Saturday, April 04, 2015

2015 Predictions

No involved disclaimer this year; I will just point you to this article and point out that it applies even to much more formal predictions than those displayed here. This is my opinion and it is in the spirit of fun rather than analysis:

AL EAST
1. Boston
2. Toronto
3. New York
4. Baltimore
5. Tampa Bay

I am less confident in my order here than for any other division. The whole AL is something of a tossup, though, as many others have noted. I’ve settled on Boston for the East and the pennant. Their starting pitching is mediocre on paper, but at least they should have the resources to improve it (perhaps in a Cole Hamels type way) and a fair number of competent bodies to cycle through the back of the rotation in case of injury or ineffectiveness. But their offense projects as the best in the league. Toronto in many ways is the same team, but with an offense more dependent on its stars and a rotation that, outside Drew Hutchison, may lack the upside of Boston’s. New York looks like a middle-of-the-pack team to me; they may be better than recent years but have that masked by their recent Pythagorean outperformance. Either way I think they would need a lot of old players to stay healthy to win it. Baltimore is a team that I’ve missed on repeatedly, but I don’t just assume that this year’s equivalent of Steve Pearce or Miguel Gonzalez is bound to materialize. Plus I have a natural distrust of all things Ubaldo Jimenez is even tangentially associated with. Tampa Bay is a team that PECOTA loves, but I tend to agree with the mainstream on. Although they do seem like a high variance team and could surprise, plus Drew Smyly.

AL CENTRAL
1. Detroit
2. Cleveland (wildcard)
3. Chicago
4. Kansas City
5. Minnesota

I thought the Tigers were vulnerable last year; that is even more the case in 2015. Verlander’s status as an ace has been seriously impaired, Price for Scherzer from a preseason perspective is ok except that Drew Smyly and Austin Jackson are replaced by Alfredo Simon and Anthony Gose. Or is that Shane Greene and Rajai Davis? Does it really matter? The only reason I am picking them to win is because I can’t bring myself to pick Cleveland. The history of me picking the Shapiro era Indians to win is not a good one--I think 2007 is the only time I got it right. Plus the Indians are too popular among prognosticators for comfort. It’s easy to imagine a scenario where they are really good--Kluber approaches his 2014 performance, a couple of Carrasco/Salazar/Bauer/House are really good, Kipnis or Swisher bounces back, Gomes and Brantley don’t regress too much…but it’s also not that hard to picture multiple issues resulting in a catastrophic failure. While it’s hard to predict bullpens, the Indians looks a little precarious thanks to how hard it was worked last year and that the third and fourth righties are Scott Atchison and Anthony Swarzak. The White Sox have frontline players to compete with Detroit and Cleveland for sure, but I question whether the other pieces are strong enough. Tyler Flowers, catcher and Hector Noesi, any role don’t inspire confidence. Kansas City will be one of the great sabermetric/mainstream divergence cases, but other than Yordano Ventura, who am I supposed to like in their rotation? Other than Alex Gordon, who am I supposed to really like in their lineup? The Royals could contend again but it’s hard to pick it. There’s not much to say about the Twins, but I’m sure it’s all Joe Mauer’s fault anyway.

AL WEST
1. Los Angeles
2. Seattle (wildcard)
3. Oakland
4. Houston
5. Texas

My crude numbers have it as too close to call between Los Angeles and Seattle. The Angels would appear to have the stronger offense, the Mariners better pitching. All things being equal I’ll bet on the team with Mike Trout, although the lineup looks below average except for him. It would be fun if Oakland could hang around in the race and bust up some narratives, but I’ve never been a believer in the 2012-2014 A’s in making preseason predictions, so I’m certainly not going to start now. I think this will the year that Houston safely clears the bar of respectability, although that bar seems to be set higher for them as they have become a lightning rod, often for sabermetrically-inclined people who want to prove that they are not part of the herd. Such is the price of a touch of self-promotion and the stronger “Billy Beane should have never written that book” effect. I was all set to pick Texas as some kind of dark horse bounceback contender, and then my perennial Cy Young pick Yu Darvish went down and I took it as a sign to banish them to the bottom of the league.

