

So then I suppose Francisco Liriano, Justin Verlander and Jered Weaver couldn't be counted on heading into last year, either?

Beckett is still going to serve up the long ball now that he's in a real league and a real park.

That may very well be true. But even adjusted for league and park, his 2006 was particularly awful. If you don't think Beckett can improve upon a 5+ ERA, then we will have to just agree to disagree.

Schilling will get hurt.

I suppose I could just take your word for it but the guy did toss 204 innings last season.

They have a mediocre bullpen.

It sure does appear they do now.

Have fun in 3rd place.

Hey I am out there with my call. You're anonymous in the comments section with yours.

LMAO, Pete is a yankee homer if i've ever seen one, get off Cashmans jock pal, that is pathetic. How do you let this fool into this discussion? He sounds like Brian Cashman is in his back pocket, unreal.

On the homer front, I think I come off a whole lot worse than Pete. Pete's the one honest journalist of the bunch. It's not like it's a huge stretch to assert that the Yanks are good.

While their rotation looks like the best in the major league, Boston's lineup will most certainly be their worst problem, as far as I'm concerned.

1. Coco Crisp- While I think he will hit better this year, he always seemed out of place on the big stage in Boston. He doesn't walk enough to be an effective leadoff man, and makes poor decisions on the basepaths.

2. Julio Lugo- In my opinion, Lugo will be the biggest disappointment Boston has seen at shortstop for a long time. His play under the glaring lights of a pennant race last year in LA was just terrible, hitting a very sub-par .219 with the Dodgers when they needed his bat the most.

3. JD Drew- As a former fantasy owner of Drew's, I know how often this man goes on the DL. It's frightening to think just how much Boston paid this guy, and how little they stand to get in return. His 9 years in the bigs have only seen him reach 145 games in a season twice. He doesn't play through pain, and has issues with being on a big stage.

Look for Manny and Ortiz to carry the team offensively again this year, but don't expect too much out of the rest of the hitters.

Alex, Burnett showed increasing maturity last year after his second round of arm troubles. He dealt with the injury, despite unwarranted criticism from management, with grace, and pitched better in the second half than he ever has. I don't really think that it's a lack of brains that afflicted him, but rather that formerly he lacked maturity.

He's always had troubles with runners on. I am optimistic that he now has the maturity to deal with the finer points of pitching- throwing from the stretch, the move and so on. It is spring, and an epidemic of optimism is natural.

"house of cards"... is this guy for real??Lets talk about the Yanks starting pitching.."The Wanger" can't strike out my grandmother..Petite will get lit up against AL hitting..Mussina will go on DL at least once.. Kei" John Wasdin" Igawa..and Fragile Carl nuff said..and Phil "i was nervous in a Spring Training game" Hughes. Also.. Cashman got suckered on Humberto "Sid Fernandez" Sanchez and Minky is a solid hitter???puleazzzee

Some strange comments here. The Yankees have a mediocre bullpen behind Rivera? Wily Mo Pena is a tremendous 4th outfielder? What?

And Reality -

Crisp was hurt all last year. He was normally a great fastball hitter, but last year couldn't get around on them thanks to that shattered finger. I didn't see any real flaws with his game outside the injury (except his arm, but it's slightly better than Johnny's.)

As far as Lugo goes, why discount his performance in the AL East (where he was hitting over .300 and had an on-base of over .360) for the Rays? After he got traded he was playing sporadically and didn't have a set position...that can really screw with a guy's head. Look at his career production, there's no logical reason to think the stint with the Dodgers was the norm.

The questions on Drew may be valid, but a lot of the injuries suffered by him have been freak accounts, like when he got nailed on the hand by a pitch. People constantly focus on the potential negative but ignore the potential positive (a power lefty with a career .400 OBP protecting Manny.) He could have more RBI potential this year than he's ever had in the past, using the Monster to turn into a doubles machine, just like Lowell last year.

I think it's a far stretch to discount this lineup outside of Manny and Papi. Even if Drew goes down, they still have two bats on the bench in Wily Mo and Hinske who can platoon, and Ellsbury in the minors who is looking more like a stud every day.

Pete took things a bit far with the "House of Cards" comment, no doubt.

Wang has put up a fair number of ML innings that show he can do well without striking out your grandma, buffalohead. He'll just get her to GIDP. :)

Pettite's main concern isn't gonna be "getting lit up" but rather the health of his elbow. His ERA will be higher in the AL East than it's been in the NL Central, no doubt, but if he stays healthy (IF), he's a quality pitcher.

Igawa is a total unknown, we shall see. I have no idea what to expect from him.

Pavano - if he throws a single inning in the majors for the Yanks I'll be surprised. If he pitches *well* I'll be really surprised.

Hughes is 20. I'd rather not rush him. I hope to see him in June or July, and I expect he will have worked on the nervousness issue :)

Minky is indeed a poor hitter for a 1B. Then again, I seem to recall a certain team winning the WS with him manning 1B. Who were they again?

One thing i don't think anybody mentioned..Yanks are so deep, really every place. Sure losing Jeter would hurt but there is so much elswhere they could survive. Look at last year..
Lost Sheffield , didn't matter
Lost Matsui, didn't matter, Lost Cano, didn't matter.
Pitching on the DL...didn't matter.
This year, they are even stronger health wise and bench wise. A tough combo to beat in the dog days...

Ask Tito...

Regarding Wily Mo, what's wrong with a 25 year-old 4th OF coming off a .301/.349/.489 season?

While an Yankees fan, I'm not going to go rabid and claim every other team stinks and the East belongs to the Yankees. Both the Sox and Jays have good teams as do the Yankees. Both have excellent pitching and position players. It comes down to who can stay the healthiest the longest. Both teams have places to go if starters fail, Hughes, Olhendorf and Sanchez for the Yankees, Hansen, Lester and even Tavarez for the Sox. Melky and Pena are excellent 4th outfielders. And the only main difference is the pen. I may be biased here, but Scott Proctor, Kyle Farnsworth, Ron Villone, Mike Myers, Luis Vizcaino, and Mariano Rivera I think have an edge over Brendan Donnelly, Pineiro, J.C. Romero, Devern Hansack, Mike Timlin, Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen.

To speculate of the failures of other teams is pretty useless at this point. Like Jeter always says, you don't play the game on paper. The last team standing will be the one with the fewest health issues.

