We are almost there! After a not so hot hot stove and a not so cold winter, the Boys are going to be lacing them up for real this week. That means its time for me to channel my inner prognosticator and predict what is going to happen in the year 2012. This year I am not the only one going on record though. I want you to fill out your division winners as well by clicking here.
Last year my biggest hits were the Rangers, Phillies, Brewers and Ryan Braun's MVP run. My biggest misses were the White Sox, Twins and Rockies. This isn't about the past though. Lets look to the future. Here is what I think the standings will look like on the morning of October 4th:
- New York Yankees 96-66
- Boston Red Sox 90-72
- Toronto Blue Jays 87-75
- Tampa Bay Rays 85-77
- Baltimore Orioles 69-93
Yankees- The Yankees have a deep rotation, a strong bullpen and a powerful lineup. Robinson Cano has blossomed into one of the premier offensive players in the game today. The rest of their lineup isn't bad either. The rotation is going to be stronger this season than it was last year, and the bullpen has the greatest of all time closing down games. Unless Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter are completely done, the Yankees will cruise into the postseason.
Red Sox- The Red Sox are going to struggle to get to my projected win total. Their pitching staff has lost a lot of depth over the last year. Gone is Jonathan Pappelbon. Injured is John Lackey. Daniel Bard is trying his hand at starting. I think their offense is still strong enough to overcome the lack of pitching. Adrian Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis and Carl Crawford can put a lot of runs on the board. I think they will recover from a slow start.
Blue Jays- The Jays are on the cusp of contention. Ricky Romero is one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball. They acquired Sergio Santos and Francisco Cordero to give a much needed boost to the back end of their bullpen. Jose Bautista is on the short list of best hitters in the league and Brett Lawrie OPS'd .953 in 171 plate appearances. I think they are short a bat from overtaking the Red Sox, but they are awfully close.
Rays- I seem to underrate the Rays every year. This is no different. James Shields and David Price anchor a very strong staff. Evan Longoria and Desmond Jennings are solid offensive pieces, but the lineup lacks punch. I also have a hard time trusting a bullpen with Kyle Farnsworth and Fernando Rodney as two of their major parts. Joe Maddon is good, but I don't think he can pull it off again.
Orioles- By far the worst team in the division. The Orioles, while I'd like to give them points for bringing back the coolest hats in the league, are going to struggle to win 70 games. Their rotation is empty, their bullpen isn't much better and while they have some pop on offense with Adam Jones, J.J. Hardy, Mark Reynolds and maybe Nick Markakis, it isn't going to be enough to make up for their paper thin starting rotation.
- Detroit Tigers 92-70
- Chicago White Sox 84-78
- Kansas City Royals 79-83
- Cleveland Indians 76-86
- Minnesota Twins 70-92
Tigers- Detroit has three solid candidates for the MVP award in Justin Verlander
, Prince Fielder
and Miguel Cabrera
. Doug Fister
, Max Scherzer
and Rick Porcello
join Verlander for a very solid 1-4. Alex Avila
, Jhonny Peralta
, Delmon Young
, Brennan Boesch
and Austin Jackson give the Tigers a very tough lineup. They have one of the best bullpens in the league with Jose Valverde
, Joaquin Benoit
, Phil Coke
, Octavio Dotel
and Al Alburquerque
all a phone call away. The cases I can make against them (bad defense, regression from Peralta and Avila, Fielder switching leagues) aren't going to be enough to dethrone them. While it isn't a slam dunk, it sure looks like a layup for the Tigers.
White Sox- This is the first time since 2005 that I haven't picked them to win the division. In '05 they obviously won the World Series so what the hell do i know? If everything goes right, you can make a case for the Sox. If Adam Dunn hits like he was supposed to... If Alex Rios remembers how to play baseball... If Gordon Beckham finds his stroke... If Paul Konerko doesn't regress... If Jake Peavy's arm doesn't fall off... If Chris Sale successfully switches to the rotation... If Dayan Viciedo hits like he did in '10 and not '11... If John Danks and Gavin Floyd
can finally take the step forward... just too many if's for my liking. All of that being said, I still think they have the best team in the division outside of Detroit.
