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MLB Predictions

Thought I’d get these out there before we get into the season. The only change from my MLB Preview is that I’ve swapped the Angels and Mariners due to the injuries to Kelvim Escobar and John Lackey. In all honestly, I want to pick the Dodgers for the NL Wild Card over the Phillies, but I’ve always said once the Phillies make it over the hump and make the playoffs, I’ll have a lot more faith they can make it again, so I’m going to stick with that.

 NL East

  1. New York Mets
  2. Philadelphia Phillies*
  3. Atlanta Braves
  4. Washington Nationals
  5. Florida Marlins

NL Central

  1. Chicago Cubs
  2. Cincinnati Reds
  3. Milwaukee Brewers
  4. Houston Astros
  5. Pittsburgh Pirates
  6. St. Louis Cardinals

NL West

  1. Arizona Diamondbacks
  2. Los Angeles Dodgers
  3. Colorado Rockies
  4. San Diego Padres
  5. San Francisco Giants

AL East

  1. Boston Red Sox
  2. New York Yankees
  3. Toronto Blue Jays
  4. Tampa Bay Rays
  5. Baltimore Orioles

AL Central

  1. Detroit Tigers
  2. Cleveland Indians*
  3. Chicago White Sox
  4. Minnesota Twins
  5. Kansas City Royals

AL West

  1. Seattle Mariners
  2. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
  3. Oakland Athletics
  4. Texas Rangers

Playoffs

Division Series

Diamondbacks over Phillies
Mets over Cubs

Indians over Red Sox
Tigers over Mariners

Championship Series

Mets over Diamondbacks
Tigers over Indians

World Series

Tigers over Mets

Regular Season Awards

NL MVP – David Wright, Mets
AL MVP – Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

NL Cy Young – Johan Santana, Mets
AL Cy Young – Eric Bedard, Mariners

NL Rookie of the Year – Kosuke Fukudome, Cubs
AL Rookie of the Year – Evan Longoria, Rays

Stop Me When You’ve Heard This Before…

 

Tom Gordon

I know it’s just Opening Day, and it only counts for one game – but the Phillies inability to play decent baseball out of the chute EVERY year drives me absolutely crazy. The last 2 years, they have started off 1-6 and spent much of the start of the season just scratching to get back to .500. Hence, the team is always playing catch-up until their yearly August/September surge. Since 1995, they have only ONCE started the first 4 games at or better than 3-1. Here are their starts since 1995:

2007: 1-6
2006: 1-6
2005: 1-3
2004: 1-6
2003: 2-2
2002: 2-2
2001: 3-1
2000: 1-3
1999: 2-2
1998: 1-3
1997: 1-4
1996: 2-2
1995: 2-2

Anybody have any theories? I always thought it was the managers’ job to get the players ready for the start of the season, but this trend has continued over several managers. Another thought is the inability to adjust to the cold weather after spending the spring in Florida, but it’s not like we are the only team doing that. I’m more or less convinced this is part of a city-wide conspiracy to drive me legally insane. (Note: As I’m typing this, Jayson Werth just walked to start off the 7th – I’m hoping I can delete this entire post before all is said and done) (Awesome Update: J-Roll just tied it with a 2-run homer. Like I said, he may have a down year this year) (That’s More Like It Update: Thanks Tom Gordon – I appreciate it. Second straight year a pitcher has blown it in the 9th to start the season.)

2008 MLB Preview: Top of the NL East

Ryan Howard, David Wright, John Smoltz

Explanation of ratings system and other team previews here

I decided to change it up a little bit for the last 3 teams of MLB Preview – The Mets, Braves and Phillies. Since this is a Philly blog, people are most interested in how these 3 teams stack up in what should be one of the closest division races in baseball. What I’m going to do is rank their players, not by position, but by “best hitter vs. best hitter,” “2nd best hitter vs. 2nd best hitter,” etc… Then, at the end, I plan to come to some sort of logical and meaningful conclusion.

Best Hitter

  1. Ryan Howard, Phillies
  2. David Wright, Mets
  3. Chipper Jones, Braves

Comment: Howard and Wright are neck and neck, but the way Howard has been hitting this spring, I expect we will see the 2006 version of Howard.

