Wednesday, March 30, 2005

My 2005 Predictions

Since most of the major media outlet-types have their predictions for the season out already, I figured it'd be time to put mine up. The only team I'll pick a W-L record for is the Crew, simple final standings for the others. Here goes...

American League East
1. Red Sox
2. Yankees
3. Orioles
4. Blue Jays
5. Devil Rays

This is a pretty tough one to pick, but the Red Sox are the better team in my opinion. The Yankees have far too many question marks in the rotation after Johnson, and to a lesser extent Pavano. Kevin Brown is probably finished, Mussina hasn't been great for a long time, and who knows how Jaret Wright fares after leaving the tutelage of Leo Mazzone. The Red Sox lost very little, aside from Pedro, but replaced him with Wells, and replaced Derek Lowe with Matt Clement. The offense is still easily the best in the league. The Orioles should be improved, and have a nice offense, but the pitching is lacking. The Blue Jays team this year will likely cost J.P. Ricciardi his job. The Devil Rays simply won't be ready to win until Delmon Young and B.J. Upton are matured.

American League Central
1. Twins
2. Indians
3. White Sox
4. Tigers
5. Royals

This is a no-brainer. Terry Ryan is an excellent G.M., and this may be his best team yet. Johan Santana is the best pitcher in baseball, and Justin Morneau will breakout this season when finally given a chance to play everyday. The Indians are moving in the right direction, with players like Hafner and Victor Martinez. The White Sox are a joke, in my opinion. Their "speed and defense" rebuilding plan is ridiculous. This team will struggle, mightily. How does a team with a great amount of resources allow Magglio Ordonez to leave and trade Carlos Lee? They play in the most HR friendly park in the league, yet decide to build a team around two things that have very little influence on wins and losses. This is why Kenny Williams should lose his job, soon. The Tigers signed the aforementioned Ordonez to a huge deal out of desperation. This is never a good sign, but he can still hit a lot better than Jermaine Dye, his replacement in Chicago. The Royals? Yeah, they're still awful, but maybe they could get better and fire Allard Baird and hire Ricciardi when he gets fired in Toronto. Otherwise, why not hire Rob Neyer?

American League West
1. Angels
2. Athletics
3. Rangers
4. Mariners

This is easily my favorite division in the league. There should be some awesome baseball played there this season, like last. I don't know why I picked the Angels, maybe by default, but most likely because of Vlad. They probably would have been better off going after Beltran harder, but they got Finley instead. He's alright, but he's getting older. They could have gotten Beltran and a generic middle IF for the money they put into Finley and Orlando Cabrera, and been a much better team for it. I'm not a huge fan of their pitching, though I do like Colon and Escobar. The bullpen is excellent, especially K-Rod. The A's are my favorite team in the division, and my favorite team not called the Brewers. Much has been made of their trading Hudson and Mulder, but they will be fine. Hudson is awesome, but Mulder was awful in the second half of last season and was dealt for a pair of studs, Dan Haren and Daric Barton, along with Kiko Calero. Hudson netted the team another one of their new starters, Dan Meyer, along with power-arm reliever Juan Cruz. This new rotation, with Zito, Harden, Haren, Meyer, and Joe Blanton could be extremely good. Obviously they will go through some growing pains, but don't underestimate Billy Beane - he's still the best at what he does. Their line-up is not great, but Chavez is spectacular. They also added my favorite Brewer, Keith Ginter. The A's could definitely win the division, so I'd say that my pick of the Angels is definitely nowhere near a lock. The Rangers have the most exciting infield in the game, with Teixiera, Soriano, Blalock, and Young. That is a nucleus, now if they can just get some pitching aside from the backend of their pen. The Mariners are a decent team, but I'm not sold on Beltre - he will have a huge fall-off from last season. Who knows about Sexson? Virtually the only known commodity on the team is Ichiro. The man is amazing. The division also boasts two of my favorites for Rookie of the Year, Nick Swisher of Oakland and Jeremy Reed in Seattle.

