This is a league game. This determines who enters the next round-robin.
OK, I’m going to get in on the fun. Prediction time. These are no doubt worth roughly the electrons they’re printed on, but here we go.
AL East: Yankees, Rays, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Orioles
Comment: Bold, I know. And it was actually difficult. I do think the Yankees are the best team in baseball, but I also think the Red Sox are really underrated this year. I would be perfectly fine with any order of those three clubs, and if the Red Sox win the division I won’t be shocked at all.
AL Central: Tigers, White Sox, Royals, Indians, Twins
Comment: Like the top three in the East, I’d at least listen to an argument for absolutely any ordering of the middle three teams in this division. I do think the White Sox are being undersold. I could definitely see a case for flipping the Indians and Royals. I just don’t see much to like with this Twins team.
AL West: Rangers, Angels, Mariners, A’s
Comment: The Angels obviously get a lot better with their two big additions, but I just think the Rangers are a deeper, more complete team. I like Texas’ lineup quite a bit more, and I don’t think the gap between the two rotations is that great.
Wild Cards: Rays, Red Sox
Comment: I think both of these clubs are better than the Angels, though not by a lot. The depth and difficulty of the AL East might actually argue for picking the Angels, since they’ll have a less difficult schedule than Tampa Bay or Boston, but I feel more comfortable picking based on my read of the quality of the teams than based on schedule.
NL East: Braves, Phillies, Marlins, Nationals, Mets
Comment: The Braves are, along with the Red Sox, the most consistently underrated team coming into this season, in my opinion. I love their rotation and bullpen, and I think they’ll score more runs this year. I have major concerns about the Phillies’ lineup. I think the Marlins are closer to the top two than to the bottom two, and I won’t be surprised if they make a real run. I don’t see Washington scoring enough runs to contend seriously.
NL Central: Reds, Brewers, Cardinals, Pirates, Cubs, Astros
Comment: I had the Cardinals winning the division a month ago, but the Carpenter situation is a major question. I’m obviously pulling for him, but this is not a routine injury where you know the recovery time and can say, ‘He’ll be back in N days.’ I still won’t be the slightest bit surprised if everything works for them, people stay healthy and they win north of 90 games. But I also won’t be surprised if injuries add up, a few of their north-of-30 regulars step back, and things don’t work out.
I just feel that the Reds have a lot more margin for error. They have the fewest weaknesses in the division, even with Madson out, and it’s clear that they’re aiming to win this year. That front office won’t stand pat at the deadline again.
The Brewers, the more I look at them, the more I like them. They still have the same rotation and bullpen that were so effective for them last year, the lineup may not fall off as much as people think, and the defense should be improved. Another really underrated team coming into this season, IMO.
NL West: Giants, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Rockies, Padres
Comment: Probably the hardest division for me to figure, but the Giants are another team that I keep looking at and keep realizing that I like more and more. The offense should be improved, and you know all about the rotation. I can definitely see some regression from the D-Backs, though I don’t at all think they were a fluke. The Dodgers are another team I could see surprising. I’m obviously officially off the Rockies bandwagon after driving it for a few years.
Wild Cards: Phillies, Marlins
The NL is so hard to figure. I think you can make a very real case for as many as 10 teams having legitimate shots at the playoffs, so anybody I’m not including here is not to say I’m down on them. There are just only five spots. Nats, Brewers, Cards, Snakes and even Dodgers could all be in there come October.
MVPs: Miguel Cabrera, Matt Kemp
Cy Youngs: Felix Hernandez, Roy Halladay
World Series: Yankees over Giants