In case you missed my pre-season picks over at The Griddle, which has become my favorite Toaster place to hang which isn't The Juice, I have listed my choices below. My on-site predictions have a bonus and that is that I give some brief reasoning for why I've chosen their particular order. For example why I think the Orioles and Phillies are better than predicted and that the Brewers and A's are a bit too trendy for my liking.
One final thing I should mention is that these are my selections only and should not reflect Will Carroll's views. Just go over to baseballprospectus.com and look at his pre-season predictions and you will see we share little of the same points of view on the umpcoming season.
2. Red Sox
4. Blue Jays
5. Devil Rays
I think the top 4 teams in the East all finish within 10 games. Despite possibly playing some games without Giambi and Sheffield, the best depth money can buy, prevails. I think the Red Sox infield will cost them a playoff berth, as they are below average offensively and defensively around the horn. The Orioles just might end up with the best starting pitching staff in the division by the end of the year. Finally, the AL East has some competition besides the Top 2 teams. While the Blue Jays were active, I don't like spending big bucks on high injury risks like Burnett and Glaus. The Devil Rays have no bullpen and will lose a lot of games in the final innings.
The Indians and White Sox are the 2 best overall teams in baseball, but the Indians have less question marks in the bullpen. The Twins made a huge mistake by not taking a shot at a Mike Piazza or Frank Thomas as a DH, as they desperately needed another hitter to help compete with the Indians and White Sox. I think the Tigers will be a step below and the Royals continue to progress towards their rebuilding project which should produce a team which can escape the cellar by 2012.
I know we at the Toaster live in a community where the A's are holy, but I just think their lack of power dooms them. I think Oakland has been built a little too heavily towards OBP and I worry about such a young starting staff. The Angels have a more veteran pitching staff and I think Vlad will take over down the stretch. While I believe the Rangers were right to make some moves in the off-season, I hated the Eaton for Young trade and thought they paid too much for Millwood. While the Wilkerson deal was excellent, the Rangers took a step backwards, overall. Last year I ripped the signing of Adrian Beltre and this year's signing of Jarod Washburn was not much better. It's deals like these that wreck a mid-majors salary cap. The Mariners would need 2 more Felix Hernandez's to compete.
Every year I wrongly predict the fall of the Braves, so why not be consistent? The difference between the NL East top 3 teams is the Mets have a great closer in Wagner, plus some decent set-up men to get to him. (Bradford will be a big plus.) The Phillies are the best offensive team in the NL and it will be enough to get them back in the playoffs. The Nationals were the biggest overachievers in 2005 and will only escape the cellar because the Marlins have decided to take the year off from major league competition.
I wouldn't be surprised if the Cards win this division with 10 less victories from their 2005 record. It will be the Cardinals pitching staff that carries them this year. The difference between 2 through 6 is about 10 games, as I suspect they will all fall between 70 and 80 wins. The Astros have the best bullpen and the Cubs improved their own pen enough that they will be able to survive continuing health problems from Under the Knife stars Pryor and Wood. People are too far out ahead of the trendy pick Brewers, as their influx of talented rookies will struggle. In December I was all set to annoint the Pirates as the Cards 2006 runner-up, but the bad trade of Williams for Casey and the injury to Wells put a strain on a now thin starting staff. While the Reds got the best of this trade, they still are behind the others in pitching, but Dunn, Griffey, Kearns, and Lopez will keep them in most games.
The top 3 teams are all pretty close, but the Padres have a roster that should spend less time on the DL, which combined with added outfield defense by Mike Cameron makes them the team to beat. I love the Dodgers bullpen, but not sold on their starting pitching. The Giants are so old, you would think former Redskins coach George Allen had put together the roster. The Rockies have compiled some good young talent and will surprise by not finishing in the cellar. The Diamondbacks might win this division in 2008, but they will be playing a lot of their great young prospects by August.
ALCS: Yankees versus White Sox
NLCS: Cardinals versus Padres
World Series: Yankees over Cardinals
While I think the 2 best teams are located in the AL Central, the Yankees bullpen will make the difference in the playoffs, as I'm not sold on the Indians or White Sox closers. Jake Peavy will make up for his disappointing first appearance in the playoffs in 2005, which will give the Padres a chance, but the Cardinals are just a little better overall, which will give them the chance to get spanked in the World Series by the Yankees. Look, I hope I'm wrong about the Yankees and they fall short of a title, but I think Steinbrenner gets the last of his World Championships in 2006.