Tuesday, April 1, 2008

2008 MLB Predictions, Take II

By Rick Morris

With the start of the season upon us, I've got an update to my February 3 season predictions. The previous two months have not led me to predict that many changes. Also, I want to recommend for your reading pleasure these end-of-spring training notes from my good friend Russ Cohen of Baseballology.

X-Boston 92-72
Y-New York Yankees 89-73
Tampa Bay 82-80
Toronto 82-80
Baltimore 60-102

Thoughts: Boston is still at the head of the class here, even though the Beckett/Schilling injury issues will keep the team from making a run at 100 wins as they might otherwise. The Yanks are realistically one starting pitcher away from the playoffs, and they'll get him solely through their willingness to take on a bad contract. The Rays and Jays will really surprise some people this season, and may linger on the fringes of the playoff chase through August if everything breaks right. Baltimore has an awesome outfield of the future and very little else.

X-Detroit 91-71
Cleveland 88-74
Minnesota 80-82
Chicago White Sox 78-84
Kansas City 77-85

Thoughts: Both of the top two teams have a flaw, Detroit with their bullpen and Cleveland with their heinous left field situation. The Tigers will win the division because their ownership is willing to pay the price to succeed and the Tribe's is not -- so a deadline deal decides this race, just like it will the wild card. Francisco Liriano is the heir to Johan Santana's mantle as Most Dominant Pitcher in the League, and he'll keep a retrenching Twins team right around .500 all year long. The White Sox won't be as horrible as they were last year, but not nearly as great/lucky as they were in '05. Kansas City will end up with a better record than most folks expect as this nucleus is coming together nicely and is being augmented with free agent signings that Larry Dolan won't shell out for in the form of Jose Guillen.

X-Los Angeles Angels 93-69
Seattle 88-74
Oakland 74-88
Texas 72-90

Thoughts: The Angels will have a great 1-2 punch when John Lackey (my pick for the AL Cy Young Award until he went down) gets back and will have an awesome 1-2-3 combo if Kelvim Eskimo-Bar makes it back. Regardless, their pitching depth is the envy of the division. Seattle played well over their heads last season, but will earn their record this year with two aces atop the rotation. Oakland is rebuilding, but will be a legitimate long-shot for the playoffs if Rich Harden stays healthy for once in his life. Texas needs pitching, not exactly a man-bites-dog story.

X-New York Mets 97-75
Atlanta 88-74
Philadelphia 87-75
Washington 68-94
Florida 60-102

Thoughts: Last year's collapse may never be forgotten, but the Mets will leave their NL near-misses behind this year when the world's greatest pitcher puts them over the top in the Senior Circuit. The Braves are loading up for a run similar to their '90s teams with the young talent on the way. Philly will miss the playoffs because of a dearth of consistent pitching throughout the roster. Even with a spiffy new park, D.C. needs some arms in order to be taken seriously. The Marlins have enough very young talent to be an early NL East frontrunner in 2011, but they will be a joke until then.

X-Milwaukee 88-74
Chicago Cubs 87-75
St. Louis 78-84
Cincinnati 78-84
Pittsburgh 74-88
Houston 70-92

Notes: The Brew Crew and Cubbies will reprise their '07 battle, with Yost getting the most out of his young roster en route to the crown. Times have really changed as St. Louis and Houston, the dominant teams of this decade in this division will lose a lot of ground due to terrible pitching. The Reds and Pirates are on the rise, albeit slowly.

X-Arizona 91-71
Y-Colorado 89-73
Los Angeles Dodgers 88-74
San Diego 87-75
San Francisco 65-97

Notes: Four above-average teams with a flaw apiece (D-Backs/pop, Rockies/starting pitching depth, Dodgers/hammer-atop-the-rotation, Padres/pop) will thrill fans with an epic battle all summer long -- and will abuse the pathetic Giants.

Los Angeles Angels over New York Yankees in 4
Boston over Detroit in 5
New York Mets over Colorado in 4
Arizona over Milwaukee in 4

Los Angeles Angels over Boston in 6
New York Mets over Arizona in 7

Los Angeles Angels over New York Mets in 6

AL MVP: Vladimir Guerrero
NL MVP: David Wright
AL CY YOUNG AWARD: Justin Verlander
NL CY YOUNG AWARD: Johan Santana

In terms of the strength of the different divisions, here's how they rated in 2007 in terms of collective games over or under .500:

1. NL West: +17
2. AL West: +9
3. AL East: +3
4. NL East: Even
5. AL Central: -1 (NOTE: I predicted on many shows all over SportsTalkNetwork.com that the AL Central would be a hugely overrated division in '07).
6. NL Central: -27 (!!!)

In terms of my projected records for teams in '08, here's how the strength of the different divisions would rate this year:

1. NL West: +15 (pretty close to last year, as four very good teams will pound each other and all will decimate Frisco)
2. AL Central: +9 (very improved)
3. AL West: +1 (poorer record, largely as a result of Oakland and Texas being all but out of the race from the start, but general stability collectively from last year)
4. AL East: Even (it will be much the same as the NL West -- with Tampa Bay and Toronto improving and Baltimore waving the white flag by trading their ace, four above-average teams this year will pound a horrible squad)
5. NL East: -5 (Florida's preemptive surrender accounts for most of the division's collective decline)
6. NL Central: -11 (the Brewers and Cubs are the only above-average teams here, but the Reds and Pirates are putting the pieces in place)

And here's the overall Power Rankings:

1. L.A. Angels
2. Boston
3. New York Mets
4. New York Yankees
5. Arizona
6. Detroit
7. Cleveland
8. Colorado
9. Milwaukee
10. Chicago Cubs
11. L.A. Dodgers
12. San Diego
13. Atlanta
14. Seattle
15. Philadelphia
16. Tampa Bay
17. Toronto
18. Minnesota
19. Chicago White Sox
20. Cincinnati
21. St. Louis
22. Kansas City
23. Oakland
24. Pittsburgh
25. Houston
26. Texas
27. Washington
28. San Francisco
29. Florida
30. Baltimore

As always, the ride will be memorable.

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