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Third Time’s The Charm?: A Work In Progress’ 2012 MLB Predictions

Will Busch Stadium host the World Series for a second straight year?

As always, I’m late getting my predictions out. But, a week after Opening Day, here are my picks for the 2012 season:

NL Central

1 St. Louis Cardinals – 92-70

2 Milwaukee Brewers – 86-76

3 Cincinnati Reds – 84-78

4 Pittsburgh Pirates – 72-90

5 Chicago Cubs – 68-94

6 Houston Astros – 61-101

Yes, Albert Pujols no longer plays in St. Louis, but I believe the Cardinals are the class of the NL Central. I think they’ll win the division thanks to their pitching depth (rotation and bullpen), which includes super-prospect Shelby Miller, who I expect to see in the big leagues by mid-season.

I’m not buying the Reds. I don’t trust a team that will rely on Scott Rolen and Ryan Ludwick in the middle of the batting order. I also expect at least one of their starters (most likely Johnny Cueto) to miss significant time with a Dusty Baker caused injury. If a team other than the Cardinals is going to win the Central, it’s going to be the Brewers. Even without Prince, they have the rotation to compete deep into the season.

NL East

1 Philadelphia Phillies – 94-68

2 Washington Nationals* – 89-73

3 Miami Marlins – 87-75

4 Atlanta Braves – 86-76

5 New York Mets – 80-82

It was tempting to go with either the Nats or the Marlins, but in the end, it was just too hard to pick against Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. No one is sure what the Phillies will get from Ryan Howard or Chase Utley this season, and the NL East is one of the deepest divisions in baseball, so it won’t be a cake walk for the five-time defending division champs.

With the addition of a second wild card spot, I’d be shocked if two NL East teams don’t make the playoffs. I like the Nats to earn one of the Wild Cards and make the playoffs for the first time since moving to Washington. The top three in their rotation (Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez) stacks up with any team in baseball. Strasburg gets all the attention, but Zimmermann is one the best young pitchers in the National League. Washington’s lineup has some holes, but I expect uber-prospect Bryce Harper to fill one of them by July.

NL West

1 Arizona Diamondbacks – 93-61

2 San Francisco Giants* – 88-74

3 Colorado Rockies – 81-81

4 Los Angeles Dodgers – 80-82

5 San Diego Padres – 75-87

I think last year’s surprise playoff team is even better this season. Their rotation was boosted through the trade for Trevor Cahill, and by the end of the season, I expect both Trevor Bauer and Tyler Skaggs to be pitching in the big leagues. With Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder now in the AL, I believe Justin Upton is one of the five best players in the NL, and he’s in great position to win his first MVP award.

With their rotation, the Giants will definitely be in the hunt for the division crown late into the season, and I believe they’ll grab one of the two wild card slots. If San Francisco merely had an above average lineup, they’d be one of the best teams in the baseball, alas their position players leave much to be desired. I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Rockies or the Dodgers compete for the division and a wild card spot.

NL Awards

MVP – Justin Upton, ARZ

Cy Young – Cole Hamels, PHI

Rookie of the Year – Trevor Bauer, ARZ

AL East

1 New York Yankees – 96-66

2 Tampa Bay Rays* – 94-68

3 Boston Red Sox – 91-71

4 Toronto Blue Jays – 86-76

5 Baltimore Orioles – 68-94

This is the best division in baseball. I will be utterly shocked if two teams from the AL East don’t make the playoffs, and I won’t be surprised if they claim both wild card spots. I think the Yankees will edge the Rays, who will end up earning a wild card. The Red Sox and Blue Jays should both be competing for the playoffs late into the season.

AL Central

1 Detroit Tigers – 93-69

2 Cleveland Indians – 81-81

3 Kansas City Royals – 78-84

4 Chicago White Sox – 74-88

5 Minnesota Twins – 70-92

The Tigers should have no problem winning this division, I will be pretty surprised if the Royals, Indians or White Sox give Detroit a run for its money. The only interesting thing to watch is whether any other team in the division finishes over .500.

AL West

1 Texas Rangers – 95-67

2 Los Angeles Angels* – 94-68

3 Oakland A’s – 75-87

4 Seattle Mariners – 68-94

This should be an epic battle between Texas and Los Angeles. Both teams should make the playoffs, but they’ll be fighting all year to win the division and avoid playing a one-game wild card playoff. Behind their star-studded lineup, deep pitching rotation and solid bullpen, I like the Rangers to make the World Series and finally win a championship, fighting off some demons from the past two seasons.

