My Updated Bold Predictions for 2012
Before the MLB regular season continues tomorrow, let’s take a look back at my bold preseason predictions.
Blue Jays Red Sox
Red Sox Orioles
Orioles Blue Jays
Bobby Valentine will get too much credit as the Red Sox make a push for the playoffs in spite of Valentine and the drama he always finds a way to create. As for the surprise Orioles, they’ll fade. Poor run production and poor run prevention is a lousy formula for success. The O’s are eleventh in the AL in both runs and OPS. Furthermore, only two other AL teams have a poorer run differential than the Orioles minus-36. Part of that differential can be attributed to their defense which leads the AL with the most errors (75), and part of the blame lays on the shoulders of their starting pitching. Only one other AL team, the Twins, has allowed more runs than the O’s starters (289).
* denotes Wild Card winner
The Nationals miss out on the division crown when ace Strasburg reaches the team’s self-imposed innings limit and is shut down for the rest of the season. The Braves make the Brewers an offer they can’t refuse for Greinke, and then sign him to a contract extension. The Braves win the division and give Chipper one last time under the playoff spotlight, while the Nationals earn a Wild Card berth. With their financial issues, the Mets are unable to make a major acquisition at the trade deadline and fade from playoff contention. The Phillies manage to climb back to .500 but are unable to mount a strong playoff push. Unless someone makes a ridiculous offer for Hamels, the Phillies should do everything they can to sign him to an extension and keep him from the marketplace. Victorino won’t bring a great package in return, but his production can be replaced by someone much less expensive. The Marlins continue to flounder under manager Ozzie Guillen who is fired in early September.
Tigers White Sox
White Sox Tigers
Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski has an owner highly motivated to win and willing to spend, while the White Sox Kenny Williams is one of the most creative general managers in the game. Look for both of them to be very visible and active leading up the trading deadline and beyond into the waiver wire season. The White Sox and Tigers will battle hard for the division crown with the loser missing out on the playoffs. Meanwhile the Indians with their minus-29 run differential fade from the playoff picture just as they did last year. For the Royals, the question is whether or not pitching prospect Jake Odorizzi makes his MLB debut in September, while the Twins must seriously consider going forward without Justin Morneau, who is just a shell of his former self.
* denotes Wild Card winner
The Reds and Pirates pitching staffs are 2nd and 3rd respectively in ERA in the NL, and 2nd and 4th in WHIP. Meanwhile the Cardinals trail only the powerhouse Rangers for the best run differential in the majors. The Pirates, with the second worst OBP in the majors, fade but their pitching leads them to their first winning record since the first George Bush was President. The Reds and Cards duke it out for the division crown with the edge going to the Cardinals potent and more consistent offense (NL 1st in AVG and OBP, NL 2nd in SLG). The Brewers get a bevy of young pitching prospects from the Braves for Greinke, the Astros trade Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez to contenders, while the Cubs pick up prospects for Ryan Dempster and also manage to dump the contract of Alfonso Soriano but hang onto pitcher Matt Garza.
No changes here but the Rangers lack a true pitching ace. Look for them to be a player in any trade discussions for Greinke, Hamels, Garza, and Dempster. The Angels led by their pitching and MVP candidate Mike Trout push the Rangers all the way and win a Wild Card spot. The A’s trade pitcher Bartolo Colon to a contender, while the Mariners resist trading Felix Hernandez despite persistent interest and rumors.
Sidebar: In my preseason predictions, I also said that Ichiro would get 200 hits again this season. He has 93 to date so he’s within striking distance, but he seems to have changed his approach at the plate. His walk rate (4.0%), OBP (.288?!?) and ground-ball/fly-ball ratio (1.70) are at career lows, while his line drive rate (25.5%) and fly ball rate (27.6%) are at or near career highs. His stolen base success (12 steals in 14 attempts) suggest that though he may have lost a step, he still has plenty of speed. Now that Ichiro is back in the leadoff spot, we will see if he can make the adjustment back to hitting the ball on the ground to take better advantage of his speed.
Glass half full? The Dodgers lead the division despite injuries to Kemp and Ethier. The Giants are just a half game behind despite the struggles of starter Tim Lincecum (3-10 with 6.42 ERA while allowing a .268 batting average to opposing hitters) and a minus-6 run differential. Kemp and Ethier should return soon and give the offense a much needed infusion of power and runs. The Dodgers new ownership will also look to make a splash in the trade market, which proves to be the difference in winning the division crown. Diamondbacks will be entertaining but inconsistent, just like rookie pitcher Trevor Bauer and outfielder Justin Upton, who the Diamondbacks should trade only if another team overpays. The Rockies should have kept Jamie Moyer whose two home wins and 3.72 ERA at Coors still lead all Rockies pitchers with more than five home starts. The Padres will not win a Wild Card spot as I previously predicted, but they have desirable players in Chase Headley (3B), Carlos Quentin (LF) and Mark Kotsay (OF/1B), whose names will surface in trade rumors leading up to July 31. They’ll trade Quentin and Kotsay but they’ll hang onto Headley unless overwhelmed by an offer.
AL Champion: Angels
World Series Champion:
AL MVP: Josh Hamilton, Rangers (runner-up: Mike Trout, Angels)
Dan Uggla, Braves Joey Votto, Reds
AL Cy Young:
David Price, Rays Jared Weaver, Angels
NL Cy Young:
Cliff Lee, Phillies Matt Cain, Giants (runner-up: RA Dickey, Mets)
AL Rookie of the Year:
Matt Moore, Rays Mike Trout, Angels
NL Rookie of the Year:
Zack Cozart, Reds Bryce Harper, Nationals
AL Comeback Player of the Year: Adam Dunn, White Sox
NL Comeback Player of the Year:
Jamie Moyer, Rockies David Wright, Mets or Jason Heyward, Braves
AL Manager of the Year: Ron Washington, Rangers (runner-up: Robin Ventura, White Sox)
NL Manager of the Year: Don Mattingly, Dodgers (runner-up: Davey Johnson, Nationals)
Photo by Kiichiro Sato, AP