AL West Preview

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Another one of these? Believe it or not, there’s another two on the way after this one. Anyone else starting to regret the decision to break down each team with minute detail? Not that I am or anything. Anyway, here’s the American League West, because why not? As always, all win totals taken from the Atlantis Casino.

Houston Astros

250px-houston-astros-logo-svgAfter 2015’s stunning turnaround the Astros kind of stalled out last season, in part (in my mind) because of their disappointing decision to abandon the home-run-or-bust strategy that brought them success. After finishing only two dingers behind the league leading Blue Jays in 2015, they were middle of the pack last year. Part of the change, though, was turning the team over to their super-stud young players like Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman. I’ve heard Jose Altuve is good, too. And fellow UConn Husky George Springer could have 30+ homers. I’m not worried about their offense. They’re going to score a lot of runs, and they’re going to prevent a lot of runs with their excellent defense.

The fact that their pitching was still pretty good last year despite a bad year from 2015 Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel tells me their 2016 record may have been more of a product of some bad luck than anything. But even though all the numbers say their pitching was anywhere from decent to well above average last year, I don’t really feel great about it. I mean Keuchel has had at least 16 starts all five years in the league. 3 out of the 5 seasons his ERA has been at least 4.55. Are we sure he didn’t just get crazy hot for a year? At this point, Lance McCullers is probably their best starter. Everyone else is getting older and was never that great to begin with. The bullpen is okay, but their big offseason addition Ken Giles had a really disappointing year. I think he’ll bounce back, but I don’t know if the rest of the pitching is really that good. Felt like a lot of smoke and mirrors last year, and if Keuchel doesn’t rebound it could be a long year for this staff.

Over/Under 87.5 Wins: Under (think they get 87 exactly)

Key Offseason Move: Signing Josh Reddick and my grandpa Carlos Beltran

Burning Question: Why would you get rid of Tal’s Hill, the coolest and most unique ballpark feature in the Majors? Talk about bad karma.

Bold Prediction: There will be a couple of stories about the fact that Jose Altuve is short before the All Star break

Texas Rangers

300px-texas_rangers-svgBaseball’s luckiest team (no one outperformed their adjusted win-loss record by more wins) is back to defend an unexpected division title, only this time Mike Napoli is back! All joking aside, though, this is still a good team, despite the losses of Ian Desmond, Carlos Beltran, and Prince Fielder (was that even really a loss?). They resigned Carlos Gomez, which is never a good idea, but other than that, a lot of low risk moves this offseason could lead to another good campaign in Texas.

It might not be as exaggerated as Coors Field, but whatever they’re calling the Rangers’ stadium these days is always conducive to high octane offense. This team should club a bunch of homers once again this year behind ageless wonder Adrian Beltre, “21-year-old” star Nomar Mazara, Roughned Odor, and Nap. And if they ever give the Paul Bunyan-esque Joey Gallo consistent playing time, forget about it. They were sixth in the majors in slugging last year for a reason.

Also like the Rockies, the Rangers’ pitching needs to be graded on a slight curve, and when you take ballpark effect into consideration, their pitching is about league average, but with high upside at the top. Yu Darvish should be all the way back from Tommy John surgery, and could pair with Cole Hamels to form one of the highest-strikeout duos in the American League. The rest of the starters are pretty eh, but new signee Tyson Ross still has some potential. It’s really crazy how good bullpens are these days. The Rangers’ pen wasn’t even that bad last year and they still ranked in the bottom ten in ERA+. Part of the reason is that they don’t strike anyone out: only the Angels bullpen had a lower combined strikeout percentage. In today’s game, if your bullpen isn’t racking up ks, it’s probably going to end up getting hit around a bit. And they didn’t really do anything to make it better, either. They’re just content to throw Sam Dyson out there so he can get upset when people flip their bats on him. Kind of seems counterintuitive for a team trying to expel their postseason demons.

Over/Under 86.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Resigning Josh Hamilton Picking up Jonathan Lucroy’s option

Burning Question: If Roughned Odor’s brother Roughned Odor took him out at second with a hard slide, who would win the fight?

