Archive for March, 2013

2013 MLB Predictions

Posted: March 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

 

 

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On the eve of the 2013 season, all 30 teams can rightfully hold high hopes in their hearts. Even the Houston Astros, whose 213 losses the last two seasons dwarfs any other total across baseball, can believe that 2013 will be their year. For some, those dreams will be dashed. For others, this is just the beginning of a momentous and miraculous season yet to come. Without further ado, here are the official predictions for SkoodSports.com:

AL EAST PROJECTED ORDER OF FINISH

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PROJECTED RECORDS

1. Toronto Blue Jays – 88-74
2. New York Yankees – 86-76
3. Boston Red Sox – 83-79
4. Tampa Bay Rays – 80-82
5. Baltimore Orioles – 74-88

AL CENTRAL PROJECTED ORDER OF FINISH

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PROJECTED RECORDS

1.Detroit Tigers – 94-68
2. Cleveland Indians – 85-77
3. Kansas City Royals – 82-80
4. Chicago White Sox – 76-86
5. Minnesota Twins – 65-97

AL WEST PROJECTED ORDER OF FINISH

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PROJECTED RECORDS

1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – 97-65
2. Oakland Athletics – 88-74
3. Texas Rangers – 85-77
4. Seattle Mariners – 77-85
5. Houston Astros – 57-105

NL EAST PROJECTED ORDER OF FINISH

nats phillies braves marlin mets

PROJECTED RECORDS

1. Washington Nationals – 94-68
2. Philadelphia Phillies – 87-75
3. Atlanta Braves – 84-78
4. Miami Marlins – 73-89
5. New York Mets – 71-91

 

NL CENTRAL PROJECTED ORDER OF FINISH

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PROJECTED RECORDS

1. Cincinnati Reds – 91-71
2. St. Louis Cardinals – 85-77
3. Milwaukee Brewers – 80-82
4. Pittsburgh Pirates – 78-84
5. Chicago Cubs – 69-93

NL WEST PROJECTED ORDER OF FINISH

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PROJECTED RECORDS

1. San Francisco Giants – 89-73
2. Arizona Diamondbacks – 86-76
3. Los Angeles Dodgers – 84-78
4. Colorado Rockies – 74-88
5. San Diego Padres – 70-92

AWARDS PROJECTIONS

AL MVP

1B Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers

NL MVP

1B Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds

AL CY YOUNG

RHP Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

NL CY YOUNG

RHP Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants

AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

CF Aaron Hicks, Minnesota Twins

NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

CF Adam Eaton, Arizona Diamondbacks

AL MANAGER OF THE YEAR

Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians

NL MANAGER OF THE YEAR

Kirk Gibson, Arizona Diamondbacks

POSTSEASON PROJECTIONS

WILDCARD PLAYOFFS

Oakland Athletics (88-74) OVER New York Yankees (86-76)
Philadelphia Phillies (87-75) OVER Arizona Diamondbacks (86-76)

DIVISIONAL SERIES

Los Angeles Angels OVER Oakland Athletics in 5
Detroit Tigers OVER Toronto Blue Jays in 3

Washington Nationals OVER Philadelphia Phillies in 5
Cincinnati Reds OVER San Francisco Giants in 4

LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

Detroit Tigers OVER Los Angeles Angels in 7

Cincinnati Reds OVER Washington Nationals in 6

WORLD SERIES

Detroit Tigers OVER Cincinnati Reds in 5

If SkoodSports’ projections hold true, the Detroit Tigers will be celebrating their first championship since 1984.

ImagePicking the Washington Nationals to win the World Series is one thing. Claiming that the Rays have the game’s best staff after trading James Shields and Wade Davis is another.

But, giving a guy who has never thrown a SINGLE PITCH in the postseason the nickname, Mr. October, is at its core, the height of asininity.

Go home, Sports Illustrated. You’re drunk!

ImageFor the second time in three seasons, the San Francisco Giants are the defending World Series champions. Their core, established with a focus on starting pitching and clutch hitting, has cemented itself as one of, if not the best in baseball.

