Monday, February 18, 2008

2008 Predictions

Well, it should be an exciting year. By the end of 2008, all three of us will be married. Of course only I was smart enough to do it after the season is over, so I don't have any future conflicts between baseball and anniversaries.

I'm making my predictions early. And I worry about doing that as I don't get to see what happens in Spring Training. So I reserve the right to make changes, based solely on what happens this spring.

Hopefully no adjustments will be needed. Here we go:

American League East

It’s a bad time to be in the AL East if you’re not the Yankees or Red Sox. Both teams have loaded Major League rosters, and now both teams have loaded up the minor leagues as well. We’ve seen the Orioles surrender already. What else is there to do?

1st Place – New York Yankees (101 – 61)

Same team, new era. 1995, the season before Joe Torre took over as Yankee manager, the Yankees had 4 significant players make their Major League debuts; Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada. Immediately, the Yankees went on an amazing run. 13 years later, all four are in pinstripes. Now, the year before Joe Girardi took over, once again the Yankees had an amazing class of debuts, with Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Ian Kennedy.

Can these three create the same kind of run the other 4 did? I think so.

Girardi is a much different type of manager than Torre. Torre was calm, Girardi is fiery. Both ways have their good and bad. The best thing about Torre, is his calm had allowed the Yankees of the past few years to get themselves out of huge 1st half holes. The bad about Torre is that his calm let them dig huge 1st half holes. I don’t think Girardi will be able to get the Yankees out of that kind of hole, but I don’t think he’ll need to.

I expect the Yankees to lead the majors in runs scored. Obviously, it’s impossible to expect Posada and ARod to duplicate their production from last year, although I wouldn’t put anything past ARod. I do think Posada will have a year better than his 2006 season (which was not bad at all). I think he will have the third best season of his career, now that his son his healthy. I think Johnny Damon will be better offensively this year than last, and am hoping Abreu will play hard to finish out his contract. Melky Cabrera and Robinson Cano should both improve, as they’re young and getting more experience. Jason Giambi will probably be productive until he gets hurt. Hideki Matsui should be the everyday designated hitter.

This team can hit.

As far as the pitching, this is more of a question, and one nobody can answer with any surety at this point. I think the big 3 will do quite well. I think Pettitte will be about what he was last season, and Wang will be slightly better. I think Mussina will start well, but then there will be extreme inconsistency that will likely cause him to lose his rotation spot, again. On the whole, I think the rotation will be above average, and will go on a few really nice runs throughout the season. Ian Kennedy will be the most consistent of the young pitchers, and will be a guy who the team starts to rely on.

Looking at the bullpen, all I hope is the Yankees take a trial-and-error approach to it. I want the Yankees to consider any pitcher not in the Major League rotation as a possible reliever for the Major League team. That means Alan Horne, Humberto Sanchez, and all the other many live arms in the organization. Try somebody, if they don’t work, try somebody else. Most of the great bullpens throughout history have had a great amount of fluke years and luck. Trial-and-Error seems as good a way of figuring it out as can be. I think the mix is there, they just have to find it.

2nd Place – Boston Red Sox 97 – 66

For the first time (in my mind) the Red Sox come in as the team to beat. Sure they won the 2004 World Series, but they hadn’t won the division. In 2007 they did both. There are a great similarities between the philosophies of the Yankee and Red Sox, and we’ve seen that this off season.

First, they didn’t go after any big prize out there. They resisted. Their potent lineup is completely intact, with the only possible difference is if Ellsbury knocks Coco Crisp out of the lineup. Like the Yankees, their starting rotation is having young guns joining it. Lester and Buchholz will need to step up like the Yankee trio if the Red Sox are going to win the AL East.

As far as the Red Sox lineup goes, I think Jason Varitek numbers slide down. Kevin Youkilis probably gets slightly better. I would predict a similar season for Dustin Pedroia. Probably a little lower batting average, but I expect his power numbers to improve a bit. I think we’ll probably all agree that Mike Lowell’s numbers probably drop a bit. However, Julio Lugo and JD Drew should more than make that up. I would expect both of them to have numbers similar to their second half of the season numbers from 2007.

