Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Pete's 2008 Take-it-to-the-bank Predictions

AL East
1. Boston Red Sox: Jacoby returns to Earth, but Dice-K gets the wildness out of his system in Japan (please?). The lack of Curt Schilling until at least July adds an automatic 1-2 wins. Oh, and contract up, Manny!

2. New York Yankees* (WC): I know, real original right? But honestly, is there any way the Sox and Yanks don’t finish 1-2 for the first time in like forever? They’ll have to find some new objects of Suzyn Waldman’s affection, but dream as we might, Sterling and Waldman are still here to stay. Not here to stay, however, is Roger Clemens, lost in a quagmire of hearings about his B-12 use. Fellow juice guy Giambi is in his last year – enjoy it while it lasts, folks.

3. Toronto Blue Jays: They’re saying Vernon Wells is back swinging the bat with a vengeance. I sure hope so – it’s not like they’re paying him well or anything. I don’t the Jays are paying him to get out-VORP’d (yes that’s a word) by Juan Pierre. The other reason to watch the Jays this year is their new shortstop – oh yes, the king of grit and scrap himself, one David Eckstein. Welcome to the AL East, big guy. Also, look for another big year in Fenway from famed sox-killer and Fu Manchu wearer Greg Zaun.

4. Tampa Bay Devil Rays: They finished three games behind the Orioles last year, and that’s going to change this year. The Orioles just keep getting worse, and the Rays show at least some signs of life. One of these years, the crazy ridiculous group of power arms the Rays have in their system is going to make it to the majors, and then look out, Blue Jays: the Rays are a-comin’. The only sad part is that it looks like we may never see another healthy season from the Rhode Island Rocket, Rocco Baldelli.

5: Baltimore Orioles: This year, the O’s finally reap the rewards of the chaos they have sown. The smart thing is to tear it all down and start over, but that was true 5 years ago too. Honestly, can we just drop all pretense and turn Camden Yards into a second home park for the Sox already?

AL Central
1. Detroit Tigers: The Tigers and Indians will probably battle this one out. In the end, I say the Tigers take it with their ability to bludgeon all comers into submission. They scored 867 runs last year, the Yankees 968. Anybody else think that those numbers might end up a bit closer this year? Ordonez likely comes back to Earth, and maybe Granderson too a bit, but with Renteria effectively replacing Sean Casey and Miguel Cabrera replacing Brandon Inge, the rest of the AL better look out. If this is the year Bonderman finally puts it together (he’s still only 25 – remember when he was getting pounded like 5 years ago?) for a full season, this team is going to be scary.

2. Cleveland Indians: A few question marks here. They had by all accounts a great year last year, despite carrying some serious dead weight in Travis Hafner (and I’ll be honest, that was a sentence I never expected to write). Hafner will probably have something of a bounce-back year (but he better be careful, or he’s going to lose the title of best DH in the central to Billy Butler of KC sooner rather than later), but the real questions are in the rotation. Does anybody honestly expect a similar year out of Carmona? He had a pretty low batting average allowed on balls in play, walks a lot of guys, and doesn’t strike out enough guys. Expect a bit of a regression, which keeps them behind the Tigers but in the hunt for the wild card (but do you really see them edging out the Yankees for the last playoff spot? I don’t).

3. Minnesota Twins: The Twins are in something of a confused situation. They’re clearly (or are they?) aware that they’re not in the hunt this year, as they really don’t have much of a shot of catching the Tigers and Indians. This led to the trade of the great Santana and letting Torii "Mr. Intangibles" Hunter leave to sign a ridiculous contract with the Angels to be their second overrated free-agent center field import in two years. However, the Twins have not at all committed to the youth movement, bringing in guys like Adam Everett and Mike Lamb. Does not compute. What does compute is no better than a 3rd place finish.

