Baseball: Fanatical Phillies fans to rejoice in 2010

by Tim Ivins

10am Monday morning, Eastern Standard Time, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox will step out, not onto the turf of the SCG as was suggested by the Daily Telegraph to the shock and chagrin of American baseball fans everywhere but rather the history steeped Fenway Park. Over the coming 6 months, 2430 regular season games will be played, around 5000 hits will be Home Runs, there will be brawls, injuries, rookies will become stars (Paging S. Strasburg, Mr Stephen Strasburg) and over 100 million people worldwide will question why on earth the Minnesota Twins were allowed to build a stadium without a roof when snow frequently falls in April and October. Despite these variables, this is how I think it will play out.

AL East

We start with the toughest division in Baseball. The New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays are good enough to win any other division. Unfortunately though, 3 does not go into 2. The Yankees won it all last year and have upgraded their outfield. With Joba Chamberlain shifted back to the Pen they’re my tip to win the East. The Red Sox will tie with the Rays and have to play a 163rd elimination game to win the Wild Card and qualify for the playoffs. They have one of the strongest batting line ups without a weakspot all the way through. The only thing missing is a power hitter, but mark my words, come mid year, or 2011 at worst, the best bat in baseball Adrian Gonzalez will be in the team. Tampa Bay will finish third, Evan Longoria will push for the MVP and they have incredible young pitching but I feel that again, they will just fall short.

The gap to the Baltimore Orioles will be long but there is hope for Orioles fans, years of top draft picks will see them close the gap and they have a great mix of rookies and veterans. I’m expecting them to break .500 for the first time since 1997 but 2010 is just a little too early. For Toronto Blue Jays fans there is nothing but pain ahead for the next few years. They lost the best pitcher in Baseball to the Phillies and he was the only thing keeping them afloat. 100 losses are on the cards this year.

AL Central

From the toughest division we go to the weakest. The Minnesota Twins were the clear favourites coming into the season. New stadium, home grown star Joe Mauer locked up for 8 years and a postseason appearance in 2009. Then closer Joe Nathan injured his elbow and all of a sudden they look vulnerable. Despite this I still think they have enough to squeak through to the postseason. The Chicago White Sox led for a long time last year. My gut instinct tells me that they will win the Division but it just doesn’t sit right. Jake Peavy is a fly ball pitcher in a batters park and they are relying on big bats to stay injury free. If everything falls into place they can win handsomely, but I just can’t see it happening.

The Detroit Tigers will trail in third, they’re stacked with bats and their fortunes rest on the two superstars they traded for in 2007. Miguel Cabrera is a MVP calibre infielder who missed the elimination game against the Twins last year due to imbibing a tad too much of the amber fluid whilst Dontrelle Willis is the number three starter with one win in two years. Those two need to star for them to be a chance. One will, one won’t.

It will then be a race to the bottom between the Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals neither team has much to hope for. I’ll be keeping an eye on Matt La Porta and Grady Sizemore for Cleveland, but aside from the pitching of Zach Greinke, Kansas are going nowhere fast.

AL West

Four teams and four potential winners are out west. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have 5 solid starters but no star and have lost key players to the Seattle Mariners. Seattle are rejuvenated under new manager Don Wakamatsu and have made some savvy trades picking up Cliff Lee and Chone Figgins. The only thing preventing them from favouritism is a question of depth. Casey Kotchman and Milton Bradley are possibly the weakest 3 and 4 bats in the league and the rotation falls away after Lee and Felix Hernandez. If they make it they’re the good news story but I just think they’re a year away.

The Oakland Athletics are rebuilding again, they have amazing young pitching but they just don’t have the batting depth to take out the division. That depth is held by the Texas Rangers, who have an outstanding young pitching staff and a balanced batting line up. The only problem is a coach who tested positive to Cocaine last week. In baseball, failed drug tests are nothing new so aside from barbs from opposition fans suggesting he snort the baseline there will be very little impact on a team that will make its first postseason appearance since 1999.

AL Division Series

New York Yankees def Minnesota Twins in 3

Boston Red Sox def Texas Rangers in 5

AL Championship Series

Boston Red Sox def New York Yankees in 7

NL East

The Philadelphia Phllies have won the past 3 division titles and last season they emptied the farm to attract Roy Halladay, the best pitcher in Baseball from the Blue Jays. Halladay will be unstoppable with a strong supporting cast, becoming their first 20 game winner since 1983. The Atlanta Braves fell apart at the end of the season, but there is reason for hope. Tommy Hanson is one of the most feted young pitchers in the game and outfielder Jason Heyward is projected to become a future superstar. I’m tipping Atlanta to improve on their 40-41 home record of last season and in the process,  do enough to take home the Wild Card.

The Florida Marlins are an enigma, they have the second smallest budget in the game but always contend for the playoffs. 2010 will be no different as they are led by a strong pitching rotation but it won’t be enough and they’ll just fall short of a playoffs appearance. The New York Mets had the world at their fingertips last season, their new stadium was opened and they boasted an experienced line up that looked capable of a deep run. Then it all fell apart, David Wright struggled to hit in the new park and father time caught up with an old line up, ravaging them with injuries. Add in a pitching rotation that has one quality pitcher in Johan Santana and 2010 is destined to be a repeat of 2009.

