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AL East | AL Central | AL West

Welcome to Baseball Prospectus’ predictions for 1999. We’ll go division by
division and each of our staff members will tell you what they think about the
races. Remember, there’s a reason we don’t print this stuff in the book; there
is no good way we know of to predict what a team will do before the season
begins. Consider these teamwide WFGs, take them with a grain of salt, and
enjoy.



AL East


First
Place

Second
Place

Third
Place

Fourth
Place

Fifth
Place

Jeffrey
Bower

New York
Yankees

Boston
Red Sox

Toronto
Blue Jays

Baltimore
Orioles

Tampa Bay
Devil Rays

Rany
Jazayerli

New York
Yankees

Toronto
Blue Jays

Boston
Red Sox

Baltimore
Orioles

Tampa Bay
Devil Rays

Chris
Kahrl

New York
Yankees

Toronto
Blue Jays

Boston
Red Sox

Baltimore
Orioles

Tampa Bay
Devil Rays

Keith
Law

New York
Yankees

Boston
Red Sox

Toronto
Blue Jays

Baltimore
Orioles

Tampa Bay
Devil Rays

Dave
Pease

New York
Yankees

Toronto
Blue Jays

Boston
Red Sox

Baltimore
Orioles

Tampa Bay
Devil Rays

Steven
Rubio

New York
Yankees

Boston
Red Sox

Baltimore
Orioles

Toronto
Blue Jays

Tampa Bay
Devil Rays

Joe
Sheehan

New York
Yankees

Toronto
Blue Jays

Boston
Red Sox

Baltimore
Orioles

Tampa Bay
Devil Rays

Greg
Spira

New York
Yankees

Baltimore
Orioles

Boston
Red Sox

Toronto
Blue Jays

Tampa Bay
Devil Rays

Michael
Wolverton

New York
Yankees

Boston
Red Sox

Toronto
Blue Jays

Baltimore
Orioles

Tampa Bay
Devil Rays

Keith
Woolner

New York
Yankees

Toronto
Blue Jays

Boston
Red Sox

Baltimore
Orioles

Tampa Bay
Devil Rays

Consensus

New York
Yankees

Boston
Red Sox

Toronto
Blue Jays

Baltimore
Orioles

Tampa Bay
Devil Rays

Jeffrey Bower:

Same order of finish as last year, with only subtle changes
to the team’s records. Despite adding The Rocket, the Yankees will have
the biggest drop-off in the division, as the core of their team starts
to show its age. Of course, that will still leave the Bronx Bombers
with 104 wins and a division title all but clinched by the trading
deadline. The Red Sox, Blue Jays and Orioles will all finish within
three games of the .500 mark. Deft handling of the pitching staff by
Jimy Williams will enable the Red Sox to finish second, but still five
games removed from their token annual wild card berth. The Duquette era
comes to a close in Boston. The loss of Clemens and the reckless hiring
of Jim Fregosi will cause the Jays to regress slightly this year,
before exploding in 2000 behind a new manager and the best collection
of young talent in the game (Homer Bush not included). Albert Belle and
Mike Mussina will be the only players on the Orioles who earn their
salaries during another disappointing season on the Chesapeake. After
the season Peter Angelos denounces the team for their lack of veteran
leadership and starts a manhunt for Floyd Rayford. The Devil Rays’
pitching continues to be the envy of every team in the AL West, but
their management doesn’t seem to recognize that in the other half of
the inning the goal is to score runs, not prevent them.

Rany Jazayerli:

New York, 102-60: What, you were expecting Tampa Bay? The arrival of
Clemens and another step forward by Jeter should offset the aging
process on guys like O’Neill and Martinez. Even if Brosius falls way
back and Knoblauch continues his slow demise, the Yanks have so much
breathing room that they can drop back 12 games and still have the best
record in baseball.

Boston, 87-75, wild card. Yep, Mo’s gone, and no amount of chicanery
with Stanley, Offerman, or Brian Daubach is going to replace him. But
Nomar is still here, John Valentin may have one more all-star season
left, and the rotation is better than you think: Pedro is a stud, Bret
Saberhagen (handled beautifully by Williams last year) can give 190
innings of 3.50 ERA ball, and Tim Wakefield could have a three-month
stretch where he goes 10-1 or something. It’s not a great team, but in a
league with surprisingly few of them, it should be a good enough team to
make the playoffs. Just like last year.