Then we have Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz. Manny turns 36 years old and playing for a contract. I believe that he will be more motivated and have a huge year. However, that means I’m guessing what’s going through Manny’s head, and I’m not sure anybody is qualified to do that. I think David Ortiz begins his slide this year. Not a dramatic one yet, but he’s 32 years old and gigantically huge, which I see as a negative for aging gracefully. Don’t get me wrong, I still think he’ll be the best designated hitter out there this season. However, I expect his batting average to drop and his power to stay at his 2007 level. On the whole, the Red Sox can hit.

I think the Red Sox took a big hit with losing Schilling. He averaged over 6 innings per start last season, which I don’t expect Jon Lester to do. He walked only 23 batters in 151 innings, and had a 3.87 ERA. I’m not that high on Lester, and I think Buchholz will very likely have some big ups and downs. After tearing through AA, the now-23 year old struggled a bit at AAA, before electrifying the Majors.

As far as the top 3 spots, there is no reason to think that Josh Beckett is anything other than what he was last season, a potential 20-game winner. I think Matsuzaka will be slightly better this year than last season. I was having a hard time figuring out what I think he’ll do. On the negative side, he was only 5-6 after the all-star break with a 5.19 ERA. However, one could argue that’s just getting used to a 5-man rotation. Back on the negative side, one of the things he had going for him was nobody had seen him before, and that’s not true anymore. On the positive side, he was better on the road than at home, and he’ll probably be more adjusted to pitching at Fenway Park. He was not impressive against the AL East.

4.09 vs. Tampa Bay
5.18 vs. Toronto
6.12 vs. New York
8.38 vs. Orioles

I definitely don’t see him being significantly better than last year.

Tim Wakefield pulled out 17 wins last season, but I don’t think anybody trusts him or thinks that’s likely again for the 41-year old. Is he going to stay healthy? I think one of the young pitchers needs to step up past Wakefield into the #3 spot in the rotation. If Wakefield ends the year as the #3 starter, the Red Sox won’t be able to keep pace with the Yankees.

I definitely don’t expect the Red Sox bullpen to be as good this season. I don’t think Okajima will be nearly as good. Papelbon will be just as good. But we know most relievers, except for the very top ones, after a really good year tend to drop off the next year.

3rd Place – Toronto Blue Jays (80 – 82)

If I were asked what AL East pick do I feel most confident in, it would be the Blue Jays in 3rd place. I don’t think they have nearly enough to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox, and not nearly as bad as the Rays and Orioles.

The Blue Jays lineup has a lot of people who could hurt you, but also a lot of players prone to long slumps. While the Yankees and Red Sox lineups have so much consistency throughout, Alex Rios is just about the only one who you know exactly what to expect from. Does Scott Rolen have anything left? Frank Thomas isn’t getting any better. I don’t think 33-year old David Eckstein will be batting over .300 again. If the Blue Jays are to have any chance, Vernon Wells will have to hit a lot better than he did last season.

The next thing that must go right for the Blue Jays to compete is the pitching staff must stay healthy. If they stay healthy, their top 5 starters are good enough to be a starting staff for a playoff team, but health is not something this rotation can rely on. I expect a huge drop-off of the Blue Jays’ bullpen. It’s amazing how good the Blue Jays’ bullpen was without BJ Ryan last year. Who knows how healthy Ryan will be this season, but it doesn’t seem he’ll start the year on the roster. Jeremy Accardo threw 67 innings with a 2.14 ERA last year, Casey Janssen threw 73 innings with a 2.35 ERA, Scott Downs had a 2.17 ERA in 58 innings. I would be surprised if any of them duplicate that production, and they’ll need them to if they are going to have a chance.

The Blue Jays need everything to break right for them to compete in this division. With a roster that includes many injury-prone players, I’m counting the Blue Jays out.

