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My baseball predictions for the 2013 season
I know it's late, but it's time to make my selections for the 2013 MLB pennant races. Looking back on last year, at least I had the Tigers in the World Series,...against the Phillies. And I had the Giants winning the NL West. Other than that,...well, who knew the Orioles and A's would have miracle seasons, and that the Washington Nationals would rise to power one year ahead of time? With that in mind, let's pick those races!
American League East
1. Tampa Bay Rays
2. Toronto Blue Jays
3. Baltimore Orioles
4. Boston Red Sox
5. New York Yankees
Comments: I'm picking the Rays because their consistency is unbelievable. And, they're healthy. A full year of Even Longoria along with a great pitching staff led by A.L. Cy Young Winner David Price, plus the upcoming debut of Wil Myers, the youngster obtained in the James Shields trade make the Rays the team to beat. Fernando Rodney is not gonna have a 0.60 ERA again, but he doesn't have to for this team to win. I was very impressed with his performance in the recent World Baseball Classic. And as long as Joe Maddon is running that team, the Rays will be in the thick of things.
The Toronto Blue Jays made a lot of noise in the off-season, getting Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and Mark Buerhle from the Marlins, and then topped that by trading for the defending N.L. Cy Young winner, R.A. Dickey. Adding Melky Cabrera may help lengthen the lineup, but I have to see these guys gel together before I get excited about them. The key to their season is if Jose Bautista can come back from an injury-plagued 2012 season and be an everyday home run threat again. He and Edwin Encarnacion form a solid 3-4 tandem in that lineup.
The Baltimore Orioles are my team, but let's face facts. They overachieved in 2012, winning 11 more games than they should have, given their stats. They went an incredible 29-9 in one-run ballgames last year, and were 16-2 in extra inning games. They can't do that again, but there's much to recommend the O's. They'll have a full year of Manny Machado, Nate McLouth, Jason Hammel, possibly Nolan Reimold, and they may just have gotten house money with the return of Brian Roberts. The starting pitching's a little shaky, but the bullpen is outstanding, and this team still has Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, and Chris Davis. So they will be in good shape.
The Red Sox had an awful 2012, as any team that hires Bobby Valentine to manage them should. Injuries also killed them last year, but the team has a new look with Mike Napoli, Ryan Dempster, Shane Victorino to team with Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury, but David Ortiz is on the disabled list to start the season, and the loss of his bat may hurt the Sox greatly. The pitching also has to come back, but I'm not buying the Sox to do anything this year.
The Yankees, oh, the Yankees. They are old, injury-prone, and are so out of touch that they actually think that Vernon Wells is a godsend. Mariano Rivera deserves a better send-off than this.
American League Central
1. Detroit Tigers
2. Cleveland Indians
3. Kansas City Royals
4. Chicago White S
5. Minnesota Twins
Comments: Look, anybody who thinks the Tigers aren't gonna repeat is delusional. Especially since they signed Torii Hunter to shore up left field and now have Victor Martinez back to extend that lineup, they might be unstoppable. Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer lead what could be the best rotation in baseball. The only question with them is the bullpen, with no proven closer in tow. Of course, with that rotation, and the likes of Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder leading the offense, they might not need one.
No one will challenge those guys, but the Indians, with the additions of Michael Borne, Nick Swisher, and Mark Reynolds shoud be interesting. They may need all that hitting because their starting pitching is very thin. At least they have Chris Perez to close.
The Royals are a trendy pick to do some damage, especially since acquiring one of my favorite pitchers, Big Game James Shields, to anchor the rotation. But their young players Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas took huge steps backward in 2012, and one wonders if these guys were that good to begin with. Salvador Perez is a fine young catcher, and the starting pitching will be much improved, but I don't see them making an impact.
The White Sox owned the division until late last year, when they blew the lead to the Tigers. I don't see them doing much of anything this year, and the Twins are the same.
American League West
1. Los Angeles Angels
2. Texas Rangers
3. Oakland A's
4. Seattle Mariners
5. Houston Astros
Comments: The Angels floundered early in 2012, as Albert Pujols was getting used to his surroundings. But he didn't have a lot of help until Mike Trout was called up early in the year and had a magnificent rookie season. The early season woes won't happen this year, as the Angels made a huge off-season move to sign Josh Hamilton away from the Texas Rangers. His bat will make a difference in that lineup, and Jason Vargas coming over from Seattle in a trade will help solidify the rotation behind ace Jered Weaver. I think the Angels will finally win the division title this season.
The Texas Rangers have lots of talent, so losing a Mike Napoli here, a Michael Young there won't affect them too much. But losing Hamilton to the arch-rival Angels, that was a blunder. Still, Yu Darvish leads the pitching staff, the lineup still has Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Nelson Cruz, and Ian Kinsler, so they'll score runs, and they will contend all year, but this a team that lost back-to-back World Series in 2010 and 2011. Has their moment passed?
