Saturday, March 29, 2014

2014 MLB Preseason Predictions

Well, 2013 was one of those years where you just couldn't predict the outcome with the Red Sox winning the World Series after the previous 2 seasons they found ways to enter the laughing stock of the sports world by choking away the division in 2011 and in 2012 joining the circus of teams at the bottom. In 2013, nothing was impossible as they put everything together, Big Papi became superman once again and their pitching staff decided to stop eating wings and drinking beer in the clubhouse (at least that's what we know) along with the Boston Strong motivation from the marathon bombing. So how are we going to predict 2014? Let's look at all the big moves in each division in each league before we get down to each divisional prediction.

A.L. East

In a division with so much turnover in the past year with the Boston Red Sox winning the title, this is still one of the roughest divisions in baseball top to bottom. The signing of Nelson Cruz should bolster an already loaded hitting club in Baltimore along with the signing of Ubaldo Jimenez who a couple years ago was one of the best pitchers in the game. The Yankees also signed a ton of older talent to get them over the top this season (Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian Roberts, Carlos Beltran, and Masahiro Tanaka) the only problem, they literally have no bullpen and that's not just because of the departure of Mariano Rivera a year ago. The Blue Jays look like another couple years away from contending, but Joey Bats should keep them entertaining all season, along with another masher like Edwin Encarnacion. When you have a guy like R.A. Dickey (who is the definition of inconsistent throughout his career) leading your pitching staff, you really have everything to fear when it comes to being in contention. The Rays will be very good this season as they have a very balanced lineup with all their pieces seeming to be intact. The one piece that will need to fulfill his role this season is the young stud in Will Myers who lit it up his rookie season but he needs to avoid a sophomore slump to give the Rays any hope of making it into the postseason. They still have David Price, but if their lineup can't get the job done, then the Rays might as well pack it in early because if they don't score runs, that pitching staff looks a little iffy outside of the top two starters. Finally the Red Sox. They have the pitching staff to compete with anybody and if they perform anywhere similar to a year ago, they have the defense to push for a playoff spot, but they did lose quite a bit when Jacoby Ellsbury went to the Yankees. They still have Big Papi, but hopefully he doesn't fall off they map like he did in years previous to 2013.

2-Tampa Bay 94-68
*Boston 91- 71
N.Y. Yankees 88-74
Baltimore 84-78
Toronto 78-84

I really like the Rays because of their balanced lineup, and noticing that they have 2 solid starters and a bullpen that can hang in there throughout the season, they look like they have to most well rounded team throughout the division. Boston can prove me wrong with their pitching staff, they just don't have the fire power this season to win the division. The Yankees can get in too, but they just have no bullpen and that will kill them after the All-star break if they don't find replacements or something in their farm system. Baltimore can definitely do better than 84 wins, but unless Ubaldo can come back to form (which I don't really see happening) then you might as well write them off compared to teams like Boston. Toronto can win 80 games, but everybody else is better than them in the East, so it's a push to give them that many.

A.L. Central

This division is still the Tigers versus everybody else, but it's getting tighter now as Miguel Cabrera will really need his teammates to step up after he lost his safe guard in Prince Fielder this off-season to the Texas Rangers. The Tigers have the best 1-2 punch in the game with Scherzer and Verlander and their bullpen is now bolstered with Joe Nathan to shut down the 9th. Ian Kinsler will need to be the big mamma-jamma as his addition to the Tigers is way bigger then what he may be ready for. He'll have to replace what Prince did for them by helping Cabrera keep from getting walked 3+ times a game. If Kinsler can do that, then the Tigers will be fine. There is so much youth on the Chicago White Sox that predicting this team correctly would be a curse on my health. Their starting rotation is actually pretty solid but their lineup smells of growth and a lack of experience outside of Adam Dunn and Alexei Ramirez. Paul Konerko is getting up there in age too, hence why the rebuilding process is happening in Chicago. Joe Mauer still runs the show in Minnesota and with Ron Gardenhire, anything is possible. They have an average pitching staff from top to bottom with still an unknown bullpen which should be terrifying if you are a Twins fan, and other than that, rebuilding is the name of the game as they wait for Byron Buxton in September. The Indians could make a splash this season and really challenge the Tigers within this division. They have a solid infield crew with an outfield loaded with experience. Their pitching staff could also be one of the best in baseball this season if they put everything together especially if they can get it to the 9th with Axford anchoring games. The other team that could challenge the Tigers is the Royals and if they get their 1-2-3 hitting punch in order, they have a big chance at winning the division. They have a great infield, and their starting rotation looks as though it's ready to shine this year. I could see this division actually being competitive for the first time in a while this season, but I still think the Tigers have a slight edge with Cabrera if he stays healthy.

3-Detroit 93-69
Kansas City 90-72
Cleveland 89-73
Minnesota 64-98
CHI White Sox 60-102

I can see the Royals winning 90 this year with their lineup but they can't keep up with the best 1-2 pitching punch in the game in Detroit yet. Cleveland can hang in there too, but again, not quite yet. Minnesota and Chicago, they just don't have the juice to stay relevant this season.

