Monday, March 31, 2008
Baseball season is upon us, and, since baseball is the second best season of them all behind college basketball, I may as well share some predictions for the upcoming year as I watch opening day from the comfort of my couch (FYI - if you have Direct TV there's a free preview of the baseball package this week). Some of this is Twins-related, and some just MLB related overall. Have no fear, a full Final Four preview will be up soon enough.
1. As Sidler already touched on, Joe Mauer will struggle to knock in runs this year. If Gardy is smart, he will hit Mauer second where he belongs. With Mauer's lack of home run power, and Carlos "Pedro" Gomez and Adam Everett the two guys in front of him in the lineup, he'll struggle to get to 65 rbi, much less the 80 that Snacks foolishly predicted. I think he'll have a solid year, .300 - .310 range, with 25-30 doubles and around ten homeruns, but there's no way he's getting to 80 rbi.
2. Delmon Young will take a step forward, especially power wise. Young hit well last year, .288/.316/.408 with 13 home runs, and I expect him to improve. I like to believe the experience he got last year will lend itself to more patience, or at least I hope to go so. And his .408 slugging last year was the worst he had put up at any level. With a full year under his belt, hopefully he's figured out major league pitching, and not vice-versa. I am cautiously optimistic we'll see .300/.350/.500 with 20-25 home runs.
3. At the same time Young improves, I expect Morneau and Cuddyer to slide backwards further, and not just because of their new fat contracts. Nobody seems to be talking about how far Morneau slid last year. Batting average down 50 points, obp down 30 points, and slugging down almost 70 points. The one thing that makes me think he may recover is that his strikeout rate remained the same while his walk rate went up. Still, I expect him to slide and don't think he'll get to even 30 home runs this year. Cuddyer isn't as big a concern, despite a down year last year because in general his numbers were about the same other than slugging, and he actually cut down on his strikeouts. That being said, don't expect a return to his form from two years ago. I don't expect him to get to 20 home runs, or hit over .270.
4. Twins outlook: Not good. All the offensive uncertainty from the "stars", not even looking at the black holes on offense at third, short, second, center field, and possibly DH, leave the Twins unable to score runs. Looking at a confusing mishmash of a rotation leaves an even worse feeling. If you remember, The Sidler compiled some projections for the rotation and it looked like this:
Ouch. And that even seems optimistic on some of those guys. Livan is going to be a disaster. Bonser is a 4/5 starter at best. Slowey is going to get ripped to shreds in the big leagues. Maybe Blackburn can pitch. I've never seen him throw, so he's my only hope. Baker is the only one I have any faith in becoming an even league average starter, Liriano excepted. Who knows what happens with him. He seemed to be coming along this spring, and I think it was a good move to start him in the minors. I'm predicting (hoping) he gets called up around June/July and is able to at least approach his former form.
5. What does this uncertain offense + mishmash rotation mean, combined with a solid bullpen and a step down in defense? Dead last in the AL central, even behind the Royals. Would be the worst team in the entire American League, except that the Orioles are in an even bigger mess, and just getting worse.
6. Torii Hunter will be average. There are a lot of reasons to predict Hunter to have a bad year, chief among which is that I don't like him. Additionally, his walk rate plummeted from bad to really bad last year. There are good reasons to predict a good year for him, coming off two really excellent years and going to a team with a much, much, much better offense that the Twins. I expect him to have a career high in RBIs due to greater opportunity, but his numbers will go down overall. Somewhere in the .270/.333/.470 range with around 20 home runs or so.
7. In contrast to his ex-teammate, Johan Santana is going to rock the national league to Dwight Goodien levels. I know most of his numbers moved the wrong way the last couple of years, but he's in the National League now. Not only is there a free out with the pitcher, much like the Twins have in their lineup with Adam Everett, but the NL is the worse league of the two. Plus it helps being on the Mets and not having to face them. I expect him to shred the league, with an ERA in the mid-2's, a WHIP of about 1.00, and a K/9 of 9-10. Seriously. And he'll probably hit .275 to boot.
8. A Yankee collapse begins. Think about it, other than A-Rod, who is awesome, Cano, who might be the best 2b in the AL, and Jeter, who is gay, there are question marks everywhere on the Yankees roster. Posada absolutely busted through what he should have done last year, and will likely regress to the mean like a mofo. Johnny Damon's numbers have been in major declines for the last few years, including losing 90 points off his slugging last year, and posted a OPS+ of 97 (league average player = 100), and most 35 year olds don't reverse this trend. Bobby Fatbreu is in basically the exact same boat, except he hasn't plummeted quite as far just yet. Melky Cabrera's upside is basically an average major league outfielder. The Jason Giambi/Shelley Duncan 1B combo is a joke, and Hideki Matsui is coming off knee surgery and his worst season at 34 years old.
Even more, the rotation is going to be a suckfest. Chien-Ming Wang has been a very good pitcher the last two years, and could very well continue, but he outperforms his metrics every year and could be due to collapse (Baseball Prospectus gives a collapse a 34% probability). Pettitte is the only other decent pitcher on that team, and he's starting the year on the DL. As much as it pains me to say it, as I am a huge fan, Mike Mussina might be done. The back of the rotation is two kids, Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes, who are supposed to have a ton of talent, but so did David West, Todd Van Poppel, and Brien Taylor. The bullpen is basically Rivera and Chamberlain, and I don't see anyway Chamberlain can be moved into the rotation when their third best guy is LaTroy Hawkins.
In store is a very bad year by Yankee standards, which will lead to a freakout by the younger Steinbrenners, anxious to make a name for themselves and get out from daddy's shadow. They will sell off the very same talent they refused to give up for Johan this past offseason for much lesser talent (expect Adam Dunn and/or Rich Harden to be Yankees). This will cause the same cycle the Yanks were stuck in during the early nineties and lead to more suckitude. You heard it here first.
9. The Indians will miss the playoffs due to Sabathia and Carmona spending too much time on the DL. Sabathia threw 198, 188, 197, and 192 innings the four years prior to throwing 257 last year. Carmona went from 102 innings two years ago to 230 last year. That means injuries, and that means no playoffs for the Tribe.
10. Others who will suck: Mike Lowell, Kaz Matsui, John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, Manny Ramirez, Ken Griffey, Manny Corpas, Gary Sheffield, John Lackey, Andruw Jones, Ryan Braun, Brett Myers, Jason Bay, Jim Edmonds, Carlos Pena, Alex Rios
11. Others who will rock: Justin Verlander, Micah Owings, Jeff Francoeur, Erik Bedard, Clay Buchholz, Geovany Soto, Nick Swisher, Homer Bailey, Evan Longoria, Troy Tulowitzski, Wandy Rodriguez, Billy Butler, Matt Kemp, Chad Billingsley, Takashi Saito, David Wright, Cole Hamels, Matt Capps, Tim Lincecum, BJ Upton, Vernon Wells, Dustin McGowan, Jason Bergmann
12. AL Playoff Teams: Boston, Detroit, Anaheim, Toronto
13. NL Playoff Teams: New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia
14. World Series: Mets over Tigers
15. MVPs: Ryan Howard, Vlad Guerrero
16. CY YOUNGS: Johan Santana, Justin Verlander
17. Rookies of the Year: Evan Longoria, Matt Kemp