I’m not gonna bother with too much of a preamble here. Y’all know the drill. Baseball is more than just my favorite sport: It’s basically my first true love. But I’m far too busy—thanks, adulthood—to follow the offseason transaction wire or read season previews like I did when I was a bookstore clerk killing time for eight hours a day. Still, I have to get my picks on record, so here’s my annual MLB Season Preview. I know this didn’t go up until a week after the season started, but I promise it was mostly written before then—as you’ll surmise from my Word Series pick, who suffered a key first-week injury. (Note: I didn’t change the pick out of any sense of honesty or morality. Just sheer laziness.) Anyway, as always, the best strategy with this column is to print it out, take it to Vegas, and bet the other way. Because I know nothing.
Toronto 89-73 – For years, I would always pick the Jays to win the AL East, and they always let me down. Last year, I finally jumped off the bandwagon, saying, “I’m not falling for the Blue Jays’ act anymore”—so of course they finally got it together and won the division. They lost David Price to the division rival Sawx in the offseason, but they’ve still got the best lineup in baseball, with reigning MVP Josh Donaldson and Bat-Flip King Jose Bautista, so I think they’ll repeat. I may just be saying this because I want to see Joey Bats in the playoffs again.
Baltimore 86-76 (Wild Card) – I think the O’s will get a good bounceback this year—they’ve got a lot of “solid vet” type guys on the team. And while he may behave like a punk little kid on the field sometimes, Manny Machado is probably gonne be a legit MVP candidate for the forseeable future. In fact, I’ll go so far as to predict that he goes nuts this year, and wins the MVP, and carries Baltimore into the playoffs.
New York Yankees 81-81 – The Yanks kinda had everything go right for them last year. Would you bet on A-Rod and Teixeira repeating their renaissance seasons from last year? I wouldn’t.
Boston 78-84 – Do I even need to say it?.
Tampa Bay 76-86 – The Rays have a chance to have a decent young rotation, but their lineup? Yuck.
Cleveland 90-72 – I asked my buddy Sean, a native Ohioan, about his Indians the other day. His response was, “We’ve got pitching. But we’ve had pitching. We still can’t hit.” Well, I think having Francisco Lindor for the whole year will help, and they’ll get a nice year from Jason Kipnis and some power (if not a lot of average) out of the Carlos Santana/Mike Napoli combo. And that pitching staff? It’s dirrrrrrty.
Kansas City 88-74 (Wild Card) – KC brought back pretty much everyone from their World Series–winning squad, save for deadline acquisition Johnny Cueto, who was pretty up-and-down in his time with the Royals. The sabermetric projection systems (yeah, I took a peek, sue me) once again don’t like this team, but Baseball Prospectus thought they’d be under .500 last year, and you see how that worked out. I think they’ll have a bit of a playoff hangover, but rally late to make the playoffs.
Detroit 85-77 – The Tigers once again threw a bunch of money at the free agent market in an attempt to be a sort of Midwest Yankees. As with the Yankees of most of the last decade, the names look good on paper, but a lot of them are old; flashy names don’t flash nearly as bright when they’re on the disabled list. I think the Tigers will be pretty good, but I see them just on the outside of the playoffs.
Minnesota 81-81 – Byron Buxton has arrived. Miguel Angel Sano is big and hits baseballs really far. There’s a lot to be excited about with the Twinkies. But I feel like they were a little ahead of schedule last year, and they might need a consolidation year before they become a true contender.
Chicago White Sox 70-92 – I know people don’t believe in chemistry anymore, but shit, I can’t believe everything that went on this preseason is setting the Pale Hose up for success.
Houston 94-68 – A full year of Carlos Correa and continued improvement from their young players spells great promise for Houston. Don’t forget that this team was just a few outs from knocking off the Royals last year.
Texas 85-77 – This team has got some nice talent, but I don’t believe Yu Darvish will be fully operational until next year. Another team that just misses out on the playoffs. Also, I’m always obligated to note that George W. Bush once owned this team, so fuck them.
Seattle 81-81 – Another team with a nice rotation and a very questionable lineup. Free King Felix!
Orange County 77-85 – Mike Trout is so great that the only reason to pick someone else as MVP is because it’s boring to pick Mike Trout (guilty!). It’s a shame he’s wasting his prime with this Mickey Mouse (see what I did there?) team.
Oakland 71-91 – Man, what a mess. Free Sonny Gray! Also, build a goddamn stadium at the Howard Terminal, already.
New York Mets 92-70 – The Mets caught lightning in a bottle last year, and that may be hard to replicate—but there was no luck involved in the pitching staff. Harvey and DeGrom and Syndergaard are for real, yo.
