Boston Red Sox: 92-70 (projected 2011 record)
A reloaded and presumably healthy offense invigorated by Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez will get all the attention, but [Baseball Prospectus' projection system] PECOTA sees the real improvement as being due to a strong starting rotation aided by a rebound season from Josh Beckett and a deeper bullpen. ... PECOTA expects the Sox to allow 50 fewer runs than last year, a tall order if Beckett, John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka don't deliver on past performances. ... Adrian Gonzalez could be due for a real breakout in Fenway Park. ... PECOTA foresees .281/.379/.502 rates and 31 home runs, but that projection might prove to be too conservative. ... Player who could disappoint: Beckett.
New York Yankees: 91-71
[S]everal Yankees disappointed at the plate last year and yet they still led the league in runs scored. They should be potent again this year, with PECOTA calling for them to lead the division in runs scored. The bullpen, with its Rafael Soriano-to-Mariano Rivera endgame, should be a standout. Why they might not win: Because the richest team in baseball has Bartolo Colon, Sergio Mitre and Freddy Garcia competing for rotation spots ... Player who could disappoint: Derek Jeter. ... [He] couldn't get the ball off the ground last year. (His ground ball rate of 65.7 percent was the highest in baseball.) PECOTA's .281/.350/.389 projection offers faint hope for the 37-year-old shortstop.
Tampa Bay Rays: 84-78
Rays starters had the third-best ERA in the league. Replacing Matt Garza ... with top prospect Jeremy Hellickson should further strengthen the unit. ... Almost the entirety of last season's bullpen is gone and the replacements have names like Farnsworth and Peralta. Joe Maddon is the game's most creative manager, but it would take an act of sorcery to create a bullpen as good as last year's best-in-AL unit. ... According to PECOTA, the Rays will drop nearly 60 runs of offense and allow more than 60 more. ... Player who could surprise: Manny Ramirez ... A conservative PECOTA calls for him to hit .269/.380/.462.
Baltimore Orioles: 82-80
Toronto Blue Jays: 76-86
SG at RLYW ran another round of sims last week (+/- are as compared to 2010 totals)
W L RS RA ALE WC POST W+/- RS+/- RA+/- Red Sox 96.2 65.8 831 687 45.6% 17.6% 63.2% 7.2 13 -57 Yankees 92.1 69.9 821 726 28.8% 19.4% 48.2% -2.9 -38 33 Rays 87.9 74.1 737 663 17.3% 14.6% 31.9% -8.1 -65 14 Blue Jays 77.2 84.8 709 738 4.2% 5.0% 9.2% -7.8 -46 10 Orioles 76.9 85.1 739 788 4.2% 4.8% 9.0% 10.9 126 3SG:
In the AL East, the Blue Jays, Orioles, Rays and Yankees all improved, with Baltimore making the biggest gains. The Red Sox still project as the best team in baseball, but the gap has shrunk a bit. ... Even though rosters are a bit more settled than they were six weeks ago, it's still too early to read too much into these. So take them with the appropriate amount of skepticism.
On February 4, I posted the predictions from three pre-season magazines, including The Sporting News. Here is a bit more from the magazine, some of the "rival scout" remarks about the Red Sox and Yankees:
... hard to find a lot of holes. The lineup looks like a monster with Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, who I think is going to go nuts now that he's out of San Diego ... I guess if you want to pick it apart, you can wonder a little bit about that rotation if they don't get a bounce-back from Beckett and Lackey ... even if the rotation has question marks, it's still deeper than what the Yankees have right now.Yankees:
Unless A.J. Burnett gets things figured out real quick, they're going to really struggle again with that starting pitching.Joe Girardi on Burnett: "I just have a feeling in my gut that he's going to have a good year."
I fully assume that Girardi said something very similar last spring.