Baltimore, 84-78: Albert will help, but Camden Yards isn’t the bandbox
everyone thinks it is, so expecting 65 shots is overdoing it. Mussina
steps up with his finest season in years, and Charles Johnson returns to
form with 25 homers and the best defense this side of Ivan Rodriguez.
But continued decline from Brady Anderson, Surhoff, Ripken,
Bordick…Harold Baines…Chris Hoiles…you get the idea. The rotation
is solid, as Erickson and Guzman avoid the Noid this year and Sidney
Ponson steps forward, but the bullpen is no longer the strength it was
two years ago. A little better than last year, but not nearly enough.

Toronto, 81-81: Gord Ash is a fool. Wells is unlikely to come anywhere
close to last year’s success, and while Hamilton, Halladay, Carpenter,
and Escobar give the Jays a lot of rotation talent, Hentgen is unlikely
to return to Cy Young form, and the talent of the Stewart/Cruz/Green
outfield is blotted out by the dazzling middle infield of Alex Gonzalez
and Homer Bush. And do they really think Robert Person is a closer?
Why not just put Dan Plesac back in that role? If they play the right
people they can make the playoffs, but they aren’t giving any indication
that they know who the right people are.

Tampa Bay, 65-97: Take last year’s offense, add the man who might become
the worst 500-HR hitter ever, and move the fences back. Stir, and pray
for 600 runs. The only hitter employed last year who was actually worth
a damn thing, Bubba Trammell, is being forced to take a back seat to
Danny Clyburn. Huh? This could be a replay of the 1991 Indians, when
Greg Swindell (played by Rolando Arrojo) was 2-7 with a 2.22 ERA at the
break. They suck and they’ll probably suck for years to come, but don’t
ever tell us that there isn’t any pitching around.

Keith Law:

The AL East won’t match ’98 for runaway status, but it is still hard to see
the Yanks not taking this division. Inevitable come-downs and probable
pitching injuries will likely be offset by bounce-backs from Chuck
Knoblauch and some of the relievers, and by the tremendous starting
pitching depth Brian Cashman has shrewdly acquired. They’re still a 50/50
shot to win 100 again. Behind the Yanks, the Red Sox and Blue Jays will
fight for second place, and, more importantly, the AL wild card spot. The
Red Sox have starting pitching depth, albeit not always the kind you want
(Pat Rapp?), but their offense could be among the league’s worst if Nomar’s
tendinitis turns into something worse. The Blue Jays will pair up a strong
outfield/1b quartet with the worst 2b/ss/3b combo this side of Pittsburgh
(when Benjamin plays over Morris), and the unsettled bullpen situation may
cost them early on as they futz around with the likes of Robert Person. The
Sox are more likely to make the acquisitions to push them ahead in July, so
they’re my pick for the wild card slot. The O’s and Rays will battle it out
for fourth, although I think the Rays’ continued reluctance to put Bubba
Trammell, their top offensive threat at this point, on the field is a
strong indicator that they’re cellarbound. The Orioles will have to fight
through a year of injuries and ugly declines in their 30+ lineup, and the
bullpen is now populated with some of the most frightening names in
contemporary relief pitching.

Steven Rubio:

Being smart has always been more important than being rich. The Yankees are
both smart AND rich, despite the presence of Joe Girardi. An easy division
to predict: the Yankees win, Tampa finishes last, the other three fight for
the wildcard. Pedro Martinez gives the Red Sox the best chance, while Carlos
Delgado delights Toronto fans by hitting 51 homers.

Joe Sheehan:

As I did last April, I looked carefully for reasons to pick against the
Yankees: the age of the lineup and rotation, the career seasons enjoyed
by many players last year, even the possibility of another 100-win team
in the division.

Then they went out and got Roger Clemens from their closest threat. Oh,
well…. They won’t win 114 games again, and there will be an offensive
decline, but this is the best team in the league once more.

Behind them, the Blue Jays and Red Sox both will be in the wild card
mix, with the Jays possessing a higher upside and the Sox the
smaller chance of a collapse. Toronto’s young offense and deep
rotation should cover for a bullpen that could look a lot like
the 1998 Mariners’. The Sox will try and win with a strong outfield
defense backing up an excellent front three starters. They’re
unlikely to score enough runs to win 90 games, though.

The Orioles have managed to get older without getting better for the
third consecutive year, a feat known in these parts as "Kahrling".
The age of the team will be best reflected defensively: look for
them to be among the league leaders in doubles and triples allowed.

