Good Sports – Baseball

Alright, after a month hiatus, we have a bit more to talk about! As you now well know, I am a huge fan of lists, and analysis of various entertainment outlets, so Cory and I would like to present you with a new recurring article we’ll be posting about: GOOD SPORTS.

I’m a fan of most sports in general, so I’ll be glad to post my predictions for each season and my thoughts on various events as they approach or occur. This week, I’ll be sharing my predictions for baseball!

Yes, the 2015 MLB season is underway this Sunday, so let’s see how we do in Rob Manfred’s inaugural season as MLB commissioner:

AL WEST

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Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

The Angels definitely would have gone deeper last season if not for the plucky, base stealing Royals and their magic run to the World Series. Mike Trout and the rest of the Angels bats should certainly be in the mood to win the division and get right back to the postseason in 2015. The rotation is even better with Matt Shoemaker backing up Jered Weaver and CJ Wilson, while my personal favorite Angel, Garrett Richards, will return soon enough to solidify the best team in the West.

Seattle Mariners

I agree with what I’ve seen all over the internet about Seattle – they’re definitely breaking the losing streak of missing the playoffs. For the first time since 2001 (I was a sophomore in high school!) the team that Griffey built will storm into the playoffs searching for their first championship. I don’t agree that they will steal the division, but they should certainly get a spot. Cano is ready, Hernandez is certainly ready, and the rest of the team has been built up from youth (Kyle Seager) or trades/free agents (Nelson Cruz). I’m excited to see the compass back in action!

Houston Astros

I really do expect the Astros to take a step up as well – behind the youth movement of Dallas Keuchel, George Springer and Jose Altuve, the team will be much better in recent years. Everyone has been pretty hard on them for a while now, but given Oakland’s almost immediate regression and Texas’ plethora of injuries, they have the chance to at least make it to .500 baseball.

Oakland Athletics

The team was ripped apart mid-season last year and then again in the offseason. It’s pretty remarkable that Billy Beane can continually do this, and somehow make it work most of the time. I sincerely don’t think this year will be the same, however, and I expect Oakland to plummet in the standings. After losing Cespedes and other heavy hitters, I feel as though Beane didn’t really do much to replace them. Sonny Gray may contend for the AL Cy Young (and MVP for my fantasy team) but that doesn’t mean much in the AL West alongside the surging Astros and Mariners and the front-running Angels. I see most people thinking they can still make it, but I really expect them to fall behind for the first time in years.

Texas Rangers

Without Yu Darvish, this team is done already. We’ll finally get the great sight of Prince Fielder sweating his days away in Arlington, but with the rotation relying on mostly just Yovani Gallardo, the team simply won’t be as good as the rest of the West. I do like the idea of the team being a sleeper, but the West is simply too good to hope the scrappy team assembled here will contend for a playoff spot. I’m looking forward to 2016, though. Actually, now that I think of it, Yu Darvish is sort of the new Felix Hernandez – the sole member of the team that looks elite. Fielder helps too, but without one of the two, the team’s finishing fifth.

AL CENTRAL

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Detroit Tigers

Another year, another title. The AL Central looks to be a bit competitive up top with the White Sox and Indians threatening, but I believe the Tigers have one last division title in them before the tides shift in other teams’ favor. The rotation of David Price, Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez should boost the team for most of the year, and the addition of Yoenis Cespedes looks great to support Ian Kinsler, Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera. If they’re unable to win the division outright, they should certainly see the postseason again.

Cleveland Indians

As I was writing this, Corey Kluber signed a five-year deal with the Indians, solidifying him as the future of this team. Great move, and he will lead the push for this team to get back in the playoffs. The Indians have a ton of underrated players like second baseman Jason Kipnis or closer Cody Allen, and their play at the end of 2014 signaled the team will be more able to hold onto a lead in the division and battle it out with the Tigers for the title. I expect the team to be near the top and get in, or just miss again and fall to third.

Chicago White Sox

If the Indians falter, it’s all in the White Sox’s hands. With Jose Abreu leading the charge of a vastly remodeled team, the White Sox will make it very interesting for the defending AL Champion Royals, the division defending Tigers and the equally great Indians. I believe the AL Central will be the tightest division, but several moves lead me to believe this team will be above .500: David Robertson as closer is not overrated, Adam Eaton leads a youthful outfield, and Jeff Samardzija backs up Chris Sale for a one-two punch that will overcome the challenge of the other rotations in the division.