4th Place – Baltimore Orioles (67 – 95)

This is a team without much pressure on them. They traded Miguel Tejada (at just the right time), they traded their ace, and they have no pressure to win. That’s good, as they won’t. The lineup has some veterans who know how to play the game. They know how to get some wins. Nick Markakis now the most dangerous hitter in their lineup, and while he’s good, he shouldn’t be the best player in any lineup. But with veteran hitters like Millar, Roberts, Mora, Hernandez, with Markakis, while it is a below-average lineup, they can hold off the Rays.

The pitching staff has some interesting arms, that will throw a really good game from time to time, they are going to get hit hard. The bullpen is weak, but we’ll see, maybe some of the people they acquired in trades step up in those roles.

5th Place – Tampa Bay Rays (63 – 99)

First of all they deserve to be in last place for changing their name. Taking the word “Devil” out because it was the word “Devil” was moronic. A Devil Ray has nothing to do with evil or hell (unlike the NJ Devils and nobody up here seems to care).

However, that’s not why I picked the Rays last. A lot of people have said for a lot of years, watch out for the Rays because of their up and coming talent. The only thing the Rays have ever done to get better is to finish last. They keep getting top draft picks. It hasn’t helped yet. For the 3rd time in the last 6 years, the Rays will have the #1 overall pick again this June. They’ve never picked lower than 8th, and only twice picked lower than 4th in their history. Where has it gotten them? Another first overall pick.

I’m not confident anybody in their lineup hits 20 home runs. I know Carlos Pena hit 46 last season, but let’s just say I have my doubts. BJ Upton hit 24 home runs last season, but I think the pitchers are going to make a big adjustment on him this year. If the Rays are going to get out of last place, they’re going to need Evan Longoria to not have many growing pains, to step up right away. I think he will have a pretty good rookie year. I’m not sure good enough for this team.

Then you have the rotation. Scott Kazmir is an ace. However, I think he’s on drugs as he recently was quoted as saying the Rays playing in October was possible. The 4th and 5th starters for the Rays are a nightmare. Most likely Jeff Niemann will join the rotation before long, but I have serious doubts about his head and him handling the Major League lifestyle. They made lots of changes to the bullpen, won’t matter. They’ll still be horrible, as are the Rays. I think this franchise continues to be a disgrace.

AL Central

1st Place – Detroit Tigers (93 – 69)

This team is going to try to pound there way to a division title, and I think they will. This was already a good lineup and they added Miguel Cabrera and Edgar Renteria. I definitely do not see this team running away with anything though. The fact is Dontrelle Willis has a 5.17 ERA in the NL last season. Before Willis’ 26th birthday, the southpaw had thrown over 1000 big-league innings. Willis should be helped out some by Detroit’s pitcher-friendly ballpark, and he should have a better won-loss thanks to the Tiger lineup, but I don’t expect good results, especially the second half of the season. He should start well, but as his innings rack up, I expect his 2nd half stats to be ugly.

Jeremy Bonderman’s ERA was over 5 last year. Kenny Rogers is 43 years old. Nate Robertson has never been impressive. And the bullpen? Todd Jones is still the closer. Joel Zumaya is expected to be out until at least July. That could be the big bolster they’ll need come mid-season and be able to hold off the Indians.

2nd Place – Cleveland Indians (89 – 73)

Including the postseason, CC Sabathia pitched 256 innings last season. That could turn out to be a big problem for the Indians this year. Fausto Carmona who was 23 years old last year pitched 230 innings. The Indians pitching should be much better than the Tigers pitching, however, it might not end up being that way.

After those top two starters there is a big drop-off to Jake Westbrook and Paul Byrd, and whoever gets the #5 spot. The Indians bullpen could be critical and Joe Borowski is still their closer. That leaves a lot of pressure on the two Rafaels, Betancourt and Perez, who both had great years last year (1.47 and 1.78 ERA respectively). There was no reason to think either of them would have a year like that last season, and no overly compelling reason to think they will this season. Of course there is always a chance they’ll have other surprising bullpen performers this year, and they’ll need to if they want to keep that Tiger offense in check.