4. Kansas City Royals: Can we all agree to just give Alex Gordon a mulligan on last year? And to let Travis Buck face Hideki Okajima as much as possible? And to let Gil Meche keep whatever deal he’s signed with Satan? Oh, and I guess we can start the Billy “the next Travis Hafner” Butler watch now. Also, keep an eye on the Greinke Cy Young watch!

5. Chicago White Sox: It hurts me to put them below the Royals. Well, no, it doesn’t really. It actually gives me great pleasure. Not just because their announcers are terrible (“You can put it on the board, YES!!!!”), but because their team is particularly offensive too. But seriously, how much more ignorant of their own mediocrity can they get? Baseball Prospectus had them cold last year for a 72 win season. They hit the mark dead-on, but only by outperforming their expected record by 5 wins. Apparently they haven’t learned their lesson, as they’re confident about the inaccuracy of the doom-and-gloom projections once again this year. To quote the immortal Baseball Prospectus, “It’s fine to have confidence, but it’s also important to recognize when those confident words represent little more than empty promises”.

AL West
1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: They could pretty much cruise to the division title- nobody else in the division should present much of a challenge. Do we get to see another disappointing year from the new expensive free agent center fielder for the Angels? Even better, do we get to see the immortal Gary Matthews Jr. get paid $10M to underperform in a corner outfield role? He’s a weak hitter as a CF – he’s just a black hole as a corner outfield. Good luck with all THAT. But hey, don’t worry – the Angels lost in the postseason (mostly) because of their lack of some heavy lumber in the lineup. Torii hunter will solve all that, right? Oh, and Vlad’s another year older. See you in October (?).

2. Seattle Mariners: Monster years out of Bedard and King Felix. After that, well, better luck next year. Seriously, they dealt their one exciting young player (Adam Jones) to get Bedard, and then we have, uh… I guess Ichiro is fun to watch – he should pick up hit number 3,000 (between Japan and MLB) this year, if you’re into that sort of thing. And there is always J.J. Putz – can he actually blow the save in the All Star Game this time? Stay tuned!

3. Texas Rangers: Quick, name me 10 people off the Rangers roster, GO. Now, I guess it isn’t necessarily a damning fact that I can’t name their roster, but when I look it up and still can’t figure out half of it, then it’s time to worry. I guess they have a pretty good (if overrated) middle infield combination in Young and Kinsler, and a potentially decent catcher (at least with the stick) in Saltalamacchia, and the expectation of another mediocre year from Hank Blalock, but from there, I got nothin’, folks, which may beg the question as to why I’m picking them to not finish last. Good question.

4. Oakland Athletics: Rebuilding year in Oakland, yadda yadda yadda. The rotation is full of question marks (when does Harden make his annual trip to the DL?), as is the lineup (when does Chavez make his return from the DL?). But no worries, the return of a washed-up Keith Foulke will be the difference, making sure they finish the year in the basement.

NL East
1. New York Mets: Man do I not want to pick them to finish first. But I just don’t see it. Their rotation was held together last year with toothpicks and Elmer’s glue, and it still took an epic collapse in the last few weeks for them not to finish first in the division. They will probably get a bit more out of Pedro this year, not to mention the massive upgrade they’ll get as the great Santana runs roughshod over the NL this year. Bad luck for Jake Peavy – the competition for the NL Cy Young award just got a lot tougher. And they still have those guys on the left side of the infield, even if Reyes is perpetually overrated.

2. Philadelphia Phillies: Another team I don’t want to pick to do well, but they’ll probably end up right up there with the Mets. Who plays third for the Phillies, anyway? Must feel pretty inadequate when trying to live up with Rollins, Utley, and Howard. And oh yeah, they brought in Brad Lidge, allowing them to move the wife-beater back to the rotation. Despite the negative press, Lidge has pitched very well the past few years. But that bandbox in Philly is not going to help his tendency towards the big fly.