2nd Best

  1. Mark Teixeira, Braves
  2. Chase Utley, Phillies
  3. Carlos Beltran, Mets

Comment: How well did Teixeira play after coming over the Braves? Well, if he hits at the rate he did in his 56 games for the team, he will hit .317 with 51 HR and 168 RBI over a full season. Wow.

3rd Best

  1. Jimmy Rollins, Phillies
  2. Jose Reyes, Mets
  3. Jeff Francouer, Braves

Comment: I’m going to give the reigning NL MVP the benefit of the doubt, but I could see him having a slightly disappointing season this year.

4th Best

  1. Brian McCann, Braves
  2. Pat Burrell, Phillies
  3. Carlos Delgado, Mets

Comment: McCann is due for a breakout year, we know what we will get from Burrell (.270, 30 HR, 95 RBI) and Delgado has a lot of injuries to recover from before he’s going to be a productive hitter.

5th Best

  1. Ryan Church, Mets
  2. Matt Diaz, Braves
  3. Geoff Jenkins, Phillies

Comment: I actually like the acquisition of Church for the Mets (though they might regret losing Lastings Milledge in the long run). Church’s 43 doubles in 470 ABs last year is very impressive.

6th Best

  1. Kelly Johnson, Braves
  2. Shane Victorino, Phillies
  3. Moises Alou, Mets

Comment: Johnson was way under the radar with the season he had last year. He had a .832 OPS at second base, which is great for that position. Victorino and his SBs are not far behind him though and Alou might have been in first if I didn’t think he will be hurt all year.

7th Best

  1. Yunel Escobar, Braves
  2. Pedro Feliz, Phillies
  3. Luis Castillo, Mets

Comment: Escobar is good enough that the Braves had no problems giving up all-star shortstop Edgar Renteria in the offseason. He hit .326 in 319 ABs last year. He is not a power hitter, but could get 40+ doubles this year.

8th Best

  1. Carlos Ruiz, Phillies
  2. Mark Kotsay, Braves
  3. Brian Schneider, Mets

Comment: Ruiz is far and away the best of this bunch – it’ll be interesting to see what he will do this year with the starting spot all to himself.

Bench

  1. Phillies (Chris Coste, Greg Dobbs, Jayson Werth, So Taguchi)
  2. Mets (Ramon Castro, Marlon Anderson, Endy Chavez, Damion Easley)
  3. Braves (Ruben Gotay, Brayan Pena, Martin Prado, Gregor Blanco)

Comment: Both the Mets and Phillies have great benches – I give the edge to the Phillies because their 4 players drove in 156 runs last year, vs. 99 for the Mets guys.

1st Starter

  1. Johan Santana, Mets
  2. Brett Myers, Phillies
  3. John Smoltz, Braves

Comment: Santana is obvious – but I chose Myers over Smoltz because Smoltz is starting the year on the DL and at 40, he might be slowing down. Also, Myers has looked phenomenal in the spring.

2nd Starter

  1. Cole Hamels, Phillies
  2. Tim Hudson, Braves
  3. Pedro Martinez, Mets

Comment: Word is that Pedro has looked great this spring. Considering he’s pitched 160 innings total the last 2 years, I’ll believe it when I see it.

3rd Starter

  1. John Maine, Mets
  2. Tom Glavine, Braves
  3. Jamie Moyer, Phillies

Comment: There is a huge gap here between Maine and the two old lefties. As much as I love Jamie Moyer, I see him having another year flirting with a 5.00 ERA.

4th Starter

  1. Oliver Perez, Mets
  2. Jair Jurrjens, Braves
  3. Kyle Kendrick, Phillies

Comment: Phillies fans don’t think much of Perez because he was always wild when he pitched against us, but he actually finished the year 9th in the NL in ERA. As for Kendrick, I believe he will be in the minor leagues by mid-May.

5th Starter

  1. Orlando Hernandez, Mets
  2. Adam Eaton, Phillies
  3. Mike Hampton, Braves

Comment: I think Kris Benson will probably take this spot when he’s ready – but I have to think Eaton can’t be AS bad as he was last year. As for Hampton, I don’t think he’ll be able to stay healthy, hence his spot at the bottom.

Closer

  1. Billy Wagner, Mets
  2. Rafael Soriano, Braves
  3. Brad Lidge, Philies

Comment: I hate Billy Wagner. He’s a liar and a baby. That’s my comment.

