Picking the winner of the World Series is boring because everyone does it and... frankly, it's dumb. The regular season is long and predictable, the playoffs are short and can hinge on one or two guys having a great three weeks. So no, I don't do that. I like to make a few predictions... nine, specifically. Baseball symmetry, you know? So we're off...
1. The Mets Will Make the Playoffs
Honestly, went back and forth on this one. But with an extra playoff team in both leagues and the amount of money Steve Cohen has spent, especially on pitching, I think the Mets could completely screw up and still win 87 games, which will be enough to get in. The Mets scenario is really very similar to the White Sox last year. Tony La Russa was a terrible hire (still is) but that team was so talented I knew it would win 90+ games even if La Russa literally pressed every wrong button and looked and sounded like an old man who didn't get it.... which was precisely what happened and they still rolled to a division title (and promptly lost in the playoffs).
The Mets are the pretty much the same thing except they bought all their players instead of the White Sox home-grown route, right down to Buck Showalter and "old manager" syndrome. What's positive is that we haven't heard any rumblings about Showalter being an "old manager," so they're already off to a better start than La Russa and the Sox. Buck was always yanking pitchers and making odd substitutions in the 90's, so he's actually better off for this job. Add two great clubhouse presences in Chris Bassitt and Mark Canha, both former A's who I have seen for years, and the Mets will succeed. Max Scherzer's always been his own dude and the Jacob DeGrom scenario will get the daily twitter going but Bassitt and Canha, if they perform anything close to what I've seen the last few years, will be the toast of the town by July. Canha's bat-flipping will become a sensation, I promise you that.
2. The Angels Won't
It's that time of year when people say this is the year the Angels will make the playoffs, and my response is always where's the pitching? They didn't have it last year and they don't have it this year AGAIN. You can tell me over and over that a healthy Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani and Anthony Rendon and that lineup will score 10 runs a game and I will still say "it doesn't matter if you score 10 and give up 12." It's still the case for this year. They let a finally healthy Alex Cobb walk to the Giants and their replacement is Thor. Look, I think Noah Syndergaard, when healthy, is fantastic. But he threw 2 innings last year! TWO!!! If he makes 20 starts it'll be a tremendous success.
The Angels rotation is banking on two guys who will never pitch more than once a week in Ohtani and Syndergaard. And they will be extremely careful with both. So you're talking at most 50 starts between them. What about the other 112? Patrick Sandoval threw 87 innings last year and you're saying he's a hoss now? Ohtani, Syndergaard and Sandoval threw a combined 219 innings last year (130, 87 and TWO) and you're gonna make the playoffs with that? No, you are not.
3. The Mariners Will... Finally!
The Mariners won 90 games last season, missed the playoffs on the final weekend, and got better. They're the AL West team that will break through to the playoffs, not the Angels. Since I harped on the Angels rotation as being why they won't succeed, let's look at the Mariners rotation. They bring back 3 guys who threw 100+ innings last year, Chris Flexen (179 IP), Marco Gonzales (143) and Logan Gilbert (119), and Gonzales is the oldest, at 30. Then they add Robbie Ray, who threw a career-high 193 innings for Toronto. That's four starters, and Gilbert's the only guy on that rotation that threw fewer innings than Shohei Ohtani last year. Add the incredible fleecing of the Reds to add bats in Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez AND they got Adam Frazier from the Padres AND rookie Julio Rodriguez is the real deal with now 2nd-year man Jarred Kelenic (that outfield is going to fly). Plus the solid pieces in Mitch Haniger, Ty France... and if the bullpen is even close to decent, they're in. (The Astros are still winning the division, though. Looks like a fun race, however.)
4. Matt Olson Will Hit 60 Home Runs
Sometimes you have to juice up your predictions to make people take notice. I don't really think he'll hit 60, but saying "Matt Olson will hit at least a career-high 40 home runs in his first year with the Braves" is boring, kind of like everybody making a World Series prediction. Saying "Matt Olson will make Braves fans forget Freddie Freeman" is too juicy and a big lie.
