So now that I’m completely done my team previews and you have all seen how I predict it will pan out, here’s the playoff and award predictions.
Cubs over Mets
I feel like everyone jumped on me having the Cubs finish with the best record. Well I got them going a step further. A playoff rotation like there’s shouldn’t have failed last season. Some of their offensive guys are getting older, but they recognize this may be their last hurrah as they are all probably near the end of the primes of their careers. As for the Mets, their bullpen is nice, but you don’t get to them unless you have the lead.
Red Sox over Indians
The Red Sox are just a playoff team. They’re built with the intangibles and I’m big on that. A deep rotation with an unbelievable bullpen gets the easy nod over Cleveland here.
Yankees over Angels
Come on, a playoff rotation that could potentially be CC, AJ, Wang, then Pettite or Joba. You have to at least win the first series. The Angels counter with a solid rotation but I think the close series goes to the Yanks.
Dodgers over Phillies
As much as it hurts me to say this, I think the Dodgers get the best of the Phils this time. Manny is a force and the rest of the offense can hit. They have some good young arms and a solid bullpen. Close series, but no cigar for my Fightins.
Dodgers over Cubs
I’m all about the Dodgers this year, they have a heck of an offense. This is where the Cubs magic ends this season. In the rematch of last year’s NLDS, this result is the same.
Red Sox over Yankees
Of course, I love this rivalry and I think they meet once again in the ALCS. Sox move on simply because I hate the Yankees. Just kidding. Well Sox do move on, but my reasoning isn’t because I hate the Yankees. Intangibles move them on.
Red Sox over Dodgers
With Josh Beckett in October, you can’t go wrong. Sox win their third in six years.
American League MVP
He’ll be the most valuable player for his team this season as I expect him to have a higher batting average than last year. He does it all; steals, scores, drives home runs, hits homeruns, and plays a great centerfield.
Other Possibilities: Mark Teixeira, Dustin Pedrioa
Wild Card: Evan Longoria
National League MVP
He was robbed last year. Lead the entire league in homeruns and RBIs and he struggled. It’s scary to think that he can do better, and then when you look at the fact that he could increase his average, he can definately increase his 146 RBIs.
Other Possibilities: Albert Pujols, Manny Ramirez
Wild Card: Pablo Sandoval
American League Cy Young
He throws complete games like it’s his job. If he has a year like his last, he’s bound to win this award.
Other Possibilities: Cliff Lee,
Ervin Santana (my pick prior to injury), Jon Lester
Wild Card: John Danks
National League Cy Young
I think this kid is bound to break out. I think this is the year Billingsley steps up and becomes the Dodgers ace. He definately has potential for 20 wins, 200+ strikeouts, and a sub-3.00 ERA.
Other Possibilities: Brandon Webb, Tim Lincecum
Wild Card: Ricky Nolasco
American League ROTY
The reason I like him for this award is because he has a definate job. He will definately get his chances to move up in this lineup as well. I got two Jays winning awards.
Other Possibilities: Matt Wieters, Either Athletics 21-year-old
Wild Card: Elvis Andrus
National League ROTY
He has so much potential and he had an awesome performance when called up in September last year.
Other Possibilities: Colby Rasmus, Tommy Hanson
Wild Card: Jason Donald
Now that that’s over with, let the Phils raise the championship banner and play ball. Brett Myers, you may now throw the first pitch of the 2009 MLB season.
Season Preview: New York Yankees
Projected MLB Rank: 11th — AL Rank: 4th — AL East Rank: 2nd — Record: (87-75)
American League Wild Card Winners
You think I’m kidding? Well I’m not. I do have the Yankees not ranked in my top ten teams this year.
Again, what you have just read, is correct.
Sure, I think the Yanks will make the playoffs. And of course they have the best rotation in the division, if not the league. But there’s something about the team that isn’t attractive to me.
Let’s start with what is though–that rotation. I actually have them ranked second in the entire league in the starting rotation category. A huge portion of what has them there is the two offseason acquisitions AJ Burnett and CC Sabathia. Sabathia has basically been declared the ace of the staff, recieving the starting job for both opening day in Baltimore and the home opener against the Indians. How can you not call him the ace? He did things last season for the Brewers that really no one even dreamed of. His arm and determination picked up that team and carried them into their short stay in October. Then there’s Burnett. Moving across the division from a team that could have won the division maybe if they were in the Central, to a team that has had the potential to win the division for the past 15 years and counting. AJ is a huge strikeout pitcher and a great compliment to Sabathia as the number two. What could scare Yankees fans is his potential for injury. He gets hurt all the time. He also has been known to pitch his best during contract seasons. My thought of Burnett is, his ERA will probably hover around 4.50 and when he’s fully healthy–then he’ll win you ballgames.
