It’s that time of year again, and Major League Baseball is ripe for predictions! Opening Day is in the books, and Remember the Sonics! is ready to publish its playoff predictions for the 2009 season.
AL WEST – Los Angeles Angels – The Angels’ corps group of players is aging and/or departed, but despite a decline in production, no team in the AL West has improved enough to challenge the Angels current reign of terror.
The Angels may struggle out of the gate, as pitchers John Lackey, Ervin Santana, and Kelvim Escobar are all slated to miss at least the first month of the season, but once these pitchers return the Angels’ pitching staff should perform at playoff-caliber.
- 2B Howie Kendrick is one of the true young talents in baseball and could be a future AL Batting Champion
- 1B Kendry Morales is primed for a good 2009 campaign and could be the 2009 AL Breakout Player of the Year.
- While the Angels corps is aging, their outfield is comprised of former All-Stars Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu, and Vladimir Guerrero. These hitters are easily enough to produce good offensive numbers.
Dark Horse – Texas Rangers
AL CENTRAL – Minnesota Twins – The Twins feature the most under-rated pitching staff in all of baseball. Most people think of Justin Morneau or Joe Mauer when the Twins come to mind, but their 2008 staff had a post All-Star break ERA under 4.00 and gain the services of Francisco Liriano in 2009. If their offense can produce even marginal offensive numbers, the Twins could emerge as favorites in the AL Central.
OF Michael Cuddyer returns to the Twins in 2009 after missing signficant portions of 2008 to injury. In Cuddyer’s last two healthy seasons he averaged .280AVG, 95R, 20HR, and 95RBI.
- Much of Minnesota’s success rides on young talent. Former No.1 overall pick OF Delmon Young (23 years old), OF Carlos Gomez (23 years old) and 2B Alexi Casilla (24 years old) could make the Twins contenders with consistent play.
- Don’t use Joe Mauer‘s absence as an excuse for the Twins to lose. Backup catcher Mike Redmond, a veteran and career .292 hitter, will fill in just fine. Can the Twins make the playoffs without Mauer? No, but if he misses minimal time they can survive.
Dark Horse – Anyone (This Division Has No Standout Teams)
AL EAST – Boston Red Sox – I actually threw up in my mouth a little when I wrote this, but even I can’t ignore the mass amount of talent being stockpiled in Boston. In 2003 I hated the Red Sox for winning the Yankee-Way (Buying Talent from Free Agency), but not much of their 2003 championship team remains. Instead, there is a great amount of Boston-bred talent — maybe enough to win a championship.
Boston has strengthened its lineup via farm system in the last six years. 2B Dustin Pedroia, 1B Kevin Youkilis, OF Jacoby Ellsbury, SS Jed Lowrie, SP Justin Masterson, SP Jon Lester, and RP Jonathan Papelbon were all drafted post-2002.
- Boston also features one of the deepest rotations in baseball, headlined by All-Stars Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Not to mention that John Smoltz joins the rotation in June…
- The Red Sox welcome back 3B Mike Lowell in 2009. Lowell played only 34 games post All-Star break last year.
Next In Line – New York Yankees
AL WILD CARD – New York Yankees – Money can’t buy you love, but history shows it can buy an awful lot of World Series Titles. The Yankees went on an anti-recession spending spree this offseason, signing pitchers C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, as well as switch-hitting 1B Mark Teixeira. Despite Alex Rodriguez missing the first few months of the season, the Yankees should (key word: should) win at least 90 games and compete for the AL East crown.
The Yankees are known for big-name hitters crushing the ball and big-name pitchers falling apart (think El Duque, Pavano, the Unit, etc.). This year could be different, however, as the Yankees could feature one of the best rotations on all of baseball: C.C. Sabathia, Chien-Mien Wang, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettite, and Joba Chamberlain.
- The most important part of the Yankees’ season will be April-May. If the Yankees can survive without A-Rod in a brutal AL East, expect them to compete during the summer and stretch run.
- Get to know Brett Gardner. He is one of the few home-grown Yankee talents, and has the speed/defensive skills to make a niche for himself in the bigs. He was good enough to beat out Xavier Nady for an outfield spot and bump Johnny Damon to left field.
