Friday, April 02, 2004


Well, this year is going to be hard to predict. There are 3 divisions in baseball that will offer the hardest-fought, down-to-the-wire pennant chases in years: AL East, AL West, NL West. There are two divisions which rival those, the NL Central and the NL East, which aren't as good to-to-bottom as those others. Then the AL Central, who will offer up their yearly fodder for whomever wins in the other divisions, but is also stocked with teams that can win it.

I am going to be brief in my assessments here, just offering general predicitions and a comment here and there.

AL East

The division of muscle as three teams, Boston, NY, and Baltimore spent big and Toronto is still good and Tampa Bay is improving. I think the Yanks will have trouble with injuries and placing a high-profile player in a different position, and generally handling a team full of superstars. They will win, oh yes, they will, but it will be draining. Red Sox have some turmoil to work through, and injuries as well. All-in-all, no team in this division will win 100 games.

1. NY Yankees (offense and very good but questionable pitching gets them division)
2. Boston-* (pitching will get them closer than ever before)
3. Baltimore (will make strides and battle Boston and others for Wild Card)
4. Toronto (unfortunately a team that would be number 1 in the Central probably)
5. Tampa Bay (young players will cause problems, but not enough firepower to win)

AL Central

There's really no dominant team here. The Royals picked up oft-injured Juan Gonzalez and Benito Santiago to complement oft-injured Mike Sweeney in what could be a damaging lineup should they be healthy for any stretch. The White Sox will have what is assuredly the return of Mark Buehrle, who had a horrible stretch at the beginning of the season, going 1-12 or something and ending up 14-14. Much is made of the loss of Colon, but what has he won? The White Sox also made a good run towards the end and almost made the playoffs.

1. Chicago White Sox (good pitching, good offense-I think they're back in contention)
2. Minnesota (scrappy club always seems to make a strong finish, may take wild card)
3. Kansas City (will be decent enough to make a little noise here)
4. Detroit (IRod with young pitchers=good sign. Better offense means no cellar)
5. Cleveland (back to the old sucky 80's days)

AL West

Yet again, a tough road in this division. The addition of Colon and Guerrero bolster the scrappy Angels, but I wonder how the first real superstars will react on this team. The A's lost Tejada and that is a significant amount of offense. The Mariners once again will be an offensive juggernaut with questionable pitching. The Rangers...well, better luck next year guys.

1. Anaheim (rotation is on par with the A's, and their offense is better)
2. Seattle (pitching is not great, but their offense is vicious)
3. Oakland (pitching is intact, but they don't have any offensive strength)
4. Texas (addition of Brian Jordan assures that yet another Ranger will be hurt all year)

NL East

The hardest division to really put a finger on. Last year, the Braves had no business winning 100 games, and they did. The Marlins had no business winning the Wild Card and an improbable World Series win, but did. The Phillies on paper were going to be a strong contender for the division, but finished 3rd. The Phillies made significant moves this winter and because Billy Wagner, and not Jose Mesa, is closing for them they will win the NL East. I will say this. The Braves have a load of potential good arms with Reitsma and Juan Cruz surrounding the iffy Ortiz, Hampton, Thomson, and Jaret Wright. And the Marlins still have good arms, too. It's a tough call.

1. Philadelphia (marquee closer should earn them at least 10 more wins)
2. Atlanta-* (a lot of uncertainty, no real ace, offense took a hit)
3. Florida (loss of IRod is damaging for good young pitchers, offense decent)
4. Montreal (lose Vasquez, Guerrero; Everett, Batista, Johnson offer some life)
5. NY Mets (is Piazza the only good thing about this team?)

NL Central

Last year's race between the Astros and Cubs was, predictably, very close. This year will be the same. Unfortunately for the Cubs, the Astros made the most significant moves in the offseason. The Astros have a great rotation, Oswalt should be back all year, and they have guys who can mash. Now, the Cubs have Maddux on the back-end of his career, a hurt Prior and a never-consistent Wood. The Cardinals will always make some sort of noise, but I think they have dwindled.

1. Houston (Pettitte and Clemens offer depth to solid pitching, good offense)
2. Chicago Cubs (Derrek Lee is not the answer, neither is Maddux)
3. St. Louis (will be average in both pitching and hitting)
4. Cincinnati (no pitching to speak of, but good hitting)
5. Milwaukee (just like Cincy, with a little less hitting)
6. Pittsburgh (more significant losses in the offseason, more headaches coming in)

NL West

Perhaps the most difficult division to pick (it always is). You have the Giants, who have won it most years, then you have the D'Backs, who are 3 years removed from a World Series win. The always competitive Dodgers made some interesting moves. The Padres have a better offense with some young pitching that could prove to be Marlins-esque. Colorado, I believe, is the odd-team-out.

1. Arizona (with a better offense now, and a solid pitching staff, even w/o Schilling)
2. San Francisco (solid, but aging team, staying the course will not win this year)
3. Los Angeles (interesting moves, but lots of questions with each)
4. San Diego (better offense, pitching still needs seasoning)
5. Colorado (Jennings, Chacon bright spots, Estes and others to get rocked daily)


AL Division

Red Sox over Angels
Yankees over White Sox


Red Sox over Yankees

NL Division

Astros over Braves
Phillies over D'Backs


Astros over Phillies

World Series

Astros over Red Sox

For whatever all that's worth. By the way, I'm picking the Astros for the 2nd straight year. As always, I root for the Braves first, but in a tie I also root for the Cubs-Red Sox series.


Post a Comment

<< Home