Bold Predictions for the 2013 Baseball Season

Sometimes merely picks the teams to win the division and wild card is too random — I mean, I am usually entirely wrong and as predictions go, they’re pretty boring. So, I thought I’d whip up 10 bold predictions for the 2013 season that if they do come true, well, I might need to change careers. Here goes.

  1. Yoenis Cespedes will hit at least 40 HR. It seems like it has been awhile since any Oakland Athletic hit 40 HR. 13 seasons to be exact, when Jason Giambi (still kicking around with the Indians after almost getting named manager of the Rockies) hit 43. Cespedes is in his prime and looked very comfortable in the majors during the second half of 2012.
  2. Houston won’t be the worst team in baseball. The newly-American Leagued Astros have been getting a lot of grief over their AAA roster in the majors right now. However, I think that two teams actually might be worse: the Marlins and the Rockies. Sure, Miami has Giancarlo and Colorado has Troy, but the absolute lack of hitting for the Marlins and utter lack of pitching for the Rockies might put them into the 105+ loss realm.
  3. Joe Girardi will be fired by the end of the season. Here’s a fun one! Sadly, Joe will be the fall guy after Jeter, CC and Teixiera combine for over 162 games on the DL. I find it hard to imagine the 2013 Yankees being much different than the 2013 Red Sox … except there isn’t anyone to take on the Yankees bad contracts.
  4. Seattle makes a run at the playoffs. The Mariners have a few things going for them right now: good pitching, better hitting and closer fences. Of course, they are in a killer division, with the A’s, Rangers and Angels. However, they  will make a run at the end of the summer, but ultimately miss that second wild card by a game or two.
  5. Jacoby Ellsbury is traded by the deadline. Don’t get me wrong, I love Jacoby. He’s a Beaver like me and been a blast to watch when he’s not hurt. Unfortunately for him, his contract (or lack there of) for 2014 and the presence of Jackie Bradley Jr. means that Sox can try to get some value for Jacoby. My hunch might be a 1B prospect.
  6. The Tigers win the AL Central by 10 games or more. The Indians, Royals and White Sox might not like it, but the Tigers might lap the field in the Central. Sure, Cleveland and Kansas City are better than 2012, but too many problems remain. However, one of those teams might make a run at that second Wild Card.
  7. Tim Lincecum has Tommy John surgery. OK, not much of a bold prediction, but something must be wrong with Timmy after dropping off the face of good pitching over the last year.
  8. Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper combine for 75 HR. Distribute the homers as you seen fit, but the Nationals will be a great team in 2013. The Braves will also be a good team, possibly the second best in the NL, but they’ll have to settle for the Wild Card again.
  9. Josh Beckett is traded again at the deadline. Josh wears out his welcome in Los Angeles as the Dodgers underperform yet again. Likely destination: the Royals as they try to make that playoff run (that fails).
  10. Cincinnati bests Toronto in the World Series. It will be a close Series, but in the end, Chapman is able to close the door on the Jays.
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The Red Sox in 2013

Considering I’m finding politics so depressing lately, I thought I’d write about something that isn’t as depressing … but its close. The 2013 Red Sox will likely be one of the most interesting teams in the majors considering how the 2012 Red Sox pathetic 93-loss season lead to GM Ben Cherington’s colossal disassembly of the team, sending Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford to Los Angeles (along with their quarter-of-a-billion dollar contracts) for prospects (some pretty decent). This leaves the Sox in full rebuild mode, which also means wild speculations about the Sox can abound! Here’s my suggestions to Ben and company (because I know they want to hear it).