Bold Prediction: Probably lose in the playoffs in the most heartbreaking way possible

Seattle Mariners

300px-seattle_mariners_logo-svgIf I wasn’t already convinced the Red Sox were winning the World Series, I’d say the Mariners were a dark horse contender in the American League. Why? Just kind of a gut feeling I have. And when you’re in the business of divination, gut feelings can be pretty powerful indicators. And this is a good team.

Pretty much no one was more active during the offseason. They made trade after trade after trade, and now they’re left with an interesting roster that could wind up with the best hitting infield and worst hitting outfield in the league. I can certainly understand the reasoning behind trading for a guy like Jarrod Dyson, one of the best defensive players in the league coming to one of last year’s worst defensive outfields, but he does nothing to add to a light-hitting (to put it mildly) unit that could ultimately hold this team back. If young first baseman Dan Vogelbach can tap in to his deep reserve of power, the five-some of him, Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager, Robinson Cano, and Jean Segura could be a quasi-Murderer’s Row. The infield is good enough (offensively) to contend for a title. But what about the outfield?

I can’t really figure the pitching out. I feel like they should be better. Felix Hernandez, who has seen his velocity go on a steady decline for a while now, has to return to some semblance of his dominant form if this team has any chance. Hisashi Iwakuma was really good when he first came over, but he’s 35 now and showed obvious signs of decline last year. I don’t mind trading Taijuan Walker, who had kind of stalled in his development, and I like getting Yovani Gallardo, who I think still has something left. They added a lot to what was a decent bullpen last year, but the starters are my main concern. That all goes away, though, if Felix becomes the King again.

Over/Under 85.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Trading for Jean Segura

Burning Question: Has anyone investigated the fact that Felix Hernandez’s decline coincides with the legalization of marijuana in Washington? Hmmmm…

Bold Prediction: They’ll make it to game 7 of the ALCS against the Sox, be down one in the ninth, have runners on the corners with one out…then bunt into a double play, officially getting Pete Carroll off the hook

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

187px-los_angeles_angels_of_anaheim-svgThe Angels make me so mad. They’re wasting one of the greatest players of all time! They sucked last year and their big offseason move was…trading for Danny Espinosa. Come on, man. Mike Trout is gonna fade into obscurity on this roster. They’re gonna be bad again this year. Their record might not be all that terrible simply because Trout will singlehandedly win about 20 games, but still. For the good of everyone, just trade Mike Trout if you’re not gonna try to win with him. Please.

Over/Under 76.5 Wins: Under out of spite

Key Offseason Move: Not doing anything to help one of the best players in the 150 year history of Major League Baseball

Burning Question: How long until someone organizes a KG-style rescue mission and puts Trout on a good team?

Bold Prediction: Trout hits over 45 home runs but only has 80 RBI because the rest of the team is so bad

Oakland Athletics

300px-oakland_athl_primlogo-svgNow that I think about it, I think the A’s have my second favorite jerseys in sports (behind Wyoming football). The green hat with the yellow brim is one of the greatest designs in the history of millinery. And those all-white shoes with the home white jerseys? Simply to die for. Then adding in a yellow shirt and a green shirt? It gets my heart all aflutter. The team stinks, but they’ll look good while stinking.

Over/Under 66.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: I honestly don’t even know

Burning Question: Does Brad Pitt ever show up at the team office and start making roster moves?

Bold Prediction: Khris Davis becomes the most random guy to ever have back-to-back 40 home run seasons

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NL Central Preview

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Back again with another MLB division preview, this time with the NL Central, home of the World Series champion Chicago Cubs(?). Don’t really expect the standings to look a whole lot different this season, so let’s dive right in. As always, win projections from Atlantis Casino Resort.

Chicago Cubs

127px-chicago_cubs_logo-svgWhat else can you really say about this team? Last year they put together one of the greatest seasons ever: Best pitching staff in the majors by ERA+, second in the National League in runs, one of the greatest defenses of all time, and had the best record in the league. And they’re adding Kyle Schwarber and Wade Davis? Won’t be long until the only curse associated with the Cubs is the Curse of the Pink Hats that has afflicted the Red Sox since 2004.