The Devil Rays have the pitching staff of a contender, with an offense
straight off an American Legion field. With the fences moved back at
Tropicana Field, they should finish last in the league in runs, and
lose something on the order of 100 games.

Greg Spira:

1. Yankees – A daring pick.

2. Orioles – Belle will make the slight difference needed, but they’ll
still finish 20 games behind the Yanks

3. Red Sox – Their strong front-line pitching just fails to overcome
their weak offensive production from the outfield and first base

4. Blue Jays – Few weaknesses, but few front-line players

5. Devil Rays – Offense? What’s an offense?

Michael Wolverton:

New York – Yes, they won’t win as many as last year. Yes, they’re an
old team. Still, if they lose the division, especially with Clemens,
it’ll be the upset of the decade.

Boston – Baltimore, Boston, and Toronto are a pick’em as far as I’m
concerned. I’ll go with Boston to nose out the other two on the
strength of Pedro Martinez’s second Cy Young.

Toronto – They were robbed in the Clemens deal, but they still have a
solid core of younger (i.e., improving) hitters.

Baltimore – How is this team going to score runs? Albert is great,
but he can’t create 800 runs by himself.

Tampa Bay – The D-Rays should be just as inept on offense as they were
last year, and I’m not convinced they can repeat their pitching
success.

Keith Woolner:

I kept trying to find a way not to pick the Yankees, but how do you go
against a team that won 114 games last year, then added the reigning Cy
Young award winner to the pitching staff? Toronto actually outperformed
Boston in the 2nd half last year, and losing Canseco is not as big a blow
as losing Vaughn, and the difference between Wells and Clemens might be
balanced by not giving Ed Sprague 400 plate appearances. Baltimore lost
their three most valuable position players and their closer from 1998,and
while Albert Belle is better than any of the them individually, I don’t
think overall the O’s have improved much. Tampa Bay could potentially
field a team where no regular starter is even an average hitter for his
position.


Return to Top

AL Central


First
Place

Second
Place

Third
Place

Fourth
Place

Fifth
Place

Jeffrey
Bower

Cleveland
Indians

Detroit
Tigers

Chicago
White Sox

Kansas City
Royals

Minnesota
Twins

Rany
Jazayerli

Cleveland
Indians

Detroit
Tigers

Kansas City
Royals

Chicago
White Sox

Minnesota
Twins

Chris
Kahrl

Cleveland
Indians

Detroit
Tigers

Chicago
White Sox

Kansas City
Royals

Minnesota
Twins

Keith
Law

Cleveland
Indians

Minnesota
Twins

Detroit
Tigers

Chicago
White Sox

Kansas City
Royals

Dave
Pease

Cleveland
Indians

Detroit
Tigers

Chicago
White Sox

Minnesota
Twins

Kansas City
Royals

Steven
Rubio

Cleveland
Indians

Chicago
White Sox

Detroit
Tigers

Minnesota
Twins

Kansas City
Royals

Joe
Sheehan

Cleveland
Indians

Minnesota
Twins

Kansas City
Royals

Detroit
Tigers

Chicago
White Sox

Greg
Spira

Cleveland
Indians

Detroit
Tigers

Chicago
White Sox

Kansas City
Royals

Minnesota
Twins

Michael
Wolverton

Cleveland
Indians

Chicago
White Sox

Detroit
Tigers

Kansas City
Royals

Minnesota
Twins

Keith
Woolner

Cleveland
Indians

Chicago
White Sox

Minnesota
Twins

Detroit
Tigers

Kansas City
Royals

Consensus

Cleveland
Indians

Detroit
Tigers

Chicago
White Sox

Minnesota
Twins

Kansas City
Royals

Jeffrey Bower:

By the time you read this, the Indians will have clinched
the AL Central and can focus all of their energies on finding a number
one starter. They may already have one in Bartolo Colon, but given the
shaky state of the backend of their rotation, it is a worthwhile
pursuit, nonetheless. The Tigers and White Sox should battle down to
the wire for a .500 finish and the second place finish that accompanies
it. Gape Kapler’s heavy hitting will wrest the CF job from Brian Hunter
early on in the season, and he will carry the Tigers to the finish line
ahead of the Pale Hose on his oh-so chiseled shoulders. Frank Thomas
bounces back with a vengeance and, along with Paul Konerko, enables the
White Sox to finish in the top half of the league in offense even
without Albert Belle. The fact that Jaime Navarro will open the season
in the rotation says all you need to know about Chicago’s pitching.
Hopefully, Herk Robinson can expand upon his very recent trend of nice
little trades and convert Kevin Appier into a couple more good
prospects to mix with Carlos Febles, Carlos Beltran and Jeremy Giambi.
If that happens, the Royals could be a fun team to watch. Even $99
season tickets won’t be enough to pique any interest in a team as bad
as the Twins.

