BASEBALL IS BACK!!! SPRING IS FINALLY HERE!!!
Well, that last part might be a bit of an exaggeration, given that it was still in the 30s and snowing last week in NYC (God, this winter has been awful). But Opening Day always gives me and millions of other baseball fans across America and the world a taste of optimism, a reason to rejoice. I’ve long had two traditions for Opening Day: The first was to take the day off of work and spend nine hours in a sports bar watching ballgames. I probably won’t be able to pull that off this year, but be warned, co-workers, I might take a VERY long lunch today. Why is Opening Day not a national holiday?
My other Opening Day tradition is, of course, my Season Preview column. I used to follow baseball completely obsessively, even during the offseason, reading everything I could about every Hot Stove trade and signing, even the ones made by teams I didn’t care about. But over the last couple of years, as I’ve found myself working at increasingly “adult” jobs (in the “I’m a grown up” sense, not the “adult movie” sense), I’ve lost the bandwidth to follow offseason maneuvering. I don’t have much idea who switched teams this year, and I completely checked out after the Giants re-signed Tim Lincecum.
Given that there are so many baseball websites out there using detailed statistical forecasting systems, why would anyone read my preview, which I’m writing without doing any research, not even a cursory glance at PECOTA or ZiPS? Beats the hell out of me. I am not kidding—I just had to look up how many Wild Card playoff teams there are now. I’m reasonably sure Barry Bonds is going to win the home run title this year. Honestly, I’m only writing this because I’ve been doing it for like 10 years, and my buddy Matt will disown me if I quit now. I’ll try to be pithy, at least. On to my off-the-cuff, completely uninformed predictions that will surely be wrong!
Tampa Bay 95-67 – The Rays have been beating the system for years, and with this probably being their last year with David Price, I think they’re going big. They’ve got a great young rotation, a cornerstone in his prime in Evan Longoria, maybe the game’s best manager, and I could see Wil Myers exploding. I think the Rays are the AL favorites.
Boston 91-71 (Wild Card) – God I hate this team. Everything went right for the Sawx last year, and they won the World Series. They won’t get as many breaks this year, but they’ve got enough young talent replacing their key losses that I can’t see them falling off too much. Fuck you, Boston.
New York Yankees 85-77 – Fuck you too, Yankees. All that money you threw at Ellsbury and the Japanese pitcher whose name I’m not going to bother to Google won’t fix all the dead money you’re paying to your 40-year-old shortstop, your limp-wristed first baseman, and your disgraced, suspended third baseman. You get the same record you finished with last year.
Baltimore 81-81 – I’d like to say I think the O’s will do better than this, but the injuries to Manny Machado and Dylan Bundy just make me feel like there’s a black cloud over this team. Plus, Buck Showalter’s teams always get sick of him after awhile—that’s what happens when you’re an anal-retentive maniac.
Toronto 75-87 – I’m not falling for the Blue Jays’ act anymore.
Detroit 91-71 – Loved the Kinsler-Fielder trade for Detroit. As long as they have Cabrera and Verlander in their primes, this team will be the AL Central favorite.
Kansas City 88-74 (Wild Card) – I thought Cleveland would surprise last year (though I didn’t actually pick them to make the playoffs), and I’m getting the same good vibe from the Royals this year. I hope we get to see a playoff game or two at beautiful Kauffman Stadium (or whatever corporate succubus they’ve sold the naming rights of their ballpark to).
Cleveland 86-76 – I think the Tribe will be strong again this year. I just think it’s KC’s turn for some good luck. What, you came here for analysis, Nate Silver?
Minnesota 69-93 – The Twinkies have some very exciting prospects on the way, but Miguel Angel Sano got hurt and is going to miss the year, and consensus best-prospect-in-baseball Byron Buxton probably won’t make it to the Show until September. Til then, there are gonna be a lot of L’s in the Twin City.
Chicago White Sox 66-96 – I didn’t realize until I looked just now that the Pale Hose lost 99 games last year. (Isn’t ‘Pale Hose’ a great name? It’s like what a pimp would call a bunch of hookers who hadn’t gotten enough sun.) Feels like there’s a long rebuilding project ahead on the South Side of the Windy City.
Oakland 90-72 – Losing Jarrod Parker to Tommy John surgery hurts, but the A’s are built on depth, and I think that, while they may be slightly diminished, they’re still going to take their third straight AL West title. Besides, how could I pick against the team that employs my doppelganger/Face-of-MLB candidate Eric Sogard?
Texas 87-75 – The Rangers will score a lot of runs with the additions of Prince Fielder (who is going to hit a ton of homers in that ballpark) and Shin-Soo Choo, but I think they missed their window, and they’ll get sniped by KC for a playoff spot on the last day of the season. Also, since the Rangers were once owned by George W. Bush, fuck this team forever.
Seattle 86-76 – I think Robinson Cano is going to disappoint Seattle fans somewhat (there has to be a reason he’s the one guy the Yanks DIDN’T sign). But I love the Mariners’ young pitching staff, led by the great King Felix.
Anaheim 74-88 – The Angels are the Yankees of the West Coast—they’ve thrown way too much money at past-their-prime players and are doomed to also-ran status. I’d say Mike Trout deserves better, but I enjoy watching people from Orange County suffer.
