Thursday, March 29, 2007

Mike's Pre-Season Predictions

Last year I couldn't even predict how the season would turn out when we adjusted our picks as late as Labor Day. So I'm not very confident that I'll come up with anything good here today. While I think there are a lot of really good teams, nearly every team is seriously flawed or has significant questions.

Anyway, on to the predictions:

AL East - Boston Red Sox
I probably pick the BoSox every year. But this year I really believe it. I think Dice-K will contend not only for Rookie of the Year honors, but for the Cy Young too. If Schilling and Beckett stay healthy (big ifs), this team is stacked. Still, it's weird that Julian Tavarez (!) is in the starting rotation.

The Red Sox hopes are aided by the apparent weakness of the Yankees' starting rotation. The Yankees will score a lot of runs, but they'll need to. Carl Pavano is starting on opening day; coming into the camp it wasn't clear that he'd make the opening day roster. And it was just a few weeks ago that there were serious talks about Kei Igawa ending up in the minors. Now he's towards the top of the rotation to start the year.

I like the Blue Jays, but I don't think they can overcome the division's two super powers. The same is true of the O's and Rays. Both clubs are probably better, but I'm not convinced their place in the standings will change this year.

AL Central - Detroit Tigers
This was a really tough pick for me. There are at least three, and probably four, teams that are legit contenders for the division title and the AL pennant.

Some thoughts on everyone but the Royals: the Twins, despite how great their front office is, have a rotation full of question marks. It's Santana and who? Scary stuff.

The Tigers are likely to regress this year. Aren't they? I think they're subject to the same type of slump the White Sox had last year. That said, they could still win 90 games. The Tigers added Sheffield to the lineup this offseason (like the Sox adding Thome last year). He'll be a big improvement. They also get a full year from Mike Maroth. But can the starter and the bullpen be as good as they were last year? How long can Todd Jones continue to be better than he was when he was young?

I wanted to pick the White Sox, but I just can't. Too many questions and weird decisions being made. That said, I have a hard time questioning Ozzie Guillen and Kenny Williams. The team's on field performance the past few years has been pretty impressive. If the rotation stays healthy and performs closer to 2005 levels, the Sox will likely win the division. Not sure if that can really happen though. There are huge concerns about the lineup, particularly at the top. But that doesn't matter as much as the pitching. I particularly like the nicknames of Peter Pan and Tinkerbell for Podsednik and Erstad, although the nicknames make me sad at the same time.

I really like the Indians too, but their pitching isn't improved. That was there problem last year. Peralta should be better and that will help. But he can't do much about holding a late, close lead. That will be their downfall.

AL West - LA Angels
I'm running out of steam, so this will be briefer. I like the Angels. They made a strong push late last year. And I think the A's are a little worse than last year (no Zito). Can Piazza replace Thomas? We'll see.

The Rangers are my dark horse though. The last two teams to get rid of Buck Showalter won the whole thing the next season.

NL East - Atlanta Braves
For years I said I would pick the Braves until they finally lost. Now they lost and I'm still picking them. Why? Well, who's going to pitch for the Mets? The lineup is sick, but the pitching staff is anemic.

The trendy pick is probably the Phillies, but how are they going to do it? Can Howard be as good again this year as he was last year? Teams will pitch around him until Burrell or someone else produces. Freddy Garcia is a nice pickup, but there's a reason the Sox were willing to give him up. Freddy could allow as many homers at CBP as Howard hits. And the Phillies bullpen does not inspire awe.

The Braves lost a lot of late leads last year. They spent the offseason trying to improve their pen. I'm not convinced, but Schuerholz and Cox have a decent track record, to say the least. If the Braves' pen improves and the Mets regress even just a little bit, the division is the Braves for the taking.

The Marlins are kidding themselves. It will be a nice story if they can contend again. Willis will rebound. But can the sophomores in the rotation duplicate their rookie success? And why would anyone pitch to Miguel Cabrera?

If the Nationals can avoid losing the most games in ML history, it will be a significant accomplishment.

NL Central - Milwaukee Brewers
This division is brutal. If anyone wins 85 games, I think they'll take it. Really just about anyone other than the Pirates could win the division. And by saying that, I probably added 5 games to the Pirates win total.

Last year the Cardinals won the division with 83 wins. It's not that they're a bad team. There are a lot of good (but not great) teams in this division and they beat the crap out of each other.

The Cardinals rotation is a mess. The Cubs spent a fortune on upgrades this offseason, but have no pitching after Zambrano to speak of. The Brewers could be interesting if they stay healthy. The Astros could be interesting if they get Clemens, but I doubt that will happen. And the Reds could surprise if their pitching lives up to insider expectations. If the outfielders stay healthy (big if), the Reds have a big bat to trade for a pitcher in July.