But the first time Olson absolutely hammers (Braves pun intended) a home run to right in that bandbox of a ballpark called Truist Field or Suntrust Park or White Flight Stadium or whatever they're calling it nowadays, Braves fans will understand they got an absolute gem of a first baseman who is from Atlanta and is happy to be home. Then he'll make a couple of gold glove caliber plays at first and they'll be on his side for keeps.
And playing 81 home games in Atlanta and not the Al Davis Memorial Mausoleum in Oakland, as well as visiting the 4 other NL East parks instead of the AL West? 50 is incredibly plausible, and 60 is not out of the question. He absolutely raked at the Rangers new ballpark, and now he gets games in Philly and DC? And did I mention 81 games in Atlanta? He might hit 70!
And yes, I intentionally batted him cleanup on this list.
5. 3 NL West Teams Make the Postseason
You might have figured out I think the Braves will win the NL East and the Mets will finish second. That's two divisions and two wild card teams to go. Well, I think the Brewers will win the Central and both of the other wild card teams come from the NL West. It is not hard to predict the Dodgers win that division, but the other part is actually simpler than you think.
There's a great under-the-radar baseball saying that's "every team will win 60 games and every team will lose 60 games, it's what you do in the other 42 that make your season." And the guys in charge of the two other teams in the NL West are really great at getting the best out of those teams in those crucial 42 games.
As a Bay Area guy, I have watched Bob Melvin work magic on a daily basis managing the Oakland A's for years. I am convinced that no matter how little control he had over the roster construction, they let him alone on gamedays with lineups (although I suspect the front office decreed he had to play certain players, which is why you saw curious substitutions in the 5th inning oftentimes). Now he's in San Diego. With the DH now in the NL full-time, Melvin has to do absolutely nothing with his strategies. And he has a front office that will spend the money to contend. And he doesn't just have two stars in the Matts (Olson and Chapman) and a rotation that might be good if everything works.... he has Tatis and Machado and Trent Grisham and his starters are Joe Musgrove and Blake Snell and Yu Darvish and a rehabbing Mike Clevenger and now a guy he just has seen blossom into an ace, Sean Manaea.
So yeah, the Padres are making the playoffs.
Then there's the Giants. Never has a team that has won 107 games been so lightly regarded going into the next season. Yeah, everybody had career years and they were mostly 30+ years old, so how are the Brandons going to follow up, especially with Buster Posey retired and Kris Bryant, your big mid-season acquisition, gone to Colorado? Yeah, all the pitcher reclamation projects worked out. They worked out so well that Kevin Gausman got a huge deal from Toronto and now you're relying on Anthony DeSclafani and Alex Wood to be that good again? And will Logan Webb blossom fully into an ace?
The thing is, Farhan Zaidi has always seemed to work this magic, wherever he's been. The Dodgers are the Dodgers in large part because of how Zaidi built that roster. Nearly all the everyday players on that juggernaut have been Zaidi finds. In San Francisco he's basically been competing against himself. He's been able to always find guys and there's no reason he's not going to keep doing that. And Gabe Kapler really seems to have found himself after those two troubled years in Philly. He's mellowed, kind of, and it looks like they have built a staff to keep him grounded. So yeah, I see the Giants making the playoffs.
Besides, there's a real chance nobody else in the National League (besides the Brewers, who are winning the Central handily) finishes significantly over .500. The Cardinals and Cubs can't put it together consistently, the Marlins are frisky but not quite there, and the Reds, Pirates, D-Backs, and Rockies all suck. The Phillies can't play defense and the Nats might be surprisingly brutal (their rotation won't hang).
6. 3 AL East Teams Make the Postseason
In the American League, the difference is closer but it does appear the East is the best division. There are four teams capable of making the playoffs and then the Yankees. Ha! Just wanted to make sure you were paying attention (sorry O's fans. You should be better but your record might not show it because these teams will destroy you).
