SportsProf

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Sunday, April 03, 2005

Baseball Predictions

Here goes:

AL East

1. Boston Red Sox. Reason: They're still the "It" team in the Majors.
2. New York Yankees. Reason: Age and injuries catch up with them.
3. Baltimore Orioles. Reason: If pitchers develop, they can go further.
4. Toronto Blue Jays. Reason: Too inconsistent to go higher.
5. Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Reason: Rather have great talent and so-so manager than the reverse. Where the pitching?

AL Central

1. Cleveland Indians. Reason: This year's surprise team. Much of the buzz at the GM level is about Billy Beane; expect a lot of Mark Shapiro stories this year.
2. Minnesota Twins. Reason: I know, some think they can win the World Series this year. I just don't see it.
3. Chicago White Sox. Reason: Can't figure this team out. Division is bad enough that they could steal it, but it's good enough that they probably can't.
4. Detroit Tigers. Reason: They're better and could vault to second, but Pudge's weight loss has to be a concern. Still not enough pitching to be a contender.
5. Kansas City Royals. Reason: If MLB ran itself like the English Premiership in soccer (along with its first, second and third divisions), the Royals would be playing in AAA.

AL West

1. Oakland Athletics. Reason: Many are picking the Angels, but if Billy Beane's hunches and trades pay off, this team will strike out a lot of opposing batters, have a strong enough bullpen to close out games, and have enough OBP to score runs in bunches.
2. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Reason: Call them whatever you want to, this is a very good baseball team. Perhaps their West Coast location and getting overshadowed in the publicity department by NL teams out west doesn't let us appreciate how good they are, but they are good.
3. Texas Rangers. Reason: Team can flat out hit, but it cannot flat out pitch, at least not yet.
4. Seattle Mariners. Reason: Not a bad team, and, quite frankly, this is an underrated division. But they've suffered a lot of roster tumult, and they don't have the horses to contend. Yet.

NL East

1. Florida Marlins. Reason: Much better lineup than Atlanta, and the difference in pitching isn't that great. Atlanta's magic ends this year; Florida takes over.
2. Atlanta Braves. Reason: No guarantee that Smoltz will stay healthy; Kolb iffy at closer because he's not a power pitcher. They didn't replace J.D. Drew, who had an outstanding year (especially for him) with anyone meaningful. Too many risks here, especially in the face of Florida.
3. Philadelphia Phillies. Reasons for hope: Charlie Manuel's laid-back style should be good for five more wins, the pitchers now have had a year to adjust to the new ballpark, Mike Lieberthal and Jim Thome, whose thumb appears to have healed, can't stink as badly hitting with men on base as they did last year and Pat Burrell just can't have three sorry seasons in a row, can he? Chase Utley at 2B is a big plus, too, and their bullpen is one of the best in the NL. Reasons for despair: the starting pitching is iffy, if talented, the park is a bandbox, Pat Burrell is a huge questionmark, the hitters strike out too much and the GM hasn't shown much in seven years of service. The fans think he is a dolt.
4. New York Mets. Reasons: The Mets' season this year will be as big a white elephant as the proposed football stadium that the Jets want to build on New York's West Side. They overpaid for Pedro Martinez, who is brittle, and Tom Glavine may be through. Their bullpen is bad, period, and there's no guarantee that the starters will be able to pass the baton to the setup men. They have some offensive talent, but Mike Piazza is in a falling-off-the-cliff-like state of decline and Cliff Floyd is injury prone. They'll score a bunch of runs, but they'll give up a lot more. Carlos Beltran, though, is a real gem.
5. Washington Nationals. Reason: Too many years of neglect. A change of scenery is nice; a change of about half the roster would have been nicer. Another relegation candidate.

NL Central

1. St. Louis Cardinals. Reason: Sure, they disappointed in the World Series, and yes, they did lose Edgar Renteria, and, sure, Mark Mulder could be damaged goods (I am in a vast minority here), but they're still the team to beat in this division. They just have too many weapons across the board and a cagey manager in Tony LaRussa who's good at putting it all together. The fans will love SS David Eckstein, and he's a great hustler with all of the intangibles, but he is no Edgar Renteria, and he's a second-tier SS at best.
2. Houston Astros. Reason: They have starters and a closer to make life interesting, but they lost Carlos Beltran and Lance Berkman is out. Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio are well past their prime, and it's hard to say where the runs will come from. This is a bad division, so finishing second only means that; there is no wild-card possibility here.
3. Chicago Cubs. Reason: They've lost too much hitting to contend, and when you play in a bandbox, even if lovable, you need to slug. Their bullpen also is iffy, with Joe Borowski's being out, and he wasn't a top-shelf closer to begin with.
4. Cincinnati Reds. Reason: This team will hit a lot of home runs, but it will strike out a lot too, and you'll see games where they put up ten runs and followed by games where they put up one. They still are weak on the pitching front, and while there's some upside here, they just don't have the arms to win more than half of their games.
5. Milwaukee Brewers. Reason: This team would be another candidate for relegation to a lower league if this were English soccer. Ben Sheets is a star, but he's like Steve Carlton on the '72 Phillies, with two differences -- one, he's not Carlton, not yet, and two, the Brewers don't seem to be primed to rise the way the Phillies were in the 1970's. Still, he's an outstanding player. But outside him, Lyle Overbay, Geoff Jenkins and perhaps Rickie Weeks, what else does Milwaukee have? Oft-tried Russell Branyan gets the nod at third, but he could eclipse Adam Dunn's single-season strikeout record.
6. Pittsburgh Pirates. Reason: See the Milwaukee Brewers. Yes, there is a pitcher with some talent, yes, some position players can play, but this is a bad baseball team.

NL West

1. San Francisco Giants. Reason: Barry or no Barry, the Giants probably have enough horses to beat anyone in this division. With Barry, they can win it by about 12 games. Without Barry, it will be tighter. This team will hit in the clutch, and it has some pitching depth.
2. San Diego Padres. Reason: They are building upon last season, but they'll need a lot of things to go right to win the division or contend for a wild card. If certain position players improve, and if enough pitchers have good years, yes, they will be a contender. But more than likely they're a middle-of-the-pack team.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers. Reason: Gagne on the DL, losing Beltre and Green and replacing them with an injury-prone J.D. Drew and an aging and declining Jeff Kent, and not having enough horses on the starting pitching staff. They have some pitching talent, but they probably won't hit enough to win more than half their games.
4. Colorado Rockies. Reason: Another relegation candidate. They have Todd Helton, and that's about it. This is another AAA baseball team. They should trade Helton for a boatload of prospects and try to seriously rebuild or even relocate to a climate where the ball doesn't fly out of the park.

Playoffs:

Boston over Oakland.
Yankees over Cleveland.

Boston over Yankees.

Florida over Houston
S.F. over Atlanta.

Florida over S.F.

World Series

Boston over Florida. Yes, lightning will strike twice in New England.

Awards:

N.L. Most Valuable Player: Miguel Cabrera, Florida Marlins.
A.L. Most Valuable Player: Manny Ramirez, Boston Red Sox.
N.L. Cy Young Award: Josh Beckett, Florida Marlins.
A.L. Cy Young Award: Randy Johnson, New York Yankees.

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