The Indian lineup is good, but not scary. They have nobody in their lineup who hit 25 home runs last season. It wouldn’t be surprising if a few of them did though. This lineup can score runs, but not with the Tigers. They are going to need repeat performances from Sabathia and Carmona if they are going to be able to repeat as AL Central champions.

3rd Place – Chicago White Sox (79 – 83)

The White Sox are a little too weak in every area to compete. Offensively they are going to need both Jermaine Dye and Jim Thome to stay healthy the entire season and have big years, and that’s probably too much to ask. Dye is 34 years old, and Thome turns 38 this season.

On the pitching side, let’s just say I’m not confident in the trio of Javier Vazquez, Jose Contreras, and Mark Buehrle. All three are capable of a good season, but it’s unlikely they’ll all pull off having a good season the same year. John Danks and Gavin Floyd round out the rotation. Both had ERAs well over 5 last season. The bullpen, anchored by Bobby Jenks, will need big years from both Scott Linebrink and Octavio Dotel to have any kind of chance.

The White Sox do not look like a playoff team.

4th Place – Minnesota Twins (76 – 86)

Any chance the Twins had to make the playoffs went out the window with the Santana trade. Torii Hunter was a big loss, but to lose Santana and get nobody who is going to make a large impact this season ended the year before it began. Then needed a Hughes or a Buchholz to even fake having a chance.

To catch the White Sox they’ll need a good season from Delmon Young to help Morneau and Mauer. They’ll also need Francisco Liriano to return to make an amazing comeback. It’s just too hard to predict with any accuracy how he’ll do. I think Livan Hernandez was a gigantic pickup for the Twins. The top three relievers are quite good with Nathan, Neshek, and Guerrier. After that it gets pretty ugly. Livan Hernandez gives innings. In the past 10 seasons his lowest inning total was 199.2.

The Twins gave up on this season the moment they traded Santana.

5th Place – Kansas City Royals (72 – 90)

For this team to catch the Twins, they’ll need their young players, like Butler and Gordon to start producing significantly. This is not a good team or even a team that has the makings to become a good team.

The top 3 starters of their rotation, Meche, Bannister, and Greinke pitched better than expected last season, I would be surprised if they duplicate it. After those three it is a disaster. The bullpen was good last season as well. There is more of a chance of them duplicating than the starters. In the end this is just a light roster without nearly enough talent.

AL West

1st Place – Los Angeles Angels (95 – 67)

The Angels are the clearly the class of the AL West. I think they completely overpaid for Torii Hunter, but maybe not as it clearly put them way out front in their division. They have an improving offense as they have some young hitters in their infield who are getting better. They have a solid rotation. If Lackey can repeat his last season and Jered Weaver develops into a top quality pitcher (I don’t think he will) this team would be hard to stop come postseason as well. The outfield defense should help the pitching staff out a lot.

The team can hit, they have a strong rotation, and the Angels usually have one of the top bullpens, although I’m not that impressed with its current formation. K-Rod remains one of the most reliable closers in baseball.

2nd Place – Seattle Mariners (90 – 72)

If anybody is going to make a run at the Angels, it is the revamped Seattle Mariners. The Mariners made a huge move bringing in Bedard. The Mariners have a decent lineup, but they are going to need to get a lot more productivity out of Richie Sexson than they did last year. Jose Vidro batted .314 last season, it’s unlikely he’ll repeat that. Ichiro is as likely as anybody to win the batting title.

Felix Hernandez turns just 22 in April. I think he may do a little better than last year, but am wondering if the Mariners are putting too many innings on his young arm. The final three spots in their rotation are all solid, giving them a decent chance to win whenever they go out there.