3. Atlanta Braves: Sooner or later, they’ll make it back. But will it be on Bobby Cox’s watch? It won’t be the same watching the Braves without his trademark bench rocking, or the ever-present possibility of an ejection. But not to worry, they could always promote this guy, and the entertainment factor wouldn’t be affected in the least. What did you expect, some comments about the players? I’ll leave that to John. But hey, was that a Mike Hampton sighting in spring training this year?

4. Florida Marlins: Another year, another MVP award stolen from Hanley Ramirez. I guess you could argue for David Wright, especially if you factor in defense, but how does Hanley keep getting ignored? Anyway, so the Marlins traded away their entire non-Hanely offense, so things could get ugly in South Florida this year. The Marlins seem to have an inexhaustible supply of young pitching, but they can’t seem to keep any of them on the field. But, if things keep to the typical schedule, they’re due for another WS title in 2009, so they better get cracking.

5. Washington Nationals: Do I spy a controversy at first base? In one corner, Dmitri “The Meat Hook” Young, in the other, Nick “Giant” Johnson. It’s a nice problem to have, but beyond that, they’ve got Ryan Zimmerman, the perpetual question of whether Wily Mo Peña finally figures “it” out, and not much else. I guess they probably have some pitchers too. Oh, and they apparently have a totally sweet new home park.

NL Central
1. Milwaukee Brewers: Man, do I really have to say anything about the NL Central and West? I do? OK fine. I’ll be honest, I flipped a mental coin between the Brew crew and Cubs, and it came up in favor of beer. There are a bunch of young players to be excited about in Milwaukee (Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Yvonni Gallardo), but with Prince Fielder not expected to age well (to put it charitably), the window for this team isn’t particularly wide. I guess I’m allowed a cliché or two, so I’ll just say that the future is now for this team, particularly if they get more than the expected 80-100 innings out of Ben Sheets.

2. Chicago Cubs: I guess that Soriano signing wasn’t a complete bust after all. Check back in 6 years and we’ll re-assess. Big Carlos Zambrano is another year older, with another year of a ridiculously heavy workload under his belt (2nd in pitcher abuse points last year, 2nd in 2006, 2nd in 2005 (just ahead of Prior), 3rd in 2004, etc.). Somehow he keeps on handling it, year after year, continually proving himself to be the anti-Wood and Prior. Is this the year his arm finally falls off? The Cubs had better hope not.

3. St. Louis Cardinals: I seriously considered picking them fourth, just so I could talk about the Reds sooner. When your top hitter and pitcher are both dealing with serious elbow injuries, you know that something’s rotten on the planet Wormulon. Phat Albert is apparently going to try and play with a bad elbow injury which might require surgery at some point, dropping him from the consensus top rated fantasy first baseman down to third or fourth. And Chris Carpenter is still not recovered from his elbow surgery last year. Hopefully Rick Ankiel stocked up on HGH before getting outed, because this team is going to be hurting for offense (and defense and pitching). In more positive news, La Russa has staid off the stupid juice so far this spring.

4. Cincinatti Reds: Ohboyohboyohboyohboyohboy! I have been waiting for this for the whole post. So, realizing that they were going nowhere after last season, the Reds somehow thought that the best solution would be to bring in a manager who commands “instant respect”. I suppose I can’t really speak Dusty Baker’s command of respect, but I can speak to his fundamental lack of understanding about the way to win baseball games. I have a hard time respecting anybody who thinks that walks are overrated because all they do is “clog up the bases” for the people who can run. He also thinks that the late 90’s Yankees were great not because they drew a lot of walks, but because they hit well – according to Dusty, they didn’t win by walking across the plate, but by hitting across it. This is of course neglecting the fact that those Yankees teams were famous for working the count, taking lots of pitches, and putting tons of guys on. And it’s been proven a number of times that the more guys you have on base, the more runs you score, and the more games you win. But this seemingly simple bit of baseball logic is apparently lost on Dusty, as he doesn’t like guys up there taking pitches – he wants them hacking. Did you hear that? It was the sound of Adam Dunn’s career going over a cliff. Oh, and Dusty is a great handler of young talent, particularly young pitching talent (see Prior, Mark and Wood, Kerry). Let’s see how that works out for Homer Bailey. My only regret is not living somewhere where I can see more Reds games, because the theater is going to be fantastic, coming soon to a ballpark near you.

