Monday, April 2, 2012

0 comments 2012 MLB Preview

A few years ago, I did complete previews of every MLB team where I previewed each team's offense and defense. I believe I did three or four teams at a time in a post. It was fun, but also a lot of work, so I've opted to not do that this year. I'm lazy. I can be wrong without writing 9-10 posts explaining in great detail just how wrong I am. So I figured I would embarrass myself yet again this year and preview the 2012 season and try to pick how each division and how the playoffs will go. Because I have a National League AND East Coast Bias, let's start with the NL East.

NL East

Philadelphia Phillies (94-68): I believe I chose the Braves to win this division last year. For the time being, I'm going to stick with the Phillies to win the NL East. Though I do worry about their bullpen and how long Ryan Howard will be out, I still think its their division to lose. They still have three top pitchers and with Vance Worley's emergence the offense could handle a small step back. Plus, Hunter Pence will be an annoying terror this year. A Top-3 MVP vote count isn't out of the question for him.

Atlanta Braves (88-74): I shudder to put them here and probably will regret it. I have real questions about their ability to hit since they haven't made too personnel changes and it seems like 1-2 of their relievers are due for Tommy John surgery due to the workload they had last year. I put them here because I believe Heyward, Uggla, and Prado will increase their level of play and hit and the pitching stays steady. If that doesn't happen, I can see a 4th place finish easily.

Washington Nationals (84-78): I really like this Nationals team. I like their starting pitching and think it has really improved since last year. Gonzalez was a nice pickup and Strasburg is back from injury. My issue lies in the fact I don't like the batters up the middle. Desmond, Espinosa, and Bernadina are low OBP guys who I'm not sure will get on-base enough to score runs. Even with Jayson Werth remembering how to hit I think this team is a year away.

Miami Marlins (81-81): I'm not buying. Call me a contrarian or in denial. I don't believe Reyes can stay healthy all year, Buerhle is not a #2 starter, and behind (injury-prone) Josh Johnson is Ricky Nolasco and Carlos Zambrano...guys who are question marks (Zambrano) or a bit overrated (Nolasco). Outside of Heath Bell, I'm not convinced by the bullpen either. This team is better, but the competition in the division has gotten better also.

New York Mets (70-92): If you had told me in 2001 I would be feeling bad for the New York Mets then I would call you crazy. I do feel bad for them. I really like Davis, Duda, Thole and Ruben Tejada. I don't know if that is the core for the future, but they aren't bad players. That counts for something, right? I'm not sure the pitching is going to be good spots 1-12 and I don't trust Jason Bay or David Wright to make an impact...okay, maybe I trust Wright more than Bay. Either way, even if Johan Santana is able to come back this year and pitch full time, the Mets will still struggle.

NL Central

St. Louis Cardinals (87-75): I know. What am I smoking? There's no way the Cardinals win the division this year. This is a hard division to call and there are reasons for me to dislike every team. I think despite the loss of Pujols the general mediocrity of this division will allow the Cardinals to win the division. I like the starting pitching with Wainwright, Garcia, Lohse (and whatever Carpenter can provide) and as long as Lance Berkman replicates last year (fat chance) and Carlos Beltran stays healthy (and fatter chance) they will win the division. So I'm basing my opinion on two fat chances and Allen Craig coming back healthy in May.

Cincinnati Reds (86-76): This is the popular team to pick in this division. So why am I not picking them? I don't think Mat Latos will be the kind of pitcher he was in San Diego, I don't like their overall starting pitching depth and the loss of Ryan Madsen concerns me for the bullpen. Obviously Joey Votto is an MVP candidate, but this is a Reds team I see playing better in the playoffs than during the season. Whatever that means. They just have to make the playoffs first.

