Let’ start with a prediction for game No. 1 on Sunday Night Baseball:
Phillies 6 Braves 4 - Brett Myers dominates once through the order, but runs into trouble from the 4th inning til the 6th. No worries. Ryan Howard lights up the sky with a bomb. The rest of the Phillies’ lineup is too much for Atanta’s bullpen.
American League West
1. Oakland Athletics 2. Texas Rangers 3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 4. Seattle Mariners
Justification: A little off the map. The Angels are expected to take this division. Evidently, I don’t think so. They have lost one of the best shut down closers in baseball and replaced him with Manny Corpas, who is good, but is no where near as good as K-Rod.
Their pitching staff will be exposed this season. John Lackey is not consistently healthy, Joe Saunders had a break out season last year, but it still wasn’t that good. Are they relying on Kelvim Escobar to be the pitcher he was?
Their offense will not be good enough to compensate for their pitching. Vladimir Guerriro and Bobby Abreu are both getting older. Oh yeah, they lost Mark Teixeira, too. Oakland is going to surprise.
Matt Holliday’s numbers are expected to go down, but he will still be a productive player. Their pitching is young and unproven, but I will take the underdog any time. Texas’ pitching sucks, but their offense is incredible.
American League Central
1. Cleveland Indians 2. Minnesota Twins 3. Detroit Tigers 4. Chicago White Sox 5. Kansas City Royals
Justification: The Indians made some subtle moves over the past year to make their team amazing. They picked up Mark DeRosa and Kerry Wood is separate deals from the Cubs and acquired Anthony Reyes from the Cards.
While I am not expecting last season’s numbers from Cliff Lee, I am expecting a come back season from Fausto Carmona. Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner look ready to produce (more than last year, anyway) and they can now feel safe in close games in the ninth inning.
American League East
1. New York Yankees 2. Tampa Bay Rays 3. Boston Red Sox 4. Toronto Blue Jays 5. Baltimore Orioles
Justification: The Yankees have the best offense in baseball. Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez in the same lineup from May until September will be dangerous. I expect a come back year from Robinson Cano.
I think he is the X-factor to this team. He can make this offense go from an A to an A++. Nick Swisher is a great bat off the bench. The Boston Red Sox are getting a little old for me.
Their pitching a great, but Josh Beckett is getting a little exposed and there is nobody in the lineup anymore to protect Big Papi. As much as the Red Sox hated Manny Ramirez, he made a huge difference in the lineup. They have no replaced that bat, and they will pay for it.
National League West
1. Los Angeles Dodgers 2. San Francisco Giants 3. Arizona Diamondbacks 4. Colorado Rockies 5. San Diego Padres
Justification: Will not be as smooth a ride as one may think. Hiroki Kuroda as your opening day starter? Yeah, your pitching has questions. Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw are entering their second full seasons and are still getting their feet wet. A nice surprise will be James Macdonald as the fifth starter.
Never fear, however, Manny Ramirez and Orlando Hudson will lead the way. I like the Giants this year.
I believe that Barry Zito will have his best year since signing that ridiculous contract, Jonathan Sanchez will become a Randy Johnson of the new generation, and Randy Johnson will still be Randy Johnson, just a little older. Their offense will be productive enough to win games.
National League Central
1. Chicago Cubs 2. St Louis Cardinals 3. Milwaukee Brewers 4. Cincinnati Reds 5. Houston Astros 6. Pittsburgh Pirates
Justification: The Cubs are the class of the NL central. They have the best staff in baseball and a great offense. I was tempted to put Cincinnati a little higher, but I guess I am sobering up a little. Cincinnati will be good, though...really good. Harang, Cueto, Volquez, Arroyo and Owings is a really nice staff.
Mix that with the breakout bats of Jay Bruce and Joey Votto, and you have a recipe for a lot of wins in a susceptible NL central.
National League East
1. New York Mets 2. Philadelphia Phillies 3. Florida Marlins 4. Atlanta Braves 5. Washington Senators
Justification: All the Mets needed to do was clean up their bullpen. They did exactly that by signing JJ Putz and Francisco Rodriguez.
They did not really make an improvements on offense, but they did not need to. Carlos Delgado will not have as good a year as last year, but he doesn’t need to with Wright, Reyes, Beltran and.. Sheffield? Why again did they sign Gary Sheffield?
Are they really expecting him to play outfield? Come on. Really unnecessary, but whatever. I guess this is their big offensive addition. Low risk-high reward, I guess. I wanted to put the Florida Marlins ahead of the Phillies too. But the whole sober thing. Florida will be very good.
Their pitching staff is under-rated because of their youth, but they are all legit. Hanley Ramirez will be top three in MVP voting.
American League Divisional Series
New York Yankees over Oakland Athletics
Tampa Bay Devil Rays over Cleveland Indians
National League Divisional Series
Chicago Cubs over Philadelphia Phillies
New York Mets over The Dodgers of California in Los Angeles
American League Championship Series
New York Yankees over Tampa Bay Devil Rays
National League Championship Series
New York Mets over Chicago Cubs
New York Yankees over New York Mets
AL Rookie of the Year - Travis Snider, Toronto Blue Jays. The last time a Blue Jay won this award was Eric Hinske. For Jays fans, let’s hope Snider’s career goes the opposite way.
NL Rookie of the Year - Jordan Zimmermann. The only bright spot for the Nationals.
AL Cy Young- AJ Burnett. Burnett is finally living up to his hype. He has spent the last four years under the tutelage of the best pitcher in baseball—Roy Halladay, and AJ will carry what he learned to New York. He has proved he can pitch in the AL East and he will continue to dominate batters with his three-pitch arsenal.
Burnett will also emerge as the leader of the pitching staff. In Toronto, he brought the staff together, and already in Spring Training, all of the Yankee pitchers are coming together and supporting one another. All of this initiated by Burnett.
NL Cy Young - Johan Santana. A few people are picking darkhorse, Yovani Gallardo, as their pick. He will be very good this season, but not better or not more important to his team that Santana. There are two things going to Santana this year: new stadium and improved bullpen.
Citi Bank Field is perceived as a pitcher’s ballpark. It is a little bigger than Shea, and the outfield wall is a little funky. The Mets’ bullpen cost them the playoffs and also cost Santana a few wins. Those few extra wins go a long way when writers are voting for their Cy Young.
AL MVP - Mark Teixeira. He will have a monster year. With so much protection around him, there is no way he doesn’t produce. I think it is Teixeira’s time to be recognized as one of the best hitters in the league. Why not do it in a new stadium in the Big Apple. Runner up: Josh Hamilton.
NL MVP - Manny Ramirez. He’s a difference maker wherever he goes. With the Dodgers winning the pennant this with a whole season with Manny being Manny, Ramirez has a good shot at this.