My baseball predictions for the 2012 season
Since I write so many baseball pieces on here, and people who know me think I'm some kind of baseball expert, I feel obligated to give my predictions on the 2012 MLB pennant races. So, without further ado:
American League East
1. New York Yankees
2. Tampa Bay Rays
3. Boston Red Sox
4. Toronto Blue Jays
5. Baltimore Orioles
Comments: The Yankees are getting old, but I love their off-season moves to shore up the pitching staff. Adding Hiroki Kuroda and Michael Pineda, and getting rid of A.J. Burnett gives the Yanks' a much-improved rotation. Pineda's a stud, and he could ring up big numbers with a decent team. Plus, the Yanks have fewer question marks than the other teams in the division.
I'm picking Tampa two because of their rotation. David Price, James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson, Jeff Niemann, and either Matt Moore or Wade Davis can go with anybody. Plus, they should have a healthy Evan Longoria to lead the offense. I also love Joe Maddon, a manager that players love to bust their butts for.
Boston, oh, Boston,...I wince every time I think of Bobby Valentine managing that team. He is a goofball, more enamored with his own image than that of his teams. And those antics won't play well in Boston. This team needs a disciplinarian, not a loose cannon. Carl Crawford's signing was a joke, Kevin Youkilis may not be able to play third anymore, and the rotation is still in flux. At least they won't have John Lackey this year, but is Andrew Bailey really an improvement over Jonathan Papelbon? We'll find out, won't we?
Toronto keeps improving, but is no threat to the teams ahead of them, and the Orioles will probably lose 95-100 games.
American League Central
1. Detroit Tigers
2. Cleveland Indians
3. Minnesota Twins
4. Chicago White Sox
5. Kansas City Royals
Comments: Obviously, Detroit is still the class of the division, and adding Prince Fielder to an already-loaded lineup is just going to broaden the gap among those teams. This is a team that is shooting for the World Series, but there are issues. Miguel Cabrera cannot play third base, and will end up DHing for them. He or Prince, one or the other. And second base is a question mark as well. They are actually considering putting Brandon Inge over there? Are they nuts?
The rest of the teams are playing catch-up, but if the Twins get their best players (Joe Mauer, Justin Mornneau), healthy, they could make a run. Probably not, though.
American League West
1. Texas Rangers
2. Angels (whatever their city affiliation is)
3. Oakland A's
4. Seattle Mariners
Comments: The Angels got Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, but there are problems. Besides Albert and Torri Hunter, who on this team takes walks? This is one of the biggest free-swinging teams in the majors, and putting people on base ahead of Albert will be the big issue on this squad.
I like the Rangers to repeat because they improved themselves by getting Yu Darvish to replace C. J. Wilson in the rotation, and because they didn't lose anybody meaningful. The Rangers' offense is still potent 1-9, and they have a great manager in Ron Washington who gets the most out of his players. Watch for a big season for Nelson Cruz.
The A's went on a salary dump, but I still like them over the sad-sack Mariners, who don't seem to have any idea what they're doing.
A.L. Wildcards: Tampa Bay and the Angels. The Angels will benefit by playing in a weaker division, which is why I'm not picking Boston.
National League East
1. Philadelphia Phillies
2. Miami Marlins
3. Atlanta Braves
4. Washington Nationals
5. New York Mets
Comments: The Phillies are getting old, and injuries just plaque this team. Ryan Howard will be out a significant part of the season, and ancient Jim Thome is scheduled to replace him. You also have to figure Chase Ultey and Jimmy Rollins will miss about a month each of the regular season. But the pitching is still outstanding, and adding Jonathan Papelbon to the bullpen will be a big help. Doc Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels are as good a starting three as you could want. Look for Joe Blanton to bounce back and have a good year.
No team did more in the off-season to improve than the Miami Marlins. A new name, a new logo (which is awful, btw), a new ballpark, and a new manager in Ozzie Guillen have done more than help the team. All those moves have helped change the culture of the franchise. This is a team that has direction and purpose, and with the additions of Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Heath Bell, this team could challenge for it all. The biggest questions are the heatlh of ace Josh Johnson and the psyche of Hanley Ramirez. But this team could easily make it to October.
The Braves have a fine pitching rotation, but Chipper Jones' last season will end up being home in October. The Nats look pretty good, but are missing a few parts. They're a year or two away from contention, but moving upward. The Mets are a joke.
National League Central
1. St. Louis Cardinals
2. Cincinnati Reds
3. Milwaukee Brewers
4. Pittsburgh Pirates
5. Chicago Cubs
6. Houston Astros
Comments: Yeah, Tony La Russa retired, and Albert Pujols is gone, but the Cards signed Carlos Beltran, and moving Lance Berkman to first base where he belongs will strengthen the team defensively. The health of Chris Carpenter is now the team's biggest concern, and rightly so, but Adam Wainwright appears to recovered from injuries which caused him to miss the entire 2011 season, and there's enough depth in the rotation with Kyle Loshe and Jaime Garcia, who I think could take a major step forward this year, to be in good shape.
The Reds' biggest problem in 2011 was an inconsistent rotation. With Mat Latos joining the squad, that shouldn't be a problem. The big problem is the bullpen, since free-agent signee Ryan Madson will miss the 2012 season with an elbow injury. But the offense is solid, and Dusty Baker is one of the finest managers in the game, so the Reds should contend.
The Brewers are without Prince Fielder, but acquired Aramis Ramirez to somewhat offset this. It's not enough, but the Brewers are gonna be a .500 team this year. I don't see them contending.
The Pirates are trying hard under manager Clint Hurdle to change the culture of a franchise that hasn't had a winning record since Barry Bonds' last year in town, 1992. I like what they're doing, but it isn't enough right now. The Cubs are rebuilding, and the Astros are waiting for 2013, when they'll switch leagues.
National League West
1. San Francisco Giants
2. Arizona Diamondbacks
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
4. Colorado Rockies
5. San Diego Padres
Comments: The Giants will have Buster Posey back for a full year, and combined with that pitching staff, they should win the division. Adding Melky Cabrera will help the offense, and Tim Lincecum bouncing back from an off-year should make this team potent again. A healthy Brian Wilson will also help.
The D'backs played way over their heads last year, but have a fine rotation led by Ian Kennedy and Joe Saunders that could match the Giants. Having a full year of Aaron Hill will help, but I'm predicting Jason Kubel will be a big bust in the N.L. Still, this team will contend.
The Dodgers finally have new ownership, and I'm predicting that this stability will translate well on the field. With Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and should-have-been MVP Matt Kemp leading the team, I think the Dodgers could contend. Look for young Dee Gordon to have a fine season, and Andre Ethier should have another fine season.
The Rockies have too many holes, and the Padres are the Padres.
National League Wildcards: Miami and Cincinnati.
World Series Prediction: Tigers over the Phillies, 4-3. I am a Phils' (and Orioles) fan, but I believe the Tigers are loaded and ready to take their spot on top of the baseball world. I think the Tigers' pitching will be the difference in the A.L. playoffs, and their offense will be the difference in the World Series. Will Miguel Cabrera be able to play third base? If he battles it to a draw the way Bobby Bonilla used to years ago, than i don't see anything stopping the Tigers from winning it all.