NL EAST
1. Washington
2. New York
3. Miami
4. Atlanta
5. Philadelphia

There’s no reason to get off the Washington bandwagon now, as this looks like the safest division pick in MLB. With the teardown of the Braves, there is no credible threat on paper. I do have to balance my backlash impulses against the tendency to overrate supposed “Super Rotations” and the notion that they somehow guarantee playoff success, as if Washington sans Scherzer wasn’t a darn good group or the experience of the Halladay/Lee/Hamels/Oswalt Phillies and the Maddux/Glavine/Smoltz/(Avery/Neagle) Braves shouldn’t have disabused that notion long ago. But bonus likability points for the fact that so many people want to make Bryce Harper into a villain. The Mets were a tempting wildcard pick for me, but the loss of Wheeler made it easier to push them down a little bit. I personally like them better than the crude numbers I run, which only estimate 79 wins. Miami has a fun young core with Stanton, Yelich, Ozuna, Fernandez, etc. but I think they’ve jumped the gun on trying to win and at least one of those moves will be exposed as a big misstep (Dee Gordon). They are the best bet at the moment to be the next non-Washington winner of this division, though. In the span of two years, Atlanta has gone from a team I irrationally liked to one I thought was good but disliked (thanks Brian McCann!) to one that actively appears to court my dislike. It may not matter because they might have the worst offense in the majors. But that distinction may go to the Phillies, who may also have one of the worst pitching staffs. But they have Ryan Howard, franchise icon.

NL CENTRAL
1. St. Louis
2. Chicago (wildcard)
3. Pittsburgh
4. Milwaukee
5. Cincinnati

St. Louis is an easy pick in a different way than Washington--they don’t tower over the field to the same extent, but they are the only thing resembling a safe pick in the Central. And they have Jason Heyward now, which is good for multiple brownie points that didn’t contribute to this pick. I feel like a sucker for picking Chicago to win a wildcard. It’s really easy to let the prospect hype run wild in one’s mind and jump the gun. But what’s one to do? On paper they do appear to be the second-best team in the division, a good offense supporting a bad pitching staff. My crude workup (based on Fangraphs’ composite projections) isn’t counting on too much from Javier Baez or a full season from Kris Bryant, although it does assume Jorge Soler is an excellent player right now. My point is that it’s not a terribly over-exuberant projection. While I don’t put a whole lot of stock in it, Joe Maddon has experience with the quick turnaround, although this time everyone is watching for it. The East offers nothing special in the way of wildcard material and San Diego also carries potential for serious overhype. Pittsburgh should also be right in the mix, looking on paper to be pretty average on both sides of the ball. I overrated Milwaukee last year--I may be too quick to cast them aside in 2015, they also look like a .500 team on paper which in reality means they are a serious wildcard contender. It’s hard to imagine I would be less impressed with Cincinnati’s management post-Baker, and yet here we are. Moving every possible starter to the bullpen to go with Jason Marquis (Jason Marquis is still in the league?!!) at the back of the rotation does not inspire confidence, nor does the continued sniping (and more importantly, loss of skill) of Brandon Phillips. That Raisel Iglesias, who many felt would be a reliever, somehow escaped the Aroldis Chapman Memorial Black Hole, is a mystery that may never be fully explained.

NL WEST

1. Los Angeles
2. San Francisco (wildcard)
3. San Diego
4. Arizona
5. Colorado

I remain befuddled at why PECOTA loves the Dodgers so much; they are again clear favorites but a midpoint expectation of 98 wins doesn’t make any sense. Their offense is far from the sure thing I would expect to predict such a record, although they have intriguing Cubans on call in case of problems. Their bullpen also is far from a sure thing. San Francisco’s offense looks to be below-average, with strong pitching; if you ignore park effects one might say the same about San Diego. The Padres made a splash on the offensive side to be sure, but the left side of the infield is still spotty and it looks to me like pitching is their strength. Flip a coin between the Giants and the Padres; I’ve picked the former simply because it’s the less desirable outcome in my eyes. Arizona and Colorado are not just the two worst teams in this division on paper, they are both contenders for the worst team in the majors, with Philadelphia and perhaps Minnesota and Texas in on the game. When the moves made by Dave Stewart make more immediate intuitive sense than those by new GM Jeff Bridich (seriously, what’s the deal with Jorge De La Rosa?), it’s time to fear for the non-California wing of the NL West.

WORLD SERIES

Washington over Boston

I picked Washington last year and see no reason to stop now. Boston has the potential to make this post look absurd by August but that will happen one way or the other regardless.

AL Rookie of the Year: SP Carlos Rodon, CHA

AL Cy Young: Yovani Gallardo, TEX
Ok, ok, that’s a joke…I picked Gallardo to win the NL Cy more times than I would care to admit.
Serious pick: Chris Sale, CHA
I’m tempted to pick Drew Smyly but that wouldn’t be serious either. I do really like Drew Smyly though.

AL MVP: 2B Robinson Cano, SEA

NL Rookie of the Year: RF Jorge Soler, CHN

NL Cy Young: Stephen Strasburg, WAS
I’m sticking with this until it happens.

NL MVP: RF Bryce Harper, WAS

Worst team in each league: MIN, PHI

Most likely to go .500 in each league: OAK, MIL

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