Teams to watch this baseball season


Albert Pujols, who hit 37 home runs last season for the St. Louis Cardinals, should make the Los Angeles Angels an even better team this year. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Washington baseball fans are excited about the Nationals.But the Nats are not the only big baseball story this season. Let’s look at a few others as the Major League Baseball (MLB) season gets underway.

Two of the game’s biggest sluggers are on new teams. Albert Pujols (37 home runs in 2011) left the St. Louis Cardinals after they won the World Series, and joined the Los Angeles Angels. Prince Fielder (38 homers) switched from the Milwaukee Brewers to the Detroit Tigers.

Adding all that home run power should make those two very good teams even better. That means Los Angeles and Detroit are good bets to win their divisions.

Another player to watch is Yu Darvish. The hard-throwing, 25-year-old pitcher was a big star in Japan before he signed with the Texas Rangers. Darvish had an 18-6 (18 wins, 6 losses) record with a 1.44 earned run average (ERA) last season for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. That means Japanese hitters scored fewer than two runs every nine innings against Darvish. The Rangers hope Darvish will be that good against MLB batters.

The New York Yankees are a big baseball story every season. They have lots of important players who are getting old: infielders Derek Jeter (37 years old), Alex Rodriguez (36) and outfielder Raul Ibanez (39), as well as super reliever Mariano Rivera (42). But New York rarely has a losing season. The last time that happened was in 1992.


Yu Darvish was a success in Japan. Now he has joined the Texas Rangers, who hope he will be a big winner in America. (Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press)

Baltimore fans must wonder if the Orioles will ever have another winning season. The Orioles have had a losing record for 14 straight seasons. Sorry, Baltimore, but that streak isn’t likely to end this year: The Orioles are young and don’t have much pitching. They’re also in the super-tough American League East Division with the Yankees, Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays and the improved Toronto Blue Jays. It could be worse. The Pittsburgh Pirates haven’t had a winning season in 19 straight years.

The Philadelphia Phillies had the best record in MLB last season: 102 wins and 60 losses. The Phils still have their Big Three starting pitchers — Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels — who won 50 games last year. But two key Phillies players, slugger Ryan Ho ward and second baseman Chase Utley, are struggling with injuries. So chances are Philadelphia will fall back in 2012.

It’s time to “Play Ball!”

Fred Bowen writes the sports opinion column for KidsPost. He is the author of 17 sports books for kids, including eight books about baseball.

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