Set-Up Man

  1. Peter Moylan, Braves
  2. Tom Gordon, Phillies
  3. Aaron Heilman, Mets

Comment: Peter who? Moylan had 1.80 ERA last year for the Braves over 90.1 IP, while Heilman had SEVEN losses, which is entirely too many for a reliever.

7th Inning Man

  1. J.C. Romero, Phillies
  2. Manny Acosta, Braves
  3. Pedro Feliciano, Mets

Comment: If Romero can keep his walks down, he can be dominant, as he showed down the stretch for the Phils last year. The Phillies bet $12 million in the offseason that he can.

Rest of Bullpen

  1. Mets (Joe Smith, Scott Schoenweis, Jorge Sosa)
  2. Phillies (Ryan Madson, Chad Durbin, Clay Condrey)
  3. Braves (Blaine Boyer, Chris Resop, Wil Ohman)

Comment: All three of these teams could use some improvement here. Ryan Madson has looked really good in the spring for the Phillies, and it would be a huge boost to the team if he can stay healthy and effective for the entire year.

OVERALL

Let’s go ahead and assign some arbitrary numbers to these rankings and see what we come up with. For the line-ups, bullpen and bench I’ll award 3 points for each 1st place, 2 for 2nd and 1 for 3rd. Since the starting rotation is only 5 players and is extremely important, we’ll award 6 points for each 1st, 4 for 2nd and 2 for 3rd. Here’s what we come up with for that.

Line-Up

T-1. Phillies, 18 points
T-1. Braves, 18 points
    3. Mets, 12 points

Starting Rotation

  1. Mets, 26 points
  2. Phillies, 18 points
  3. Braves, 16 points

Bullpen/Bench

  1. Phillies, 11 points
  2. Mets, 10 points
  3. Braves, 9 points

Overall

  1. Mets, 48 points
  2. Phillies, 47 points
  3. Braves, 43 points

MEANINGFUL CONCLUSIONS

Braves- 3rd Place. I don’t really understand the obsession with the Braves resurgence this year (most of the ESPN analysts have picked them 2nd). They will have an improved line-up even w/o Andruw Jones, and their starting rotation is full of some good names (Smoltz, Glavine, Hudson, Hampton) but Tom Glavine’s last appearance on the mound was the biggest choke of his career, Smoltz is already on the DL and Hampton hasn’t been healthy since 2005.

Phillies- 2nd Place. The Phils have the best offense in the National League and that alone will win them a lot of games. However, 3 through 5 in their rotation absolutely terrifies me. I still can’t understand how Kyle Lohse ended up with the Cardinals for 4.5 million and we couldn’t pony up 7-8 million for one season. A lot also hinges on Brad Lidge coming back healthy, which it looks like he will. Regardless of the question marks, the Phillies have no holes in their line-up and a deep bench in case anyone gets hurt. I think they will win the Wild Card this year.

Mets- 1st place. It’s hard to make an argument against a team that lost the division on the last day of the season and then went out and got the best pitcher in baseball. What sets the Mets apart from the Braves and Phillies is the the combination of a true ace at the top, and depth at the bottom of their rotation. Their offense isn’t quite as good, or deep, but Jose Reyes, David Wright and Carlos Beltran is nothing to scoff at.

2008 MLB Preview: Florida Marlins

Hanley Ramirez

Explanation of ratings system and other team previews here

FLORIDA MARLINS

Ranks

Overall – 67 points (27th MLB, 16th NL)
Starting Rotation – 23 points (25th MLB, 14th NL)
Line-Up – 30 points (24th MLB, 13th NL)
Bench/Bullpen/Defense – 14 points (T-22nd MLB, T-13th NL)

Offseason Additions – Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller, Mark Hendrickson,
Offseason Subtractions – Dontrelle Willis, Miguel Cabrera, Armando Benitez

Biggest Strength–  Hanley Ramirez

The Red Sox won the World Series last year with Josh Beckett taking home the Series MVP. Many argued that their 3B Mike Lowell should have gotten substantial votes for the regular season MVP. With that said, it can easily be argued that the Marlins got the best player in the deal when they traded away those two players for Hanley Ramirez. Hanley Ramirez is better than Jose Reyes, by a lot. He is better than Jimmy Rollins, by a little. Here are some fun facts from Hanley’s 2007 season:

  1. Only player in MLB history to .330 with 50 SB and 20 HR.
  2. Had the highest OPS for a SS (.948) since A-Rod moved to 3rd Base.
  3. Joined Ty Cobb (1911), Tris Speaker (1912) and George Sisler (1922) as the only players to have a SLG% over .560 while being fast enough to steal 50+ bases and score 125+. Ramirez, at 23, was the youngest of the 4.
  4. He’s good – real good. And 3 years away from his prime.

