Tuesday, March 25, 2008

2008 Season Predictions

American League
AL East:
Boston Red Sox (98-64) 96-100 win range
New York Yankees (93-69) 91-95 win range
Toronto Blue Jays (83-79) 81-85 win range
Tampa Bay Rays (80-82) 78-82 win range
Baltimore Orioles (66-96) 64-68 win range
AL Central:
Cleveland Indians (96-66) 94-98 win range
Detroit Tigers* (96-66) 94-98 win range
Minnesota Twins (82-80) 80-84 win range
Kansas City Royals (78-84) 76-80 win range
Chicago White Sox (71-91) 69-73 win range
AL West:
Los Angeles Angels (97-65) 95-99 win range
Seattle Mariners (85-78) 83-87 win range
Texas Rangers (76-86) 74-78 win range
Oakland Athletics (72-90) 70-74 win range
ALCS: Indians over Red Sox
World Series: Indians over Mets
AL MVP: David Ortiz, Red Sox
AL CY YOUNG: John Lackey, Angels
AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Evan Longoria, Rays
National League
NL East:
New York Mets (97-65) 95-99 win range
Philadelphia Phillies* (91-71) 89-93 win range
Atlanta Braves (84-78) 82-86 win range
Washington Nationals (73-89) 71-75 win range
Florida Marlins (65-97) 63-67 win range
NL Central:
Chicago Cubs (95-67) 93-97 win range
Milwaukee Brewers (90-72) 88-92 win range
Cincinnati Reds (85-77) 83-87 win range
St. Louis Cardinals (78-84) 76-80 win range
Pittsburgh Pirates (74-88) 72-76 win range
Houston Astros (73-89) 71-75 win range
NL West:
Colorado Rockies (92-70) 90-94 win range
Arizona Diamondbacks (90-72) 88-92 win range
Los Angeles Dodgers (88-64) 86-90 win range
San Diego Padres (83-79) 81-85 win range
San Francisco Giants (61-101) 59-63 win range
NLCS: Mets over Cubs
WS: Indians over Mets
NL MVP: Jose Reyes, Mets
NL CY YOUNG: Johan Santana, Mets
NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Colby Rasmus, Cardinals
And now, a short discussion/defense of my numbers:
I thought last year that the Mets were the best team in the East (even though they lost), and with Johan, I think they've made it official. The Phillies are good, and have the potential to pull out another upset, but their pitching staff is just as dodgy as the Mets, minus the future Hall-of-Famer out front. Plus, they've still got a gaping hole at third base and need to replace Aaron Rowand. I said it in my last entry, and I'll repeat it here: if the Mets lose, it won't be to the Phillies, but to injury.
See my previous entry for thoughts on the Braves. The Nats will be a better team than people think, but there's a lot of room for collapse on that pitching staff. It's hard to get much worse than that . . . unless you're the Florida Marlins. 'Nuff said.
The Cubs were pretty darn good last year and got better in the offseason. Their bullpen may see a revolving door at closer, but at least the component parts are pretty solid. Their rotation is strong, and Fukudome should really boost their lineup. Unless, of course, he's batting at the bottom order and Sweet Lou is leading off with Ryan Theriot and Alfonso Soriano. The Central's going to be a close race, Lou; don't give the opposition a head start.
The Brewers stand a good chance of passing the Cubs if they can get their starting rotation healthy and in order, but that's doubtful. Ben Sheets (their #1) is always a maybe, and Yovani Gallardo (their 1-A) has had some trouble recently as well. There's breakout potential with young guys like Carlos Villanueva and Manny Parra, but that comes with every caveat about pitching prospects. The only sure things are Jeff Suppan and Dave Bush, and yet somehow that's not very comforting.
If I had to pick a dark-horse candidate in the NL, it would be the Reds. They've got a solid offense, which would be pretty darn good with Joey Votto and Jay Bruce on the field. They've also got -- hold on to your hats -- a good rotation, with star Aaron Harang, potential stars Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto, and innings man Bronson Arroyo. The bullpen will be improved with the addition of Francisco Cordero. What's the biggest obstacle to the Reds' chance at contention? Dusty Baker & friends. Jay Bruce has already been demoted, and yesterday's exhibition saw Corey Patterson leading off and playing center. If that doesn't make you shudder, then you're not paying attention.
