Last season The Winning Run attempted to predict the outcome of the 2014 Major League Baseball season. We were not highly successful in our first attempt. Not to be deterred by our lack of success, we are back to try again. Once again, let us apologize in advance for jinxing everyone’s favorite team, whether it is by dooming your team before it had a chance to do much better or by sending it spiraling down in flames as it does much worse than expected. Either way in which we have ruined the chances of your team this season, we are sorry.
Let us begin with the Senior Circuit.
|1||Washington Nationals||Division Winner/ 1st Seed|
|3||New York Mets|
The National League East could be one of the weakest Divisions in all of baseball. Beyond the Nationals, the rest of the division could struggle. The Marlins and Mets could threaten for a Wild Card spot, but each have deficiencies that could prevent it from reaching the playoffs. The Braves could surprise people if the bats and pitchers keep up with one another and hover around .500. The Phillies will be the worst team in all of baseball. A successful season would be to avoid 100 games, but even this could be out of reach in Philadelphia.
|1||St. Louis Cardinals||Division Winner/ 3rd Seed|
|2||Pittsburgh Pirates||Wild Card|
Every team in the National League Central could win the Division or finish last. The Cardinals should continue to be the class of the Central, as they have the pitching and the bats to match up against any team in baseball. The Pirates could pace with the Cardinals all season, but they may fall a few games short of the division based upon a few miscues throughout the season. The Cubs are dramatically improved, but playing in the Central will keep them out of the playoffs in addition to their young stars not all fully rising to their potential this season. The Brewers are dependent upon their lineup supplying the offense that the pitchers need, but there are too many chances for the bats to go quiet throughout the season. The Reds are recovering from losing several keys pitchers from last season. The Reds could rise out of the cellar, but only if Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, and Brandon Phillips all have productive and healthy seasons.
|1||Los Angeles Dodgers||Division Winner/ 2nd Seed|
|2||San Francisco Giants||Wild Card|
|3||San Diego Padres|
The Dodgers are the clear class of the National League West; they have the arms and bats to compete with any team in baseball. Ultimately, the Dodgers will chase the Nationals for the best record in the National League. The Giants will recover from their October success last season, breaking the cycle of boom and bust that they have experienced the last four seasons. They will make the playoffs as a Wild Card, but they will not win another World Series this season. The Padres like the Marlins and Cubs are greatly improved, but will not be able to put it together this season to reach the playoffs in the first season of their new reality. The Rockies will continue to be successful offensively, but their pitching staff is not ready to take the team to the next level and compete for a playoff spot. The Diamondbacks are in full rebuild, and will be searching for answers in every phase of the game. The trade of Trevor Cahill was the clearest sign of Arizona looking to the future beyond the 2015 season.
Now let us examine the Junior Circuit.
|1||Toronto Blue Jays||Division Winner/ 3rd Seed|
|3||Boston Red Sox|
|4||New York Yankees|
|5||Tampa Bay Rays|
The Blue Jays finally have all the players they need to win the American League East. Even with the loss of Marcus Stroman for the season, Toronto has the arms and bats to win the Division. The Orioles will return with another strong team. If Chris Davis or Manny Machado can return to half of their 2013 form Baltimore will stay in the hunt for the playoffs into the final days of the season, but could ultimately fall short. The Red Sox are better than last season, but their pitching leaves too many questions for the bats to make up. Boston should finish above .500, but they will not play in October. The Yankees are a mixture of old talent and youthful ignorance. New York may face more injury worries as the season progresses, which could derail any dreams of reaching the playoffs, or even .500. The Rays are in full rebuild mode. Tampa has to rediscover the magic of over performing if it hopes to avoid finishing last in the East.
|1||Detroit Tigers||Division Winner/ 1st Seed|
|2||Cleveland Indians||Wild Card|
|3||Kansas City Royals|
|4||Chicago White Sox|
The American League Central could be the best Division in all of baseball. The Tigers should be the class of the Division so long as David Price, Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, and Victor Martinez are able to stay healthy. The Indians will finally get over the hump and make the playoffs as a Wild Card. Corey Kluber needs another good season, not necessarily another Cy Young season, and young stars like Michael Brantley need to emerge to power Cleveland back to October. The Royals are still recovering from their World Series hangover. While they will be competitive until late in the season, they will not make a return trip to the playoffs, as the loss of James Shields and Billy Butler will be the difference this season. The White Sox should be much improved but in the Central, it could be difficult to crack the top three in the division even with the addition of Jeff Samardzija to the rotation and David Robertson to the bullpen. The Twins need their bats and arms to light up the box score this season. The continued worry about the health of Joe Mauer and the suspension of Ervin Santana could prevent Minnesota from reaching .500.