Royals- The Royals are going to have a solid lineup. Eric Hosmer
, Billy Butler
, Alex Gordon
and Jeff Francoeur
will put a lot of runs on the board. Mike Moustakas
and Lorenzo Cain
have arrived and are seemingly ready to produce. However, their pitching isn't good. The bullpen was dealt a severe blow when Joakim Soria
was lost for the season. Bruce Chen
and Jonathan Sanchez are two of their top three starters. Color me unimpressed. There will be a lot of high scoring games in KC this year.
Indians- The Tribe played better than anyone expected them to last season. Justin Masterson
became a stopper in the rotation and they traded for Ubaldo Jimenez
at the deadline with visions of a playoff birth in sight. Carlos Santana
, Asdrubal Cabrera
and Shin-Soo Choo
should make for a solid middle of the order. Their bullpen was pretty amazing last year but I think the Indians were playing a bit over their head in 2011 and will fall back to earth in 2012.
Twins- I should probably be nervous counting out the Twins given their history. However, I'm not. Jason Kubel
, Michael Cuddyer
and Joe Nathan
have all moved on. Their big money is tied up into question marks in Joe Mauer
and Justin Morneau
. Their starting rotation is unspectacular. Matt Capps
is their closer. I don't think the Twins will make it out of the cellar in 2012.
Rangers- The Rangers lost C.J. Wilson to their division rivals, but inked Japanese import Yu Darvish
to take his spot. They are going to give closer Neftali Feliz
a chance to start and have signed former Twins closer Joe Nathan to pick up the slack in the bullpen. The Rangers have as dangerous an offense as anyone in the league when healthy with Adrian Beltre
, Nelson Cruz, Josh Hamilton
, Mike Napoli
, Michael Young
and Ian Kinsler
leading the way. I don't think they have the rotation to beat out the Angels, but they will make the Wild Card round of the playoffs.
A's- This is clearly a two team race and the A's aren't one of them. They lost their top four starters from last year as Brandon McCarthy
moved from number 5 to number 1 in the rotation. They lost their closer Andrew Bailey
to the Red Sox and have replaced him with Grant Balfour
. I think they will have just enough offense to overtake the Mariners with Coco Crisp
, Yoenis Cespedes
, Jemile Weeks
and Manny Ramirez
(after his 50 game suspension). Overtaking the Mariners offense isn't much to write home about though.
Mariners- Felix Hernandez and pray for a few avalanches? The Mariners have one of the best pitchers in the league, but not much else. Ichiro had the worst year of his career last year. Jesus Montero
, Dustin Ackley
and Justin Smoak
could all turn into productive major league hitters, but they haven't proven that yet. Brandon League
did a solid job out of the bullpen last year. If things go right, maybe they beat out the A's and avoid 100 losses. Thats about all the M's can hope for.
Nationals- The Phillies got the big names, but the Nationals rotation is as solid as anybody's. With Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez
, Jordan Zimmerman and Edwin Jackson
in the rotation, the Nationals will be in a lot of games. A healthy Ryan Zimmerman
and Adam LaRoche
might give them enough offense to win those tight games. A much needed big season in the nations capital this summer.
Braves- The Braves have a solid team on paper, but the injuries are already beginning to pile up with Tim Hudson
and Chipper Jones
starting the year on the DL. Jair Jurrjens
and Tommy Hanson
both missed time last year. If Jason Heyward starts hitting like he did in 2010, the Braves can be threats in the East. I think they fall short of the Nats though.
Marlins- Ozzie's crew made a big splash in free agency by adding Jose Reyes
, Mark Buehrle
and Heath Bell
. Giancarlo Stanton
can reach the seats no matter how big their new stadium is. A healthy Josh Johnson and a happy Hanley Ramirez
could go a long way to helping the Marlins reach the playoffs. I'm not sure either of those stipulations can be attained. Marlins have a good season but not good enough when you are in the toughest division in the NL.
Mets- Its going to be a long year in Flushing. The Mets are in a transition period and the other four teams in their division are ready to contend. A healthy Johan Santana
would be a reason to go out to Citi Field. Other than that it would be just to appreciate the game. The Mets might lose the most games in the Majors in 2012.