"THe Wanger" as you call him, doesnt have to strike out anyone because he has a pitch that no one else has and it dominates.

Pettite with three "t's" will be just fine.

Mussina will go on the dl for a week and then come back for the playoff run where he is always good.

As far as Hughes goes, he was anxious not nervous and tell me you wouldnt trade any three red sox prospects for him. Enjoy a year of getting excited about Daniel "I have no secondary stuff"

Bard but I will take Hughes any day.
Sanchez for a malcontent who refused to play first? Sounds pretty good to me and the fact that he is a top prospect makes him valuable trade bait at least.

Kei Igawa will be fine for a fourth pitcher.

The one thing you are right about is Carla Pavano who will most certainly go down with an ear infection but hey, you never know right

Um, Pete isn't even a Yankee fan.

I don't see how Toronto can "match" the Yankees' offense. Also, I'm a Yankee fan, and I actually think Drew will play a bunch of games this year. Weren't the vast majority of his injuries bad luck?

It should be a great race.

Pettitte has four Ts.

Wang is either one of the most unique players ever or he's going to be a middle/back of the rotation guy. I bet on the later.

Minkie won't be at 1B all season.

I'm 95% sure Igawa is going to get lit up. At least he won't have to deal with "Fat Toad" comments, those will be saved for Dice-K. Dude must weigh 250 pounds and have no muscle. Looks softer than the Pillsbury Doughboy.

Yes, I'm a Yankees fan.

The Blue Jays won't come close to being competitive for the division unless A.J. Burnett is one of the AL's top 10-15 pitchers. Based on his history, I think we're better off waiting for that to happen than actually predicting it. Offensively, they're a very good team, but not in the Yankees or Red Sox' class.

The Red Sox have excellent starting pitching and a top notch lineup. However, hoping the bullpen will be good might be a stretch when the only guys who proved they could get anyone out last year were Tavarez and Donnelly. Would you trust those guys in a big spot? Hansen and MDC aren't given either. I can also see the skepticism about J.D. Drew. He's NEVER managed to stay healthy 2 years in a row in a 8 year career... fluke injuries or not.

The Yankees aren't perfect, but to consider first base as a problem that will seriously affect the team is silly. I would be more worried if the other 8 players in the lineup weren't All-Star caliber. The Yankees 2 major problems are the 4-5 spots in the rotation (what are they going to get?) and the bullpen before Rivera. Although it looks better prior to this year than it did last season.

Marc, Hughes is good, but any three Sox prospects?

Most Yankee fans would love to have Lester, Delcarmen, Hansen, Buchholz, Cox, and Bowden. Bard falls behind all of them...and that's just the pitchers.

As far as depth goes, look at the benches. You've got Melky, Todd Pratt, Andy Phillips, and Cairo vs. Wily Mo, Hinske, Cora, and Mirabelli. I think there's a little advantage for the Sox there.

Bullpens...Farnsworth has stuff, but never really harnessed it to be effective. Proctor's solid, but if Torre uses him like he used him last year, he's going to break down. Villone & Myers are average at best, and who knows what you'll get from Vizcaino.

I'll say Delcarmen and Donnelly are good matches for Farnsworth and Proctor. Okajima looks to be fairly solid, and if Romero bounces back Boston will have better lefties. There's obviiously no match for Mo without Papelbon, so there's a Yankee advantage. I think Piniero will be serviceable. It really all comes down to how Hansen and Delcarmen adjust.

"Most Yankee fans would love to have Lester, Delcarmen, Hansen, Buchholz, Cox, and Bowden. Bard falls behind all of them...and that's just the pitchers."

The Delcarmen, Hansen, Cox, Lester bit is a joke, right?

And this Piniero will be a decent closer stuff is just ridiculous. I see basically zero chance it happens.


To say that the Jays lineup, other than Wells, Thomas, and Glaus, is mediocre is well, stupid.
Alex Rios will prove that to you in a big way this year. Johnson, Overbay, and Hill are much better than mediocre as well. There's something called objectivity; try using it.

Guys, can we stop pretending the Blue Jays matter?

Alexis Rios: Career 95 OPS+, hit .261/.297/.411 in the second half last year.

Lyle Overbay: 116 career OPS+ which is fine, but pretty average for a 1B.

Reed Johnson: Career year last year but he has a pretty good history of mediocrity: 98 career OPS+

Thanks for the comment but I think I will stand by my statement.


Delcarmen and Donnelly are matches for Proctor and Farnsworth? You can't be serious, especially in light of the fact MDC hasn't pitched a full season in the majors yet. Heck, Luis Vizcaino is on par with Donnelly's declining numbers the past three seasons. Farnsworth in his role as the 8th inning set-up man was pretty good last season. When his role is expanded (closer, 7th inning, tied games, back to back days), that's when the problems began. If you're being honest with yourself, you have to admit the Red Sox' pen is fraught with questions. Without Papelbon, nothing is definate.

"The Delcarmen, Hansen, Cox, Lester bit is a joke, right?"

You'll see for yourself in a couple years when the guys are all regulars. Far better live arms in the Sox system as compared to the Yankees', who have Hughes and a bunch of scraps as far as pitching goes.

Kevin: NL to AL transition for Vizcaino, that never goes smoothly. The NL West was a joke as far as offenses go last year. Nothing in the Yankee bullpen is solid outside of Mo.

I do admit the Sox's bullpen is full of questions, but the Yankee one is too, and considering the MAJOR questions in their starting rotation, I'll take Boston's pitching situation over NY's any day of the week. The only advantage NY has is at closer...Boston's got better starters and more depth. More young arms with higher potential.

And I actually LIKE the Pineiro signing. Guy has some good quality stuff with his slider, curve, and change on top of being able to hit low-mid 90s with the fastballs. I think he'll be able to harness all of it to a point, I don't think it's unreasonable to think he could pull 30 saves and a 3.50 ERA, nobody's asking him to be Papelbon.

kevin, you seem to have a good grasp on reality, so feel free to comment back. I'm not bothering with The Truth anymore.

"You'll see for yourself in a couple years when the guys are all regulars. Far better live arms in the Sox system as compared to the Yankees', who have Hughes and a bunch of scraps as far as pitching goes."

I'm dying here. This has to be a joke. The Yankees minor league pitching is about 100 times better than the Red Sox. If we don't have the best in baseball it is at worst top 3.