A.L. West

Best division in baseball (outside of the Houston Astros) period. The top 4 teams in this division can either finish 4th or finish 1st, it really all depends on who gets off to the hot start and who can hold it down during the dog days in August. As we all know the Mariners made the biggest signing within the division this past winter, but as we have seen with past signings within the division, it doesn't guarantee even a winning season (example: Angels). But, that doesn't mean they won't improve and that they can't be relevant this upcoming season. The Mariners have the tools to be a playoff contending team this season which doesn't mean they will make the playoffs, but they can be within the hunt before the Seahawks open the season. Their lineup when healthy looks as potent as what the Angels and A's and Rangers will throw out there, it all really comes down to King Felix and the rest of that starting rotation to pick up the slack. The Oakland A's are stacked everywhere and the only real question they have is within their bullpen. If they can get through the 7th and 8th inning unscathed, then this is a playoff team at worst. If everybody comes to play in the Angels organization the way they are supposed to be playing this season, then they will find themselves fighting for a top spot as well. The most irritating thing if you are a baseball purest is you are absolutely thwarted by how bad the Angels have been the past two seasons with the rosters they have put together. I think they will finally break through this season and become relevant again as everybody will get back on track. They have Raul Ibanez who somehow makes teams around him better even though he is at the ripe old age of 41 years old. The Rangers are still the Rangers, but they will look slightly different with Prince Fielder now running first base. They have the best infield in all of baseball when it comes to hitting and they have a young outfield ready to shine. The only real issue with the Rangers, who's going to show up outside of Yu Darvish? If they get anything from their pitching rotation this season, they make a playoff push, but they are basically the A.L. West's version of the New York Yankees. We are not talking about Houston. If they win 70 it's a miracle.

1-Oakland 96-66
*L.A. Angels 93-69
Texas 89-73
Seattle 83-79
Houston 59-103

This is the best division in baseball and I can see the Mariners winning 90 games if everything goes right for them. Every team in this division (except Houston) can win 90+ games this season. I just see the Oakland A's getting it done and the Angels finally breaking through the barrier of 90 wins. It wouldn't shock me if the Mariners or Rangers did the same.

A.L. Playoffs

Wildcard game: LAA over BOS

Divisional Series: TB over DET (3-1) & LAA over OAK (3-2)

League Championship: TB over LAA (4-2)

I think the Rays this year are probably the most balanced team in the American League. I really like their lineup and where they could go if all the pieces fit together. They have a fantastic starting rotation and David Price will show he is worth the long term deal this season and will get Tampa Bay to the World Series for the first time since 2008.

A.L. M.V.P.: Mike Trout LAA

A.L. Cy Young: David Price TB

(I don't predict rookie of the year, sorry)
N.L. East

Again the only real question that holds up the debate in this division, will the pitching hold up in Atlanta? If Atlanta can get to the 8th inning and have a lead, they win, plain and simple. Their lineup didn't change much other than Brian McCann leaving to the Yankees, but Evan Gattis is more than ready to step in as an immediate contributor. It really comes down to the starting rotation for Atlanta. If they can put together something in the first half of ballgames, then Atlanta could win 100 games this season. The other question, will the lineup of the Washington Nationals put together enough runs to support the outstanding pitching staff of the Washington Nationals? The Nationals have the best starting rotation in all of baseball. When you have Doug Fister as your 4th pitcher, you know big things are going to happen when it comes to your ability to hold ball games going into the 7th inning. The real question now is can Bryce Harper really mold into the player we all think he can be this season and get the youth moment out of his system so he can carry his team to the postseason. I think so and I hope so. The Phillies still have an outside shot with the rotation they have even though their lineup looks old and crusty. If they can string together a healthy 2014, they can definitely fight for a playoff spot. The Mets might also have room to gripe as they now have Curtis Granderson on the other side of the water in New York along with a starting rotation ready to shine this season. I think if Granderson stays healthy, the Mets could stay in it till the All Star break and who knows after that. The Miami Marlins still have a ways to go, but who doesn't love watching Giancarlo Stanton hit 500 foot home runs in south beach? Their bullpen has also improved by picking up Marmol and they do have the rookie of the year in Jose Fernandez, but that's about it.

1-Washington 95-67
Atlanta 87-75
Philadelphia 78-84
N.Y. Mets 77-85
Miami 67-95

The Nationals clearly have too much pitching and their lineup will get it done this season. Atlanta might as well be the N.L. version of the Yankees as they have all hitting and no pitching outside of Kimbrel. Philly and the Mets can make it interesting till about August at best but they will need some form of help at the trade deadline if they want to make a push because they cannot compete with Atlanta or Washington right now. Miami is only one or two years away if they add a couple more pieces.