National League East
1. Braves
2. Marlins
3. Phillies
4. Mets
5. Nationals

How can you not pick the Braves? They add Huddy to the rotation, as well as Smoltz. Smoltz won't throw 200 innings without his arm falling off, but if they baby him enough he will be very good. Getting Kolb might help them, but as I have stated earlier, he will fall off big time unless he starts K'ing people. The offense may struggle, especially in the corner OF spots with Jordan and Mondesi. The Marlins improved immensely with Delgado, Cabrera is an absolute stud, and the pitchers when healthy are dominant. I'm not a huge fan of other spots in their lineup, mainly Pierre and LoDuca. The Phillies are run incompetently, by Ed Wade, as well. Hence, they will fail. I love Thome and Abreu, but that's about where it ends. The Mets made some big splashes in the offseason, but they still don't have it. Beltran is amazing, Piazza can still hit, Wright will be great, but other than them, who knows? The Pedro signing is quite vexing, both in terms of money and length. He's not durable and he's not getting any younger. There's a good chance he implodes sooner than later. The Nationals are what they are. Brad Wilkerson is my favorite player in the entire league, and Jose Guillen is there now, but they will be bad in vintage Jim Bowden fashion.

National League Central
1. Cardinals
2. Cubs
3. Brewers (82-80)
4. Astros
5. Reds
6. Pirates

The Cardinals are still the class of the division, considering they have the division's three best hitters in Pujols, Edmonds, and Rolen. I don't like their pitching, but the rest of the division has actually regressed, aside from the Brewers, so the Cards are still the favorite. The heaps of praise being thrown on Mulder is odd, considering his finish to last season. The inflated W-L record he sported was simply because of the huge run support he got early in the season. Regardless, some "experts" have picked him to win the Cy Young. I won't. The Cubs have gotten worse in several ways, and most of them of their own choosing. The pitching staff is injury-riddled again, a trademark of a Dusty Baker team. The offense lacks anyone who really gets on base, hence the poor offense last season. So, they go and trade away their best offensive player, Sosa, and get Jerry Hairston in return, and sign Jeromy Burnitz. I can smell the championship now! Get your excuse book out Cub fans, you'll need it this year - what'll it be? Bartman? The goat? Alou hasn't been replaced and the middle IF is weak with a rapidly declining Nomar. They could seriously finish worse, but we'll see. Prior and Wood, if/when healthy and teamed with Zambrano are awesome, and tough to beat. The Brewers have improved a great deal, and probably have less question marks than the Cubs. The Lee deal gives them a solid hitter in his peak years, to team with Overbay. Clark is an improvement over Podsednik, a full season of Branyan will be exciting, and the signing of Damian Miller to catch improves the weakest position on the team (what wouldn't). The tandem of Sheets and Davis at the top of the rotation is stellar. If Capuano stays healthy, and Santos pitches well the staff could be very good. The pen is going to be alright, with much more power, and hopefully many more K's. The Astros lost Beltran, Berkman is hurt, Bagwell and Biggio are declining rapidly, and Brad Ausmus is the worst everyday player in MLB. They have a ton of questions, thus the 4th place prediction. If Pettite is healthy the staff could be very good, with Clemens still doing what Clemens does. The Reds have a nice OF and nothing else. They paid one of the highest prices for mediocrity ever in signing Eric Milton, who will serve up bunches of homers in that park. The Pirates are bad - really, really bad. Oliver Perez is stuck there, and it's too bad, because he'd likely be a huge star in any other market. Bay can hit, Craig Wilson is decent. Nothing else to say, they could lose 100 games.

