Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Striking Out on Some Bold Predictions -- What Seth Saith Will Happen in Baseball, 2012 Edition

In 2012, more major league baseball teams will play in the postseason than ever have before. Thanks to the addition of a second wild-card team in each league, 10 of the 30 teams will now make the playoffs. Yet despite the improved odds, I don't think either the Chicago Cubs nor Chicago White Sox will be among them.

But last year, the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series despite Sports Illustrated--in its annual Baseball Preview issue leveraging many expert writers, stats gurus and scouts--picking them to finish 4th in the National League Central. And of 45 baseball experts--writers, broadcasters, former players, etc.--ESPN.com published predictions from last year, absolutely none picked the Cardinals to win it all and only seven predicted they'd make the playoffs.

32 of ESPN's 45 forecasters expected the Red Sox to win the World Series, but by virtue of a late-season collapse they didn't even make the playoffs. Just 4 of 45 from ESPN--plus SI in print--picked the Detroit Tigers to win the AL Central, yet they did so by 15 games. And no one picked the Arizona Diamondbacks to win the NL West, with Sports Illustrated predicting they'd finish last.

So although I am far from a baseball expert and not nearly the day-in, day-out fan that some of my friends are, I will nonetheless make some fearless baseball predictions. Or more accurately (I hope), guesses.

One thing I feel quite safe in predicting is that it will be a pretty fun season on a national level, even if those of us in Chicago are unlikely to have much to cheer about in what appears to be a rebuilding year for both teams.

I was intending to say something cheeky like even though 10 of 30 teams will make the playoffs, only about 20 have a chance. But after pointing out how the Cardinals, Diamondbacks and Tigers surprised most everyone last year, I realize such proclamations are pretty dumb.

Yet there does clearly appear to be a cadre of power teams that are perennially good and/or who opened their checkbooks to (theoretically) elevate their game--the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Tigers, Angels, Rangers, Phillies, Marlins and perhaps Giants. If we skip ahead to early November and any of these teams have won the World Series, I wouldn't be tremendously surprised.

There are also several teams that don't seem--at least on paper, as they used to say--to have much realistic expectation to make the postseason in 2012. I'm not the only one who thinks so, as the Orioles, Royals, White Sox, Indians, Twins, Mariners, A's, Mets, Pirates, Astros and Padres all have listed odds of at least 60-to-1 to win the World Series. The Cubs are 40/1 but some cockeyed optimists likely bet the odds downward.

So that's 9 elite teams and 12 presumably inconsequential ones. Yet even if this holds true to form--and chances are one of the 21 will wind up being surprisingly good or bad--there could be considerable drama from the other 9 franchises.

Over the past 5 seasons, 4 of the 5 teams in the NL West have made the playoffs, with the Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Rockies doing so twice and the Giants winning the World Series in 2010. And I won't be shocked if any of them (other than the Padres) top the division this year.

Similarly, 4 of the 6 NL Central teams--the lousy Astros will move to the AL West next season and the Pirates have at least one outstanding player--have made the playoffs over the past 5 seasons, three of them twice. Right now, the division looks to be a race of listless horses after the losses of Pujols and Fielder have depleted the Cards and Brewers, but again, think about what the Cardinals did last year.

I feel a bit bad for the Toronto Blue Jays and Washington Nationals, as both should be quite a bit better than in years past but still unlikely to scale the top of their tough divisions. I guess that's why they added a Wild Card.

For if you can't beat out--assuming my and especially Vegas' presumptions hold water--only 8 other teams with a realistic shot of making the playoffs, you don't deserve to.

Anyway, take these predictions for what they're worth, but don't take them to the bank.

American League East   

1. Tampa Bay Rays
2. New York Yankees
3. Boston Red Sox
4. Toronto Blue Jays
5. Baltimore Orioles

American League Central

1. Detroit Tigers
2. Kansas City Royals
3. Chicago White Sox
4. Cleveland Indians
5. Minnesota Twins

American League West

1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2. Texas Rangers
3. Seattle Mariners
4. Oakland Athletics

Wild Cards: Yankees and Red Sox
AL Pennant Winner: Rays
AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
AL Cy Young: David Price, Rays
White Sox Record: 74-88

National League East   

1. Miami Marlins
2. Philadelphia Phillies
3. Washington Nationals
4. Atlanta Braves
5. New York Mets

National League Central

1. Cincinnati Reds
2. Milwaukee Brewers
3. St. Louis Cardinals
4. Chicago Cubs
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
6. Houston Astros

National League West

1. San Francisco Giants
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
3. Colorado Rockies
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
5. San Diego Padres

Wild Cards: Phillies and Dodgers
NL Pennant Winner: Phillies
NL MVP: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
NL Cy Young: Josh Johnson, Marlins
Cubs Record: 68-94

World Series Winner: Philadelphia Phillies

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