SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- 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 eight 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 more than 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 Mike Trout is a top choice for AL MVP or that Justin Verlander will be among the top candidates for AL Cy Young? Just before the 2013 season started, would you have said that Max Scherzer would be the majors' top winner (21 wins with a 2.90 ERA)? Anyone out there think, a year ago, that Chris Davis would hit 53 home runs and drive in 138? 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 the last four seasons, and I'm not going to do that again this year.
I didn't do too well last year; I managed to get three of the five playoff teams in each league right, and you're supposed to ignore the fact that I picked the World Series champion Red Sox to finish last in the American League East. So, take these seriously, but not too seriously. I sure don't.
Without further ado, here are my choices for 2014. You are all welcome to leave your own picks in the comments. Also, join everyone here later today for a game thread for the Padres/Dodgers ESPN national opening game; that thread, for the 7 p.m. CT start, will post at 6:30 p.m. CT.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
1) WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Pitching: Healthy (cross your fingers)
Defense: Very good
Intangibles: New first-time manager
2) ATLANTA BRAVES (1st Wild Card)
Defense: Dan Uggla!
Intangibles: Two quick past playoff exits
3) PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Hitting: On its last legs
Pitching: On its last legs
Defense: On its last legs
4) NEW YORK METS
Hitting: Who are these guys?
Pitching: Matt Harvey! Oh, wait.
Intangibles: Well, they're the Mets.
5) MIAMI MARLINS
Hitting: Giancarlo Stanton and what army?
Pitching: Jose Fernandez and what army?
Defense: No army (Rafael Furcal? Really?)
Intangibles: Worst ownership in baseball
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
1) ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
Hitting: A couple of new guys
Pitching: Young, but experienced
Intangibles: Well, they're the Cardinals. What more can I say?
2) CINCINNATI REDS
Hitting: What will Billy Hamilton provide?
Pitching: Same as it ever was
Intangibles: No more Dusty!
3) MILWAUKEE BREWERS
Intangibles: The reactions to Ryan Braun around the league
4) PITTSBURGH PIRATES
Hitting: Same as a year ago
Intangibles: Might have played way over their heads in 2013
5) CHICAGO CUBS
Hitting: Give us a call in 2015
Pitching: Give us a call in 2018
Intangibles: It's a 100th anniversary party!
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
1) LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Intangibles: At these prices, they had better win
2) ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS (2nd Wild Card)
Intangibles: Kirk Gibson! Grrrrrr!
3) SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
Hitting: Mostly the same
Pitching: Mostly the same
Defense: Mostly the same
Intangibles: Two WS wins in last four years
4) SAN DIEGO PADRES
Defense: Very good
Intangibles: None that I can think of
5) COLORADO ROCKIES
Hitting: They always do in that park
Pitching: Uh, next question?
Defense: In that park?
Intangibles: Something just always seems to go wrong with this team
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
1) TAMPA BAY RAYS
Hitting: Young, but solid
Pitching: Young, but even solider
Intangibles: Best manager in baseball
2) BOSTON RED SOX (2nd Wild Card)
Hitting: A.J. and Gomes on the same team?
Pitching: Healthy (for now)
Intangibles: Can't possibly repeat the miracle of 2013
3) BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Hitting: Lots of home runs! Fun!
Pitching: Lots of home runs! F... oh, wait.
Defense: Who needs defense?
Intangibles: Finally seem headed in the right direction
4) NEW YORK YANKEES
Intangibles: Can qualify for senior discounts
5) TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Hitting: Very good
Pitching: Wait, you need pitching, too?
Intangibles: Not going anywhere in this division
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
1) DETROIT TIGERS
Hitting: Old and new
Defense: Good enough
Intangibles: New manager, very different from the old one
2) KANSAS CITY ROYALS (1st Wild Card)
Pitching: Rotation: meh. Bullpen: excellent
Defense: Very good
Intangibles: Building on last year's success
3) CLEVELAND INDIANS
Hitting: Hanging on
Pitching: Hanging on
Defense: Please hang on
Intangibles: Unlikely to repeat last year's success
4) CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Intangibles: Don't seem to have any real direction
5) MINNESOTA TWINS
Pitching: Ricky Nolasco? Why?
Intangibles: No wonder Ron Gardenhire's hair is white
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
1) OAKLAND ATHLETICS
Intangibles: A GM who knows how to win
2) SEATTLE MARINERS
Hitting: How long before fanbase is in mutiny re: Robinson Cano?
Pitching: Better than you might expect
Intangibles: In win-now mode
3) TEXAS RANGERS
Pitching: Check your nearest disabled list
Defense: Very good
Intangibles: Also in win-now mode
4) LOS ANGELES ANGELS
Hitting: Ancient (except for the wonderful Mike Trout)
Pitching: Irrelevant (except for the wonderful Jered Weaver)
Defense: No exceptions here
Intangibles: Fanbase in outright revolt
5) HOUSTON ASTROS
Intangibles: A fourth straight 100-loss year is on tap
NL: Braves over Diamondbacks in wild-card game. Nationals over Dodgers, Braves over Cardinals in division series. Nationals over Braves in NLCS.
AL: Red Sox over Royals in wild-card game. Rays over Red Sox, Tigers over Athletics in division series. Tigers over Rays in ALCS.
World Series: I picked this matchup last year, and darnitall, I'm going to keep picking it until it actually happens. No, seriously, the Nats appear ready to return to the position they were in when they blew the division series to the Cardinals in 2012, and get to their first-ever World Series... where they will lose to the Tigers.