I'm trying not to think about how we're about to lose Tubby Smith, so instead I'll turn my attention elsewhere so I don't break down and cry. With just five days until opening day and the first day of being sick and tired of the Yankees/Sox media barrage it's time to roll out the baseball predictions. I'm breaking this into National League and American League posts, one today and one tomorrow, because I'm way too lazy to it all at once. I'm also starting with the National League - just to piss you off.
1. PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES. Take the same team that won the Series in 2008 and finished runner-up in 2009 and add the best (possibly second best) pitcher in baseball. Yeah, I think they're going to be pretty good. Look for Hamels to regain his 2008 form and J.A. Happ to get even better in his second year and they're likely going to be the team with the most wins in baseball. I'm fully expecting Halladay to win 25 games.
2. ATLANTA BRAVES. They're getting a lot of preseason heat as a possible sleeper team, and it's not all that far-fetched. Tommy Hansen is a stud, and there's good pitching behind him in the rotation, especially if Tim Hudson is back to top-of-his-game form like all the preseason crap is saying. And this Jason Heyward hype has officially surpassed Wieters-levels. If he isn't built like Deebo while hitting like Roy Hobbs and running like Willie Mays Hayes I'm going to be disappointed.
3. FLORIDA MARLINS. Outisde of pimp-daddy Hanley and alleged NL Rookie-of-the-Year Chris Coghlan there are plenty of questions about the lineup, but that rotation should be pretty rock solid. At the very least Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco are going to form a very nice 1-2 punch at the top. I'm very interested in seeing what Cameron Maybin can do with a full season of at-bats as well.
4. NEW YORK METS. I know you're thinking it's crazy to have the Mets in fourth, but go ahead and check out their team for a minute and then tell me they're good. Wright has regressed, Reyes has some mystery ailment, their right-fielder was basically cut by Atlanta, and I've never even heard of their projected starting catcher. Perhaps most damning of all, however, is that they STILL start Luis Castillo and bat him second. Oof. And that rotation is a nightmare behind Johan. Oh, by the way, Johan. How many postseason games have you played in since you forced the Twins to trade you?
5. WASHINGTON NATIONALS. At least they have Strasburg so there's a reason to watch beyond watching Adam Dunn put everything he's got into every swing. What's that? They're starting him in the minors despite some truly sick Spring stats? I hope it's worth the minimal savings you'll get by keeping his clock from running right away. Seriously, who runs this team, Brad Childress?
1. ST LOUIS CARDINALS. Although the Phillies should win more games, the Cards will probably win their division by the widest margin because after them this whole division should be thrown in a garbage dumpster. It's basically Pujols and friends going up against five teams of Cleveland Indians. I suppose I should predict something for this team, so I predict that Brad Penny will have one of his best ever years. I also predict Ryan Franklin loses his closer job to Jason Motte.
2. MILWAUKEE BREWERS. All because Carlos Gomez came aboard? Maybe. We still have to see if he's continued to learn plate patience (you might not have noticed, but he was better last year). The Brewers have the best lineup of the rest of the central teams and will be getting Rickie Weeks back. There's a lot to like about the lineup here, and Gallardo gets any help behind him they could be in line for a Wild Card spot. Ugliest part? They still start Jeff Suppan, and LaTroy Hawkins is their top set-up guy. Ouch.
3. CINCINNATI REDS. I'm giving a lot of credit to some young guys here, but I'm a big believer in most of these guys. Injuries have derailed Homer Bailey before, but he finally hit his stride late last season and him and Cueto join veterans Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo to give Cincy's rotation a nice mix of young and old. The lineup will need guys like Jay Bruce and Chris Dickerson to live up to their potential, but I say they do and make the Reds a dangerous team.
4. CHICAGO CUBS. Aramis is a walking injury, Soriano looks like he's basically done, their big free-agent signing was Marlon freaking Byrd, and their middle infield consists of that wiener Ryan Theriot and a cast-off from the Rockies. Yuck. The rotation is mostly brutal as well, and you can go ahead and pencil in Carlos Marmol for a complete meltdown as a closer right about mid-June. Yeah, I'm not a big fan of the Cubbies this year.
5. HOUSTON ASTROS. This is the most boringest team in all of baseball. Their big free-agent splash was signing Brandon Lyon. Yawn. Also, nice shitty signing, that guy sucks. They should have two mid-teen game winners in Oswalt and Wandy Rodriguez, assuming Lyon doesn't blow every game.
6. PITTSBURGH PIRATES. I really didn't want to pick Pittsburgh to finish last because I'm starting to really like what their front office is doing (it's a new front office the last year or two), but I just can't quite yet. They're moving in the right direction. If Lastings Milledge has finally figured it out he and Andrew McCutchen make up a nice start to the outfield, and when Jose Tabata finally gets up that's going to be a very fast outfield.
1. COLORADO ROCKIES. If Chris Iannetta and Ian Stewart can raise their averages even a little this going to be a dangerous team because the lineup is loaded, and even if they don't they are still solid players because they walk a lot. A good but not great rotation should be enough to win the West, assuming Franklin Morales doesn't blow it while he fills in for Huston Street. Troy Tulowitzki is a complete and total stud, and if Albert Pujols didn't exist he'd have a shot at an MVP.
2. LOS ANGELES DODGERS. James Loney is kind of a lame-o and Blake DeWitt hasn't worked out, but the Dodgers hit home runs with Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp, who are a hell of a 1-2 punch. Kemp looks like a good bet to go 30-30 and Ethier has the look of a career professional hitter. The rotation is pretty thin, but Clay Kershaw at the front is a sure-fire Cy Young candidate, and will probably be for years to come.
3. ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS. They'd be a bit easier to place if I knkew what was going on with Brandon Webb, but in reality they probably couldn't be better than the teams above them and definitely couldn't be worse than the team's below them. Like Kemp, Justin Upton has a shot at 30-30 this year, and is just an incredible hitter for his age - kind of like what everybody wanted Delmon Young to be just shoot me right in the face.
4. SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS. They get to finish fourth based solely on their pitching staff, because Lincecum and Cain are studs, Baumgartner and Jonathan Sanchez are potential studs, and everybody in the lineup sucks other than Pablo Sandoval (aka the black Billy Butler) and possibly Nate Schierholtz. They also have Buster Posey, who has a super sweet name is is supposed to be a pretty big stud with the stick. He better be, because their isn't much of a lineup here and there isn't much coming soon.
5. SAN DIEGO PADRES. Holy god this lineup is depressing. How depressing? Kevin Kouzmanoff hits clean-up, David Eckstein hits in the upper half, and I haven't come even close to hearing of their 7th or 8th batter. The rotation isn't that much better, but at least there's some hope with guys like Clayton Richard, Mat Latos, and star of "The Last Best League" Tim Stauffer. The bullpen is decent, but they'd really be better served trading Heath Bell for prospects (as well as Adrian Gonzalez) because they aren't going anywhere as currently constructed.
NL Wild Card - L.A. Dodgers
NL Pennant - Philadelphia Phillies
MVP - Albert Pujols (runner up = Kemp)
CY YOUNG - Roy Halladay (runner up = Lincecum)
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR - Jesus Heyward (runner up = Posey)
AL preview should be coming tomorrow, assuming Tubby doesn't leave. I mean by tomorrow, because I know he's leaving I just don't know when.