2011 Recap – The O’s ended 2011 with a 69-93 record, in the basement of the AL East. The lone bright spots were Matt Wieters and Adam Jones, both young players who hit in the middle of the lineup. In the rotation, the Orioles were pretty bad, with no one having an ERA under 4.60. It was overall an ugly year for Baltimore.
Offseason Recap – Jason Hammel and Brian Matusz were brought in to make the rotation better, and Matt Lindstrom was signed to sure up the bullpen. Wilson Betemit was signed to be a utility infielder and DH, while speedy Endy Chavez was signed to be a fourth outfielder and pinch runner.
2012 Outlook – Even with the moves the team made this offseason, they didn’t get much better. Their lineup has a few pieces set in place, like Nick Markakis, Jones, Wieters, Mark Reynolds, and J.J Hardy, but they all have been pretty inconsistent. Their rotation is a huge question mark, with no real ace. Zach Britton will likely top the rotation, with Jake Arrieta, rookie Wei-Yin Chen, Hammel, and Matusz to follow him. Jim Johnson will close out games. It looks like the Orioles will yet again be the bottom team in the AL East.
Manager – Buck Showalter
General Manager – Dan Duquette
Boston Red Sox
2011 Recap – There’s no need to rub the Red Sox historic collapse in their faces anymore, but we will. The Sox had a nine game lead over the Rays in the Wild Card, and blew it on the last day of the season. Their record of 90-72 was just one game short, even though it looked like they had a playoff spot locked up all year. Part of the reason for not making the playoffs could be that Carl Crawford had career lows in just about every stat, and he was expected to be a huge producer. Despite the collapse, there were a handful of players that had great years. David Ortiz hit .309, Dustin Pedroia hit .307, and Jacoby Ellsbury had a career year, hitting .321 with 32 homers and 105 RBI. Adrian Gonzalez also stepped up big time in his first year with the BoSox, hitting .338 with 117 RBI. Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, and Erik Bedard all pitched well, despite a few trips each to the DL.
Offseason Recap – With the loss of Jonathan Papelbon, the Red Sox traded for Andrew Bailey to replace him. Mark Melancon is also a new addition that will be at the back of the bullpen. Part of the trade for Bailey included losing Josh Reddick, but also acquiring Ryan Sweeney. With empty spots on the bench, the Sox signed Cody Ross and utility infielder Nick Punto.
2012 Outlook – The lineup for the Red Sox should look something like this: Ellsbury, Pedroia, Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, Ortiz, Crawford, Mike Aviles, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Sweeney. They won’t have any trouble putting up huge run totals even if they only perform at half of what they’re all capable of doing. The big concern will be the rotation. Sure Beckett, Lester, Buchholz, and Daniel Bard are all great pitchers, but the key will be keeping them healthy and getting them to pitch well all together. If the rotation could at least keep the team in games, the offense should be able to pick them up and win 90+.
Manager – Bobby Valentine
General Manager – Ben Cherington
New York Yankees
2011 Recap – 2011 was yet another playoff year for the Bronx Bombers, who went 97-65, only to lose the Detroit in the ALDS. Up and down the lineup, everyone had very good numbers, especially Robinson Cano, who had 118 RBI, and Curtis Granderson, who had 41 homers and 119 RBI. Future HoF shortstop Derek Jeter, collected his 3000th career hit in July, while Alex Rodriguez continued to push towards 700 homers and 3000 hits. CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova both had great seasons on the mound, while Mariano Rivera had another impressive season, with 44 saves.
Offseason Recap – Veteran lefty Raul Ibanez was signed to be a DH against righties, and Eric Chavez was also resigned to fill a similar role. The Yankees greatly improved their starting staff, signing Andy Pettitte out of retirement, and veteran Japanese pitcher Hiroki Kuroda. Towards the beginning of the offseason, the Mariners and Yankees completed a trade that sent rookie stud Michael Pineda to New York and Jesus Montero to Seattle.
2012 Outlook – Even with an aging lineup, the Yankees are sure to make another run at the World Series. The pitching staff is even better than it was last year, and will feature Sabathia, Nova, Pineda, Kuroda, and Pettitte, with Rivera heading into his age 42 year as the closer. Robinson Cano will continue to prove that he’s the best second baseman in the league, while Mark Teixeira, A-Rod, Nick Swisher, and Curtis Granderson help him hit bombs out of New Yankee Stadium. Even with such a great lineup and staff, this may be one of the last years for the Yankees to keep their core group of players together, with everyone getting up there in years.
Manager – Joe Girardi
General Manager – Brian Cashman
Tampa Bay Rays
2011 Recap – The most historic and exciting day of regular season baseball was capped off with the Rays storming back from both a huge deficit in the Wild Card standings, and a 7-0 Yankees. Even though they finished with a 91-71 record and a Wild Card birth, it looked like the Rays had no chance at all to make the playoffs in late August. James Shields carried the staff through the season with 16 wins, while Evan Longoria put the rest of the team on his back all year, including his walk off homer that sent the Rays to the playoffs.
Offseason Recap – Two major moves were made this offseason, both helping out the offense. Carlos Pena signed with the Rays after leaving for one year, and Luke Scott was signed to be the DH. Veteran Jose Molina was also signed to be a solid backstop. Outfielders Desmond Jennings and B.J. Upton had a nasty collision in Spring Training, and both of their health situations going into the season are questionable.
2012 Outlook – With a rotation of Shields, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Jeff Nieman, and rookie Matt Moore, the Rays could possibly have the best starting staff in the AL top to bottom. As if that wasn’t enough, the lineup will have speedsters Jennings and Upton at the top, with Longoria, Pena, Ben Zobrist, and Matt Joyce to drive in runs. The offensive additions made in the offseason will really help give even more run support to the great starting staff, which will win them more games than last year.
Manager – Joe Maddon
General Manager – Andrew Friedman
Toronto Blue Jays
2011 Recap – Going into every year, Blue Jays fans know that it will be a a huge challenge for them to compete in the AL East. The Jays finished an even 81-81 in 2011, which would normally put them in second or third in a division. But playing in the hardest division in baseball, the Jays could only finish in fourth. Jose Bautista had yet another great season, slugging .603 with 43 bombs, while Ricky Romero had a 2.92 ERA, leading the pitching staff. We also saw the emergence of rookie third bagger Brett Lawrie, who hit .293 in his short time with the big league club.
Offseason Recap – The lineup and starting staff will remain exactly the same as they were in 2011, with the only moves in the offseason being improvements to the back of the bullpen. Francisco Cordero was signed, while the Jays traded for Sergio Santos.
2012 Outlook – With almost the exact same roster as 2011, the Blue Jays can expect a very similar season. And unfortunately for them, getting above .500 doesn’t necessarily mean that they will reach the playoffs. The rotation should put up average numbers just like last year, with mid-three ERAs and records around .500. Jose Bautista should put up monster numbers again, leading the offense along with Brett Lawrie, Adam Lind, Colby Rasmus, and Yunel Escobar.
Manager – John Farrell
General Manager – Alex Anthopoulos
3. Red Sox
4. Blue Jays