Sunday, April 05, 2009

2009 Baseball Preview

Yeah, my picks last year didn't go too terribly well. I followed the "experts" far too much, and paid the price of getting things wrong. Of course, the year before that I deviated a bunch and still got a lot of things wrong. But I've done ok some years. I guess the point is, sometimes my picks are right, and sometimes they're wrong, and we get a whole awesome summer of games to figure it all out. So, here we go with the picks:

National League

NL East: You know, when the Mets died last year I just laughed. It was really kind of a nice, sweet feeling of inevitability as they perfected their collapse. It was almost like watching the Cubs. I can't imagine we'd be so lucky as to see it happen three years in a row, and I think they have the pieces to be solid, so I'm picking them to win the NL East. After that, I kind of like the Braves, but they just don't have the offense, and it's hard to pick against the World Series winners, especially because they can really hit. The Nationals, on the other hand, are abysmal. They're my local team, so I'll still root for 'em, but man are they bad. The good news is that now that Bowden is gone they can star getting better. So I'm predicting the East to finish: Mets, Phillies, Braves, Marlins, Nats.

NL Central: I'll quote myself from last year: "Never a fun division to pick because there are so many middling teams, and it's baseball's biggest division." I think that's true enough again this year, but I think the Cubs aren't quite as middling as the rest, so they'll win the division by a couple. I've always kind of liked the Brewers, and watching their resurgence has been fun. I also think St. Louis could probably surprise people. A lot has been written about the new and improved Reds, but I just think they're too young, and not a complete enough team. Picking young has been the way to go lately in baseball it seems (the Rays for example), but I just don't think the Reds have enough polish. They're still better than the Astros and Pirates though. NL Central in order: Cubs, Brewers, Cards, Reds, Astros, Pirates.

NL West: Well we can count San Diego out, right? I'd say they, the Nationals, and the Pirates will all probably compete for worst team, right? And the Giants are still rebuilding, though I hear they have a lot of pieces in their minor leagues that we'll see soon enough. I don't think the Rockies are back to where they were two years ago, but they're a fun team. That leaves the Diamondbacks and the Dodgers. With Manny the Dodgers have plenty of offense to go around, while the Diamondbacks play a great team game. Is this getting to be a heated rivalry? I don't know, because the NL West is probably my least-followed division, but there should be a good battle between these two again. I'm going to give the edge to the Dodgers, since Torre knows how to keep a team plugging away. Your NL West finishes Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Giants, Padres.

NL Wild Card: East or West? It's between Arizona and Philly. I like the Diamondbacks more, but I don't feel right picking against a reigning Champion team that didn't lose any pieces. Well, I don't feel right doing it now. Just wait until we get to the AL. Phillies take the Wild Card.

MVP: Last year's prediction: David Wright leads the Mets to a East title over the Phillies and takes home the MVP trophy as a result. This year's prediction: David Wright leads the Mets to a East title over the Phillies and takes home the MVP trophy as a result.

Cy Young: Mr. Johan Santana sits batters down and takes home his third (should be fourth) Cy.

Rookie: This is always hard, so I just go with a prospect whose name I've heard before: Cameron Maybin? Maybe? Maybin. Maybe.

American League

AL East: Hmm. The Rays won the East last year, made it to the World Series, didn't lose any pieces, and have David Price available for a full year if they want. And yet... I'm going to pick the Yankees. They're old, I know, and that's not good. Age will certainly handcuff their offense a little more than it has in the past (though Texiera should help with all of that). But they added some pitching, which they just haven't had the last couple years, and that's going to make them a more well-rounded team. And they'll have the magic of the new stadium, so that'll help propel them too. Boston is going to be right there with them, but I hate the Red Sox, so they won't get any more love than that nod. The East finishes up: Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Jays, O's.

AL Central: Last year I picked against the Twins, (for the first time since I've been doing this I think), and they were as close as you can get without making it. A 1-0 loss in a one-game-playoff? Wow. I said they were building to something, and they surpassed my expectations. This year they return to the top of the heap. I'm a bit worried about Mauer, just because the injury is kind of strange and no one can predict when he'll be back, or whether the injury will return. And I'm excited to watch Liriano, Span, Casilla, Gomez and Young all build on what they did last year. I'm sure some of them will take a step back at times, but I think overall they'll all add more to their games (setting them up for their World Series title in 2010... but I'm a year ahead of myself). And they've got really great pitching. Liriano might be an ace, but every other guy on the staff is no worse than a number 3 pitcher, and they're all working with two of the smartest catchers in baseball, so that helps them step up their game. The White Sox took a step back in the offseason, but that was happening no matter what. They were smart enough to do so in a way that puts them in a good place in the future. The Indians... they're gonna be good. Grady Sizemore is an amazing player. This is a team that always manages to play a bit below where they should, and so I think that'll keep 'em from winning it all, but it'll be a battle. The AL Central goes: Twins, Indians, White Sox, Tigers, Royals.

AL West: The Angels absolutely ran away with it last year. This year it'll be much closer, but what they lost in Texiera and Rodriguez isn't enough to keep them out of first. Oakland is on their way to building another contend-every-year-but-not-good-enough group, just like in the first part of the decade. Seattle takes a step forward with better pitching performances and Ken Griffey Junior's smile. The West goes down: Angels, Athletics, Mariners, Rangers.

