After a month-long hiatus in which I know all of you have been champing at the bit to get to read more of my blog posts, I’m back, but I’m not quite sure what with yet.
The greatest time of the year is here. March Madness is wrapping up and it’s opening day, which means I get to take part in my annual joy of watching Cubs fans full of optimism.
In reality, I’m going to be blogging about baseball quite a bit this season. I just haven’t quite figured out how yet. I want to be able to do a weekly, quick-hit type of format like I did for football season, but it’s tougher for baseball since the schedules aren’t in any way similar.
Anyway, I’m going to be working on that so you can expect quite a bit more from me in coming weeks. But what this blog is for is my annual season predictions. Don’t worry, it’s not going to be a billion words breaking down every single facet of every single team. I’m not smart enough, nor do I have the time, but I plan to do a quick paragraph on each division, followed by my predicted order of finish. At the end, I’ll make awards and playoff predictions. Sound good? Good. Let’s get started.
American League East
I don’t know if you’re going to be too surprised by any of my predictions, but if you’re hoping for some, you won’t get any out of the AL East. The Boston Red Sox are the favorites, they’re the most improved team and there’s good reason for both. A lot of times, you see big-name moves disappoint, I don’t think that will be the case here. I think Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford are both poised for gigantic years. I also think the Yankees will be right there, and that the Rays won’t be nearly as bad as some predict. As a whole, this division might be stronger than it’s ever been (which is really, really scary) as both the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles finally seem to be getting together some semblance of competitive teams.
1. Red Sox
5. Blue Jays
American League Central
Here’s where things get tricky for me. Every single season, I talk myself into why the White Sox are going to win the AL Central and be World Series favorites. I’ve done it again this year, only this time the pundits agree (for the most part). Look, on paper the White Sox are the best team in the AL Central. Their starting rotation has the most upside. Their bullpen looks to be the most dominant. Their offense looks to be very powerful and have a good blend of power, speed and average. What’s not to like? The Twins, however, always seem to get it done. Every year, people write them off and every year, they figure out how to win the division, scrapping together nobodies like Danny Valencia and making it work. The Tigers? I’m not sold. I like their rotation more than others, but think that beyond Miguel Cabrera, the offense just doesn’t have enough consistency. What it boils down to for me is that, until they’re proven to fall, the Twins are the pick. And if you think this is some sort of elaborate reverse jinx, well, you know me too well.
2. White Sox
American League West
One of the things I don’t understand about the common thought this offseason is that the Rangers are suddenly not the class of the AL West because they lost Cliff Lee. If I remember correctly, the Rangers were still winning the division before making that trade, and the likes of C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis aren’t half bad. Would they have made the World Series without Lee? That seems unlikely, but given the Angels’ downward progression, as well as the uncertainty in Oakland and disaster in Seattle, I don’t see any way they don’t still dominate this division. The Athletics are the sleeper, however. Their pitching staff is young and Billy Beane always seems to know what he’s doing in that department, but the key for them will be the health of their young arms and the consistency of their offense. I think the A’s will be mightily improved, and will surpass the Angels for second place in the division, but as I said, it’s all Rangers here.
National League East
Here’s where I’m prepared to go out on a limb a little bit. Everyone knows what the Phillies did. They have that vaunted starting rotation and an offense that has gotten it done over the past several years. Here’s my counterpoint (albeit a possibly weak one): Every single member of the Phillies’ Big Four has an injury history. While they vary, each one has been unrealistically healthy over the past few years, particularly Roy Halladay, who people forget was a serious injury risk for several years in Toronto. Likewise, they’re all (except Cole Hamels) aging. I’d be surprised if all four of them stay healthy and effective for the long haul. Additionally, the offense is due for a MAJOR step back. Chase Utley might not play at all this season, and if he does, how much? Jimmy Rollins hasn’t been the same for a few years. Can we expect big years again out of Shane Victorino and Carlos Ruiz? And who the hell is going to protect Ryan Howard? Maybe I’m reaching, but I’m just not sold on the Phillies. Which is why my one big upset in my predictions is taking the Braves to win the East. I’ll get into why in a later post, as I’ve spent far too many words on the Phillies already.
National League Central
Every year, this is one of my favorite divisions to breakdown because I get to take a look at the Cubbies and their woes. Last year, I picked them to do far better than they did (I think I had them finishing second in the Wild Card). This year, it’s less fun because there is little to no optimism, and with good reason. This division is probably the most wide open, and not because there are a lot of good teams, but because there is a lot of mediocrity. The Brewers are improved, the Reds are maybe as good as they were last year, and the Cardinals have little optimism because of the injury to Adam Wainwright. Like many others, I like the Brewers. Not just because of Zack Greinke, but because the back end of their rotation is improved and the offense is getting more mature. Plus, Prince Fielder playing for a contract could be a monster. I expect a drop off from the Reds, mainly because I don’t think they can expect Joey Votto to repeat last year’s production and their rotation scares the crap out of me health-wise. I also wouldn’t discount the Cardinals, if only because Tony La Russa always seems to scrap together a contender, a lot like the Twins, but I still don’t see them getting past Milwaukee or Cincinnati.
National League West
Last year, I hit a home run with this division by picking the Giants when few others were. This year, I still like the Giants a lot but think the Rockies have improved enough to take over. If there’s a sleeper team somewhere, however, it’s the Diamondbacks. I love what Kirk Gibson is doing and think they have a very good young pitching staff. If they can stay healthy and the young guys can improve, they could be this year’s Padres. That’s just a warning, but I still don’t have the balls to pick them.
American League: 1. Red Sox, 2. Rangers, 3. Twins, WC: Yankees.
National League: 1. Rockies, 2. Braves, 3. Brewers, WC: Phillies.
AL: Red Sox over Twins; Rangers over Yankees.
NL: Phillies over Rockies; Braves over Brewers.
AL: Red Sox over Rangers.
NL: Braves over Phillies.
World Series: Red Sox over Braves in six games
AL MVP: Adrian Gonzalez
NL MVP: Albert Pujols
AL Cy Young: Jon Lester
NL Cy Young: Tim Lincecum
AL Rookie of the Year: Jeremy Pineida (Mariners)
NL Rookie of the Year: Freddie Freeman (Braves)