This was originally going to be a post in two parts, one for each league. However, because of time constraints and family demands, I will be giving you my “cliff notes” version of my predictions in Major League Baseball for 2013. I purposely waited until right before Opening Day because how can anyone try to forecast something in January when no one has even taken the field? You would have to quantify everything with “If” and “As long as X stays healthy…”. I refuse to do that. So I wait until the weekend of Opening Day to offer my thoughts on the upcoming season. Of course, I guarantee 90% of what follows will be wrong……..maybe. So here we go in order of predicted finish:
American League East: Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox
I actually had the Yankees winning the division up until the injury bug got to General Manager Brian Cashman. Clearly, I am in the minority as I still feel the Yanks are in for a big season. Yes, I know the hitting will take a step or two back but the starting pitching will be better and the bullpen will again be rock-solid. This is the year the Rays get back to the playoffs by winning the division as David Price will win 22 games and Evan Longoria will play 140 games. Everyone loves the Jays but come on, haven’t we seen this before? Team loads up, looks unstoppable on paper, then flops in the regular season. Why, that just happened to the Marlins last year and they had current Jays Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle on the team. The O’s look to be the 2011-2012 version of the D’backs: come from nowhere to make the playoffs, then regress slightly the following season. Boston is heading in the right direction but even a 15 game improvement has them in fourth place, at best.
American League Central: Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins
Justin Verlander just signed a long-term extension, all-around good guy Torii Hunter is in the fold and Victor Martinez is back from injury. Things could not be any sweeter for the defending AL champs who should win the division easily as opposed to sweating it out in 2012. You can flip-flop the Indians and Royals who made tremendous improvements in the offseason and who will challenge for Wild Card spots. They will help make the division one of the best after being mediocre for most of the last decade. The White Sox have promising Chris Sale at the head of the rotation but loads of questions with the rest of the staff. The Sox will score a bunch of runs. General Manager Terry Ryan has wheeled and dealed in his first full offseason since returning but the Twins are still a long way off and locked into pricey deals with Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer.
American League West: Seattle Mariners, Los Angeles Angels, Oakland A’s, Texas Rangers, Houston Astros
Locking up Felix Hernandez through 2019 already made the M’s winners in 2013. They have beefed up their offense with Mike Morse and Kendrys Morales making this my most intriguing team of the year. This is the choice I am most nervous about but I wouldn’t have made it if I did not have good reasons behind it which I discuss here. The Angels have an insane lineup with Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton but the pitching is a little sketchy after Jered Weaver. Oakland had much go right for it but even the heartiest of fans could not have picked a division title in 2012. See my theory about the Orioles; however, the A’s are little better because of their pitching. I love the Texas organization but I expect them to continue to skid after a dreadful finish to their 2012 season. The blip will only be temporary. Houston will get a rude introduction to the American League but will be better than people think. Avoiding 100 losses for a third straight season will be a step in the right direction.
National League East: Philadelphia Phillies, Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves, New York Mets, Miami Marlins
Call this a last hurrah for the Phillies. They finished strong in 2012; look for that momentum to continue into this season with Cole Hamels winning the Cy Young Award. Up until about three days ago, I had Braves and Nats in second and third, respectively. Then I saw that Jonny Venters, a key member of the Atlanta bullpen would have his arm looked at by Dr. James Andrews. I also remembered that Chipper Jones retired. Washington will have Stephen Strasburg all season. That translates into Washington finishing a close second to Philadelphia. Here is what Met fans should hope for: stay somewhat competitive through the first half (no more than five games under .500). Then in the second half, they look forward to two out of every five games, the Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler starts. Another year, another torching by the Marlins that would make Nero proud. Listening to the folks at MLB Network tell us that since it didn’t work last year, it was a good thing that the team was blown up. Try telling that to fans (and taxpayers) who are footing the bill for that new stadium.
National League Central: Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs
After blowing a two games to none lead in the NLDS, the Reds are gearing up for a World Series run. After hedging all spring, the team decided to return Aroldis Chapman to the bullpen and expect to have first baseman Joey Votto healthy all season. Never, ever count out the Cardinals. They are perhaps the game’s premier organization as over the past nine seasons, they have won two World Championships, on NL pennant and two other appearances in the NLCS. The Brew Crew scores runs in bunches; they led the NL in runs scored and home runs in 2012. They just snuck in a deal for 16 game winner Kyle Lohse and are ready for another playoff push as I discuss here. The Pirates will finally break their historic losing streak but still don’t have quite enough pitching yet to contend in the tough Central division. Andrew McCutchen is one of the game’s five best players. The Cubs have something going with 1B Anthony Rizzo, SS Starlin Castro and ace Jeff Samardzija but still have a long way to go.
National League West: San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, Colorado Rockies
This is baseball’s toughest division. The Giants have won two of the last three World Series and kept just about everyone from last year’s team. They are ready to make it three out of four with the best GM-manager combo in the game with Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy plus locking up Buster Posey, this generation’s Derek Jeter. The D’backs do everything well, but nothing great. Having at least two-thirds of their starting outfield on the DL is no way to start a season. The Dodgers are loaded with money and some talent but we all know that does not necessarily translate into winning. Pity Don Mattingly who will probably pay for a non-playoff season with his job. The Padres were my intriguing NL team for 2013 but then catcher Yasmani Grandal got suspended 50 for PED’s and all world third baseman Chase Headley fractured his thumb and won’t return until at least mid-April. The Rockies boast two of the best players at their positions with shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and left fielder Carlos Gonzalez. Their pitching is still a mess waiting still to grow their first home-grown ace.
AL division winners: Rays, Tigers, Mariners AL Wild Cards: Yankees, Blue Jays
NL division winners: Phillies, Reds, Giants NL Wild Cards: Cardinals, Brewers
World Series: Reds over Rays in 7
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