I’ll post my 2007 baseball prognostications by Sunday, but for now, let me look back a year at what I said last April 1.
The NL East is a tight division. Philly has the best team on the field, but has no bench, although Dellucci will help. The team may suffer at 3B. The Philly starters are mostly young and talented. The Braves are also solid. There’s no hole to be seen. The Mets need a middle infield that can contribute more than speed, and the back of the rotation is shoddy, and would be even with Heilman starting. I’ll go with the Braves.
The Mets won it in a laugher as Jose Reyes pounded the ball. They moved to some hitting at second base, and did fine. The pitching came through with some unexpected contributions. I was sure right about the Phillies, but I’d picked the Braves. The Braves suffered quite a bit from injuries on offense and on the mound. Only two pitchers started more than 18 games. I’m not ashamed of that pick.
Houston has the hitting, but needs Clemens for the team to squeak its way into the playoffs. The Astro starters are Oswalt and Pettitte and then forget it, although the bullpen is a good one. Chicago has adequate pitching even without Prior and Woods, and any innings those two can contribute only help. The Cubs line-up is solid, especially with Walker as the primary man at 2B. If Dusty Baker can avoid using his weak bench too much, I smell a pennant. Milwaukee is a dark horse, but people overrate their starting pitching. St Louis will struggle to dominate their division, but will be near the top. The Cardinals are in decline. Aaron Miles, Sidney Ponson, and Larry Bigbie do not a pennant make. I’m going to pick the Cubs for the NL Central.
With too many defensive specialists and unexpected poor performances, the Astros did not have the hitting. One more decent bat would have won them the division. Pitching overall was decent, especially once Clemens came on board. The Cubs’ pitching plain stunk. They did need Prior and Wood – from 2004. And, shockingly, Dusty Baker couldn’t refrain from going to his weak bench. The list of middle infielders is nauseating. Contrast that with Tony LaRussa, who got his weak bats off the field and rode a mediocre team to a pennant by default.
The Giants just plain stink. Two thirds of the outfield won’t last the season as senility and/or rage sets in, and then primary back-up Finley will join the others in the home. Todd Linden will be starting by October, and that’s not a plus. The Giants don’t have even an average first-baseman. Todd Greene is the fresh young face. Jason Schmidt is the only decent pitcher on the team. Noah Lowry is slightly above average. Matt Morris is a nice pick-up, in 2001. The Rockies still haven’t figured out what that earthen bump between home and second base is. I want to like the Padres as the best of a bad lot, but I can’t pick a team that’s relying on Vinny Castilla, Mike Cameron, and Shawn Estes to improve. The Dodgers need another outfielder, or a rejuvenated Jose Cruz Jr., but for now they are the best of a bad lot in the west.
Did I call this one or what?
The Blue Jays are better, but they’re not better enough to top both the Yanks and Sox. The two traditional powers will spend another summer banging heads. Damon and Millar are great characters, but their skills are replaceable. The Yanks have Chacon in the rotation and Bubba Crosby is the top bat on the bench. I’ll take the Red Sox, who are again solid, top to bottom.
Does that count as calling the Jays to finish second? I like to think so. Makes up for picking the Sox. Never underestimate the Yankees’ ability to fill holes.
The AL Central is stacked. You could pick any of the big three (Cleveland, Minnesota, Chicago) and make a case. I’ll go with the White Sox on a gut feeling that Thome will have a big year. I like their pitching more than the Indians’, too.
Detroit who? What Tigers? I don’t feel bad about missing that. No one else figured it out either, and the Twins won the division, remember. Thome had his big year and the White Sox finished with 90 wins out of the playoffs.
The Rangers are the sexy pick, but they are doomed by half their starters in a close division. The Angels have too many guys with good fantasy stats and poor baseball contributions. I have to go with the A’s. They nearly took the division last year, and they cut out the deadwood and improved at all weak points for this year. Offensively, they don’t have room for a bat like Bobby Kielty’s. (The Cubs or Dodgers could use him.) Pitching-wise, the A’s led the league in ERA last year and are better this year. They… could… go… all… the… way!
The A’s took the division but few people had picked them. Ahem. Now, if only Billy Beane’s shit worked in the playoffs.