I'm late to the party, but I wanted to add my two cents to the Yankees/Sox debate, on a couple different levels. First off, I am a rabid Yankee fan--but I also work with statistics for a living--so I'm not crazy with the fandom.

That said, the first thing I'd like to address is the idea that any three Red Sox prospects could get Phil Hughes from the Yankees. Having watched and followed Lester and Hughes statistically, I can tell you that anyone who would still pick Lester over Hughes is absolutely brain dead, and that's not taking the cancer treatment into account. I think the Yankees would be very hard pressed to say no to an offer of Lester, Ellsbury and Bryce Cox, but even that would be questionable. I also think that Bard has little to no value until he shows that he can throw something other than a fastball. It looks like his upside is a Kyle Farnsworth type--if he can pick up a bigtime breaking ball, and assuming he can control it better than Farnsworth, it'll be the "good farnsworth years" he'll be replicating, not the "bad farnsworth years".

I also wouldn't trade Sanchez for any single Red Sox prospect, and that's telling. (mind you, I'm counting Matsuzaka as MLB, as he ought be considered, not a prospect. Him, I'd trade Hughes for, throwing cost out the window. With the huge price tag, I'd still take Hughes).

On to the bounce back discussions for the Red Sox: While Coco Crisp will have a hard time NOT topping his 2006 season, that's due to a finger issue that sapped his batting all year. Varitek was pretty awful last year, and he's big for a catcher as is. I could see him rebounding playing a bit more often as DH, but with Big Papi there, there's just no place for him. I don't see much improvement coming there, and while top 8-10 catchers in the AL is sort of an awful compliment, I don't even see him making that cut. J.D. Drew may be great, we'll see, but he's apparently cut from the Carl "Glass" Pavano mode, and I'd be very worried if I were a Sox fan. He could work out, but he's a significant risk. On the rebound from that, Matsui showed that he's not very affected in his brief return last year, and has garnered nothing but praise for his work in the batters box this year. In comparison, Sheffield got a lot of "well, he's still swinging hard" comments, but not many said "he'll be back full force". I see no reason for Matsui to be anything other than what he was: Not an Allstar, but a very consistent top LF'er, with middling defence.

Posada is a mixed bag, but even if he declines a bit, he'll still be top 3 AL catachers on the offensive side. If he can continue throwing runners out at the rate he did last year, under Pena's tutelage, he'll be an asset defensively as well. Unfortunately, if he doesn't, we don't have a backup plan.

And to whoever it was that claimed the Yankees pen was weak, you need to check your glasses. As of now, Chris Britton will likely be the person to drop down to the minors, and he had a sup 4 ERA in the AL East last year. Mo, Proctor, Vizcaino, and Villone are workhorses (Villone being the weak link there) and Britton will probably replace either Villone or Myers by June 1. Farnsworth is no workhorse, but still possesses 100MPH gas, and will probably give us more of the same.

The Yankees rotation is a bit weaker than the Red Sox, but not by a tremendous amount. On best scenario for the Sox, they can be tremendous, with 4 Cy Young candidates in Schilling, Beckett, Matsuzaka and Papelbon. Best for the Yankees? 4 as well: Wang, Mussina, Pettite and Hughes (before someone replies that this is a huge long shot--so are papelbon, beckett and schilling). More likely? The Sox--but both have question marks.

I see the Red Sox whupping the Blue Jays, who will take a step backwards, but I see the Yankees mostly coasting into October again, 4-5 games up on the Sox. Barring massive injuries (nothing to Pavano can ever be considered massive), this is a 98 win team. Barring injuries, the Sox are closer to 94. Still a great team, probably the wild card, but that's all.

while top 8-10 catchers in the AL is sort of an awful compliment

I said MLB, not AL. I haven't seen a projection system that has him any worse than the 10th best C in baseball.

I think you're the only person on the planet that thinks Pettite or Hughes will be in the running for a Cy Young. Pettite wasn't even up there in the NL last year.

The Sox have better pitching options 1-5 in the starting rotation than the Yankees, and a much better #6 option in Jon Lester.

I'm still not buying on the Yankee bullpen. Farnsworth is inconstent at best and Villone is marginal. I've stated twice that Proctor is good, but given the way Torre abused him, if that happens again, his effectiveness will drop.

If you state that the Yankee rotation is only a "bit" worse than the Red Sox's, I'll state the Red Sox's bullpen is only a "bit" worse than the Yankees', and that's only because of Mo's presence.

To that, I'd response thusly:

Catchers tend to break off much quicker. There are very few projection systems that don't tend to overvalue declining players, especially ones who have dropped off quickly. Those systems are almost certainly looking at a three year composite of his statistics, and he put up a heck of a season the year before. Fact is, while Coco Crisp's woes were directly attributable to an injury, Varitek's were not. His back and knees can't have helped, mind--but it's not like he broke a wrist or messed his hand up. He did take a stay on the DL, but his stats had been low long before that. Just for anyone reading along with this, here's the size of Varitek's decline.

2005: .281/.366/.489/.855
2006: .238/.325/.400/.725

That's rather precipitous. For fun, which projection systems are you using?

To Steve: Vizcaino will be a strong presence in the Yankee pen this year. His stats last year:

9.92 k/9
2.48 bb/9
.215 .baa
.311 .obp(against)
.397 .slg(against)
.705 .ops(against)
with an ERA of 3.58 in 70 appearances.

As I pointed out in my earlier post as well, I don't think that Pettitte and Hughes will contend for a Cy, they're both incredible long shots. To be honest, I don't think Mussina or Wang will either. Fact is, in your response you've ignored that all four of the pitchers mentioned on your side are long shots for that as well. And given that Hughes is our sixth man, I'd rather have him than Lester. Take him away and put in Sanchez or Clippard for that matter, and I'd rather have either than Lester.

At the major league level, Lester put up one statistic that is a huge red flag:
Whip: 1.65 In any league, that's bad news, but in the AL East, it's much more worrisome. Now I'm sure Red Sox fans who aren't particularly statworthy would respond "he knows how to make a pitch when he absolutely needs one". I'd respond "he got very lucky with men on base".

He may well turn out better than that, but if his WHIP doesn't drop bigtime, that places him no higher than a #5. (again, I'm not declaring that's his ceiling--I wouldn't guess at that. But find me another pitcher who puts 10 batters on base every 6 innings, and I'll find you a bad to middling pitcher.

