Over the next eight weeks, MLB Daily Dish will be rolling out a series of Community Roundtables to discuss and vote on who you think will be the eventual 2014 World Series champion.
Each week, the community will select a division winner. Then, from those division winners, who the AL and NL champions will be. And from those final two, you guys will select who will win the World Series.
This week, we start with the venerable American League East, who crowned last year's World Series champion.
Something interesting happened last season, in that the Baltimore Orioles were, for a decent amount of time,competing to make the playoffs. They finished at 85-77, 6.5 games back of a Wild Card spot and 12 games back of the division winner. Such is the nature of the American League East.
If there is an immediate area of need, it would be in the pitching department. Though they managed to get a couple of average seasons out of Wei-Yin Chen and Chris Tillman, the rest of the staff underperformed. Most of the improvement the Orioles hope to see will come from the arm of Kevin Gausman, the young Baltimore prospect who pitched in relief and made 5 starts last year with varying success.
On the offensive side of things Chris Davis and Adam Jones provide a pretty good combination, but much of the rest of the lineup is question marks and hopeful feelings. Manny Machado taking a big step forward would be a boon.
I can't recall in my lifetime a team buying up free agents and trading away talent to acquire major league players more vociferously than the Blue Jays did last season. Except for, I suppose, the Yankees every other year. The hype around them going in to last season was apoplectic.
And then life, as it often does, got in the way of our best laid plans.
Mark Buehrle, the guy they brought in to be an anchor in the back-end of their rotation, ended up being their most valuable pitcher, earning 2.5 WAR over the season. R.A. Dickey knuckled his way to an average season. Brandon Morrow missed most of the season. They are hoping for a rebound year from all of three.
The offense is potent, though not explosive. Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista, presuming he can stay healthy, make for a mean 3/4 in any lineup.Colby Rasmus and Brett Lawrie are both above-average hitters. Jose Reyes is as well. If they get the pitching sorted out, they could be dangerous.
I have often wondered when Jeremy Hellickson's career would have its course correction. Hellickson put up back-to-back year of his ERA besting his FIP by a run and a half. Then, in 2013, he had an ERA (5.17) that was nearly a full run worse than his FIP (4.22). Course corrected.
David Price was great. Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, Chris Archer. They've got a lot to work with.
And then there is the offense, which has a lot to work with. The Rays only had four players who were below-replacement offensively, and one of those guys (Sam Fuld) isn't around anymore, and another guy (Jose Molina) is likely to see his playing time diminished with Jose Lobaton in the mix.
Outdoing your Pythag win-loss by six games should generally be seen as an achievement, but considering last year's Yankees, it was a miracle.
They can still pitch with the best of them. They finished with the 5th-best pitching staff (by WAR) in all of baseball last year, right behind the Kansas City Royals and Boston Red Sox. CC Sabathia had the worst season of his career, Andy Pettitte is gone, and Mariano Rivera has retired. They do have Masahiro Tanaka, though.
Offensively, the big subtraction was Robinson Cano, but in his wake they signed Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. Curtis Granderson is out, but Mark Texiera might be healthy. Ichiro Suzuki and Alfonso Soriano are on the roster. Alex Rodriguez is not, but Brian McCann is.
Boston Red Sox
Last year's World Series champion and, if we're being honest, the odds-on favorite to win the division again this season. The pitching was great by minimization of catastrophe. Only Jon Lester pitched more than 200 innings. Clay Buchholz was simply astounding in his 108.1 IP, going 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA. Jake Peavy is in the fold for as long as he can hold up.
Offensively they lost Ellsbury, who was their second-most productive offensive player last season and a very good defensive player. But they still have David Ortiz, Mike Napoli, Daniel Nava, Shane Victorino, and Dustin Pedroia, along with youngsters Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley, Jr.
So who will win the East? Discuss and vote below.