Milwaukee Brewers (83-79): Even if Ryan Braun plays like he did last year, why would teams even pitch to him? Aramis Ramirez is fading, Matt Gamel never was, Alex Gonzalez can't hit a baseball pitched to him not down the middle of the plate, Rickie Weeks will get that leaves Corey Hart. So I think this season comes down to how Corey Hart plays. I love the pitching with Marcum, Greinke, and Gallardo. I'm not sure this is a team that can withstand the loss of Prince Fielder offensively though.

Pittsburgh Pirates (78-84): Fourth place! That's not last place! The Pirates pitching doesn't look very impressive, but fortunately they play the Astros and Cubs many times this year. I look for Pedro Alvarez to get his shit together, Jose Tabata to improve, and Andrew McCutchen to start outplaying his contract less than a few months after it was signed. Yes, Eric Bedard is the opening day starter, but he probably won't be the best pitcher on the staff. That will probably be Jeff Karstens.

Chicago Cubs (75-87): This isn't the year the Cubs are supposed to compete. They are flushing all the shit down the toilet before they start cleaning the toilet (bathroom analogy!). This year is about finding out who is going to be on this team three years from now. The starting pitching isn't non-impressive, but I look for Carlos Marmol to be traded and Starlin Castro will continue to improve. Again, this isn't about this year, but about finding out what some of these players can do. Can Ian Stewart be Bill Mueller? Is Bryan LaHair just like Kevin Millar (no)? Probably not, but it's not a bad short-term plan and as bad as rebuilding sucks, it is the best move.

Houston Astros (60-102): This is a terrible team and I don't quite see much hope. The team and the farm system are rebuilding. I'm not sure why the Astros are wasting Brett Myers in the bullpen to close out games that won't need being closed out. There's not much to say other than even if the pitching staff produced, this team is made up of overpaid players, upcoming prospects, past their prime prospects, and Jed Lowrie.

NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks (91-71): I like the trade for Trevor Cahill. That trade really shored up the rotation for the Diamondbacks. Justin Upton is the kind of player who could carry a team, but he hopefully won't have to with Jason Kubel and Paul Goldschmidt in the lineup. I don't love any of the other teams in the division, but I think this is the best team in the division with the second-best starting pitching. Kennedy/Cahill/Hudson match up well with opposing teams and if the Diamondbacks get anything from Stephen Drew it is a plus.

Colorado Rockies (89-73): I'm taking a leap with the Rockies' record because I don't love the Rockies starting pitching. I really like the outfield, even if Dexter Fowler doesn't become the player we all thought he may be. Still, Cuddyer was a good and versatile addition to the outfield. I think of this as a good hitting Rockies team with just enough pitching to take one of the Wild Card spots.

San Francisco Giants (84-78): Everyone loves the Giants pitching. I just can't pick a team that starts an outfield of Melky Cabrera, Nate Schierholtz and Angel Pagan to win the division. Even with Buster Posey back, I don't trust Aubrey Huff to hit the ball well enough for the Giants to make the playoffs. I think the front office is doing the pitching staff an injustice by not giving them an offense that will score enough runs. Otherwise, that's a great pitching staff.

Los Angeles Dodgers (80-82): I don't hate the Dodgers. Don't tell T.J. Simers this. Clayton Kershaw is one of the best pitchers in baseball and Matt Kemp is one of the best hitters in baseball. Unfortunately, there are seven other players in the lineup every fifth day when Kershaw pitches and I don't think the Dodgers are strong enough in the infield (batting-wise) to make the playoffs. The rotation is very "blah" after Billingsley. Harang and Lilly are good pitchers, but not too much more. I look for T.J. Simers to enjoy the Dodgers lack of success.

San Diego Padres (71-91): Seems like they are rebuilding again. It's hard to say that though when their lineup seems to consist of guys who are guys who just aren't hitting as well as hoped at this point in their career and aren't exactly young guys. Yonder Alonso excepted of course. The starting pitching staff is all on the wrong side of 25, which doesn't sound like a big deal except for the fact these are supposed to be the prime years of their career and they aren't exactly pitching like they are in their prime. This team simply isn't good enough.