Houston 62-100 – Yuck. (For the record, this is exactly what I wrote in last year’s preview.)
Washington 96-66 – The Nats disappointed last year, but I think they’ll step it back up this year. There’s just too much talent on hand, especially if Bryce Harper can stay on the field.
Atlanta 86-76 – It seems like the Braves make the playoffs every year, but I think, because of all their injuries, this is the year that trend breaks apart.
New York Mets 76-86 – The Matt Harvey injury was such a bummer. At least the Mets have some prospects coming. I went to a Mets-Giants game in September last year, and the Giants fans had the Mets fans outnumbered at CitiField. I’m expecting the same kind of scene in Flushing this year.
Philadelphia 74-88 – Man, the bottom of this division is a total grease fire.
Miami 67-95 – Even with Jose Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton, this franchise is still an abomination
St. Louis 95-77 – I’ve referred to the Cards, like the Braves, as a “Hydra team” in the past. That remains true this year, as a team that went to the World Series can add dynamic pitching and hitting prospects in Carlos Martinez and Oscar Taveras, respectively. Dammit. I hate this team.
Pittsburgh 88-74 (Wild Card) – Love this team, love McCutchen, love the ballpark, even have a soft spot for this city. A full year of Gerrit Cole will help, and I think that, even with a bit of a backslide from last year, they’ve got a shot to return to the playoffs.
Cincinnati 86-76 – Cincy stays in the hunt for the Wild Card, but losing Choo really hurts them. Their pitching looks shaky to me as well. And Mat Latos is ugly. If you want to smile for an hour straight, just sit there and watch him get owned by Buster Posey on repeat.
Milwaukee 81-81 – I think Ryan Braun has a big bounceback year. Personally, I don’t care about the roids—I can’t help but love a player nicknamed “The Hebrew Hammer.” The Brewers probably missed their shot, though, and I could see them deciding to tear down and do a full rebuild.
Chicago Cubs 69-93 – Building smartly, but still a ways off. (This is also the exact same thing I wrote last year. Rough times for baseball fans in Chi-town.)
Los Angeles 93-69 – The Dodgers look like another juggernaut at the top of the NL. Goddammit.
San Francisco 90-72 (Wild Card) – On the other hand, I’m feeling a bounceback for the Giants. A return to normal Matt Cain, the replacement of a bad ex-Oakland A’s ace (Barry Zito) with a good one (Tim Hudson), and the continued awesomeness of MadBum augur good things for the rotation. And in the lineup you’ve got a ready-to-breakout Brandon Belt, Pablo Sandoval hungry for a massive new contract (instead of arepas), and Captain America (Posey). The Giants might be a tick behind the Dodgers, but I think they return to the playoffs. You know what happens in even years.
San Diego 82-80 – This Padres team has some sleeper potential. Don’t ask me why I think that. I just do. Truthiness.
Arizona 75-87 – It’s possible that the D’Backs front office has been drunk for two consecutive years.
Colorado 72-90 – I have nothing to say about this team, except that, five years later, I still can’t believe the A’s traded Carlos Gonzalez.
(Note: Once again, I did not try to make these records come out to .500. I’m not even going to add them up. They’re just rough benchmarks for where I see these teams ending up.)
On to the Playoffs
AL Wild Card Game
Boston over Kansas City – I don’t believe in the Royals THAT much.
-Tampa Bay over Boston in 5 – I really believe the Rays would have beat the Sawx last year if Wil Myers hadn’t thought he was getting called off that David Ortiz fly ball. David Price makes the difference in this short series.
-Detroit over Oakland in 5 – If this feels familiar, it should. It’s just destiny at this point. A’s fans will go to their graves cursing Justin Verlander
Tampa Bay over Detroit in 7 – This would be a great, great, great series that could totally go either way. I’m taking the Rays, by a hair (Scale? What kind of skin do sting rays have?) over the Tigers..
NL Wild Card Game
San Francisco over Pittsburgh – The curse of Barry Bonds continues for the Pirates.
-Washington over San Francisco in 4 – The Nats have more high-end talent than the Giants, and it’ll show in this series.
-Los Angeles over St. Louis in 5 – In a rematch of last year’s NLCS, the Dodgers get revenge.
Washington over Los Angeles in 6 – You don’t think I’m picking the Dodgers to go to the World Series, do you?
Washington over Tampa Bay in 7: I picked the Nats to win it all and for Bryce Harper to be World Series MVP last year, and I’m going right back to the well. Sorry fans of the Artists-Formerly-Known-as–Les Expos, but for the second year in a row I’ve skunked you with the From a Brooklyn Basement jinx.
And, for just a little more fun, here are my Regular Season Awards
AL MVP: Mike Trout (He easily could be going for his third MVP in a row right now.)
AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez (I always pick Verlander, so let’s switch this up.)
AL ROY: Uh … Xander Bogaerts (Just because I wanted to type Xander)
NL MVP: Yadier Molina (He had a shot to win it before he got hurt last year.)
NL Cy Young: Steven Strasburg (Seems too easy to pick Kershaw)
NL ROY: Oscar Taveras (Because I mentioned him earlier and don’t want to Google anybody else.)
There you have it. My only guarantee is that today is my favorite day of the year. Happy Opening Day, everyone!