Thursday, April 30, 2009

Monthly Predictions, May 1

We thought it could be fun to do a monthly revisit of our season predictions. (Not to mention that gimmicks like these are some of the easier ways to get columns started.)

For the record, we will stick with our Opening Day predictions, when it comes to evaluating
how we did at the end of the year. This is more or less a "fun" exercise to check the pulse of the league and see what we believe at different points throughout the season.

April has had its share of surprises, disappointments, inspirational moments, and a bevy of
fresh faced debuts. As we did a month ago, we'll break it down by division.

AL East
Current Standings
Boston Red Sox (14-8)
Toronto Blue Jays (15-9)

NY Yankees (12-10)
Baltimore Orioles (9-13)
Tampa Bay Rays (9-14)

Updated Prediction...
Boston Red Sox
New York Yankees
Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles

Boston still looks rock solid. What a pitching staff. In fact, they could handle losing Dice-K, Brad Penny, and even Josh Beckett (who suddenly forgot how to pitch) because Bowden & Bucholz are wasting bullets in Pawtucket, while John Smoltz is resting his arm at extended spring training. I think that Michael Bowden is one of the best young pitchers in all of baseball because of the speed, movement, and location of his stuff, combined with the deceptive delivery and obvious physical tools. Frankly, I'm not sure he gets much more of an opportunity than Masterson got last year, which seems odd since at least 29 other teams in baseball are starving for pitching. Just three days ago, I told a friend that I was glad I had picked the Yankees to finish 3rd because "they stink". They really were stinking it up, with a 9-10 record, but that was before they got back-to-back quality performances from Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain. If they can get solid innings from those two young guys, along with in-their-prime Sabathia & Burnett, and the unflappable veteran, Andy Pettite, they will make the playoffs. The real questions in this division are if the Blue Jays are for real, and if the Rays are in line for a disappointing year in between where they finished the last two years. I'm sticking with the Rays at least through May, but wouldn't be surprised if the Jays leapfrog over them in my June 1 predictions.

AL Central
Current Standings

Kansas City Royals (12-10)
Detroit Tigers (11-10)
Chicago White Sox (11-10)
Minnesota Twins (11-11)

Cleveland Indians (8-14)
Updated Prediction...

Minnesota Twins
Detroit Tigers
Cleveland Indians
Kansas City Royals
Chicago White Sox

- Here we go again. I still do not feel confident picking anyone in this division. On Opening Day, we thought the Twins had a chance, but they could suffer too much from missing Joe Mauer. Well, Mauer is scheduled to come back today and
they are only one game out of first place. So, I'm going with Gardenhire's boys to get to the top of the division. I like Detroit for 2nd because it looks like Verlander is back, they got the better end of the Matt Joyce for Edwin Jackson trade, Porcello still looks like he belongs, the bullpen is starting to come together, and Miguel Cabrera really is the Pujols of the American League. The Royals have been a great surprise and have heard whispers that they are "the next Tampa Bay". I don't really see that because they don't have anything near the lineup that the Rays had last year.

AL West

Current Standings
Seattle Mariners (13-9)

Texas Rangers (10-11)
LA Angels (9-12)

Oakland A's (8-11)
Updated Prediction...
Seattle Mariners
Oakland A’s
Los Angeles Angels

Texas Rangers

- This division has become a complete cluster ____. I think each of these teams is going to have a better 2010 than 2009, but someone has to finish on top this year. Am I really picking the Mariners? Am I that gullible that about 20 games are going to skew my beliefs so much? I guess so. The reasons I feel okay about this updated prediction is that King Felix and Erik Bedard look like the best 1-2 punch in the division, their outfield defense is the best in the game, Rob Johnson behind the plate throws out a lot of baserunners, and they have the
financial ability to make trades and bring in more help if they are competitive before the trade deadline.

AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez, Mariners
AL R.O.Y.: Matt Wieters, Orioles
AL Manager: Don Wakamatsu, Mariners

NL East

Current Standings
Florida Marlins (14-8)
Philadelphia Phillies (11-9)
Atlanta (10-11)
NY Mets (9-12)
Washington Nationals (5-16)
Updated Prediction...

Philadelphia Phillies

New York Mets
Atlanta Braves
Florida Marlins
Washington Nationals

- This is the only division where our predictions didn't change from opening day. Some subtle differences in our opinions include the fact that the Phillies have been disappointing, the Mets have been almost awful, and the Marlins have been streaky, with flashes of brilliance. Jimmy Rollins has yet to get going for the Phillies, but that is only a matter of time. The Mets, besides Santana, cannot pitch which is not conducive with winning a division. However, I think the Wilpons desperately want to have a good product on the field, so they'll make changes in a few weeks if they have to. I could still see Bobby Cox and the Braves make a run, especially after Tommy Hanson joins the rotation. Josh Johnson looks like a very strong Cy Young candidate for the Marlins, and if they can get some more help in the bullpen to go along with improved offense from guys like Jeremy Hermida, Cameron Maybin, and the impressively powerful Jorge Cantu, anything can happen.

NL Central

Current Standings
St. Louis Cardinals (16-7)
Milwaukee Brewers (12-10)
Pittsburgh Pirates (11-10)
Cincinnati Reds (11-10)
Chicago Cubs (10-11)

Houston Astros (9-13)
Updated Prediction...
Chicago Cubs
St. Louis Cardinals
Milwaukee Brewers
Cincinnati Reds
Pittsburgh Pirates
Houston Astros

- My opinions here haven't changed much, except for the fact that the Cardinals are actually
good and the Cubs, right now, are terrible. They do not look like a winning club. Sure, they have some thunder in the lineup and some solid arms in the rotation, but the bullpen and depth are humongous question marks. Let me take that back. Depth is a question mark, but the bullpen is a disaster. I cannot even stand the sight of Kevin Gregg. With all of these problems, why do we still have the Cubs at the top? I think things can change. They can certainly get hot. Their MVP, Aramis Ramirez, has been out for quite a few games this year, but when he plays, he rakes. They can still trade for more pitchers. Another starter would really help the bullpen by getting Sean Marshall in there and hopefully moving Neal Cotts as far away from the team as possible.

The rest of the division screams .500 at best, and it pains me to put the Astros in last place since some of our more loyal readers are Astros fans. That being said, I reserve the right to not be surprised if they are in contention after winning 35 out of 40 games in August/September.

NL West
Current Standings
Los Angeles Dodgers (15-8)
San Diego Padres (11-11)
San Francisco Giants (10-10)
Arizona Diamondbacks (9-13)
Colorado Rockies (8-12)
Updated Prediction...
Los Angeles Dodgers
San Francisco Giants
Arizona Diamondbacks
Colorado Rockies
San Diego Padres

- I've learned in the past four weeks to remember that Sandy Alderson, Kevin Towers, and Grady Fuson know much more about this game than I ever will
. The Padres are much better that what I called "the worst team in baseball". Still, I think this month could have been the aberration and they will still finish in last place; we'll see. The Rockies and D'backs look flawed and unhealthy losing Jeff Francis and Brandon Webb, respectively, for some time. The Giants look much improved and can definitely pitch, but I think this will be a division that is settled early because the Dodgers will run away with it.

NL MVP: Albert Pujols, Cardinals
NL Cy Young: Johan Santana, Mets
NL R.O.Y.: Dexter Fowler, Rockies
NL Manager: Tony La Russa, Cardinals (yuck!)

Postseason Predictions

Phillies over Cubs
Dodgers over Cardinals
Dodgers over Phillies
Red Sox over Mariners
Yankees over Twins
Red Sox over Yankees

2009 World Series
Red Sox over Dodgers

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