C Buster Posey (.336-24-103) shined brightest of them all. After missing most of 2011 due to a gruesome leg injury, the 2010 NL Rookie of the Year powered the Giants back to the postseason, earning his first NL MVP in the process. His supporting cast on offense featured World Series MVP Pablo Sandoval (.283-12-63), steroid user Melky Cabrera (.346-11-60), and late season pickup Marco Scutaro (.362-3-44); who emerged from relative mediocrity to establish himself as one of the team’s finest clutch hitters (and earn himself a hefty new contract in the process). Hunter Pence (.219-7-45), acquired from the Phillies at the trade deadline, struggled to get acclimated to playing in San Francisco. He returns for one more season before hitting free agency following 2013.

The Giants’ pitching staff overcame a disastrous season from former two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum (10-15, 5.18). Surprisingly strong seasons from Barry Zito (15-8, 4.15) and former Lehigh Valley IronPigs starter Ryan Vogelsong (14-9, 3.37) helped in picking up the slack of the former superstar right-hander. Meanwhile, Matt Cain (16-5, 2.79) continued his meteoric rise to the top, throwing a perfect game on June 13th vs. Houston.

The bullpen, once revolving around the enigmatic closer Brian Wilson (0-0, 9.00), is now headlined by Sergio Romo (4-2, 1.79, 14 SV) and Santiago Casilla (7-6, 2.84, 25 SV). The two righties emerged as bona fide shutdown closers in the wake of Wilson’s injury.

In the playoffs, the Giants fell behind the Reds 2-0 at home, then won three consecutive games in Cincinnati to earn a berth in the NLCS. Once there, the Giants overcame a 3-1 deficit vs. St. Louis, capturing the final three games by a combined score of 20-1. The World Series, which was hyped as a matchup of talented pitching staffs and powerful offensive stars, ended up being a one-sided affair. The Giants spanked Tigers’ RHP Justin Verlander in game one, then did not allow another run until game four en route to a sweep. Can San Francisco establish a dynasty in 2013? With most of their roster returning from last year, one would have to assume that the boys from the Bay Area are all in for one more ride to the promised land.

Five Year Review

2012: 94-68
Won World Series over Tigers, 4-0
2011:
86-76
2010:
92-70
Won World Series over Rangers, 4-1
2009: 88-74
2008:
72-90

Key Acquisitions

3B Tony Abreu (Kansas City Royals)
OF Andres Torres (New York Mets)
RHP Chad Gaudin (Miami Marlins)

Key Departures

1B Aubrey Huff (unsigned)
C Eli Whiteside (Texas Rangers)
2B Freddy Sanchez (unsigned)
SS Ryan Theriot (unsigned)
OF Xavier Nady (unsigned)
RHP Brian Wilson (unsigned)
RHP Brad Penny (unsigned)
RHP Guillermo Mota (unsigned)

Projected Lineup

CF Angel Pagan – .278-8-54, 26 SB
2B Marco Scutaro – .275-6-52
3B Pablo Sandoval – .289-20-83
C Buster Posey – .306-21-89
RF Hunter Pence – .269-19-83
1B Brandon Belt – .265-13-66, 12 SB
LF Gregor Blanco – .238-4-32, 19 SB
SS Brandon Crawford – .239-6-46

RHP Matt Cain – 14-9, 3.16
RHP Tim Lincecum – 12-10, 3.61
LHP Madison Bumgarner – 13-9, 3.28
RHP Ryan Vogelsong – 11-10, 3.80
LHP Barry Zito – 8-9, 4.47

RHP Sergio Romo – 3-2, 2.25, 30 SV
RHP Santiago Casilla – 3-2, 3.41, 1 SV

2013 Outlook

The Giants will look to establish themselves as the unrivaled champions of the National League with another strong season in 2013. Their lineup has impact performers from the leadoff spot down through the five-hole. The bottom of the lineup is significantly below-average, however. What the Giants don’t do with the bats, though, they more than make up for with the glove.

Their rotation will once again be among the best in baseball. Cain, Bumgarner, and Vogelsong have developed into reliable arms with postseason experience. Lincecum, once the best of the group, will need to prove that 2012 was a fluke and not the beginning of what some already expected, a dramatic downward spiral due to his unorthodox delivery and diminutive stature putting added stress on Lincecum’s arm.