All I can say about the Pirates is that they have Jason Bay. Don't tell me about Freddy Sanchez. He'll be exposed. And the LaRoche kid is nice too.

NL West - San Diego Padres
Here's another free for all. Coming into the spring, I liked the Dodgers best. But throughout the spring I've been impressed by the raw talent the Diamondbacks have. And the Padres are the two-time defending division champs and they're better this year than last year. Even the Rockies are better.

I'll stick with the Padres. They addressed some of their offensive issues by acquiring Kouzmanoff and Giles offsets Barfield. Plus they added Maddux and Wells. While neither is anywhere near their prime, they'll excel at Petco. And Peavy has to be better.

Wild Cards
In the NL, the West and Central teams will beat each other up so much that no one will seriously be in the wild card race. The wild card winner will likely be whoever beats up on the Nationals the most. It comes down to the Phillies and Mets. While the Phillies are cursed, I hate the Mets (but like many of their players), so I'll take the Phillies.

The AL is also pretty crazy. All three divisions should be uber-competitive. The Yankees will likely be in it and make a trade or two in July. Someone will rise up in the Central though and a team or two will falter. I'll take the White Sox to put it together and take the wild card.

World Series - Red Sox over Brewers
I really don't know. I like the pick of the Red Sox. I have no clue in the NL. Having the Brewers in the World Series would be fun in one regard: the TV ratings would suck, but what could Bud say? It's his small market team. And I'd like a big market, big dollar vs. small market, small dollar matchup to throw another wrench into the mix for people who say small market teams can't compete.

Ok, now go and bet against everyone I picked.

Monday, March 12, 2007

More Questions

There was a story in yesterday's NY Post by Mike Vaccaro that was pretty interesting. It started off talking about classic baseball questions (i.e. Willie, Mickey, or the Duke?) and went on to talk about the potentially classic questions in today's game.

Since it was in a New York paper, they started with the most obvious: Who would you rather have - David Wright and Jose Reyes of the Mets or Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter of the Yankees?

From there they focused on the NL East with Wright and Reyes or Ryan Howard and Chase Utley of the Phillies. In the article they said that foursome could represent the NL in the All-Star game for many years to come. That may well be the case, but it could be due to the fact that those guys are from the larger media markets.

One could just as easily throw the Marlins duo of Miguel Cabrera and Hanley Ramirez into the left-side-of-the-infield debate mix. Given the choice between Wright and Reyes, or Rodriguez and Jeter, or Cabrera and Ramirez, you really couldn't go wrong.

Another NL East pairing to throw into the mix would be the Nats Ryan Zimmerman and... oh... well... nevermind. Do the Nats even have a SS prospect?

Monday, March 5, 2007

Tough Questions

Ok, let's be honest here for a moment. Take salary/budget out of the picture. Forget about fantasy baseball. If you were starting a team and could have any third baseman you wanted (maybe it's for an Olympics/World Baseball Classic type of event), which player would you pick. Say you're looking to have this guy for this year and for the next five years.

The candidates, at least in my mind, probably are: Eric Chavez, Scott Rolen, Miguel Cabrera, David Wright, Alex Rodriguez, Alex Gordon, Ryan Zimmerman, Joe Crede, and Brandon Inge. There are definitely some other prospects and major leaguers out there to consider. But I think that's the A-list.

So who do you pick?

Chavez and Rolen have had off years and/or injuries. They've both probably peaked and their better days are behind them.

Crede and Inge are fun to watch, but don't have the upside of others on this list. They're definitely not the types you would build around.

Cabrera, Wright, Gordon, and Zimmerman are all either stars or will be stars very shortly. I think they each have holes in their game though. They're all pretty small and are really defense and/or speed. You can work around all of those things when you get the bats you get with these guys.

But I think the guy I would have to take -- and it really pains me to say this -- is ARod. He had a down year last year with 30+ homers and well over 100 RBI. Everyone talks about what a great year Jeter had (and don't get me started there), but ARod, in a "down" year scored about as many runs as Jeter and drove in more. Bad Arod is better than good/great just about anyone else.

The knock on ARod is what he does in the "clutch" and what he's done in the post-season. I think ARod is close to "getting" it though. Barry Bonds used to struggle in the playoffs. But he owned the 2002 post-season (I think the homer he hit off Percival is still in orbit). ARod seems like the type who will come around later in his career.

Maybe I'm just going soft on ARod. The talk of him being traded to the White Sox (or just about anywhere else in the league) doesn't seem to go away. Maybe I'm just preparing myself for the inevitable.

Regardless, I hope Wiggins ends up with ARod on his fantasy team.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

News of the Day

I'm not sure which of these stories I like better:

1 - Man tries to cash check from God

2 - A police dog was called into court because a judge wanted to know about the college degree he allegedly earned. The real kicker (this shocked me) is that the degree is not from Florida State.