Detailed view of official baseballs used for batting practice during Chicago Cubs spring training workouts at Fitch Park. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE
Today I will join thousands of other bloggers, websites, pundits, etc. in making my so-called "expert" predictions for the upcoming season. If you have been here for the last seven years, you'll find this prediction format familiar -- and yes, you'll find most of this text familiar too (copy/paste being a useful tool). For those of you new to BCB, read on.
I started this format 20 years ago, when I was passing out my annual predictions to any of my friends who were willing to read them either with or without scoffing, because I found it both more interesting and challenging to do than traditional predictions. Even more so, 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 would it be for me to sit here clacking away on a keyboard and be master-of-the-obvious by telling you that Prince Fielder is a top AL MVP candidate and that Tim Lincecum is a top contender for NL Cy Young? Just before the 2011 season started, would you have picked Ian Kennedy to win 21 games with a 2.88 ERA? Anyone out there think, a year ago, that Jacoby Ellsbury would have 32 HR and 105 RBI in 2011? Maybe a handful, but not many.
And in any case, anyone using the search function here can come back here in October and tell me how wrong I was. Further, looking back at the six years of predictions here from 2004-2009, I note that I picked the Cubs to make the playoffs every year and to win the World Series every one of those years except 2006. Obviously, that was the optimist in me, not the realist, and although they did make the postseason in two of those years, those predictions were... well, not so smart. I didn't make that choice in 2010 or 2011, and I'm not going to do that again this year.
I didn't do really well last year, but nor did I miss too badly; I had four of the eight playoff teams, and I'm thinking a lot of people whiffed when they picked the Red Sox and Giants, too. (Let's ignore the fact that I had the 99-loss Twins winning the AL Central. I think a lot of others probably missed that one, too.) This year, with the addition of the second wild-card team, I'll be picking those, too -- two more chances to be wrong!
Follow me past the jump for this year's picks.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
1) PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Hitting: Just get us to June
Pitching: With much depth
Intangibles: Could be the last hurrah with this group
2) MIAMI MARLINS (1st Wild Card)
Hitting: We proudly present Giancarlo Cruz-Michael Stanton
Intangibles: Spiffy new stadium, wacky new home-run feature, wacky new manager
3) WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Pitching: Lots of it, and good
Intangibles: Could be a powerhouse in the making; will be very close to playoffs
4) ATLANTA BRAVES
Pitching: Not partying like it's 1999
Intangibles: Fourth place could be 85 wins in this division
5) NEW YORK METS
Defense: I wish I could say "mediocre". It's bad.
Intangibles: Coming out of financial woes, but it'll take time
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
1) MILWAUKEE BREWERS
Hitting: Breathing a Ryan Braun sigh of relief
Intangibles: Ryan Braun, both positive and negative
2) CINCINNATI REDS
Intangibles: Built to win now
3) ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
Hitting: Après Albert, le deluge
Pitching: Healthy, sort of
Intangibles: New field management; they'll miss TLR and Duncan
4) CHICAGO CUBS
Pitching: Some depth, at last
Intangibles: New management from top to bottom
5) PITTSBURGH PIRATES
Pitching: Pardon me while I laugh
Defense: Very good
Intangibles: 20th anniversary of last winning season
6) HOUSTON ASTROS
Intangibles: Heading for another 100-loss season
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
1) SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
Hitting: Just about any hits would be an improvement
Pitching: Second only to the Phillies in the NL. Maybe even first.
Defense: Ryan Theriot. Be afraid.
Intangibles: Buster Posey's return and how good he'll be
2) ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS (2nd Wild Card)
Hitting: Better than it has any right to be
Pitching: Way better than it has any right to be
Intangibles: Kirk Gibson will have this bunch well-prepared
3) LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Intangibles: Spiffy new ownership
4) COLORADO ROCKIES
Hitting: No matter what, this team will hit
Pitching: Could not possibly be worse than last year
Defense: Out of breath
Intangibles: Who doesn't like Jamie Moyer?
5) SAN DIEGO PADRES
Hitting: Look over Yonder!
Pitching: Starting over
Intangibles: Not really bad, not really good. Just sort of there.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
1) TAMPA BAY RAYS
Hitting: Much better than you'd think
Pitching: Good top-to-bottom
Intangibles: Never underestimate a Joe Maddon team
2) BOSTON RED SOX (2nd Wild Card)
Hitting: All over the place
Pitching: Injured. Not now, but they will be.
Intangibles: New management on and off the field
3) NEW YORK YANKEES
Defense: Outfield, fast. Infield, not so much.
Intangibles: Age is not this team's friend
4) TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Pitching: Better than you'd think
Defense: Um, next question?
Intangibles: It's hard to win in this division
5) BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Hitting: Lots of home runs! Fun!
Pitching: Lots of home runs! F -- oh, wait.
Defense: Defense? Who needs defense?
Intangibles: Is Baltimore still in the League?
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
1) DETROIT TIGERS
Hitting: Best in the league
Defense: Very good
Intangibles: Could cruise to 100+ wins
2) KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Hitting: Very, very promising
Pitching: Shhh! I won't tell if you won't.
Defense: Very good
Intangibles: Might sneak up on everyone this year
3) CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Hitting: As Dunn & Rios go, so goes this team
Pitching: Solid rotation, questionable bullpen
Defense: A work in progress
Intangibles: New field management
4) CLEVELAND INDIANS
Hitting: Walking wounded
Intangibles: Could surprise by either winning or losing 90 games
5) MINNESOTA TWINS
Hitting: As Mauer & Morneau go, so goes this team
Pitching: Avert your eyes
Defense: Very good
Intangibles: If Mauer & Morneau are back, could surprise
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
1) TEXAS RANGERS
Pitching: Everything Yu could ever want
Defense: Good enough
Intangibles: Three World Series appearances in a row? Is that even allowed?
2) LOS ANGELES ANGELS (1st Wild Card)
Hitting: Will rise and fall with Albert Pujols
Defense: Mark Trumbo at 3B? Are you serious?
Intangibles: They'd better win, or fans could turn on them
3) SEATTLE MARINERS
Hitting: Could be great... or awful
Intangibles: Rebuilding, again
4) OAKLAND ATHLETICS
Hitting: Manny, 50 games from now? Really?
Intangibles: Do you know the way to San Jose?
World Series: It will be fun to watch Prince Fielder hit in San Francisco during the World Series; he and Verlander bring Detroit their first World Series win since 1984.