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
1. Tampa Bay
2. New York
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.
3. Kansas City
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.
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.
Yankees and Angels – the Jays could sneak in here, but I think they are one year away.
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
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.
2. St. Louis
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.
1. San Francisco
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.
Miami and St. Louis
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
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
Wildcard Round – Angels over Yankees
ALDS – Rays over Angels, Rangers over Tigers
ALCS – Rangers over Rays
Wild Card Round – Cardinals over Marlins
NLDS – Phillies over Cardinals, Giants over Reds
NLCS – Phillies over Giants
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.