Super Bowl Sunday: 2015 MLB Season Predictions

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I though that with the calendar flipping to February and being in the deep freeze, I would be early out of the gate with some predictions on the upcoming 2015 baseball season.  We can look back in October and have a laugh on how terribly off the mark these predictions were.

Let’s start with the American League:

East W L Commentary
Blue Jays 92 70 Solid pitching with Stroman showing that he has arrived. Joey Bats will lead the AL in HRs
Red Sox 90 72 Close rivalry between Red Sox and Jays right down to the final week-end. Team chemistry uncertain.
Orioles 80 82 Bizarre off-season.  Orioles did nothing to keep up with their AL East oppoments’ improvements
Yankees 80 82 Hamstrung by huge salaries, uncertain where pitching and hitting will come from
Rays 70 92 Top quartile quality pitching and no offense to speak of.  Too many off the field distractions.
Central W L Commentary
Tigers 89 73 David Price is in a contract year, Miggy wants another Triple Crown.  Others will follow the leaders.
Royals 84 78 Royals will be riding high but no match for the Tigers.  Ned Yost is a master of doing more with less.
White Sox 84 78 Great improvement from last year.  Sox will contend for most of 2015. Lots to cheer about on the south side
Indians 77 85 Too many improvements among other teams and not enough on the Tribe.  Tito will earn his pay scratching out wins
Twins 70 92 Before the Twins become relavant, they need to spend money on pitching.
West W L Commentary
Mariners 91 71 The time has come for the M’s.  King Felix and robust offense will propel them to a WS berth.
Angels 90 72 Questions on Pujols, Hamilton.  Young pitchers and timely hitting will carry the team to a wild card spot.
Athletics 81 81 No idea what to think of Beane’s many off-season moves. I am still dizzy.
Astros 74 88 Some interesting acquisitions, up and coming stars in the system will make the Astros a team to contend with in a few years
Rangers 63 99 Definitely no pitching.  If Choo and Fielder don’t produce, it will be a long long season in the Texas heat

Yes, I pick the Blue Jays to win the AL East over the Red Sox.  It’s now or never for the Jays as a number of their key players will be in their final contract year.  Dalton Pompey is also my early pick for AL Rookie of the year.  I am also not certain how all the additions in Boston add up to extra wins and I question team chemistry with all the big stars added.  In particular, Hanley Ramirez has proven to be a distraction when he played in Miami and his soft defensive play in Los Angeles cost his team some wins.

David Price will win the AL Cy Young, and together with Miggy, will propel the Tigers to an AL Central title.  Price will be dominant in his contract year and Miguel Cabrera will return to Triple Crown form.  The Royals and the White Sox should hang around in contention for most of the year.

I pick the Mariners to win the AL West, the AL Pennant and the World Series title.  Cano will win the batting title and King Felix will be his usual self.  All other players surrounding Cano will perform to their highest level of ability.  I did not feel that the addition of Nelson Cruz was necessary, the Mariners will win regardless.

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Now, the National League Predictions:

East W L Commentary
Nationals 93 69 Pitching, timely hitting, and a great manager in Matt Williams: that’s how you spell Champs!
Marlins 86 76 Good enough for a wild-card!  Marlins’ outfield is the best in baseball. Will be fun to watch.
Mets 79 83 Mets fans will be crying for more offense.  Starting rotation will shine.
Braves 75 87 Like many teams, Braves stocked up on pitching.  Who’s swinging a bat besides Freeman?
Phillies 66 96 Chase Utley can’t do it alone.  Basement dwellers, Phillies will lead the league in home town boo’s.
Central W L Commentary
Cardinals 92 70 Majors’ best run organization.  Matt Holiday will be contending for the batting title.
Pirates 82 80 Aggressive in my prediction of Polanco and young pitching.  Losing Russell Martin was a big blow.
Brewers 80 82 Ryan Braun will have a Nelson Cruz like year.  Pitching is a question mark.
Cubs 79 83 Wow! Here come the Cubbies.  More excited about youngsters like Kris Bryant and Soler than the signing of Lester
Reds 74 88 Votto is a huge question mark.  Can Cueto sustain Cy Young like stats? Reds retooling
West W L Commentary
Giants 95 67 No Sandoval? No problem! Will dominate but since 2015 is an odd-year, Giants will not advance to World Series.
Dodgers 91 71 Puig will show that he is the face of the future. Ho Hum, another Cy Young for Kershaw
Padres 79 83 Lots of off-season sizzle, I don’t see the steak.  Kashner will have a break out year
Rockies 75 87 If and when the Rockies get pitching, watch out. Arenado will win a  Gold Glove
Diamondbacks 69 93 I don’t understand Tony LaRussa’s role on the D’Backs.  Team will be oversahdowed by Big Unit’s HOF inducton.

In the NL East, no surprise, the Nationals will finish first.  As I write this, their starting rotation will feature Scherzer, Zimmermann, Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Doug Fister.  The Nats also have some nice offensive pieces, but I feel will come up short again in the post-season.

I really like what the Marlins did over the offseason.  They added key players like Mat Latos, Ichiro, and Dee Gordon without breaking up the best outfield in baseball.  They would have been a more serious contender to win the NL East if Jose Fernandez was available on Opening Day.

The Cardinals will win the NL Central and move on to the World Series only to lose to the Seattle Mariners.  Mike Metheny and the front office have built a great team with the perfect balance of team chemistry and budget.  The best moves they made were the ones they did not make: not going after Jon Lester or not resigning Albert Pujols.

The Chicago Cubs will be a fun team to watch and likely occupy most of my time mlb.tv. Kris Bryant, the 2015 NL Rookie of the Year, and Jorge Soler are the real deals.  The additions of manager Joe Maddon and ace Lester will teach the youngsters a winning attitude.  Watch out for the Cubbies in 2016!