AL Awards

MVP – Robinson Cano, NYY

Cy Young – David Price, TB

Rookie of the Year – Matt Moore, TB

NL Playoffs

Wild Card

Giants over Nationals

NLDS

Giants over Phillies

Cardinals over Diamondbacks

NLCS

Cardinals over Giants

AL Playoffs

Wild Card

Angels over Rays

ALDS

Yankees over Angels

Rangers over Tigers

ALCS

Rangers over Yankees

World Series

Rangers over Cardinals

Hey, last year’s World Series was a classic, why not do it again?

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Fun With MLB Awards and Playoff Predictions

AL MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

Ellsbury had a tremendous season all around. He got on base at a .376 clip, hit over 30 homers, stole almost 40 bases and played great defense in center. I gave Ellsbury the slight nod over Jose Bautista (MLB’s best hitter in 2011) because of Ellsbury’s superior defense at a premium position. Ellsbury’s speed, he stole 39 bases, also helped put him over the top.

1. Jacoby Ellsbury, BOS

.321 AVG, .376 OBP, .552 SLG, 32 HR, 39, SB, 9.6 WAR

2. Jose Bautista, TOR

.302 AVG, .447 OBP, .608 SLG, 1.056 OPS, 43 HR, 8.4 WAR

3. Justin Verlander, DET

24-5, 2.40 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 9.0 K/9, 170 ERA+, 8.6 WAR

4. Miguel Cabrera, DET

.344 AVG, .448 OBP, .586 SLG, 30 HR, 105 RBI, 7.3 WAR

5. Curtis Granderson, NYY

.262 AVG, .364 OBP, .552 SLG, 41 HR, 119 RBI, 25 SB, 6.9 WAR

6. Dustin Pedroia, BOS

.307 AVG, .387 OBP, .474 SLG, 21 HR, 26 SB, 8.0 WAR

7. Ian Kinsler, TEX

.255 AVG, .355 OBP, .477 SLG, 32 HR, 30 SB, 7.8 WAR

8. Adrian Gonzalez, BOS

.338 AVG, .410 OBP, .548 SLG, 27 HR, 117 RBI, 6.4 WAR

9. Robinson Cano, NYY

.302 AVG, .349 OBP, .533 SLG, 28 HR, 118 RBI, 5.6 WAR

10. CC Sabathia, NYY

19-8, 3.00 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 8.7 K/9, 147 ERA+, 6.9 WAR

AL CY YOUNG

Verlander has been flat out dominant this season, and gets my vote for Cy Young. However, the resumes of Verlander and Sabathia are closer than it is made out to be, as Verlander is seen as the far and away favorite.

1. Justin Verlander, DET

24-5, 2.40 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 9.0 K/9, 170 ERA+, 8.6 WAR

2. CC Sabathia, NYY

19-8, 3.00 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 8.7 K/9, 147 ERA+, 6.9 WAR

3. Jered Weaver, LAA

18-8, 2.41 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 7.6 K/9, 158 ERA+, 6.6 WAR

4. C.J. Wilson, TEX

16-7, 2.94 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 8.3 K/9, 152 ERA+, 5.0 WAR

5. Dan Haren, LAA

16-10, 3.17 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 5.81 K/BB, 120 ERA+, 4.0 WAR

AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Hellickson is clearly the AL’s rookie of the year for his solid performance this entire season. However, is he even the most talented rookie pitcher on the Rays? Phenom Matt Moore, who only made one start for the Rays this season, will be the Game 1 starter for Tampa tomorrow.

1. Jeremy Hellickson, TB

13-10, 2.95 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 5.6 K/9, 126 ERA+, 4.2 WAR

2. Eric Hosmer, KC

.293 AVG, .334 OBP, .465 SLG, 19 HR, 78 RBI, 1.6 WAR

3. Dustin Ackley, SEA

.273 AVG, .348 OBP, .417 SLG, .340 wOBA, 2.7 WAR

4. Mark Trumbo, LAA

.254 AVG, .291 OBP, .477 SLG, 29 HR, 87 RBI, 2.3 WAR

5. Ivan Nova, NYY

16-4, 3.70 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 5.3 K/9, 119 ERA+, 3.6 ERA

This is a really close call. Kemp and Braun both had great seasons, and no matter who wins the winner will be deserving. However, I went with Kemp because his offensive are slightly better than Braun’s, and he plays a more premium position than Braun, and plays it a bit better.

