As with yesterday’s A.L. preview, I’m going to try to keep things short today. But I probably won’t. With that in mind, here are my projections for the upcoming baseball season:
1. Philadelphia–The Phillies will prove their late rush in 2007 and eventual division title was no fluke and will again overcome the highly lauded and overrated Mets. If Pedro Feliz, Jayson Werth, and/or Geoff Jenkins have solid offensive years, the Phillies will be the most dangerous lineup in baseball, and their rotation, anchored by Cole Hamels and the man that loves retards–Brett Myers–is one of the strongest in the league. There are a lot of questions on this team, but the biggest might be the acquisition of Brad Lidge at closer. Lidge had a great push late last year, but pitching in Philly might bring back a lot of nightmares for the embattled hurler. But even if he falters, Philadelphia has Flash Gordon waiting in the wings.
2. NY Mets–I love how everyone is handing the Mets the division and the pennant already because they made one acquisiton. Yes, Johan Santana is arguably the best pitcher in the game and could very well dominate the National League. And yes, the Mets offense can be dynamic, led by David Wright and Jose Reyes. But lets not forget this–after Santana, the Mets rotation is as follows: a 40-something year old guy who peaked in the mid to late 90s (Pedro Martinez); a third starter who, while solid, has never put it all together (John Maine); a guy with a career 1.43 WHIP and 4.43 ERA (Oliver Perez); and possibly Jorge Sosa. Not to mention, the Mets still have Brian Schneider, Carlos Delgado, Luis Castillo, Ryan Church, and Angel Pagan in their starting lineup……so, why is this team supposedly head and shoulders above everyone else again?
3. Atlanta–Up until this year, I’ve picked the Braves to be in the playoffs and/or World Series every year since I can remember. Why? Because it was the easy, pussy thing to do. They always made it. And while this year’s Braves have a very good mix of young and old in both the lineup and bullpen, I think the starting pitching will be the team’s downfall. The three to five starters (Tom Glavine, Mike Hampton, Jair Jurrgens) are all either unproven or proven to be bad. If I thought Glavine had something left in the tank or Hampton would revert to his old self, I’d pick this team to battle for the division title. But I don’t. So I won’t.
4. Florida–The Marlins are loaded with young talent, including possible MVP Hanley Ramirez. Dan Uggla, Josh Willingham, and Jeremy Hermidia are also young Marlins who could make an impact again in 2008. However, the best pitcher on the Florida staff is starter Mark Hendrickson or closer Kevin Gregg. Both are decent enough players, but when thats the class of the hurlers……it could get a little ugly in Miami.
5. Washington–Hey, a new ballpark!!! Hey, look at all the newly acquired talent!!! This is going to be fun. Well, it will be fun for people who are fans of the other teams. Watching Elijiah Dukes and Lastings Milledge in the same outfield (and city for that matter) for 6 months is going to be awesome. Add in the Meat Hook to that clubhouse and this should be its own reality show. On the field, Ryan Zimmerman could have a breakout season, but the Nats pitching staff is horrible, and if they were horrible in the old park……which rivaled Rhode Island in terms of square footage…..how bad are they going to be in a new park with realistic distances to the fences?
1. Chicago–I honestly don’t love the Cubs this year. I think Ted Lilly will regress a bit back to his normal self, and the lineup excitement everyone is feeling is a bit unwarranted. While I like what people are saying about Kosuke Fukodome, I think the instability of Alfonso Soriano (especially since he’s going to hit outside of leadoff) and the great unknowns at centerfield and second base are question marks that need to be answered as soon as possible. One thing I know for sure is that the closer position will eventually be Carlos Marmol’s. I am sure about this for two reasons: one, Kerry Wood is going to get hurt; two, Marmol is better than Wood. By far. I expect a similar season to 2007, where the Cubs underachieve somewhat but still win the division.
2. Houston–I was all ready to pick the Astros in the Central until I realized that Miguel Tejada and his decreasing hitting ability and increasing likelihood of going to prison are going to be hanging over this team. I like the Astros rotation, and I think their lineup has the chance to be awesome. But the bullpen will be an issue, even with the addition of Jose Valverde. If Tejada pulls through his mess somehow and one or two bullpen arms come through, Houston could be the team to beat in the Central.
3. Pittsburgh–Yeah, thats right. Listen, this division sucks major ass. These six teams all have the ability to finish under .500. That probably won’t happen, but why not take a chance here with the Pirates. Their pitching is not bad at all. If they get a comeback season from Jason Bay or Adam LaRoche, they definitely have enough talent to finish third in this piece of shit division. Do they have enough to finish over .500 for the first time since ‘Cheers’ was on the air? I don’t know about that.