N.L. Central

Last years race in this division was nothing but a classic. The Pirates, Reds, and Cardinals all made it the most entertaining division to watch in all of baseball last season as it truly did come down to the wire as to who was going to get into October. I think it may be a little different this year as there may be some switching when it comes to the top. The Reds still have two of the best players on the right side of the diamond in Votto and Phillips and they still have a solid pitching rotation. All they need to do is stay healthy, and they could see themselves riding the top of the division this season. The Cardinals only have one question this season and that is regarding the game past the 7th inning. Their bullpen causes me to wonder and I don't know if it will be good enough to help get this team into the postseason this year. They do still have a great starting rotation especially now that we know what Michael Wacha can do and if they hold true to their 2013 form, the Cardinals will always have a shot. Even though their bullpen has questions, just look at who's behind the plate in Yadier Molina, and I think everything will be just fine. The Pirates were the MLB's Cinderella last season as they made their first playoff appearance in 20 years. With the rotation they have heading into this season and the batting order they still present with the reigning N.L. M.V.P. they can still stay relevant in 2014. The Brewers took a dip last season mainly due to the Braun scandal along with injuries to guys like Aramis Ramirez and down years from their starting rotation. The Brewers can stay within the hunt in this division this season if  they can stay healthy and if they all jump back into their 2011 selves. Then... there is the Cubs. Who unfortunately do not deserve enough air time to talk about even though they do have a decent starting rotation. Just not the year for them again.

2-Cincinnati 93-69
*St. Louis 91-71
Pittsburgh 88-74
Milwaukee 82-80
CHI Cubs 64-98

The Reds will take it this season. They have a great bullpen and that is what will get them over the top this season along with great production from their lineup. The Cardinals will hang in there, but they don't have the bullpen strong enough for the division crown. Pittsburgh definitely has a chance, but I see them falling a little short this season unfortunately. Milwaukee makes a dent in the division, and they can go to the playoffs if everything falls into place, but 82 wins should be the bench mark this season. The Cubs are the Cubs, end of story.

N.L. West

Everybody thinks that just because the Dodgers pay the most money means they will win the division easily this season. Well let's try to remember one thing, they had to go on a historic rampage from June till September just to have a shot at postseason success in 2013. It also doesn't hurt that the rest of the division decided to crumble, but that is a mute point heading into 2014. Arizona is good enough to compete for a playoff spot this year and maybe even spoil the Dodgers. There's one thing the Baseball gods have done over the past 5 years that is completely unpredictable and that is try to figure out the confusion of the N.L. West. This division is crazy year in and year out. The Giants win it, Dodgers, and D'Backs all in a row and the consistency is terrifyingly awful the past 3 years. So good luck to anybody who thinks the Dodgers are a lock to win the division. I actually think this could be the year that the Rockies decide to put their stamp on the division, remember they keep getting hurt and ever since 2007 when they went to the World Series they haven't found ways to put it all together. I think they can do it this year and finally make a name for themselves in the National League kind of like the Pirates last year. Don't ever count out the Giants either, they tend to win championships out of no where too. If they can get on a hot streak and their starting rotation holds up, they may find themselves in the postseason too. And how about the San Diego Padres.... possibly but not yet. They need to prove it still.

3-Arizona 92-70
*Colorado 89-73
L.A. Dodgers 88-74
San Francisco 81-81
San Diego 63-99

This will be another year that the N.L. West is unpredictable as the last 3 seasons have proven with the inconsistency of the division. The D'Backs don't have the pressure on them like the Dodgers do and neither do the Rockies. The Giants can make it, but I think their lineup may need one more big bat to stay relevant this season. The Padres have a slim chance to compete within this division this season, but I could be wrong in the N.L. West and I don't plan on being correct anyways considering its history this decade.

N.L. Playoffs

Wildcard Game: COL over STL

Divisional Series: WAS over COL (3-1) & CIN over ARZ (3-1)

League Championship: CIN over WAS (4-3)

The Reds have the best Bullpen in baseball when healthy. The Nationals have the best starting rotation in baseball when healthy. But, the better lineup is in Cincinnati. I think the Nationals are good enough to get to the World Series, but they do not have any experience and Cincinnati does. In the postseason, experience is key as the young guys in Washington could also be gassed by the time Game 7 happens as it will be the longest guys like Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg have ever played in their lives. They have the talent, but can they follow through against a team like the Reds, it will be close.

N.L. M.V.P.: Bryce Harper WAS

N.L. Cy Young: Stephen Strasburg WAS
This baseball season is going to be great no matter what happens but I think my World Series Prediction might be a little more difficult to predict than what other major media outlets will be picking this season. The Nationals will need to have great performances across the board to make it to the postseason and make a deep run but they are not quite there yet when it comes to their maturity. The Reds and Rays have teams that have been ready for this moment for a while and both should be relatively good matchups against each other. I think the Reds have a better pitching staff overall but the Rays are way to balanced to be messed with and what the Rays can do by changing up the game to small or long ball, that will be the difference.

2014 World Series Prediction: TB over CIN (4-2)

M.V.P.: Evan Longoria

It should be an awesome season everybody! Enjoy

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