In the AL West, the San Francisco Giants should win over the Dodgers.  The difference will be the number of games Bruce Bochy will out-manage Dodgers manager Don Mattingly.  With a $265 million payroll, if the Dodgers are not in first place by the All-Star Break, look for Tim Wallach to replace a fired Mattingly.

Copyright © 2015 BaseballPoutine.com. All Rights Reserved.

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It’s time to usher in steroid-era players into the Hall of Fame

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For many years I was tormented with the issue of whether the players who put up huge numbers during the steroid era of this beautiful game are worthy of entering into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  It felt like this was an appropriate time to talk about it as the baseball writers are filling in their ballots for the 2015 Class.

During the summer of 1998, it was exciting to follow Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire approach and ultimately surpass Roger Maris’ record of 61 home runs in a season.  By season’s end, Sosa ended up hitting 66 and McGwire 70.  McGwire’s 69th and 70th home runs that season had a Montreal connection as they were hit off the Expos at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

In those days we were naïve about performance enhancing drugs so many of us followed it intently.  It was an exciting time for baseball.  Maris’ home run record had held for 37 years.  This was a big deal.  How long could this record last?  Another generation?  Well, not exactly.  A mere three years later, in 2001, Barry Bonds hit 73 HRs in just 476 ABs and had an OPS of 1.379.  These were video game numbers.  Something was not right.  Allegations of steroids were rampant and Bonds was steadfast in his denials.

In March of 2006, Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams published “Game of Shadows“.  The genie was out of the bottle.  This was an end of the innocence of sorts for baseball fans as this seminal book blew the doors wide open and exposed the game of its darkest moment since the Black Sox scandal of 1919.

On May 28, 2006, Bonds hit home run number 715, passing Hank Aaron as the all-time Home Run King.  I remember watching Aaron’s pre-recorded message congratulating Bonds.  At that moment, I was touched by Aaron’s dignity and grace but at the same time I felt like I needed to take a shower.  Bonds’ record was dirty, in my mind.

Years have passed and after all, baseball is a game of statistics and few of us can argue that many of the numbers from the steroid-era are impressive.  The Hall of Fame is for players that have achieved results on the field and not about their piety.  There are players in the Hall of Fame from the dead ball era, the racist era, the amphetamines era, and now the time has come for the steroid era.  That said, I am happy that the game has taken huge steps with the extensive drug testing.

We should know the results early in 2015.  In my heart of hearts, I really hope Tim Raines gets in.  Raines was arguably the National League’s best lead-off hitter in the modern era.  Time is running out as the wave of players from Barry Bonds’ era approaches eligibility.  Bonds will likely be inducted in 2015 and this will signal the end of the baseball writers’ “time out” for PED-era players, guilty or alleged.

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If we follow this line of reasoning, players like Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Manny Ramirez and others should get in eventually, with Clemens perhaps as early as 2015.  Manny’s case may be more problematic.  There was mostly a hate-hate relationship between Manny Ramirez and the media.  The baseball writers who are privileged to cast a Hall of Fame ballot are an interesting lot.  Individually, many are accomplished journalists with awards piled up to the sky.  As a collectivity, by the results of some years’ Hall of Fame election results, they appear to be a cast of clowns, avoiding logic and playing favorites.

Copyright © 2014 BaseballPoutine.com. All Rights Reserved.

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What in the world is Billy Beane up to?

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I was shocked when I saw on my twitter feed that Josh Donaldson was traded from the Oakland Athletics to the Toronto Blue Bays for Brett Lawrie and prospects.  This deal in isolation is not so much the biggest surprise, but rather where things have gone since Billy Beane traded away Yoenis Cespedes.  I don’t claim to know as much about baseball as Beane does, bit the moves since July have been puzzling.  To recap:

1) Cespedes to the Red Sox for Jon Lester + Jonny Gomes.  Everyone knew Lester is a rental and Gomes is finished.  Cespedes was a great presence in the clubhouse and protection for Donaldson, and Moss in the batting lineup.

2) Dan Straily, Addison Russell, and Billy McKinney to the Cubs for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.  Samardzjia likely will be gone after 2015 to free agency.  Hammel’s status is unknown for 2015 as I write this.  In return, the Cubs got a lot of young top quartile talent.  With Joe Maddon in place as manager for the next five years, this trade will prove to be a genius move by Theo Epstein.

3) And lastly the Donaldson for Lawrie trade.  The A’s get an oft-injured player in Brett Lawrie, granted with great defense.  The Jays get essentially Donaldson’s offensive threat and control for the next four years.  Absolutely puzzling.  The middle of the lineup will have Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion and Joey Bautista.  I like the Blue Jays chances to win the AL East.

At the time of the Cespedes trade, the Athletics were well in front in the AL West standings.  The rationale was that Beane was looking for pitching to take them deep into the postseason.  Gamble lost.

After all the dust has settled, Lester is gone and likely Hammel and Gomes are gone, leaving Samardzjia as essentially a rental for 2015.  Now that Cespedes and Donaldson have moved on, where will the offensive power come from in 2015?  Billy Butler and Ike Davis?

Looking quickly to where the Athletics’ significant contractual obligations will be for 2015: Billy Butler at $6.6M, Coco Crisp at $11M, Scott Kazmir at $13M, and likely a $15M+ payday for Samardzjia in arbitration.

There are two possible scenarios as the off-season continues.  Either Beane is rebuilding, assuming a $85-90M budget or he borrowed Jefrrey Loria’s reset button.  We shall see.

Copyright © 2014 BaseballPoutine.com. All Rights Reserved.

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