2012 MLB Season Predictions

Although Opening Day of the 2012 Major League Baseball season has technically already happened (they love Ichiro in Japan don’t they?) for most of us Opening Day is just around the corner.  Fresh off the 2011 World Series, the Pujols-less St. Louis Cardinals face the brand new Miami Marlins in brand new Marlins Park tomorrow night at 7 PM, and with that the 2012 season will be off and running.

Over the past week and a half, 500 Level Fan has posted a preview of each of MLB’s six divisions.  Now, with Opening Day right upon us, it’s time to up the ante.  No more “previewing”.  It’s now time to “predict”.  

As always, my predictions should not be wagered upon by anybody, because they will likely all be wrong. 

Like last year, the 500 Level Fan predictions column will split over two days.  Today I’m going to cover MLB predictions, including final standings, playoff results, award winners, and some miscellaneous categories.  Tomorrow I’ll put my focus on the Blue Jays, with some individual and team predictions. 

So sit back, read on, try not to laugh, and get ready to comment. 

American League Predictions

East

1. Tampa Bay

2. New York

3. Toronto

4. Boston

5. Baltimore

Thoughts: A full year of Matt Moore, bringing back a 1B with power (Carlos Pena), and a bounce back year from Evan Longoria (no way he hits in the .240’s again) make Tampa the favourite.  Nervous about Farnsworth at closer, but he proved he could handle it last year…..The Yankees are getting older, and Curtis Granderson is a huge regression candidate.  I don’t think Pineda will adjust well to the AL East either…..Why can’t Toronto finish ahead of Boston?  They have the talent, just need the pitching to come together…..Speaking of pitching, the Red Sox only seem to have three starters, and their closer might need thumb surgery.  Plus, Carl Crawford proved in 2011 that he stinks…..Baltimore might be finally moving in the right direction, but for now they are still terrible.  They might lose 100 games.

Central

1. Detroit

2. Cleveland

3. Kansas City

4. Minnesota

5. Chicago

Thoughts: Detroit dominated this division last year, and now add Prince Fielder.  But moving Cabrera to third is dangerous, and there is a very real chance that Verlander and Avila regress a bit.  They still win but it might be closer than you think…..Cleveland surprised many last year but bring a team full of question marks into 2012.  Can they hit?  Will Ubaldo bounce back?  Can Masterson repeat 2011?  I think they push the Tigers, for a few months anyways…..Kansas City is a year away, but have all kinds of good pieces in place to challenge for a .500 finish…..Mauer and Morneau both bounce back a bit, but not enough for Minny to challenge for the playoffs…..Dunn, Rios, and Beckham can’t possibly get worse, so there’s that. 

West

1. Texas

2. Anaheim

3. Seattle

4. Oakland

Thoughts: The Rangers add two new starters (Yu Darvish and 2011 closer Neftali Feliz) and a new closer (Joe Nathan), but how deeply will falling one strike short of the championship last year impact them?  I say they still have enough to hold off the Angels…..The story of the winter, LA has quite possibly the best rotation in the majors, and Albert Pujols.  But they still have Vernon Wells, Torii Hunter, and Bobby Abreu…..Seattle can’t possibly have a worse offense than last year can they?  With full seasons from Ackley, Montero, Carp (though he’s on the DL), and Smoak, plus a bounce back year from Ichiro, I say no…..Oakland has no chance, but with Cespedes and (maybe) Manny, they’ll at least be fun to watch on SportsCentre.  

Wildcards

Yankees and Angels – the Jays could sneak in here, but I think they are one year away.

