Some would argue whether or not baseball’s first two games were just played in Tokyo. The Mariners and A’s two game series takes a pause as they travel back to their respective spring training facilities and join the rest of the Cactus League. The season however, has officially started. As a Mariners fan, it feels good to be in first place. I will always take the opportunity to say that when it comes.
So, as spring training concludes, I don’t think it’s too late for a season preview. How will the playoff picture look after 4,860 games? Lets start, with the American League:
I doubt we will see anything unorthodox from the usual three team race. The AL East typically represents the wild card spot and with the new playoff rules, it’s likely two of the top three between New York, Boston and Tampa Bay, will yet again reach the post season.
My father, a Yankee fan, is going to let me have it since I’m a very vocal anti-Yankee. Though I do have an utmost respect for the team. They just have too much talent in their lineup. Raul Ibanez is the only newcomer and he’ll split time with Andruw Jones at the DH but everyone else returns. The Yankees also added Hiroku Kiroda and Michael Pineda (sigh … I hope Montero was/is worth it) to their starting rotation. This team will be deadly if they can stay healthy.
I’m torn on if the Rays or Sox will come in second. Boston would like to bounce back from the disappointing end to their 2011 season. Both squads are highly talented and experienced. Carlos Pena is a notable newcomer for the Rays. Both teams lineups and rotations are near the same. It may come down who wins the series’ against each other. I’m gonna give the edge to the Rays, simply because I think their rotation and bullpen are a tad better.
3 Red Sox
4 Blue Jays
It’s exciting to see the rise of the Kansas City Royals. They’ve not really had much success in the W column. It’s always refreshing to see a franchise be lifted from what has seemed to be an everlasting basement. I still don’t care much for their rotation since the departure of Zack Greinke, who won the Cy Young award as a Royal, but they did acquire Jonathan Broxton, one of the best closers in baseball … arguably.
Having said that, the Detroit Tigers will dominate this division. The only roster change they made was the addition of Prince Fielder, and that could be enough to get them to the world series. I believe Detroit has one of the best, if not the best starting rotation in the majors. I wouldn’t expect to see any surprises out of the AL Central.
4 White Sox
Finally another opportunity to talk about the Mariners … just kidding. Kind of. I do think they will improve and no longer finish last in the division. Dustin Ackley will be a star for the M’s and could raise some eyebrows this very season, and the jury is still out on the Montero for Pineda trade. The additions of Kevin Millwood and rookie Hisashi Iwakuma will improve the rotation as well.
The real story however, of course belongs in Ahaheim. Yes, Mr. Albert Pujols is now in the AL West, which was once argued as the worst division in baseball, yet represented the AL in the last two World Series’. The Rangers will have a tough time defending their consecutive division titles. The Angels also added CJ Wilson, and the Rangers replaced him with a hyped phenom rookie Yu Darvish. Should be an exciting race, but the Angels will get the penant.
When was the last time the AL West took two teams to the post-season though? It will happen this year.
One game wild-card: Rangers over Rays
Tigers over Rangers
Angels over Yankees
Tigers over Angels
Jose Reyes remains in the division, but is wearing a new uniform … literally. He will be leading off in a brand new Miami Marlins uni. The Marlins also added Mark Buehrle and Carlos Zambrano to their starting rotation. I believe they and the Atlanta Braves will be battling for second place, with no disrespect to the Nationals. This is a very talented division. It will be intriguing to see if expected phenom Bryce Harper will make an appearance. I expect an immediate impact if he does.
Yes the race for second will be tight, because the Phillies own the NL East right now. With the additions of Ty Wigginton, Jim Thome and Juan Pierre …to the bench, this could be the deepest, most dangerous offensive team in the National League. The question is will everyone remain healthy?
The race for the central penant will be fun to watch. The Reds are talented enough to get to the post season, and even though the Cardinals lost Mr. Baseball himself, there is still a load of talent there as well and they will be hungry to defend their NL and World Series titles. Carlos Beltran is the only new face to their lineup, with Lance Berkman being solely at first base now. Milwaukee won’t be too far behind either. Expect much drama from this division. The Brewers remain a contender for the playoffs. I like the addition of Aramis Ramirez.
If there is going to be any surprises, expect it to come from this division. I’m not intending on adding to a curse in Wrigley, but if I were to call my shot on a surprise team, I’d say it’s the Cubs. Consider this an asterisk, because I’m not predicting it.
Here is another interesting race. This is a very talented and capable division. I still think the Giants are the favorite. Especially with the return of Buster Posey and additions of Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera in the outfield. The race for number two, and potential wild card spot will be tight between Arizona and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Yes, the Dodgers could very well see the post season. Especially now that the drama and turmoil in the front office has been taken care of.
I give the Dodgers the edge in the pitching game over Arizona and Matt Kemp will just continue to be ridiculous. Don’t sleep on the Rockies either folks. Marco Scutaro, Michael Cuddyer, Ramon Hernandez and Casey Blake give this team the ability to make some of the aces worry a bit. Former BYU Cougar, Jeremy Guthrie is a new addition to the rotation, but that continues to be the soft spot of this Rockies team.
One game wild card: Cardinals over Braves
Phillies over Cardinals
Giants over Reds
Phillies over Giants
Both of these squads have terrifying starting pitchers and closers. The edge will be the offense. Which team will have more opportunities to score runs? Expect this one to be a definite battle, deep into the seventh game. It was tough to make my pick and i think Detroit’s one-two punch of Cabrera and Fielder will be dangerous, but I like Philly’s offense. They are just a bit more fundamentally sound than the Tigers. They will have more opportunities to steal bases (which will be a huge difference) and advance runners into scoring position and therefore … across home plate.
The Philadelphia Phillies are your 2012 World Series champs. Just don’t ask me if they had home field advantage or not. Because I don’t know, and it won’t matter.