The bullpen will probably be average, the key is getting the ball to JJ Putz, who has quickly become a top closer. The Mariners should be able to stay in the AL West and Wild Card race until September, but they’ll come up short.

3rd Place – Oakland Athletics (74 – 88)

The A’s are not a good team. They decided that it was better to build for the future than the 2008 season. If they are going to have any chance to have a decent season, they will need big years from recent underachievers like Eric Chavez and Bobby Crosby. Despite trading their ace, they still have enough pitching to keep them from the bottom of the AL West. Blanton is a horse, and we’ll have to see about the health of the usually injured Rich Harden.

The A’s bullpen is nothing to write home about, and they’ll need Huston Street to stay healthy and effective.

4th Place – Texas Rangers (73 – 89)

As everybody knows, I hate changing my predictions too much from year-to-year. There’s one statement I never have to change when it comes to the Rangers; The Rangers have no pitching. It’s good to say that again. It feels like spring. The hitting isn’t even as good as its been in past years, this is looking to be an ugly year in Texas.

The starters are weak, the bullpen is weak, and the hitters aren't even as good. Last place.

NL East

1st Place – New York Mets (97 – 75)

Even more than the Yankees, the Mets need to win their division. That’s weird to say, but I think it’s true. The Yankees have to at least win the wild card, the Mets have to win the division. The Mets were favorites to win the division last year (and the NL Pennant), were the class of the NL East all year, and well, we know the rest. So all they did was add the best pitcher in baseball.

The Mets have star hitters with Wright, Beltran, Reyes, and Delgado to go along with a decent supporting cast. It will help the Mets greatly if Delgado has a bounce-back season, which is questionable as he’s not young.

One of the strengths of the Mets is that they have 5 starting pitchers who all had ERAs under 4 last season. I’m not a big fan of either John Maine or Oliver Perez, but to be around veteran pitchers like Santana, Pedro, and Duque can only help their development. That trio knows how to pitch. Will Pedro stay healthy for the entire season? Probably not. The Mets just need him to stay healthy enough.

The Mets also have a fairly good bullpen led by Billy Wagner.

They should be the National League’s best team, but they should have been the best team last year too.

2nd Place – Philadelphia Phillies (90 – 72)

The Phillies have momentum on their side, but not pitching. The team has a lot of power and an infield that can flat out hit, led by Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins. The rotation isn’t horrible, but Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Adam Eaton, Jamie Moyer, and Kyle Kendrick don’t come near matching up with the Mets staff. Brad Lidge doesn’t impress me as the closer. Depending on how Delgado does for the Mets, the Phillies may out-hit the Mets. But it was such a close race last season, one that the Phillies needed the Mets to collapse to win it. I don’t think they can overcome the Santana led pitching staff, and Pedro Martinez for more of the season.

3rd Place – Atlanta Braves (88 – 74)

The Braves starting pitching should keep them with a chance for most of the season. Getting Tom Glavine back means their top 3 starters will most likely combine for over 600 innings, helping keep the bullpen somewhat fresh.

While at the infield corners the Braves can get a lot of offense from Chipper Jones and Mark Teixeira, and some good supporting characters, but their offense does not compare with the Mets or Phillies.

They may lose too many games at the end with Rafael Santana as the closer.

4th Place - Florida Marlins (68 – 94)

This is where it starts getting really hard. Which team is worse, the Marlins or the Nationals? I think the Nationals are worse. The Marlins have a better offense. They have some talented players including some impressive offense from the middle infield with Dan Uggla and Hanley Ramirez.

They are going to need Cameron Maybin to be huge if they want any chance to be better than fourth place, which I find unlikely that even that would do it. I honestly think the Marlins would be better off starting Maybin at AAA. Afterall, he’s only had 69 at bats above AA. He’ll be playing pressure free baseball, which is good considering how young he is.

The rotation is a wreck. The bullpen, which isn’t nearly as bad as the starting pitching, will get an awful lot of work. How they handle that load will be important, but could even hurt them for 2009 if it is too much of a load.