AL Wild Card: "Once again, screw you Boston. Indians take the wild card." I think this is, what, the third time I'm writing the same thing I did last year? And this time, it's especially appropriate, because hating the Red Sox is a timeless joy.

MVP: Grady Sizemore, but a healthy Joe Mauer would give him a run for his money.

Cy Young: I'm gonna go with Liriano, because I root for the Twins, and I don't know who else I would pick. Plus the way he finished the year last year was spectacular, so if he can carry that through, this isn't entirely crazy.

Rookie: Well, he's starting in the minors, but Matt Weiters is apparently going to be a very good addition to the O's.

NLS: Cubs over Mets, Dodgers over Phillies.
NLCS: Cubs over Dodgers.
ALS: Indians over Angels, Yankees over Twins
ALCS: Yankees over Indians
World Series: Yankees over Cubs. Note, I almost went the other way with this... but that's just crazy.

Put me in coach
I'm ready to play


Jeff said...

Looks like another crap year for my teams... sigh

What's funny is that the Orioles have the pieces for a legitimately good lineup - Markakis, Roberts, Huff, Scott, and Jones can all hit, and once you add Wieters to that mix you'll have a playoff-caliber offense... but the rotation is absolutely God-awful after Guthrie. And the Nats... well, they don't have a starting pitcher older than me. That says something right there.

R.W.McGee said...

Since I was the only person I know to say that the Yankees wouldn't make the playoffs last year...I'm going to follow that up by saying that this year they have THE most overrated rotation in baseball.

C.C. Sabathia is a big question mark, especially in terms of fitness...but I do think he wins 12-16 games. A.J. Burnett is not good, I don't understand that signing. Pettite is too old and Joba should be in the 'pen. Basically Chien Ming Wang is their one solid pitcher. And their bullpen is a mess which will not help.

I think the era of the evil empire is (finally) over. I would pencil them in for third in the A.L. East. Fourth if the Baltimore pitching over-achieves.

Matthew B. Novak said...

Jeff - I think you overestimate the O's lineup. Markakis is underrated, and Jones can hit too. Roberts is good for a 2B, but that's not saying much. I don't give Huff and Scott much love. They're mediocre as an offense. And they need pitching. Badly.

R.W. - The evil empire isn't over, because the Yankees aren't the evil empire. That's Boston, and they're still just as evil, and just as much an empire as they've ever been.

Burnett is a solid pitcher, who will be better with offense behind him. Sabathia isn't that much of a question mark. He's a big guy, but that doesn't mean he can't pitch. Pettite is too old, yes, and Joba is better in small doses, but he'll still be a good starter. So that's a pretty solid rotation. And they'll still have the offense, especially once A-Rod comes back. I think the Yankees should give people plenty of worry.

R.W.McGee said...

I don't think the Red Sox can really qualify as an empire...since they didn't start winning until 2004.

However, I will confess that when it comes to the overspending that ruins baseball, they are starting to catch up to the Yankees, especially with their ridiculous deal for Dice-K Matsuzaka.

Still, the Yankees will always be evil to me. Because even though I'm a Twins fan...I grew up in Boston...and proper hatred of the Yankees is learned there at an early age.

Matthew B. Novak said...

You know who coined the term "Evil Empire" with respect to the Yankees? Red Sox ownership.

You're right, the Red Sox didn't start winning until 2004, but what makes them empiric is their grip on the media and how they're treated as darlings no matter what they do, and because of their super annoying fans that exist like a pestilence across our country.

They're guilty of every sin the Yankees are guilty of, and they don't have any of the redeeming history. You can hate the Yankees, that's just fine. But anyone who loves baseball should hate the Red Sox too.

Also, how appropiate is this? My word verification is last year's World Series winner: Phillyz

R.W.McGee said...

I'm going to go ahead and stick with my comment about Sabathia's fitness being in question. Guy looks absolutely out of juice after five innings. Might have been a little too much adrenaline for opening day I suppose...but that can't be the start they wanted.

Also, the Red Sox have just as much history as the Yankees. Both teams were established in 1901.

(my code was mater...maybe I should call my mother =P)

Matthew B. Novak said...

The key word was redeeming.

Mike said...

They're both evil empires, because rather than build up a cohesive solid team like you're supposed to (see completely unbiased entries under "Atlanta Braves, 1991-2004" and "Tampa Bay Rays, 2008") they attempt to buy a great team. It's to baseball's great fortune that, at least with the Yankees, it has recently turned out to be less than the sum of its parts.

Anyway, Sabathia underperformed even the mediocrity that I expected from him yesterday, though he will improve (only one way to go). Burnett is a non-starter, R.W. is right on that. The Yankees just don't have the staff to take the division. AL East will finish (unfortunately) Red Sox, Rays, Yankees, O's, Jays, with (fortunately) the Rays taking the Wild Card. Other than that, no major deviations from your picks, other than to say before yesterday I had the Indians taking the Central, but if Cliff Lee continues to struggle that badly, they'll finish third at best (and likely the Twins will capture it as you predict).


R.W.McGee said...

Ok, when I said Wang was the Yankees best pitcher...obviously that was a joke. The Yankees have no best pitcher.