The Cardinals will always be relevant so long as they have Albert Pujols, but the best-case scenario for their lineup is league-average, and their rotation is held together with scotch tape. The message: have fun playing and start rebuilding.
I kept going back and forth, trying to decide who to pick for last place in the central. The Pirates are certainly the traditional choice, but they've actually got a decent pitching staff with upside. The Astros, on the way down and picking up speed, have the opposite problem; they'll score some runs with Berkman, Lee, Pence, and Tejada, but their pitching staff is one Roy Oswalt away from being one of the worst in the league. In the end, I went with the pitching and the more intelligent management shown in Pittsburgh. And who thought I would ever be writing that sentence anytime soon?
I'm a contrarian by nature, so I spent most of last October complaining that everyone was overestimating the Rockies and anointing them with oil. So it's awkward to now find myself having to switch gears and choose them as division-winners. But I think they can duplicate last year's showing and maybe even get better. But man, it's going to be close in the NL West. I don't know if a division race can get more exciting than it was last year, but 2008 could prove me wrong.
The Diamondbacks have more potential than any team in the West, by far. The Dodgers have better prospects, but when it comes down to the 25-man roster on Opening Day, Arizona has the most potential. So why didn't I pick the team with the most potential to win the division? Because the D-Backs spent most of 2007 p***ing away that potential, and I'm not confident that they can reverse course in time to win this season. There's also the little fact that, according to runs scored, last year's team was just mediocre. So even if they do get a lot better, it may not make any difference in wins. Dan Haren is a big help, but he's not an ace-in-waiting, he's a solid #2 whose home run totals could be a problem. And I wouldn't rely on Randy Johnson for more than 60 innings, good though they may be. Having said all that, the D-Backs could run away with the entire NL if Stephen Drew, Justin Upton, and Chris Young take a big step toward realizing their potential.
Oh, the Dodgers. I mentioned in my last entry that I expected the Dodgers to "screw themselves" into an 85-win team. It's been a few years now that I've predicted the Dodgers as division champions, only to be disappointed, either in the playoffs, or just altogether. The media gets in a tizzy over Joe Torre, but he's not going to be the one to solve the Dodgers' big problems. If upper management doesn't make sure the right players are on the field (Torre can't be relied upon to do so), starting by benching or releasing Juan Pierre, then they'll have no one to blame but themselves when they disappoint yet again. If you're a Dodgers fan, hope that the team starts off terribly and Ned Colletti gets fired early. Then, the healing can begin.
I like the Padres, but they just don't have an advantage in anything. They're still the team squeaking by with the bare minimum, and while that merits a great deal of praise for their work in recent years, it still means that the division is passing them up. Put 'em in the Central, and they're contenders. Here's hoping Chase Headley takes to left field and Matt Antonelli catches fire in the minors.
The Giants are so bad that I could devote an entire blog to how bad they are. It would be redundant though, because I've gone on at length about Brian Sabean and the terrible way this team has been managed over the past five years. As a small-time blogger with a readership of about 5, I think I'm exempted from the Anti-Gloating Statute and can obnoxiously say, "I told you so" all year long.
I'm going with the Indians all the way. As much as anybody can guess the World Series, I think they've got it. And, other than the Cubs, they've waited longer than anybody and have earned it.
It's a matter of time before Jose Reyes wins an MVP Award. I doubt he'll deserve his first one -- his excitement factor wins MVPs much more than anything else -- but if the Mets win and he has a really good year, I think he's a shoo-in. Who do I think will really be the most valuable player in the NL? Probably Albert Pujols, but that's the easy answer. Speaking of easy answers, Johan as CY winner is predictable, but it's also pretty darn sensible, I think.
I picked Colby Rasmus as ROY, because I wanted someone who was good (obviously) and looked like he was going to rack up playing time, which really helps. Jay Bruce is a better prospect, but I don't see Dusty giving him enough playing time. Kosuke Fukudome will probably be better, too, but the voters still have a hostile attitude toward Japanese Rookies of the Year.
I discussed the Red Sox/Yankee debate in my last blog, as well as my opinions concerning Toronto and Tampa Bay. That just leaves Baltimore. Look out below!
Talk about hedging your bets; most analysts don't actually predict a tie before the season starts. But this has actually happened several times recently, with two teams tying for a division lead, with the second team automatically the Wild Card.