First off, what we have now

The Sox have a few potential major league free agents: James Loney, David Ortiz, Cody Ross, Aaron Cook, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Scott Podsednik and Vicente Padilla. So, if we want to examine what the Sox might look like if they did nothing, here is the roster:

Hitters

  • C Jarrod Saltalamacchia / Ryan Lavarnway
  • 1B Mauro Gomez / Jerry Sands
  • 2B Dustin Pedroia
  • SS Jose Iglesias / Mike Aviles / Pedro Ciriaco
  • 3B Will Middlebrooks / Danny Valencia
  • RF Ryan Kalish / Daniel Nava / Jerry Sands
  • CF Jacoby Ellsbury / Ryan Kalish
  • LF Ryan Sweeney / Daniel Nava
  • DH Empty

Pitchers

  • SP Clay Buchholz / Jon Lester / Felix Doubront / John Lackey / Franklin Morales / Zach Stewart / Rubby de la Rosa
  • RP Alfredo Aceves / Junichi Tazawa / Rich Hill / Craig Breslow / Mark Melancon / Andrew Miller / Clay Mortensen/ Scott Atchinson / Pedro Beato / Chris Carpenter (the other one) / Daniel Bard / Andrew Bailey

Not exactly the worldbeaters we are used to coming from Fenway. Now, some of these guys should like be nontendered or moved in one way or another – I’d include Aceves, Sweeney, Aviles, Atchinson (done after TJ surgery), maybe Stewart. In an ideal world where unicorns jump over rainbows, John Lackey is dealt with in a manner befitting a man of this stature. I don’t see any of them in the rebuilding Red Sox. A few more of these guys are great role players, but not anyone you’d loan your car to: Gomez, Ciriaco, Nava*, Valencia. You need players like this around, but they are, well, a dime a dozen. Where does that leave us?

The remaining Sox

  • C: Saltalamacchia / Lavarnway
  • 1B: Sands?
  • 2B: Pedroia
  • 3B: Middlebrooks
  • SS: Iglesias
  • RF: Kalish? / Sands?
  • CF: Ellsbury
  • LF: Empty (so lonely)
  • DH: Still, oh so empty
  • SP: Buchholz, Lester, Doubront, Lackey, Morales/de la Rosa
  • RP: Tazawa, Hill, Breslow, Melancon, Bailey, Mortensen, Bard, Miller, Carpenter, Beato

First, the good: The Sox are set at catcher, second, third and center. I might be in the minority, but I think they can put together a good bullpen merely from the arms on hand (and maybe throw in an Alex Wilson or a Brandon Workman).

The bad: The outfield is weak. Kalish could be good, or he could be Ryan Sweeney. Sands has no track record of MLB success, but at least he has somewhat of a (PCL) bat. Depth in the outfield is non-existant as we saw this year with the likes of Marlon Byrd, Podsednik, Che-Hsuan Lin and Jason Repko graces the pastures. The rotation doesn’t exactly fill one with confidence either – Buchholz, Lester and Doubront could all be solid, but after 2012, it is anyone’s guess. Lackey will be innings fodder while Morales and de la Rosa are interesting, they are also question marks.

The ugly: First is even worse – nobody even close to an MLB firstbaseman in the lot. Where to go from here …

The future Red Sox

Don’t get me wrong – the Sox have a good farm system right now. Its just that most aren’t ready to make that big leap from the minors to starting in the majors just yet. According to Soxprospects.com, the top 5 prospects are:

  1. Xander Bogaerts – SS (in AA)
  2. Matt Barnes – SP (in A)
  3. Jackie Bradley, Jr – OF (in AA)
  4. Allen Webster – SP (in AA)
  5. Rubby de la Rosa – SP (in AAA/majors)

The top 4 there are bonafide … but a ways away from the big club. Rubby is mentioned above. Some other interesting names are Bryce Brentz (OF – AAA), Drake Britton (SP – AA), Stolmy Pimental (SP – AA). Again, no one that can (likely) make an impact at the major league level in 2013 (but you never know).

So, what about free agents?

We should start with first base as it is the awful gaping hole on the Sox infield. It is an underwhelming bunch: mathematician, another kind of mathematician and a statistician. OK, no, but really … Lance Berkman? Aubrey Huff? Carlos Lee? Carlos Pena? Lots of guys with little to nothing left in the tank. There is always Kevin Youkilis and who knows, maybe with Valentine out, we can patch things up, but he looks a lot like toast too. Maybe Eric Chavez can play first? People mention Nick Swisher, but it sounds like he wants more (in both years and $$) than a rebuilding team would want to offer to a guy on the wrong side of 30.