Brewers- The Brew Crew dodged a major bullet when Ryan Braun's suspension was overturned. Now they will only have to overcome the loss of one superstar in their lineup instead of two. To make up for losing Fielder, they signed Aramis Ramirez
to play third and are hoping this is the year Mat Gamel
can bust out. If Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart
(who is already battling injury) can stay healthy, they could repeat as NL Champs. Yovani Gallardo
, Zack Greinke
, Randy Wolf
and Shaun Marcum
give them the strongest rotation in the division and John Axford
and Frankie Rodriguez give them a solid 1-2 punch out of the bullpen, I think its going to take the Brew Crew offense a while to find its stride.
Cardinals- The defending World Champs are still going to be solid, but the losses of Albert Pujols, Tony LaRussa, Dave Duncan and potentially Chris Carpenter are severely going to hinder their chances at a repeat. Adam Wainwright
is coming back off of his own injury and he will team with Kyle Lohse
and Jamie Garcia at the top of the Red Bird rotation. They still have a solid offense with Lance Berkman
, Matt Holliday
, Carlos Beltran
and David Freese
leading the way, but the Cards are in a transition year this year.
Pirates- The Pirates were battling for the division last year until a horrid call cost them a game and they were never able to recover. They have some very good young offensive players in Jose Tabata
, Andrew McCutchen
and Neil Walker
. They need Pedro Alvarez
to hit like they thought he would. Erik Bedard
and A.J. Burnett
were brought in to help out the rotation. They have a solid back end of the bullpen in Evan Meek
and Joel Hanrahan
. The Bucs are getting closer to that ever elusive .500 mark.
Cubs- Starlin Castro is a stud in the making, but other than him the offense looks very suspect. Geovany Soto
is hot and cold, Alfonso Soriano
still has some power but not much else, David DeJesus
and Marlon Byrd
are nice players but aren't difference makers. The Cubbies are going to struggle to score runs in 2012. On the mound they have an ace in Matt Garza
and are hoping that Ryan Dempster
can have a better year this season. Jeff Samardzija
has had a solid spring. Carlos Marmol
was horrid last season out of the pen and Kerry Wood
is back to provide some consistency. Theo may deal Garza, Soriano, Byrd or Marmol if he finds any takers. Transition year for Cubs.
Astros- The only team I picked to have 100+ losses. Houston is in a state of disarray right now. Their roster stinks. They are switching leagues next year. They have new ownership this season. The only threat in the lineup is Carlos Lee, who they would get rid of in a New York minute if they could. On the mound, Wandy Rodriguez
and Bud Norris
will keep them in games and Brett Myers
can close out the opposition if they ever have a lead, but that is where the problems are going to come in.
Dodgers- The Dodgers have some of the best talent in the league with MVP runner up Matt Kemp
and Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw
on the team. Andre Ethier
and Juan Uribe
are hoping to bounce back after disappointing 2011 seasons. Chad Billingsley
, Ted Lilly
and Aaron Harang
are decent mid rotation guys. Kenley Jansen
struck out 96 guys in 53.2 innings out of the pen last year. The Dodgers have finally gotten their financial mess straightened out, but I think they are a year away from being serious contenders.
Rockies- The Rockies have Troy Tulowitzki
, Carlos Gonzalez
and Michael Cuddyer in the middle of their order which is nice. They have very little pitching though. Jamie Moyer
is starting the season as the number 2 starter. He's 49 years old. The Rockies are going to have to score 9 runs to win games.
WILD CARD GAMES:
Rangers over Red Sox
Brewers over Nationals
Yankees over Rangers 3-2
Angels over Tigers 3-2
Phillies over Brewers 3-1
Reds over Diamondbacks 3-2
Angels over Yankees 4-2
Reds over Phillies 4-3
Angels over Reds 4-2
AL MVP: Robinson Cano
NL MVP: Justin Upton
AL Cy Young: Dan Haren
NL Cy Young: Cole Hamels
AL ROY: Yoenis Cespedes
World Series MVP: Albert Pujols
What did i hit on? What did I miss? Talk to me.