God Is Not a Blue Jays Fan: MLB Preview 2014

DomBrownBeatles

AL East
Boston
Tampa (wild card)
Baltimore
Yankees
Toronto

Boston and Tampa are the clear top two and even without Ellsbury and with some decline from the veterans, Boston’s offense, with something more than zero out of Bogaerts and Bradley, should be enough better than Tampa’s to make up for any difference in pitching. Whoever (not a Red Sox fan) wrote that the Pierzynski signing was the perfect match of douchebag player with douchebag team: yeah, that, but it’s a one-year deal (hey, Chooch got three). Tampa may have the best rotation, but I don’t think they have enough flamethrowers in the bullpen (unless Heath Bell counts), and I’m not sold on any offense with James Loney as a regular first baseman. Baltimore ended up having a decent offseason (Ryan Webb, a Korean pitcher who might be this year’s Wei-Yin Chen*, a one-year flyer on Nelson Cruz, and more in term and amount than I would have paid for Ubaldo Jiminez, but he should help them) but just happens to be in the wrong division (I might pick them to win the Central); they’re not terrible anywhere, really, but they don’t have Tampa’s pitching or Boston’s offense or either of those teams’ stars (other than Machado and 2013 first-half Chris Davis). The Yankees are about the same team as they were in 2013, only more expensive and that’s without Cano. Toronto, whom I picked to win the World Series last year, falls under my “could surprise” teams for 2014, only to the degree that I expect them to be really bad. Also: I wrote the original “God Is Not a Blue Jays Fan” poem (it began “somebody poisoned Cito and somebody injured Joe”) in 1991, and then they won the next two Series, so, cheers, eh.
* Yes, I’m aware that Wei-Yin Chen is not Korean.

AL Central
Detroit
Kansas City
Cleveland
Minnesota
White Sox
Both Central divisions this year could see only one team with a winning record, though odds are neither does. Here the one team would be Detroit, by default. Some of the “default” part is the loss of Iglesias (actually, both the loss of Iglesias and what they’re replacing him with); most of the rest is age and health and not so much losing Fielder, who will help the Rangers more than the tradeoff from Fielder to Kinsler will hurt the Tigers (it shouldn’t, especially moving Cabrera off third). The Royals may fall off a bit (I like the Aoki and to a lesser degree Valencia moves, Vargas not so much but he won’t kill them, the bullpen can’t possibly be that good again but 150 or so innings of Yordano Ventura replacing Wade Davis in the rotation could go a long way), the Indians will probably fall off a bit more (though Ubaldo Jiminez’s regression is now the Orioles’ problem, and Salazar should be pretty good eventually if not this season), the White Sox may have had the best offseason in the division (Abreu, Paulino, Eaton/selling high on Addison Reed’s saves, Davidson are all moves a team like the White Sox should be making) and I’m still ranking them last, and the Twins (who spent $90M on free agents and whose biggest offseason move is still “Mauer is playing first”) could just as well be last or third and it wouldn’t matter much.

AL West
Oakland
Texas (wild card)
Angels
Seattle
Houston
I would have picked the Rangers until the injuries began to mount and the season-opening Scheppers-Perez-Ross-Saunders-Martinez rotation was announced. They’ll still be good, but Oakland is better enough at the margins (bullpen, GM, manager) that the slight edge Texas had before has now reversed. Make that Oakland 91 wins, Texas 90 or so. The Angels should be better, I think, if only because Joe Blanton is now in Siberia, though that Weaver-Haren-Santana rotation is a distant memory. Cano will help the Mariners, but adding an 8 WAR player to a 67-win (Pythagorean) team gets you 75 wins, and wouldn’t “Jews for Jesus Montero” be a better name for an AAA fantasy team at this point? The Astros shouldn’t lose (more than) 100 games and as Joe Sheehan notes (firewalled newsletter I can’t link to) “by the end of the season, in fact, they’ll even start to be an approximation of ‘good’.” Also: when you think about it, “Joe Savery” is an excellent name for a reliever, even more so if you’re a cannibal.

NL East
Washington
Atlanta (wild card)
Miami
Mets
Philadelphia
The Nationals were supposed to win 100 games last season and didn’t win 90. I don’t think they win 100 this year, but they will come close and should win this division easily even without Doug Fister at 100%. This could be Bryce Harper’s MVP year. The only potential weakness is rookie manager Matt Williams, but Mattingly, Matheny, Gibson. The Braves were actually that good last season (Pythagoras says they were a 98-win team who should have won the East by 14 games) but I expect the bullpen like Kansas City’s can’t possibly be this good again, the rotation even with Medlen and Beachy wasn’t quite up to Strasburg-Zimmermann-Gonzalez-Fister and yes, Upton and Uggla can be terrible again. I doubt any of the other three teams will break .500; with the caveat that “it’s the Marlins,” I think Miami actually has the most hope and at least the best core in Stanton (however long he’s a Marlin)-Fernandez-Ozuna-Yelich. The Mets have hope in the Generation K sense and they have Travis d’Arnaud. The Phillies have Jayson Nix and Tony Gwynn Jr.

