The Bottom Line: Predicting The Season

I've been holding off on doing the predictions thing since it seemed like such a typical thing to write about. And we here at PinstripesPlus aim to be anything but typical. Alas, I'm just bubbling over with energy about the upcoming season, so you'll have to indulge me just this once. With that, here are my ever-so-bold predictions for the 2004 season, and beyond.

AL East

AL Central

AL West

1. New York
2. Boston
3. Toronto
4. Tampa Bay
5. Baltimore

1. Kansas City
2. Minnesota
3. Chicago
4. Cleveland
5. Detroit

1. Anaheim
2. Oakland
3. Seattle
4. Texas

Boston is my pick for the Wild Card here, but Oakland might put up a nasty fight.  I think the AL East is going to be closer than people think, only because it's not possible for everything to break the way of the Yanks and Sox in terms of health.  People are going to get hurt (Nomar, Kim and Nixon are already out) on both sides, and that will leave room for the younger teams to creep up the standings.  I like Tampa Bay a lot, and they are a similar team to Baltimore in that neither has good starting pitching.  I just like the idea of them not finishing last.

KC will make the playoffs based on the strength of their offense, but they'll be quickly taken out of it by whoever they face simply because they lack starting pitching.  Unless Jeremy Affeldt and Jimmy Gobble et al emerge as stars right now, the Central is a wasteland. 

The Angels are a nasty, nasty team.  They don't have the starting pitching depth of New York, Boston or even Oakland, but they have the firepower and a good, if not great, staff with Colon around.  Oakland needs more offense to be taken seriously.  As it stands, they're this year's version of the 2003 Dodgers.

NL East

NL Central

NL West

1. Philadelphia
2. Florida
3. Atlanta
4. New York
5. Montreal

1. Chicago
2. Houston
3. St. Louis
4. Pittsburgh
5. Cincinnati
6. Milwaukee

1. Arizona
2. San Diego
3. San Francisco
4. Los Angeles
5. Colorado

The NL East is going to see some changes this year, because the Braves simply can't win the division with that rotation (or can they?).  People have been writing off the Marlins because they lost Pudge and Derrek Lee, including myself, but they have the pitching to go far.  The Phillies are scary, especially if Burrell is hitting.  I like the Mets a lot, and they could finish third, but they have to play like they want it.  The only guy anyone can name in Montreal these days -  that isn't a former Yankee - is Vidro, and that's never a good sign.  

The Central is very top-heavy, with two great teams and a good team, but then it's just a tossup for who finished 4-6.  The Cubs are actually overrated at this point, just because of all of the media hype.  The Houston rotation is nice, if old and fragile, and their lineup is... actually, just pretend I said that about the whole team.  The Cards have the hitting, but the pitching is all about the question marks.

The West is as wide open as any division has ever been.  There isn't a single standout team anymore, because the reigning champion Giants aren't really that good.  San Diego looks good on paper, but where's the ace?  Peavy's nice, but he's not ace material - yet.  No team here is going to win more than 90 games, but don't count on any team losing 90 either.

I'm going to cop out and call a three-way tie for the Wild Card between the Marlins, Astros and Padres here.  Let's see the commissioner's office deal with that. 

The Playoffs will go as such:  The Yankees beat KC and Anaheim takes out Boston in the in the first round.  I'd love a second round of the ALCS from last year too, but the Yanks need some revenge on Anaheim from 2001 and yes, as a matter of fact, I do hold grudges.  In the NL, Houston takes out Philly and the Cubs defeat Arizona in the first round, setting up a Chicago/Houston showdown for the ages.  Let's get a rivalry to rival the Yanks/Sox going. 

The Yankees handle Anaheim and Houston upsets the Cubs to set up a World Series that will pit Pettitte and Clemens against the team they won their rings with.

The Call:  Yanks in six.

Award

American League

National League

MVP

Vladimir Guerrero, ANA

Albert Pujols, StL

Cy Young Curt Schilling, BOS Kerry Wood, CHC
Rookie of the Year Bobby Crosby, OAK Edwin Jackson, LA
Homerun Champ Alfonso Soriano, TEX Albert Pujols, StL
Batting Champ Garrett Anderson, ANA Todd Helton, COL
RBI Champ Hideki Matsui, NYY Jim Thome, PHI
Stolen Base King Carl Crawford, TB Juan Pierre, FLA
Wins Leader Curt Schilling, BOS Roy Oswalt, HOU
ERA Title Kevin Brown, NYY Brandon Webb, ARI
Strikeouts Leader Curt Schilling, BOS Randy Johnson, ARI
Saves King Troy Percival, ANA Trevor Hoffman, SD

Guerrero is overdue for the MVP award, and the only reason it won't come out of the Yankees is because Giambi, Rodriguez and Sheffield will all be canceling each other out.  Richie Sexson and Jim Thome are going to finish a very close second to Pujols in the NL race.  Rivera and Foulke are going to have problems getting many saves when their teams are busy blowing everyone out every time they win, and no other closer really stands out in the AL.  Hoffman is still one of the filthiest pitchers in the game, and he's going to unseat Gagne.  Now that Soriano is in a better park for a right-handed hitter, don't be surprised to see him jack 50.  My heart says to give Mark Prior the NL Cy Young and the triple crown, but I think missing the whole of April is going to cost him.  Next year though. 

One prediction, though, that I feel absolutely no remorse for making is the following:  2004 will be an amazing season of baseball, just like all of the others.

You can e-mail Mark Rubin at pinstripeddragon@yahoo.com.  Feedback is always welcome.

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