|1||Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim||Division Winner (won 1 game playoff)/ 2nd Seed|
|2||Oakland Athletics||Wild Card (lost 1 game playoff)|
The American League West has three potential Division winners. The Angels once again have a tremendous offense led by the best player in the game, Mike Trout, a star looking to rediscover his old form, Albert Pujols, and a declining star, Josh Hamilton. If the Angels pitchers can stay healthy, they could win the Division. The Athletics will once again work their magic and surprise everyone to finish the season tied with the Angels. Another star will emerge in Oakland, a player who another club gave up on and let go. The Athletics and Angels will have to play a one game playoff to determine who wins the Division and who is the Wild Card. Ultimately, the Angels will win the Division and send Oakland to the Wild Card. The Mariners will unfortunately fall just short once again and miss the playoffs. They need a bit more offense in Seattle if they are to reach to playoffs, but that will have to wait until 2016. The Astros are once again going to take a huge step forward. Houston should finish .500 or better thanks to the continued development of its young stars in Jose Altuve, George Springer, and Collin McHugh. The Rangers should be able to avoid the injury plague they suffered from last season; however, they still lack the pitching to compete, especially after losing Yu Darvish for the season due to Tommy John surgery.
October will once again give us some great moments to remember, beginning with the Wild Card games.
|American League||National League|
In the American League Wild Card game, the Athletics will have spent too much energy getting to the Wild Card game to overcome the Indians. Cleveland will continue on their excellent season into the Divisional Series. In the National League Wild Card game, the Pirates will finally give Pittsburgh the full playoff series it has been waiting for since 1992. The Giants will finally run out of gas after back-to-back seasons of hard-fought competition to reach October.
|Toronto Blue Jays|
|Los Angeles Dodgers|
In the American League Division Series, the Blue Jays will run through the Indians after Cleveland runs out of gas fighting through the Wild Card. Pitching should be fairly even, but offensively Toronto should have an advantage with Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. The Angels will once again come up short due to a lack of pitching to match up against the rotation of the Tigers. Detroit has the best hitters in baseball in Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, who can make up for any problems the pitching staff encounters. In the National League Division Series, the Cardinals will fall to the arms of the Dodgers, as Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke finally translate their dominance to October. The Nationals will continue their dominance as they fight past the Pirates. While the series could be tight, Washington has the pitching staff to quiet the bats of Andrew McCutchen, Josh Harrison, and the rest of the Pirates.
The Championship Series will pair off great offenses in the American League as the power bats of the Blue Jays match up against the all-around hitting ability of the Tigers. The experience and rotation will be the difference for Detroit, even if Justin Verlander and David Price are not in vintage form. In the National League, the Championship Series will see the matchup of two great pitching staffs. Los Angeles will send Kershaw and Greinke to the mound to face off against Max Scherzer, Gio Gonzalez, and Stephen Strasburg. The Nationals will stop the Dodgers as Washington has a deeper roster and the ability to recover if any of its starters faulted.
The 2015 World Series will pit the Washington Nationals against the Detroit Tigers. Both have excellent pitching staffs and line-ups. Detroit has the better lineup, while Washington has the better pitching staff. The biggest advantage exists in the lineup for the Tigers, which will propel Detroit to another World Series victory in six games.
|Detroit Tigers||4 games|
These are our predictions for the 2015 Major League Baseball season. Love it? Hate it? Time will tell if we are right or wrong. We never claim to know what will happen, but this is what we are predicting to happen. Now it is time to watch how bad our predictions turn out to be once they meet reality, while enjoying another great season of baseball.
D, J, and B
The Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants have both thrown their best punches in the first two games of the World Series. Each one has landed cleanly and flush. In Game 1, Madison Bumgarner kept the Royals batters off balance and in check. Kansas City had no answer for him. In Game 2, the Royals bats came alive and the bullpen shut the door. The Giants kept battling but it was to no avail. The first two game of this World Series have shown what each team is capable of when locked in. This World Series has the potential to be a brawl. I do not mean benches clearing and fights breaking out. I mean where every player is pushed to their limit, where both managers are locked in a chess match where they are one move away from both triumph and defeat.
There should not be any real brawls on the field, even if Hunter Strickland gets back on the mound. I fully believe his frustrations simply boiled over and he let his emotions get the better of him. His actions show the stress and pressure these players are under. This is the biggest stage in their profession and they may only get one shot at winning a championship. Every pitch, every swing, every movement means something and their importance continues to ratchet up to greater and greater levels over the last two months. The Royals and Giants both raced into the playoffs, they did not just waltz into them. They both had to fight through the one game Wild Card playoff game, and then went through the best team in their leagues to advance through the Divisional and Championship rounds just to reach the World Series. Eventually all the stress and pressure is too much.
Every player and every team prepare all winter and spring, and fights throughout the summer for the chance to find success in October. Simply making the World Series is not enough. The hunger only builds as the leaves begin to change and the cool, crisp autumn breeze replaces the sweltering summer heat. The Giants are not content with their season, neither are the Royals. The Giants have won the World Series twice in the last four seasons; they are trying to make it three Championships in five seasons. Not all the players have been on the team for this stretch. Tim Hudson is much closer to the end of his career than the beginning, and he will make his World Series debut in Game 3. Joe Panik is at the beginning of his career and he has only played in two World Series games. Buster Posey has been there through it all. The Giants remain hungry, all for individual reasons, which collectively make the team hungry.
