Friday, March 14, 2014

2014 Major League Baseball predictions

The 2014 Major League Baseball season begins in a little more than week from now. The first game is on March 22nd in Australia between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks. That's not a typo. The game will be played at the Sydney Cricket Ground which is being converted into a baseball configuration just so they can host the opening series. The first game will be televised live at 1am PST. 
MLB has opened the season in Japan but this is a first for Australia. The idea behind this is to get more people in the world interested in baseball. I understand that but it makes for a wacky scheduled for both the Dodgers and Diamondbacks. They will be playing two games that count as part of the regular season and then go back to playing exhibition games for about week until restarting the regular season again when all the other teams start their season.

Despite their wacky schedule, I am excited, as always, for the baseball season to begin. Here are my predictions for the 2014 season -

American League West 
Oakland Athletics  94-68
Texas Rangers 90-72*
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 85-77
Seattle Mariners  78-84
Houston Astros 70-92

The American League West is perhaps the toughest division in baseball. The Rangers traded for First Baseman Prince Fielder from the Detroit Tigers. With the Arlington ballpark now being his home, it wouldn't surprise me if Fielder hits 40+ home runs this season. The Mariners were aggressive over the offseason signing Second Baseman, Robinson Cano, to a lucrative deal and also added closer Fernando Rodney. The Angels will regret trading power hitting Mark Trumbo to the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Astros will not lose 100 games this season but will not be out of last place  yet.  The Athletics somehow made their bullpen even stronger by getting Luke Gregerson and trading for Jim Johnson, who will replace Grant Balfour as closer. With their starting staff and strong relief corps (and their depth in event someone was to go down) the A's should finish atop the West for the third season in a row.


American League Central
Detroit Tigers 92-70
Kansas City Royals  84-78
Cleveland Indians 82-80
Chicago White Sox 76-86
Minnesota Twins 68-94

The Detroit Tigers will win the AL Central fairly easy this season. The Cleveland Indians won't provide as much of a contest as they did in 2013 now that they let pitchers Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir move on to other teams.  The Kansas City Royals will be fun to watch  especially if Mike Moustakas carries his hot hitting in Spring Training into the regular season. The Royals still lack in the pitching department though. The Chicago White Sox will look to their Rookie of the Year candidate from Cuba, Jose Abreu, to supply them with some extra power.  Some have said he is the best power hitter to come from Cuba so far.  The Minnesota Twins added Phil Hughes and  Ricky Nolasco to their pitching rotation but it won't be enough to make the playoffs.



American League East
Tampa Bay Rays  95-67
Boston Red Sox   93-69*
New York Yankees 89-73
Baltimore Orioles 84-78
Toronto Blue Jays 78-84

The AL East division could end up in any order and it wouldn't surprise me. All the teams in the division are filled with talent. The Rays didn't trade David Price like many expected them to so there is no reason why they can't win the East with their pitching. The defending World Series Champion Red Sox won't make winning the East easy though. Grady Sizemore is hoping to have a comeback year with the Red Sox as there are talks he may win the center field job out of spring training. The Yankees, as they so often do, went out and signed a handful of players including catcher Brian McCann, outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, outfielder Carlos Beltran, and Japanese pitcher, Masahiro Tanaka. While I am not picking the Yankees to make the playoffs, it wouldn't surprise me if they do. If they do, prepare to hear a lot more talk about Derek Jeter who is retiring after the 2014 season, his 20th with the Yankees. Baltimore will need their starting pitchers to step up to make a run at the playoffs and as of now, they still have questions regarding their closer. They initially signed Grant Balfour during the offseason but didn't like what they saw with his phsyical so they backed out the deal. As of now, it looks like Tommy Hunter will be the Orioles closer, but how effective can he be when pitching back to back games? The Toronto Blue Jays will put up runs without a doubt but can R.A. Dickey repeat his CY Young ways when he won the award with the New York Mets?


