How will I be wrong this season? Below are the relevant breakdowns, with projected won/loss records, MVPs, Cy Youngs, and occasional help from writer friend (and Royals fan) Rob in Iowa.
1. Texas (93-69): Profar will play, somewhere. The rotation isn’t where it was in 2010/2011 or even last season—Cliff Lee’s a Phillie, C.J. Wilson’s an Angel, Colby Lewis and Feliz and Perez are injured—but Darvish/Holland/Ogando/Harrison (in that order) are a decent #1-4, especially in this division. Lance Berkman, who is 37, at DH will be an adequate replacement for Hamilton, whose body was 37.
2. Los Angeles Angels (90-72): I don’t expect Trout to regress; Pujols will be better and a full season of Bourjos will be even better (I think Joe Sheehan described him as Stan Javier, which was a compliment); and of course when healthy Hamilton should be worth something if not $125M. But that rotation, minus Greinke and Haren, is pretty dodgy. I think Weaver is overrated and/or overworked, the Braves may have dumped Tommy Hanson just in time (have the post-1991 Braves ever regretted trading a pitcher—other than Adam Wainwright—and of course Ben Rivera?), the Vargas-Morales trade moved both players to worse ballparks for them, and Joe Blanton as a #3?
3. Oakland (85-77): Some dropoff is inevitable—in the words of Jonah Keri, “you’re not getting Nintendo numbers again here”—but Billy Beane’s minor if not always cheap moves (Nakajima, Jaso, Lowrie) should help, though not as much as a healthy Brett Anderson would. On a related note, the new Suede album is pretty decent.
4. Seattle (84-78): I’m overrating the Mariners but I think marginal upgrades to the offense to “not embarrassing” plus improvement from any of Montero/Ackley/Seager plus more Astros equals .500. I don’t see nine wins of improvement from 2012’s 75-87 team, so it will probably take some luck as well.
5. Houston (62-100): Odds favor the Astros to threepeat as the worst team in baseball, though I think it will be close (Rockies, Twins, Mets, and my pick the Marlins), and I would rather be the Astros than the other four. Probably two seasons away from .500, depending on a few ex-Phils (Singleton, Cosart), though more exciting than in recent memory thanks to Altuve, Chris Carter, Carlos Pena (it’s relative), and a potential Rangers rivalry (though as someone in my high school once noted, “we suck too much to have a rival”).
My AL West MVPs: Trout, Cespedes, Hamilton, Pujols, Beltre
My AL West Cy Youngs: King Felix, Jarrod Parker, Darvish, Weaver
Rob’s AL West picks: 1. Angels 2. A’s 3. Rangers 4. Mariners 5. Astros
Rob’s AL West MVPs: David Murphy comes of age, Reddick leads the “we’re really for real” A’s, Kyle Seager breaks out
Rob’s AL West Cy Youngs: Anderson, Harrison
1. Detroit (92-70): Top-heavy but Verlander/Cabrera/Fielder/Austin Jackson plus a deep rotation is enough of a top to make them the odds-on favorite again. Scherzer’s breakout potential is even better than Anibal Sanchez and Fister as #2/#3 types. The Coke/Dotel/eventual Rondon-monster not the world’s best closer-type-thing but still beats Valverde. Evil twins: Jim Leyland 2012/2013 and a Dabney Coleman character. Any Dabney Coleman character.
2. Kansas City (86-76): Luke Hochevar in the bullpen makes him even more Bruce Ruffin. Hochevar was the first overall pick in 2006; Ruffin was once the Next Steve Carlton, replacing the released Lefty in the Phils rotation in 1986. Unlike Hochevar, Ruffin had early success (9-4, 2.46, 158 ERA+), then frustrated Phils fans for four seasons as a starter, bottoming out at a Hochevarian 6-13, 5.38, 71 ERA+ before being banished to the bullpen and subsequently traded to the Brewers, where his ERA was The Beast in 25 games (six starts), for Dale Sveum, then becoming a free agent. Only at 29—Hochevar’s age this season—did Ruffin become the Rockies’ closer, enjoying modest success for a few seasons before arm injuries ended his career. Hochevar’s still a waste of money for the 2013 Royals, who have Holland, Herrera, Collins, and Crow for less combined. He’s irrelevant anyway on a team loaded with Gordon, Perez, Hosmer, Butler, and Moustakas and a halfway decent rotation for once. Wil Myers would have helped. Also, there’s this: What’s filled with ground beef, eggplant, and plays third base for the Kansas City Royals? Mike Moussaka.
