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Monday, April 1, 2013
Write it down: AL final standings

By David Schoenfield

Picking division winners and playoff teams is easy. What's harder is picking the final record for every team. So I will venture to project this year's final standings ... remember, wins and losses and runs scored and runs allowed must add up across the board. Try it. It's hard!

Joe Sheehan does this in his newsletter, so I want to credit him for the idea, although I made sure not to look at his totals. Of course, we have computer projections from various experts as well -- here are the ZiPS projections for the AL and NL we ran on ESPN.com -- but predictions are different from the projections. You should go out on a limb with a few of your predictions.

AL EAST

All five teams could certainly finish above .500, although you have to think one team will bust, like the Red Sox did a year ago. My bet is on the Yankees, but even with all the injuries on offense, if CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte all give 30-plus starts, don't be surprised to see the Yankees in the postseason.

Tampa Bay Rays: 91-71 (734 runs scored, 642 runs allowed)
I have them allowing 65 more runs that last year, but scoring 37 more, as they won't miss B.J. Upton's sub-.300 OBP all that much, Desmond Jennings will improve and Evan Longoria has a big -- and healthy -- season.

Boston Red Sox: 87-75 (762 RS, 705 RA)
Outfield defense is the new OBP and the Red Sox will be playing three center fielders in Jackie Bradley Jr., Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino. That alone will make the pitching staff much better and a deep bullpen and rebound from Jon Lester to ace-like status will put the Red Sox into wild-card contention.

Toronto Blue Jays: 85-77 (769 RS, 732 RA)
As good as the top four hitters in the lineup are -- Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion -- the Jays have some OBP issues after that unless Brett Lawrie matures. Certainly huge boom potential here if Josh Johnson and Brandon Morrow stay healthy and the bullpen sorts itself out.

Baltimore Orioles: 85-77 (708 RS, 675 RA)
The Orioles may lack a true No. 1, but I like the rotation depth and bullpen and if Matt Wieters can improve a little at the plate, Manny Machado provides some pop at third base and they get anything out of second base (Brian Roberts?), maybe the O's surprise again.

New York Yankees: 78-84 (702 RS, 732 RA)
Even if Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez eventually return, I see the offense struggling to come anywhere close to the 804 runs it scored a year ago. The pitching will have to be lights out.

AL CENTRAL

Detroit Tigers: 93-69 (749 RS, 640 RA)
Fun fact: The White Sox scored 22 more runs than the Tigers last year and allowed only six more. Still, like most, I like the Tigers to have an easier time this year, with Max Scherzer having a big year, a full season from Anibal Sanchez helping the rotation, Victor Martinez's return and Torii Hunter providing a big improvement in right field.

Kansas City Royals: 80-82 (715 RS, 727 RA)
I have the Royals improving by 39 runs on offense and that could be low if Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas improve even more than I believe they will. The rotation will be better, but Ervin Santana is a big question mark and we'll see how James Shields does away from Tampa. The bullpen also needs to dominate like a year ago.

Chicago White Sox: 78-84 (699 RS, 723 RA)
Once again, we're probably underestimating the White Sox, but I worry about the age on Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn and whether Chris Sale and Jake Peavy will be as good as in 2012.

Cleveland Indians: 76-86 (723 RS, 769 RA)
I could be undervaluing the Indians here: An outfield defense of Michael Brantley, Michael Bourn and Drew Stubbs will save a lot of runs, and Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana have big-season potential and Lonnie Chisenhall is a good breakout candidate. But the rotation still looks like a problem, with Ubaldo Jimenez, Brett Myers and Scott Kazmir having a lot to prove.

Minnesota Twins: 67-95 (655 RS, 798 RA)
This may be optimistic. If the Royals and Indians improve, Twins could easily be headed for a 100-loss season.

AL WEST

The A's don't seem to have a lot of believers after their surprising division title last year, but I still like a team that is young and made some moves to improve last year's weaknesses. If the AL East beats up on each other, it's possible both wild cards could come from the West (thank you, Houston).

Oakland Athletics: 91-71 (753 RS, 654 RA)
I have the A's both scoring more and allowing more runs. Their offensive production from second, third and shortstop last year was among the worst in the majors at all three positions, so improved offense there (and an MVP-caliber season from Yoenis Cespedes) will help make up for a decline from the rotation.

Los Angeles Angels: 89-73 (792 RS, 714 RA)
The best offense in the league, especially when you factor in park effects, but the Angels' rotation needs Jered Weaver to remain healthy and there are some concerns still about the bullpen. And as good as Josh Hamilton is, remember that Torii Hunter had a terrific 2012. But if Mike Trout gets better and Albert Pujols doesn't have another homerless April ... watch out.

Seattle Mariners: 84-78 (691 RS, 660 RA)
Maybe Mike Morse and Kendrys Morales weren't the sexiest of offseason pickups, but the Mariners got nothing from left field and DH last year. Justin Smoak tore it up in spring training and if Jesus Montero and Dustin Ackley improve (don't forget the Mariners moved in the fences), the offense could be respectable for the first time in years.

Texas Rangers: 83-79 (756 RS, 737 RA)
I have the Rangers scoring 52 fewer runs -- no Hamilton, a declining Nelson Cruz, a slightly less productive Adrian Beltre -- and allowing 30 more. The Rangers' run differential dropped off 77 runs last year from 2011 and I see another decline here until they reload in 2014 with Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt.

Houston Astros: 52-110 (560 RS, 837 RA)
With Bud Norris, Lucas Harrell and a healthy Erik Bedard (good luck), maybe the Astros surprise and avoid 100 losses. But the AL West should be tougher than the NL Central, and the Astros lost 106 and 107 the past two seasons.

Playoffs
Angels over Red Sox (wild card)

Tigers over Angels
Rays over A's

Rays over Tigers