Overall, the Giants are a very, very talented team. After all, they have won two championships in three seasons. But, the N.L. West is no longer a cakewalk. Los Angeles or Arizona could put pressure on the Giants as the season progresses. Still, there is little doubt who the most complete team is. I foresee the Giants winning between 93-99 games, capturing their second consecutive division championship.

ImagePerhaps the most unknown team among casual fans in the entire league, the San Diego Padres have quietly built a respectable roster with promising prospects who should emerge as impact performers over the next few seasons.

Manager Buddy Black, who has been with the team since 2007, has managed to hang on to his job in spite of the fact that he has not made the postseason in San Diego. Last year, the Padres overcame an offseason that saw them trade their ace, Mat Latos, and their top offensive prospect, Anthony Rizzo, to improve five games and finish at 76-86.

The offense was led by veterans Chase Headley (.286-31-115) and Carlos Quentin (.261-14-46). Youth also was a contributing factor to the team’s improvement, as C Yasmani Grandal (.297-8-36), 1B Yonder Alonso (.273-9-62), and RHP Andrew Cashner (3-4, 4.27) all showed that the promise that has followed them for years may be finally coming to fruition. 

For San Diego to contend in 2013, they will need continued production from their youth as well as a healthy Quentin in left field. The rotation, led by the duo of LHP Clayton Richard (14-14, 3.99) and RHP Edinson Volquez (11-11, 4.14), is strong at the top but not very deep. Veteran Jason Marquis (6-7, 4.04) showed that he still has something left in the tank. The back end will rely on a combination of Marquis, Cashner, Eric Stults (8-3, 2.92), and Tyson Ross (2-11, 6.50). The latter was a former top prospect for Oakland who showed promise in 2011 before falling completely into disarray in 2012.

Five Year Review

2012: 76-86
2011:
71-91
2010:
90-72
2009:
75-87
2008:
63-99

Key Acquisitions

3B Cody Ransom (Arizona Diamondbacks)
RHP Tyson Ross (Oakland Athletics
RHP Fautino De Los Santos (Milwaukee Brewers)

Key Departures

RHP Dustin Moseley (unsigned)
LHP Josh Spence (New York Yankees)
LHP Andrew Werner (Oakland Athletics)

2013 Projected Lineup

SS Everth Cabrera – .244-3-33, 40 SB
3B Jedd Gyorko – .258-15-55
LF Carlos Quentin – .254-20-68
1B Yonder Alonso – .266-12-69
RF Will Venable – .249-11-49, 19 SB
CF Cameron Maybin – .254-10-53, 23 SB
C Nick Hundley – .225-5-28
2B Alexi Amarista – .255-2-15

RHP Edinson Volquez – 9-10, 4.10
LHP Clayton Richard – 10-12, 4.12
RHP Jason Marquis – 7-10, 4.44
LHP Eric Stults – 7-8, 4.26
RHP Tyson Ross – 5-5, 4.34

RHP Huston Street – 3-3, 2.89, 31 SV
RHP Luke Gregerson – 3-2, 3.05, 1 SV

2013 Outlook

The news would be better for Padres fans had Chase Headley not been lost for the first 6-8 weeks of the season due to injury. To make things even worse for their offense, promising young C Yasmani Grandal is suspended for the first 50 games of the season due to violating the league’s ban on performance-enhancing drugs. That is two out of the team’s three best hitters last season that will miss at least the first month and a half of the season.

The team has some young arms. But, they are unproven, and who knows how they will perform on the big stage. One can expect Volquez and Richard to perform as they typically do. But, can Marquis and Stults replicate their 2012 performances? Also, what will the team get out of Andrew Cashner, a fireballer who was the centerpiece of their Anthony Rizzo deal with the Cubs in 2011.

Overall, the Padres would seem to be a trendy pick to finish .500 with a healthy Headley and a non-suspended Grandal. But, one cannot do anything about the transgressions of the past. I foresee the Padres struggling early and improving as the season goes on. Their final win total will be between 73-79 games, good for fourth or fifth in the National League West.