Biggest Weakness– Starting Rotation

The Marlins traded away their only recognizable pitcher in Dontrelle Willis this off-season and now, like the Nationals, their rotation is a collection of no-names. Unlike the Nationals though, some of their no-names have a very high ceiling. Andrew Miller, Ricky Nolasco, and Scott Olsen all have good potential, particularly Miller, but I doubt they are ready to break out this year. Former Philadelphia Sixers draft-pick Mark Hendrickson is their #1 starter. Thanks for coming out guys.

Key Player in ’08– Jeremy Hermida

When Jeremy Hermida came up from the minors, the Marlins expected him to be a Justin Morneau type talent. However, a rash of injuries and sub-par play has delayed his growth. But after the all-star break last year, Hermida showed signs of waking up, hitting .340 with a .550 slugging %. He’s only 24, and if he can continue what he started last fall, the Marlins will have a much needed hitter in the 4-spot.

Player to Keep an Eye On– Andrew Miller

Miller was a key piece in the Willis/Cabrera swap. Thought by many to be the best prospect in the 2006 draft, he fell to the Tigers after a couple teams balked at his contract demands. Miller is slightly reminiscent of Randy Johnson. He is a tall lefty with a 94+ fastball and a really good slider. He’s probably not ready for the big time just yet, but it will be interesting to see how he progresses this year.

2008 Outlook: 5th Place, NL East. The Marlins have had 2 World Series titles while I’ve been alive, the Phillies/Sixers/Eagles have 0. Each time they’ve won those World Series, they’ve followed it up by trading every good player on their team, alienating their bandwagon fanbase, and playing in from of empty stadiums.  So really, as much as I like Hanley Ramirez and Andrew Miller, I really hope they kind of suck for awhile.

2008 MLB Preview: Washington Nationals

Lastings Milledge

Explanation of ratings system and other team previews here

WASHINGTON NATIONALS

Ranks

Overall – 69 points (24th MLB, 14nd NL)
Starting Rotation – 21 points (29th MLB, 16th NL)
Line-Up – 31 points (22nd MLB, 12th NL)
Bench/Bullpen/Defense – 17 points (T-3rd MLB, T-1st NL)

Offseason Additions – Aaron Boone, Tyler Clippard, Johnny Estrada, Paul LoDuca, Rob Mackowiak, Lastings Milledge, Elijah Dukes
Offseason Subtractions – Tony Batista, Ryan Church, Nook Logan, Brian Schneider

Biggest Strength–  Nationals Park

First of all, kudos to the Nationals for not (yet) selling the rights to name their stadium, for making the first “green” stadium in the country, and for having possibly the coolest backdrop to an outfield, the Capital Building and Washington Monument. That being said, it’s not the stadium that will help the Nats this year, its the fact that there will be PEOPLE there. The last time the Nationals played in front of large crowds was their inagural year in 2005. Going from no crowd to a big crowd can pump a team up, and it showed, with the team starting off 52-36 before finally playing to it’s talent level later in the season. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar hot start this season.

Biggest Weakness– Starting Rotation

I started writing about the lack of a big power hitter in this line-up, but when I went to look at the Nationals depth chart on espn.com, it showed Odalis Perez as their #1 starter. This has to be a misprint, right? RIGHT? Even if it isn’t – their is not a single starter on the team (Perez, Jason Bergmann, Matt Chico, John Lannan and Tim Redding) that would be in the Top 4 of a playoff contender. One or two of them will likely surprise, but it’s likely that their very good bullpen will get A LOT of work this season.

Key Player in ’08– Ryan Zimmerman

Zimmerman is the closest thing that the Nationals have to a franchise player. However, he followed his very impressive rookie campaign by taking a step back in 2007, hitting .266 with 24 HR and 91 RBI. He is primarily a doubles hitter and a phenomenal defender, but he needs to step up this season and hit for a better average and more power – the Nationals need a big threat in the middle of their line-up.