Next In Line – Tampa Bay Rays (translation: the Wild Card will be 2nd place in the AL East)
NL WEST – Los Angeles Dodgers – Yes, the fighting Manny’s will win the NL West. This division has been called both the deepest and shallowest in the Major Leagues (depending on how you gauge each team). The Diamondbacks will make a push, but they are a few bats short of a complete team.
The Dodgers might be the deepest offensive team in baseball, considering that every game either Andre Ethier or Juan Pierre has to ride the pine. They would love to have a DH spot.
- SS Rafael Furcal returns to 100% this season after missing significant time in 2008 to injury. Furcal is one of the best shortstops in baseball and should fuel the Dodgers’ offense.
- As much as I hate Manny Ramirez, he is back in a Dodger uniform. It’s not a contract year, so he might quit playing, but you never know with Manny.
- Much of the Dodgers’ pitching success rides on the young arms of Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw. Billingsley has shown he has the stuff to be an All-Star, but Kershaw is greatly unproven and still only 21 years old.
Dark Horse – San Francisco Giants
NL CENTRAL – Chicago Cubs – Ah, the Cubbies. Having two close family members as die-hard Cubs fans, I have truly experienced the Cubs postseason woes of the last two years. That being said, the Chicago Cubs are the only team I know who can justify 100 years of bad baseball as being a “curse.” At least the Red Sox had some unfortunate circumstances to blame… the Cubs just say they’re cursed because they can’t ever win. Can the Mariners say they are cursed because of constant losing?…
The Cubs starting rotation features four excellent pitchers: Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Ted Lilly, and Rich Harden. Harden could be an X-Factor for Chicago, depending on if he can stay healthy. He didn’t miss significant time for Chicago last year and turned in filthy numbers (71.0 IP, 89 K, 1.77 ERA).
- For some reason the Cubs signed OF Milton Bradley in the offseason. Bradley has never had star-caliber numbers, and their vacancy in right field could have easily been filled by newly-acquired OF Joey Gathright, 2008 reserve OF Reed Johnson, or super-prospect 1B/OF Micah Hoffpauir.
- How this team does not find regular at-bats for Micah Hoffpauir baffles me.
- The bullpen could be an issue with Chicago this year. Kevin Gregg and Carlos Marmol will provide stability at closer, but the question is who will get the ball to them?
- The Cubs also have one more glaring problem to fix. I am starting a website next week to address the issue. You should check it out: http://www.cut-fukudome-he-is-terrible.com
Next In Line – Milwaukee Brewers
NL EAST – Philadelphia Phillies – The Phils are coming off a World Series Championship and don’t seem to have lost a step.
Philadelphia lost OF Pat Burrell to the Tampa Bay Rays, but replaced him with former All-Star Raul Ibanez. Burrell was a mainstay in Philadelphia, but the Phillies had no problem letting a career .257 hitter hit the road in favor of a career .286 hitter.
- Over the last three seasons, Raul Ibanez has had no worse than a .289 Batting Average with 20+ HR and 105+ RBI each season. In all three seasons he outproduced Burrell in Runs, Hits, RBI, and Batting Average.
- SP Jamie Moyer seems content to pitch until he is 50, which is ok with me. His game does not rely on speed, but on movement and location. How a 46 year old can start 33 games and go 16-7 with a 3.71ERA is beyond me. He even struck out 9 guys in one game last year… frightening.
Dark Horse – Florida Marlins
NL WILD CARD – New York Mets – I refuse to jump on board with experts who have the Mets winning the NL East in 2009. Their claim: the Mets lost so many games last year due to a weak bullpen, and since the bullpen is fixed the Mets have to win! My claim: the Mets bullpen is now good, but who exactly is going to pitch innings 1-7 other than Johan Santana?
Other than Santana, the Mets’ pitching staff is a mess. Pedro Martinez is gone, Mike Pelfrey looks terrible, Oliver Perez is bi-polar, and former Astros/Yankees/Padres/Nationals great Tim Redding isn’t the answer. That leaves Johan and John Maine to take on the world… (good luck).