ImageThe first week is over, and if you are anything like myself, most if not all of your brackets have eroded into confetti. 16 teams still remain alive for a national title, and below is a list from the least likely to the most likely team to be crowned 2013 champions two Mondays from now:

16. La Salle Explorers

It has been a nice ride for the Explorers, and the fact that they get a mid-major in Wichita State should lend to their chances of advancing. But, La Salle’s first two victories (I do not count the stupid financially motivated play-in-games) came by a combined four points, and Ron Baker and Wichita have already proven that they have what it takes to “Shock” their opponents.

15. Florida Gulf Coast Eagles

What a story this school has been. For the first time in history, a #15 seed has advanced to the Sweet 16. Of course, the Eagles have quite a daunting task in their midst, as they get set to take on #3 Florida, who squashed FGCU last year. I give them the edge over La Salle merely because of their knack for brutally one-sided upsets. But, I cannot seriously consider this team as a championship contender.

14. Marquette Golden Eagles

Marquette was able to ride Vander Blue into the Sweet 16. But, their combined total margin of victory is just three points. If one shot goes the other way in either of their first two games, the Golden Eagles are back in class right now. Their reward for their narrow victories? A matchup with Miami followed by a potential meeting with Indiana. Good luck.

13. Oregon Ducks

It has been a phenomenal resurrection in Oregon, as the Ducks rode a Pac-12 Tournament championship into the field. Their victories over Oklahoma State (13 points) and Saint Louis (17 points) were monumentally impressive. In any other bracket, Oregon would have a real fighter’s chance. But, unfortunately, they sit in the Midwest, with Louisville, Michigan State, and Duke all waiting beyond the horizon.

12. Wichita State Shockers

The biggest thing Wichita State has going for it is the bracket. After knocking off perennial postseason disaster Gonzaga in the Round of 32, the Shockers get #13 La Salle, then the winner of #2 Ohio State and #6 Arizona. None of those teams are overwhelmingly more talented than Wichita State, who will continue to ride Cleanthony Early and Ron Baker.

11. Syracuse Orange

Any other year, the Orange would probably be a favorite at this point. But, as a #4 seed in a difficult bracket, Jim Boeheim’s group has a tough task ahead of them. Even if they do upset #1 Indiana on Thursday, Syracuse will still have to deal with #2 Miami before they reach the Final Four. The good news is, Syracuse is playing better than they did against their conference opponents this season. The bad news, they haven’t played anybody, trashing #13 Montana before squeaking past #12 California.

10. Arizona Wildcats

This is another team that has not played anyone. We will certainly know more about the tenacity of this group if they are able to knock off #2 Ohio State this weekend. Arizona was once a top-five team and winners of their first 14 games this season (including wins over Miami, San Diego State, Colorado, and Florida). They struggled against the Pac-12, but, have picked it up recently.

9. Florida Gators

I doubt that Florida loses to Gulf Coast. The mere fact that this is a rivalry game of sorts hurts FGCU more than it does the Gators. Billy Donovan’s team has poise, experience, and talent. But, they have been wildly inconsistent at times, and did not exactly play the most demanding schedule in the SEC. They also have not beaten anyone this tournament, having slayed Northwestern State before pounding a Minnesota team that fired their coach the following day.

8. Michigan Wolverines

The Wolverines were 16-0 and #2 in the nation on January 12th. The following evening, they succumbed to Nebraska and kicked off a very mediocre run during their conference schedule. The good news for Michigan fans is that they looked as good as ever against VCU on Saturday, and the only teams they have lost to recently have been very talented defensive units. The bad news, they are playing a very talented defensive unit in Kansas.

7. Michigan State Spartans

I love Tom Izzo’s experience and poise during game day. I also love Adreian Payne and the fact that Michigan State has not lost to an unranked team this season. I do not love their schedule, which would require victories over Duke and Louisville this weekend just to make a trip to Atlanta. If they do advance to the Final Four, however, they would likely be well-prepared to win their first national title since the Mateen Cleaves days.

