Sunday, April 02, 2006

2006: A Preview of the Coming Season

Well, this is the time for your baseball predictions. The regular season starts today, so place your bets now! :)

This is going to be a fun year. Last season's great teams- White Sox, Cardinals, Yankees, Red Sox- will be dominate once again. But I think that many other teams will make an impact on this years pennant races. This off-season has brought some surprising trades and troublesome injuries, but the teams are finally taking shape.

Last year, my World Series picks were the Atlanta Braves and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Both made the playoffs, but neither made it to the world championship games.

Anyway.... here goes....

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AL East-

New York Yankees: I think the Yankees will have the best offense in baseball. With the tremendous power they had last year, plus the new leadoff hitter, Johnny Damon, this team will be nigh invincible. The bullpen will be fine with Sturze, Proctor, Dotel, and Small for the fifth and sixth innings ( if necessary), Villone for the seventh, Farnsworth for the eighth, and Rivera for the ninth. The Yankees' starting pitching is the only question. Will the starters remain healthy during the season? That remains to be seen, but the Yankees do enter this season with seven starting pitchers as opposed to last year's five. So the team is prepared for injuries.

My Prediction: Yankees win the American League East division with 100-105 wins.

Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox looked very shaky during December and January. The team was unsure if Manny, Epstein, or Wells would return. Then they lost Johnny Damon, Kevin Millar, and Renteria. But fortunately for the Sox, Epstein was re-hired, and he went straight to work. The Sox the signed Coco Crisp, Willy Mo Pena, J. T. Snow, Mark Loretta, Alex Gonzalez, and Hee Sop Choi to fill in their offensive (and defensive) gaps. The Red Sox strengthened their pitching by signing Beckett. The bullpen was patched up, and a healthy Foulke and Timlin returned to their duties. I think the Sox have a great chance at winning the AL East title, my only worry being their middle relief section which is a bit weak. Otherwise, this is a very sound team.

My Prediction: Red Sox end up second in the American League east, but win the AL wildcard.

Toronto Blue Jays: The Blue Jays were a good team last year, but will attempt to make themselves a great team this year. Toronto added A. J. Burnett to bolster a starting rotation that already contains Holliday, Lilly, and Chacin. B. J. Ryan, Spier, League, and Frasor are some great arms down in the bullpen. But in my opinion, the Jays still lack the offense to defeat Boston and New York. Glaus and Wells are the only real threats in the lineup... the rest of the lineup is composed of mediocre ball players.

My Prediction: Not good enough to win a division, but is still a solid team...

Baltimore Orioles: Well, there isn't a whole lot to say about the O's this year. The team has somewhat of a decent offense with Millar, Mora, Tejeda, Roberts, and Lopez. But the Orioles lack any kind of pitching! The starting rotation is miserable, and the bullpen (after being stripped by other AL teams) is even worse!

My Prediction: Orioles end up last in the American League East with just over 60 wins.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays: I love watching this team. The D'Rays are so tiny compared to the New York and Boston monsters that patrol the top of the AL East. There is a lot of talent on this team- Cantu, Crawford, Huff, Lugo- but not enough experience or pitching needed to win a title.

My Prediction: Does better then last year, but remains a rookie team.

AL Central-

Chicago White Sox: Last year's world champions, will be just as good this season if not better then they were last season. Chicago's pitching is brilliant, with the addition of Javier Vazquez. White Sox offense has just been made better with the addition of Thome and the re-signing of Konerko and Pierzynski. This team will be absolutely dominate once again.

My Prediction: White Sox win the American League Central, with 100-115 wins.

Cleveland Indians: The Indians did NOT have a good offseason this year. They lost their ace, Kevin Millwood and their center-fielder, Coco Crisp. Cliff Lee will be the new ace of the club, leading a very young pitching staff.

My Prediction: Indians end up in third place in their division.

Minnesota Twins: The Twins have had a very good offseason, signing some much needed offensive players. Luis Castillo and Rondell White are among the major acquisitions. White, a veteran will help to coach some of the younger players on this team. Minnesota's pitching staff will once again be great with Santana, Silva, Radke, and Lohse leading the charge.

