(David Pokress/Sportsday Wire)
Ahhh, yes, spring is in the air and it’s time for that annual crapshoot better known as baseball predictions. And if you ever come across a sportswriter/columnist who is EXTREMELY comfortable with his/her picks, then that scribe HASN’T been following the game long enough. Here’s how they MAY finish in 2016, my friends………
Toronto Blue Jays
Boston Red Sox
Tampa Bay Rays
Chicago White Sox
AL EAST— Jays will outscore everyone no matter how their pitching pans out; I think it will be good enough with Stroman blossoming. Yankees–being old but experienced–stay just healthy enough to edge out Red Sox; over/under date for Ellsbury to go on DL is June 15th. Besides Price (possible Cy Young winner), Boston’s starting pitching is just NOT good enough (more question marks than a ‘Riddler’ convention); bullpen gets burnt out early (as usual) and Farrell’s job will be in jeopardy before October rolls around. O’s will rely on the long ball too much (where have you gone, Earl Weaver?) and starting pitching–besides Gallardo–will be below average. Too many .250 hitters in Rays’ lineup; starting pitching is good (Archer, Odorizzi, etc.), but bullpen will blow too many save opportunities.
AL CENTRAL— Royals still have great chemistry and do the “little things” in a BIG way; starting pitching is a slight concern (can Ian Kennedy thrive in K.C.?). Indians have some very good pitching (Kluber, Carrasco, Salazar), but I can see them being too “streaky” on offense. Tigers have the potential to surprise a lot of people; they can score runs in abundance but need Verlander and Zimmermann to win a combined 30+ games. Sale may win Cy Young for White Sox, but they have too many newcomers on offense who aren’t major weapons (i.e. Avila, Rollins). Twins’ Molitor an underrated manager, but they don’t have any offensive player who will sniff a .300 batting average (where have you gone, Joe Mauer?); second half of their rotation will be shaky, too.
AL WEST— Young SS Correa can take Astros very far this year as Keuchel continues dominating hitters; they may win more games than any team in baseball. Rangers bullpen just too shaky, but they’ll score runs in bunches due to the continued excellence of Beltre and Fielder. Trout will be Trout in L.A. (probably wins another MVP), but the rest of the offense will disappoint–especially the bottom of the lineup; pitching staff is one injury away from disaster, as well. “King Felix” remains a top-shelf ace in Seattle, but Mariners’ 6-9 hitters will give manager Scott Servais ulcers before the All-Star break–that is, if the bullpen doesn’t do it FIRST. A’s slogan–regarding starting pitching– should be “Sonny Gray, then wait for a rainy day”; not enough power in Oakland’s lineup to scare anyone, but their bullpen should be improved.
St. Louis Cardinals
San Diego Padres
NL EAST– Harper wins MVP again and Scherzer may take Cy Young; as long as Zimmerman and Werth stay healthy, the Nats will edge out New York. The Mets have superior starting pitching, but Collins will get dizzy trying to manage their innings/pitch counts; offense will be “streaky”/inconsistent at times, too. Stanton shines offensively for Marlins, but no one else will; pitching–both starting and relieving–will be problematic, as well (try to name their 3, 4, and 5 starters). Braves have no power and will lose 95 games (is Bud Norris actually their #2 starter?); only question will be if manager Gonzalez keeps his job before the All-Star break arrives. Phillies WILL lose 100 while team management counts the days to Ryan Howard’s departure (he’ll earn $25 mill this season); no offense and no pitching may even cause the Phillie Phanatic to be subdued at times (which has NEVER happened).
NL CENTRAL— The loss of Schwarber REALLY hurts Cubs’ offense, but good pitching still gets them to the postseason (Arrieta, Lester, and Lackey may combine for 50 wins). Cardinals will still be a 90+ win team; if hurlers remain healthy–especially Wainwright–it’s a toss-up between them and Cubbies for divisional title. Pirates are simply in a very tough division; I also think their lack of power (McCutchen, Marte, then what?) will put too much pressure on a decent starting rotation. Don’t know who will close games for Milwaukee, but it WILL be a problem; they have a new look offensively (i.e. Nieuwenhuis, Carter), but it surely doesn’t resemble Charlize Theron. Reds will lose 95+ games; they possess a “no-name” pitching staff (can ANYONE win 10 games?) and a slew of .240 hitters (Bruce, Cozart, etc.).
NL WEST— Giants and Dodgers are the class of the division. I believe that keeping Denard Span healthy will be a major concern for San Francisco; if he plays 145 games, they’ll edge out L.A. due to some “gutsy players” and good pitching. Rookie SS Seager (perhap the ROY) lives up to the hype for Dodgers; I just question their starting pitching depth after Kershaw and Kazmir. D’backs’ loss of Pollock due to injury hurts them BADLY as he is a true catalyst; Goldschmidt shines once again, but I’m suspect of their rotation’s depth (Ray, De La Rosa?). Padres simply lack power and if Fernando Rodney is your closer, you better keep an ample supply of TUMS in the dugout. Colorado will score runs–as usual–but lose too many 10-8 games at Coors Field (can an aging Jorge De La Rose be considered an “ace” at this juncture?); if the Rockies surprise and win 80 games, then yours truly is dating J. Lo and/or the aforementioned Ms. Theron by the end of 2016.
*Postseason: Yankees and Indians capture AL wild cards; I’ll say the Mets and Cardinals do the same in the NL. World Series? I’m thinking that Houston and San Francisco emerge from their respective leagues with the Giants winning their fourth world championship in the past seven years.
Enjoy the season, baseball fans…………..