- Statistically, the Mets’ offense looks great. In terms of “we won’t choke in clutch situations,” the Mets’ offense looks terrible. They can’t bank on another Carlos Delgado renaissance (a la 2008), and past the David Wright / Jose Reyes show, the Mets’ don’t have much to offer but aging stars (see Carlos Beltran for one example).
- OF Daniel Murphy has the tools to be a star in this league. The Mets are planning on playing him, but are still spelling him with Fernando Tatis. This is a grave error, in my opinion. Murphy needs to get at-bats and get them soon, because he (along with Wright and Reyes) could be a building block for this franchise.
Next In Line – Arizona Diamondbacks
American League Division Series
- Boston Red Sox over Minnesota Twins – The Red Sox will not be able to play the Yankees, as rules prohibit teams from playing inter-division in the first round, so the Red Sox will play the Division Winner with the worst record— The Minnesota Twins. The Twins are a talented young team, but probably only made the playoffs because they play in the AL Central. Boston Wins Series 3-1 (Minnesota wins when Liriano takes the hill).
- New York Yankees over Los Angeles Angels - Yeah, the AL East is this good. If I could, I would take away the AL Central spot and give it to the Rays, because let’s be honest; the Red Sox, Yankees, and Rays are probably the three best teams in the American League. The Angels are declining and have health issues in their pitching staff. The Yankees hitting, led by A-Rod and Tex, will lead them past the Angels. New York Wins Series 3-1.
National League Division Series
- Chicago Cubs over New York Mets – This is an interesting first-round matchup, but the Cubs (with the best record) will draw the wild-card winner New York Mets. The Cubs and Mets have similar hitting talent, as each have their fair share of stars, but the Cubs pitching will lead them over the Mets. The Mets’ bullpen can’t stop their starters from giving up 5+ runs a game… Chicago Wins Series 3-2
- Los Angeles Dodgers over Philadelphia Phillies – Not a good opening round for the NL East, as their champion falls to the Dodgers. The Dodgers have inexperience at pitching, but I truly believe they have the best lineup in all of baseball top-to-bottom. Other teams have a better corps of three, four, or five players, but when all nine are taken into account, the Dodgers trump. L.A. will figure out how to get lefties to throw sliders to Ryan Howard, making him powerless, and will take this series rather easily. Los Angeles Wins Series 3-1.
American League Championship Series
- Boston Red Sox over New York Yankees – I cringe at the thought of this series, because ESPN will collectivly touch themselves at the thought of a prominent rivalry meeting up in the postseason. In this case, however, the AL East has the most talent in baseball and will show it in the postseason. Boston wins this series because they are younger, faster, and deeper than the Yankees. The Yankees have bought a lot of top-tier talent, but as the first month of the season will show, one injury can derail them. The Red Sox are deep and have a great rotation and bullpen to easily shut down the Yankees back of the lineup. Boston Wins Series 4-1.
National League Championship Series
- Los Angeles Dodgers over Chicago Cubs – I love Lou Piniella, and I would love to say that 2009 is when the Cubs figure out how to win in the postseason, but I just can’t do that. The Dodgers are too deep, and Kosuke Fukudome (if not cut by now) will single-handedly drive the Cubs into the ground. I believe that the Dodgers pitching can be good enough to let their offense win the series for them. If the Cubs can best the Dodgers hitting (with Big Z on the mound) then they have a chance, but I don’t see that happening. Los Angeles Wins Series 4-3.
2009 Major League Baseball World Series
- Los Angeles Dodgers over Boston Red Sox – After picking Duke to win in my NCAA Bracket I should never be allowed to predict winners again. That being said, I’m taking a shot. The Dodgers will win for every reason I listed before; they are deep in hitting and have enough talent in pitching to carry them. Just like they did in the ALDS, they will throw sliders to David Ortiz and remove him from the stadium. Solving Boston’s pitching will be an issue, but as Manny has shown— he can hit anything. I also cringe at this series because of the over-blown Manny v. Red Sox debacle, but I’ll brush it off because this should be a good series. In all, Manny carries another team to a championship and the Red Sox kick back and wonder why it wasn’t them. Dodgers Win Series 4-3.
That’s it for the divisional predictions. Check back in a few days for the 2009 MLB Awards Predictions!
Comment with what you like/don’t like! We look forward to the discussion.