NL MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

1. Matt Kemp, LAD

.324 AVG, .399 OBP, .586 SLG, 39 HR, 126 RBI, 40 SB, 8.7 WAR

2. Ryan Braun, MIL

.332 AVG, .397 OBP, .531 SLG, 33 HR, 111 RBI, 33 SB, 7.8 WAR

3. Justin Upton, ARZ

.289 AVG, .369 OBP, .529 SLG, 31 HR, 88 RBI, 21 SB, 6.5 WAR

4. Joey Votto, CIN

.309 AVG, .416 OBP, .531 SLG, 29 HR, 103 RBI, 6.8 WAR

5. Prince Fielder, MIL

.299 AVG, .415 OBP, .566 SLG, 38 HR, 120 RBI, 5.6 WAR

6. Troy Tulowitzki, COL

.302 AVG, .372 OBP, .544 SLG, 30 HR, 105 RBI, 6.2 WAR

7. Shane Victorino, PHI

.279 AVG, .355 OBP, .491 SLG, 17 HR, 61 RBI, 5.8 WAR

8. Albert Pujols, STL

.299 AVG, .415 OBP, .566 SLG, 37 HR, 99 RBI, 5.2 WAR

9. Lance Berkman, STL

.301 AVG, .412 OBP, .547 SLG, 31 HR, 94 RBI, 5.0 WAR

10. Jose Reyes, NYM

.337 AVG, .384 OBP, .493 SLG, 39 SB, .386 wOBA, 6.3 WAR

Again, another close call. I’m going with Kershaw because his numbers are just a bit better than Halladay, who had another tremendous season. Lee also had a Cy-worthy season for the Phils. Man, is that rotation going to be a beast in the playoffs.

NL CY YOUNG

1. Clayton Kershaw, LAD

21-5, 2.28 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 9.6 K/9, 163 ERA+, 6.9 WAR

2. Roy Halladay, PHI

19-6, 2.35 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 8.5 K/9, 164 ERA+, 7.4 WAR

3. Cliff Lee, PHI

17-8, 2.40 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 5.67 K/BB, 161 ERA+, 6.9 WAR

4. Ian Kennedy, ARZ

21-4, 2.88 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 8.0 K/9, 137 ERA+, 5.5 WAR

5. Matt Cain, SF

12-11, 2.88 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 7.3 K/9, 123 ERA+, 3.9 WAR

NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Kimbrel stumbled down the stretch, perhaps due to overuse by manager Fredi Gonzalez. It’s no wonder Gonzalez wanted Kimbrel on the mound as much as possible because Kimbrel was flat out un-hittable before September.

1. Craig Kimbrel, ATL

46 Saves, 2.10 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 14.8 K/9, 181 ERA+, 3.0 WAR

2. Vance Worley, PHI

11-3, 3.01 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 8.1 K/9, 129 ERA+, 2.8 WAR

3. Freddie Freeman, ATL

.282 AVG, .346 OBP, .448 SLG, 21 HR, 76 RBI, 1.1 WAR

4. Danny Espinosa, WSH

.236 AVG, .323 OBP, .414 SLG, 21 HR, 17 SB, 3.5 WAR

5. Wilson Ramos, WSH

.267 AVG, .334 OBP, .445 SLG, 15 HR, .332 wOBA, 3.1 WAR

PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS

DIVISION SERIES

Brewers over D-Backs in 4

Phillies over Cardinals in 3

Yankees over Tigers in 4

Rangers over Rays in 4

CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

Brewers over Phillies in 7

Rangers over Yankees in 6

WORLD SERIES

Brewers over Rangers in 6

MVP: Corey Hart

My predictions are usually wrong, and this is one case where I really, really hope I’m wrong. Anybody but the Brewers, please…

Everything is going Wisconsin’s way (sports wise, definitely not with politics)

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Revisiting My Preseason MLB Predictions

Before the season started, I posted my predictions for the 2011 MLB season on my tumblr page. Now that its almost Septembter, I want to take a look and see just how awful my preseason predictions look now. (Original picks in italics.)