Centerfield is pretty much the only question mark. Losing leadoff man Dexter Fowler hurts, but 22-year-old Albert Almora is a good prospect, and if he ever finds a position, Schwarber’s offensive upside is far higher than Fowler’s. This is the best roster in the (National) league, and they should roll to another 100+ wins this year.

Over/Under 95.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Trading for Wade Davis

Burning Question: Can the Cubs survive Theo’s next soul searching journey?

Bold Prediction: Jason Heyward sets the record for grounding into 50 double plays

St. Louis Cardinals

216px-st-_louis_cardinals_logo-svgThe Best Fans in Baseball are probably excited for this season, but that’s mostly because smelling their own farts for so long has dulled their already limited cognitive abilities. This team just feels like it’s in no man’s land. They’re definitely not good enough to contend for their own division (let alone the World Series), but they’re not really that bad, not that the proud Cardinals would ever fully commit to a rebuild. I realize counting out the Cardinals is always foolish, but I really don’t see much when I look at this team.

Listen, they’re still gonna be decent. Their offense was good last year. Fourth in the majors in runs, most home runs in the National League, fourth in slugging, and they’re adding Dexter Fowler, who will add to their already solid team on base percentage. He’s not going to help their lousy defense, though. Or their middling pitching staff (rookie Alex Reyes is nasty). Or their lack of top-end talent. But hey, they have “great” fans, so what does any of that matter? They’re like the Atlanta Hawks of baseball. Good enough to finish above .500, not good enough to do anything else.

Over/Under 87.5 Wins: Under

Key Offseason Move: Signing Dexter Fowler

Burning Question: Who’s going to break the news to Cardinals fans that Yadier Molina sucks now?

Bold Prediction: Cardinals fans will turn on Dexter Fowler for his beliefs by May. Oh, wait, it already happened?

Pittsburgh Pirates

87px-pittsburgh_pirates_logo_2014-svgAfter a million straight Wild Card Game exits, the Pirates took a serious step back last year. To gear up for the comeback season, they went out and added…Ivan Nova? That’s it? I know the Pirates aren’t a traditional free agent hot spot, but surely they could have done a little more.

It’s actually kind of amazing they even won 78 games last year. They weren’t good at anything. Their pitching was trash, led by a down year from presumed ace Gerrit Cole. The offense was trash, led by a career worst year from star Andrew McCutchen. The defense was absolute trash, led by everybody (so McCutchen finishes dead last among all centerfielders in UZR and he wants to complain about being moved to right? Makes sense). They have a lot of really good individual talents: Cole still has good stuff if he can get right mentally. Jameson Taillon is a promising young pitcher. Starling Marte had a great year last year, and longtime top prospect Gregory Polanco showed some signs. I think McCutchen still has something left in the tank. I mean, this is a pretty boring team, but I think their record will probably be a few games better this year.

Over/Under 85.5 Wins: Under

Key Offseason Move: Signing Ivan Nova

Burning Question: What’s really the point of anyone in the NL Central trying for the next few years?

Bold Prediction: They will add to their recent run of success by not winning a playoff game again this year

Cincinnati Reds

176px-cincinnati_reds_logo-svgOnce I got to the Cardinals, I kind of started to regret doing this division. Because outside the Cubs, this division stinks. I foolishly thought the AL Central was the most boring division, but by the time I realized I was wrong, it was too late. Cubs could win 120 games going against these teams.

The Reds, in laymen’s terms, are very bad. They might have the worst pitching in the league (third lowest strikeout percentage combined with a league high walk percentage), and outside Joey Votto and Adam Duvall the lineup is terrible. They’re going to be bad again this year. Book it.

Over/Under 73.5 Wins: Under

Key Offseason Move: Signing Drew Storen I guess?

Burning Question: Do Reds fans exist outside of Cincinnati?

Bold PredictionJoey Votto will request a trade before taking it back because he’s Canadian and doesn’t want to ruffle any feathers

Milwaukee Brewers

176px-milwaukee_brewers_logo-svgGod, what’s the point of this team? Seriously, what are the Brewers playing for? Maybe they can get their prospects some playing time? Is that it?

