Bold Predictions for the 2005 MLB Season
Also known as “Poor Choices”
By Adam Hoff
Despite the chilly weather here in Chicago and the exciting action in the NCAA Tournament, the calendar says that baseball is upon us. After a long winter of jubilation in Boston and a steroid controversy that threatened to taint the game and bore the fans, we’re finally getting back on the field. Here are my annual predictions for everything ranging from division champs to individual award winners.
We’ll start things off with a power ranking of every team compiled by using a highly complicated statistical system of measurement that is beyond reproach. Okay, it is just an arbitrary and subjective ranking system, but the fact remains that each roster does merit a ranking between 0 and 100. Here are the Insider “Power Rankings” going into the season, complete with comments about each team.
1. St. Louis Cardinals. They are better than last year with Mulder and a healthy Carpenter at the front of the rotation. The team to beat.
2. New York Yankees. Brown’s back injury knocks them down one peg, but they have the most talent in the AL.
3. Atlanta Braves. Hudson and Smoltz form the best duo in baseball. Kolb steps in and becomes a top-flight closer. Watch Andruw Jones have a monster year.
4. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Worst name change in recent memory, but best chemistry outside of New England. Best OF in the AL.
5. Boston Red Sox. They could be best postseason team once again, but the rotation looks a little rough to start the year.
6. Florida Marlins. They will engage in a furious NL East race with the Braves. If Beckett and Burnett are healthy they could win 95 games.
7. Minnesota Twins. Minneapolis is home to the best pitcher in the game, Johan Santana. Morneau, Ford, Mauer, and Cuddyer are making this team better than ever.
8. Philadelphia Phillies. The NL East is loaded and the Phils lurk as the surprise team in the NL.
9. San Diego Padres. Jake Peavy continues to emerge as Brian Giles bounces back in a big way. The Padres are putting it all together.
10. Chicago Cubs. It’s not quite as doomsday as people are saying, but the Cubbies just have too many injury concerns to rank any higher on the list at this point.
11. Cleveland Indians. 2006 is going to be the year of the Tribe, but they will make the Twins sweat this year as well if Westbrook and Sabathia can stay healthy.
12. Seattle Mariners. Bounce back team of 2005. Expect at least two question mark hurlers to step up and team with a suddenly dangerous offense and airtight defense.
13. Houston Astros. No Beltran, no Berkman for two months, and no middle relief. Too much to overcome, even if Pettitte is healthy.
14. San Francisco Giants. If this ancient squad can stay close until Bonds comes back, they will be a dangerous out in the postseason. Watch for Noah Lowry and Pedro Feliz to have breakout years.
15. Oakland Athletics. Moneyball gets put to the test without Mulder and Hudson.
16. Los Angeles Dodgers. Their whole season depends on Eric Gagne getting healthy. The infield has gone from spectacular to horrible defensively.
17. Texas Rangers. The AL West should be bunched, and the team with no pitching should come up on the short end.
18. New York Mets. I like where this team is headed, but Mike Piazza’s defense alone keeps them behind the big three in the NL East.
19. Chicago White Sox. Guillen is doing wonders with this team, but they are a year or two away from completing the transition into the Marlins of the AL.
20. Baltimore Orioles. Where is the pitching? They will lose a lot of 12-9 games.
21. Milwaukee Brewers. This could be a sleeper in the NL Central. Sheets-Davis-Capuano is a great trio of starters and Carlos Lee brings the badly needed power from the right side of the plate. Keep your eye on the Brew Crew.
22. Detroit Tigers. Jeremy Bonderman looks like a great young pitching prospect.
23. Toronto Blue Jays. Look for Roy Halladay to come back strong and for Miguel Bautista to emerge as a solid closer.
24. Arizona Diamondbacks. The D-Backs should be much improved but don’t have enough pitching to compete for the division.
25. Pittsburgh Pirates. Just enjoy Jason Bay and Oliver Perez.
26. Washington Nationals. Will lose more games than they should just because they have to play the Braves, Marlins, Phillies, and Mets all the time.
27. Cincinnati Reds. Possibly the worst pitching staff in the game.
28. Tampa Bay Devil Rays. At least bring up Upton and Gathright. What a mess.
29. Colorado Rockies. Nowhere to go but up.
Now, on to the playoff predictions:
Atlanta Braves (East winners) over San Diego Padres (West winners) 3-1.
St. Louis Cardinals (Central winners) over Florida Marlins (Wild Card) 3-2.
The Braves are too much for the Dads and they shake off concerns that they are tired after winning the NL East by one game over the Marlins. In the other matchup, the Cardinals get all they can handle from the relentless Marlins (I think they would have played in the WS last year if they’d been able to reach the playoffs), but the middle of the order is too much for Florida’s unproven bullpen. Carpenter and Mulder are up to the task of battling Beckett and Burnett.
St. Louis Cardinals over Atlanta Braves 4-3.