NL Central

1 Cincinnati Reds

2 Milwaukee Brewers

3 St. Louis Cardinals

4 Chicago Cubs

5 Houston Astros

6 Pittsburgh Pirates

Uh, I don’t think the Reds are going to win the division…

The Brewers have used an extreme hot streak since the all-star break to pull 10.5 games ahead the pack in the NL Central. The Reds have had a very disappointing season, they currently sit 13 games behind the Brewers and are only one game over .500. I regret not picking the Astros last, they’re currently 13 games worse than the 5th place Cubs.

Re-Do Pick: Brewers

NL East

1 Philadelphia Phillies

 2 Atlanta Braves

3 Florida Marlins

4 New York Mets

5 Washington Nationals

The top two teams in this division were easy to pick. The Phillies have used their epic rotation (but who expected Vance Worley, not Roy Oswalt, to be the 4th ace?) to pull six games ahead of the Braves. The Braves have a comfortable wild card lead, and they should, barring an embarrassing Sept. swoon, be joining the Phillies in the playoffs.

Re-Do Pick: Sticking with the Phillies; Braves for the WC

NL West

1 Colorado Rockies

2 San Francisco Giants

3 Los Angeles Dodgers

4 San Diego Padres

5 Arizona Diamondbacks

Yeah, I really screwed up on this one… The D-Backs have a four game lead over the Giants, and a 11 game lead over the Rockies.

Re-Do Pick: D-Backs

NL Awards

NL MVP: Troy Tulowitzki, COL

Tulo is having a great season (28 HRs, .377 OBP, .397 wOBA, 6.4 WAR) but his team’s place in the standings most likely means TuLo has a very small chance of winning MVP, or even cracking the top five.

The Brewers’ success probably means the award will be given to either Ryan Braun (25 HRs, .406 OBP, .438 wOBA, 6.1 WAR) or Prince Fielder (29 HRs, .409 OBP, .399 wOBA, 4.1 WAR), but if the D-Backs hold on for the NL West crown, Justin Upton (25 HRs, .371 OBP, .392 wOBA, 6.1 WAR) may have a chance at the honor.

Matt Kemp (31 HRs, .390 OBP, .414 wOBA, 6.4 WAR) and Joey Votto (26 HRs, .440 OBP, .425 wOBA, 6.6 WAR) are also strong candidates on sub-par teams.

Re-Do Ballot:

1 Ryan Braun, MIL

2. Justin Upton, ARZ

3. Matt Kemp, LAD

4. Joey Votto, CIN

5. Prince Fielder, MIL

NL Cy Young: Josh Johnson, FLA

It was silly to pick against Roy Halladay (2.56 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 2.12 FIP, 8.64 K/9), the guy should come into every season as the Cy favorite. Johnson was great, maybe on a path to win the Cy, until he was shut down due to injury. Cliff Lee (2.71 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 2.71 FIP, 9.24 K/9) and Clayton Kershaw (2.51 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 2.51 FIP, 9.82 K/9) join Halladay as the top 3 pitchers in the NL to date.

Re-Do Ballot:

1. Roy Halladay, PHI

2. Clayton Kershaw, LAD

3. Cliff Lee, PHI

4. Tim Lincecum, SF (2.46 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 2.87 FIP, 9.5o K/9)

5. Cole Hamels, PHI (2.62 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 2.65 FIP, 8.11 K/9)

NL Rookie of the Year: Brandon Belt, SF

Belt hasn’t gotten the playing time that he deserves or that was expected of him before the season. For some reason, Aubrey Huff has continued to stay in the lineup despite his lackluster season. Craig Kimbrel has been just outstanding as the Braves closer. He’s Carlos Marmol with control, scary stuff.

Re-Do Ballot:

1. Craig Kimbrel, ATL

2. Freddie Freeman, ATL (18 HRs, .354 OBP, .356 wOBA, 1.5 WAR)

3. Vance Worley, PHI (2.65 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 3.15 FIP, 7.60 K/9)

AL Central

1 Chicago White Sox

2 Minnesota Twins

3 Detroit Tigers

4 Kansas City Royals

5 Cleveland Indians

The White Sox probably would be leading this division if it weren’t for their two high-paid, low production busts (Adam Dunn and Alex Rios). Instead, the Tigers have pulled to a comfortable six game lead. The Indians aren’t going to finish last, but they’ve basically been playing like a last place team since they started out 30-15 (15 games under. 500 since).

