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Sportspun’s 2014 MLB Predictions

Where can I really go from last year? A year of daily recaps culminating in covering a World Series where Shane Victorino drove in the decisive run is… well, pretty rewarding all around. Still, I’m busier this year, and hopefully Goog and Robbie can pick up a good deal of the recap duties. Despite that, this is a sports blog, and if we don’t make preseason predictions, we might as well just shut down forever.

Let’s start with the big one: the Red Sox won’t repeat. I like this team just fine, but they spent the winter getting a few nice bullpen pieces, treading water (at best) behind the plate, and putting an awful lot of stock into rookies and rebound years. Despite that, the core of a very good team is still there, I’ve got them in the wildcard game, and I wouldn’t be remotely surprised if they got past the Rays.

AL East:
Tampa Bay
Boston
New York
Baltimore
Toronto

And it’s as I type that list out that I remember how stupid preseason predictions can look; that said, the Blue Jays don’t have the pitching to make a post-hype worst-to-first run the year after they were supposed to be elite. That ship has sailed, and now they’re left with an amusingly pricey non-contender. Maybe they’ll give the shallow roster of the Orioles a run for fourth place? Whatever the case, the top three in this division are who we’ve been conditioned to expect in any given year; I’m sure Goog will be higher on the Yankees, and if Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia have bounceback years, I’ll be pretty damn frustrated, but as it is, I don’t think they have the offense to carry a non-elite pitching staff.

AL Central:
Tigers
Indians
Royals
White Sox
Twins

Here’s a division where treading water might get the job done! The Indians didn’t make any substantial improvements, but a bunch of pitchers in their 20s gives them reason to hope for breakouts and steady improvements from a lot of arms. They lineup is still missing a piece or two, but they’re chasing a team that dumped Doug Fister for no reason and has “solved” their shortstop problem by sticking their fingers in their ears and yelling loudly that they don’t need Stephen Drew. Make no mistake, the Tigers are my pick to win this division, but they’re not the same powerhouse they were last year. Meanwhile, the Royals still don’t have enough to hope for more than a wildcard berth, though a White Sox/Twins-heavy schedule might manage to make the Kansas City offense look solid.

AL West:
Athletics
Rangers
Angels
Mariners
Astros

We’re all basically watching this division to laugh at Jack Zduriencik, right? In a weird inversion given their ballparks, I’d give the A’s the edge offensively but note the Rangers’ pitching could make this tight; Texas’ lineup is a bit feast-or-famine, while the A’s have injury problems and are counting on Scott Kazmir. Meanwhile, the only thing Mike Trout can’t do is save the Angels’ rotation.

NL East:
Nationals
Braves
Marlins
Mets
Phillies

Holy cow, I don’t think I’ve tried to rank this division all offseason, but my god, it’s more than half “soft underbelly.” Anyhoo, yeah, laugh at me thinking the Marlins won’t be the worst, but at least Miami has some nice young starters. I’ll take that and Giancarlo Stanton over the tag teams of Cole Hamels/Cliff Lee or David Wright/Bartolo Colon as “limited bright spots on bad clubs.” Meanwhile, the Nationals could worry about Doug Fister’s health, but at least they aren’t getting a bulk-rate discount on Tommy John surgeries.

NL Central:
Cardinals
Pirates
Brewers
Reds
Cubs

Well, this looks boring. The Cardinals lost Carlos Beltran but added Jhonny Peralta to soften the blow, while their rivals filled holes left by AJ Burnett and Shin-Soo Choo with Edinson Volquez and the hope that Billy Hamilton can steal first (and the Reds are dealing with injury issues on top of a disappointing winter). Meanwhile, the Brewers should get a full season of Ryan Braun and some pitching legitimacy from Matt Garza. Ultimately, I’d guess one of the Pirates or Brewers end up playing the Braves for the wildcard. Meanwhile, Chicago sportswriters can keep doubting Theo Epstein’s baseball aptitude with another dreadful season at Wrigley.

NL West:
Dodgers
Padres
Giants
Rockies
Diamondbacks

Here’s my out-on-a-limb prediction: the Padres will sneak into second place – and over .500! – thanks to a weak division behind the Dodgers. San Diego doesn’t have a good team by any means, but they don’t have the bullpen dumpster fire of the Giants (who could make me look dumb if Tims Hudson and Lincecum can come close to earning their contracts), the all-around unremarkableness of the Rockies (for whom Justin Morneau was a big free agent splash), or the insane irrationality into which Kevin Towers has descended. To be fair, the Diamondbacks might be in the thick of the second-place race here if Patrick Corbin and David Hernandez were healthy, but Mark Trumbo isn’t going to save that lineup more than Adam Eaton could have. Whatever the order of teams 2-5, it’s hard to see the Dodgers losing this, even if they aren’t as unbeatable as a $235 million team ought to be.

Who beats them, then?
Divisional Series:
Cardinals over Dodgers
Nationals over Braves (wildcard)
Rays over Red Sox (wildcard)
Athletics over Tigers

League Championship Series:
Rays over A’s
Nationals over Cardinals

World Series:
Rays over Nationals

Yep, going all-in on pessimism; low expectations are the only way to keep myself watching when there’s nowhere to go but down from 2013’s euphoric high.

MVPs:
Mike Trout and, screw it, I don’t know, let’s say David Wright
Gonna assume “Giants and Pirates disappoint high expectations” screws Posey and McCutchen, while sportswriters’ fondness for management over labor gets them to finally turn on Miguel Cabrera for daring to get paid as much as he could.

Cy Youngs:
Clayton Kershaw and Max “poor guy got passed over for that appalling Cabrera deal” Scherzer
Yep, I’m officially just predicting awards based on how I expect BBWAA narratives to go.

Rookies of the Year:
Xander Bogaerts and Billy Hamilton
Yeesh, I had to look at a lot of other people’s predictions to find a decent NL candidate here, while Bogaerts is perhaps optimistic against “rookie” imports Masahiro Tanaka and Jose Abreu.

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