Chien-Ming Wang will also be pitching a full season this time around. Hopefully interleague play doesn’t cause him injuries again. He needs to regain some of the control he lost last season before the injury if he wants to make a big contribution to this team.This spring he has done a nice job thus far posting a 3.24 ERA in 16 innings while walking two and striking out seven. Andy Pettite, who turns 37 this season, should give the Yankees reliability as he returns. The fifth starter looks like it will be Joba Chamberlain (for now). They could make him a reliever by May, then a starter by July, then a reliever again by September, perhaps with some injuries in between. Just kidding. But in all seriousness, they need to settle on a role for this guy and stop messing with his arm.
Mariano Rivera anchors a bullpen that isn’t all too great. I feel like Rivera is never going to change. He’s always going to be this good. Damaso Marte had a nice strikeout rate last season in 65 innings but posted an ERA over 4.00. Edwar Ramirez looks like he will be the set up man. Although he has good stuff, he also has some control problems. Jose Veras also has control problems, but should make the 25 man roster. A highlight other than Rivera is Brian Bruney. In 32 games last season, Bruney posted a 1.83 ERA with a 0.99 WHIP and almost a strikeout per inning. The bullpen certainly has the potential to be effective, a few pitchers just need to establish their control first and cut down on the walks.
Then there’s the lineup. Some love it. Some hate it. Without Alex Rodriguez, I’m one of those haters. It’s getting to the point where Jorge Posada will have to rest more often, and Yankees fans shouldn’t like Jose Molina playing twice a week for their team. Moving on to Robinson Cano. If he’s supposed to be your top of the lineup guy, he should have an OBP higher than .305.
Captain Jeter. Still one of the best at going the other way with the ball but has become one of the worst fielding shortstops in the league and didn’t have a great WBC. Pertaining to bad fielders, let’s talk about Johnny Damon. He can still hit for .300, as he proved last season–but with Hideki Matsui in the DH role, it’s going to be an adventure in left field at New Yankee Stadium. It seems as if the quietest player with a huge bat in this lineup is Xavier Nady. He drove in 97 runs last year, so don’t overlook him. He’s basically won the rightfield spot (as if the .220 hitting Nick Swisher was putting up a legitimate fight). The centerfield job seems to have gone to Brett Gardner (who has Michael Bourn syndrome). He’s fast, but he’ll only get the Yanks the steals once he gets on base. Really though, anything is better than Melky Cabrera.
All hail the Bombers’ Savior, Mark Texeira. Big Tex has switched uniforms the past couple seasons at a good rate and should find some comfort in staying in one place. He’s a sure thing MVP candidate if he can carry this team until Alex Rodriguez returns. Ugh… Alex Rodriguez. Well we’ll see what Cody Ransom’s really got. He’s having a decent spring, leading the Yankees in at bats and hitting .286. He’s not going to come anywhere close to A-Rod production but it’s only for the start of the season.
Until A-Rod comes back, maybe May, the Yanks need to try to go at least .500 in that span. There’s just something about this team that I don’t like. I know I know, “what’s not to like?” Maybe it’s the fact that I grew up watching the dynasty Yankees. And hating them. This just isn’t the same. I say Wild Card champs.
Season Preview: Toronto Blue Jays
Projected MLB Rank: 21st — AL Rank: 9th — AL East Rank: 4th — Record: (75-87)
Maybe letting AJ go, may burn[ett] down the road. Get it? Sorry, I know it’s corny but I had to. For a team that won 86 games last season, I feel weird ranking them so poorly but then when I really take a look at the lineup, and the rotation without the arm of Burnett, then I can kind of see why I have them here, kind of.
Beginning with the rotation, Roy Halladay may be the most true pitcher in the American League. He actually pitches complete games. I’m a huge fan of that. Despite the fact that I didn’t grow up in the days where pitchers were expected to pitch until the 8th or so–that’s what I love to see. So Roy Halladay is my kind of pitcher. The number two pitcher, AJ Burnett–
–oh yea, that 1-2 knockout punch is now just the 1 punch. Burnett went for the dough and signed with the Yankees. So how does new projected number two starter Jesse Litsch stack up against Burnett’s numbers:
AJ Burnett: 18-10 — 4.07 ERA — 231 SO — .249 BAA — 9.4 SO/9INN
Jesse Litsch: 13-9 — 3.58 ERA — 99 SO — .261 BAA — 5.06 SO/9INN
I would expect Litsch’s ERA to raise a little too (c’mon it’s the AL). No matter what way you look at it, it’s a definate drop off. Taking nothing away from Litsch, who is a good pitcher, but it is hard to come by the AJ Burnett’s in this world. The rest of the rotation includes David Purcey, Scott Richmond, and Casey Janssen, Matt Clement, or Brett Cecil. Purcey has first round pick potential but has yet to find at the major league level, and the minor league level too. Richmond and all who are competing for the fifth starter spot are questionable (with the exception of the youngster Cecil).
