These predictions are obligatory. Once a year, as the season starts, I’m compelled to make a record of what I think is going to happen in Major League Baseball, so that you can point and laugh at me once the season’s done, and you can draw inspiration that damn near any idiot can write about baseball on the Internet. It’s a public service that I provide to you, who are the public. I am very magnanimous like that.
Feel free to disagree, call me names, or threaten my physical well-being in the comments.
I really like what the Blue Jays have managed to do to upgrade their team in two major moves this offseason. I think the big step forward, coupled with the Yankees’ age and flagging health, the Red Sox’ erosion, and the Orioles not getting nearly as fortunate in 2013 will give the Jays the division. The Rays will win 90 again, easy as breathing, and will take the first Wild Card.
By far the easiest division to pick. The Tigers will have both Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez for the full season, and upgraded their corner outfield with Torii Hunter and also effectively replaced Delmon Young at DH with Victor Martinez. With the Michael Bourn signing, the Indians created a kind of domino effect that should drastically improve their run prevention across the board. I think they make a move at midseason to pick up more pitching, and they wind up with the second AL Wild Card spot. The Royals improved for 2013, but are still relying on very marginal pitching and have question marks all over the infield and a sink hole in right field. The White Sox were a surprise last year, but Peavy and Konerko got a year older, and AJ Pierzynski left town. And the less said about the Twins and their pitching staff, the better. I already drink enough.
The Angels are becoming kings of the splashy move. I don’t know that it will pay off for them as much as they think it will, but I do believe Josh Hamilton, a full season of Mike Trout, and some improved health on the mound and with Albert Pujols will probably have them atop the division. Meanwhile, the loss of Hamilton is going to be felt strongly in Texas and I worry about Darvish in his second go-around the league. The A’s made interesting moves all winter, but will be relying on young pitching and oft-injured middle infielders. The Mariners’ dream of playing with a lineup entirely consisting of corner infielders and outfielders is close to a reality, much to Felix Hernandez’s chagrine. And, in spite of their win last night, how bad the Astros wind up being has a lot to do with who they end up trading and when.
What a difference two years makes. Man, these teams all looked like they might have bright futures back then (well, except for the Mets). Now the Nats are the best and most complete team in baseball (probably by a large margin), and the Braves are terrifically talented. But the Phillies have eroded over time, the Mets are going to try to play without any outfielders, and the Marlins are a national joke.
Though the division got better, since the Astros were jettisoned to the AL, the unbalanced schedule means the rest of the teams will probably see slightly reduced win totals. The Reds look to be the class of the bunch again, even with their suspect defense, and sad decision smother the Ardolis Chapman as a starter experiment in the cradle. The Cardinals are hurting at shortstop, but could upgrade there at some point this summer, and shouldn’t feel the losses of Kyle Lohse and Chris Carpenter thanks to an exceptionally deep group of young pitchers. The Cards have less margin for error than before, but I think they’ll hold together. This is the year the Pirates finally finish over .500, even though they really scuffled in their attempts to fix the starting rotation. By acquiring Lohse, the Brewers definitely improved, but they still are hobbled at first base, weak at shortstop, Aramis Ramirez is a year older, and baseball might suspend Ryan Braun at some point. The Cubs got better this offseason, stockpiling pitchers, but are still at least a year away from being even a little bit interesting.
The Diamondbacks probably hobbled themselves in the long term by dealing Justin Upton, but improved for 2013 by bringing in Martin Prado and upgrading the starting rotation. The Dodgers could be great if everything clicks, but they have more question marks than any other team in baseball. Carl Crawford? Josh Beckett? Hanley Ramirez’s thumb? Zack Greinke’s elbow? Can Matt Kemp stay healthy? (See what I mean?) Even if Timmy Lincecum’s struggles continue into 2013, I’m prepared to eat crow on this prediction. I honestly have no idea what to think of the Giants, and this is mostly just a guess. I like what Blanco provides defensively, and Hunter Pence shouldn’t be as much of a black hole this year, which should help to balance some of what Marco Scutaro gives back. In my brain, they could win 95 as easily as they could win 80. The Padres and Rockies are less bad than they are incredibly uninteresting.
A lot of these are narrative driven. Jose Bautista coming off an injury for a team that I think is going to go to the playoffs, I think he’ll get a ton of credit for that. On the other hand, I think Giancarlo Stanton will get extra credit for being the only credible hitter in Miami, and get the same halo effect Andre Dawson got in 1987. I think Josh Johnson benefits from playing in front of a better defense, and being healthier, and will “win” a ton of games in Toronto.
And, because no season preview is complete these days (even though Bill and I have been doing them for a few years now) without some random individual predictions thrown in at the end, here are 11 oddly specific things I think will happen in 2013 that aren't reflected in my predictions above:
Despite being the best player on the Minnesota Twins by a fairly wide margin, Joe Mauer will be booed at home on a semi-regular basis.
Zack Greinke will be deemed a quasi-disappointment in Los Angeles, despite doing what he always does, simply because he's playing in front of a terrible defense.
Tim Lincecum will be in the bullpen by the end of the season.
Mike Zunino will catch more games than Jesus Montero.
Jed Lowrie will not play enough to qualify for the batting title.
The Angels will reach the postseason, and Josh Hamilton will finish higher in teh MVP voting than Mike Trout.
Eric Hosmer will hit more than 30 homers.
Wil Myers will hit more home runs in the Majors in 2013 than Jeff Francoeur.
The Uptons will combine for 50 homers.
The Mets outfield will combine for fewer than 30 homers.
The best first baseman in the National League will be Anthony Rizzo, followed closely by Allen Craig.