Rob in Iowa, being a Royals fan, has them doing worse than me (third, no playoffs): This time last year folks were opening new savings accounts to ensure they had mad money stashed for the playoff road trips. It was all over before May 1. It’s the pitching that bothers… all the new guys barging and bullying in. An entire staff for God’s sake. Chen and Sir Hochevar are suddenly towel boys. I don’t see this gelling. Hoch’s problems always start when guys reach base. It’s like he becomes a different pitcher – suddenly slower, tentative etc. That’s when the roof caves. How is that supposed to work for him in the bullpen? It’s Alex and 25 if’s. I wanna pick ‘em. I can’t.
3. Cleveland (80-82): Meh. On one hand, Cleveland can’t possibly be as bad as 68-94 again, the same way the Red Sox won’t be 69-93 and the Brewers bullpen won’t not be able to get the dog out again and the Orioles won’t go 29-9 in one-run games again. The Bourn signing seems reasonable, the Choo for Bauer trade is exactly what teams like the Indians should be doing (along with changing their name from Indians), Carlos Santana should be better, but the Swisher signing was too much for too long, and Scott Kazmir??
4. Chicago (78-84): My perpetual dark horse pick in the Central, mostly because of the rotation, but Danks is injured (again), Sale was 10-2, 2.19 before the All-Star Break and 7-6, 4.03 afterwards, and the offense relies too much on Dunn (33 going on 53) and Konerko (37 going on Jim Thome 2012) without much OBP otherwise. A long shot for second (see 2012).
5. Minnesota (61-101): Pedro Florimon!
My AL Central MVPs: the obvious (Verlander, Cabrera, Fielder), Gordon, Hosmer (yes, he’ll be back), Santana
My AL Central Cy Youngs: the obvious (Verlander), Scherzer, Masterson
Rob’s AL Central Picks: 1. Indians 2. Tigers 3. Royals 4. White Sox 5. Twins
Rob’s AL Central MVPs: Austin Jackson, Michael Brantley, Dayan Viciedo
Rob’s Cy Youngers: Masterson, Scherzer
1. Toronto (90-72): My World Series pick thanks mostly to the Dickey trade. A healthy Reyes, Johnson, and Morrow will help, obviously. Buehrle as the #4 starter? The only rotations arguably better are SF and the Nationals (Detroit is probably as good); the only team arguably better is the Nationals, I think. Jose Bautista may be the best position player in the division, though it’s close (Longoria, Cano).
2. Tampa Bay (88-74): A deep rotation, decent defense, poor offense beyond Longoria and Zobrist—the usual, plus Wil Myers in a few weeks. In a weaker division, Tampa should be good enough for a wild card. On a completely unrelated note, I want Luke Scott to eat my Swiss passport.
3. New York (85-77): I may be overrating the Yankees based on a decent rotation and bullpen and an eventual healthy if old lineup. Truly awful starters beyond Cano and Gardner to begin the season. The Vernon Wells trade is defensible, which underscores how bad the offense can be.
4. Boston (82-80): Regression to the mean more than a youth movement (Bradley and Iglesias may be overmatched, Will Middlebrooks may be overrated, and Bogaerts and Webster may not be ready yet) or Victorino being worth $40M. The Red Sox could win 75 or 90 and finish last or second. 82 and fourth sounds reasonable.
5. Baltimore (75-87): Whoever wrote they’ll be a better team than 2012 with a worse record: yeah, that. Due to regress despite breaking in Machado for a full season and Dylan Bundy sometime during the summer. I’ll take them in 2015 though.
My AL East MVPs: Bautista, Longoria, Cano, Zobrist, Ellsbury, Pedroia
My AL East Cy Youngs: Dickey, Price, Hellickson, Moore, Lester
Cy Young in 2016: Bundy
Less Awful Than You’d Think: Lackey
Rob’s AL East picks: 1. Orioles 2. Blue Jays 3. Rays 4. Red Sox 5. Yankees
Rob’s AL East MVPs: Wieters, Encarnacion, Zobrist
Rob’s AL East Cy Young: Hellickson comes of age
1. San Francisco (91-71): The pitching may have dropped off somewhat, but Cain is still an ace, Bumgarner is becoming an ace, Lincecum can be at worst a Frank Tanana post-ace, the bullpen is deep, and Bruce Bochy can’t not play Brandon Belt this season, can he? Obscure San Francisco literary doppelgangers: Hunter Pence and McTeague.
2. Los Angeles (88-74): Despite Kemp and Kershaw and Gonzalez and Greinke and a rotation that’s seven deep and Kenley Jansen as closer, 88 wins still seems like a reach. The Dodgers are too much declining Andre Ethier and Dee Gordon and Skip Schumacher and Mark Ellis for comfort, or for $223M. They can win this division or finish fourth or anywhere in between.