NL Central
St. Louis
Pittsburgh
Milwaukee
Cincinnati
Cubs
St. Louis may be the best team in baseball, with Bourjos, Peralta, Taveras, and a full season of Kolten Wong replacing essentially only Beltran (soon to be 37, i.e. he’s now a Yankee) and Freese (soon to be 31) and moving Pete Kozma (54 OPS+, -0.4 WAR in 2013) to the bench. Even a sophomore slump from any of Wacha, Miller, or that postseason bullpen (Rosenthal-Siegrist-Martinez-Maness) won’t hurt them much given the rest of the division. The Pirates outperformed their Pythagorean W/L by six wins last season, lost A.J. Burnett and Marlon Byrd to the Phillies (yes, this may actually hurt the Pirates), and added only Edinson Volquez, Clint Barmes, and Vance Worley. McCutchen is probably still underrated but he, Cole, Alvarez, Liriano v. 2014, and Starling Marte v. 2014 (5.5-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 2013) isn’t enough of a core to win (see also: Tulowitzki/Gonzalez/Arenado), though at least pitching reinforcements are on the way. The Reds replaced Shin-Soo Choo, Bronson Arroyo, and Dusty Baker with Skip Schumaker, Manny Parra, and Bryan Price (on the roster, anyway–Billy Hamilton, who is to speed what Choo was to OBP, will replace Choo in center, and Tony Cingrani will replace Arroyo in the rotation) and will continue to blame Joey Votto and his career .419 OBP for not driving in more of the guy with the .320 OBP who bats ahead of him. The Brewers are actually the most improved team, with a projected rotation of Gallardo-Garza-Lohse-Peralta-Estrada that’s surprisingly decent, a first baseman who will be more than zero (Yuniesky Betancourt’s 2013 WAR: -2.0), and presumably more than 250 at-bats from Ryan Braun. The Cubs will be bad if not quite Astros-bad. At least Starlin Castro will be watchable, even if he himself is watchably bad.

NL West
San Francisco
Dodgers (wild card)
Arizona
San Diego
Colorado
The Dodgers can obviously go on a run (see 2013) but since it’s not 2013 and since Yasiel Puig seems on the verge of illustrating Bill James’s maxim that bad teams take problems out on their best player (with the only caveats being, Clayton Kershaw and the 2014 Dodgers aren’t bad…yet), I don’t think the Dodgers have enough to win the West again. The Dodgers have more top end talent (Kershaw, Puig, Greinke, Ramirez-when-healthy, Jansen) but San Francisco (whom I picked last year as well) has a better manager and a better overall team (e.g. Dee Gordon is not a starter and Blanco-Pagan are actual centerfielders). The Diamondbacks have gone 81-81 each of the past two seasons and Bronson Arroyo (ERA+ of 101 in 2013, career ERA+ of 104) in the rotation suggests they will go 81-81 in 2014. I like Joaquin Benoit, Alex Torres, and when-he’s-healthy-(never)-Josh Johnson enough, but the Padres haven’t done enough otherwise to improve or even likely to reach .500. What team trades Dexter Fowler, signs Boone Logan for three years and Justin Morneau for two, and counts on Brett Anderson (not him) as their number two starter? Too bad the Rockies only face the Phillies in April, because a September matchup would be awesome. (If it were in Philadelphia, I might have an entire section to myself, unless they were giving away a car.)

AL wild card playoff: Tampa over Texas
AL division series: Tampa over Oakland, Boston over Detroit
ALCS: Boston over Tampa

NL wild card playoff: Dodgers over Atlanta
NL division series: Washington over San Francisco, St. Louis over Dodgers
NLCS: St. Louis over Washington

World Series: St. Louis over Boston
I will be watching hockey at this point.

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3 Responses to “God Is Not a Blue Jays Fan: MLB Preview 2014”

  1. rob espenscheid Says:

    A WS repeat? Not exactly going out on a limb here. Since no money is changing hands, you should have bet your heart and gone Brew crew. Right now (4-13-14… way to go Bubba) you’d look the sage.

  2. […] year, because I’m always wrong (my World Series picks since 2012: Brewers, Marlins, Blue Jays, Cardinals), and because the Phils will suck. More importantly, I haven’t had regular TV since April 2014 so […]

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