Monday, March 19, 2012

Get ready to play ball!---MLB 2012 predictions

The 2012 baseball season officially starts mere days before Easter, but the real fun begins in 9 days when Oakland & Seattle travel to Tokyo for a 2-game series, the first one in more than a decade. As per usual, some players have been shuffled and shuttled here, there, and everywhere via free agency or trades, and the pre-season guides don't always have all the information by their deadlines. Neither do baseball cards, but that's another story.

Let's take a look at the six divisions.

American League:

East: The New York Yankees picked up Raul Ibanez (Philadelphia) & Hiroki Kuroda (Los Angeles Dodgers) as free agents, and traded away prospect Jesus Montero to Seattle for Michael Pineda. Funny thing is, Topps included rookie cards of both players in this year's set, printed before the trade. Joe Garagiola was right. Baseball is a funny game. Last week, Andy Pettite decided to end his retirement and return to the Bronx so he can get one more ring. Oh, please, give me a break. Wait 'til he gets shelled by the Mets. In Boston, the Red Sox lost closer Jonathan Papelbon (Philadelphia) and shortstop Jed Lowrie (Houston), but heisted Vincente Padilla from the Dodgers. They wanted to move Daniel Bard out of the bullpen, where he could've been their closer, and into the rotation? Huh? Well, there is the issue of Tim Wakefield retiring, along with catcher Jason Varitek. Tampa Bay, Baltimore, & Toronto all looked like they stood pat, which means it'll come down to the ancient enemies again. But, then, what did we learn last year?

Projected order of finish:

1. Yankees
2. Tampa Bay
2. (tie) Boston
4. Baltimore
5. Toronto

Central:

Defending division champion Detroit upgraded their offense by signing Prince Fielder (Milwaukee) as a free agent. Prince's father, Cecil, played most of his career in Detroit, so this was virtually a no-brainer. Why it took so long can be blamed on Fielder's agent, Scott "20 Mule Team" Boras, who was looking for an excuse to fleece the Tigers yet again, but, hey, they could've paid Prince in Little Caesar's Pizza stock. Miguel Cabrera goes across the diamond back to third base to make room. Carlos Guillen retired after returning to Seattle as a free agent. The big news that I could discern out of Cleveland was the Indians signing Derek Lowe (Atlanta). Weren't they paying attention last year when he was getting shelled? Returning to the AL isn't going to save Lowe's career, but end it instead. The Chicago White Sox welcomed back former star Robin Ventura as their new manager, after Ozzie Guillen fled to the NL (Miami), taking ace Mark Buehrle with him. However, Robin ain't gonna be rockin' if the Pale Hose, or the "Good Guys" as Ken Harrelson calls them, get off to a slow start. Look for Minnesota & Kansas City to follow their usual form, which means the Twins will make their usual run after the All-Star Break, and the Royals will tease early, and fade just as quickly.

Projected order of finish:

1. Detroit
2. Minnesota
3. Cleveland
4. Chicago
5. Kansas City

West:

The balance of power will shift from Texas to Los Angeles. Not only did the Angels pry CJ Wilson away from the 2-time defending league champion Rangers, but they also bagged Albert Pujols (St. Louis) and his 2 championship rings. If Kendry Morales finally returns from injury, he'll be a DH almost exclusively, unless he platoons with Pujols both at DH & first base. The Rangers shouldn't sweat so much as they have enough pitching to compensate for Wilson's defection. The two games in Tokyo will be a homecoming for Ichiro, and maybe this spurs the Seattle Mariners into finally getting back to the postseason. Oakland won't surprise anyone. No, really. Like, who hasn't already predicted that they might be bringing in "Moneyball" stars Brad Pitt & Jonah Hill for opening day?

Projected order of finish:

1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2. Texas
3. Seattle
4. Oakland

Wild cards: Texas, Tampa Bay.

National League:

East:

The Miami Marlins broke the bank in the offseason, signing Mark Buehrle (White Sox), Jose Reyes (Mets), and Heath Bell (San Diego), and bringing in former player Ozzie Guillen (White Sox) to manage. Sure, the Atlanta Braves virtually stood pat, but they will be there at the end, which is more than I can say for the Philadelphia Phillies, whose stranglehold on the division is finally going to break. The Phils open the season without Ryan Howard, who tore his Achilles tendon making the last out of the division series upset loss. Raul Ibanez (Yankees) is also gone, and Jonathan Papelbon (Boston) replaces Brad Lidge (Washington) in the bullpen. However, if last year's collapse taught us anything, Papelbon's best days may be behind him. The New York Mets not only need to avoid the cellar, but also the infirmary. The pre-season injuries threaten to carry over, giving more credence to the belief that Citi Field may actually be cursed. As for Washington, they can't call Bryce Harper up soon enough to satisfy. They have the pitching, as well as a youthful nucleus defensively, but they're still a year away from playoff contention.