5th Place – Washington Nationals (63 – 99)

This team is a bad. I had a large feeling of NY rejects when looking over the roster. First of all, they have former Yankee prospects Nick Johnson, Christian Guzman, Wily Mo Pena, and Tyler Clippard (all projected to start or in the rotation). Then they have former Mets prospect/nutcase Lastings Milledge. On top of that they have Aaron Boone and Paul LoDuca.

Nick Johnson was hurt all of last year, which is his usual and why the Yankees traded him in the first place. They’re going to need him, and everybody else on their team to have surprisingly good seasons to finish anywhere better than 4th place, and it will be hard to not finish in last place.

The starting pitching is a disaster. The bullpen is not too bad, but it with weak hitting and bad starting pitching, it may be rare for the bullpen has any leads to protect.

NL Central

1st Place – Chicago Cubs (86 – 76)

For the third year in a row (as is usually my style), I’m picking the Cubs to win the NL Central. Once I was wrong, once I was right. I like Piniella, and I think the team is okay, which may just be good enough in this weak division. How good the offense will be will in large part in the hands of Kosuke Fukudome. The Cubs have a number of positions that are not going to intimidate opposing pitchers. However, they also have an impressive trio in Derrek Lee, Alfonso Soriano, and Aramis Ramirez. If Fukudome is able to produce, the lineup becomes that much more dangerous.

I think Carlos Zambrano will have a big year (of course I’ve said that every year of his career), and Ted Lilly and Rich Hill should be solid enough behind him. I think Kerry Wood could be a huge boost for their bullpen.

If the Cubs were in another division I would not have them in first place, but they are in the NL Central.

It’s year 100 for the team and championships.

2nd Place – Milwaukee Brewers (84 – 78)

The Brewer offense led by young Fielder, is the best in the NL Central. Rickie Weeks should have a better year than last season. The outfield has some decent pop lead by Ryan Braun.

Despite having enough hitting, any team with Jeff Suppan as their #2 starter should not win the division. The rest of the rotation is pretty weak, and to top things off, Eric Gagne is the closer. I would expect Gagne to be better than he was with the Red Sox, especially being in the National League, but I don’t think he’ll be above average as a closer anymore.

3rd Place – Cincinnati Reds (78 – 84)

At this point it could be anybody. Places 3 – 5 in the division should be pretty close. The Reds lineup is pretty mixed between good hitters and non-hitters. We’ll see, as always, how healthy Ken Griffey Jr. stays. I believe Adam Dunn is a free agent at the end of the year, so that should keep him quite motivated.

If the Reds are to finish in 3rd place, they’re going to need a lot of innings from Bronson Arroyo and Aaron Harang. After that they will need some good innings out of the bullpen. I have very little confidence in their #5 starter, and top pitching prospect Homer Bailey. He walked 28 and struck out 28 in 45 big league innings last season. Even in AAA he struck out less than one per inning and was walking over 4 per 9 innings.

He was great in 2006, I’m wondering if he has an arm injury, because it sure doesn’t seem like he’s about the take the big leagues by storm.

4th Place – Houston Astros (76 – 86)

The Astros really need Miguel Tejada to be rejuvenated (does that mean HGH?) being in the National League. If he hits, then they have an okay lineup with Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee, and Ty Wiggington. It’s odd to be looking at an Astros roster without Biggio or Bagwell. After Roy Oswalt, the rotation is not good. They have a couple of inning eaters with Wandy Rodriguez and Woody Williams, but not good innings.

After closer Valverde the bullpen is a bit iffy.

The division is weak enough that if they stay in the race into July they could make a midseason trade. That’s the one thing that could be a difference maker in a division as weak as this one.

5th Place – St. Louis Cardinals (75 – 87)

Albert Pujols. That’s what I like about this team. Their 4 middle infielders that will be splitting time, none of them hit more than 4 home runs last year. Basically, their 4 up-the-middle starters hit a total of 9 big-league home runs last season. Troy Glaus needs to stay healthy and Rick Ankiel needs to be a lot better than I think he is.