Kansas City Royals

While the Royals were the darlings of 2014, it’s easily apparent they may not be able to repeat. While I’d love to see them run for it again, I just don’t think they will – like much of the sports talking world. Awesome players like Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain will still be there bopping balls and swiping spots in the infield, but the hole created by losing James Shields may be too much to overcome. I may eat my words that Yordano Ventura and Edinson Volquez can’t dish out the same magic, but like I mentioned earlier – this division may be the tightest. For all we know come September, the division may be close enough that only 5 wins separate first from fourth. This just makes the AL Central the most exciting for the first time since probably before I was born.

Minnesota Twins

Oh, the poor Twins. Yesterday’s news of the loss of Ervin Santana stings so badly on top of the fact that the team was probably not very good anyway, it almost hurts to even write anything. I love Phil Hughes – and I’m glad to see him flourish last year after bombing for the Bombers – but much like Darvish and the Rangers, he’s a sole star on a dying team. Ricky Nolasco won’t help him much, and the bats just won’t be there. I love Brian Dozier, but this team looks as scrappy as they come. Again, this whole division is a tossup, but even if the Twins somehow lead for a few weeks, they won’t hold on like the Royals did last year.

AL EAST

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Baltimore Orioles

I’ve seen a lot expounded about the loss of Nelson Cruz and his AL batting title. I don’t think this will affect the Orioles as much as everything seems to think it will – the pitching is more mature and Manny Machado can hopefully reignite his career coming back this season. I see it being fairly easy for them to repeat as division champs – Chris Davis and Adam Jones are still there, and the team assembled for the postseason last year is still relatively similar and did great in spring training. It’s only a matter of durability, and this team will lead the AL East for a few years, if not at least just this year. My biggest loss for them is actually Andrew Miller, who escaped to the Yankees this offseason.

Boston Red Sox

I do believe this up and down process the Red Sox have been enduring the last few years is getting a bit ridiculous. The stalwarts are still there – David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia, and they’ve added two famous faces in Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval to bolster their hitting. I’m not sure Sandoval has the skills left from San Francisco, but Boston sure has enough faith in him to get them back into playoff baseball. I like the rotation better than most – Clay Buchholz seemed to have a fluke off year and the rest are fairly underrated. Mookie Betts looks to have a breakout year and management seems to be plugging leaky holes left and right with the depth they’ve shown in spring training. I’ve seen a lot of predictions for a division win, but after a really shaky 2014, I want to see what they show in April first before I buy into such a great season. I do see them contending for a wild card spot, though.

Toronto Blue Jays

Will this be the season finally promised years ago to be the return of Canadian postseason baseball? Toronto fans have been waiting for years with pronouncements that players such as Jose Bautista and RA Dickey and Jose Reyes would lead the team into the promised land. Unfortunately for those plans, fate had them inexplicably failing to climb above 3rd in any of the last 8 years. This year everyone is being cautiously optimistic – some say that ace Drew Hutchison has finally grown into form, or those hitters of years past will finally gel together and put together a playoff team. I’d like to think they can finally do it, but the Orioles are still a great team and the Red Sox are back in contention shape. The Yankees can also still play spoiler, but being cautiously optimistic sounds good to me. I can see them in third, but I don’t want to count them out at all either.

New York Yankees

The Yankees are finally in a low point after nearly two decades of greatness. Ace CC Sabathia has fallen in the rotation and even the decent Hiroki Kuroda is favoring his arm, worried about potential injury. Michael PIneda has great potential to replace Sabathia someday and I love that the bullpen is packed with the heralded rookie Dellin Betances and my personal favorite current reliever Andrew Miller. Beyond pitching, the team is rapidly aging. I don’t see A-Rod’s return to spark anything resembling 2009, and I’m okay with that. If history tells us anything, this is the second of a few years at the bottom while management reassembles a team made of money to take down the Red Sox dynasty and the upstart Orioles.

Tampa Bay Rays

Much like the Rangers and Twins, the Rays don’t seem to have a famous team. Looking at this team on paper, they could easily contend through the year. I don’t think they will do very well, however, resting on the back of Evan Longoria. He is the key to this team, and I don’t see him leading his teammates back into the postseason. I like Chris Archer to ace this team until Alex Cobb returns, but other than those two, the pitching staff is weaker than the rest of the division. A decent team will be left to the bottom when pitching isn’t as solid.