Rany Jazayerli:

Cleveland, 94-68: Ho, hum. So maybe Roberto Alomar isn’t the best 2nd
baseman in the game anymore. Maybe Fryman will revert to his
disappointing mid-90s form, and Vizquel pouts and doesn’t play well, and
Charles Nagy is fed to the dogs by July. Unless both Colon and Wright
get injured and John Hart can’t replace them, the Indians should finish
enough above .500 to make a pennant race meaningless, unless all the
karma the Royals have misplaced the last 10 years is suddenly found.
And if Colon and Wright do get hurt and the Indians finish around
500…they’ll still probably win the division.

Detroit, 78-84: Disclaimer – picking the Tigers to finish 2nd is in no
way meant to endorse their expectations of a "successful" season,
"successful" being defined as a year in which they can expect to play
meaningful games in September. Brian Hunter is still the starting
centerfielder, Brad Ausmus is being hailed as some kind of savior at
catcher, and there isn’t one superstar to rise above the
Higginson/Clark/Easley/Palmer class of quality regular. If Thompson
remains healthy and Moehler and Blair continue to finesse their way to
ERAs around 4, the Tigers could clear .500. I’m skeptical that they can
even reach that plateau.

Kansas City, 77-85: The most difficult prediction in all of baseball;
the talent is here to make the playoffs, but if the Royals follow their
90s trend, with young talent getting squeezed out by marginal veterans
and ultimately not developing, and if the young starters (Rosado,
Suppan, Rusch, Barber, Pittsley) all suck, they could lose 95 games in a
heartbeat. They’ve turned the Grapefruit League into their own private
playground, but Herk Robinson has been known to turn some pretty choice
fruit into lemons, so beware. I’m optimistic, but then, I’m a sucker.

Chicago, 74-88: It’s hard to put them fourth, because Thomas should
bounce back and Konerko is this year’s Todd Walker. But screwing around
with Brook Fordyce and Greg Norton doesn’t help, and the outfield just
isn’t that good. If a couple of their young starters step up, they
could keep themselves around .500, and I like their bullpen depth. But
the losses of Belle and Ventura are probably too much to compensate for.

Minnesota, 68-94: Not just poor, but unlucky. Marty Cordova seems to be
through as a healthy, productive player, and David Ortiz won’t even
start the year in the major leagues. You can talk all you want about
how young guys like Lawton, Jacque Jones, Walker, Mientkiewicz, and
minor leaguers like Cuddyer and LeCroy are the blueprint for the Twins’
future success. That’s fine, but it doesn’t negate the fact that Benj
Sampson and Mike Lincoln are closing in on actual major league starts.
I may be singing a different tune for 2000, but not this year. And if
Radke gets moved, watch for 100 losses.

Keith Law:

Baseball’s least interesting division, and most likely to produce a
division winner with 85 wins or fewer. The Indians are known to be shopping
for pitching, and they’re not likely to advance past the first round of the
playoffs unless they land at least one strong starter – and that’s assuming
Wright and Colon remain healthy. Behind the Tribe, three teams will fight
for second place (the Royals are a lock for the cellar right now); I’m
going with the Twins despite some obvious holes because neither the Tigers
nor the White Sox seem to have any fewer holes of their own. None of the
three will win more than 75 games, and any could implode and win only 65
with a few bad breaks. The Twins are at least putting some players with
upside on the field (Koskie, Mientkiewicz, Lawton, Milton), unlike the
Tigers, and committing to playing them every day, unlike the Sox.

Steven Rubio:

The idea that Kansas City is a good longshot pick is nonsense as long as
Herk has a job. Last time I looked, he did. Another easy division, since
there’s only one good team in the bunch. Prognosticators like to go out on a
limb so they don’t have the same old boring lists as everyone else, but this
is a boring division, and Cleveland will win.