Rob in Iowa: Why is it that Hanley (29) and Carl (31) seem really old? They’re paying Babe Ruth Puig $3.7M to play AA ball. $17M for Beckett?? The Dodgers were once Alston/Robinson/The Duke/Lasorda. Now it’s blowing up. Greinke might have led the Padres to the World Series.
3. Arizona (86-76): I agree with the consensus that their offseason would have been better off not happening—I like Prado, but Upton was worth more, and Trevor Bauer’s actual was worth much more than Didi Gregorius’s potential, not to mention the fact that I have no idea what Heath Bell is doing here—and my projection of 86-76 ends up about the same as the others, though in this case it’s not so much that the strengths (rotation of Kennedy-Miley-McCarthy-Cahill) outweigh the weaknesses as the fact that I don’t really see much of either. This is mediocrity plus a little.
4. San Diego (80-82): I don’t see a huge difference in offense between the Padres and Diamondbacks, other than the fact that Goldschmidt is younger (by five years) and healthier doing what Carlos Quentin does but the Padres as a whole are younger. The difference is the rotation, where Volquez-Richard-Stults-Marquis-Tyson Ross begins with a #3 and ends at AAA Tucson.
5. Colorado (63-99): The Rockies managed to trade Ubaldo Jiminez at almost maximum value and still lost. The offense is decent, I guess—in a Coors context but just somewhat below the Padres and Diamondbacks—but the pitching (Jon Garland? Chris Volstad, whom the Cubs released and the Royals DFA’d?) is terrible. Probably not Astros-bad as long as Tulowitzki, Gonzalez, and Fowler are still on the roster.
My NL West MVPs: Posey, Kemp, Belt, Gonzalez, Prado, Tulowitzki, Headley, Quentin, Fowler
My NL West Cy Youngs: Kershaw, Cain, Bumgarner, Kennedy
Rob’s NL West picks: 1. San Diego 2. San Francisco 3. Arizona 4. Los Angeles 5. Colorado
Rob’s NL West MVPs: Belt keeps the Giants on top, Kemp extends the Triple Crown, Quentin stays healthy
Rob’s NL West Cy Youngs: Miley keeps the D’Backs in contention, Cinderella Colorado Chacin, someone from somewhere keeps San Diego projections afloat
1. Cincinnati (90-72): Plenty of reasons not to be thrilled—Shin Soo Choo, centerfielder? Jonathan Broxton, 8th-inning guy?—but Votto, Chapman, Bruce, Choo’s leadoff OBP, a decent if not terrifying (either direction) rotation, and a winnable division and I’ll take them as a default pick if nothing else.
2. St. Louis (85-77): This team seems older than it is—I’m still expecting Lance Berkman at first and he’s in Arlington doing a Michael Young impression—probably because what they do, they’ve done for so long. Offense from relative no-name guys (Freese, Jon Jay, Allen Craig), rotation led by ace-when-healthy (was Carpenter, now Wainwright), potential closer-by-committee while Bruce Sutter/Jason Motte is out. To paraphrase Lou Grant, a thoroughly competent team. I hate competent teams.
3. Milwaukee (84-78): I was tempted to pick them second but Yuni happened and Kyle Lohse happened and I won’t. Tom Benjamin once wrote teams win with strengths rather than lose with weaknesses, but that was hockey and he never had Yuni at second. Ramirez should drop off too, but the bullpen will be better (regression to the mean from abysmal), Braun will put up Braun numbers barring suspension, Gallardo is still a breakout waiting to happen. ZiPS has every starter slugging .400 except Aoki, and he’s at .395.
4. Pittsburgh (81-81): .500? Maybe. An improving team (Alvarez and Marte now, Gerrit Cole eventually) but there’s not enough OBP or power here other than McCutchen and the pitching is only average, with the exception of Jonathan Sanchez, who was Roy Halladayesque last season. 2000 Roy Halladay.
Rob in Iowa: Martin explodes at the plate hitting .260+ and he IS the answer, improving the entire young staff and leading the team to a magical +.500 season. Postseason be damned, the city holds a ticker tape parade.
5. Chicago (75-87): The best management in the Central (Theo and Jed Hoyer) but the worst, if most improved, team top to bottom. Castro and Rizzo are the only potential stars.