The final spot will again be held by the Washington Nationals. Stephen Strasburg, the most hyped pitching prospect in 20 years will make his debut this season and with it will come respectability and the path to redemption for the team. When you add in a decent starting rotation, a power hitter in Adam Dunn and shortstop prospect Ian Desmond, the years of 100 loss seasons are over.

NL Central

The St Louis Cardinals deserve to be favourites despite entering 2010 with a lesser team than what it put on the field in 2009. The defining feature about the Cardinals is balance. This team has offensive options and quite possibly the strongest middle order in the competition in Pujols and Holliday. Add in true pitching studs in Carpenter in Wainwright and they should win easily. I’ve just got a feeling that an upset is Brewing in what is arguably the weakest division in baseball so expect a dogfight to the finish.

Every year, a team goes from a losing record to a winning one and pushes for the playoffs. This year I’m sticking my neck out on the line and tipping the Milwaukee Brewers to be that team. The Brewers have an extremely strong batting line up with all-stars in Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun. Add in youngsters destined to improve in Casey McGehee and Alcides Escobar and a strong nucleus is formed. The problem for the Brewers is the pitching. If their starters stay fit they can be stars. I’ll say that they will, but they will just fall short of playoffs action.

The Cincinnati Reds are the fashionable tip to win, they have a stellar young team and a balanced pitching line up. The only thing stopping them from reaching their potential is their coach. Dusty Baker is an old school coach in a new generation of Baseball. If the Reds start slow and Baker gets fired I can see them becoming this years Rockies and charging to the finals. If not, see you in 2011.

The Chicago Cubs have new owners and it’ll take them time to put their imprint on the team. Look for a bounce back year from Geovanny Soto but they just don’t have the pieces to make a sustained run. It then becomes a race to the bottom between the Houston Astros and Pittsburgh Pirates. The Astros have a big gap between the best and their rest. Their outfield  can rake and Roy Oswalt is a stud pitcher when fit but it is questionable whether players like J.R. Towles and Tommy Manzella can step up and bridge the gap. Pittsburgh on the other hand are staring their 18th consecutive losing season in the face. The churn of players appears to have stopped and now the rebuilding can begin. At least Pirates fans can take solace in having the prettiest park in the majors and a future superstar in Andrew McCutchen running around in the middle.

NL West

I covered the West in depth in an earlier post (https://footyalmanac.com.au/?p=8248). I firmly believe that the Colorado Rockies are the team to beat. They had a 76-44 record under Jim Tracy and have retained the core of the team that played last year. The only concern is the health of closer Huston Street, regardless though this team should be good enough to win the West.

The Los Angeles Dodgers would be favourites given their performance last year and retain a well balanced team. However with the owners divorce looming overhead, a fire sale is on the cards. If the players are playing for their own stats and their next home then that is not a recipe for success. The San Francisco Giants wait in the wings. They have the best pitching rotation in baseball but they just can’t hit. If the owners are serious about wining Buster Posey must play and they must make trades during the season. Sadly, I just can’t see it happening.

Arguably the most difficult team to read are the Arizona Diamondbacks. On paper they have a decent line up. Mark Reynolds will hit 35 home runs and is a chance to knock in 40, Adam La Roche can hit as well and they have two quality pitchers in Dan Haren and Brandon Webb. Transport this team to the NL Central and they could press for the playoffs, I just can’t see it in the tough NL West.

Finally there is the San Diego Padres, firmly entrenched in rebuilding mode, they will not compete this season. Padres fans will have to enjoy Adrian Gonzalez while they can, because he will move midseason. Thankfully they have a potential cult favourite in Kyle Blanks to fill his shoes.

NL Division Series

Philadelphia Phillies def St Louis Cardinals in 3

Colorado Rockies def Atlanta Braves in 4

NL Championship Series

Philadelphia Phillies def Colorado Rockies in 6

World Series

Philadelphia Phillies def Boston Red Sox in 6

So there we have it, mark it down. On the proviso that Adrian Gonzalez is not in the Boston line up come October, the Philadelphia Phillies will win it all this year. This caveat sums it up nicely though, with so many variables at play anything can happen. And it probably will.

Comments

  1. Tampa Bay and San Francisco playing in the ‘Nobody Wants To Score Bowl’.

  2. ‘The San Francisco Giants wait in the wings. They have the best pitching rotation in baseball but they just can’t hit. If the owners are serious about wining Buster Posey must play and they must make trades during the season. Sadly, I just can’t see it happening.’

    I’m pretty proud of that piece of foresight. Posey was called up on May 29 and they made it through the first round off the hot bat of recently acquired Cody Ross.

    Unfortunately, it wasn’t all good. ‘Finally there is the San Diego Padres, firmly entrenched in rebuilding mode, they will not compete this season’.

    Ouch!

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