Joe Sheehan:

Since 1995, this division has resembled one of those pre-season holiday
tournaments in college basketball. You know, the ones where Big State
U. invites two local Y teams and some school from Guam, struggles to
a couple of 40-point wins and declares itself #1.

There’s no real challenge to the Indians this year. The roles of the Local
Y Teams are played aptly by the Royals and White Sox, while the Detroit
Tigers bear a striking resemblance to Team From Guam. None of these
three pose any threat to the Indians, the league’s wild card contenders
or the interest of baseball fans nationwide.

However…the Minnesota Twins are capable of having an interesting season.
With the exception of Terry Steinbach, the veteran outs who sucked up
playing time the past few years are gone, leaving room for young
talent with upside: Corey Koskie, Torii Hunter amd Doug Mientkiewicz
aren’t Drew, Chavez and Beltre. They *are*, however, young, fair to
good defensively and all possess reasonable secondary offensive skills.

Add that to the underrated Todd Walker and Matt Lawton, and what should
be a breakout year for David Ortiz, and you have a team that should
score 820-840 runs. That gets them into wild-card contention.

The team has some long-standing problems developing starting pitchers
that could throw a monkey wrench into the season. An improved defense
will help that situation, and a top three of Brad Radke, Eric Milton–
a breakout this year–and LaTroy Hawkins doesn’t look that bad
compared to even the Indians.

ESPN, eat your heart out: the Twins are going to win the wild card.

Greg Spira:

1. Indians – They probably won’t have to do anything to win the
division, but if they have to, hey will.

2. Tigers – A young team that will improve in most areas.

3. White Sox – A lot of young, decent talent. The pitching should
improve significantly, but the offense will decline.

4. Royals – Giambi, Beltran and Febles will make for an exciting team,
but the rest of the team is awful. Plus Appier will be traded away if
he’s any good.

5. Twins – Like the Tigers, their young players will improve, but unlike
the Tigers, most of their everyday young players don’t have much talent
to begin with.

Michael Wolverton:

Cleveland – Whether they’re a great team will depend on how well their
Hargroved young pitchers, Colon and Wright, hold up. Not that it
matters; the Columbus Clippers could probably beat the rest of this
division.

Chicago – Even with Belle gone, I’m picking the ChiSox second on the
theory that no team’s pitching can possibly be so embarrassingly bad
three years in a row. Improvement from Thomas and many of the
youngsters is also likely.

Detroit – Hunter/Jefferies is one of the worst 1-2 punches in the
majors, but after you get past them the rest of the lineup looks OK.
It’ll look better when Gabe Kapler cracks it. I like Justin Thompson
even more than most observers, but the rest of the rotation, as usual,
looks shaky.

Kansas City – Giambi, Beltran, and Febles will surely see a number of
All-Star games before they’re through, but I don’t think they’ll be
good enough next year to carry this team very far. This prediction is
based on my guess that Kevin Appier will not return to his pre-1998
level, at least not in a Royals uniform.

Minnesota – Youth is great, but this much youth — especially in the
starting rotation — can make for a long season.

Keith Woolner:

Picking Cleveland is only slightly more daring than picking the Yankees.
Chicago, on the other hand, had ranked 1st in runs scored/fewest runs
allowed in the division in the 2nd half last year. A return to form by
Thomas will help offset the losses of Belle and Ventura, and help make the
ChiSox respectable. Minnesota will surprise some people by coming in third
despite a meager payroll. But the Twins only look good compared to the
Tigers and Royals, who will battle for the league’s worst record.


Return to Top

AL West


First
Place

Second
Place

Third
Place

Fourth
Place

Jeff
Bower

Texas
Rangers

Anaheim
Angels

Seattle
Mariners

Oakland
Athletics

Rany
Jazayerli

Texas
Rangers

Oakland
Athletics

Seattle
Mariners

Anaheim
Angels

Chris
Kahrl

Texas
Rangers

Seattle
Mariners

Oakland
Athletics

Anaheim
Angels

Keith
Law

Texas
Rangers

Oakland
Athletics

Seattle
Mariners

Anaheim
Angels

Dave
Pease

Texas
Rangers

Seattle
Mariners

Oakland
Athletics

Anaheim
Angels

Steven
Rubio

Texas
Rangers

Oakland
Athletics

Seattle
Mariners

Anaheim
Angels

Joe
Sheehan

Texas
Rangers

Seattle
Mariners

Anaheim
Angels

Oakland
Athletics

Greg
Spira

Texas
Rangers

Anaheim
Angels

Seattle
Mariners

Oakland
Athletics

Michael
Wolverton

Seattle
Mariners

Texas
Rangers

Anaheim
Angels

Oakland
Athletics

Keith
Woolner

Anaheim
Angels

Seattle
Mariners

Texas
Rangers

Oakland
Athletics

Consensus

Texas
Rangers

Seattle
Mariners

Anaheim
Angels

Oakland
Athletics

Jeffrey Bower:

