Friday, April 03, 2009

The baseball season starts on Sunday night, and that means it's time for our annual predictions. I decided to expand them a bit this year. The last few years I have just picked the division winners and wild cards, along with some of the post-season awards. This year, I'll do a team-by-team rundown of each division, with a brief comment on why I think each team will end up where I have them.

Everyone starts these things with the AL East, so just to be different we'll be going in the reverse standard order.

NL West:
1. Los Angeles Dodgers: The best of a mediocre division. The Dodgers offense, led by some guy who used to play in Boston, will be enough to win this thing.

2. Arizona Diamondbacks: Gotta love to top of the rotation with Brandon Webb and Dan Haren, but the bullpen makes me nervous (how old is Tom Gordon, anyways?) and the offense is questionable.

3. San Francisco Giants: The Giants have a strong starting staff with 2008 Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, Randy Johnson and Matt Cain. We'll see if Barry Zito makes a bid to look like he's worth even 10% of his $126 million contract. The biggest issue by far is the offense, where the Giants start the season with Bengie Molina as their #4 hitter. Yikes!

4. San Diego Padres: Worst team in baseball. This team could easily lose 110+ games.

NL Central:
1. Chicago Cubs: The Cubbies are no doubt the class of the division, but I'm not sure that matters to North Side fans anymore. After their embarassing sweep at the hands of the Dodgers last October, the pressure is really on the Cubs to break the now 101-year curse. Heck, even an NL Pennant would probably be OK, a feat they haven't accomplished since 1945.

2. Cincinnati Reds: I love the young starting rotation, improved defense and young stars like Joey Votto and Jay Bruce. With some luck and health, the Reds could easily challenge for the wild card or even the division if the Cubs falter.

3. St. Louis Cardinals: Any team with Albert Pujols has to be considered dangerous, but this team's success depends on the health of the pitching, most notably former Cy Young winner Chris Carpenter.

4. Milwaukee Brewers: They'll still score a ton of runs, but I'm not feeling great about a team that has Jeff Suppan as it's #1 starter.

5. Houston Astros: They won't score quite as many runs as the Brewers (although they'll score quite a few), but the pitching may be even more suspect after Roy Oswalt. Any team that's counting on Mike Hampton to be a contributor is in serious trouble.

6. Pittsburgh Pirates: Awesome ballpark, lousy team. I hope Pirates fans have something to cheer for someday. Their only saving grace is that they're not the worst team in the league as long as the Padres and Nationals are around.

NL East

1. New York Mets: They can't really blow it three years in a row, can they? The Mets solved their biggest weakness, the bullpen, in the offseason by signing K-Rod and J.J. Putz. Add that to one of the best offenses in the league and the Mets should finally take home the division title.

2. Philadelphia Phillies (Wild Card): The defending World Series champs will have a good year, but won't quite overtake the Mets. Any team with Cole Hamels as their ace and Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley in the lineup is going to be tough.

3. Florida Marlins: If the Marlins can hold this team together, they could be pretty good when their new stadium opens in a few years. Hanley Ramirez could be the best all-around player in the game, and the top three starters are very good. The Marlins could contend into September with some breaks.

4. Atlanta Braves: How the mighty have fallen. I just can't see how this team be much better than .500.

5. Washington Nationals: This team could be really terrible. Former GM Jim Bowden left an awful mess behind when he resigned in the wake of the Dominican signing bonus scandal.

Mets beat Dodgers
Cubs beat Phillies

NLCS: Mets beat Cubs (sorry Cubs fans)

NL MVP: David Wright
NL Cy Young: Cole Hamels

American League preview tomorrow!


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