Note: I finished off this article halfway through before Opening Day began. As I write the second half, Opening Day is rapidly coming to a close. By no means will this color my commentary, obviously. What I expect should remain the same.

NL EAST

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Washington Nationals

Everyone expects big things finally from the Nationals – the perennial playoff failures. I fully expect that they have the deepest team they’ve ever assembled in DC, and behind Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, a young supporting cast of players will lead this team to its best season and not only a division win, but perhaps their first World Series berth. Max Scherzer let their first win slip away behind some errors, but he will certainly challenge Clayton Kershaw for the NL Cy Young throne.

New York Mets

I have high hopes for this team, as they’ve promised great things to come for years now. In 2008, when the Wilpons were take in by that rascal, I predicted it would take them five years to return to contention. Now, it took them two more years because of the rise of the Nationals and Braves and Matt Harvey’s Tommy John surgery. And even though we’ve now lost Zach Wheeler to the devastating elbow injury for this season as well, I believe the team is ready. The rotation is chock full of replacements for Wheeler, and the bats are finally here – Lucas Duda has come into form, Wright is still there, they’ve added veterans Granderson and Cuddyer. On paper, the team is ready. It’s just a matter of proving it with their play.

Miami Marlins

With the rise of the Nationals and Braves came the fall of the Marlins and Mets. The Phillies also had a great 2000s, but their stock has fallen as their players rose with age. The Braves also saw a tumble in the past year or so, and as divisions tend to switch in waves, the Mets and Marlins benefit from youth, rebuilds and good luck. The Marlins won’t need luck with ace Jose Fernandez returns to the team this summer. As long as Henderson Alvarez, Giancarlo Stanton and the rest of the Fish build an early lead, this team will easily rise above the dregs of baseball and get at least a third place finish in the NL East. I think they could do better, but it all depends on what they have in themselves…and how poorly the Mets fare. The division is the Nats, but a wild-card spot could easily be within reach for the Mets or the Marlins.

Atlanta Braves

On the eve of the start of the baseball season, the Braves unloaded Melvin B.J. Upton along with expensive reliever Craig Kimbrel, trading them to the surging and impressive San Diego Padres. The team has pretty much resigned themselves to an off year, rebuilding their farm system and looking towards the future. I think they could be a fluke team, but sadly the fact that they aren’t even the worst team in the league says more about the state of the NL East than anything else.

Philadelphia Phillies

I don’t even want to guess how poorly this team will do. When Ian Kinsler was traded last season from Texas to Detroit, he bitterly claimed his former team might go 0-162. While that didn’t happen (and they didn’t do much better), the Kinsler Curse may have taken a layover in Philadelphia after its stay in the Lone Star State. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this team lose a record number of games in the modern game. Ryan Howard is done but still there, Papelbon’s wanted out for years and thinks he’s better than anyone else, Cole Hamels (and maybe Chase Utley) is being held prisoner on a team wasting his skills. I’m sure Hamels will find himself on a contender before long, but it’s going to be a much longer rebuild here than the Mets have had the last eight years.

NL CENTRAL

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St Louis Cardinals

Perennial winners, the Cardinals didn’t even work too hard this offseason to improve. They didn’t really need to, shedding expensive weight that might have bogged them down (Joe Kelly, Shelby Miller). The division will be tight, but if they keeping playing the way they have the last few years, and there are no significant injuries, the talented athletes in Missouri will find themselves in a playoff berth almost immediately.

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates sure have improved the last few years, haven’t they? As the youth grew into peak form, the team has become a stalwart of success. The division could easily go to this team if they take the games against St Louis, and they still have a similar team as they did in 2014. With AJ Burnett spending his final year in baseball bolstering the rotation of Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole, and Jeff Locke, the bats won’t have to work as hard either.

Chicago Cubs

Certainly the biggest story coming out of spring training was how big the Cubs were going to be with Jon Lester leading the way. The team has worked similarly to the Pirates the past few years, trying to form a youthful core to surround the team with – Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Tommy La Stella, Travis Wood are joined by Lester and Jake Arrieta, as well as veteran Dexter Fowler (my favorite former Rockie) and Cuban newcomer Jorge Soler. Listing these players won’t simply strike fear in the opponents, but certainly Kris Bryant will as soon as he’s released from his minor league prison, financially stuck until the Cubs allow him to impress literally everyone. I’m excited to see if this team will succeed immediately, but I expect them to react more like the Pirates of 2011 – by building up this year to only get above .500. 2016 is surely the year this team will rise to the occasion, but there’s always a chance for a playoff spot this year. It would certainly be a great story if the team makes it into the NL Championship Series and faces Miami. At least Biff would be happy.