And the Red Sox bullpen really is rough as of now. You've got a group of mediocre to bad pitchers, and then you've got your youngsters who really could turn out well, but for this season probably won't. Hansen/Delcarmen/Hansack etc. are players I'd like to take a look at, were I a GM, but for next year, two years from now. Not now. They're your crop of T.J. Beam, another pitcher whose minor league statistics are eyepopping, but who did his best to prove he wasn't ready last year. If Beam was on the Red Sox, he'd be up over anyone other than Hansen in your prospect group--he's not sniffing it on the Yankees.

I know who you are dude. Quit with the charades. And seriously, your "Sox are better than the Yankees in all aspects" viewpoint is really stupid.

Here is an interesting case study:

Catcher A:

33 year old season: .272/.400/.481
34 year old season: .262/.352/.430
35 year old season: .277/.374/.492

Jason Varitek:

33 year old season: .281/.366/.489
34 year old season: .238/.325/.400
35 year old season: ???/???/???

Wanna guess who Catcher A is?

Oh and the projections systems I have seen are PECOTA, ZIPS and CHONE.

Lester was also pitching with back pain. Don't forget that.

I'm not buying on Vizcaino until I see anything, especially coming from the NL, and Farnsworth can't be relied on. I don't see a group consisting of Okajima, Donnelly, Timlin, Romero, and Piniero being as bad as you're stating.

I also think you're overrating the Yankee prospects, at least in comparison to the Boston counterparts. TJ Beam above every prospect other than Hansen? That's a far stretch, and taking Clippard or Sanchez over Lester is as well. Buchholz has a higher ceiling than anybody other than Hughes, and Cox projects as high or higher than any of the Yankee relievers.

You know who I am? What are you talking about?

Far as I see it, most of the people here have a "Yankees are better than Sox in all aspects" view, but that's fine with you?

I'm your closer and I suck.

You know what: In response to the "I think the sox have a better option 1-5" I'd say this:

This depends on how you'd rate your rotation. I'd say that Schilling remains the #1, unless you want to put Matsuzaka there. Mussina has retained most of his effectiveness, while Schilling has declined. At worst, they're now equal, but in all probability, Mussina is the better pitcher. Especially since Schilling decided to go for the all you can eat Denny's diet.

So who is #2? I'd say Matsuzaka. He's certainly better than Wang, though I'd not be surprised if he didn't live up to his 10 cy young reputation. The guy's gonna be good, and I wanted him bigtime. Mats gets the nod without question, though don't be too surprised if there's a period for him getting used to MLB hitters and their tendency to ruin anything up in the zone. I'd say that I'd take Wang over Schilling as well, so if you flip flop those two, it's still 1 to 1 (yes, I'd take Mats and Schil over Wang and Mussina as a duo). At 3 it gets tougher. The Sox have to go with Beckett and the Yankees with Pettitte. I can't call this anything but a wash. I expect Pettitte to be better than Beckett was last year, but I expect Beckett to be better than Beckett last year. Down to #4: Igawa or Pavano are both iffy. Wakefield is too, though. Papelbon blows whoever he's compared to away.

So, while the Sox rotation is probably a bit better, I don't think the difference is huge. And when comparins Hughes to Lester, it's not even a question. I'd take Hughes over anyone on your staff save Matsuzaka, and even then, only if the money was evened out.

And the more I think about it, the more ridiculous your "yankees pen isn't that good" arguments. Don't be silly, we're stocked. 3 relievers who both throw upper nineties and are established (not A. Burgos types) And we're absolutely loaded at the AAA level as well.

A little intense for March 2, no? I guess Sox and Yankee fans go at it 24/7/365.

We didn't discuss Varitek in the piece, but I agree with Sully. The main thing I would worry about a 35 year old catcher is cumulative wear. Varitek got a late start to his career and has only caught 1000 games. Posada is actually in the same position. I expect both of them to be good (Posada being better, of course) again this year. Actually, here in Toronto, the same thing applies, at a lower level, to Gregg Zaun.

Actually, that would be either 24/365 or 24/7/52.

Steve: In response to your questioning the "anyone other than Hansen--in terms of TJ Beam" I'm not saying that TJ Beam is a better prospect than Bard or Bucholz. I'm saying that he struck out 10+/9 at AAA and an astounding 14+/9 at A+. If he was on the Red Sox, he'd be the #2 bullpen callup option, behind Hansen. On the Yankees, he's a long ways away.

And I'm really not saying the Yankees are better in all aspects. I'd take your starting 5 over ours, at least for this year (counting Hughes as our #6). I'd take our 1-6 over yours any day of the week, however. That's not that meaningful--your rotation is still better. Just not by much.

In terms of the pen, you're talking about a team that had Rudy Seanez up for the majority of last year, and didn't add any pieces other than Brendan Donnelly (who you'll quickly find out isn't as good as you're pegging him) and Pineiro, who is similarly going to dissapoint, while removing Papelbon. We took a bullpen that was decent last year, and added Vizcaino and Britton.

And yes, Farnsworth is inconsistent, but I'd take him over every single one of your bullpen members now. No, not as a prospect, now as a relief pitcher. There's not a member of your bullpen who I'd give the call to over Rivera, Farnsworth or Vizcaino. Proctor is the equivalent of Donnelly and better than Taveras/Timlin/etc.

Honestly. Who are the bright spots in your bullpen? I just don't see them.

And I'll repeat it again. This love for Lester needs to get cut down a bit. Is he better than he was last year? Yes. Is he ever going to be a #2 pitcher? No. If he threw with his right hand, he'd be significantly less exciting to the Red Sox. Sanchez looks like a #2 to me, and he's no Hughes, but you're undervaluing him as well. I'd put him and Bucholz on the same level, prospect wise. Neither are in the elite echelon of pitching prospects, but both are in the next level down.

And Bryce Cox is good, yes, but a ways away.

Jon Lester vs. Clippard at AA
H/9 HR/9 BB/9 K/9 WHIP
Lester 6.92 0.61 3.46 9.89 1.15
Clippard 6.38 0.76 2.98 9.47 1.04

This Piniero thing boggles my mind. He Ks 1 batter for every 2 IP. He's been hit to the tune of an 817 OPS the last three years (871 last year).