A tight race between the Rangers, Angels and Mariners, with
the managers determining the outcome. So really, it’s no contest–the
Rangers repeat because of Johnny Oates’ patience, while the Angels’
wheels fall off down the stretch and the Mariners implode. Ruben Mateo
should be in Texas stay by July, further bolstering an already
impressive offense. Owner Tom Hicks will acquire Kenny Rogers from the
Athletics for enough mid-level prospects to fill a ten-gallon hat.
Terry Collins extends his streak of runner-up finishes to six, but joy
envelops the feel-good Disneyites when the Angels back into the wild
card spot. Anaheim’s ability to score runs is enough to overcome
another Collins-led September of panic and arm slagging. Just like in
Boston, Mo Vaughn’s leadership ability will be extolled and, just like
in Boston, his team will go three and out in the playoffs. The Mariners
have the talent to win the division, but they won’t. Lou Piniella does
a much better job distributing the finger pointing than a pitching
workload, and Jeff Fassero and Freddy Garcia both go down with arm
injuries. A collective Northwest deathwatch begins over the futures of
Ken Griffey, Jr. and Alex Rodriguez. A killer offense and spotty
defense will amuse A’s fans, but the pitching-yikes! A rash of good
minor league prospects will help to alleviate that problem next year
but Art Howe won’t be around to enjoy it.

Rany Jazayerli:

Texas, 88-74: The same formula as last year: durable, if not
particularly exciting, starting pitchers with sexy win totals because of
a tough offense. Gonzalez shouldn’t have won 2 MVPs in the last 3
years, but he is one of the 3 or 4 best hitters in the league, and I’ve
got this nagging feeling that I-Rod could hit 30 homers this year. (Can
you believe he’s just 27?) There could be trouble ahead if McLemore
slides any further and Tom Goodwin forgets how to draw walks, but
Palmeiro should be a slight improvement over Will Clark, and if
Wetteland is truly healthy, they have one of the better, if unheralded,
bullpens in the league.

Oakland, 81-81: No, they can’t pitch. But man, can they get on base.
If two of Ryan Christenson, Miguel Tejada, and A.J. Hinch take steps
forward, they could score 850 runs easy; if all three improve and Scott
Spiezio shows something at second, they could score 900 and make a pitch
for the wild card. The rotation is bad, but there’s some potential
here. If Jimmy Haynes improves his control or Gil Heredia improves his
hittability, that gives the A’s two average starters behind one good
one. The bullpen is deep if lacking one great closer, and there’s at
least hope from the minor leagues in the bodies of Mark Mulder and Chad
Harville. If the A’s are still in the hunt in July and Beane keeps
Rogers and looks to add a pitcher, you’re going to see a lot of the A’s
on ESPN in September.

Seattle, 79-83: You know, the more look at this team, the more you
realize they’re not just underachieving: they’re just not very good.
Griffey and Rodriguez and Martinez may obscure that, but who else on
this team is significantly above average? Segui and Buhner (if healthy)
are par for their position, Dan Wilson isn’t all that good, and if Russ
Davis and Butch Huskey play at the top of their game, they’re a little
above average. The rotation should be good with Freddy Garcia joining
Moyer and Fassero, but this is Piniella’s team. And their solution to
the worst bullpen woes in baseball? Jose Mesa. Uh-huh.

Anaheim, 76-86: Nice outfield. Love that new first baseman, and the
third baseman is awfully promising. Who’s in your starting rotation?
Oh. Any promising pitchers in the minor leagues in case somebody gets
hurt? I see. If Chuck Finley shows his age – or his workload – this
year, it could be a long, long year at Disneyland. I have no faith in
Ken Hill, and Tim Belcher isn’t happy about the fences being moved back
in. I’m not saying they have no hope; Percival could be this year’s
Hoffman in terms of season-long dominance in the late innings, and Todd
Greene could catch 100 games and get Charlie O’Brien out of the lineup.
But I am saying they are my pick to finish last in the division.