For the outfield issue, the biggest move might be to bring back Cody Ross. He isn’t perfect, but he plays an adequate outfield, seems to like hitting at Fenway and shouldn’t be astronomical in price (unless the Yankees make a play). Upton, Victorino, Hamilton – they will all be too pricy. Jonny Gomes might be an interesting role player, especially if for some reason the Sox can’t resign David Ortiz (see below).

For DH, resign David Ortiz. It is that simple. Sure, you’re going to end up paying for “legacy”, but it is a no brainer on a team with a veteran presence like that beyond Dustin Pedroia.

Adding depth to the rotation via free agency is possible too – maybe Edwin Jackson, Anibal Sanchez or Brandon McCarthy or the like. No big deals, though. Avoid Kyle Lohse at all costs as his magic will disappear outside of St. Louis (see also, Joel Piniero). Shawn Marcum is interesting. Again, not a lot to be giddy about there. As for the pen, if you wanted to add depth via minor league deals. I’ve always like JP Howell and Mark Lowe for no good reason whatsoever.

So, the Sox might need to make some deals, eh? I’m not going to suggest any pie-in-the-sky fleecing (like Felix for Lackey and two free tickets to the USS Constitution), but rather some sensible moves that could help solve some of the aforementioned problems.

  1. Deal Daniel Bard to Seattle for Mike Carp and Hector Noesi: Bard can likely bounce back, but probably not in Boston. Carp can play 1B and OF, maybe as a platoon with Sands and Noesi adds some rotation depth (really, he does).
  2. Deal Mike Aviles and Franklin Morales to Cincinnati for Drew Stubbs and prospect: With Billy Hamilton moving to CF, Stubbs time is near an end in Cincy. He was pretty bad in 2012, but has bounceback potential. Also allows for:
  3. Deal Jacoby Ellsbury to San Francisco for Tim Lincecum. OK, hear me out on this one. Why in the world would this happen? Well, SF needs outfielders and the Sox need a good starter. Tim has been terrible in 2012 and so was Ellsbury – but they’ve both in great (albeit Tim greater). Jacoby has one year of team control left, probably worth ~$9 million. Lincecum has one year left on his deal, worth $22 million*. The Sox can definitely afford to take on that extra money for the year of Lincecum. Heck, I’d throw in a prospect, maybe better one going to SF and less back to Boston. (*Edit: Oops, I thought it was $13 million. What’s $9 million amongst friends.)

Where does that leave the 2013 Red Sox?

Good question! I think they’d definitely be in shape for a run at the wild card(s). The roster would stack up like this:

  • C: Salty/Lavarnway – They will split time and we’ll all be happy with the results.
  • 1B: Eric Chavez – Just pray he doesn’t get hurt. Start praying now.
  • 2B: Pedroia – The rock.
  • 3B: Middlebrooks – Will come back nicely.
  • SS: Iglesias – Sure, he hitting might be a little ugly, but FIELDING.
  • RF: Ross  – He’ll be back
  • CF: Stubbs / Kalish – If Stubbs is terrible, install Kalish for the long haul.
  • LF: Sands / Carp – Might be a steep learning curve for playing the wall, but it happens to everyone.
  • DH: Ortiz – Until he retires.
  • Lineup: 1 Stubbs 2 Sands/Carp 3 Pedroia 4 Ross 5 Ortiz 6 Middlebrooks 7 Chavez 8 Salty/Lavarnway 9 Iglesias
  • SP: Lincecum, Buchholz, Lester, Lackey, Doubront – This rotation could be surprisingly solid and balanced
  • Pen: Bailey (closer), Tazawa and Hill (setup), Miller, Melancon, Breslow, Mortensen
  • Bench: Kalish, Carp/Sands, Lavarnway, Ciriaco

That leaves one great question – who the heck is the manager. As of October 11, we know that the Sox will interview Tim Wallach and Brad Ausmus. The rumours are that the Sox brass loves John Farrell. The media pundits love the idea of Jason Varitek. I think they’re all wrong. Of course, I have no idea who might be the winner here (and trust me, most people would love to manage the Red Sox) – maybe Joe McEwing or Tim Bogar … however, my hunch is it might be someone with no major league managerial experience.

There you have it. Pure speculation, but a 2013 Sox team that looks like that might be better than people expect … and much more likely than not, much better than the 2012 abomination.