The Brewers are soooooooooooooo bad. They’re the worst non-Padres offense in the league, their defense is traaaaaash, their pitching was…somehow okay? The Brewers are wasting a great team gimmick by sucking so bad, and I’m sick of it. I’ll start a petition to become the GM of the Brewers. It’s about time someone steps in and makes the Brewers decent again. I know I could do a better job than the people in charge now. I’ll do the impossible and turn Milwaukee into a destination.

Over/Under 72.5 Wins: Under

Key Offseason Move: Trading for Travis Shaw

Burning Question: Did Aaron Rodgers ever donate his salary when Ryan Braun was proved to be a liar?

Bold Prediction: They will sell at least twenty times more Miller Lites in the home opener than the number of games they’ll win this season

MLB Preview: NL West

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Back for round 2 of the Brian’s Den MLB preview, this time taking a look at the National League West. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Traditional logic would dictate that the second division I break down would be either the AL Central or NL East. Well, I don’t really care about conventional logic. I’m going to talk about the divisions in the order I want. So, sorry AL Central, but I’m going to delay talking about you for as long as humanly possible. Here’s my AL East preview if you need a refresher. All projected win totals taken from Atlantis Casino Resort.

Los Angeles Dodgers

512px-los_angeles_dodgers_logo-svgThe Dodgers have probably been the most consistent team in the league the last few years, winning over 90 games every season since 2013. I don’t really see that changing this year. After staying afloat during an extended absence from the best pitcher in the game, the Dodgers bring back every important member of one of the best pitching staffs in the game. Last season they lead the league in strikeouts per 9, strikeout percentage, strikeout-to-walk percentage, and finished third in fielding independent pitching +. This year they’ll (hopefully) get a full season out of Kershaw, a full season out of midseason acquisition Rich Hill, and a full season from top prospect Julio Urias, who looks to build on a very good second half of the season. They had a top 10 defense last season, as well, another staple of the Dodgers’ recent run of success.

It’s their mediocre offense that’s kept them from becoming a truly great team. They finished in the middle of the pack in pretty every statistic. They don’t do anything particularly well or poorly. They could improve this year, though, if Rookie of the Year and budding superstar Corey Seager takes another step forward. Just 22, he had the 5th highest WAR in the National League last season and finished 3rd in MVP voting. He has the ability to cover up the limitations in the rest of the lineup, and if one of my favorite players Joc Pederson can continue to add consistency and power, the Dodgers should rack up the wins again this year.

Over/Under 91.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Resigning Rich Hill and Justin Turner

Burning Question: Now that famed baseball mind Magic Johnson is making all the key decisions for both the Dodgers and Lakers, how long until Kobe takes over as Dodgers manager?

Bold Prediction: This year, Clayton Kershaw’s postseason ERA will only be 4.50

San Francisco Giants

300px-san_francisco_giants_logo-svgLast year’s Giants team was just so…Giants. A bunch of no names who aren’t great at anything, but there they were in the playoffs. Like the Dodgers, they rode their excellent starting pitching and defense (which was second only to the Cubs in ultimate zone rating). Unlike the Dodgers, they had a nearly disastrous second-half collapse spearheaded by their abomination of a bullpen that lead the league in blown saves. Signing free agent closer Mark Melancon was one of the better offseason moves, and he should add much needed stability to last season’s comically unstable late game pitching.

The rest of the roster is all typical Giants. The stars (Bumgarner, Cueto, Posey, Pence, Crawford, Belt) will do what they do every year. There’s almost no point talking about the rest of the lineup, since whoever they put out there on Opening Day is probably gonna be completely different come September, with random bench guys and unheralded rookies becoming key contributors. They’ll win between 86-90 games, finish in the bottom half in runs scored, and finish near the top of the league in fewest runs allowed. I’ve figured out the football and baseball Giants, and they’ll have the exact same season every year until Bruce Boche retires.

Over/Under 87.5: Under (barely)

Key Offseason Move: Signing Mark Melancon

Burning Question: If the Giants win another championship will anyone really care?

Bold Prediction: They’ll make the playoffs and everyone will get scared of them then they’ll lose in the NLDS.

