It is upon us. The dawn of the baseball season is here. And, after an interminable Spring Training, we are more than ready. And, here at BSB, as has been the norm, we will kick off our baseball coverage with our unique style of preview. We will go back and forth trying to pick teams that will be better or worse than they were in 2012.
This will be the sixth season that we do this. Bry won the first three of them, but Doogan has responded with two convincing wins in a row, including a 17-13 win in 2012.
The interesting part of the 2012 preview is that both of us missed our first picks. Doogan took the Over 72 on the Marlins at #1, and Bry took the Over 56 on the Astros at #2. Since Doogan went #1 last year, Bry will get the first pick in 2013.
1. BRY- Toronto Blue Jays – OVER 73 wins: Stop me when this sounds familiar. The team I’m taking a team at #1 that has been an afterthought in a good division for at least a decade now. But, they have blown away the rest of the league with their offseason acquisitions, including SS Jose Reyes and SP Mark Buehrle. They also enter the year with a brand-new manager. No, I didn’t learn from Doogan’s Marlins mistake last year, and I suckered into the Blue Jays. That being said, while I think they’re a safe bet to go over 73 wins, I do not think that this is some juggernaut all of a sudden. Think about it – they added the core of a 69-win team last year plus the NL Cy Young Award winner, who just so happens to be 38 years old and not exactly “well-established.” I’d like to pump the brakes on the Blue Jays as World Series favorites, but I will take my chances on them being better than they were a year ago.
2. DOOGAN – Baltimore Orioles – UNDER 93 wins: No major roster changes here, just a team that greatly overachieved a year ago and should’ve won at least 10 games less than they did, based on run differential. With a rotation fronted by the likes of Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen, and in the AL East, I have to think you’re winning much less than 93 games.
3. DOOGAN – New York Yankees – UNDER 95 wins: So our first three picks are all from the AL East. The hits this team has taken to its lineup are well-documented: ARod could miss the year, Granderson broke his arm, Teixeira is out for a while, Jeter’s coming back from injury. But I also don’t have confidence in this pitching staff. I’m not convinced that Kuroda can match what he did last year, Andy Pettitte is overdue to run out of gas, I’m not ready to say that Phil Hughes will be good. And I hate to doubt Mariano, but he is coming back from a major injury in his 40′s.
4. BRY – Boston Red Sox – OVER 69 wins: If nothing else, I’m a man who loves a good theme, so let’s make it four in a row from the AL East. A Red Sox team that didn’t win 70 games? Almost impossible to believe for this generation. I can’t imagine that will happen again. They are probably not serious contenders for any banners in 2013, but if the reports are right on John Lackey’s fitness are anywhere near accurate, and they can get anything remotely close to the “old” John Lester or Clay Bucholz then this pitching staff should be much improved. And, they do still have Pedroia, as well as adding a now healthy Jacoby Ellsbury, our old friend Shane Victorino, and some guy named Jackie Bradley, who has been tearing up the Grapefruit League. Alright, Doogan, be a man and make a pick on Tampa…
5. DOOGAN – Oakland A’s – UNDER 94 wins: Sorry, can’t go Tampa here. I’ll take a team that is in sort of in the Baltimore mold, even though I think they’re pretty clearly better than Baltimore. Still, a young team that overachieved last year and is in a tough division. Pitchers like Jarrod Parker and Tommy Milone kind of came out nowhere last year and should regress. I don’t see Brandon Moss being .950 OPS guy again. The bullpen is good, but probably not as good as they were last year, either. Easily could be a third place team in this division.
6. BRY – Chicago Cubs – OVER 61 wins: Just playing the numbers here. The Cubbies aren’t good, but they’re also not 100-loss bad. Starlin Castro is going to be the most unimpressive 3,000-hit guy in baseball history, when it’s all said and done, but he’s still a SS who gets 200 hits every year, which kind of kills any argument against him being a franchise player (though, I continue to make them). Their rotation isn’t terrible now that they added Edwin Jackson and Scott Feldman to Matt Garza and Jeff Samardz…however it’s spelled…and Travis Wood. So, if they even get 100 starts from those five (very consevative), I think they could win 40-45 of those, leaving only about 20 more wins to find somewhere. Again, they’re not good, but should give me 65-70 wins, at minimum.