The Royals are not just happy to be a part of the World Series; they are there to win it. 29 years have passed since 1985 and their last World Series title. None of the players from the 1985 team remains; this is a new group. They wear the same team name on their chest and play for the same fans, though many of them have never seen a winning Royals team. Lorenzo Cain, Billy Butler, Eric Hosmer, and on and on are the Royals now. These players do not care that it has been 29 years since the Royals last won the World Series. They do not care for one simple reason. If they cared how long it had been since the franchise had won, they would never be successful. They care about winning now. Not making up for lost time, but for giving this opportunity everything they have.
Baseball is a funny sport. The best players are not always the one left standing holding the championship trophy. Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout do not always get to take the last at bat. Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez do not always get to pitch with the game on the line. Baseball is a team sport, where the team can only be as good as the last guy on the bench. Super stars can propel a team towards success, but team success only happens when it is made up of players who can and are willing to put it all on the line.
Baseball is a fight, it is a brawl. The opponent knows the Pirates are going to throw Andrew McCutchen at them, or the Cardinals will throw Yadier Molina at them. These power punches take their toll on the opposition. The opposition throws counter punches back. The Tigers throw Victor Martinez or the Dodgers throw Zack Greinke. Teams throw crazy combinations and land blow after blow. They knock each other down and then get back up. The Giants and the Royals have knocked each other down with hooks to the body. Both have gone down and gotten back up to a standing eight count. These teams are in for a fight and are not afraid to leave themselves vulnerable if they think they can land the knockout blow. This October is going to be a brawl. So far it is shaping up to be a fight of the year contender. Let us hope it continues to live up to the great start it has given up.
The week that was saw the off season moves which involved bigger named players begin to heat up. Every team is working to fill the holes that prevented them from winning the World Series in 2013. Baseball is an inexact science, thus what are seen as smart moves can become disasters, and unnoticed moves can make a General Manager into a genius.
Here are my top three moves of the week:
The Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler trade caught many people by surprise, including me. Aside from moving the giant contract Fielder signed in early 2012 for 9 years and $214 million, the Detroit Tigers improved their team. Removing Fielder from the team opens up First base again for Miguel Cabrera. This should keep the best hitter in the game healthier over the course of the season as he is only sharing DH at bats with Victor Martinez, instead of with Martinez and Fielder. Keeping Cabrera healthy must be Detroit’s top priority. The addition of Kinsler means the Tigers have replaced free agent Second baseman Omar Infante, and upgraded the position. Also do not forget all the more saved by not having to pay Fielder, even with the $30 million sent to Texas the Tigers will save roughly $70 million. They can use that money to address Third base and Matt Scherzer. The Rangers dramatically improve their roster with the addition of Prince Fielder. They now have a legitimate First baseman who can hit for major power in the Texas heat which carries baseballs to the Oklahoma border. Also Jurickson Profar will get the chance to play every day at Second. Fielder has been durable to this point in his career, what will the back half of his contract look like on the field? How will his 275 lbs body hold up to the Texas heat through the dog days of summer? While I think this is a good trade for both teams who are seeking to get over the hump and win a World Series, I think Detroit will be the biggest winner in this trade.
Free Agent Catcher Brian McCann signed a 5 year $85 million deal with the New York Yankees. The Yankees over paid, in my opinion, for McCann, however signing him is still a smart move. Clearly the platoon attempt by the Yankees in 2013 was unsuccessful, thus the need for a Catcher who can be an asset to the pitching staff and one who can be an offensive threat; both of which McCann will do. The deal solidifies the Yankees at Catcher until Gary Sanchez is ready for the Major League, probably around 2015. At that point McCann can transition to First base and take over for Mark Teixeira, who will become a free agent after the 2016 season. Whether he is Catching, playing First, or DHing McCann will add some pop to the Yankee line up and should feast with the short porch in Right at Yankee Stadium.
General Manager Brian Sabean will have the San Francisco Giants thinking of another World Series parade or they will be watching from home as the play offs begin. Sabean has taken two major gambles with his pitching staff this off season with the signing of Tim Lincecum and now Tim Hudson. Lincecum got a 2 year $35 million deal and now Hudson has signed a 2 year $23 million deal. The Giants are betting that both pitchers are able to find the stuff that has made them among the top pitchers in the past. Lincecum’s career has been a bit of a roller coaster in recent years, whereas Hudson is coming off a horrific injury to his leg. One of these contract could have been risky but two I the same off season has the Giants on the edge of a deep playoff run and looking up at the Dodgers for at least the next two seasons, if not beyond. San Francisco is a class organization and Tim Hudson is among the classiest players in all of baseball, so I wish them the best.