Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Bold Prediction: the New York Yankees will win the AL East

About a month and a half ago, I made a prediction that the Cubs would win the NL Central. At the time, they were 7 games under .500 and 6.5 games back of the Brewers. Currently they sit 4 games above .500 and are 4.5 games back of the Brewers. Work to be done, but they've made progress, which gives me the confidence to make another prediction.

The Yankees are currently 3 games over .500 and 8 games behind the AL East-leading Red Sox. There was some disagreement when I put them 9th in my power rankings a couple of days ago. So it seems like the perfect time to make the call that they'll win the division.

Obviously, they have problems. A lot of the pitching staff is old (Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina) and might be susceptible to injuries. Phil Hughes might be their most important pitcher in the 2nd half, and he hasn't even fully make it back from his injury yet. The bullpen has major issues. Johnny Damon has been pretty bad so far, and who knows when Jason Giambi will be back.

Still, there is hope.

The Yankees 47-44 record is a bit misleading, because they've played a lot better than that. They've had a lot of bad luck in 1-run games which tends to even out. Their run differential suggests their record should be closer to 53-38. Obviously it's not, but that's usually a pretty good indicator of future success.

The good news is that the offense is still really good (especially that A-Rod guy), and the pitching staff is starting to come together. Roger Clemens is finding his groove after his traditional late start to the season. Mussina and Pettitte are getting older but are still fairly reliable. Chien-Ming Wang has quietly put up excellent numbers. And of course, the wildcard, Phil Hughes, who was deep into a no-hitter before his injury. He has looked sharp in his rehab starts and should be back at the Major League level very soon.

And of course, the trade deadline is approaching. The Yankees have absolutely no qualms with taking on a lot of money, which tends to make things easier when trading. They also have some pretty nice prospects that they can dangle if they so choose to.

8 games is a big hole to climb at this point in the season. But I think the Yankees are finally starting to play good baseball (they've won 9 of 12), and a huge x-factor named Phil Hughes is about ready to come back. The Red Sox are a very good baseball team, but I'm going to make the prediction right now that by the end of the season, the Yankees will be better.

Your thoughts? Am I crazy?