National League West
1. Dodgers
2. Padres
3. Giants
4. Rockies
5. Diamondbacks

The weakest division in baseball. However, I like the Dodgers a lot, which is probably pretty uncommon. The trade of Green was excellent, as were the signings of Drew and Jeff Kent. They have some issues with the pitching, but their stadium will help mask that. Choi is poised for a breakout at first, Milton Bradley is a very good player, and Werth can get the job done. The Padres, like the Dodgers, get a little help from their pitcher's park. The team is pretty good, especially Peavy. The lineup has some deteriorating players like Giles and Klesko who get hurt by the park effects. The Giants are very old. Bonds is very good, but the reason I have them in 3rd is that you simply don't know when he comes back. If it's early May, like I heard today, they could easily win the division. If he doesn't, they could easily finish third. I'll do the unpopular thing and bet that Barry will be back later than May. The rest of the lineup could be good, but at the ages of Vizquel, Alou, Grissom, Snow, etc., they could all collapse and the team could sink. Schmidt is an excellent pitcher, but other than him I don't like the rotation a whole lot. Benitez was a good move, aside from the crazy price they paid of course. The Rockies could be on the rise at some point in the near future. With prospects like Atkins, Barmes, Nix, Holliday, Closser, and of course Jeff Francis, they could actually have something built around Helton for once, and soon. That doesn't even take into effect Ian Stewart and Chris Nelson, who are farther away. But with what their park does to pitchers, it's hard to expect them to ever go better than .500, and usually quite worse. The Diamondbacks might be as bad as they were last season, which would be quite an accomplishment. How can a team win with a middle infield of Craig Counsell and Royce Clayton? They can't. The pitching's bad, the offense is bad, the front office is bad, who's worse?

American League

Red Sox over Angels
Twins over Yankees

Red Sox over Twins

National League

Marlins over Cardinals
Dodgers over Braves

Marlins over Dodgers

World Series
Red Sox over Marlins

American League
Cy Young - Johan Santana, Twins
MVP - David Ortiz, Red Sox
Manager - Ron Gardenhire, Twins
Rookie - Nick Swisher, A's
Executive - Terry Ryan, Twins

National League
Cy Young - Tim Hudson, Braves
MVP - Albert Pujols, Cardinals
Manager - Bobby Cox, Braves
Rookie - J.J. Hardy, Brewers
Executive - Paul DePodesta, Dodgers

Hammer away!

Good to see that someone else believes that an above .500 season is going to happen this year. No Sheets at Cy Young? Where's the faith? Ha ha, just kidding. I'm in a pool with a bunch of Twins bloggers (given I live in MN, can't swing a dead cat around here without hitting one) and I picked Sheets as NL Cy Young and Lee as MVP, just to be a homer.
Yeah CC, that Lee as MVP pick is a homer move, but the Sheets one is a good one. I considered it myself.
I would love it (.500 season) to happen, but I spent the last week watching an absolutely terrible bullpen get worse and force Yost to keep 45 middle infielders since no reliever showed anything worth keeping. I like Sheets and Davis, Cappy has pitched well, but the "Vamp" has pitched his way to spot 5 in the rotation and Glover is shaky at best. The offense I like (relatively speaking) but that bullpen is going to break a lot of hearts, which is odd for a Brewers team that has had a solid pen for years.

By the way, Botallico not only looked bad he was making lame "they were just fighting off great pitches for bloop singles" excuses. Not exactly closer material.
Hmm...the one thing I don't quite get is the Finley + Cabrera = Beltran. Beltran ended up getting like $119 million over the 7 years.....Finley's guaranteed $14 million ($7 per year) and Cabrera's getting $32 million ($8 per year). It's asking a lot for the Angels to guarantee that much more money.

Nice job, though, and I think I agree about the Brewers.
It's essentially the same money per season for Finley/Cabrera as it is for Beltran. If they would have gone after him early, they may not have had to guarantee that much $$$ over that long of a deal. If they would have signed him instead, they would have been a World Series team. Instead, they are a decent team, but I'm having second thoughts about picking them in the West already.
Before the season begins in 45 minutes I just wanted to have my comment posted for later reference.

First of all, I think the Marlins are not only going to make the playoffs, but they are going to beat out the Braves, and they very well might win the pennant. I like the moves that they made, replacing Pavano with a (crafty) lefty and adding Delgado to protect those young mashers in the middle of the order. I can certainly see them making the Cardinals sweat.

ALso, I think the Cubs are going to fall hard this year. They are predicating their offense on Ramirez and Lee. Derrek Lee has never had a good season without being protected in the lineup by Moises Alou, Sammy Sosa, or both. If the Cubs are to win, he must prop up the offense by becoming a world-class power hitter. Can he? I doubt it. (I didn't forget about Nomar, but he's on the downslide anyhow.)

Also, I think both the Brewers and the Pirates will be in contention through the All-Star break. And finally, I think the Yankees might fall apart uunder the weight of their collective age.
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