The bullpen is, dare I say it, the best in the division. You may not know them so let’s take a look at some of these guys and their 2008 stats.
Scott Downs: 66 APP — 1.78 ERA — 57 SO — 70.2 INN
Brandon League: 31 APP — 2.18 ERA — 23 SO — 33 INN
Jesse Carlson: 69 APP — 2.25 ERA — 55 SO — 60 INN
Brian Tallet: 51 APP — 2.88 ERA — 47 SO — 56.1 INN
Brian Wolfe: 20 APP — 2.45 ERA — 14 SO — 22 INN
Also don’t forget about the reliable arms of Jason Frasor, Jeremy Accardo, and Shawn Camp. The back end of the bullpen includes BJ Ryan. Coming back from Tommy John surgery, he still racked up 32 saves last season with a 2.95 ERA and about nine strikeouts per nine innings.
Anchoring the lineup is veteran outfielder, Vernon Wells. Not playing a full season last year, Wells still cranked out 20 homeruns and 78 RBIs and hit for .300. Rightfielder, Alex Rios, mirrored those numbers but played all year long. Rod Barajas and Scott Rolen are aging and that may show this season but they can still be relatively reliable.
There are questions surrounding the Jays middle infield. Whether it’s going to be Marco Scutaro, John McDonald, Aaron Hill, or Joe Inglett. Where questions don’t surround are youngsters Adam Lind and Travis Snider. Look for manager Cito Gaston to use them very nicely and not rush them into anything too big too quickly (although it seems as if Lind is becoming the middle of the lineup hitter they’re hoping him to be). They will produce and they will be stars in this league, eventually.
The loss of Burnett, the questionable middle infield, and the shaky back of the rotation make me raise questions about the Blue Jays in 2009. Especially due to the division they are in.
It is bitter cold here today in boring central PA. I was looking through some spring training pictures and here are some of my favorites.
Nationals’ practice in Viera, Florida.
Ageless Jamie Moyer and Young King Cole Hamels throw off the practice mounds in Clearwater, Florida.
This year together, CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett are worth $24,200,000.00–how funny would it be if the Yankees missed the playoffs?
Kids watch Rangers practice in Surprise, Arizona.
Pudge Rodriguez has drawn interest from the Marlins. I think that it could be an awesome call for the young pitching staff. Last year Pudge hit .276 with 7 homeruns and 35 RBIs with the Tigers and the Yankees. The Marlins projected rotation is young and as follows:
Ricky Nolasco (age 26) (15-8 / 3.52 / 186)
Josh Johnson (age 25) (7-1 / 3.61 / 77) in 14 starts
Chris Volstad (age 22) (6-4 / 2.88 / 52) in 14 starts (15 games)
Anibal Sanchez (age 24) (2-5 / 5.57 / 50) in 10 starts
Andrew Miller (age 23) (6-10 / 5.87 / 89) in 20 starts (29 games)
Pudge could also coach along upcoming catchers John Baker and Mike Rabelo. They are 28
and 29, respectively. But Rabelo has barely over two years of MLB experience and Baker came up last year so I think that Pudge could definately show them some things behind the dish. It may be an investment the Marlins aren’t willing to make but I think they should do it regardless because of the help that it would serve down the line for both the pitching staff and the inexperienced catchers.
Ben Sheets also revealed today that he intends to have surgery on his elbow and would be shut down for the entire 2009 season. Not even a week ago, he had a deal practically done with the Rangers and now he won’t even be toeing the rubber in Arlington come April. Not only that, but the Brewers may be the ones that could be paying for the surgery.
Prior to this announcement, I was eager to analyze the AL West and try to pick an early winner. This division has quietly become the winningest division in baseball over the past few years and this year may have been an exciting race to watch and very well could still be. The Angels got worse, the A’s got better, and the Rangers almost had pitching. The Rangers offense is still among the best in the entire league and to get Sheets could have had the potential to put them up top the west. It’s really ashame.
So where will Sheets end up in 2010?
The New York Yankees. After CC repeats his 2004 performance, AJ Burnett has a career conflicting injury, Joba goes back to the DL, Phil Hughes goes to the minors for good, and Wang gets running again — they will have no other choice. Actually just kidding Yankees fans. Who knows where Sheets will end up? We still have a whole 2009 season to look forward to.
I’ll leave you with this..