Re-Do Pick: Tigers

AL East

1 Boston Red Sox

2 New York Yankees

3 Toronto Blue Jays

4 Tampa Bay Rays

5 Baltimore Orioles

Both the Sox and Yanks will make the playoffs, it’s just a matter of who wins the division and who wins the WC. Still, who ever wins the division will hold a big advantage heading into the playoffs. The division winner will have home field in the first round, likely against the Tigers, while the WC winner will not have home field, and will likely play the Rangers (who knocked the Yanks out in the ALCS last season). Also, if the Sox and Yanks were to meet in the ALCS, the division winner would have homefield.

Re-Do Pick: Sticking with the Red Sox for the division, Yanks for the WC

AL West

1 Texas Rangers

2 Los Angeles Angels

3 Oakland A’s

4 Seattle Mariners

I expected the Rangers to run away with this division, but the Angels have been much stronger than I expected. I still think the Rangers will hold on and win the division, but the Angels, led by their rotation’s big three (Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana), will push this race to the end of the season. It might be the only pennant race worth watching as the season wears on.

Re-Do Pick: Rangers

AL Awards

AL MVP: Adrian Gonzalez, BOS

Gonzalez (23 HRs, .406 OBP, .410 wOBA, 5.8 WAR) might still be the favorite to win AL MVP, but he’s probably not even the most deserving on his team. Jacoby Ellsbury ( 23 HRs, .369 OBP, .391 wOBA, 7.4 WAR) and Dustin Pedroia (17 HRs, .398 OBP, .385 wOBA, 7.2 WAR) both have higher WAR values this season.

Jose Bautista (37 HRs, . 452 OBP, .455 wOBA, 7.8 WAR) should win the award, but because his team is in 4th place in the best division in baseball, he might be unfairly punished.

Curtis Granderson’s (38 HRs, .376 OBP, .414 wOBA, 6.8 WAR) pinstripes and high home run and RBI (yes, people still highly value the misleading stat…) totals could earn him the MVP. If the Yankees win the AL East, the media will likely tab “The Grandy Man” AL MVP.

Re-Do Ballot:

1. Jose Bautista, TOR

2. Curtis Granderson, NYY

3. Jacoby Ellsbury, BOS

4. Dustin Pedroia, BOS

5. Adrian Gonzalez, BOS

AL Cy Young: C.C. Sabathia, NYY

Sabathia (2.99 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 2.81 FIP, 8.39 K/9) has had a great season, but he’s behind Justin Verlander (2.38 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 2.85 FIP, 9.10 K/9) and Jared Weaver (2.28 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 2.98 FIP, 7.51 K/9) in the AL Cy Young race at this point.

Verlander is the favorite at this point, and he’s even getting some MVP buzz. Verlander is going to win a lot of games, he already has 20, and the media is still transfixed by that mostly useless stat.

Re-Do Ballot:

1. Justin Verlander, DET

2. Jered Weaver, LAA

3. C.C. Sabathia, NYY

4. Dan Haren, LAA (3.19 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 2.93 FIP, 7.35 K/9)

5. James Shields, TB (2.96 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 3.36 FIP, 10 CG, 4 SOs)

AL Rookie of the Year: Jeremy Hellickson, TB

Hellickson has had a solid rookie season (3.01 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 4.16 FIP, 6.15 K/9) for the Rays. But he has competition from Seattle’s Michael Pineda (3.71 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 3.41 FIP, 9.18 K/9) and Anaheim’s Mark Trumbo (23 HRs, .294 OBP, .312 wOBA, 2.0 WAR) and Jordan Walden (2.70 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 2.39 FIP, 9.90 K/9)

Re-Do Ballot:

1. Michael Pineda, SEA

2. Jeremy Hellickson, TB

3. Mark Trumbo, LAA

4. Jordan Walden, LAA

PLAYOFFS

NLDS

Phillies over Giants

Rockies over Reds

Re-Do Picks:

Braves over Brewers

Phillies over D-Backs

ALDS

Rangers over Yankees

Red Sox over White Sox

Re-Do Picks:

Yankees over Rangers

Red Sox over Tigers

NLCS

Phillies over Rockies

Phillies over Braves

ALCS

Rangers over Red Sox

Red Sox over Yankees

World Series

Phillies over Rangers

Phillies over Red Sox

I believe that that if Cole Hamels comes back strong off his DL stint and the Phillies rotation as a whole stays healthy, Philadelphia will be extremely hard to knock off in the playoffs. At this point, I can’t pick anybody else but the Phillies and their rotation of aces to win the 2011 World Series.

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