Monday, February 24, 2014

2014 MLB Predictions

After pitchers and catchers report to spring training, I usually start consulting various sources to get a handle on what might happen during the upcoming season. From what I can see, most sportswriters seem to be in general agreement about who will win their respective divisions. It's whats in-between that seems to be a source of debate. Here is the predicted order of finish according to a pair of trusted sources. I should preamble with the fact that Vegas odds aren't actually predictions--they're an attempt to maximize house profits. But since the smallest odds are given to top contenders, they're a fairly reliable barometer.

American League East
Vegas Odds               Bleacher Report
Red Sox                     Red Sox
Yankees                     Yankees
Orioles                        Rays
Rays                           Blue Jays
Blue Jays                    Orioles

American League Central
Vegas Odds               Bleacher Report
Tigers                         Tigers
Indians                        Royals
Royals                        Indians
White Sox                   White Sox
Twins                          Twins

American League West
Vegas Odds               Bleacher Report
Angels                        Rangers
A's                               A's
Rangers                      Angels
Mariners                     Mariners
Astros                         Astros

National League East
Vegas Odds               Bleacher Report
Nationals                    Nationals
Braves                        Braves
Phillies                       Mets
Mets                          Phillies
Marlins                       Marlins

National League Central
Vegas Odds               Bleacher Report
Cardinals                    Cardinals
Reds                          Pirates
Pirates                       Reds
Cubs                          Brewers
Brewers                      Cubs

National League West
Vegas Odds               Bleacher Report
Dodgers                     Dodgers
Giants                        Diamondbacks
Diamondbacks            Giants
Rockies                      Padres
Padres                        Rockies

Here are a few things worth watching during the upcoming season:

New rules are in effect allowing the use of instant replays and banning home plate collisions. I agree with both changes even though I am old school all the way. What remains to be seen is whether or not the instant replay will add significant length to games that are already becoming too long. I suspect that fans of the AL EAST will need more than four hours of their time to watch a Yankee/ Red Sox showdown in its entirety.

The Pirates made their first playoff appearance in more than twenty years, which was one of the bright spots of the 2013 campaign. They lost A.J. Burnett during the offseason, but pitchers Charlie Morton (lost to right elbow surgery) and Wandy Rodriguez (shelved with a forearm injury) are expected to be healthy this year. Gerrit Cole, who made his debut last June showed a lot of promise with a 10-7 record and 3.22 ERA. Can the Bucs do it again? 

The Washington Nationals have been hailed as a top prospect team for the last two seasons. So far, they haven't lived up to that billing. The annual Stephen Strasburg/ Bryce Harper watches are about to begin. Are these guys as good as everybody says they are? Sports Illustrated has predicted a Cy Young Award for Strasburg this year.

It will be refreshing to watch a season of Yankee baseball without the distractions created by A-Rod. All eyes will be on big money acquisition Masahiro Tanaka. Will he end up like Yu Darvish or Hideki Irabu? Only time will tell.

The Red Sox lost Jacoby Ellsbury, Stephen Drew and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. There were few if any big signings in the offseason. DH extraordinaire David Ortiz is getting old. Can the Red Sox repeat as world champs--or even division champs for that matter? And will the Chia Pet hair trend continue in Beantown?

The Dodgers are predicted by many to win the World Series. A healthy Hanley Ramirez and a full season from rookie sensation Yasiel Puig will give them an edge. Puig brought a lot of energy to the clubhouse and is fun to watch on the field. The Dodgers have added Dan Haren and Paul Moholm to their rotation. Things are looking pretty good for manager Don Mattingly, who was in the hot seat for awhile last year.  

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