My Prediction: Twins come in second in their division, and may make a run for the wildcard playoff spot.

Detroit Tigers: The Tigers have had a great spring training, all of their bats really lighting up. Young, Granderson, Logan, Infante, and Guillen will be the big bats in this hard-hitting lineup. The Detroit starting rotation is good, not great. Kenny Rogers and Jeremy Bonderman will have strong years, but the rest of the rotation may struggle. The bullpen is also weak and may be susceptible to other powerful American League lineups.

My Prediction: Tigers grab fourth place in the American League Central. But this team may surprise us and be really good ( like the White Sox in '05). The Tigers are somewhat of a dark horse this year; they have talent, but is it enough?

Kansas City Royals: No hope.... :) This team is incomplete in every way.... Tony Graffanino was a good pickup, but this organization lacks everything.

My Prediction: Royals are the worst team in baseball.

AL West-

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Hopefully for the Angels, Guerrero will be healthy this year and put up some MVP-like numbers. Garett Anderson also needs to do some mega-producing. The Anaheim pitching is fabulous, so they should find no trouble in that department. The Angels didn't really make a big splash during the trading season, so they won't be much different from last year.

My Prediction: Angels win the American League West division ( 90-100 wins).

Oakland Athletics: The Athletics picked up Milton Bradley this offseason, a slugger who will help the team score runs. But I still don't think that this team will have enough power to win the division. Zito, the staff's ace, has struggled mightily this March, and may have a rough season.

My Prediction: Athletics end up in third place in the American League West division this year.

Texas Rangers: This year's surprise team is the Texas Rangers. This team has the offense- Teixeira, Young, Mench, Dellucci, and Barajas- and the pitching- Millwood, Eaton, Loe, Cordero, and Shouse- needed to make a good, solid team. Landing Millwood was the best offseason signing for the Rangers. He will balance out the rotation, give the staff some leadership, and win some games!

My Prediction: Rangers come in second in the American League West division, but may have a shot at the wildcard.

Seattle Mariners: This team lacks SO much.... The pitching staff is pretty miserable, as is the bullpen. The offense is led by Ichiro and a ( hopefully) healthy Jeremy Reed. But this team will go nowhere this year.

My Prediction: Mariners are the second worst team in baseball.

NL East-

Atlanta Braves: The Braves resigned Edgar Renteria, a solid shortstop who will aid the Atlanta teams offensively and defensively. The Jones and Francour will provide plenty of offense for this team. But the pitching is shaky- Sosa, Smoltz, and Hudson the only solid starters on the team. The bullpen is also questionable, since the Braves lost their closer, Kyle Farnsworth, to the Yankees.

My Prediction: Braves come in second in the National League East division, but win the NL wild card.

Philadelphia Phillies: This will be a team to watch this season. Ryan Howard will have a break-out year. He is incredibly powerful and skilled at the plate. He has been tremendous this spring, and should be lots of fun to watch during the regular season. As for the Phillies.... the loss of Billy Wagner is really going to hit them hard. The starting rotation is ok, but the bullpen really needs help.

My Prediction: Phillies end up fourth in the National League East division, after a disappointing year.

New York Mets: Omar Minaya is a genius. Last year the Mets struggled in the offensive and relief pitching categories. So the organization went out and signed Delgado, Nady, and Lo Duca for the offensive gaps. Billy Wagner and Jorge Julio were brought in to help with the pen. If the starting rotation stays healthy, this is the team to beat in the National League.

My Prediction: Mets win the National League East division ( 90-100 wins)

Florida Marlins: Well, ask yourself this... do the Marlins even want to win? They got rid of all their great players except for Cabrera and Willis. A group of minor leaguer have been brought in to play. This team lacks the experience and true major league talent to go anywhere this year.

My Prediction: Marlins end up last in the National League East division, which results in the loss of even more fans.

Washington Nationals: After adding Soriano to the starting lineup, the Nats have a respectable offense. But the pitching staff is still weak. If Cordero is healthy, he may be able to keep the bullpen in shape. But the starting pitching is really weak; Livan Hernandez being the only formidable starter in the group.