The All Seafood Baseball Team

Sometimes I lie awake at night when I can’t sleep and think about relatively odd things. Last night I was wondering if one could construct an all-seafood* baseball team – and after a little digging on Baseball-Reference.com, I was able to make a passable roster of such players. Enjoy!

The Lineup

  • C Hank Conger – Mike Scoscia might hate him, but I’ll have him on the All Seafood team
  • 1B Mike Carp
  • 2B Ron Oester – Did I cheat here? Yes, I did. Too bad.
  • 3B Melvin Mora
  • SS Lip Pike – Lip played for the Worcester Ruby Legs in 1881 at age 36 after taking 3 years off. I’m hoping he took those three years from 1878-81 hunting down the rabid buffalo.
  • RF Kevin Bass – Bass is the most common fishy name in MLB history.
  • CF Mike Trout – Might he become the best seafood player ever? Only Tim Salmon stands in the way.
  • LF A.J. Pollock
  • DH Tim Salmon – With 299 career home runs, Tim is the king of the sea!

Pitching staff

  • SP Brian Bass
  • SP Art Herring – Not really an illustrious career, but did lead the major in hit-batsmen in 1931.
  • SP Dory Dean – If you can believe it, Dory Dean went 4-26 in 1876, even with a 3.73 ERA.
  • SP Harry Eells – I know some of you might say “that can’t pronounced ‘eels’!” However, his nickname was supposedly “Slippery”, so I’m right.
  • SP Anthony Bass
  • CL Chris Ray – To my great disappointment, there has never been an MLB closer named Muddy Mudskipper

Some players that didn’t make the cut for being at least a marginal major leaguer included Michael Clampitt, Snapper Kennedy and Keith Darter.

Got any suggestions of players I missed?

* Are freshwater fish we eat also called seafood? Seems odd to me.

 

Why MLB Blackout Rules Need to End Now

Sometimes I think that MLB.tv is the greatest invention ever. However, it can never, ever, ever really take that prize while the inane MLB Blackout rules stay in place. For those of you unfamiliar with this concept, MLB will “blackout” all home and away games for people trying to dare watch the games on the internet via MLB.tv. I think the idea is twofold: (1) blacking out the games is required due to cable deals with regional networks and (2) blacking out games will get people to buy tickets to see the games instead. Both of these lines are nuts because, for reason (1), many people with MLB.tv are not likely to be cable subscribers as well. As for reason (2), how many people do you know that think “the game’s not on TV? I guess I’ll spend $100 to see it live.”

If you’ve never seen the MLB Blackout map, prepare to laugh.

So, if you live in the following cities, which teams are you not allowed to see ANY games on MLB.tv?

  • Boston, MA: Red Sox (reasonable)
  • Rochester, MN: Twins, Brewers (hmmm)
  • Klamath Falls, OR: Mariners, A’s and Giants (well, huh, that’s weird)
  • Charlotte, NC: Orioles, Nationals, Reds and Braves (Yes, all those Reds fans in … Charlotte?)
  • Des Moines, IA: [the colors blind me]: Cubs, White Sox, Twins, Brewers, Royals, Cardinals, Ham Fighters, Logicians

That is only a smattering of the fun if you examine this map in detail.

This all got me wondering – just how far away can you get from a team and still be blacked out? I tried some different combinations and here are some fun distances to consider (first number is straight line distance, second is driving distance):

  • 356/442 miles: Charlotte, NC is blacked out of all Baltimore Orioles games
  • 409/491 miles: Reva, SD is black out of all Colorado Rockies games
  • 457/567 miles: Eudora, AR is blacked out of all Kansas City Royals games
  • 542/735 miles: Clayton, NM is blacked out of all Arizona Diamondbacks games
  • 562/720 miles: Mobile, AL is blacked out of all Miami Marlins games

And the record for the continental US

  • 834/1,065 miles: Wibaux, MT is black out for all Seattle Mariners games

Jeff Sullivan of Lookout Landing pointed out that if you leave the friendly confines of the North American continent, Hawaii enjoys black outs of all Giants, A’s, Padres and Mariners games as well. Hawaii is a mere 2,725 miles from Sodo Mojo, so those crafty MLB plutocrats know that people can just hop a Hawaiian air flight to Seattle to catch a game. The Mariners have it good, though, as Alaska is also part of the team’s designated blackout zone, so those of you in Point Barrow only have 1,926 miles to fly (if you want to drive to the game, you’re out of luck – Google Maps tells me “We could not calculate directions between Point Barrow, AK and Seattle, WA.”)