My thing is I can't figure out which of the 4 teams will miss the playoffs (since picking the Mariners as a wild card means there are only two slots left). Tampa, New York, Toronto or Boston? I am leaning towards Boston as the miss because the rotation is the question. How reliant are they on Chris Sale coming back and making a huge difference? He's out until June at the earliest. I've had Nathan Eovaldi on several fantasy teams and often regretted it. This feels like a Boston team that will absolutely mash (Trevor Story, hello!) but when you're relying on the ageless Rich Hill (42, threw 158 innings last year) as a key piece, I just don't see it. Of course, I didn't see them holding off Toronto last season and they did.
The difference is that Toronto is better. Not just more experience for the kids- Vlad Guerrero and Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio, but add Matt Chapman at third and Raimel Tapia as an outfielder (he was so fast in Colorado, that's a huge under-the-radar pickup). Rotation-wise, I think Kevin Gausman will be decent but not worth his big contract, ultimately. But if he's good this year, who cares? Their pieces fit well.
Tampa will win 90 games with a bunch of dudes we've never heard of, so let's pencil them in.
That leaves the Yankees. The rotation kept them from winning 100 games last year, for sure. A healthy Jamison Taillon will make a huge difference (had him on my fantasy team when he was good with the Pirates, so I've got confidence there) and I think Gerritt Cole pressed too much trying to earn that massive contract in the first year. So they'll both be better. Deivi Garcia hasn't had a lot of innings and will start the season in AAA but he'll be there real soon. Jordan Montgomery looks like he'll be just fine.
So the Yankees it is (can you believe Giancarlo Stanton is already 32? He's only broken 40 homers once, that 2017 season where he mashed 59. It.... doesn't make any sense.).
7. The Rangers Spent A Lot of Money, So Yay For Them I Guess
The Rangers are bascially opening their ballpark for the third straight year. It opened in 2020 and there were no fans until they hosted the playoffs and the World Series. The were the first team to go full capacity on Opening Day last year with pandemic restrictions everywhere but Texas and it felt really weird, I expect even in Texas, and they still ended up losing 102 games. So the shine was definitely off that place in a hurry.
And this year it's as normal as it'll be, and the Rangers spent half a billion dollars to try and contend in the AL. The thing is, they could have a 20-game improvement and still finish under .500 (from 60 wins to 80). And a 20-win improvement is not out of the question, but it won't get them to the playoffs. They'll be in it with the Angels for third place in the West (behind Houston and Seattle, but well ahead of Oakland).
Marcus Semien and Corey Seager got their bags but everybody else is about the same. You expect to contend with long-time Rockie Jon Gray as your free agent ace? It's the same problem for the Rangers at is quite often: big hitters (anybody else remember Jeff Burroughs?) and maybe one decent pitcher (that Nolan Ryan fellow never made the playoffs while he was with the Rangers).
They will be better.... but that's still not good enough to contend, not this year. So the AL playoff teams are Houston, Seattle, Tampa, New York, Toronto, and the AL Central champs, the White Sox.
8. The Rockies Are Still Terrible
When I see the "experts" pick their dark-horse candidate to contend, a lot of them are picking the Rockies. They should stop.
9. The A's Won't Move to Vegas
Here's the A's stadium plan, simplified, no matter how much you're hearing VEGAS VEGAS VEGAS.
The Port of Oakland thinks that 50 acres called Howard Terminal is not very useful to them and wants to sell it to the A's (or lease it long-term, or whatever).
This 50 acres of land is on a corner of the Port. They have some 1500 total acres at the Port and this particular plot is being used as a parking lot for trucks. It is not a particularly busy section of the Port and the baseball park equivalent is foul ground. And the water around there is pretty shallow, port-wise, which makes it highly unlikely to all of a sudden become really useful in the future as, you know, a port.
The big decision coming in June is whether to officially re-zone the land from industrial to commercial/residential to allow the A's to do their thing. If they don't re-zone the land, the project is dead and the A's will probably move to Vegas.
But since the Port is fine with the land being re-zoned so the A's can build it, that should be enough for the decision makers to re-zone the land.
So, that should be that.
And that's 9 predictions! Thoughts?
|and if the A's are lucky, it'll look like this|
photos by author