Washington 90-72 (Wild Card) – The Nats disappointed some last year, and this is another club that has um, issues with the personalities in its clubhouse. But there’s still so much talent here, with a pitching staff fronted by a true ace, Max Scherzer, and a lineup led by Bryce Harper, who’s the closest thing we’ve had to Barry Bonds since Barry Bonds. I’d be very surprised if they don’t make it back to the postseason this year.
Miami 84-78 – Jose Fernandez is always fun. And the whole “Barry Bonds is the hitting coach and he’s 51 years old and he can still beat the entire team, including the Mighty Giancarlo Stanton, in home run derby” thing is pretty fun. And Dee Gordon is pretty fun. But this is still one of the grossest organizations in baseball.
Philadelphia 66-96 – Just a tiny bit less shitty than the Braves.
Atlanta 64-98 – That Shelby Miller trade is gonna reap serious rewards down the road. But right now, the Major League roster is a tire fire.
Chicago Cubs 96-66 – The prohibitive World Series favorite. Which should make everyone on the North Side of Chicago verrrrrrry nervous. (Note: The Billy Goat has already gone to work, taking a bite out of Kyle Schwarber’s leg. Sorry, Cubs fans.)
Pittsburgh 91-71 (Wild Card) – I know a lot of people are predicting that this team will take a step back, but I still like them. That outfield is gonna produce big-time.
St. Louis 86-76 – The Cards can’t be good every year for the rest of time, can they? Missing out on all their free agency targets has to hurt them, right? I can keep picking against them forever, even if I’m always wrong and they always make the playoffs, right? Right.
Milwaukee 74-88 – I never have much of an opinion on the Brewers, so I was ready to just pencil in 81-81. Then I took a look at their projected lineup. Yikes.
Cincinnati 69-93 – Yuck.
San Francisco 93-69 – EVEN YEAR BITCHES!!! But seriously, the Giants look solid. The lineup was really great last year, and Denard Span should be a nice addition, if he can stay healthy. And while the additions of Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzijaziajaiza are hardly guaranteed to succeed, I’ve talked myself into them. I mean, what choice do I have?
(NOTE: Okay, we’re a week into this season now, and I’m already head-over-heels in love with this team following an Opening Day blowout win, an excellent first start from Cueto, and two fantastic comeback wins over the Dodgers. God, I love baseball.)
Arizona 87-75 – I don’t know that Zack Greinke’s contract is gonna look great long-term, and I’m pretty sure that the Snakes will regret the Shelby Miller deal down the road, but there’s no doubt they made themselves better this year. I think in the AL they’d be a playoff team, but they’re not gonna quite got there in the stronger NL.
Los Angeles 84-78 – Don’t even need to say this, either.
San Diego 73-89 – Oof.
Colorado 68-94 – Double oof.
(Note: As always, 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
Kansas City over Baltimore – We’ve seen this movie before.
-Houston over KC in 5 – The Astros get revenge for last year’s ALDS.
-Cleveland over Toronto in 4 – I continue to believe that Cleveland’s pitching will be devastating in the playoffs.
Cleveland over Houston in 6 – I continue to believe that Cleveland’s pitching will be devastating in the playoffs.
NL Wild Card Game
Washington over Pittsburgh – The poor Pirates keep running into nasty aces in the Wild Card game. Bumgarner, Arrieta, and now Scherzer.
-Chicago over Washington in 4 – An upset wouldn’t shock me … but I don’t have the stones to actually predict it.
-San Francisco over New York in 5 – This would be a great series. The Mets would actually likely be a slight favorite … but I will never pick against Madison Bumgarner in an elimination game..
Chicago over San Francisco in 6 – God, I want to make the Even Year pick so bad … but I also don’t want to jinx the Giants. (Turns out I jinxed the Cubs! Well, me and everyone else for the last 100-plus years.) And besides, this pick sets up…
Chicago over Cleveland in 5: Are you kidding me? A Cubs-Indians World Series? The two most cursed franchises in baseball, if not all of pro sports? This would be insane. And the Cubs would win. And then the Earth will implode on itself. It’s been nice knowing y’all.
And, for just a little more fun, here are my Regular Season Awards
AL MVP: Manny Machado (As stated above.)
AL Cy Young: Corey Kluber (Might as well go all-in on the Tribe.)
AL ROY: Byron Buxton (Just gonna go with the obvious choice.)
NL MVP: Bryce Harper (I’m just gonna pick him every year for the next decade.)
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw (Probably should have won last year.)
NL ROY: Steven Matz (Lefty looked pretty good for the Mets last year.)
There you have it. My only guarantee is that today is my favorite day of the year. Happy Opening Day, everyone!