NL Playoffs

Stupid one game Wild Card playoff: Colorado over Atlanta

NLDS: Philadelphia over Colorado, Arizona over St. Louis

NLCS: Arizona over Philadelphia

Now for the American League...

AL East

New York Yankees (97-65): This is the easiest and hardest division to pick. The Blue Jays and Orioles probably aren't finishing higher than 4th. So that's easy to know. It's hard to guess how the other three teams will end up. The last time the Yankees made an effort to upgrade their pitching staff they won the World Series. I'm not comfortable going that far, but even given A-Rod's regression and Granderson probably not playing as well as he did last year, the Yankees have plenty of offense. Tex struggled in 2011 and he won't do that again in 2012.

Boston Red Sox (91-71): I'm high on the Red Sox. Sure their starting pitching seems to be a question mark, but they have the best hitter in the division, Adrian Gonzalez and I think Cody Ross will enjoy hitting in Fenway. The Red Sox can't replace Papelbon, it is impossible to find someone who as big of a douchebag as Paps is, but even harder to find as good of a closer. Still, I like the Bailey/Melancon combo. I'm buying on the Red Sox, even if the starting pitching is a bit unsettled.

Tampa Bay Rays (86-76): I'm not as high on the Rays. It took a complete collapse by the Red Sox to get the Rays in the playoffs last year and I'm not sure they are much better than they were last year. I am interested to see what Matt Joyce can do with 550 at-bats and interested to see Desmond Jennings play 150+ games. I feel weird not picking this team to win the division because up and down the roster I really like the Rays. I just think they are taking a one year step back, even with that tough starting pitching.

Toronto Blue Jays (83-79): Would it be possible for me to move Toronto to the NL Central and have the Blue Jays win the NL Central? I'd like to do that. They are a good team, but they are a few steps behind the Rays/Yankees/Red Sox at this point still. They have a solid "B-" team in a division full of "A's" and "B+'s." I'd feel better if I knew what they'd get from Colby Rasmus, Adam Lind, and Brandon Morrow. If anyone can predict the future and tell me what those guys will provide, I can make my prediction more accurate. They are a good team in a very good division.

Baltimore Orioles (72-90): Oh, the Orioles. They traded their most consistent starter for Jason Hammel and have strikeout kings Mark Reynolds and Chris Davis at the corners of the infield. Adam Jones' development has seemingly stalled and Matt Wieters could be in the same boat in one year. If I'm going to be technical about it, they don't have very good pitching at all. They have a staff of #4 and #5 guys and the fact half of their hitters can't make contact with the ball or get on-base at an average rate doesn't help things. But hey, last year they ruined the Red Sox season. That's something to hold onto for the next decade.

AL Central

Detroit Tigers (96-66): I liked the Tigers before they signed Prince Fielder. Now I really like them. If Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello pitch well this year then they are the team to beat in the American League. I expect Doug Fister to regress from how he pitched in Detroit last year, but Porcello should improve. The Tigers successfully got Brandon Inge to possibly not have 250 at-bats this year and that's a huge win. I do question whether Peralta can reproduce how he hit last year and whether Andy Dirks can be an everyday outfielder. Still, I'm feeling good about this team...even knowing Jose Valverde will blow at least one save this year.

Cleveland Indians (85-77): Hop on the bandwagon everyone! I like the Indians this year. Actually, I don't like the other teams in the division more, but still...those Indians...looking good. The Indians quietly got much better this offseason, especially in the starting pitching category. Lowe and Slowey aren't great, but they will give the Indians inning. I'm concerned about Jimenez pitching well. He has struggled since coming to Cleveland. Casey Kotchman was a good signing and Shin Soo-Choo is going to have a bounceback year. I like Jason Kipnis and I like that I like the Indians this year.