How are Papelbon's other pitches? Does he have the stuff to get through a lineup 3 or 4 times? Also, how is he going to throw 200 IP when he hurt himself throwing 70 IP?

MaximMan: Schilling and Mussina are a wash. If I remember all the stats well, Schilling walks less guys, but Mussina gave up less hits. They both strike out about the same amount, and are very close in BA/OBP allowed.

Last year, Wang was above Beckett, but in terms of potential, Beckett wins. He strikes out a ton more guys and allows les hits. If he alters his pitch selection this year and uses his change/curve a bit more instead of the 4-seamer, his numbers will improve a ton. I expect Wang to regress a bit and Beckett to improve a lot. I think their win-loss potential is about even, and the ERAs should be close, but Beckett will have better hits allowed and K stats across the board.

Either Papelbon or Matsuzaka destroys Pettitte and Igawa, either way you want to look at it, and Wakefield is one of the best 5th starters in the league. Having a top prospect like Lester ready to step in barring injuries is nice insurance, as well.

Hughes isn't a factor at the moment. We'll see what he can do around June if he gets the chance. He may favor comparably to Papelbon, or he may struggle as many rookies do. Can never predict the future of a 20 year old.

You can say it all day, but I'm still not buying on your bullpen outside of Mo.

And the ultimate thing that is going to dog Lester that will make the difference between he and Clippard (I honestly think it's a tossup as to who I'd take, yes I know scouts disagree with me, but statheads do not)
Clippard Minor League WHIP: 1.09
Lester Minor League WHIP 1.30
This, while posting similar k/9's.

"Cashman got suckered on Humberto "Sid Fernandez" Sanchez"

Is getting someone who equals a young Sid Fernandez getting suckered really? In case you don't remember, that guy was a pretty darn good pitcher when he was young, which is exactly what Sanchez is. If Sanchez turns out to be near as good as Sid, you can bet we Yankee fans will all be pretty pleased. Not every pitcher needs to be an ace for his entire career to have a great staff, he only needs to have ace-like stuff at the right time his career.

Steve: Even continually "not buying" the yankee pen (what do you need to buy? K-Rod, Shields, Rivera and BJ Ryan?) You've yet to name me a member of the Red Sox pen you'd rather come in to pitch over Farnsworth or Proctor.

And as I told you on the rotation, yes, your rotation is better, but no, Wakefield isn't a sure thing as a good #5. The slower that fastball gets, the more people are going to be able to sit on it when he gets to 2-2, 3-1 counts.

And on Beckett v. Wang, you're really making a large statement. The problem with Beckett at times was not that he decided to not throw his curveball, it's that he lost control of it completely and had to rely on the fastball. That was seen against the Yankees at one point.

Beckett is a tantalizing pitcher, and I understand why the Red Sox dropped Sanchez and Ramirez on the Marlins for him--but what's holding him back is his HR rate. He may get some more K's than wang, but with wang that's basically irrelevant. I was very worried about that this time last year, but his sample size has overshadowed the worries regarding his lack of K's. Beckett will ultimately allow more hits, while striking out a ton more, than Wang. He'll also give up 4-5 times as many homeruns.

A friend of mine who is now a professional scout told me that Beckett altered his curveball grip to keep from getting the blisters that plagued him on the marlins, and that's what has held his control back. So I ask you, would you rather a very solid Beckett for 1/2 of the year or less, or more or less what you saw last year, for the entire year. And would you really not trade that for Wang, who is younger and throws just as hard?

Comparing anything from last year's team is a joke. The guys ran out there last year were awful, I won't deny that. But there's no way Timlin's worse than he was, Tavarez will not see nearly as much time, and now there's lefties to work with, as well as a very good 7th/8th inning man in Donnelly, and more depth with Piniero. Delcarmen will be better than last year (he was the victim of a lot of bad luck,) he could effectively wash with Farnsworth or Vizcaino.

I think you're overrating Sanchez and Clippard. I can accept your man crush on Hughes, but the rest is a little much. Sometimes you have to look past the numbers. If you watched Lester in his first few starts last year, he has a knack for the moment...throwing the right pitch at the right time. It's hard to explain, but the kid has it. Potential speaks for a lot, but you never know if a prospect will pan out...Lester's already proven he can do it in the big show, as has Papelbon. None of the Yankees' prospects can say that.

To the guy who doesn't understand Piniero, don't look entirely at starting statistics. Some of the best closers of the last decade all sucked as starters (Gagne, Nathan, and Rivera.) They're not the only ones. Now, I'm not even REMOTELY suggesting that Piniero is even close to the same class as those guys, but it's worth noting that he has good stuff as pointed out earlier to go along with decent control. With his new arm slot and the ability to put a little more gas on his fastballs in the pen, there's a chance he could be effective.

As far as Papelbon goes, again, you have to compare starting to relieving. Starting once a week as opposed to throwing harder 3-4 times a week out of the pen will put less stress on his shoulder. His stuff is fine. He'll use the typical fastball/slider/split, and he's said he's bringing back his old curve.

I'm off for now, but anyone who wants to bash me on my views *grin* and have any more debate can click on my name to get my e-mail. I'll happily respond to further discussion. Just one more month to baseball, folks.

Wang does not throw just as hard as Beckett on a consistent basis, and he's not younger, they're the same age.

I take strikeouts and BAA as huge stats, and Beckett destroys Wang in those two categories. The HRs allowed was a glaring stat and the one that resulted in his high ERA, but as I stated before, that was because of his over-reliance on the 4-seamer. He has other options besides the curve that he didn't opt to use, mainly the change and 2-seamer. In the NL East, he could get away with blowing a hard straight fastball by everybody, this was not the case in the AL, and he didn't adjust quickly enough. Everything in ST up to this point has shown him to realize this.

Wang looks to me as a guy that's ready to regress back to the mean. His home/road splits were outrageous, and he doesn't strike anyone out. I'll give him credit ERA-wise, but him besting (or even matching) his stats from last year is a long shot...Beckett, on the other hand, is almost a guaranteed lock to be much better.

So, no...I wouldn't go anywhere near a trade like that.

Steve seems to be ignoring criticism. Honestly anyone who considers Romero as being a worthwhile lefty needs to stop drinking the koolaid and start drinking some coffee. There's a reason Minnesota traded him. You can find a lefty who is 5 years younger and replace him. Heck they signed Dennys Reyes and were better off. And if Bud Black can't make you put up good numbers? I'd be worried.