Colorado Rockies

201px-colorado_rockies_logo-svgI don’t know why, but I’ve always been in love with the Rockies. Maybe it’s their beautiful stadium (Stadium power ranking: 1. Wrigley Field 2. Fenway Park 3. Camden Yards 4. Coors Field 5. PNC Park) that I’ve dreamed of going to since the first time I heard the name. Maybe it’s the fact that they always have high-octane, powerful offenses that mash home runs and rip doubles all day long. Maybe it’s the fact that they always give up just as many homers and doubles as they hit, keeping every game high scoring and exciting. Maybe it’s because my favorite color is purple and I love their jerseys. Maybe it’s because the best Little League team in my district was the Rockies, and it drove me crazy that I was never on the roster, despite the fact that I lived in the same town and was always the best player on my team (I peaked athletically earlier than most) and it became my obsession (No, I’m not bitter, why do you ask?). No matter the reason, the Rockies have long been my favorite non-Red Sox team, and I try and watch them as often as possible. I almost always try to wind up on the Rockies in my MLB The Show careers, too. But does any of that make them a good team? Maybe?

As you would expect, this was the most prolific offense in the National League last season, leading the Senior Circuit in runs scored. They even added Ian Desmond and will get rookie sensation Trevor Story back from injury. Here’s where you say “but they’re just a product of Coors Field.” That may be true. After all, they scored about 150 more runs at home than on the road. But last time I checked, they still get to play 81 games at home, so what does it really matter? They’re going to score a million runs at home again this year, and new manager Bud Black getting them playing better on the road might lead to some true Rocky Mountain Highs, especially since their pitching isn’t as bad as you think.

They finished with the third worst team ERA in the league, but, just like the offense, that’s largely a product of the stadium they play in. They had the 15th best road ERA in the majors, and had a league average overall ERA+, which takes the Coors Effect into account. The bullpen was bad, but if new addition Greg Holland can get back to his 2014 form, or close to it, it should improve. If their crappy defense gets a little better and they can take the Coors fireworks on the road, the Banquet Beer could flow in celebration.

Over/Under 79.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Signing Ian Desmond

Burning Question: With Coors Field so close to noted secret society hotspot Denver International Airport, why haven’t steps been taken to ensure the Rockies success?

Bold Prediction: They’ll win the Wild Card game, then…who knows?

Arizona Diamondbacks

156px-arizona_diamondbacks_logo-svgDbacks were complete trash last year. Much like the Padres from two years ago and the Marlins from a few years before that, their get-rich-quick scheme didn’t work. At all. But is there any hope for this year? There’s a glimmer. Bringing in a new manager in Torey Lovullo can always raise a team’s spirits. Getting AJ Pollock back from injury is huge, especially if he can perform like he did in 2015 when he was a legitimate MVP candidate. They traded for pitcher Taijuan Walker, who has shown flashes of his true ability but hasn’t been able to put it all together. Still, he’s only 24. They also can’t possibly be as bad as they were last year. Judging by ERA+, this was the worst pitching staff in the league. Judging by ultimate zone rating this was the second worst defense in the National League. They did score the 10th most runs in the league, though. This lineup has some talent. Paul Goldschmidt is still a stud. Yasmany Tomas and Jake Lamb have 30 home run power. Zack Greinke probably won’t have his worst career season again. Shelby Miller can’t really be that bad, can he? They signed Fernando Rodney, which reeks of desperation. They tweaked their jerseys after last year, but I was in the minority that liked the bold new design. Might be some bad karma. Still, I think they’ll be better this year. Not too much better, though.

Over/Under 78.5 Wins: Under

Key Offseason Move: Trading for Taijuan Walker

Burning Question: Why hasn’t Luis Gonzalez introduced the team to his steroid guy yet?

Bold Prediction: Fernando Rodney brings a live snake into the bullpen as a prank and it winds up biting someone

San Diego Padres

278px-sdpadres_logo-svgPadres suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. They’re so boring and irrelevant. They’re almost not even worth talking about. I mean, go look at their roster. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Recognize more than five names? I didn’t. Jhoulys Chacin is their number one starter, for crying out loud! Their projected starting outfield is Travis Jankowski, Manuel Margot, and Hunter Renfroe (not the football player). None of those names are made up. Their manager is Andy Green, the most boring name of all time. And, to complete their total dedication to being the most boring team in all of pro sports, they went back to their strictly navy and white jerseys and ditched the navy and yellow jerseys that looked awfully sharp. I don’t even think bringing back the brown and yellow jerseys would get me to care about this team. Every night I weep for Don Orsillo.