Projected order of finish:

1. Atlanta
2. Miami
3. Philadelphia
3. (tie) Mets
5. Washington

Central:

For the Houston Astros, their 50th anniversary season is also their last in the National League, as with new ownership comes a shift in leagues to the AL as of 2013. Sorry to say, even with an increasing number of Tri-City Valleycats alumni making it to the big club, the 'Stros are still a ways off from contending. Milwaukee & St. Louis absorbed some major losses in the offseason, as both teams lost marquee sluggers. The Cardinals welcomed back former catcher Mike Metheny as their new pilot after Tony LaRussa retired following the World Series, winning his third title. Replacing Albert Pujols (Angels), on the other hand, is a much more difficult chore. Matt Holliday & World Series MVP cannot carry the offense by themselves. The Brewers have to replace Prince Fielder (Detroit). Good luck getting back to the playoffs. With those major obstacles gone, Cincinnati could vault right into the division title, and their star first baseman, Joey Votto, could land his first All-Star start. I liked their pitching last year, and they'd be served to move Aroldis Chapman into the rotation, or make him the closer. Scary good. Pittsburgh is also on the rise, and it's just unfortunate that they peaked a wee bit early last year. As for the Chicago Cubs? Well, what about the Cubs? Seriously.

Projected order of finish:

1. Cincinnati
2. St. Louis
3. Milwaukee
4. Pittsburgh
5. Chicago
6. Houston

West:

If there's one thing Don Mattingly forgot when he signed on with the Los Angeles Dodgers, it might've been some of that Yankee mojo, because the Dodgers were almost awful last season. A few breaks going their way, and maybe they make the playoffs. However, the road to the division still runs through Arizona, where another ex-Yankee, Ian Kennedy, came into his own last year and is the ace of the staff. San Francisco rented Carlos Beltran last summer, then let him walk (St. Louis), so what did they do? They grabbed another outfielder from the Mets, Angel Pagan. What? All I can see is the offense is still Buster Posey, Pablo "Kung Fu Panda" Sandoval, and not much else. The pitching can only carry them so far, but closer Brian Wilson better not be counting his Taco Bell royalty checks at game time. Wouldn't it be nice if  "The Beard" shaved it off and concentrated on what got him to the dance in the first place? San Diego needs a new closer, with Heath Bell gone (Miami). Colorado is the NL's answer to Minnesota. Enough said there.

Projected order of finish:

1. Arizona
2. San Francisco
3. Los Angeles
3 (tie) Colorado
5. San Diego

Wild Cards: Miami, St. Louis

Talk to me in the fall about the playoffs.

4 comments:

Scoobyfan1 said...

Good predictions, and they're pretty much what I was thinking as well.

As for the playing games in Japan spurring the Mariners to the postseason again, I wouldn't count on it.

The Mariners really, really, really need help to get into the playoffs, because right now I doubt they could even beat a single a minor league team.

hobbyfan said...

A lot of things have to come together for Seattle, I'll grant you that, but it starts with the manager being able to communicate the right points to his players.

I'm a glass-half-full guy by nature, so I'm always hoping things turn out better for everyone. Of course, next year, Houston will move into the AL West, so maybe Seattle will finally find a way out of the cellar......

Scoobyfan1 said...

@Hobbyfan: Agreed.

Eric Wedge(the Mariners current manager) is a good manager, having already taken Cleveland to the playoffs.

However, the Mariners have had great managers before(Mike Hargrove and Lou Pinella among them) and while the Mariners have gotten to the ALCS three times, they could never cash it in for a World Series appearance.

Seattle at one point had Edgar Martinez, Jay Buhner, Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr. and others. Basically the M's at one point had a star studded lineup, and they still couldn't get into the World Series.

As a long time M's fan(since I was little) I really do hope the M's get it together and at least get out of the basement.

Because frankly watching all the Seattle teams lose year after year is getting really annoying(now I know how Cleveland fans feel year after year because of their sports teams constant failures).

hobbyfan said...

Hey, I know the feeling. As a Mets fan from way back, I've been through the lean periods. Shoot, I can remember when the M's were co-owned by Danny Kaye (!).

You've got to feel good knowing they won their first game already in Tokyo......