My Prediction: Nationals end up third in the National League East division.

NL Central-

St. Loius Cardinals: The Cardinals are virtually the same team they were last year. Same mega superstars. They did lose Matt Morris ( replaced by the undependable Sidney Ponson) which will in the long run, hurt the team. Junior Spivey, the secondbaseman, is the only other notable addition to this club.

My Prediction: Cardinals win the National League Central division( 90-95 win)

Houston Astros: Unfortunately for the Astros, they did not improve their terrible offense. I was really surprised when they didn't try to go out and get a big bat for the middle of their lineup. Because of this, the Astros will not do well this year. Houston also lost Roger Clemens ( for at least the first couple of months) so the back end of their starting rotation is very, very shaky.

My Prediction: Astros come in second in the National League Central division and, for the first time in two years, have no playoff spot.

Milwaukee Brewers: Another team that looked good, but failed to get any needed players during the trading season! The starting pitching is incomplete, the bullpen is weak, and the offense is mediocre. It's a shame, but this team will go nowhere this year.

My Prediction: Brewers are third in the National League Central division.

Chicago Cubs: If all the pitchers in this club were healthy, the Cubs might have a shot at the NL wildcard. But the team begins the season with their top two starting pitchers on the disabled list! Besides that, the Chicago bullpen is disgraceful, and the offense is lacking. Derek Lee can not be expected to carry this whole team to a division title!

My Prediction: The Chicago Cubs end up in last place in the National League Central division.

Cincinnati Reds: This team has the offense to win the division, but completely lacks the pitching. It'll be fun to watch what kind of a season Ken Griffey Jr, Adam Dunn, and Austin Kearns have.

My Prediction: Reds end up fifth in the National League Central division.

Pittsburg Pirates: A team of young talent. Maybe too young. The Pirates pitching ( especially the bullpen) is questionable. Oliver Perez, Duke, and Wells are not All-Star pitchers. The defense is spectacular, but the offense isn't all there. In a couple of years, this will be a contending team.

My Prediction: Pirates come in fourth in the National League Central division.

NL West-

San Diego Padres: The Padres have a good pitching staff (just good, not great) led by WBC participant, Jake Peavy. But unfortunately, the Padres' offense is barely existent. Even Mike Piazza will not make that big of a difference, playing in the gigantic Petco Stadium.

My Prediction: Padres come in fourth in the National League West division.

Arizona Diamondbacks: If this team had any form of pitching, they might have a shot at the division title. Actually, the NL West is so terrible, they still might have a chance at winning it. The Arizona offense isn't that bad ( Gonzalez, Tracy, Hudson), but the bullpen especially needs some help.

My Prediction: The Diamondbacks come in third place in the National League West.

San Francisco Giants: Will the return of Barry Bonds have a significant impact on this lineup? Maybe.... The San Francisco pitching isn't that bad (with Schmidt and Morris), but Barry Bonds is the only great hitter on the team. So I think, if NL pitchers just walk Bonds they shouldn't find much trouble shutting down the rest of this lineup.

My Prediction: The Giants end up second in the National League West division.

Los Angeles Dodgers: If the Dodgers' pitching staff remains healthy, this will be a very good team. Jeff Kent, J, D, Drew, and Garciaparra will help bolster the LA offense.

My Prediction: The Dodgers win the National League West division.

Colorado Rockies: Terrible team.... The pitching is very, very poor ( Fuentes should just leave), and the offense isn't much better. This team needs a major make-over if it expects to go anywhere in the next couple of years.

My Prediction: The Rockies end up last in the National League West division.

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So, to wrap it all up....

American League East: New York Yankees
American League Central: Chicago White Sox
American League West: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
American League Wild Card: Boston Red Sox

National League East: New York Mets
National League Central: St. Louis Cardinals
National League West: Los Angeles Dodgers
National League Wild Card: Atlanta Braves

ALCS: Yankees v. White Sox

NLCS: Mets v. Dodgers

World Series: Yankees v. Mets

Well, let the season begin!

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