4. Milwaukee–The Brewers really should of won the division last year, but instead showed how a young team falters down the stretch. There is no questioning the Brewers offensive potential. But many of these young players–Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Corey Hart–had breakout seasons last year. Most of the time, after a big year, a young player will regress a bit the next year. So combine a slight downturn in offensive production with what is an atrocious pitching staff, and you have a 4th place finish in a bad division.
5. St. Louis–The only reason I’m not picking the Cardinals to finish last is because I can’t ever see St. Louis finishing last. In any division. But this starting rotation has a chance to be the worst in the league, and thats saying a lot. Adam Wainright is a beast, but can he stay healthy and pitch 200-plus innings as a team’s number one starter? From there, the rotation reads Braden Looper, Kyle Lohse, Todd Wellemeyer, and Brad Thompson. Great googily moogily, thats bad. The bullpen won’t be that bad, but they might not get many leads to hold following up that group. I look for the Cards to score some runs and lose a lot of 7-6 games.
6. Cincinnati–I really don’t understand what the Reds were thinking with the Dusty Baker hiring. I don’t think Dusty is a horrible manager, like many in Chicago do. In fact, I kind of liked his tenure on the north side (well, I’m a Sox fan, so take that with a grain of salt). But here you have this team, infused with young talent and some nice pitching, and you hire a guy with a history of not playing young players–no matter how good–and burning out young arms. It makes absolutely no sense to me. The Reds were going to be bad anyway; why not hire a guy who will let the kids mature and make a run in 2009, like the Brewers are doing? In any case, the Reds will probably suck and Adam Dunn will get traded for prospects, prospects that Dusty won’t play. Enjoy sucking until 2013, Cincinnati!!!
1. Arizona–Here’s a bandwagon I can jump on. While the Mets addition of Santana got all the pub, the D-Backs trade for Dan Haren might have been the more important deal. The snakes now have the best starting pitching in the National League, play strong defense, and have postseason experience. Thats a combination I like to ride all the way through to a pennant, my friends.
2. San Diego–Despite a lineup that is as anemic as Amy Winehouse, the Padres continue to pitch well enough to be considered a playoff threat. However, this year, the team above them in the West has a pitching staff equal to theirs (or better), and a better offense. Still, San Diego is a solid club who will win 85-90 games and win the wild card. Also, southern Californians will love Tadahito Iguchi. I expect the Gooch to take Cali by storm. Go get em, Gooch!!!!
3. Colorado–Last year’s runners-up had a hell of a run before finally playing a really good team, Boston, and getting their eggs kicked in during late October. Expect the Rockies to regress somewhat this year, as Matt Holliday can’t possibly put up the same numbers he did in 2007. Also, the Rockies pitching won’t be as good, as Jeff Francis, Aaron Cook, and Ubaldo Jimenez all had strong 2007s which were totally abnormal. Look for the Rockies to win about 80-85 games.
4. Los Angeles–Hey, we got Joe Torre! Hey, look at us, we added Andruw Jones! We’re the Dodgers, you know we’ll be good! No, you won’t. While I love Matt Kemp and Russell Martin, the rest of the Dodgers lineup is very suspect. Also, Brad Penny almost never makes it through an entire season without injury, so that leaves Derek Lowe, Chad Billingsely, Hiroki Kuroda, and Esteban Loiaza to carry the staff. And while Billingsely and Kuroda could very well be decent to good, Lowe and Loaiza are going to suclk.
5. San Francisco–Seriously, this is the worst team in baseball. Here are the Giants starting position players: Bengie Molina, Rich Aurilia, Ray Durham, Eugenio Velez, Omar Vizquel, Dave Roberts, Aaron Rowand, Randy Winn. Ok, you say, thats not great. They must be focusing on pitching. And the Giants do have the potential to have a good staff. But no matter how good the pitching is, someone has to score runs. And when Aaron Rowand is your cleanup hitter, you’re going to lose a lot of 2-1, 3-2 games.
Playoffs–Philadelphia over San Diego, Arizona over Chicago, Arizona over Philadelphia
NL MVP–Hanley Ramirez, Florida
NL Cy Young–Brandon Webb, Arizona
NL Rookie of the Year–Kosuke Fukodome, Chicago
NL Manager of the Year–John Russell, Pittsburgh
NL Comeback Player of the Year–Randy Johnson, Arizona
–My World Series pick is the LA-Anaheim Angels over the Arizona Diamondbacks, 4 games to 2.