IT’S BASEBALL TIME! Our great winter of discontent has ended and it’s time to pop the mitts. Let’s commence the celebration with some final predictions and observations, starting with the playoffs.
Wild Card: Boston Red Sox over Minnesota Twins
ALDS: Houston Astros (1) over Boston Red Sox (WC) in 4
ALDS: New York Yankees (2) over Cleveland Indians (3) in 5
ALCS: Houston Astros over New York Yankees in 5
The modern American League is just a damn bloodbath. The Astros, Red Sox and Yankees would all be commanding favorites in the NL. Alas, they are cursed to pummel each other. That Astros-Sox ALDS would be incredible. Please, baseball Gods, please give us a healthy Verlander-Sale matchup to open it. Please.
The Yankees were my original World Series pick before Luis Severino tweaked his shoulder. Look, maybe he’ll be fine and the early, early returns are okay, but yikes. Yikes. Severino missing extended time changes the entire tenor of the Yankee season; the Bombers can’t replace their young ace. Yes, the offense should be potent — I expect an incredible year from Aaron Judge — and sure, the bullpen is straight out of Asgard, but I can’t do it. Severino is too important for them.
Ultimately, no one packs the punch of the Astros. This team is so talented and so smartly developed that picking against them, while not sexy, seems the smartest path. Even if Severino was healthy, my pick is the Astros.
Wild Card: Colorado Rockies over Chicago Cubs
NLDS: Philadelphia Phillies (1) over Colorado Rockies (WC) in 5
NLDS: Milwaukee Brewers (2) over Los Angeles Dodgers (3) in 5
NLCS: Milwaukee Brewers over Philadelphia Phillies in 5
The Cubs are in store for a fun offseason next winter. Heck, this winter wasn’t fun either — did you know the Cubs are out of money? It even became fashionable to pick them to miss the postseason, and while I don’t see that exactly, the pitching rotation does feel like a shack ready to blow over. Another injury-plagued season from Kris Bryant and suddenly things aren’t quite as comfortable long-term either.
A part of me wants to say eff it and take the Dodgers to get back to the World Series again, but I just can’t. The fatigue of all these games the last few years and the concerns of Clayton Kershaw’s health was too much for me.
In the end, I’m riding with the Brewers because the combination of Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain and that bullpen are strong enough to ease my concerns over the rotation. This team can really play. Also, the playoffs are random and I like the idea of the Brewers getting another taste of the Fall Classic.
Too bad they’ll be facing a potential dynasty.
World Series: Houston Astros over Milwaukee Brewers in 5
AL MVP: Mike Trout
Let’s not get cute, okay? Aaron Judge will be great, Mookie Betts will be great. The AL has lots of great players. Pick the greatest.
Frankly, it bothers me that Trout only has two. I think this stuff kinda matters for the historical record. I hope he ends up with like four or five.
AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander
I want this. Look, I know this changes almost daily, but Verlander is my favorite pitcher. He’s just a modern marvel and I love him. An aging gunslinger who has barely lost a step is my kind of story.
Also: it kind of sucks that Verlander only has one Cy Young award, right? Feels wrong. Yes, I know, he has an MVP too.
AL Rookie of the Year: Baby Vlad, should the Baseball Gods bless us with his health and ample opportunity.
NL MVP: Corey Seager
He’s great and will be the principal reason why the Dodgers win yet another division crown. This is Seager’s team now and I can’t imagine a much better face for them.
NL Cy Young: Max Scherzer
Not getting cute here, either. Give me all the strikeouts. Also, a fourth Cy Young win for Mad Max puts him in some seriously rarefied air. Here’s the list of pitchers with four or more:
- Roger Clemens (7)
- Randy Johnson (5)
- Steve Carlton (4)
- Greg Maddux (4)
Padro Martinez, Sandy Koufax, Jim Palmer, Clayton Kershaw and Tom Seaver all have three.
NL Rookie of the Year: Fernando Tatis Jr. This might require the voters caring a lot about defense, but they should so there.
Presented in no particular order:
I think Yasiel Puig will be a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing season for Reds fans. The team can’t compete, but Puig certainly can entertain. Keep an eye on whether Luis Castillo develops, too.
It’s possible the Indians will regret not cashing in Corey Kluber. I’m worried. Age and a lot of metrics aren’t on his side anymore. With Trevor Bauer around, they still have an absolute ace, but …
The Tampa Bay Rays will be really good. If they were in the other East, they might win it.
Pay attention to how the Red Sox use Chris Sale now that he’s locked into a longer deal. He’s fragile but ever so dominant. No need to push him until like August, really. The Red Sox are playing for championships, not division crowns.
If James Paxton throws more than 160 innings, he’s a serious Cy Young candidate on narrative, anyway. He’ll have a lot of runs at his back and a bullpen to lock in a bunch of wins.
I didn’t end up picking them to make the playoffs, but the Atlanta Braves should be an absolute blast to watch. Ronald Acuña, Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman are a heck of a trio.
There’s lots of Jameson Taillon for Cy Young chatter around the Baseball Internet. Wouldn’t it be wild if Chris Archer tapped into that sort of unrealized potential of his and nearly won it himself?
Part of my heart belongs to the San Diego Padres for not messing around — a la the Toronto Blue Jays, Cincinnati Reds and so many others — with their top prospect. Francisco Tatis Jr will be on the Opening Day roster. The Pads will be a heck of a watch.
What to watch today
We’ve got a couple stellar pitching matchups for Opening Day.