2008 MLB Predictions
It’s that time of year again, when college students drive who-knows-where and do who-knows-what for spring break, and Major League Baseball teams are breaking camp in Florida and Arizona to start playing games that matter. Technically, the season’s already started, with Oakland and Boston splitting their two games in Tokyo. Before I get into my picks, I really want to address the whole “regular season games in Japan” thing.
I don’t like it.
I’m all for the globalization of baseball, but the trip isn’t fair to Boston and it certainly isn’t fair to Oakland, who will be the only team in baseball not to play 81 home games. It’s a brutal trip for games that count. Play exhibitions there, take off-season trips there, but don’t play regular season games in Japan. They have their own leagues. I’m not even a fan of playing games in Toronto. Move them into the States. You shouldn’t need a passport to play baseball.Alright though, enough on that. Here are my picks for the 2008 season.
1. Boston Red Sox: 95-67
They’re the defending World Series champs who really didn’t make a bad move all winter. Josh Beckett’s back is probably fine, and his “15-day DL” trip will cost him a whopping 4 games. Losing Curt Schilling only hurts if another starter goes down, and if he’s blocking a Jon Lester or Clay Buchholz, it’s probably better this way anyways. Another negative about that injury is that it gives him more time to write his pathetic blog.
2. New York Yankees: 91-71
The Yankees season depends on their pitching. If everything pans out accoring to plan, this Yankees team wins 100 games. If not, they could struggle to win 90. They’re relying on Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain to solidify an aging pitching staff and are also counting on rebound years from players like Johnny Damon, Bobby Abreu and Jason Giambi. Almost regular season time and the bullpen still isn’t settled.
3. Toronto Blue Jays: 86-76
They’re in a tough place. I think they should have made a move in a year when Boston’s getting old and New York’s banking on unknowns. But they stayed relatively quiet and their biggest offseason acquisition (3B Scott Rolen), is down for awhile with a broken finger. I wouldn’t have expected much else from the vastly overrated Scott Rolen.
4. Tampa Bay Rays: 82-80
What’s this? An over-.500 finish for the perennial cellar-dwellers? I like the young talent they’ve accumulated and I love the young talent that hasn’t quite reached the bigs yet. A name change, uniform change and a new stadium definitely are moving this franchise in the right direction.
5. Baltimore Orioles: 65-97
They did what they needed to do. It’s not going to be pretty, and it’ll hurt pretty bad this year, but they’ll be glad they did it in a few years.
1. Cleveland Indians: 90-72
I still stand by the old truth that pitching wins. And I like Cleveland’s pitching ten times more than I do Detroit’s. I really think they need to add a bat before the trade deadline to put them over the top, but the division is down a little from previous seasons. There aren’t many 1-2s better than Sabathia/Carmona, and the bullpen is still a strength.
2. Detroit Tigers: 89-73
I don’t see Dontrelle Willis getting any better in the American League. Maybe he’ll be more motivated in Detroit, but I wouldn’t count on it. The offense could be historically good, but the rotation is paper-thin and the bullpen can’t stay healthy. Curtis Granderson’s injury won’t help any either.
3. Chicago White Sox: 77-85
Bought when they should have sold. They wasted a lot of money and a lot of young talent to finish third. I didn’t understand the re-signing of Uribe after the trade for Orlando Cabrera. Nick Swisher helps a lineup desperate for OBP, but keeping Joe Crede over Josh Fields is one of the dumbest moves of the spring for any team. They’d also be better off without that whackjob, Ozzie Guillen.
4. Kansas City Royals: 75-87
Dayton Moore’s doing an admirable job slowly brining the Royals back. But their new High-def video board is pretty much the only thing they’ve got to look forward to this year.
5. Minnesota Twins: 71-91
Overplayed their hand with Johan Santana and then got a better return on their next best pitcher, Matt Garza. Also lost innings-eater Carlos Silva to Seattle. They’ll depend on some promising young pitching, but unlike the Yankees, they don’t have the offense to bail them out.
1. Anaheim Angels: 96-66
John Lackey’s out for at least a month and Kelvim Escobar may be done for the year, so suddenly a preseason strength turns into a slight question mark. What they really need to do is swap one of those six starting outfielders they have for an insurance arm. I still think they have enough to hold off Seattle, but now only just.
2. Texas Rangers: 80-82
I like the direction of the team and the farm system. Still a few years away from contention, but they’re definitely making forward progress after several years of not.
3. Seattle Mariners: 78-84
Gave up a ton of young talent to get two years of Erik Bedard so they better win now. With Anaheim’s pitching injuries, this could be the year that Seattle steals a division, but their offense needs to hit and JJ Putz must have another superb season.
4. Oakland Athletics: 70-92
They gto a ton back for Dan Haren & Co. but they certainly aren’t going to win this year or anytime soon. Moneyball is nice, but hasn’t really paid ultimate dividends for Beane and his A’s.
1. New York Mets: 96-66
Johan Santana is worth about 8 wins or so for any National League team and I expect him to completely dominate the National League and make the Mets the favorite to reach the World Series. This team must stay healthy and effective because it’s slim pickings in the farm system now.
2. Atlanta Braves: 86-76
There should be some concern about how well the rotation will hold up, but the offense should be a go once they settle on a centerfielder to replace Andruw Jones. They’re at a Catch-22 with Mark Teixeira because they need him to have a big season and then re-sign him, but it’s unlikely both will happen.
3. Philadelphia Phillies: 85-77
They got hot at the right time last year, and I don’t think it’ll hold over to this year. They need a healthy Brad Lidge to balance a rather unstable bullpen and they’ll need to replace Aaron Rowand’s bat and glove.
4. Washington Nationals: 76-86
They’ve brought in some questionable character guys which could pay large dividends and they’ll christen a new ballpark on Opening Day, but there’s not too much else to get excited about.