Everyone last year said "Wang is going to regress". And he didn't. It's not like he's barely throwing a 90 MPH sinker. He's throwing a mid 90s sinker. And a study found out that when it's more advantageous for him to get a K, he does it.

Beckett will bounce back if he doesn't decide that he knows what's better for him than the rest of the team does. Will he post an ERA in the 3s? Maybe a 3.9, but not mid 3's.

As for the Lester just knows how to get people out, you're basically assuming a small sample tells all. I suspect as the sample gets larger, if he continues with a WHIP as is, scouting will easily figure him out.

As for my prediction? I'm not touching the top 3 since too much of it is dependent on the health of a few people. But I think Tampa is finishing in 4th this year and that Baltimore fans will arrive on September 31st with pitchforks and torches outside of Camden Yards and it'll be ugly.

"Last year, Wang was above Beckett, but in terms of potential, Beckett wins. He strikes out a ton more guys and allows les hits."

Yes, Wang gives up more hits and doesn't K as many, but Beckett gives up hard hits. Look at the difference in SLG.

.245 .316 .450 .766
.277 .319 .375 .693

What does Beckett throw speed wise? I don't see him all the time but when I did he was mid 90's. Wang was throwing a heavy ball 94-96. He mixed in plenty of 97s and a 98 here and there.

I agree with you that Beckett will improve. It would be difficult not to. I don't however think Wang will regress. In fact, his defense cost him a bunch of earned runs in 06'.

Oh, and might I add that Wang was CONSISTENTLY 94-96. In fact, his consistency impressed me over the course of the season.

"To the guy who doesn't understand Pineiro, don't look entirely at starting statistics. Some of the best closers of the last decade all sucked as starters (Gagne, Nathan, and Rivera.)"

I agree here. There's potential that Pineiro could be better as a two pitch pitcher. He'll certainly be better than the 6.36 ERA he posted last year, but I highly doubt he's going to be the 3.50 ERA pitcher you suggest as reasonable.

With that in mind, I'm pretty sure Rivera would still suck as a starter. What makes you so sure that Papelbon is a lock to be a successful starter? How are you so confident "Papelbon destroys Pettitte"?

I'm not a Yankees or Red Sox fan, so call me the voice of neutrality.

There have been lots of one-year wonders as closers. The Red Sox may end up with someone who meets that description.

Talking about Papelbon?

About Lester, he's still very young (he just turned 23) and its too early to say that he'll never develop into a number 2. You can't put too much weight on his first 3 months in the major leagues. Most young pitchers (last year was sort of an anomaly with so many young pitchers dominating immediately) do not dominate immediately and are inconsistent. He had some great outings (a 10k performance and a one hitter come to mind) where he showed a lot of promise, and the performance dropoff he had in his last 8 outings seem to coincide with when he developed cancer. What really inflated his WHIP were the walks he gave out. Otherwise, he had good stuff and didn't give up too many hits. His control has never been pinpoint and may never be, but what I've heard from experts is that power lefties tend to develop control later. Besides, many star pitchers had high first year WHIP.
Chris Carpenter first year WHIP: 1.78
Roy Halladay first year WHIP: 1.57
Johan Santana first year WHIP: 1.81
He's very athletic (there was some question as to whether he'd be drafted as a position player or pitcher), and I've read that pitchers who are very athletic tend to be surer bets for harnessing stuff and developing control.
I'm not saying he definitely is going to be a great pitcher, just wanting to point out reasons for optimism. I hope Red Sox fans can be patient with him, especially with what he's gone through.

The conversation about the Yankees and Red Sox is interesting, but I am going to digress from it.

I am very happy to read your comments on the Rays. By and large, I think you are exactly correct. Two issues I have:

1. I think the Rays will become contenders, or at least serious competition, by 2008, not 2010 or 2009 as you say. My reasoning is not just that their core will be either in their prime or just entering it, but that the new administration will act more aggressively after 2007 to fill in holes. As I read their approach, 2006 was to acquire quality and depth for the organization. 2007 is to sort through it to determine what they have (and need). Many questions need to be answered. Among them, and there are many more than I can identify here, are: Can Upton play in the majors and if so where? Are Guzman and Bankston busts? Is Niemann (Talbot? Sonnanstine? Hammel?) ready to pitch in the majors? Has Dukes got his demons under control? Can Brignac stay at shortstop? Is there a closer among McClung, Salas, Orvella? Is Jackson a major leaguer? Is Shields really a decent mid-rotation starter? And so on. I think they will have a better fix on those and other issues and in 2008 will be more active both in the trade market (where the organization's depth should serve well) and in the free agent market to find the complementary players they need to be competitive.

2. I think the criticisms of the bullpen, while certainly justified, may be premature. Aside from the fact that relievers are extremely erratic from year to year, the Rays have many contenders for the bullpen. They include more than the actual relievers such as Reyes, Dohmann (I have no idea why they seemed so hot for him), Ridgeway and holdovers. Remember that even if we assume Seo and Fossum are guaranteed rotation spots, there are at least 5 or 6 contenders for the 5th spot, and some of the losers in that competition may well serve as relievers. Among them are Howell, Jackson, Hammel, Stokes, Corcoran, Ryu. It is not uncommon for lesser starters to become effective relievers, and the Rays bullpen can turn around very quickly, as can any other bullpen in the majors and in any direction.

I absolutely agree that the Rays' new administration is on the right track and despite criticisms of the budget, which I think are irrelevant anyway, will produce not just a contending team sooner than many think, but one that will remain a contender for a while.

I'm late to the thread, but have a bunch of comments on what's been said:

(1) Wily Mo Pena. As as Sox fan, I hope this guy gets a lot of innings. The more he played last year, the better he performed. Why does a guy who bats .301 his first year in Boston get so little respect? It's because of a couple of early, embarrassing gaffes that stuck in the public mind, but weren't representative of his year. This guy crushes the ball like almost no one else in Sox history, and provides a measure of protection for Ortiz and Ramirez.

(2) Jason Varitek. I'm much less optimistic about Tek. His decline, Sox fans who watch the games know, was not isolated to 2006. In the final months of 2005 Tek was swinging and whiffing mightily at every high fastball he was thrown. It was painful to watch. While I can't imagine he gets worse in '07, I don't expect him to return to 2003-04 levels again in his career, sad to say.

