I realize this is the third Opening Day of the season when you consider the games in Japan between Oakland and Seattle last week as well as last night’s St. Louis/Miami game, but I’m certainly not the only one who considers today the real Opening Day. And while there aren’t nearly enough games (just seven games), we’re not here to focus on the negative. The important thing is we have seven games sprinkled throughout the day including Justin Verlander vs. Jon Lester today at noon central! With that, it’s time for the most important part of the season: predictions. These mean SO much and they are very scientific. I expect to be held accountable to these, punishable by death.
New York Yankees 92-70
Boston Red Sox 91-71*
Tampa Bay Rays 90-72
Toronto Blue Jays 85-77
Baltimore Orioles 62-100
The Yankees would obviously be in better shape if Michael Pineda had dominated throughout Spring Training and was slotted into to their #2 slot, but Hiroki Kuroda is still an upgrade there. Even with some age regression factored into the lineup, it is still one of the best in all of baseball. A lot of people are sleeping on Boston for some reason. First let’s be clear that Andrew Bailey going down doesn’t matter AT ALL. It’s a complete non-factor and easily the most replaceable piece of the team. The guy hasn’t topped 50 innings the last two years so Bailey is especially easy to replace, but even if he were a 65-inning stalwart it wouldn’t be a problem. Few things are more overrated than closer. Their lineup is amazing, but I worry about the non-Lester rotation pieces given Josh Beckett’s health track record and the general uncertainty of the other three (Buchholz, Doubront and Bard).
This division is just so filthy. It is hard to look at that Tampa Bay rotation and not have them in the playoffs, especially since the lineup is improved from 2011, too. Honestly with a three game split from first to third, the top of this division could easily finish in any order. My guess happens to be in this order, though I would love to see Tampa-Boston-New York. Don’t sleep on Toronto, either. I don’t think they quite have the rotation to stack up top to bottom. I love Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow, but it drops off from there especially compared to Tampa Bay. There are some nice pieces in the Baltimore lineup, but the pitching staff remains rough. They need to see some major improvement from their former prospects (Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton and Chris Tillman).
Detroit Tigers 92-70
Chicago White Sox 82-80
Cleveland Indians 79-83
Kansas City Royals 73-89
Minnesota Twins 66-96
I know most of the world has my beloved Tigers going 170-0 (yes, we’re going to win 8 more games than anyone even plays) and frankly it disturbs that everyone thinks the team simply can’t lose and will run away with the AL Central. When the general public thinks a team simply cannot lose, that’s usually when they lose. Even with the curse of expectations, this is a really strong team with an amazing lineup, killer rotation and solid bullpen so it isn’t hard to see them among the AL’s best. The infield defense as a liability is massively overrated. For the few that aren’t bought in on the Tigers, this is their only real reason, but the next time that an infield defense dooms a team will be the first time. If you’ve got “Sox” in your name, it seems you’re being slept on. The White Sox are the opposite of the Red Sox in that their strength is the rotation while the lineup has some questions, but this is a great 1-5. On offense, Adam Dunn and Alex Rios simply cannot be as bad as they were in 2011.
The Indians have some really nice pieces, especially on offense, but I’m not entirely sold on the rotation top to bottom. What Ubaldo Jimenez are they going to get? Will Justin Masterson’s continued issues with lefties doom him in ’12? I like the lineup, but the rotation will keep them below .500. Kansas City isn’t quite ready for the big time, either. Love Eric Hosmer and Alex Gordon leading the lineup, but the rotation is still a mess. The bullpen will cover up some of the mess, but they need some of their pitching prospects to make an impact this year. Everyone is excited for Francisco Liriano’s 2012 based on his impressive Spring Training (33 K, 5 BB in 27 IP with 2.33 ERA and 1.11 WHIP). I’m not so sure it portends regular season success, but even if he’s peak Liriano, they still don’t have nearly enough in the rotation to compete. Add in the major injury risks littered throughout the lineup and it’s going to be another long season in the Twin Cities.
Texas Rangers 91-71
Los Angeles Angels 90-72*
Oakland Athletics 70-92
Seattle Mariners 70-92
It’s a two-horse out west with the incredibly deep Rangers powered by their disgustingly good lineup and the new look Angels led by their elite rotation and some guy named Albert. Don’t overlook the Texas rotation, though. They replaced CJ Wilson with Yu Darvish and they’ll enter the season with eight starters on the staff as Alexi Ogando, Scott Feldman and Robert Ross have all been starters during their career yet find themselves in the bullpen for now. I think Ogando is better than Neftali Feliz, but the Texas can afford to see the experiment through with Feliz since they have so much depth. LA’s lineup is hardly Albert & The Scrubs. Howard Kendrick is going to explode for a big year while Kendrys Morales finally appears ready to contribute again. Like Dunn in Chicago, Vernon Wells simply can’t be that bad again (.248 OBP in 529 PA) while Chris Iannetta and Peter Bourjos make up a hell of an 8-9 combo at the bottom.
Oakland and Seattle both have a handful of intriguing pieces, but neither has the team to contend especially in this division. Brandon McCarthy’s profile has been raised this offseason with mainstream exposure through ESPN and I like him for a big year. Yoenis Cespedes should enjoy some success, too, but a Coco Crisp/Seth Smith combo at 3-4 in the lineup is telling. I’m a huge Dustin Ackley fan and see big things for him with the M’s, but the rotation stalls out quickly after Felix Hernandez. Help is on the way with some great pitching prospects on the rise, but they are unlikely to make a big dent in 2012 making another down season likely in the Great Northwest.
Wildcard – Angels defeat Red Sox
Division Series – Tigers defeat Angels 4-3; Rangers defeat Yankees 4-2
Championship Series – Rangers defeat Tigers 4-3 :sadface:
MVP – Miguel Cabrera, Evan Longoria, Albert Pujols, Brett Lawrie, Dustin Pedroia
Cy Young – David Price, Dan Haren, Justin Verlander
ROY – Matt Moore, Joe Benson, Yu Darvish
I’ll do the National League next.