Here's what all of us as baseball fans have been waiting for: the regular season! It all begins tonight, with the White Sox facing the Indians on ESPN2, at 7 pm CT.
With that, it is time for me to join all the thousands of other bloggers, websites, pundits, etc. in making my so-called "expert" predictions for the upcoming season.
If you were here a year ago, you'll find this prediction format familiar. For those of you new to BCB, I started this format a few years back, because I found it both more interesting and challenging to do than traditional predictions. But more than that, if you're here I don't need to insult your intelligence by telling you who the ballclubs' best hitters, pitchers, etc. are. You already know. Instead, you'll find a pithy word or phrase describing the hitting, pitching, defense and intangibles of the thirty contenders for October glory.
I'm also not going to "predict" award winners. How hard is it for me to sit here clacking away on a keyboard and be master-of-the-obvious by telling you that Albert Pujols is the best player in the NL and Vladimir Guerrero in the AL? And besides, awards often come out of nowhere. A year ago, who'd have thought Chris Carpenter would have been the best pitcher in the NL in 2005? Or that Chad Cordero would lead the league in saves? Nobody, that's who.
And in any case, anyone using the search function here can come back here in October and tell me how wrong I was.
With that, onward:
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
1) ATLANTA BRAVES
Pitching: Hold on to your seats!
Intangibles: Bobby Cox
2) NEW YORK METS
Defense: Do not try this at home!
Intangibles: Always trying to catch up to the Yankees
3) PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Pitching: Nothing to write home about
Defense: Jimmy Rollins. Slick!
Intangibles: None. That's why they're third
4) WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Pitching: Did I mention Chad Cordero?
Intangibles: Someday, they'll get real ownership
5) FLORIDA MARLINS
Defense: Does it matter?
Intangibles: Players don't feel pressure because the crowds are smaller than the ones they had in the minors
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
1) ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
Hitting: Held together with spit & glue
Pitching: Won it for them last year
Intangibles: Spiffy new stadium
2) CHICAGO CUBS (Wild card)
Hitting: Better (how could it have been worse?)
Defense: It depends
Intangibles: Spiffy new bleachers
3) MILWAUKEE BREWERS
Hitting: On the rise
Defense: Very good
Intangibles: Um... the secret stadium sauce is good...
4) HOUSTON ASTROS
Hitting: Old (still)
Pitching: Older (still)
Defense: Oldest (still)
Intangibles: If they get Clemens back, all bets are off
5) CINCINNATI REDS
Hitting: Lots of home runs! Fun!
Pitching: Who needs pitching?
Defense: Is Griffey hurt again? No? Well, he still might be...
Intangibles: Couldn't think of any last year, and still can't
6) PITTSBURGH PIRATES
Hitting: A wish and a prayer
Pitching: Young and improving
Intangibles: The best skyline view in baseball
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
1) SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
Hitting: Oh, I could say lots here, but I won't
Intangibles: Oh, I could say lots here, but I won't
2) LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Hitting: Mixed bag
Pitching: Not like it used to be in the storied Dodger past
Intangibles: Had better win now or else
3) SAN DIEGO PADRES
Hitting: Better (but only because they brought the fences in)
Defense: Better (but only because they brought the fences in)
Intangibles: Could win this weak division
4) ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
Intangibles: If they start winning, very rabid fanbase
5) COLORADO ROCKIES
Pitching: In THAT ballpark? WAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
Defense: Does it matter?
Intangibles: Lovely view of the Rocky Mountains beyond LF
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
1) NEW YORK YANKEES
Pitching: Question marks
Intangibles: Don't you just HATE them?
2) TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Intangibles: Hungry to win
3) BOSTON RED SOX
Hitting: Not enough
Pitching: Not nearly enough
Intangibles: Look at that lineup. You think intangibles will help?
4) TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS
Pitching: Exciting, in a different sort of way
Intangibles: Let's go to the game! Free parking!
5) BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Hitting: Two words: Corey Patterson
Pitching: Too young
Intangibles: Two words: Corey Patterson
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
1) CLEVELAND INDIANS
Pitching: VERY underrated
Intangibles: Got a taste of it last year
2) CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Hitting: Very good
Intangibles: Will have to replicate every ounce of their luck and karma from last year. This race will be VERY close.
3) MINNESOTA TWINS
Hitting: Tony Batista? Are you KIDDING me?
Intangibles: Third place here could be 90 wins
4) DETROIT TIGERS
Pitching: Very young
Intangibles: Watch out for the clouds of smoke from the manager's seat in the dugout
5) KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Hitting: Better than it was
Intangibles: It's got to be frustrating to be a Royals fan with no hope whatsoever
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
1) OAKLAND ATHLETICS
Pitching: Steady supply of great arms
Intangibles: Great GM and manager
2) LOS ANGELES ANGELS OF SOMEWHERE (Wild card)
Intangibles: Know how to win
3) TEXAS RANGERS
Hitting: Lots of home runs! Fun!
Pitching: John Koronka? Nuff said.
Defense: Who needs defense?
Intangibles: Anonymous, could fly under radar
4) SEATTLE MARINERS
Hitting: Turning Japanese
Pitching: Felix Hernandez, two months old when teammate Jamie Moyer made ML debut
Intangibles: Tough division. Could finish .500 and still be last.
NL: Cubs over Giants, Braves over Cardinals; Braves over Cubs in NLCS
AL: A's over Indians, Yankees over Angels; A's over Yankees in ALCS
World Series: A's over Braves
I'm sure someone will remind me when I get absolutely none of this right, six months from now. Later today, another bleacher reconstruction update.
Also, I have been remiss: at last, the SB Nation baseball blog set is complete with the addition of our Dodgers site, True Blue LA. The guys at the the Padres site have released their Dodger angst, but from 2000 miles from LA here in Chicago, I simply say, "Welcome!"
Finally, for you stat geeks out there, the SB Nation statistical analysis site Beyond the Box Score has an excellent statistical analysis of Cubs position players today. I confess a lot of these numbers make my eyes glaze over, but if you're into this sort of thing, check it out.