The top four teams in the American League are, in no particular order, the Yankees, Tigers, Rangers and Angels, and I would be stunned if all four, under the new five-team playoff format, didn't reach the postseason. The final spot will come down to the Red Sox and Rays.
The axis of power in the league is shifting from the Northeast (New York-Boston) to the West, so I like the Angels and Rangers to reach the championship series.
Power is in the East
Look East to find the power grid in the American League.
The Yankees, Red Sox and Rays will qualify for the playoffs. Those teams have stockpiled the essentials to go deep in the playoffs, although the Rays will have to rely on some baseball basics — pitching and defense —_ to make a legitimate run for a World Series title.
The West will be a fight between the Rangers and the Angels, in heavenly bliss after signing Albert Pujols.
Detroit, coming off of a 95-victory season, will repeat as champs in the AL Central.
In the end, look for the Yankees, with plenty of pop in their lineup and their pitching staff, to emerge as World Series champions.
Pitching propels Tigers
It should be an interesting season in the American League, with the Yankees supposedly upgrading their pitching and the Red Sox doing virtually nothing. With the Tigers and Angels signing Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols, their offenses just got a lot stronger. But the Tigers will have defensive problems and the Angels could have pitching problems, even with C.J. Wilson.
Here's how the AL will shake out, AL East: Yankees; AL Central: Tigers; AL West: Angels. Wild cards: Rays and Rangers. Rays beat Rangers in wild-card game, Tigers take care of Rays and Angels beat Yankees. In the ALCS, the Tigers and Angels will meet with the Tigers having just enough pitching to reach the World Series.
Tigers, Angels strongest
There's no question that the American League is loaded, and almost as little doubt that the five 2012 playoff teams will come from a group including the Yankees, Rays, Red Sox, Tigers, Rangers and Angels — although the Blue Jays believe they'll make it interesting.
I'm saying Bobby Valentine's detailed style gets Boston back into October — with the Rays as the one favorite who doesn't make it.
The Tigers, who have the easiest path, will be ready for the Division Series and advance to the ALCS against Albert Pujols' Angels.
Mike Ilitch's spending will be rewarded with a trip to the World Series.