7. DOOGAN – Cleveland Indians – OVER 68 wins: It was an active offseason for the Tribe. They didn’t upgrade the pitching staff much, which is a pretty huge concern. Still, this is a strong lineup with the likes of Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher joining Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Santana, and Jason Kipnis. Bourn and Drew Stubbs give them a pretty fantastic defensive outfield and a nice dose of speed. Only the Mariners scored less runs in the AL last year. That will change, and this team will win 75 games.
8. BRY – Kansas City Royals – OVER 72 wins: Since I make this pick every year, I might as well get it over with early enough, so I don’t have to stare at it every time I want to make another pick. This year, I mean it, though, this team could be good. The offense is actually somewhat solid, particularly the underrated Billy Butler, the uber-talented Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, and the somehow always forgotten, Alex Gordon, who only led the majors in doubles last year. And, as we all know, they acquired a total horse at the front of the rotation in James Shields. But, as people may not know, they also brought in new #2, #3, and #4 starters in Jeremy Guthrie, Ervin Santana, and Wade Davis. It remains to be seen if they actually pitch like #2-4 starters, but at least they don’t have to throw Bruce Chen and Luke Hochevar out there are their top 2 starters any more.
9. DOOGAN – Cincinnati Reds – UNDER 97 wins: Really a strong team with a ton of talent, but this pick is more than just “picking under on a big number.” Even though they have enough in place to contend for a championship, the bottom line is that this is no juggernaut than can be expected to get back to upper-90′s in wins. The starting rotation is very solid, but there isn’t any ace. I know Johnny Cueto was one last year, but let’s see him do it again before we call him an ace. Ryan Ludwick is a rock solid hitter, but if he’s your cleanup hitter, I have my doubts about how good your line-up really is. Again, it’s a good team, but not a great team, so I feel pretty good about Under on this big a number.
10. BRY – Texas Rangers – UNDER 93 wins: It is amazing how quickly your “window” can close in this game. I’m not saying that the Rangers can’t get that elusive championship, but it looks like they are on the downside of the best opportunity this franchise has ever had. Maybe Nelson Cruz should have, ya know, caught that fly ball that would have ended Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. Anyway, by downgrading Josh Hamilton to Lance Berkman and Mike Napoli to A.J. Pierzynski, the juggernaut offense that this team has leaned on for this long run of dominance is not the same. They also lost the heart and soul of their clubhouse in Michael Young. And, without C.J. Wilson, whom they lost last offseason to free agency, and Neftali Feliz and Colby Lewis, whom they lost this offseason to various injuries, their rotation looks – all of a sudden – rather pedestrian. Unless Yu Darvish is a Cy Young-caliber pitcher and Matt Harrison and Derek Holland are borderline All-Stars, the front-end of this rotation may not make up for the gigantic question marks at the back-end. They should be in the mix, but 93 is a big number for a team that is likely on the decline.
11. DOOGAN – Philadelphia Phillies – OVER 81 wins: It’s Opening Day, and as they say, hope springs eternal. You can punch holes in this team and find plenty of weaknesses, but I definitely think they are being underrated by the national media coming into the season. Hamels and Lee should be one of the best 1-2 combos in baseball. I’m buying into the concern about Halladay, but the guy’s still two seasons removed from being Cy Young-caliber, so he still could turn in a really strong season. I like (not love, but like) the bullpen, with the plan of Bastardo, Adams, Papelbon in the 7th, 8th, and 9th. I think the lineup will be at least average, and when paired with pretty clearly above-average pitching, that makes for more than 81 wins, and I don’t think 90+ is at all out of the question.