Over/Under 64.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Not moving to Los Angeles

Burning Question: How can the Padres’ front office live with themselves knowing what they’re forcing Don Orsillo to watch? And how can Red Sox ownership live with themselves knowing what they did to him? Why am I not listening to Don and Jerry every night anymore?

Bold Prediction: They will play in 162 baseball games in 2017

MLB Preview: AL East

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After a long offseason, baseball is finally back on the horizon. There’s officially only six weeks until Opening Day. There’s also six divisions. So, every Sunday I’ll go through a different division. We’ll look at their projected win totals (taken from the Atlantis Casino Resort), key additions and departures, new jerseys, and anything else that might affect a team’s season. Let’s start with the only division that actually matters, the AL East.

Boston Red Sox

1047px-redsoxprimary_hangingsocks-svgWhere to start with my beloved Red Sox? Has to be the blockbuster trade for reliever Tyler Thornberg. Shoring up a secretly not-that-bad bullpen pushes them over the top as American League favorites. Oh yeah, they got Chris Sale, too. How could I forget? This team was the best team in the American League last season by virtually any statistic. Best offense in the majors by runs scored, on base percentage, slugging percentage, and extra base hits. They have Mookie Betts, the best mortal baseball player in the league last season, poised for another MVP-caliber season. I can never keep track of what qualifies as an MLB rookie, but if Andrew Benintendi still counts as a rookie, pencil him in for Rookie of the Year. If Dustin Pedroia stays healthy and they can get full seasons of production from Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Xander Bogaerts, the offense should be the best in league again. Of course, the elephant in the room is the retirement of David Ortiz coming off one of his best ever seasons. Free agent signing Mitch Moreland won’t replace his bat, and he shouldn’t be expected to, but does provide a solid left handed hitter, something this lineup doesn’t have a lot of. If Hanley Ramirez stays healthy/motivated/sane he’ll produce just as much as last season. If Pablo Sandoval’s commitment to diet and exercise raises even one step above mine, it’ll be a massive upgrade over the uninspired (to put it kindly) effort he’s put in since signing his massive contract.

The pitching is a lot better than you think. They finished in the top ten in the majors in ERA and strikeouts, but it goes deeper than that. They ranked 10th in Fielding Independent Pitching. 6th in ERA+, which adjusts for ballparks. The bullpen was tied for 2nd in the majors in ERA+. This is a good staff. Obviously they have the reigning Cy Young award winner Rick Porcello, but to expect that again would be foolish considering his track record. David Price got killed all year, but he really wasn’t that bad. People forget that Steven Wright was an All Star. And now you’re adding Chris Sale and Tyler Thornberg? To a team that, according to Baseball Porspectus’ win expectancy formula was actually unlucky to only win 93 games last year? Guess I don’t even really get to enjoy the Patriots’ Super Bowl because I’m gonna have to go right back celebrating a championship.

Over/Under 90.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Trading for Chris Sale

Burning Question: What’s Sandoval’s waist size?

Bold Prediction: World Series Champions

Toronto Blue Jays

300px-toronto_blue_jays_logo-svgEveryone’s favorite group of crybabies is coming off a less than ideal offseason that saw them lose one of the biggest power threats in the league and begrudgingly bring back another one. Pretty much all the hype is gone from this team despite an appearance in the ALCS. After setting the world on fire in the second half of 2015, the Blue Jays scored over 100 fewer runs last season, despite excellent seasons from Edwin Encarnacion (now with the Indians) and Josh Donaldson. They finished outside the top 10 in slugging. Listen, the offense was still great, but they weren’t the force of nature they were, and now they don’t have one of their key players. Troy Tulowitzki has been a huge disappointment since the trade two years ago. They had a solid defense, but it was largely propped up by the excellence of Kevin Pillar in centerfield.