Player to Keep an Eye On– Lastings Milledge

Milledge went from being absolutely un-tradable, to being dumped for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider in the matter of a year. Did he somehow become less talented in that year – or did the Mets decide he had character issues they didn’t want to deal with? Who knows. But the bottom line is Milledge is only 22, and talent doesn’t just vanish into thin air. Milledge will get his first chance to start everyday and will have a huge chip on his shoulder to prove the Mets wrong. I wouldn’t be surprised if people look back on this trade much like the historically horrendous Victor Zambrano – Scott Kazmir swap.

2008 Outlook: 4th Place, NL East. The Nationals don’t have any big name players on their team, but they are always a tough team to face. They have one of the best bullpen’s in majors and a decent line-up. If they can ride the emotion of opening a new stadium in front of large crowds, I think they could replicate their 81-81 record of 2005. However, their rotation is too weak for them to do much more.

2008 MLB Preview: Arizona Diamondbacks

Justin Upton

Explanation of ratings system and other team previews here

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Ranks

Overall – 82 points (7th MLB, 2nd NL)
Starting Rotation – 33 points (4th MLB, 1st NL)
Line-Up – 33 points (12th MLB, 7th NL)
Bench/Bullpen/Defense – 16 points (T-5th MLB, T-3rd NL)

Offseason Additions – Dan Haren, Chad Qualls, Billy Buckner (seriously)
Offseason Subtractions – Tony Clark, Livan Hernandez, Carlos Quentin, Jose Valverde

Biggest Strength– Brandon Webb and Dan Haren

In Webb and Haren, I believe that the Diamondbacks have the best 1-2 punch in the major leagues. Both are on the right side of their primes (Webb is 28, Haren is 27), both are very reliable (Webb averaged 233 inning over the last 3 years, Haren averaged 221) and both are dominant (Webb had a 3.01 ERA last year, Haren had a 3.07). While not quite as good as Johnson/Schilling, these two will have the same affect on the team, giving them a distinct advantage in 40% of their games.

Biggest Weakness– Young Offense

The Diamondbacks won their division last year despite being OUTSCORED and having essentially the same run differential as the 76 win, 86 loss, Oakland A’s. They are loaded with talented young hitters such as Stephen Drew, Justin Upton, Conor Jackson, Mark Reynolds and Chris Young. However, they can’t count on doing it with smoke and mirrors again this year. Some of these players are going to have to step up. Picking a team to make the playoffs that has Eric Byrnes as it’s best offensive player scares me a little bit. With that said…

Key Player in ’08– Conor Jackson

You could really put any of those young guys here, but based on 2007 numbers, I’m guessing that Jackson has the best chance to break out. He was 2nd to Mark Reynolds on the team in OPS (.836) despite not striking out very much (50 Ks in 477 PA). He has decent pop and could approach 30 HR and 90-100 RBI. This will be his 3rd full year in the league, and at 25, he’s at an age and service time where many hitters make that next step. But if he doesn’t, who knows, maybe it will be…

Player to Keep an Eye On– Justin Upton

Upton was called up to big leagues last year as a teenager. At 19, he was nearly 2 years younger than anyone else in NL. At the time of his call-up, he was doing pretty well in AA. How well? Well – if you took the numbers he was putting up and extrapolate them over a normal MLB season, they would have looked like this: .309 BA, 111 Runs, 39 2B, 9 3B, 30 HR, 122 RBI, 23 SB, .955 OPS. For a 19 year old SS? That’s completely ridiculous. Upton certainly has the biggest ceiling of any of the young D-Backs, but it will likely take him awhile to get there (though the .360 he’s hitting in spring training might suggest otherwise). When he does, he will probably be the best SS in the majors. (Editors Note: He will play RF in the majors – so it will be difficult for him to be the best SS. But he’ll still be really good – you get the point)

2008 Outlook: 1st Place, NL West. I think that Diamondbacks will win about 70% of the games that Webb and Haren pitch, and that their offense, bullpen and the intangibles (defense, managing) that won them games last year will do enough to win 50% of the games they don’t. That’ll put them at about 93 wins and at the top of this division. If Stephen Drew, Mark Reynolds and the rest of the young snakes all break-out, this team will be unstoppable.