12. BRY – Houston Astros – OVER 55 wins: This is a terrible team – one of the worst of our lifetimes (which may be why we passed on a 55-win line for 11 picks). But, every night, the team will consist of 25 people who make their livelihoods playing baseball. And, baseball – more than any other sport – rarely gives any team more than a 2-to-1 advantage on a given night. Therefore, it is really, really hard to lose 107 games. Granted, if any team I’ve ever seen can do it, it would be this one, but they’re 1-0 right now, so I just need 55 more wins to hit this over. They might be a 104-loss team, but I don’t see another 107.
13. DOOGAN – Colorado Rockies – OVER 64 wins: This pitching staff, in Coors Field or anywhere else, is a disaster. But, this lineup, in any ballpark, is pretty awesome. After finding success focusing more on pitching, the Rockies are back to their Blake Street Bomber roots (in some ways), and while that means a lot of losses, it also means they could be tough to beat at home, and 64 is a low hurdle. Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler, Michael Cuddyer, even the catcher, Wilin Rosario, has a power bat.
14. BRY – Washington Nationals – UNDER 98 wins: I may have had more discussions about the expectations for the 2013 Nationals than anything else in my life over the past month, and I guess it’s time to put my money where my mouth is. Is this the best team in baseball? Possibly. Is it the best team in the NL? Maybe. Is it the best team in the NL East? Probably. On paper, are they better than they were last year? Definitely. Are baseball games – let alone seasons – ever played on paper? Absolutely not. If so, they wouldn’t have won 98 games last year. They were more like an 88-90-win team last year. I think they might be 3-5 wins better this year, but that still only puts them in the mid-90s, at best. 98 wins is a HUGE number. I still have question marks about the durability of their rotation – Strasburg and Detwiler have combined for ZERO seasons with 165+ innings. (EDIT) Danny Haren is coming off of a season where he broke down and looked like he felt every bit of his 1,800 innings, and Gio Gonzalez isn’t a safe bet, himself. And, they have NO pitching depth. So, even if they lose a starter or two for short DL stints, that could preclude them from the seemingly guaranteed 100-win season. Throw in health question marks about two of their most important position players – Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth – and a possible set back for the overachieving middle infield last year, and you have a FAR CRY from a sure thing. Yes, the bullpen is loaded. Yes, 20-year old Bryce Harper might be in for MVP numbers already. And, yes, I would call them pretty clear favorites to win the East, but 98 games? That is a LOT of games.
15. DOOGAN – Miami Marlins – UNDER 69 wins: I was going Under on that Nats next also, but I’ll keep it in the division here. We know all they’ve lost with Reyes, Buerhle, Josh Johnson, and others gone. They’re in total rebuilding mode, with possibly Placido Polanco batting cleanup, I’ve heard? With three very good teams at the top of the division, and this team bereft of talent outside of Giancarlo Stanton, they’ll be lucky to avoid 100 losses.
16. BRY – Chicago White Sox – UNDER 85 wins: This team is aging, and I think that they overperformed most of the season last year anyway. John Danks is hurt, and Chris Sale may take a step backwards (health or performance) after a much heavier workload last year than he had ever had before. Another year of age for Gavin Floyd, Jake Peavy, Paul Konerko (borderline, Hall of Famer, by the way), and Adam Dunn is not exactly a good thing. These picks are getting tougher, and I’m not in love with this one, but I’ll take my chances that things go wrong on the South Side and they’re a .500 team, at best.
17. DOOGAN – Detroit Tigers – OVER 88 wins: Building off that last pick by Bry, this is a very good team in a division that could be very bad. They have the best pitcher in the game and three high-quality guys behind him. They have the absolute best 3-4 combo in the middle of their order, with a few other quality bats supporting them. The bullpen is a bit of a question mark, but could be solid, and I worry that their infield is basically a bunch of fat guys, including the shortstop (Peralta), but the talent is here, in a poor division, to win 93-95 games.