Their starting pitching was outstanding, but the bullpen was bottom half of the league in ERA+ and WAR, and they lost a couple of important pieces with Brett Cecil and Joaquin Benoit. They picked up some random relievers, but who knows if they’ll be able to help this flaccid unit. Take a look at the Jays’ starting rotation. Are you expecting all of them to have career seasons again? I’m not.

Over/Under 86.5 Wins: Under

Key Offseason Move: Losing Edwin Encarnacion

Burning Question: Will Rogers Centre janitorial staff continue to work with Toronto’s big garbage companies and keep rigging playoff games to end in controversial fashion, causing fans to throw trash on the field?

Bold Prediction: Under .500

Baltimore Orioles

orioles_newPretty much every year, people predict doom for the Orioles. I don’t really see any reason to change that. Maybe I’m a hater, but I just don’t think this team is that good. The offense is very one note. Granted, that note is a crashing crescendo, but still. They led the league in home runs, but bottom 10 strikeout and walk rates led, in turn, to a bottom 10 on base percentage. No team scored a higher percentage of their runs via the long ball than the O’s, and those kind of wells typically dry up sooner rather than later, especially when the leader of the charge is 31-year-old Mark Trumbo, whose previous career high in home runs was 34 before last season’s 47 (makes you think….). Now, they still have Manny Machado, who is an absolute superstar and still getting better. But everyone else is either old, getting old, or at the tail end of their prime. Look for the lineup to take a step back this season, despite having the best helmets in the league.

The pitching is a tale of two cities. The bullpen is one of the two or three best in the American League, led by Zach Britton, who had a fairly legitimate case for Cy Young last year. The staters, on the other hand, stink. Bottom half (or worse) in the league in pretty much every category. In a head scratching move, they gave away Yovani Gallardo, who, for years, was a good starter but had his worst season last year, for virtually nothing. They’re starving for quality starters and threw one out for peanuts. They still have Ubaldo Jimenez in their rotation, for crying out loud. Does that scream playoff team to you?

Over/Under 84.5 Wins: Under

Key Offseason Move: Resigning Trumbo

Burning Question: If they somehow win the World Series, does their steroid guy get a ring?

Bold Prediction: Miss the Wild Card by 1 game

New York Yankees

302px-newyorkyankees_primarylogo-svgAs much as it pains me to say it, I actually kind of like the moves have been making lately. The trades they made at the end of last season got them some stud prospects, and their offseason signings (at least for position players) are all low risk, high reward. I love Chris Carter in Yankee Stadium. Sure, he’ll manage to strikeout 200 times in the like 350 at bats he’ll get, but he’ll put 35 over the wall. Now, what was the point of getting both Matt Holiday and Carter if they plan on using them both as DH? I don’t really know, but it’s a nice throwback to when the Yankees were good and acquired every free agent available.

It’s been a rough few years for the Bombers, but I think it’ll start to turn around this season, mostly because (for their standards) it can’t get much worse. This team was just so average last year. The defense was mediocre. No Yankees team should ever finish 19th in home runs and 22nd in runs scored. This year promises to offer one of the rarest sights in sports: a young Yankees lineup. Greg Bird is back from injury, and he, along with Aaron Judge and rookie sensation Gary Sanchez, should help lift the lifeless lineup and get John Sterling yodeling with joy once again.

Last year’s pitching was pretty much as advertised: middle of the road starting pitching and a powerhouse bullpen. In the ultimate Yankees move, they traded Aroldis Chapman for a king’s ransom last year, then turned around and promptly overpaid him as soon as possible in the offseason. And, in a startling display of ignorance and hypocrisy, they refused to pay star set up man Dellin Betances because he’s not a “top closer.” Did they not watch the playoffs last year? Titles like “closer” and “set up man” mean less and less. Betances is a dominant pitcher and should be paid like one. Considering the money they just paid Chapman, it doesn’t make a ton of sense to ignore the great, homegrown reliever who is more than likely out the door after this season.

Over/Under 83.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Signing Chapman

Burning Question: Will Gary Sanchez get a plaque in monument park before or after the season?