Keith Law:

I nearly picked the A’s for first, but the starting pitching just won’t let
me. The offense will surprise a lot of people, and the bullpen is deeper
than it has been in recent years. Team defense is also still a major
concern, and that coupled with the shaky rotation will probably have them
falling short of first, and missing the wild card by about 5-8 games.
Texas, therefore, is the division winner by default, although they too will
have starting pitching problems, and will see increasing pressure to deal
Ruben Mateo and make a last grasp for the World Series. Seattle’s pitching
woes are now coupled with an offense on the downside, and Anaheim’s nine
pitchers beyond Finley and Percival would form the majors’ worst staff.

Steven Rubio:

Now I’ll go out on a limb. In the ’99 book, we said of Oakland, "One pitcher
short of winning the division." If they trade Kenny Rogers, they’ll be two
pitchers short. If they get that pitcher, they’ll win the West. I’m hedging
my bets and picking them for second place. They will also be more
entertaining than any other team in the division, and will lead the league
in errors. The other teams all have similarities: one or two superstars
surrounded by dreck. Texas by default.

Joe Sheehan:

A train wreck. All four of these teams have at least one gaping flaw in
the picture. The Rangers have a shaky rotation and the likelihood of
low OBP at the top of the lineup. The Angel rotation is older than
Gloria Stuart, but doesn’t throw as hard. The Mariners continue to
field four or five great players and 20 winners of a "Be a Mariner
for a Week" contest, and the A’s are still two rotation starters
and a middle infielder away.

So who wins? While I’d love to pick the A’s, I have very little faith
in Art Howe’s decision-making, and feel he’s going to limit the
playing time of Eric Chavez and Ryan Christensen, to the detriment
of both players and the team. The Mariners will score runs, but
give them up in bunches with their usual shaky bullpen and a rotation
you’ll see on Showtime late at night: "When Soft-Tossing Lefties Go Bad".

Angels or Rangers…Angels or Rangers…the Angels could have a terrifying
lineup if the right people got injured. Unfortunately, it’s Jim
Edmonds starting the year on the DL [and now Mo Vaughn also gone]
instead of Garret Anderson. They do have an excellent bullpen, and
Terry Collins is good at managing relievers, so they may be able to
survive the inevitable collapses of Ken Hill and Omar Olivares.

I think it’s more likely that the pen fails after the All-Star Break,
forced to throw too many innings behind the likes of Tim Belcher, and
the team can’t plug the holes in the rotation fact enough. The
Rangers get just enough out of Aaron Sele and Rick Helling to make
up for the rest of the staff’s ineptitude, and scramble to 86 wins
and the division title.

Greg Spira:

1. Rangers – Offensive talent plus a starting staff that will pitch a
lot if not particularly well will win the division.

2. Angels – They’ll score runs, but the rotation is more fragile than
Methusela.

3. Mariners – The best two players in the league can’t overcome all the
holes, including the one in the manager’s office.

4. Athletics – 1999 will be a satisfying building year for the offense,
but the pitching will not be pretty.

Michael Wolverton:

Seattle – Their powerhouse offense should hold steady or improve from
last year; a full season of Jay Buhner and rookie Carlos Guillen will
help. Their starting pitching staff should improve, if only because
Billy Swift is gone. And I don’t think their bullpen can be as bad as
last year, Pinella or no.

Texas – A great offensive team in 1998, partly because they were
virtually injury-free. The offense will drop off some this year,
because of luck and age. Any improvement in their starting pitching
could be offset by a decline in the bullpen. The second place team in
this division will have a good chance to win the wild card.

Anaheim – They won 85 games last year, partly because they got really
good pitching, and partly because they were lucky. I don’t see either
continuing in 99.

Oakland – One of these years, the A’s are going to get the pitching to
support their impressive collection of young offensive stars. Not this
year, though.

Keith Woolner:

A good offense and a makeshift pitching staff will still be enough for the
Angels to take the division narrowly over the Mariners, despite the latter
having ARod & Junior finish #1/#2 in the MVP voting. Aaron Sele won’t win
19 games while giving up over a hit an inning again, and Palmeiro,
Gonzalez, and Rodriguez won’t be enough to generate the runs the Rangers
will need to win. Oakland improves, but will have to wait until 2000 to
reach .500.


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Thanks for reading. The NL is up on Friday.