18. BRY – Los Angeles Dodgers – OVER 86 wins: Well, you took my next pick, Doogan, so I have to take the bait on the Dodgers. Other than the Blue Jays, this team was the talk of the offseason, so it’s a bit of a surprise (and possibly telling) that it took us this long to jump on them. And, honestly, I’m not even that comfortable making this pick, but it’s getting tougher to justify any of the teams left. And, I am – and always have been – completely enamored by talent. Obviously, I admire the gritty, determined overachievers and the teams that win on “clubhouse chemistry,” but part of the reason we love sports is because we get to see people play games that we have played on levels that are so far beyond imagination that it almost defies comprehension. I love elite talent. And, the Dodgers have a whole lot of that. Whether or not it materializes into elite team performance remains to be seen, but up and down this lineup – and now the starting rotation – they have some of the best players in the world. And, chemistry or no chemistry, they open their rotation with Clayton Kershaw (one of the 5 best pitchers on the planet), Zack Greinke (one of the 15 best pitchers on the planet), and Josh Beckett (who is rumored to be looking more like the old Beckett than the more recent Beckett, which could put him in the top 30 on the planet). Then, they will post a lineup with a first five of Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, and Hanley Ramirez, which is as talented a first 5 as I can remember, honestly. All that said, we still both passed on a somewhat low line 17 times – so, obviously, as awesome as I find pure talent, we are both wary of its ability to carry the day and actually win games.
19. DOOGAN – Atlanta Braves – UNDER 94 wins: Sitting here watching the Braves-Phillies Opening Day game while I make this pick. I’m not factoring in this game at all, and this is a good team, but the fact that they just said that Johnny Venters is visiting Dr. James Andrews today makes this pick just a TINY bit easier. Their bullpen is devastating, but not nearly as much if Venters is hurt. Mainly, I think this starting rotation has more questions than people are talking about. There’s certainly no ace. Tim Hudson is 37. Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, and Julio Teheran are all basically potential guys that haven’t really done for long or at all in the big leagues. McCann and Uggla are on the decline, which is ok because they have Heyward, Justin Upton, and Freeman to make up for that, but I’m just not sure the lineup is quite as good as it looks at first glance. 94 is a big number, especially at this point of the competition, so I like the Under.
20. BRY – Los Angeles Angels – OVER 89 wins: If I were an Angels fan, I would be very concerned about the pitching staff, particularly come October. But, what I would not be concerned with is this offense. Adding Josh Hamilton to an already LOADED offense with Albert Pujols and Mike Trout, this team could simply mash its way to 90 wins. Plus, adding the Astros to this division should help. Remember, they should have a little more health than they did last year, and they should get about 6 more weeks of Mike Trout – the game’s best player.
21. DOOGAN – San Francisco Giants – UNDER 94 wins: Some nitpicking here on the defending World Champs and you can talk yourself into the Under. First off, it wasn’t noticed much because they won it all, but this was not a 94-win team, based on run differential, last year. They still don’t score a ton of runs, though they’re far from bad offensively. Lincecum still looks lost, but they still have one of the top couple of rotations in the game. They have a number of quality relievers, but they don’t have that shutdown closer they once did with Brian Wilson. Last year’s 94 was the most they’ve won in the regular season with this current core, and that includes their other title winning team in 2010, and they only won 86 in the year between those two runs. I think they’re a team that’s more built for October than the regular season, so after a long-winded talking-myself-into-this-pick, I go under.
22. BRY – Seattle Mariners – OVER 75 wins: Not really sure why I like this one, but the pickins are getting pretty slim, and I think that the M’s are moving in the right direction. Any time you add 3- and 4-hitters, a #3 starter, and a veteran bench player you have to be improved, right? I’m not saying that Michael Morse, Kendry Morales, Joe Saunders, and Raul Ibanez will be wearing World Series rings after this year, but the team should be improved – at least, on paper. Plus, they do have one of the very best pitchers on the planet, so I see this team pushing 65 wins non-Astros wins and another 12-15 against the ‘Stros.