(3) Tim Wakefield. Now here's a guy who does not get half the respect he deserves outside of Boston. Wakes is a fan favorite, who gives the Yanks fits (pace one lucking effing at-bat by Aaron "Bucky Dent" Boone), and got royally rooked in the win column last year with the bizarre lack of run support. (Mirabelli does create something of a black hole in the lineup when he's catching him, though he does occasionally stroke a beautiful clutch double or home run.) I expect Wakes to have a solid year in '07, maybe his last big year.

(4) Jon Lester. Lester may prove to be the hidden key to the Sox season. Given that someone key will get hurt in the rotation or pen, and given that he is arguably the one pitching prospect that diehard Sox minor-league watchers have been most loathe to part with, he may either prove the essential missing link in Boston pitching, or its Achilles heel if he can't step up.

(5) Julian Tavarez. The Orc is not only one of the ugliest players (in every sense of the word) ever to don a Sox uniform, he also was a disaster in relief last year. He hardly ever got a hold, usually allowing at least one inherited runner to score. His attitude stinks as well. While he had some brief (tiny sample size) filling in as a starter after the Sox threw in the towel at the end of the year, for 9/10ths of 2006 this was the pitcher fans least wanted to see jogging in from the pen. I'd trade him for a bag of batting practice balls.

A few thoughts:

Wily Mo: the issue i have with him is that his .300 average came with 90 strike outs and only 20 walks in underr 400 PA, striking out almost once every 4 times and maintiain a high average is only possible if you have power like Ryan Howard, Pena may have that, but i'm not that convinced just yet. espically considering that he had a BABIP of .400 + and a HR/F of 14% (which isn't bad, but hardly in the Ryan Howards range.) he showed neither patience nor good plate approach nor actual solid consistent contact skills, that's not a good combination going forward, look at Jeff Francuer.

Lester: He is indeed young and i have faith that he should be quiet good, but in 07? even without considering that cancer thing , he's periphals last year were just as scary as Wang's if not even more so. he struck out at a ok rate, but walked guys at a horrendous rate, he gave up a lot of line drives (over 20%) and was only mildly Ground ball oriented. that is again not very convincing, (another young pitcher that had simliar results last year was Chad Billingsly, i feel too that he'll do fine going foward but this year i would be skeptical)

Wakefield: the guy is over 40, he had back troubles last year ... is he a good bet going foward to give you innings? back troubles are far more likely to stay around on a old pitcher than most other problems...

Schilling: he's been a bigger health risk than Moose over his career, and just look at him... the belly.... being a Phillies fan i really like him, but to count on him to give you 200 inning this year is risky.

As for Farnsworth, never putting it together? huh? the guy put up the following ERA+ in 01 03 05 , 158 , 124, 198!! Donelly is a guy that didn't make the majors until he was 30, he had a fine first two year, so you might say he's what Scott Proctor might be..... 4 years from now. which is pretty bad. Romero was pretty good with the Twins in 02/04/05, but he was pretty bad last year in a pretty bad hitting division? not exactly the recepie for success. i would agree with you that Donelley and Romero were equal/better than Proctor/Farnsworth if this was... say.. 2002 , but this is 2007, where the Yankee duo at least have better seasons last year , younger, and still actually throw hard.

It's hard to make a argument that the Boston bullpen can match the Yankees, yes bullpen is often a unpredictable area but come on, the Red Sox fans having faith in another year that might look like a closer by commitee?

From what i'm seeing, the Red Sox have a better upside than the Yankees, but the Yankees have better stability and depth right now, which will work out better? we shall see

Most of these comments boil down to "Your mother wears combat boots'. Age is a factor that has to be put into play with the Yankees. If they wear well this season,can't see anybody in this division beating them out.

Sully: If you really think Alex Rios is medicore or even just average, you didn't see many Jays games last year.

Since you pointed out his miserable batting line in the 2nd half as a reason for his overall averageness as a player, I'll fill in some details that obviously slipped your mind as you read some more Red Sox propaganda.

And for fun, if we can randomly pick half seasons and determine a players worth, why not point out Rio's first half and declare him the next superstar? Afterall, he went .330/.383/.585 in the first half.

But my biggest beef is you pointing out his shitty second half. Every follower of the Jays knows Rios was rushed back from a freak staph infection too early. There are documented quotes of his saying "I'm not ready to come back yet, my timing is off", and yet he was STILL brought back up to the big show. And he suffered miserably.

Look at his September, after getting his timing back:


So... Sully, put your money where your mouth is: Do you think Rios is going to be closer to his career 95 OPS+ or closer to last years overall 118 OPS+?

And for fun.. that Youkillis guy playing 1B for the Red Sox last year posted an OPS+ of 108 (in 127 games at 1B, versus Overbays OPS+ of 123 and some combination of Giambi(154)/Phillips(77)/Wilson(60) for the Yankees. So while Overbay might be "medicore" at best as you put it, especially for the first basemen, I'd rather have him then any of the other options the "big 3" in the East are trotting out.

Your comment on Reeder is more justified (but probably also wrong, career year last year or not, Reed had some noticable improvements in parts of his game).

The only weak spot in Toronto's batting lineup is this dude named Royce Clayton. *shudders*

Been following this thread, so I figured I'd throw my two cents in regarding Yanks v. Sox. Full disclosure-I'm a Mets fan from NY, but I try to be objective.

Both clubs easily have 95-win talent, but I'd give a slight edge to the Yanks, though the Sox have a slightly better upside. Some random thoughts:

Lineup: The Yankee offense is a bit more well-balanced, whereas the Sox are heavily reliant upon Manny and Papi. Varitek is a question mark-he should improve, but catchers tend to decline quickly and suddenly, so who knows. Pedroia looks decent and Cano is a bit overrated, but I'd still take Cano. You have to think Drew will find a way to get hurt. One area where I see the Sox making a big jump is CF-Crisp is young and ought to be able to put his injury behind him, whereas Damon is an older player at a younger player's position. The difference between the two is much closer than you'd think.