Adam Wainwright leads the rotation. The fact that Braden Looper is the #2, pretty much explains why I have the Cardinals in 5th place. Isringhausen is still a strong closer.

6th Place – Pittsburgh Pirates (68 – 94)

I actually put the Pirates down here in 6th place without actually looking at their roster yet. It’s hard to believe that this will be Barry Bonds’ 16th season away from Pittsburgh. Maybe they should sign him back, as they won their division (the NL East) in each of his last three seasons and they haven’t had a winning season since he left.

Unless Jason Bay regains his old form, the Pirates don’t have any hitters you really worry about. Freddy Sanchez will get his base hits, but nobody scares you.

As far as the pitching goes, they do have three starters who could combine for 600 innings, and that’s about the best thing you can say about their pitching. We’ll see if Matt Capps can handle the closer role for a full season. It shouldn’t be that hard with no real pressure situations.

NL West

1st Place - Arizona Diamondbacks (90 – 72)

The D-Backs surprised me last season. Their hitting isn’t very good, but that fits in well in this division. They made the biggest off-season move in the NL West, in the acquisition of Dan Haren. Considering the difference in the leagues, Haren should excel in the NL. Joining Brandon Webb, the next question is how healthy is Randy Johnson? If Johnson gains some of his old form, that’s a very intimidating trio for the NL.

While the hitting isn’t very good, it is very young, so it is definitely possible that a number of players will have improvements over last season.

One of the biggest determinants if the D-Backs win the division or not could come down to the closer role. They have a bunch of guys who had good years last year, but none of them has ever closed. It will be a pressure situation with them competing for the division title, so they do need to find the right person from their internal candidates.

2nd Place – Los Angeles Dodgers (86 – 76)

Unfortunately for Joe Torre, he was the organization’s biggest off-season acquisition by far. Sure they brought in Andruw Jones, but he’s coming off a year in which he batted .222 with 26 home runs and now moves a true pitcher’s park. There are enough players with high upsides, but the problem is they aren’t very likely to reach them anymore. Players like Jeff Kent, Nomar Garciaparra, Rafael Furcal, and Jones may only have so much left.

The Dodgers best chance to make it to October, is a huge year from oft-injured Jason Schmidt. We don’t know what they’ll get from Hiroki Kuroda, but if both of them pitch well with Brad Penny and Derek Lowe, the Dodgers could beat out the D-Backs.

The Dodgers bullpen is okay. If things break right, Torre could guide them into the playoffs.

3rd Place – San Diego Padres (82 – 80)

This division will have a lot of low scoring games, and the most low scoring ones may involve the Padres. All you need to know about the Padre offense is that they added an over-the-hill Jim Edmonds to it.

The team just isn’t going to hit much, getting very little production from the outfield. However, with Peavy, Maddux, and Young leading the rotation, and a strong bullpen anchored by Trevor Hoffman, if things break okay for the Padres they should be able to spend most of the season competing for the NL West title.

4th Place – Colorado Rockies (80 – 82)

I know this is pretty rough for the defending NL Champs, but I’m not sure how they did that in the first place. They clearly have the best offense in the division, although it’s always hard to tell how good they are in Colorado. This best in the NL West offense would not hold up real well against AL East offenses (as the Red Sox can attest to).

If Jeff Francis is the ace of the rotation, and Manuel Corpas is the closer, I don’t see this team getting ahead of these other teams.

5th Place – San Francisco Giants (70 – 92)

You want to talk about a team relying on young pitching, here you go. The Giants are relying on it much more than the Yankees and Red Sox, as those teams can pound out some wins anyway. The Giants aren’t pounding out wins. Aaron Rowand is by far the team’s best hitter. After him the next highest home run total belonged to catcher Benji Molina.

