Y! experts peer into a crystal baseball
Will the Boston Red Sox repeat as champions, or will the New York Yankees punch back? Which team among the American League newly rich – the Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Angels and Seattle Mariners – will make the strongest push?
Will Johan Santana pitch the New York Mets into the World Series, or will the Philadelphia Phillies or Atlanta Braves take the National League East? Will the Chicago Cubs win it all for the first time in 100 years? Who will prevail in the parity party known as the N.L. West?
Y! baseball experts make their calls.
Steve Henson's predicted standings
The Angels spent wildly on Torii Hunter and brought in Jon Garland, while losing shortstop Orlando Cabrera, not a bad offseason. The Mariners traded for Erik Bedard and signed Carlos Silva, dramatically improving an already solid starting rotation. Advantage: Mariners.
Credit the Indians and Tigers with flag-flying aspirations, spending, scheming and building to match rosters with the Red Sox and Yankees. The White Sox have made strides after their lingering post-World Series hangover but still can't come close to the favorites.
Late March adventures in the Tokyo Dome and the L.A. Coliseum might cause the Red Sox to start slow, but this is one of the best rosters in recent memory. Better than the Yankees, who are counting heavily on young pitchers and aging position players, and the Blue Jays, whose team doctor should be MVP if they win the division. The Rays are improving but are still middle-school level to the Red Sox graduate students.
This is the only division in baseball with four bona fide contenders, thanks to the Rockies' rise. The Diamondbacks are improved after winning the division last year yet will be hard-pressed to repeat because the Dodgers are better and the Padres at least as good. The Giants will be so bad they might actually be nostalgic for the buzz Barry Bonds brought for so many years.
Teams go from pretenders to contenders and back more quickly in this division than any other. This year's pleasant surprise likely will be the Reds, and it's possible that the Astros cobble together a contending club. Expect no such surge from the Cardinals, leaving the Cubs as the prohibitive favorite to win the division but to fall short of a World Series title for the 100th consecutive season.
Three up, two down. The Phillies, Mets and Braves should duke it out until the final days of the season, while the Nationals and Marlins will be among the worst teams in baseball. Emboldened by their playoff appearance last year, the Phillies are a confident bunch but might lack the pitching necessary to repeat. Johan Santana makes the Mets the favorite, and the Braves are due for a bounce-back year.
First round: Tigers over Red Sox; Indians over Mariners; Mets over Cubs; Dodgers over Braves
ALCS: Indians over Tigers
NLCS: Mets over Dodgers
World Series: Indians over Mets
Tim Brown's predicted standings
Given they'll start the season without John Lackey, Kelvim Escobar and Scot Shields, the Angels might have to play from behind and try to win it down the stretch. The Mariners, with their acquisition of Erik Bedard, should pitch their way into most games, but what will the offense do from there?
The Tigers will mash with everyone in baseball, but cracks in their bullpen make them vulnerable. The Indians could use a rebound year from Cliff Lee and a more typical Travis Hafner season. Last year was no fluke, but considering what the Tigers did, it was a tough winter to stand pat.
Red Sox Nation outpitches Yankees Universe for its second consecutive AL East title. The question is: As Brian Cashman conducts a rehabilitation of his pitching staff, do the Yankees have enough to hold off the Blue Jays? And is this finally the season the Blue Jays – B.J. Ryan, Scott Rolen, Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay, A.J. Burnett, critically – are healthy enough for long enough to play to their potential?
The usual race in the West, with little decided until the final 10 games. The Rockies don't line up with the others in terms of starting pitching, but their offense is far and away the best in the division. The Dodgers have a lot riding on Andruw Jones, which didn't look so promising in spring. The Diamondbacks fall off some, even with Dan Haren.
The Cubs generally don't do much with April, and have a lot of early cold-weather games again, but their pitching depth separates them from a generally weak division. The Brewers played sub-.500 ball after April last season and were terrible on the road, neither of which will keep them in contention a year later. Hoping Francisco Cordero settles their bullpen and some young arms come through, the Reds are a little better, but they're not with the Cubs yet.
I'd feel a lot better about the Mets if they could keep their guys on the field and if Carlos Delgado started to look like Carlos Delgado again. Assuming the addition of Johan Santana doesn't convince them they're unbeatable, casting them into another September malaise, the Mets should have enough to win. A reasonably healthy Braves pitching staff and a full season from Mark Teixeira could put a scare into the Mets and Phillies.
First round: Tigers over Angels; Red Sox over Indians; Mets over Cubs; Braves over Rockies
ALCS: Red Sox over Tigers
NLCS: Braves over Mets
World Series: Red Sox over Braves
Jeff Passan's predicted standings
The Mariners' rotation is too good to ignore. Forget Erik Bedard's forgettable spring. He's a true No. 1, as is a slimmed-down Felix Hernandez, and no team has two potentially better pitchers. Now they have a window, with injuries to John Lackey, Kelvim Escobar and Scot Shields putting the Angels' pitching in flux. Seattle's bats do worry, though in a division with Oakland and Texas, the Mariners should score enough to win.
Sorry, but the Tigers need relief pitching badly, and they gutted their farm system in acquiring Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis, so, no, they're not the favorite. Cleveland, on the other hand, returns its main pieces, gets Asdrubal Cabrera for a full season and should see rebound years from Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore, who weren't all that bad anyway. And White Sox: You deserve last place for shipping out Josh Fields. Since when does an offensively deprived club option a player who hit 23 homers in 373 at-bats?
Unlike the season after their last title, the champs bring back almost their entire team and have reinforcements waiting at Triple-A. The Yankees are in a transition season – bringing in the rookies and, perhaps, phasing out Brian Cashman – and will miss the playoffs for the first time since the strike. For now, everyone else is an afterthought, though once the Rays summon Evan Longoria, David Price, Jake McGee and Wade Davis, they'll be no longer.
The hardest division, by far, to predict, because everyone, even the Giants, has at least two potentially great pitchers. Los Angeles' rotation is the strongest, and with Joe Torre seemingly ready to play Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp daily, their lineup could play. Arizona added Danny Haren and gets Justin Upton for a full year, plus has Orlando Hudson playing for a contract. They could well be the choice. Colorado, though, is due for a correction. No matter how strong a lineup, the pitching depth simply isn't there.
Explain, please, what happened to all of the support for Milwaukee? Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun are the best 1-2 hitting punch in the game, their rotation is six-deep and their bullpen is powerful. The Cubs are a nice story. One hundred years. Yada yada. A shaky rotation dooms them. If Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, etc., are in the lineup by May, the Reds could contend. And how about St. Louis and Houston? From the World Series two and three years ago, respectively, to the basement.
If the Mets ever can get healthy, 94 wins will be the absolute floor. David Wright and Jose Reyes are heading toward their prime, John Maine is ready to make the leap and Johan Santana is, well, Johan Santana. Without him, the East is a three-way race, as the Phillies will mash and the Braves, too. Neither can match the depth of New York's pitching, though, and should Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran stay fit, the Mets are the favorites – and not just in the East.
First round: Red Sox over Tigers; Indians over Mariners; Mets over Cubs; Brewers over Dodgers
ALCS: Indians over Red Sox
NLCS: Mets over Brewers
World Series: Mets over Indians