Rotation: Mussina is probably the only Yankee who could be considered underrated. He's a solid ace-unspectacular, but he's been good for a long time now and shows no sign of slowing down. Dice-K, of course, is high upside, but less of a sure bet. I'll come right out and say it, though-Wang and Pettite are overrated. If Wang won 11 games last year, or pitched in Baltimore, he wouldn't be anyone's idea of an ace. His groundball tendencies do sort of make up for his lack of Ks-sort of. He's above-average, not great, and so is Pettite, who will be coming back to the AL several years older. The Red Sox could have a great rotation, but it should be at least good-Beckett ought to improve, and Paps and Schilling should be all right. They obviously beat the Yankees at the back end.

Bullpen: Rivera is the big difference maker, though the Yanks would still have the better pen without him. Proctor, Farnsworth, et. al., make up a decent relief corps, but I don't see anyone standing up from there and turning to Tom Gordon circa 2004, or Stanton/Nelson 1998. The Sox have enough quality arms that they could patch together something pretty good, and I think Pineiro is a really interesting acquisition for the closer's role, but it's also just as likely that it could all go horribly wrong.

On the whole, the Yanks have a slightly better lineup, the Sox have a better rotation and the Yanks have a better bullpen.

A word on the Jays: I see them as an 85-to-88 win team. They could win 90 or 92 if things break right, and they could take the division if the Yanks and Sox melt down due to age/health/luck, etc. It's within the realm of possibility, though also highly unlikely. The Jays have a good team, but they're a notch below the Yanks and Sox.

And Baltimore will finish in last. They suck.

I'm a Red Sox fan, but I think it is possible to set my fandom aside and take a balanced look at both teams, which many people on here seem incapable of. I'm just going to focus on the Yankees and Red Sox right now. I think that the Blue Jays are in the picture for second if one of the Sox/Yanks underperforms, but are highly unlikely to take first so I'm not going to address them.

I'll breakup each team into 4 components, starting rotation, bullpen, starting lineup, bench.

Rotation: Clear advantage for the Red Sox.

There are a lot of question marks in both rotations, but the Red Sox both have a higher expected performance and more upside. Schilling and Mussina are similar with Mussina probably getting a slight edge. Wang and Beckett are opposites, but I'd call it a draw. Both have tremendous upside and Wang could easily put up a season like Beckett did last year given his inability to get strikeouts. Petitte and Matsuzaka aren't even close. Huge edge to the Sox. (And, for all the doubters, there is absolutely no reason to. Scouts love the guy. Statisticians love the guy. Pessimistic projections have him at a 3.8ish ERA. Optimistic ones have him down around 3. There is no reason to believe that he will not be a stud in MLB.) Papelbon and Igawa are close since Igawa is in decline and Papelbon is an unknown quantity. Papelbon has much more upside, so I'd give a slight edge to the Sox. Wakefield v. Pavano is a big Sox advantage. Once again, popular perception fails to match reality on Wakefield. He is nothing but consistent. He consistently puts up a 4-4.5 ERA with occasional great seasons dotted in. His injury last year was not arm related and there is no reason to believe he won't be the same pitcher he has always been next year. Pavano is likely to be a similar pitcher to Wakefield if healthy. He has a slightly better chance of being really good. He has an astronomically higher chance of not playing or sucking.

Bullpen: Clear advantage to the Yankees.

In my mind the bullpens are pretty much the same with the exception of two words. Mariano Rivera. That could be a 3-4 win difference right there although it's more likely closer to 2. Outside of Rivera, I'd call everything pretty even.

Overall pitching is a draw.

Starting Lineup: Draw.

The Red Sox have better defense across the board. Offensively, RF is a draw, CF is a draw but I can see an argument for Damon over Crisp, LF is a huge Sox advantage, 3b is a huge Yankees advantage, SS, Yankees again, 2b is a Yankees advantage but the gap is going to be smaller than a lot of people think, 1b is a big Sox advantage mostly because Minky is a blackhole, DH is a Sox advantage but it's hard to say by how much. Let's say this cancels out Jeter. Catcher goes to the Yankees but is close. Overall, the Yankees win a close offensive battle and the Red Sox make up the difference by being better defensively at every position except 1b and LF (CF might be a draw). The least told story in regards to the Sox is how they have quietly made themselves a much better defensive team. Outside of Manny, there is not a single bad defender on the team. The infield is very strong, and Drew is a great defensive RF. Coco is a bit of a wildcard in CF. The Yankees defense is very good at the infield corners, miserable up the middle except Damon who is merely average at this point, good in RF, and below average in left.

Benches: another draw.
Hinske and Phelps are similar hitters. Hinske is a little more versatile, but not a big deal. Cora is a better glove than Cairo but not as good with the bat, overall pretty similar. WMP and Melky are a wash unless Pena suddenly fulfills his potential. Backup catcher is a wash in that they both are backup catchers. Mirabelli has more upside but also more downside given last year.

Overall: draw.

These teams are dead even as can be seen by Nate Silvers early PECOTA projection he ran on them just after PECOTAs came out and is available if you search Unfiltered for it over at BaseballProspectus. That being said, there is a difference between the two teams in that the Red Sox have a lot more risk built into their team. This means two things. If the Sox play as well as they can play, they WILL win the division. The same cannot be said for the Yankees. However, the Red Sox are also more likely to win fewer than 90 games and be out of the playoff picture. The Yankees will probably end up squarely in the 90's.

I left out sixth starter above, but Hughes has to get a substantial nod over Lester. But, after 6th, I think the Sox have the advantage, evening things out on that front too. Should be a fun season given how close these two teams look.

Age will catch up to the Yankees position players this year, Jeter and Cano should regress somewhat, but A-Rod should bounce back. Abreu should find it more difficult the 2nd time around when pitchers figure him out, but if he and Matsui stays healthy, the OF corners are an upgrade over last year. First base is a joke offensively but the Yankees can afford it, and DM should cut down on throwing errors in the IF at least . Mo's reduced K-rate last year could signal trouble, and is an injury concern. The starting rotation of Mussina, Wang, Pettite, Igawa, Pavano (Karstens, Hughes) looks real brittle. Pettite (and Clemens if he shows up to the rescue) will find the AL a little tougher than the AAAA league otherwise known as the NL.

The Sox bullpen is a big concern, no question. Varitek and Pedroia are question marks offensively, and Drew is an injury risk (but so was Trot), but if Manny stays healthy, and Coco bounces back, the offense is stronger than last year (at the ASB the Sox were 3rd in the AL in offense). The IF defense will be weaker than last year but with a starting rotation that has FB pitchers, and an improved OF defense, it should not hurt as much.

Too close to call really.