The Giants need a much better year out of Barry Zito. He’ll probably pitch better than his miserable pitching from last year. Then they need big performance from Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, and Noah Lowry. Lowry doesn’t have nearly the upside, and the pitchers are going to have to be able to handle tough losses. They could easily pitch well and lose the game with the lack of Giant offense. There’s a good chance the bullpen won’t be tremendous help for them either. They might start pushing and have a bad season.

Bad enough for last place.

Award Winners:

1. Alex Roriguez
2. Manny Ramirez
3. Vladimir Guererro

Alex Rodriguez is the best player in baseball and on a playoff team, that tends to be good for an MVP Award. I don’t expect he’ll reach last season’s numbers, but a little bit less should still be good enough.

AL Cy Young
1. John Lackey
2. Chien-Ming Wang
3. Josh Beckett

I’m not even a big John Lackey fan, but the outfield defense he’s about to get should keep his ERA down. They have a good offense that should keep his wins up. I think Chien-Ming Wang will lead the AL in wins, but have an ERA higher than both Lackey or Beckett.

AL Rookie of the Year
1. Ian Kennedy
2. Joba Chamberlain
3. Evan Longoria

Don’t get me wrong, I think Chamberlain will be the better pitcher in the long run. However, Ian Kennedy is more polished. Chamberlain is going to challenge hitters, with his stuff he should. But it will probably mean he’ll throw and forget to pitch sometimes, and you get punished in the big leagues when you do that. Kennedy knows how to pitch. If you look at there minor league numbers last season, Kennedy out-pitched Chamberlain. The other big factor is Chamberlain is going to be held between 140 – 150 innings. Kennedy already pitched 165 innings last season. With some good luck Kennedy could win 17 games.

AL Manager of the Year
1. Joe Girardi
2. Jim Leyland
3. Terry Francona

Yup, I have Girardi in his second year managing having won the Manager of the Year twice, and in different leagues. That’s a record.

AL Batting Title
1. Ichiro Suzuki
2. Robinson Cano
3. Vladimir Guererro

AL Home Run Crown
1. Alex Rodriguez
2. Manny Ramirez
3. David Ortiz

1. Chase Utley
2. David Wright
3. Alfonso Soriano

Utley puts up big numbers at a defensive position. He’s protected in a good lineup. He’s got a good chance to get the award.

NL Cy Young
1. Dan Haren
2. Johan Santana
3. Carlos Zambrano

I’m a little big concerned about the way Santana finished last season, and adjusting to New York doesn’t always happen so quickly. Then there is the factor of lineups they’ll be facing, and Haren won’t be facing challenging most of the time.

NL Rookie of the Year
1. Kosuke Fukodome
2. Justin Upton
3. Cameron Maybin

Well, I have two of the three in the playoffs, and I think Fukodome will have the most highlights.

NL Manager of the Year
1. Lou Piniella
2. Willie Randolph
3. Joe Torre

Okay, maybe I went a little New York heavy here.

NL Batting Title
1. Chase Utley
2. Freddy Sanchez
3. Matt Holliday

NL Home Runs
1. Ryan Howard
2. Prince Fielder
3. Adam Dunn


ALDS 1 – Yankees beat Tigers 3 – 1
ALDS 2 – Red Sox beat Angels 3 – 2

NLDS 1 – Mets beat Cubs 3 – 1
NLDS 2 – Phillies beat D-Backs 3 – 2

ALCS – Yankees beat Red Sox 4 – 2
NLCS – Mets beat Phillies 4 –2

World Series – Yankees defeat Mets 4 – 0. The Mets bring back Johan Santana on short rest in game 4, and he loses to Phil Hughes.

World Series MVP – Derek Jeter


Sully said...

Congratulations on the earliest predictions and the longest post in TripleSteal history. Well done.

Ross said...

My predictions were always this long, just usually broken up into 8 parts.

Warren said...

By the end of 2008, all three of us will be married.

That's assuming I can get through another year of convincing Mandy not to divorce me!

I think Livan Hernandez was a gigantic pickup for the Twins.

So to speak.