6. Miami Hurricanes

Miami benefits from getting Marquette tomorrow, a team they should soundly defeat. If their next opponent is Indiana, Miami has a fighting chance as well due to their proficiency from beyond-the-arc. Temple showed on Sunday that the Hoosiers’ guards can be exploited by talented perimeter scorers. Miami has a problem at times with playing down to their competition, so watch out for that.

5. Ohio State Buckeyes

In any other region, the Buckeyes would be just another team in the fold. But, with Gonzaga and New Mexico’s ouster in the first weekend, the Buckeyes are now the prohibitive favorites to advance to Atlanta from the West. The good news for those in Columbus, Ohio State has not lost since February 17th (10 games). The bad news, five of the seven teams they have lost to this season are still in the tournament.

4. Indiana Hoosiers

Tom Crean’s Hoosiers escaped a scare against Khalif Wyatt and Temple on Sunday. They will need to play better offensively if they hope to outlast the Orange. Indiana has been pretty consistent this year, with their only losses coming against teams with strong defensive foundations. The good news, only one team that Indiana lost to this season is still alive in the tournament (Ohio State). The bad news, Cody Zeller has not exactly looked like a top-five pick this March.

3. Kansas Jayhawks

Save for a one week stretch at the beginning of February where Bill Self’s Jayhawks were defeated in three consecutive games by Big-12 opponents, the Jayhawks’ two other losses this entire season came nearly four months apart (Loss to Michigan State, 11/13 – Loss to Baylor, 3/9). They do not have a ton of impressive victories, although their defeat of Ohio State in Columbus in December was nice. The good news for the Jayhawks is that they are playing great defense led by interior presence Jeff Withey. The bad news is that they will continue to have a tougher route to the title than those on the other side of the bracket.

2. Louisville Cardinals

Rick Pitino’s Cardinals were the #1 team in the country for a reason. They can score, led by Russ Smith, and they play defense with big Gorgui Dieng parading the middle of the paint. But, Louisville’s path to the championship is more difficult than most, seeing as how they have already lost to Duke this year. Still, the Cardinals have the players capable of keeping this run up, and a team that has not lost by more than a possession since January 22nd cannot be counted out of any game.

1. Duke Blue Devils

There is just something about the Devils that suggests they could continue this run all the way to the title game. They have not lost a non-conference game all season, and the only ACC team that remains is Miami, who they could not meet until the title game. Duke proved itself capable of defeating Louisville already, having beaten the overall #1 seed 76-71 on November 24th. With Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly, anything is possible. My hunch tells me that whomever comes out of the Midwest will win the title on April 8th.

ImageFor those who do not already know, Aaron Craft is the star point guard for Ohio State. In this weekend’s second round victory over Iowa State, Craft took a controversial charge call that ultimately contributed (although not nearly as much as his last second three-pointer) to the Buckeyes’ victory.

Well, as expected, the drama of the game and the call has inspired a viral Twitter craze in which people photoshop Craft taking charges from various iconic (or just plain funny) things. Here are some of my favorite, and some of my own:

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And now, a few of my own:

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ImageLos Angeles is back atop the baseball landscape. The Dodgers, who have not won the National League since 1988, are all in under new ownership. After finalizing the purchase of the team last spring, it did not take long for Magic Johnson and his fellow ownership group (a bunch of rich guys, some known, some anonymous) to change the atmosphere of the organization.

Most teams wait until the offseason to complete a massive overhaul of their roster. The Dodgers did not feel like delaying their evolution. In July, the team shipped out a hoard of prospects to acquire the likes of Hanley Ramirez (.271-10-44), Shane Victorino (.245-2-15), Joe Blanton (2-4, 4.99), Adrian Gonzalez (.297-3-22), Josh Beckett (2-3, 2.93), and Carl Crawford (DNP w/ LA). In exchange for their activity (and dramatic upswing in payroll), the Dodgers went just 30-27 in the season’s final two months, missing the playoffs at 86-76 after a 47-40 first half.