National League WestLos Angeles Dodgers 90-72
San Francisco Giants 85-77
Arizona Diamondbacks 80-82
San Diego Padres 72-90
Colorado Rockies  71-91

The Los Angeles Dodgers have become the big spenders in baseball. Last year it didn't seem they were even going to click together, but eventually they did and there was no stopping them from winning the division. They rewarded their CY Young award winning pitcher, Clayton Kershaw, with a seven year, 215 million dollar contract extension. They played most of the 2013 season without their star centerfielder, Matt Kemp. The Giants kept most of their 2013 team in tact for 2014. The most noticeable person missing from that team will be Barry Zito. Taking Zito's place on the roster is his former Oakland teammate, Tim Hudson. Hudson is coming back from an ankle injury but was a nice pickup by the Giants for their rotation. I expect starter Matt Cain to have a bounce back 2014 campaign as well. Do the Giants have someone they can turn to in the rotation if Tim Lincecum can't seem to find his way back on track? Can first baseman, Brandon Belt, produce numbers for a whole season like he did last September? It will be interesting to see. The Arizona Diamondbacks added Mark Trumbo who they got in a trade with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Trumbo should end up with near 40 home runs playing in that hitter's ballpark in Arizona, Chase Field. The San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies will battle for last place. The Rockies will wind up in the cellar, just one game back of the Padres.

National League Central
St. Louis Cardinals 96-66
Cincinatti Reds    89-73*
Pittsburgh Pirates 87-75*
Milwaukee Brewers 77-85
Chicago Cubs 65-97

The St. Louis Cardinals have no reason to not win the National League Central again. Adam Wainright leads a great starting rotation, the bullpen has flame throwers like Trevor Rosenthal, and their offense added shortstop, Jhonny Peralta, even though he doesn't know how to spell his first name. The Reds lost a couple key names from their 2013 team but rookie Billy Hamilton should steal near 90 bases this season and will be one of the most exciting players to watch in baseball. I've seen him play in person before and his speed is amazing. The Pittsburgh Pirates didn't make much noise during the offseason in terms of moves but the bats of Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, and Starling Marte, should still keep the Pirates in contention. Why the Milwaukee Brewers signed starting pitcher, Matt Garza, to a deal,  is a mystery to me. He should have a fun time fielding more bunts in the National League. The Chicago Cubs are still a year or two from putting it all together as they have some prospects that are not quite Major League ready. A Cubs player to keep an eye on in 2014 is Junior Lake.

National League East
Washington Nationals 93-69
Atlanta Braves 85-77
Philadelphia Phillies 81-81
New York Mets 78-84
Miami Marlins 71-91

What I expected to be a close race for first place in the NL East a week ago has suddenly changed. The Washington Nationals added starter Doug Fister to an already impressive starting rotation. The Atlanta Braves, on the other hand, had two pitchers (Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy) go down with injuries in Spring Training recently and both look like they need Tommy John surgery which would likely keep them out all season. The Braves did recently sign starter, Ervin Santana, to help ease their pain, but unless Santana found out somewhere how to be consistent then the signing won't be much of a gain. The Phillies may be old but they do appear to be healthy for the first time in a while. The New York Mets also have a pitcher lost for most of the season in Matt Harvey. The Mets hope that signing Bartolo Colon, who has a great 2013 season with the Oakland A's, will help fill the void left by Harvey. Colon will likely hurt himself midseason running the bases, perhaps crushing an infielder in the process. That's just the Mets luck, right? Unfortunately for the Miami Marlins, 2013 Rookie of the Year winner, Jose Fernandez, can't start every day for the fish. Christian Yelich could become the Marlins next All-Star everyone talks about.

Playoffs:
 
Wild Card Games:
Texas Rangers defeat Boston Red Sox
Pittsburgh Pirates defeat Cincinnati Reds

Division Series: Tampa Bay Rays defeat Texas Rangers (3-1)
Oakland A's defeat Detroit Tigers (3-2)
St. Louis Cardinals defeat Pittsburgh Pirates (3-0)
Los Angeles Dodgers defeat Washington Nationals (3-2)

Championship Series:Tampa Bay Rays defeat Oakland A's (4-2)
St. Louis Cardinals defeat Los Angeles Dodgers (4-3)

World Series
:
St. Louis Cardinals defeat Tampa Bay Rays (4-1)

 
Awards:
AL MVP: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays
NL MVP:  Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
AL CY YOUNG:  Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
NL CY YOUNG: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox
NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds
AL COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Cory Hart, Seattle Mariners
NL COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Tim Hudson, San Francisco Giants
AL MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay Rays
NL MANAGER OF THE YEAR: Matt Williams, Washington Nationals