Cincinnati Reds

Heartbreaking, but as divisions move in waves, the Reds are the losers in the race for the division title. As the Cubs improve, and the Cardinals and Pirates stay pat, the Reds are slowly slipping down the standings. Johnny Cueto seems like the Phil Hughes of Ohio, and all the rumors lean towards him getting traded somewhere sooner than Hamels. It would be great to see one last grab for the postseason before an inevitable rebuild occurs, but I expect this team to falter behind the tight top three teams.

Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers definitely still have Ryan Braun, but not much else. Yovani Gallardo left for Texas, expecting to be part of a great 1-2 punch with Yu Darvish. He should have stayed in the easier NL Central and hoped to rise above the upstart Cubs and flailing Reds. This way, everyone seems to lose. I know it shouldn’t color anything, but their ace Kyle Lohse was slammed by the Rockies offense 10-0 on Opening Day. It’s going to be a long season, and anything can happen, but it seems that Milwaukee won’t be seeing much baseball in October.

NL WEST

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Los Angeles Dodgers

Much like the Washington Nationals, much is expected of the Dodgers year in and year out. They have spent the most, earning the moniker the Yankees of the West. The money spent hasn’t paid dividends in championships yet, but the team holds the best pitcher in baseball – Clayton Kershaw, who has won 3 of the last NL Cy Young awards. They’ve dumped excess weight and have a stellar outfield with Carl Crawford, Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig. Heck, even Jimmy Rollins escaped from the disaster in Philadelphia to make more money playing on a winning team. The Dodgers will very likely win the division, but of course the postseason is another question.

San Diego Padres

The other big story in the NL after the Cubs is how much the Padres have improved. Adding players like Matt Kemp and Craig Kimbrel are going to force a fight in this division, already perhaps the best in the league. The remodel on the team may be enough to give it the first postseason berth since 2007, and I can see the team going a lot further than it has. The biggest acquisition of them all was James Shields, who had an even meeting with superstar Clayton Kershaw on opening day. It’ll be a treat to see them play each other this year, hopefully more often than just this once.

San Francisco Giants

The freefall from champions may be great. First off, this is an odd year, but that doesn’t matter so much as the fact that Buster Posey is healthy. I have a theory that maybe – just maybe – the players on the team are key to winning the championship, not just the Even Year Curse.The team goes how Posey goes, and he’s been stellar in even numbered years. If he can break that, and lead the team to more wins once Hunter Pence returns from the DL, the team could have a decent chance in a very tight division.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Paul Goldschmidt is the Felix Hernandez of this team. As he awaits a team to be built around him, the Diamondbacks are going to falter ever so slightly in the toughest division in baseball. Newcomers AJ Pollock, David Peralta, Chris Owings, and Tuffy Gosewich (new favorite baseball name) will probably help this team in the long run – but they’ll be learning all their tricks this season. A tough time will lead the team to only make it into fourth place, while Josh Collmenter and the rough rotation will keep them far from the postseason.

Colorado Rockies

There’s been more said this offseason about how the Rockies will never be able to compete as long as they live a mile above sea level than I’ve ever seen before, in any other offseason. I know they typically don’t make big splashes but the Rockies almost regressed prior to the season. Most of their reasoning comes from a desire to allow the offense to do the talking – in today’s 10-0 win over Milwaukee, the offense was sparked by Corey Dickerson, Nolan Arenado, Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki. That’s the core of the team, and as long as they can all stay healthy for once, the team will gel together and get into the playoffs. If one thing goes wrong, the whole thing collapses. It simply might not be enough to compete with such good divisional rivals, of course, because the rotation is headed by Kyle Kendrick, the fifth starter on Philadelphia last season. Not a great sign.

PLAYOFFS (first team has home field advantage)

AL WILD CARD – Seattle vs. Cleveland

Mariners' Hernandez throws against the Blue Jays in their MLB American League baseball game in Toronto

Cleveland is a rugged team that should easily battle Detroit for the division title. They deserve to be in the playoffs. Seattle is rocketing towards quality and I simply think they will be better here. Robinson Cano and Felix Hernandez have the star power, but with Taijuan Walker and James Paxton expected to contribute, that’s a deeper rotation than Cleveland. Of course, the matchup here would likely be Corey Kluber and Hernandez, so it would be an insanely impressive game. I just also think the bats in Seattle top the bats in Cleveland.