Kansas City Royals (81-81): The Royals are getting better. I'm a little surprised they are the 900th team to give Jeff Francoeur a permanent job in the outfield, but I guess there are worse options in the free agent market. There are maybe no other options with as high sense of self-worth as Francoeur has. The starting rotation isn't imposing, but I think the bullpen is pretty good, even without Soria. This team will at least hit well enough to go .500 this year, which is an improvement.

Minnesota Twins (75-87): I've never understood how the Twins won games with starters who projected to be #3 starters at-best. I don't have to wonder about that this year because they aren't going to win too many games. It's never good news when your two best hitters are complete question marks (Morneau/Mauer). I don't know if the Twins are going to hit the ball and that pitching staff still contains really average pitchers. If Mauer and Morneau can't come back to their old selves then Josh Willingham and Danny Valencia can't carry the offense.

Chicago White Sox (68-94): I can't decide how bad this team will be. I also can't decide if Robin Ventura is a genius or moron for wanting to bat Pierzynski 2nd in the batting order. I don't expect Adam Dunn to struggle this upcoming season like he did last season and I keep expecting Paul Konerko to drop in production...but that doesn't seem to be happening. I think the pitching staff is below average and I'm not even sure they can get anything from Jake Peavy at this point. There are too many question marks on this team for me to think they will win 70 games.

AL West

Los Angeles Angels (98-64): I think what scares me the most about this Angels team is their best/second-best outfielder isn't even going to probably start the year in the lineup. That's Mike Trout. Anybody think the Angels want a time machine to take the Vernon Wells trade back and sign a two-year gap guy in left field like Johnny Damon? I bet they do. This is the perfect situation for C.J. Wilson. He isn't a #2-quality starter, but he doesn't have to be on this pitching staff, but he still gets paid like a #2 starter. What's great is this Angels team added the best available bat, Albert Pujols, but their pitching can win them games even if the Angels lineup isn't hitting. I think the Angels win the division. I'm just excited to see Mike Trout play in all honesty.

Texas Rangers (93-69): The Rangers have sort of been forgotten in all the talk about Pujols and the Angels. This is still a very good team. Neftali Feliz has the stuff to be a starter and was originally a starter in the minors, so I'm not overly concerned for him making the transition. The best part is the Rangers could always move Ogando back to the rotation and have an awe-inspiring bullpen if Feliz doesn't work out. I'm just surprised Michael Young didn't demand a trade when the Rangers signed Yu Darvish. Demanding a trade is his knee-jerk reaction to any move the Rangers make. This team will hit very well and I think the starting pitching is above average, but not great.

Seattle Mariners (77-85): I get the Montero-Pineida trade more than some experts do. The Mariners wanted a quality young hitter and they knew they would have to give up a quality player in order to get a quality young hitter. I'm not as concerned about the fact Montero doesn't play the field well. Would it have been a better trade if Montero played catcher? Wouldn't that ultimately lead to the whole "When will the Mariners move Montero from catcher to preserve his health" discussion? So he can't play the field well, his job will be to hit anyway. The Mariners still don't have very good hitting up and down the lineup, but I am a bit warmed up to their pitching staff. From what I've read about Hector Noesi and Blake Beavan (the Mariner's #4/#5 starters) they will succeed in Safeco Park. I think the Mariners may be improving.

Oakland A's (65-97): The A's, on the other hand, are not improving. They spent the late Fall and Winter ridding themselves of good pitching (Gio Gonzalez/Trevor Cahill). As much of a ceiling Cespedes is supposed to have, I don't see where the offense is coming from. The A's won't have enough starting pitching to come close to competing in this division and I think it will take another year or two before the A's rebuilding plan (again) starts to allow them to compete again.

AL Playoffs

Stupid One Game Wild Card Playoff: Boston over Texas

ALDS: Boston over Los Angeles, Detroit over New York

ALCS: Detroit over Boston

World Series: Detroit over Arizona

There we go. Feel free to call me an idiot.