Bold Prediction: Make the Wild Card Game and lose

Tampa Bay Rays

1024px-tampa_bay_rays-svgIf it weren’t for the Padres, the Rays would easily be the most boring team in baseball. There’s just no sizzle here. I love Kevin Kiermaier with all my heart, but centerfield defense doesn’t usually get everyone else going. Chris Archer is exciting, but he’s secretly not really that good. What else does this team have? Some guys that can get hot for a few weeks then get ice cold right after? Sounds like a winning formula. They randomly finished 6th in the league in homers, but 24th in runs. How does that happen? Leading the American League in strikeout rate is usually a good start. The pitching and defense aren’t particularly good (besides Kiermaier, of course). They’re just a lousy team. Probably the worst in the American League. After that run of success, it’s good to have the Rays back where they belong.

Over/Under 75.5 Wins: Under

Key Offseason Move: I guess signing Colby Rasmus?

Burning Question: Who will Chris Archer throw at now that David Ortiz is retired

Bold Prediction: Someone finally dies after getting hit by a falling piece of the catwalk in Tropicana Field

 

 

Prince Fielder is getting his own “cooking” show called Fielder’s Choice

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source– I have a food show that’s going to be streaming on Netflix and Hulu. It’s coming out around the beginning of spring training in March, I believe. It’s not just baseball people. It’s a mixture of baseball people, actors, musicians, chefs and whatnot. They bring out different dishes, and at the end of the show, I give the one I like the most the “Fielder’s choice.” It’s good TV.

Prince had to retire because of a million neck surgeries, but he also had to retire because he kind of sucks now. His decline inexorably began when he went vegan and lost weight, robbing himself of his fat guy power stroke. I guess retirement brought him clarity, because this is an ingenious move. Besides the fact that hosting a show where people just make you food is the ultimate dream job, this is the perfect way to get exposure. Ditch the vegan act and take the show on the road. Stop in the Carolinas, Texas, Nashville, and Kansas City and house a ton of barbecue. Make sure you record the show in a batting cage, and each dish you don’t like you just toss it up to yourself and hit it with a bat to show you still have the swing. Maybe field the side dishes while standing on first base. Next thing you know, Prince is fat again and is getting some MLB tryouts. I guarantee by 2019 Prince is on the Rockies or something and puts up 35 homers again. Brilliant play by Prince. Wish I thought of it so I could get a cut of his next contract.

Also goes without saying that Fielder’s Choice is one of the biggest lay-up tv show names of all time.

Brian Wilson is trying to make a comeback as a knuckleballer

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source– The 34-year-old Wilson, who last pitched in the major leagues with the Dodgers in 2014, has been working out in Southern California with an eye toward becoming a starting pitcher who throws just knuckeballs.

Remember Brian Wilson? The pitcher with the beard? I ‘member, and now he’s back (probably not, but still). I have two main thoughts about this story. First of all, I don’t get why more people don’t do this. If you see your pitching career going down the drain, why not try and weasel your way into a second life as a knuckleball pitcher? Yeah, it’s hard to master, but you can literally pitch forever with it. R.A. Dickey is like 80 and still in the league. And if you make the majors as a knuckleballer, performance doesn’t matter at all. Have you seen some of the seasons my man Tim Wakefield had? And, it’s so rare nowadays, you’ll instantly get noticed by scouts and easily befuddle hitters. Seems like a no-lose scenario to me. I just hope Daniel Bard doesn’t read this and come back into my life again.

Secondly, and most importantly, I hate Brian Wilson. Not to disparage a fellow Brian, but I absolutely couldn’t stand this guy. Every day there was another story (mostly started by him) about how crazy and zany he was. After about a month of him being in the spotlight I was suffering serious Brian Wilson fatigue. After a year or two I was willing to finance an assassination. Like we get it man, you’re weird. Stop trying to prove it every two seconds. Stop rubbing it in our faces that you’re “different.” Everything he did was so fake and planned and annoying. And I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, haaaaaaaaaaaaate beard guys. Not every person with a beard, but beard guys. The ones who’s whole lives revolve around the fact that they have huge beards. They can’t go more than three sentences without talking about their beard. They think it gives them superiority and that it’s a sign they have personality. It runs rampant in hipsters and MLB relief pitchers. It just so happens Brian Wilson was both. He was the absolute worst, and I’m guessing he hasn’t changed, considering this “comeback” feels like nothing more than a desperate attempt at regaining some relevance.