Stat Leaders

HR – Jose Bautista, TOR – he might eclipse 50 again

RBI – Miguel Cabrera, DET

Average – Albert Pujols, LAA

SB – Brett Gardner, NYY

Wins – CC Sabathia, NYY

ERA – Dan Haren, LAA

K – Brandon Morrow, TOR

Sv – Joe Nathan, TEX

Awards & Miscellany

MVP – Miguel Cabrera, DET

Cy Young – Dan Haren, LAA

Rookie – Matt Moore, TB

Manager – John Farrell, TOR

Bounceback Player – Colby Rasmus, TOR

Most Disappointing Player – Josh Beckett, BOS

First Major Player Traded – Nick Markakis, BAL

National League Predictions

East

1. Philadelphia

2. Miami

3. Atlanta

4. Washington

5. N.Y. Mets

Thoughts: Despite injury problems with Howard and Utley, Philadelphia – though aging – is still the premier team in the division . Their 1-3 starters are second to none…..Expect big years from Stanton, Ramirez, and Reyes, and a complete disaster from Carlos Zambrano.  Still good enough for second…..Atlanta has great pitching but there is suddenly some injury concern with the rotation.  Heyward must bounce back…..Washington will be fun, but 2013 is their year…..Now that the off-field distractions appear to be over, maybe the Mets will surprise us.  Probably not though.

Central

1. Cincinnati

2. St. Louis

3. Milwaukee

4. Pittsburgh

5. Chicago

6. Houston

Thoughts: Extending Votto calms fears of his imminent departure and gets the focus back on the field.  Latos gives them a quality top of the rotation starter, and Aroldis Chapman gives them the biggest X-factor in the division, enough to take them to the top…..Nothing offsets the loss of Albert Pujols, but adding Beltran to Berkman and Holliday, and bringing Wainwright back from Tommy John will keep the team competitive…..Adding Aramis Ramirez does not make up for a suddenly fragile Marcum, the loss of Fielder, and a full season of Braun drama…..Is this the year that Pittsburgh finally finishes .500?  500 Level Fan says………YES!!!!…..When the biggest name on your team is your GM, you know you’re in trouble.  Sorry Cubbies…..Houston will be historically awful.  I almost feel bad for them.

West

1. San Francisco

2. Arizona

3. Colorado

4. Los Angeles

5. San Diego

Thoughts: I’m assuming the Giants finally smarten up and give at-bats to Brandon Belt. That plus the return of Posey and a lights-out pitching staff puts San Fran back in the playoffs…..Arizona played a bit over their heads last year, but have improved the rotation and still have MVP candidate Justin Upton.  It will be close…..Colorado will be fun to watch if only for 49-year old Jamie Moyer making the starting rotation.  A great story…..New ownership will not bring on-field success, not even with Kemp and Kershaw – at least not this year…..San Diego has some exciting pieces.  Interested to see how many bombs Yonder Alonso hits in Petco Park.  

Wildcards

Miami and St. Louis

Stat Leaders

HR – Giancarlo Stanton, MIA

RBI – Joey Votto, CIN

Average – Joey Votto, CIN

SB – Michael Bourn, ATL

Wins – Roy Halladay, PHI

ERA – Cole Hamels, PHI

K – Clayton Kershaw, LAD

Sv – Brian Wilson, SF

Awards

MVP – Joey Votto, CIN

Cy Young – Roy Halladay, PHI

Rookie – Yonder Alonso, SD

Manager – Charlie Manuel, PHI

Bounceback Player – Buster Posey, SF

Most Disappointing Player – Lance Berkman, STL

First Major Player Traded – David Wright, NYM

Playoffs 

American League

Wildcard Round – Angels over Yankees

ALDS – Rays over Angels, Rangers over Tigers

ALCS – Rangers over Rays

National League

Wild Card Round – Cardinals over Marlins

NLDS – Phillies over Cardinals, Giants over Reds

NLCS – Phillies over Giants

World Series

I picked Philadelphia last year and got burned.  This year they look to be a much weaker team loaded with injury problems.  Yet, for some reason (probably sentimentality for Halladay) I feel like the rotation will refuse to lose in 2012.  Philadlephia wins the World Series, handing the Rangers their third straight series loss.

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