Thursday, April 3, 2014

Here We Go Again

So we're going to give this whole blog thing another go this season.  I know we weren't really all that dedicated to it last season, but like Mariners fans, we are hoping for big things this season.  Speaking of the Mariners, I can't decide if last night's 10 run outburst was a sign of good things to come or just taking advantage of a bad bullpen.  Justin Smoak decided to go yard to give everyone hope for the season. The kid has talent, a good batting eye, and what appears to be good raw power.  If he can do anything offensively, the Mariners might have the best offensive infield in baseball.  That's not a hyperbole.  The Nats might have something to say about that, but looking around the rest of the league, it just isn't pretty on the infield. 

How about some predictions for the upcoming baseball season?

The Twin States Twins Staff MLB Predictions

AL Division Races

In the East, both of us like the Red Sox, much to our personal chagrin.  The Sox don't present with a lot of exceptional talent (Ortiz and Pedroia notwithstanding), but are slightly above average across the board.  The bullpen was brilliant in the postseason and looks to be strong again.  Their starting rotation could become an issue if Buchholz can't give it a full season after Dempster decided to take the season off.  I'm not a huge Peavy fan, so if Buchholz only gives his normal half season of work, they could be facing a situation where they have to deal for help at the deadline.  Rookies Bogaerts and Bradley must perform well for this team to win the division.

In the Central, clearly the Detroit Tigers are the favorite.  I've read a lot about how the Royals might make a run at it, and I know that the Indians made the postseason last year, but let's not be ridiculous.  The Tigers have one of baseball's best rotations and still are quite potent on offense.  Signing Joe Nathan should help solidify the back end of the bullpen.  New manager Brad Ausmus will be under scrutiny after the success of Jimmy Leyland, but count me as a fan of Ausmus.

In the West, I prefer the stylings of the Texas Rangers, whereas the Stat man likes the A's. He's always like the A's though, so I can't say that I was shocked.  His mancrush on Josh Donaldson cannot be denied and he loves the young pitching.  My issue with the A's is they rely so much on that young pitching.  Gray was brilliant down the stretch last year, but is he ready to front a rotation? With the loss of Parker, that puts a bigger workload on the shoulders of Straily and Griffin.  Losing Colon to free agency is a bigger deal than people would like to admit.  As for my take on the Rangers, I feel like with the acquisitions from the trade deadline on last season (Rios, Choo, Fielder), the Rangers are getting back to their way of doing things.  The pitching is not great by any stretch, but this team should mash.  If Harrison can give them anything in the second half and the Darvish injury is minor, I see no reason why this Rangers team can't compete for the best record in the AL.

NL Division Races

Moving over to the NL, both of us like the Nats to have a bounce back season and take the crown from the Braves in the East.  The addition of Doug Fister gives them an even scarier rotation and their offense should be better this season with youngster Anthony Rendon getting consistent at bats.  I think I speak for us all when I hope that this is the season that Bryce Harper goes all season without getting hurt.  The Braves rely entirely too much on the home run and have been hit with a rash of pitching injuries.  I don't think you can actually expect Gattis to handle the catching duties either.  As good as Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward are, I just don't see this team repeating last season's success.

In the Central, the St. Louis Cardinals are the staff's pick for the division crown.  St. Louis boasts largely the same team as last season with the notable offensive upgrade of Jhonny Peralta at shortstop and potential addition by subtraction loss of David Freese.  Carpenter should be just fine at third and I like Wong as the new second baseman.  Wainwright will do Wainwright things and the young kids will continue to throw premium cheese up there and intimidate everyone.  The Pirates and Reds both stand to fall back to the pack a little bit as the Pirates can't possibly expect to repeat last season's pitching success.  I'm not sure anyone is that high on the Reds this season, with the possible exception of scouts who are still high on Billy Hamilton's ability to potentially put the ball in play.

In the West, the Dodgers are the overwhelming favorites coming in to the season.  They boast a loaded lineup and rotation in a division where everyone else has at least a few question marks.  More on that later.  The injury to Kershaw is a bit worrysome, and no one can replace Kershaw. However, the Dodgers do have the pitching depth to absorb a bit of that loss without near the impact to most teams.

Wildcard Races

The wildcard races offer a bit of drama between our picks.  We both like Atlanta and Tampa Bay to get their, but I like San Francisco in the NL and New York in the AL, whereas Stats All Folks likes Pittsburgh in the NL and Kansas City in the AL.  Let's start with the consensus picks.  Atlanta has the benefit of playing in a truly terrible division.  I don't think I would pick this team to make the postseason playing in any other division in baseball, but getting to play Miami, New York, and Philly as many times as they do has a huge impact on their postseason chances.  I personally think Tampa Bay has a legitimate chance to dethrone the Red Sox in the AL East.  The only reason I have them picked as the wildcard is the uncertainty with David Price. If Price pitches in Tampa all year, I think they have the best team in the division.  If he's traded at the deadline, I'm not certain Tampa can make the playoffs. He's that good or better yet, I don't believe enough yet in Matt Moore to think he can front the staff as expected.  With the differing picks, I will offer my speculation on Stats' picks and my reasoning for my own.  With Kansas City, I know that Stats likes their young core and loves their bullpen.  I just don't think they have enough starting pitching to get there.  I went with the Yankees, which could be seen as a homer pick.  Sure, I'm a Yankees fan, but I think they have a very good rotation and have added pieces offensively that should thrive at home.  I think this team will have a brilliant home record and a very subpar road record.  In the NL, Stats like the Pirates, which granted had a very good team last season.  Losing Burnett has to hurt both their rotation and bullpen, who will probably have to throw more innings. I've never been a huge believer in Liriano, who I expect to look more like later year Minnesota Liriano than last season Pittsburgh Liriano.  Throw in Jeff Locke's ridiculous strand rate and I see huge regression.  I also think that the Brewers and Cubs should be better this season and will take away three or four wins from Pittsburgh's totals.  With my pick of San Francisco, I will admit that the even numbered year played a role.  I will say that I think their pitching will bounce back and I like Brandon Belt's chances for a breakout season.  If the new and improved Panda can produce, they could have a potent middle of the order (albeit two hackers and a patient guy) in Pence, Panda, and Belt. 

--Pinstripe Wizard

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