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Monday, April 03, 2006

Baseball Predictions

I follow baseball more closely than you might think, but this isn't a specialty blog, so I couldn't tell you with great precision who the 23rd through 25th men are on most teams. I am preparing for my fantasy league's draft (the 19th year of our league, where we've all sat in the same place in the room during each of these years), and do know that there's a difference between Chris Young the pitcher and Chris Young the outfielder. All that said, here are my predictions:

American League East

1. New York Yankees
2. Boston Red Sox
3. Toronto Blue Jays
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

On the one hand, I don't know if either the Yankees or BoSox will make the playoffs, but the odds are that one of them will. The Yankees will hit, but they're old, they're pitching is one blown wing (or two) away from being a M*A*S*H unit, and I don't see a reason why they'll be any better this year unless Carl Pavano can stay healthy and prove his season two years ago when he was a Marlin was no fluke. A healthy Pavano could put the Yankees in 97+ win territory. The BoSox and Yankees will bedevil each other through September, but even though I'll be rooting for the Sox, the Yankees will come out ahead. This either will be their year or, failing that, they could be a much different team next year.

AL Central

1. Cleveland Indians
2. Chicago White Sox
3. Minnesota Twins
4. Detroit Tigers
5. Kansas City Royals

Okay, so the Sox pounded the Tribe last night, but I think this will be the year that Mark Shapiro's patience is rewarded -- with Cleveland nailing down the division title. The Royals now resemble the Kansas City A's of the 1950's, even though I doubt that the Commissioner would let them become the quasi-Yankee farm club that the A's were way back when (then again, the Commissioner did let the Florida Marlins dismantle themselves for the second time in ten years, so anything is possible), and the Tigers will make it clear that even with an outstanding manager, you still need sufficient talent to win.

AL West

1. Oakland A's
2. California Angels
3. Texas Rangers
4. Seattle Mariners.

This is the sports season for the bellwethers to prevail. The A's remind me of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Smaller market, keep on developing talent and losing it to free agency, keep on winning. So long as Billy Beane is the GM, he'll keep on altering the roster, keeping ahead o the other stats' gurus and rely upon metrics that the others won't find for a few years. The Angels are rock solid, though, and I would expect them to win the wild card.

ALCS Champion -- New York Yankees

I have no great basis for making this claim. I do contend, however, the AL is the stronger league, because several worthy teams will not get a playoff spot. In my predictions, those are the Red Sox and the White Sox, and I also think that Toronto and Minnesota are formidable teams. This is either the Last Hurrah for the Yankees or the year that King George VII has to make some hard decisions. If the Yankees don't win the Series, this year will mark the sixth straight year that they won't have done so. Their payroll is bloated, and their roster is old. At some point you're not getting outplayed, your getting outstrategized at the GM and player personnel level.

NL East

1. Atlanta Braves
2. Philadelphia Phillies
3. New York Mets
4. Washington Nationals
5. Florida Marlins

Actually, I do think that the Mets could make a serious run for the division title here, but they also could suffer from overly high expectations. The bullpen might not work out, Pedro could fall off the table (and join Tommy Glavine somewhere beneath it), the defense still not might be sturdy enough, and the cast of middle relievers might not set up Billy Wagner as much as Omar Minaya hopes). I picked the Braves because they've won the division for 14 years in a row and, until someone dethrones them, they're the favorite. A vulnerable one, of course, but the favorite nonetheless. Their bullpen isn't deep and their hitting depth is iffier than they'd like, and they lost pitching guru Leo Mazzone to the pitching-desperate Baltimore Orioles, but they still have John Smoltz, Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones. That trio might be good enough to lead the Braves to another division title. The Phillies are an intriguing team. They will hit -- a lot -- and they need to answer for questions -- 1) Can Brett Myers emerge as a #1 starter? 2) How much of a contribution can they get from their #4 and #5 starters (currently Ryan Madson and Gavin Floyd); 3) How will their setup men fare this year (especially now that one of last year's best, Madson, is now a starter) and 4) How will Tom Gordon hold up as the closer? If they get positive answers to all of those questions, the Phillies will be the surprise team this year. That said, there are too many question marks on the hill -- and in their bandbox, to boot.

NL Central

1. St. Louis Cardinals
2. Houston Astros
3. Milwaukee Brewers
4. Chicago Cubs
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
6. Cincinnati Reds

The Cards could well win this division by 15 games, as it's a rather weak one. The bottom three teams have huge question marks. The Cubs' biggest-name hurlers have damaged wings. The Pirates are in a perpetual state of trying to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse. The Reds will make no one draw parallels to the great Big Red Machine teams of the mid-1970's. That leaves Houston, which will need to throw a lot of shutouts and one-run games to have a chance, and Milwaukee, everyone's darling pick this year, even though its ace, Ben Sheets, will start the year on the DL. I honestly don't see anyone seriously challenging the Cardinals here.

NL West

1. San Francisco Giants
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
3. San Diego Padres
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
5. Colorado Rockies

The Giants are one of these dangerous teams that somehow manages to keep coming at you even when their pitching staff is limping along and their lineup has holes in it. Barry Bonds, despite all the controversy, returns, and the Giants have enough weapons to get 90 or so wins and take the title. As for the Dodgers, well, they have a lot of talent, but if you have to rely upon J.D. Drew to get you to the title, I think you're taking a pretty big gamble. The Padres just don't have enough, and the other two teams resemble field horses at the Derby. Sure, they could win, but if they do, it's on a long shot, and perhaps because the favorites stumble, get hurt or just prove that they weren't any good.

NLCS Champion -- St. Louis Cardinals.

So what will happen next? Well, Tony LaRussa did get his Series title with outstanding A's teams in '89, disappointing the faithful both in '88 (recall Kirk Gibson's home run) and '90 (the Nasty Boys of the Reds handcuffed the A's hitters). Odds are he should get one here, and I don't think that the NL is that challenging that the Cards, assuming Scott Rolen is healthy, won't go into the World Series rested, ready and full well knowing what it takes. The Yankees, as it were, will come in proud and haughty. Some of their players will be looking for a last hurrah; others will be looking for the first ratification that they are champions. The Yankees will be favored, but this time it will be the Cardinals who pull the upset and send the Yankees home, disappointed again.

Enjoy the season!


Blogger Lou said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:19 AM  
Blogger Lou said...

1. New York Yankees
2. Boston Red Sox
3. Toronto Blue Jays
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

I don't expect any team from this division to play in the ALCS, however.

and later...

ALCS Champion -- New York Yankees

Not to be rude, but what do you mean?

12:20 AM  

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