With the true opening day coming in less than eight hours, I figured someone needed to make some predictions for the upcoming season. Here is my attempt to catch lightning in a bottle and some commentary to go along with it.
National League West
1) Arizona – Diamondbacks’ pitching looks good with Brandon Webb and Dan Haren and the D-backs young hitting should be improved. The big question is whether or not Brandon Lyon can handle the closer’s role.
2) Colorado – The Rockies’ magical run of a year ago can certainly be repeated, with a powerful lineup of Matt Holliday, Garrett Atkins, Todd Helton and Troy Tulowitzki. The pitching is talented, but still young.
3) Los Angeles – The Dodgers have a deep, if not star-studded, starting rotation and bullpen. The key is if they can get some more production from a batting lineup mixed with veterans and fresh young talent.
4) San Diego – The Padres can pitch. With Jake Peavy, Chris Young and Trevor Hoffman, there’s no doubt about that. It’s the anemic hitting that has the Padres fourth in this deep division.
5) San Francisco – The Giants have no chance to do anything but sweep the cellar. The lineup is atrocious, atrocious enough to mask two young talented starting pitchers in Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain.
National League Central
1) Chicago – The Cubs are an increasingly popular pick to win the World Series, especially since its the 100th year anniversary of their last title. Seeing how Kerry Wood does as a closer should be interesting.
2) Milwaukee – The Brewers are young and with Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Corey Hart and Rickie Weeks, they can rake. If they can stay healthy in the starting rotation, Milwaukee could be a dark horse.
3) Houston – The Astros, with Miguel Tejada added to a lineup of Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence, will score runs. But besides Roy Oswalt, they’ll have problems stopping other teams from doing the same.
4) Cincinnati – The Reds are slowly but surely getting better and could very easily top .500. If Homer Bailey and Edison Volquez emerge in the starting rotation, you can bump the Reds past Houston.
5) St. Louis – Has it really been only two years since the Cardinals won the World Series? The lineup is bascially Albert Pujols and nothing else and the pitching staff has all but died. This team is losing 90 easily.
6) Pittsburgh – The Pirates actually have some decent pitching in Ian Snell, Tom Gorzelanny and Matt Capps in the pen. It’s the hitting, or lack of it, that will give the Pirates their 16th straight losing season.
1) New York Mets – After blowing a 7-game lead in 17 days, the Mets are on a mission. With Johan Santana heading the rotation and David Wright heading the lineup, Mr. Met will be smiling.
2) Philadelphia – The Phillies can smack it around with Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins and have two good young pitchers in Cole Hamels and Brett Myers. The Mets just have a bit more.
3) Atlanta – The Braves’ lineup is on the verge of explosion, with the rich farm system producing a bevy of batters to protect Mark Teixiera. Its the geriatric starting rotation of John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Mike Hampton that makes me skeptical.
4) Florida – The Marlins are going to be horrible, but have a great double play combo in Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla. It’s too bad those guys can’t pitch though.
5) Washington – The Nationals have slightly better pitching, led by Don Lugo product Chad Cordero in the bullpen, but their lineup isn’t great. Its a toss up with Florida for last.
1) Seattle – I like the front of the Mariners’ rotation with the acquistion of Erik Bedard to go with Felix Hernandez. An underrated lineup and a lights-out closer in J.J. Putz will have the Mariners in the playoffs.
2) LA of Anaheim – The Angels seem to already be dealing with the injury bug. They have a deep rotation and an outfield with power, but there just seems to be a weird karma with them that I can place.
3) Oakland – The A’s are definitely down and won’t go anywhere, even with a healthy Rich Harden. The lineup doesn’t hit for average or power, which is pretty rough.
4) Texas – The pitching stinks as usual and the hitting isn’t nearly as potent as it has been in the past. What does that mean? An early countdown to Cowboys training camp.
1) Cleveland – I’m a Tigers fan so I hate to do this, but I think the Indians have the best combination of hitting, starting pitching and relief. In fact, this is my pick to win the World Series, especially if they can upgrade past Joe Borowski at closer.
2) Detroit – The Tigers’ lineup is a Murderer’s Row of the new millenium. They have a deep starting rotation led by my Cy Young pick, Justin Verlander. The bullpen, however, could be a disaster, which is why I can’t put Detroit over Cleveland.
3) Chicago – The White Sox faltered last year, but will have a lineup that will hit tons of home runs. The pitching, while not what it was three years ago when they won the World Series, should be good enough to get it over .500.
4) Kansas City – The Royals started to show signs of life in the second half of last year. Their young hitters should be a year better and their pitching has gone from horrible to mediocre. This division is too loaded to put them any higher.
5) Minnesota – Two years ago, the Twins had a great young rotation and a bevy of talented hitters. Now they have a great closer in Joe Nathan, a few young hitters, and not much else.
1) Boston – The Red Sox have no real weaknesses, as their lineup is solid, their bullpen is good and their starting rotation is pretty decent. Boston doesn’t quite have the upside in those categories that other teams do, but will give a good title defense effort.
2) New York – The Yankees, as always, will tear the cover off the ball. Their bullpen, with Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera, is strong. The starting pitching is questionable, which is why the Yanks are here.
3) Toronto – There’s not much seperating the Blue Jays from the Red Sox or Yanks. The starting rotation might even be the best of the three. They are a little behind in hitting and the bullpen though, hence the pick.
4) Tampa Bay – Despite trying to destroy itself, the Rays actually have a ton of good talent and could flirt with .500. This year should be decent, but how long until they unload talent to pinch a penny here and there?
5) Baltimore – The Orioles could be the worst team in baseball. Between them and the Nationals, its going to be a tough time to be a baseball fan in Maryland and Virginia.