Rob in Iowa: The Cubs are still contending with Alfonso so they’re in the junk heap. I’m sure, after he drove in a 100+ in ’12, they felt they might find a taker. No such luck. GM’s are crazy but not that stupid. Actually it’s sort of amazing that Chicago has been so bad for so long. And what happened to LaHair? He goes from franchiser to overseas in the blink of an eye. If the fans are surly, they have a right. I think the club is jinxed (yet again) for dumping Dusty. They have been horrible ever since.
My take: Soriano slugged .500 (well, .499) last year, had his best OPS+ relative to the league since 2007, and was slightly below average but not horrible defensively.
The contract is bad– two more years at $36M total and he’ll be 38 when it expires– but I would rather have him than (to randomly generate a name) Delmon Young in my outfield.
(Would I rather have $36M of him for two years than $750K of Delmon for one year? Well, no…even with Delmon’s $2.5M worth of incentives I’m hoping he won’t meet. But $36M for two years of the Fons’ vs. $105M of Ryan Howard until Howard is bought out at age 37 or $118M if he isn’t? Yeah, there’s that. & would I rather have Theo Epstein & Jed Hoyer than Ruben Amaro? That’s a rhetorical question, right?)
My NL Central MVPs: Votto, McCutchen, Holliday, Chapman (if the voters go all Eckersley on us), Yadier, Braun
My NL Central Cy Youngs: Wainwright, Cueto, Homer Bailey, Gallardo, Chapman
Rob’s NL Central picks: 1. Reds 2. Pirates 3. Cardinals 4. Brewers 5. Cubs
Rob’s NL Central MVP: Allen Craig
Rob’s NL Central Cy Youngs: Homer Bailey, Samardzija
1. Washington (102-60): Scary depth—Dan Haren is a fifth starter, Rafael Soriano is an 8th-inning guy, and Mike Morse would have been a fourth outfielder. The Braves are arguably the second-best team in the NL and Washington could win this division by ten games with a few breaks.
2. Atlanta (95-67): The offense, minus Chipper, Bourn, and McCann (injured), is still pretty good, especially the outfield of Upton-Upton-Heyward, and Freeman is underrated, but the bullpen is weaker with Venters out indefinitely and the rotation is underwhelming beyond the potential of Medlen, Minor, and Teheran. Did you know Tim Hudson (38 in July) is two years older than Mark Mulder (36 in August) and three years older than Barry Zito (35 in May)?
3. Philadelphia (86-76): Or 81-81, depending on Halladay. The optimism here is more Utley, more of the same from Hamels and Lee, a full season of Domonic Brown, Ruiz and Kratz and Quintero without a huge dropoff, Ben Revere being better than Ricky Otero (or Ruben Amaro, Jr.), Delmon Young having a Juan Pierre season (i.e. low walks + high BABIP + .300 average= he’s a Marlin in 2014), a better bullpen (I guess), and no Yuni. Seriously.
4. New York (66-96): The Mets would merely be a mediocre non-contender with a sometimes-healthy/effective Santana (see 2012), but without him for the season I think there’s a chance they’re terrible. The only reasons I’m not projecting 100 losses are Wright, Tejada, the Marlins, and the Rockies.
Rob in Iowa: Not Target. Not Walmart. More like K-mart. How many teams has John Buck played for…and has he ever had a winning season? (The 2010 Blue Jays were 85-77. Otherwise, no.)
5. Miami (59-103): One of the top three players in the division (Stanton, Harper, Heyward by my count) surrounded by Polancos and Pierres and Redmonds (whom you could tell me is the current catcher and I would believe it). The rotation at the moment is Nolasco, Slowey, LeBlanc, Alex Sanabia, and José Fernandez, who’s 20. Without a doubt one team that could be worse than the Astros as soon as this season.
My NL East MVPs: Harper, Heyward, Stanton, Upton (either one), Utley
My downballot NL East MVP candidate who may receive disproportionate credit for making an already excellent team even more excellent (think Shannon Stewart, 2003 Twins): Denard Span
My NL East Cy Youngs: Strasburg, Gonzalez, Hamels, Lee, Kimbrel
Rob’s NL East picks: 1. Braves 2. Nationals 3. Marlins 4. Phillies 5. Mets
My playoff picks:
Los Angeles over Tampa in wild card playoff
Texas over Los Angeles, 4-2
Toronto over Detroit, 4-3
Toronto over Texas, 4-2
Atlanta over Los Angeles in wild card playoff
Washington over Atlanta, 4-1
San Francisco over Cincinnati, 4-1
San Francisco over Washington, 4-2
Toronto over San Francisco, 4-2
If anyone’s keeping track, my World Series picks on this site so far:
2011: Brewers over White Sox
2012: Marlins over Rangers
Toronto fans: I’m sorry.
(Actually: I’m not.)