I just couldn't pick between the two. The Indians look to be as good as they were last year, if not better, although I worry a lot about Fausto Carmona staying lucky. As with Detroit, I've mentioned before that the Cabrera acquisition may just counteract the severe regressions faced by Magglio Ordonez and Placido Polanco. And I'm not bullish on their pitching staff.
Call me a coward, but when the season's over and I'm right -- won't you be the fool?
I also did a lot of thinking about Minnesota and Kansas City. Part of me expects Minnesota to plummet this year, with all their hopes riding on unproven pitchers and a terrible offense. But then I have to consider the fact that they've still got Mauer and Morneau, and their unproven pitchers are actually pretty promising.
With Kansas City, I'm more inclined to be bullish about their chances. They've got a surprisingly competent pitching staff and a lineup with some breakout potential. But a lot of their hopes are built upon shaky foundations: Meche and Bannister aren't sure things, and other than Gordon and Butler, who in the lineup is really going to get better? So I put them down for a modest but significant improvement.
That leaves the White Sox in last. The only interesting thing going on in Comiskey is Ozzie Guillen's attempts to be the most abusive human being allowed to manage a baseball team in the past 20 years. Let's get serious; this team is tanking, and there's not a damn bit of good Ozzie can do. He's only going to turn the Sox into a hideous, hilarious sideshow, profiled in detail on 24-hour news channels and perhaps resulting in an arrest. Why sit that person in the dugout when you're a last-place team?
Angels in 1st. Yada yada.
I'll give the M's some credit and predict them to fill out their over-inflated 88 wins from last year. They should be respectable, but not enough to save some jobs.
With Texas, I honestly think they'll be better this year. I don't think their pitching staff can get any worse (although God knows I've been wrong about that before), and I like their offseason moves as well as their prospects. But they may have a 90-loss season to endure before those good qualities actually emerge.
As for the A's, some more daring scribes have picked them to be as good as they were last year, but that again may just be a baseball writer's attempt to make an outlandish claim for its own sake. The A's are losing their best hitter (Swisher), their best pitcher (Haren), and may be losing their next best pitcher (Blanton) and their closer (Street). It may be hip to predict wins for Oakland, but that requires scoring and preventing runs, and how is this team going to do it?
The pitching staff should be at least adequate, but only if they keep Blanton and Street. Their infield is dismal, with Eric Chavez on his way out and Bobby Crosby now rusted shut. Mark Ellis is good, and they may get some good work out of Barton/Johnson at first, but nothing major. The team's best outfielder is Travis Buck, which isn't such good news. Emil Brown is an embarassment. Jack Cust was great last year, but most everyone agrees that he just can't keep it up with that strikeout rate. So there's another guy who'll get worse before he gets any better.
And where, clever wags, are the A's going to find wins in this mess? Maybe they'll pass the Rangers, but that's not saying much.
It's not that I don't like the A's move to rebuild. But they did so with the understanding that this was a write-off year. They might surprise us and win 75, but what the hell difference is it between 70 and 75 wins? No one watches the games anyhow.
I'll predict last year's ALCS result to reverse, with the Indians riding the upset to World Series victory.
David Ortiz will win an MVP Award someday, of course, and now is the time, after an "off" year in 2007. Who do I thinkn will really be the most valuable player in the AL? Why not A-Rod again? A-Rod's the easy guess. My other guesses are Miguel Cabrera, Grady Sizemore, and Ichiro Suzuki.
I'm going with John Lackey as something of a dark horse Cy Young winner. Josh Beckett and C.C. Sabathia were the #1 contenders last year, but more and more people are starting to notice Lackey. And considering the poor competition in the AL West, he might win 20 games and pull out a win.
Longoria's the easy answer for the AL ROY, but he's also the best answer.
More to come later, kiddies, as the season as begun: the A's are beating the Red Sox in Japan. The MLB is billing this as the "Opening Series," not to be confused with "Opening Day," which is a separate event designed to increase profits by having as many "openings" as possible. We're actually going back in time in baseball history; as time goes by, Bud Selig will actually make the first month of every season a barnstorming tour for MLB teams across the globe. American fans will get screwed, of course, but who really cares so long as the money keeps rolling in. The MLB has discovered the secret that many other great businesses -- from tobacco to pro wrestling -- have already discovered. When your American business goes down the toilet, go worldwide and use the virgin profits to make it like look things are actually going well.
My apologies if you have a low tolerance for cynicism in the morning. But hey -- look at the world around us and tell me the difference between cynicism and realism?
Have a nice day. :)

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