The Oakland A's this time last year were being chastised for salary-dumping. They just won 94 games and the A.L. West title in 2012. Using a patchwork lineup led by Yoenis Cespedes and J.J. Reddick, the A's had a season for the ages. Can they do it again? I would say no, but they could surprise.
The Mariners made a lot of off-season moves, getting Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales to help a moribund offense, but aside of watching Felix Hernandez pitch, there's nothing to get excited about. And the Astros are in for a loooong season in their first year of American League ball.
A.L. Wild cards: The Blue Jays and the Rangers, if only because the A.L. East will be so competitive that it will be hard for a second wild card team to come out of that division.
National League East
1. Washington Nationals
2. Atlanta Braves
3. Philadelphia Philles
4. New York Mets
5. Miami Marlins
Comments: The Nationals are loaded. They not only have talent, but YOUNG talent. Bryce Harper is only 20 years old, and was the 2012 N.L. Rookie of the Year. And Steven Strasburg is an ace. In time, he will be the best pitcher in baseball, possibly now. Their starting rotation is deep, with 20-game winner Gio Gonzalez, strikeout pitcher Jordan Zimmerman, and Ross Detwhiler rounding out the staff. Plus, their bullpen got a huge boost when the Nats got Rafael Soriano to close. I don't see anything stopping them from winning the division.
Yeah, the Braves got the Upton brothers to join Jason Heyward in the outfield, and everybody's talking about how great they'll be together. But B.J. Upton has never put it all together in even one season, and Justin might never do that. All potential and no production. But Justin is young enough to take a step forward, and the Braves will be in the wild card hunt all year long. The problem with them is health, in particular that of staff ace Tim Hudson. If he can stay healthy, this team will be fine.
The Phillies are OLD. But they may be healthy for the first time in three years. Ryan Howard is now fully recovered from his torn Achilles tendon, suffered in a 2011 playoff game, and Chase Utley looks healthy. But Roy Halladay has had issues in spring training following an injury-plagued year, and after Cliff Lee and ace Cole Hamels, this team has nothing. But they might be able to put it together for one last run.
The Mets and Marlins are not even worth discussing.
National League Central
1. Cincinnati Reds
2. Milwaukee Brewers
3. St. Louis Cardinals
4. Pittsburgh Pirates
5. Chicago Cubs
Comments: I don't really like any of these teams that much. The Reds still have Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, plus they added Shin Soo Choo. Plus the rotation is led by one of my favorites, Johnny Cueto, and now that Aroldis Chapman is safely back in the bullpen, the rotation can relax. They are the best of a mediocre division.
The Brewers helped themselves greatly by adding Kyle Loshe to Yovani Gallardo to stabilize their rotation, although the closer role is in flux with John Axford coming off a bad season. Still, the lineup has Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez, Jonathan LuCroy, and Corey Hart, so scoring runs won't be a problem.
The Cards seem to do it every year with smoke and mirrors, but they've already lost Cris Carpenter for the year and Kyle Loshe is now a Brewer, so a lot rides on Adam Wainwright and Jamie Garcia. And closer Jason Motte is on the disabled list to start the season, so things will be rough to start out. The lineup features aging but dangerous Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday, All-Star catcher Yadier Molina, and Allen Craig. So, the Cards will hang around all year, but I don't see a playoff berth in their future.
The Pirates are headed for another losing season, despite Andrew McCutcheon's exploits, and the Cubs are banking on the future.
National League West
1. San Francisco Giants
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
3. Arizona Diamondbacks
4. San Diego Padres
5. Colorado Rockies
Comments: I don't care how much money the Dodgers have spent. I'm still going with the Giants to win the division. They still have Buster Posey (for nine more years per his new contract), a full year of Hunter Pence, Pablo Sandoval, and Angel Pagan to lead the offense. Pagan was very good in the World Baseball Classic, and he might be poised to take a leap forward. Plus, they still have all that pitching. Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong, and Madison Bumgardner are all studs, and if Tim Lincecum can come back, this staff will be great.
The Dodgers got Zack Greinke to be a solid #2 starter behind Clayton Kershaw, but there are issues. Adrian Gonzalez has been in serious decline for three years and who knows if he can reverse it? Hanley Ramirez opens the year on the shelf with an injury he suffered during the World Baseball Classic, and who knows what the Dodgers will get out of him. Matt Kemp is coming off a season interrupted by injuries, but he is still one of the scariest hitters in MLB. I think the Dodgers are a playoff team, certainly, but there are a lot of questions here.
The Diamondbacks have a potentially great pitching staff, led by Wade Miley,Trevor Cahill, and Ian Kennedy, but aside of Martin Prado and Jason Kubel, they have a middling offense, and that won't be enough. The Padres will be much improved, if their second-half success of 2012 is any indication, but the offense just isn't there. As far as the Rockies, forget about it.
N.L. Wild cards: Dodgers and Braves.
World Series Prediction: Nationals over the Tigers in six. I just think the Nats are too loaded not to win it all. This team now has been in a post season, and after suffering a heartbreaking playoff collapse to the Cards, I think that with Steven Strasburg pitching the entire season, they are the team to beat.