OK, none of this start in Japan or, as the Nationals have on their field, “Opening Week” nonsense…Monday is Opening Day, so as far as I’m concerned these are on time. If you want, watch the season anyway, but this is what’s going to happen.
The Josh Beckett injury will come into play, and the fact is that the Yankees’ aren’t much changed from last year. Look for the Sox to take a step back, the Yanks to stay the course, and that will be enough for the Yanks to win the division. As for the excitement about the Devil Rays, they will improve, but we need to calm down a bit about this team. Baseball Prospectus projects they win 88 games…if the Rays win that many, I’ll eat a Devil Ray (the animal, not a player, though I’d eat Rick Peterson if it would bring Kazmir back to the Mets.)
I know everyone’s raving about Detroit, but pitching wins, and Cleveland still has more of it than the Tigers do. This is a two-horse race by the All-Star break.
Forget the hype about the Mariners. They can’t score, and Bedard and Felix Hernandez only pitch 2 games every 5. The Angels pitching has been hit by the injury bug, but they still win this division by 5+ games. My friends over at BP actually say the A’s will be better than the Mariners, but I don’t buy it. Oakland takes a step back this year.
Forgotten in all the talk about Brandon Webb and Dan Haren is Randy Johnson. Expect the Unit to miss time with his balky back, but when he pitches he’ll be effective more often than not. So good young bats make the D’Backs the class here. I know the Dodgers have gotten a lot of love, but I don’t buy it. What I do buy is the Giants struggling to win 70 games…I say they miss.
I know everyone seems to be picking the Cubs, but I don’t quite get why. I don’t love their pitching as much as a lot of other people seem to, and I just think the Brewers are on the rise and that continues this year.
Call it a homer pick if you want, but look at it this way: The Mets’ collapse last season obscured an 88 win season. A historic collapse is unlikely to occur again. How have the Mets gotten worse? Church over Shawn Green? A wash worst case, an improvement best. Schneider over LoDuca. Two years ago I wouldn’t have said this, but right now I’ll take Schneider’s staff control over LoDuca’s presence, which was his greatest gift and wore out. A full year of Luis Castillo at 2B is an improvement, and Pedro and Santana replace Glavine and Jorge Sosa/El Duque. That’s a big improvement, and the reason the Mets take the division. I think the Braves top the Phillies, too, as the Phils have too many pitching questions right now, and I’m no big fan of Pedro Feliz or Geoff Jenkins at this point in their careers. I will say, though, that the idea that anyone is counting on something from Mike Hampton is purely comical. What could stop the Mets? Health, obviously. But I’m betting on Delgado not being worse than last year even if he’s no better, and a big year from Pedro, who’s playing for a contract and to retain his “Acehood.” For someone like Pedro, this matters.
Tigers over Yankees
Indians over Angels
Indians over Tigers
Mets over Brewers
Diamondbacks over Braves
Mets over Diamondbacks
Mets over Indians
If there’s one thing wrong in these predictions, it’s that the D’Backs absolutely can knock off the Mets, in what should be a great pitched series. But I still think whoever wins that series wins it all. Injuries could just as easily put the Mets in third in their division…that’s how fragile things are for this team. I’m putting a lot of faith in Pedro, honestly. We’ll see if that is rewarded.
Now let’s play ball!