As much as I might hate to admit it, I’m wrong a lot of the time. This year will probably be no different when it comes to my baseball predictions, but it won’t stop me from making them anyway. First, I’ll do a divisional breakdown and then pick some award winners. If you want to see how I did last year, these were my picks.
AL East: New York, Boston, Toronto, Baltimore, Tampa Bay
|New York Yankees||96||66||0.593||–|
|Boston Red Sox||93||69||0.574||3|
|Toronto Blue Jays||86||76||0.531||10|
|Tampa Bay Devil Rays||61||101||0.377||35|
I really don’t like the Yankees, and I’m not particularly fond of the Red Sox either, but they’re probably the two best teams in baseball, and they’re fortunate enough not to play in the toughest division in their league. They’ll have their way with the O’s and Rays, while the Blue Jays will again play the role of foil. The Jays actually finished second last year, and they’ll contend again, but I wouldn’t expect them to actually win the division. The question in this division is this: Will the Yankees be able to string together enough good pitching to get past the Sox? Most people seem to think they have the better lineup, but many are skeptical of their rotation. I don’t know what to expect from them, but I think their situation is a little overblown, since they can call on Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina, and Chien-Ming Wang (if he’s healthy). Kei Igawa looks decent enough, and maybe Carl Pavano will give them innings. That’s really not that much worse than the Red Sox, and I’m probably fooling myself if I think the Sox should be the favorites. I’ll root for them, though, against the Evil Empire.
AL Central: Cleveland, Detroit, Minnesota, Chicago, Kansas City
|Chicago White Sox||83||79||0.512||7|
|Kansas City Royals||60||102||0.370||30|
This one is pretty much a four-way toss-up, but the Indians seem to have the very best lineup and perhaps enough pitching to get by. The young Tiger pitchers are probably due for a bit of regression, so I don’t think they’ll actually win. Too many things have to go right for them in this very tough division. Fortunately for them, the Twins will not be using their best possible pitching staff, and will instead give large chunks of starts to players like Sidney Ponson and Carlos Silva, while top prospect Matt Garza wastes away at AAA. The White Sox are also contenders, but I don’t think they have quite the firepower to come out on top. The Royals, as usual, will finish last, no matter what Rany Jazayerli thinks.
AL West: LA Angels, Oakland, Texas, Seattle
|Los Angeles Angels||91||71||0.562||–|
Most of the pundits have the West finishing in this order, and for good reason. The Angels are loaded once again, and they have a pitching staff that should do well in this division. The A’s are pretty strong, but they have their share of injury problems right now, and it doesn’t look like they’ll be able to put it all together. The Rangers never seem to have enough pitching, and the Mariners, while they have some potential, are probably not going to compete this year (and by the time they are ready, Ichiro will probably move on).
NL East: Atlanta, New York, Philadelphia, Florida, Washington
|New York Mets||87||75||0.537||1|
It’s very hard for me not to pick the Braves, but I feel like I can actually justify this. The Mets will be without Pedro until who-knows-when, and their rotation in the meantime is anchored by Tom Glavine and little else. Their bullpen is not what it was last year, with Duaner Sanchez on the shelf this year. Their lineup is the best in the division, but not by enough to make this as easy for them as it was last year. Then you throw in the Phillies, who threw in the towel too early last year by trading Abreu. They have a great middle-of-the-order punch with Utley and Howard and the deepest starting pitching staff in the division. Then you have the Braves, who pretty much everyone thinks will finish third. I think they’ve got a good enough lineup and a solid front end to the rotation, and of course there’s the much-improved bullpen, which will no longer be blowing every other game. So, I’m picking them in an extremely close finish. The Marlins will not be as good as they were last year, and, frighteningly, neither will the Nationals.
NL Central: St. Louis, Milwaukee, Houston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh
|St. Louis Cardinals||89||73||0.549||–|
The Cubs made the most noise this offseason, but they still don’t stack up against the best teams in this division. The rotations of the Cardinals and Brewers may be the two best in the league, and both teams have a solid lineup for support. The Cubs still have Zambrano and everyone else, regardless of what they spent on the likes of Jason Marquis. Rich Hill is probably their second-best starter, and he will need to be very good to get the Cubbies past some of the other talented teams in this division. The Astros’ season will probably hinge on whether or not Roger Clemens comes back (and when he comes back), and their lineup isn’t quite good enough to carry the team without him this year. The Reds will have a decent lineup and no pitching once again (I wouldn’t count on Homer Bailey this year), and the Pirates’ young pitching will struggle once again in this formidable division.
NL West: San Diego, Arizona, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Colorado
|San Diego Padres||88||74||0.543||–|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||84||78||0.519||4|
|San Francisco Giants||80||82||0.494||8|
The Padres aren’t a very sexy pick to win the West, but they have some very efficient pitchers and just enough hitting to get by in a somewhat weak division. The D-Backs have a mess of young hitters and a top-heavy starting rotation with Brandon Webb and Randy Johnson, but I don’t think they’ll put it all together this year. The Dodgers wasted a ton of money on Juan Pierre, and their rotation may not stay healthy long enough to keep them afloat. They’ve got some great young talent in their system, though, so I suppose anything could happen. The Giants will be a three-ring circus once again, and while Bonds will be good, I’m not expecting Zito to live up to the expectations everyone in the Bay Area seems to have for him. He was only a good pitcher last year, and they’re paying him to be great. Matt Cain may be their best starter, and he won’t be enough for them to win this division. The Rockies would have been interesting if they still had Jason Jennings, but I think they’re a starting pitcher short once again. Their lineup will rake, though.
You’ll notice that the Red Sox are my wild card pick out of the AL, while I have the Mets and Phillies tied for that spot in the NL. I think Pedro can turn it on for one game and get the Mets in, but then they’ll be hamstrung in their playoff series.
Cardinals over Mets in 4
Braves over Padres in 5
Yankees over Indians in 3
Red Sox over Angels in 5
League Championship Series:
Cardinals over Braves in 6
Yankees over Red Sox in 7
Yankees over Cardinals in 6*
*Note: I will not be rooting for this to actually happen.
These are broken down into three categories: no-brainer (my pick from the real contenders), under-the-radar (the guys who might come from nowhere to win it), and bandwagon (a favorite who won’t be winning)
NB: Albert Pujols, Cardinals
UTR: Chipper Jones, Braves
BW: Alfonso Soriano, Cubs
NB: Chris Carpenter, Cardinals
UTR: Cole Hamels, Phillies
BW: Carlos Zambrano, Cubs (but who’s really not picking Carpenter, or maybe Smoltz?)
Rookie of the Year
NB: Chris B. Young, D-Backs
UTR: Tim Lincecum, Giants
BW: Stephen Drew, D-Backs
NB: Grady Sizemore, Indians
UTR: Nick Swisher, A’s
BW: Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
NB: Johan Santana, Twins
UTR: John Lackey, Angels
BW: Daisuke Matsuzaka, Red Sox
Rookie of the Year
NB: Alex Gordon, Royals
UTR: Delmon Young, Devil Rays
BW: Daisuke Matsuzaka, Red Sox