5. Florida Marlins: 72-90
No Willis, no Cabrera, no chance. They’re making strides for a new ballpark, but Dolphin Stadium may be in for a few more 325-attendance games. The offense will still score runs with Dan Uggla (I have his bat) and Hanley Ramirez, but it’s a long chance the pitching will do much.
1. Chicago Cubs: 89-73
They’ll feast on pathetic division competition and then be knocked out in the first round of the playoffs, just like last year. I don’t see Fukudome turning out to be another Ichiro-caliber player and Ryan Dempster’s lying through his teeth when he says the Cubs will win the World Series. Happy 100th, Cubs!
2. Milwaukee Brewers: 85-77
The pitching is hit or miss most days and they’re moving their players all over the diamond. They’ll be right around where they were last year. The Brewers would also be smart to follow the trend of other teams and start locking their young stars (Fielder, Braun) up long-term or they’ll end up losing them.
3. Houston Astros: 74-88
They stripped their farm system for this? They didn’t address their pitching enough and after Roy Oswalt, there’s nothing. They’ll probably continue losing 8-7 type games and blowing leads early and late.
4. St. Louis Cardinals: 74-88
Their starting pitching might be thinner than even Houston’s. Kyle Lohse helps some, but not immensely — he’ll eat innings. If Pujols needs Tommy John surgery, this season will be a complete waste of time. Troy Glaus should help a struggling offense some, but he’s nothing close to what Rolen was defensively at third base. He’s healthy though, for now.
5. Cincinnati Reds: 72-90
The Reds have put together a pretty good group of young prospects and they’ll spend this year learning and adjusting. Just not contending.
6. Pittsburgh Pirates: 71-91
Pittsburgh has some promising young pitching (Snell, Gorzelanny, Duke and Capps) but they’re going to need a long time and a lot of moves to start contending again. They should move Jason Bay and start rebuilding. Again.
1. Arizona Diamondbacks: 88-74
Haren upgrades the rotation, but they gave up a lot to get him. They had a lot of luck on their side last year and will probably fall off a little this year, but with the continued development of their young hitters (Drew, Upton, Young) they should slip by with the division.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers: 86-76
They underperform so frequently and consistently, it’s easy not to pick the most talented team in the division to finish second. Joe Torre plans to start Juan Pierre over Andre Ethier, and the rotation should, but won’t include left-handed gem, Clayton Kershaw.
3. San Diego Padres: 86-76
Same ol’, same ol’. A ton of good pitching, and a dearth of hitting. I don’t understand why they let Mike Cameron go and replaced him with Jim Edmonds of all people. Mike Cameron with a 25-game suspension is still move valuable than the post-2004 Jim Edmonds, both offensively and defensively.
4. Colorado Rockies: 81-81
Another team rolling the dice on young pitching and another team that probably won’t have the same amount of luck as they did last year. They, like the Phillies simply got hot at the right time and in the right league. That beatdown they suffered in the World Series isn’t likely to help the mindset of that team.
5. San Francisco Giants: 70-92
They’ve got some great young pitchers, but no hitting. They overpaid to see Aaron Rowand’s offense fall off the map and are stuck with Barry Zito for six more years.
And after every season comes the postseason. It’s why you play the regular season, yet once you reach the playoffs, nothing you did for the past six months really matters anymore.
Boston Red Sox vs. Cleveland Indians: Cleveland is one team that can match Boston’s front end of the rotation and will hit enough to dismiss the defending world champs early in October. I like Cleveland in 5.
Anaheim Angels vs. New York Yankees (WC): If Kelvim Escobar truly is done for the season, I like the Yankees even more. New York’s offense will be too relentless even for Anaheim. I like the Yankees in 4 to win their first playoff series since 2004.
New York Mets vs. Arizona Diamondbacks: If you only have to win 3 games out of 5, I like whichever team can pitch Johan Santana in two of them. Meaning I’ll take the Mets in 4.
Chicago Cubs vs. Atlanta Braves: Something in me doesn’t correlate “Cubs” and “playoffs.” But maybe this year is different. Cubs in 3.
Cleveland Indians vs. New York Yankees: If it weren’t for midges, these two teams would have played an epic five-game series last fall. I like the Yankees in 7 in the rematch. If I’m a Yankees fan, I’m worried about calling Chien-Ming Wang my ace and matching him up against a CC Sabathia of Fausto Carmona. I’d start Wang in Game 3, and go with Pettitte (if healthy) in Game 1, followed by Phil Hughes in Game 2. Cleveland’s pitching is good, but just as in the case with Anaheim, a healthy and hot New York offense will be too much for a really good Indians club.
NLCSNew York Mets vs. Chicago Cubs: If the Cubs can find someone to step up other than Carlos Zambrano in their rotation, I like their chances facing Johan Santana and the rest of the Amazin’s. But this series will come down to the bullpens and as long as Kerry Wood is healthy, the Cubs win in 6.
World Series 2008
New York Yankees vs. Chicago Cubs: 99 years is such a long time to wait for a championship, making it 100 won’t make no one no nevermind. As long as the young pitchers for the Yankees do their job, it’ll be the Yankees in 6.
So those are my 2008 picks. Love ’em or hate ’em, there they are. I’ll disclaim here that I’ve picked the Yankees to win the World Series every year since 1998. So I’m at 30% in the past 10 years. Which, in baseball would net me a pretty hefty contract if I hit .300 over the course of 10 years. I also managed to predict seven of the eight playoff teams correctly last year, only missing Colorado. However, I was dismal picking the playoff series. Only had Boston of the Championship Series teams advancing. Interpret them how you will. Boston’s only playing at a .500 clip so far. Doubt that will trend will hold true over 160 more games. Same for Oakland.