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.


wiggins said...

I basically agree with your assessments all around.


Well done, sir.

One of the few things I will say is watch out for the A's IF Harden stays healthy. I know it's a big if, but...

Mike said...

I was thinking that about Harden. If he's healthy this year, that effectively replaces Zito.

But the Angels could get Colon back and their outfield is "enhanced".

Joe said...

Mike what is wrong with you.

"The Marlins are kidding themselves"

YOUR KILLING ME....this is not the same Mike of FishStripes fame....The Rally Marlin would be ashamed.

Mike said...

Joe -

It's a reverse jinx. I can't be pro Marlins all the time. Besides, my predictions are ALWAYS wrong.

But the Braves are looking good so far. And the Jorge Julio Experience isn't looking as good.