Justin's 2009 MLB Predictions
Without further ado...
While the Dodgers certainly have pitching questions, a strong lineup anchored by Manny Ramirez should put them over the top in what remains a relatively weak division. But with mediocre starters in the 3-5 spots, it's certainly possible that they could struggle enough to allow the very young and (relatively) pitching rich Diamondbacks pass them. The Giants have the pitching to be better than in recent years, but their complete lack of offense will cost them many games. However, if the bottom half of their starting rotation (namely, Barry Zito) can pull it together, they could mount a threat. Neither Colorado nor San Diego has much going for them this season - look for the biggest name moving at the trade deadline to be Jake Peavy.
The Cubs are the single most complete team in the National League, with a dominant lineup, starting rotation, and a very good bullpen. While the Brewers still have the strong young core that gave them their first postseason appearance in decades last season, the loses of CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets will force them to rely on a pitching staff made up entirely of young prospects and veterans coming off subpar seasons - not a great combination for competing. Houston has a solid middle part of the lineup and good front end of the rotation - enough to keep them from an abysmal season, but not enough to keep them in the race. The Cardinals have a solid starting pitching staff, but no bullpen and little protection around Albert Pujols. The Pirates will easily have their MLB record 17th losing season in a row, but are slowly building an interesting crop of young pitchers - keep an eye on them next year. I'm not sure why everybody seems to love Cincinnati so much this year - sure, they have a couple young starting pitchers who can be very good, and some great young hitters who could have breakout seasons. But I think they are relying far too much on unproven young players - they'll be good in the future, but not just yet.
The Mets certainly solved their #1 problem from last season - with the acquisitions JJ Putz and K-Rod, they may now have the best bullpen in the NL. With their dominant lineup and strong rotation returning, there is little reason to think that they won't win this division - oh, except for the fact they they're the Mets. The only big change for the Phillies this year is replacing Pat Burrell with Raul Ibanez. They'll be right in it once again; look for a close finish right behind New York. Atlanta has cobbled together a collection of veterans to fill out their starting rotation, but Javier Vazquez and Tom Glavine are big question marks. And they'll need solid pitching - outside of the middle of the order, their lineup doesn't impress. The Marlins have a lot of impressive young players, but don't have enough pieces in place to compete in a relatively strong division. Washington has a very pretty ballpark.
The Angels should run away with the West, but I doubt they'd be able to finish first in any other division. Their bullpen is strong, as always, but their starting rotation and lineup both have major holes. Lucky for them, every other team in this division has much bigger problems. The A's are getting better, and a couple of big name pitching prospects will have them competing very soon. But with an unthreatening lineup outside of Matt Holliday and an untested young pitching staff, they'll struggle to get above .500. As usual, Texas has little pitching but a tough lineup - expect them to be first in runs scored and last in runs allowed once again. The Mariners still have an awful pitching staff and an unimpressive lineup - but at least they have Griffey back to bring in some fans.
The single most wide open division in baseball. I think that any team but the Royals could win it, and some people have even made arguments for them. Why Detroit? Verlander will have a better season, they got Edwin Jackson from Tampa, Galarraga is getting better, and Bonderman, Robertson, and even Dontrelle Willis have the potential for greatness any year. In other words, they have the pieces in place for a pitching staff - all they need is for it to all come together at the same time. I think it will. The Indians are in a similar boat - the pieces are there for a dominant lineup, and their pitching staff is decent. But Carl Pavano is their number 3 starter....good luck with that. With an extremely strong young rotation, it wouldn't be all that surprising for the Twins to finish on top either. The Royals have some scattered players who can make noise, but I'm not counting on much from a lineup with Jose Guillen hitting cleanup. I don't necessarily think the White Sox will bad - I just think that while every other team in this division is improving, this team is centered around veterans on the downward side of their career. But at least they have Obama!
Without any question, the three best teams in baseball all play in one division. Two of three will make the playoffs, and you might as well be picking out of a hat, as close as these teams are to each other. Boston has a potent mixture of dominant veterans (Beckett, Ortiz, Lowell) and young stars who, even with all the success they have had, still haven't hit their full potential (Pedroia, Lester). The only real hole this team seems to have is their odd insistence on letting a guy who can barely crack .220 catch every day. Tampa won't get the same perfect year from their pitching staff that they got last year. But they won't need to - as soon as somebody gets injured or doesn't pitch well, they have about half a dozen guys in the minors who can fill in effectively - starting with ALCS Game 7 hero David Price, who will start the season in the minors. What's scary is that this team won't even peak for another year or two - they're only getting better. For the Yankees, it comes down to pitching. While their lineup will win them many games, their pitching remains the biggest question mark that any of these three teams has, and may cost them a playoff spot. While Sabathia seems to be a sure thing, injury questions surround Burnett, Wang, and, to a lesser extent, Joba Chamberlain. Meanwhile, Andy Pettitte, despite his success this spring, is getting to the very end of his career (although he'll be a more than effective #5 starter), and the bullpen may be an issue, outside of their closer. If everybody in the rotation stays healthy, they'll win this division - but that seems like too big of an "if" to pick them now. Poor Baltimore and Toronto - it's going to be a rough year, facing the other 3 teams 57 times.
CHC vs. PHI - PHI in 5
NYM vs. LAD - NYM in 5
NYM vs. PHI - NYM in 5
BOS vs. DET - BOS in 4
LAA vs. TBR - TBR in 3
BOS vs. TBR - TBR in 7
2009 World Series
Tampa Bay Rays vs. New York Mets
Tampa Bay Rays is 5
So now, let's play ball! And all hope that I'm wrong.