23. DOOGAN – Milwaukee Brewers – UNDER 83 wins: A franchise that is sort of grasping at straws trying to stay competitive when the best (and inevitable) move may be a rebuild. The pitching staff, both the starters and bullpen, is just not very good, with very little starter depth. The offensive is still above average, but Corey Hart is on the DL and may not be fully healthy all season after offseason knee surgery. While he’s out, Alex Gonzalez is their starting first baseman. That’s not good.
24. BRY – Minnesota Twins – OVER 66 wins: This team is not good, and with Vance Worley pitching on Opening Day, it’s clear that they have the pitching staff to loss 100 games. Fellow newcomers, Mike Pelfrey and Kevin Correia will likely be the next two in the rotation – ouch. But, they do have a promising pitcher in Scott Diamond that should be healthy come May or so, and they have Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Josh Willingham…at least until the trade deadline. I’m not confident with this pick, but everything left is tough.
25. DOOGAN – Pittsburgh Pirates – UNDER 79 wins: Well, we know that the Buccos are going to lose more games than they win, because they’ve done that 20-som straight years and it’s not like anything major has changed. So that doesn’t leave them much room to hit 79 wins. Yes, Andrew McCutchen is an elite player. Other than that, this team is not very good. The rotation is three middle-of-the-rotation types and then nobodies. Adding Russell Martin doesn’t excite me. The losing continues in the Steel City.
26. BRY – Arizona Diamondbacks – OVER 81 wins: I’ve never believed in the whole “addition by subtraction” theory in baseball. Football, maybe. Basketball, definitely. But, in baseball? I don’t understand why you would ever ship off talent for less talent, but better “chemistry?” So, the D’backs trade of Justin Upton was probably a bad move, but I actually think it was more of a calculated risk that he just doesn’t have the makeup to be a star, so they could sell high, get an underrated Martin Prado in return, and not be stuck with a bad contract in a year or two. The problem is that they still need someone to drive in runs. Can a team with a 3-4-5-6 of Aaron Hill, Jason Kubel, Cody Ross, and Paul Goldschmidt win 90 games? No. But, a team with Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill, Brandon McCarthy, and Wade Miley shouldn’t need all that much to get to 83 or so.
27. DOOGAN – St. Louis Cardinals – OVER 88 wins: I’ve pondered the Under on this one a few times now, but everytime end up saying, “I don’t want to go Under on the Cardinals. I don’t like betting against that franchise.” So, I won’t bet against them. When I look at this roster, am I confident they have 90 wins in them, especially when they’re pretty clearly not the best team in their division? No. They also don’t get the Astros wins this year. But, they do still have three average-to-poor teams in that division, and they have a solid amount of talent in all phases of the game. Let’s mark ‘em down for 90-72.
28. BRY – San Diego Padres – UNDER 76 wins: This is going against what a lot of the so-called “experts” are saying. I have heard several times how the Padres might be darkhorse contenders in the NL West, based on a blistering hot September last year and a decent spring training. But, there is an old adage in baseball circles that says “never believe anything that happens in March or September.” Now, I am not claiming that the Bryan “eye test” should be trusted over people who do this stuff for a living, but this “eye test” sees a talent level closer to 90 losses than anything resembling a .500 team. Like Doogan went with his gut on the Cards, I am doing so here. Let’s mark ‘em down for 72-90.
29. DOOGAN – New York Mets – UNDER 74 wins: You know, why not? I actually would’ve gone Over on them at least 5-8 picks ago if it hadn’t been for the Johan Santana injury. Sad for Santana that his career was really cut short by elbow/shoulder problems. I know the Mets are off to a 3-2 start, but unfortunately for them they don’t play home games against the Padres and Marlins all season.
30. BRY – Tampa Bay Rays – UNDER 90 wins: Not surprising that this is the last team on the board, as this is a really tough call. Vegas has them at 87.5 as an O/U. At that number, I would definitely take the Over, but 90 is such a tossup that I guess I’ll trust my boys in Sin City. That said, I think 94+ wins is much more likely than 84-.