I actually think the Braves are the best postseason team in the NL with their pitching and experience, but the year-long battle in the division will take its toll. The Cardinals win the Central easily and are still fresh late in the season. Larry Walker and Jim Edmonds prove to be the difference against Hudson and Smoltz. (Side note: Everyone on the Cardinals is relieved to avoid Brad Lidge in the ’05 Postseason.)
Minnesota Twins (Central) over Boston Red Sox (Wild Card) 3-2.
LA Angels (West) over New York Yankees (East) 3-2.
After consecutive years of Sox-Yanks in the ALCS, we get neither in 2005. The Twins are the toughest team in baseball in a five-game series because of Johan Santana’s invincibility and they will find a way to scrape out another victory over the course of the series. In the other matchup, the Angels have depth everywhere on the diamond and the new Mariano Rivera to slam the door in Francisco Rodriquez. Watch Bartolo Colon salvage another rough season with a big postseason.
LA Angels over Minnesota Twins 4-2.
The legend of Johan Santana grows as he dominates in games one and four, but the Twins learn the hard lesson that you must have a stud number two starter to win it all these days. I like Radke as much as the next guy, but he just doesn’t make people miss. He and Joe Mays definitely don’t make the Angels miss as they barrel into the World Series in similar fashion to their 2002 run.
St. Louis Cardinals over LA Angels 4-3.
The Cardinals came close a year ago and then kind of got pushed aside in the minds of fans and experts after they were swept by the Red Sox. I think they are better than ever and have the kind of squad that can (nod to Digger Phelps here) “get it done.” David Eckstein is a winner and will be more than adequate at short and the starting pitching is much improved. Look for Mark Morris to allow fewer home runs and have a nice bounce back year to complement Carpenter and Mulder.
And finally, the award predictions:
NL Rookie of the Year. I was two-for-two on rookies of the year last year with Crosby and Bay, but it seems a little murky this time around. My guy in the NL, Chris Burke, was sent down to the minors, so I’ve got to try and pull a rabbit out of my hat. I’ll take Gavin Floyd of the Phillies; expect him to win at least 14 games and ultimately become the ace of that patchwork staff.
AL Rookie of the Year. I love Ruben Gotay in Kansas City, but there is some evidence that the Royals are going to be idiots and replace him with Graffanino down the road. Therefore, I’ll go with Jeremy Reed, who should be part of an outstanding trio of outfielders in Seattle.
NL Manager of the Year. I like Bruce Bochy to in what should be renamed the Bobby Cox Award.
AL Manager of the Year. Mike Scioscia is the best manager in the AL, but I’m going with Mike Hargrove reaping the benefits of Seattle’s turnaround.
AL Breakout Player. Mark Teixeira came through for me last year, so I’m confidently tabbing Justin Morneau for the award this year. Morneau could be the guy that gets the Twins over the hump and I’ve got him down for 40 home runs and 110 RBI. Others to watch: Rich Harden and pretty much anyone on the Indians.
NL Breakout Player. Miguel Cabrera was an easy choice in ’04, but things aren’t as clear in the NL this time around. I’m going with Jose Reyes of the Mets. If he can stay healthy, he could steal 50 bases and lead the Mets into the playoff hunt. Others to watch: Chase Utley could go .300/30/80 for the Phillies this year.
AL Comeback Player. Heading back to the Northwest is going to be good for Richie Sexson. He’s going to have a big season and lead the Mariners back into contention. Others to watch: Scott Podsednik and Garret Anderson.
NL Comeback Player. Even though he’s on the DL to start the season, I think Mark Prior is going to prove everyone wrong and have an outstanding season. If he gets at least 25 starts, he’ll win 15 games and keep the Cubs in the wild card race. Others to watch: Mike Piazza.
AL Cy Young. I’ve been picking Barry Bonds to win the NL MVP award for the past three years under the “Keep picking him until he gets hurt or retires” clause. The same clause applies here and I’m going with Johan Santana until there’s a reason to do otherwise.
NL Cy Young. There are three guys that I really want to pick for this award, but I’m going with the most underrated pitcher in the game, Jason Schmidt. He’s been dominant each of the past three seasons and is due to finally win this thing. Others to watch: Tim Hudson and John Smoltz.
AL MVP. I’m taking the same guy I took last year, Vlad Guerrero. He’s on a contending team, he’s great on both offense and defense, and his best season is still on the horizon. I think it’s this season; Vlad repeats. Others to watch: Hideki Matsui and Victor Martinez.
NL MVP. From last year’s column: “Until Barry Bonds retires or breaks both of his legs, I’m going to keep picking him for the NL MVP award.” Well, the knee injury and subsequent press conference is enough for me. The door is finally open for Albert Pujols and I fully expect him to step through it. Others to watch: Carlos Delgado, Miguel Cabrera, and Bobby Abreu.
There you have it; all of my fearless predictions for the 2005 season. Keep close track so that you can make fun of me in October.
Adam Hoff is a columnist for WhatifSports.com and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.