ALDS: Tigers vs. Orioles

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This is a rematch of last season’s ALDS, and I think Detroit might have a bit of revenge in them. While I don’t think it ruins their chances of winning the division, I think they’ll sorely miss Nelson Cruz here. Chris Davis may be able to replace him though, so I see this going to five games. I do think Detroit has a better chance though, behind the better rotation of Price, Verlander and Sanchez.

ALDS: Angels vs. Mariners

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The Angels are pissed that an upstart team slipped in last year and swept them, I bet all they’re thinking about is getting further this season. Certainly that’s on Mike Trout’s mind, and he’ll lead the team to the Championship series. The Mariners won’t be exhausted from their big game against Cleveland, but most of the players have never been in the postseason. I think the experience in Los Angeles will simply be too much. Look for Seattle to improve next year, but this is the Angels’ season.

ALCS: Angels vs. Tigers

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The Angels are younger, faster and hungrier for the World Series. The Tigers have better pitching though, and – some might say – better bats. The trio of Price, Sanchez and Verlander will be too much for Trout and the Halos. Garrett Richards may provide a great match-up in here, but I don’t think he’ll be enough to steal the series away and get the Angels back into the World Series.

NL WILD CARD – Pittsburgh vs. New York

Andrew McCutchen

I could make cases for any team from San Diego, San Francisco, Chicago, or Miami making the playoffs. Mostly I think PIttsburgh has the most fully formed team that won’t win its division. San Diego certainly should on paper make the playoffs, but I think it’s New York’s year with Harvey’s return and the solid pitching rotation. That being said, if they advance to a wild-card game against Pittsburgh, I can see them handling the bats of McCutchen, Marte, Polanco, Alvarez, and Walker. They start Matt Harvey for that game, they’re golden. And on to a divisional series against their big rivals, the Nationals.

NLDS: Dodgers vs. Cardinals

MLB: NLCS-Los Angeles Dodgers at St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals will be a bit exhausted by now. Some of the batters are aging, and the pitchers will be tested this deep into the year, after a trying last few years. The Dodgers have a fit rotation (with Ryu hopefully being injected later in the year for a fresh arm) and Clayton Kershaw won’t crumble under the knowledge that it’s autumn finally. It will surely be a tight series, but Los Angeles should come out on top.

NLDS: Nationals vs. Mets

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While the Mets slipped past the Nats on Opening Day, they won’t be lucky in their divisional series. The matchups will be phenomenal: Harvey vs. Scherzer, deGrom vs. Zimmermann, Niese vs Strasburg, Colon vs. Gonzalez. I, for one, will be super excited to see the match-up, but the Mets will wilt under the pressure. I just see the Nationals too powerful and too hungry to finally advance past the first round for the Mets to overcome.

NLCS: Nationals vs. Dodgers

natsvsdodgers

I do think the Dodgers are a stellar team, that can reach deep and overcome problems in their organization. They’re more fully realized than last season, and have the rotation to go the distance. The two highest paid pitchers would be in this matchup – Max Scherzer vs. Clayton Kershaw. I think Kershaw will win the whole thing someday, but this year is not it. Washington is too fierce to beat, with the veterans in the field and the pitchers nearly unbeatable. The series will go long, but with great pitching battles, the scoring will be low and ultimately the Dodgers’ downfall. The Nationals will finally do what Montreal never could – play in the World Series.

World Series: Nationals vs. Tigers

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The Tigers haven’t won since 1984, and lost two World Series recently – in 2006 to the Cardinals and 2012 to the Giants. The Nationals have never been there, and it might just be too difficult for them. Think about the pitching match-ups – Max Scherzer vs. David Price, Anibal Sanchez vs. Jordan Zimmermann, Justin Verlander vs. Stephen Strasburg. Beyond that, the bats come from Bryce Harper and Ian Kinsler, Anthony Rendon and Miguel Cabrera. I think the Tigers are a more complete team, and barring injury that takes any of these guys out during the season, I can see them winning the whole thing. The best storyline here is Scherzer facing off against his former team, and the first World Series for players like Zimmermann, Harper, Strasburg and Rendon. But the more seasoned team will come out on top. Tigers in 6.

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