When teams drastically shake up their clubhouse cohesion, it can negatively affect a lot of things. That may have been the case for the Dodgers. Or, it could have been that the players they acquired just were not that good. Victorino and Blanton were mediocre at best. Ramirez has not been an All-Star in years (even though he is paid like one). Crawford, meanwhile, is owed over $100 million through 2017, and he has hit .260-14-75 with just 23 SB in two years since signing his megadeal in Boston.

The best bets to help the Dodgers from their summer deals are Gonzalez and Beckett. The former is still a strong candidate to hit .300-25-100. But, like the rest, A-Gone is owed an unconscionable amount of money ($127 million through 2018) for production that just does not add up.

This offseason, the Dodgers added the proverbial cherry-on-top of their spending sundae, inking 2009 AL Cy Young RHP Zack Greinke (15-5, 3.48) to a then record 6 year, $159 million contract. He became the first pitcher in baseball history to lose 17+ games at one point in his career before signing a $100+ million contract. The team then posted nearly $26 million to the Hanwha Eagles before signing LHP Ryu Hyun-Jin to a 6 year, $36 million contract. By 2016, the Dodgers will have over $100 million owed to just five players. Decision making like this clearly does not leave a lot of wiggle room with the rest of the lineup and the bullpen, and the Dodgers are going to have to make do with some serious question marks at critical positions.

Five Year Review

2012: 86-76
2011: 82-79
2010: 80-82
2009: 95-67
Lost NLCS to Phillies, 4-1
2008: 84-78
Lost NLCS to Phillies, 4-1

Key Acquisitions

2B/OF Skip Schumaker (St. Louis Cardinals)
RHP Zack Greinke (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim)
RHP Peter Moylan (Atlanta Braves)
RHP Kevin Gregg (Baltimore Orioles)
LHP J.P. Howell (Tampa Bay Rays)
LHP Ryu Hyun-Jin (Japan)

Key Departures

INF Adam Kennedy (unsigned)
OF Shane Victorino (Boston Red Sox)
OF Juan Rivera (New York Yankees)
OF Bobby Abreu (unsigned)
RHP Joe Blanton (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim)
RHP Todd Coffey (unsigned)
RHP Jamey Wright (Tampa Bay Rays)
LHP Randy Choate (St. Louis Cardinals)

Projected Lineup and Rotation w/ Projections

LF Carl Crawford – .269-11-51, 23 SB
2B Mark Ellis – .257-7-41
CF Matt Kemp – .287-30-100, 20 SB
1B Adrian Gonzalez – .289-26-96
RF Andre Ethier – .276-19-81
3B Luis Cruz – .263-6-37
C A.J. Ellis – .251-7-44
SS Dee Gordon – .250-0-11, 12 SB

LHP Clayton Kershaw – 16-8, 2.76
RHP Zack Greinke – 12-8, 3.25
RHP Josh Beckett – 11-9, 3.75
LHP Ryu Hyun-Jin – 8-7, 4.05
RHP Chad Billingsley – 8-8, 3.74

RHP Brandon League – 4-3, 3.30, 17 SVRHP Kenley Jansen – 3-2, 2.21, 10 SV

2013 Outlook

On paper, the Dodgers have a very talented (and expensive) roster. Their willingness to take on bloated contracts from Boston and Miami puts them in a good situation for 2013. But, it has the potential to turn disastrous in the future.

The lineup was crippled by the World Baseball Classic injury to Hanley Ramirez, who will miss up to 8 weeks to start the season. Carl Crawford’s health is also in doubt. Although, the veteran claims that he will be ready for opening day. If he is not, prepare to see Skip Schumaker starting in left field. The infield outside of Gonzalez is mediocre at best without Ramirez, and could be a serious bane to the Dodgers moving forward.

The rotation is incredibly deep after the team brought in Greinke and Ryu in the offseason. Lost in translation right now are LHP Ted LillyRHP Aaron Harang, and LHP Chris Capuano. Expect at least one of those three to not be on the roster in a week.

The Dodgers have the experience and the talent to compete for the best record in the National League. However, their chemistry and health issues warrant concern. I foresee Los Angeles having a better season than 2012, although ultimately, I am not sure that their current makeup is sustainable. The Dodgers will win between 87-93 games, competing for a playoff spot until the bitter end.