5. Houston Astros: OK, Biggio is finally retired. Right? Can we move on now? Wait, oh my god there he is! Get back in your hole! You don’t play here anymore! Shoo! OK, sorry about that. Seriously, the Astros have essentially wasted the last few years, held hostage by the inability to cut ties with Biggio as he strung it out a year and a half too long in his attempt to reach 3,000 hits. The Astros are going nowhere this year and for the foreseeable future, as Oswalt and Berkman just get older and a little worse each year. But hey, at least they have the option of moving on now, even if they choose not to take it…

6. Pittsburgh Pirates: I’ll be honest, when I first drew up my predictions, the numbers weren’t coming out right, and I couldn’t figure out why. And then I realized I forgot about the Pirates. How is it fair that the NL Central has six teams, and the AL West only four? If they could relocate to the AL West, they could finish in fifth rather than sixth. Don’t tell them it’s still only good enough for last place. And what ever happened to Jason Bay?

NL West
1. San Diego Padres: I keep picking them to win the division, and they keep disappointing. Sooner or later, you would think that their great pitching combined with their cavernous park would work to their advantage and let them win this thing. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if they finished in first or in fourth (didn’t we say that last year too?). Peavy will make his annual run for the Cy Young, and Hoffman gets the chance to blow a few more big saves. On offense, the loss of Milton Bradley to a torn ACL suffered while wrestling with his own first base coach hurts. Adrian Gonzalez will likely have a good year (how’s that for analysis?), but after that the well runs pretty dry. Why am I picking them first, again? Tradition!

2. Arizona D’backs* (WC) : They outperformed their expected record based on run differential last year by a wide margin. So you might expect them to regress this year. But they weren’t content to sit on their laurels after winning the division last year. Staying aggressive, they traded for the latest Oakland salary dump in Dan Haren. Haren’s flyball tendencies will not play well in Phoenix, but the move to the junior circuit will help. It says here that adding Haren will help offset some of the “regress to the mean” phenomenon, keeping the snakes at or near the top of the division.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers: Despite their possession of lots of great young talent at a multitude of positions, Dodgers management is doing its best to avoid letting them play. Ned Colletti seems addicted to mediocre but expensive veteran players (Luis Gonzalez, Nomar Garciaparra, Juan Pierre), which hurts the team in a number of ways: financially, performance, and player development, as these players cost more, perform worse, and impede the progress of the younguns. The Dodgers are in a great position, but are doing their best to fold a great hand. The duo of Colletti and Torre (not exactly known for his ability to nurture young players) is in a perfect position to do so.

4. Colorado Rockies: But they made the World Series last year! How can they finish fourth? Well, as I said above, it’s entirely possible that they finish first. I for one just don’t see it. They got a lot of unexpected contributions from young players last year (see Ubaldo Jimenez, who really had no right succeeding in the majors when he was so bad in triple A), and let’s face it, how often do you see a winning streak as improbable as that? And I’ll be honest, religion will only get you so far.

5. San Francisco Giants: They’re old, incompetent, run by an incompetent GM, and they cut ties with their only attraction over the winter. At this writing, the original juice guy is still unsigned, but it’s abundantly clear that he is no longer welcome in left field in San Fran. He can take his nonexistent range, media circus, and still lethal bat somewhere else, thank you very much. Oh, and how is that Barry Zito contract working out? The Giants really need to blow this whole thing up and start over, but show no signs of realizing it. Better luck next year.

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Blogger John said...

and i finally know who jobu is

10:26 PM  

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