So, there you have it. MLB loves money, but instead of loving all money equally, they love the money from big cable corporations more than fan money, so we’re stuck with insane blackout rules. What can we do about it? Nothing, because MLB is exempt from antitrust rules so they can do whatever they want as the owners eat caviar out of Bud Selig’s loafers on the decks of their yachts.

Enjoy the game (if MLB lets you).

 

An array of random 2011 MLB prognostications!

Yes, it is that time of the year again: baseball season. In years past, I have used all manner of device to try to pick the “winners” for the baseball season and they have all ended in tears (except that one year I picked the Phillies to win the World Series … and they did! That was awesome).

So, here I am trying to make these wild accusations about most team’s performance, which will be mostly wrong. To make this more fun, I think I’ll compare each time to a U.S. president so you can get an idea what the level of success we might have, where the gold standard is Abraham Lincoln or FDR and the bottom of the barrel is, oh, I don’t know, Andrew Johnson?

We’ll start in the National League, shall we?

NL East

  1. Philadelphia Phillies: 93-69: Ronald Reagan – A president that made it seem that disaster was around every corner … yet somehow avoided it.
  2. Atlanta Braves: 90-72: Bill Clinton – Of course, it could just be the accent.
  3. Washington Nationals: 81-81: Harry Truman – Without Strasburg, everyone will be claiming Dewey wins.
  4. New York Mets: 79-83: George H.W. Bush – Strong legacy, no charisma.
  5. Florida Marlins: 70-92: Franklin Pierce – Unremarkable man who has a small public college named after him. Marlins won’t even get that.

NL Central

  1. Chicago Cubs: 91-71: Andrew Jackson – It took a couple tries, but Ol’ Hickory made it to the White House.
  2. Cincinnati Reds: 89-73: Woodrow Wilson – I couldn’t find any president who removed arms like Dusty Baker, so Wilson’s League of Nations seemed close enough.
  3. Milwaukee Brewers: 87-75: Grover Cleveland – Good enough to win two non-consecutive terms, but not enough to be a great president.
  4. St. Louis Cardinals: 81-81: George W. Bush – Thrust into history, but ultimate not enough there to keep it together.
  5. Pittsburgh Pirates: 68-94: Gerald Ford – Couldn’t even beat Jimmy Carter.
  6. Houston Astros: 58-104: Chet Arthur – I’m guessing some sort of horrible scandal will come from the sale of the Astros. Chet would be proud.

NL West

  1. San Francisco Giants: 93-69: Thomas Jefferson – Is the whole Bonds thing like Jefferson owning slaves?
  2. Colorado Rockies: 90-72: Lyndon Johnson – You almost feel bad that no matter how good they are, no one really remembers your accomplishments.
  3. Los Angeles Dodgers: 85-78: William Howard Taft – Hey, the wheels didn’t come off the country, did they?
  4. Arizona Diamondbacks: 72-90: Calvin Coolidge – A whole lotta nothing, but it could be worse.
  5. San Diego Padres: 66-96: Richard Nixon – Not to say the first term was bad, but the second term is a disaster.

American League!

AL East

  1. Boston Red Sox: 97-65: Dwight Eisenhower – People seem to think that the Sox will be walking on water. Eep.
  2. New York Yankees: 93-69: U.S. Grant – He served two terms, was well loved but was mostly an old drunk.
  3. Tampa Bay Rays: 88-74: Teddy Roosevelt – 2011 might be the baseball equivalent of the Bull Moose years.
  4. Toronto Blue Jays: 78-84: Pierre Trudeau – I’ve probably offended every Canadian reading this, but he was the only Canadian PM I could remember.
  5. Baltimore Orioles: 70-92: Jimmy Carter – So much optimism with so little to be to really optimistic.

AL Central

  1. Chicago White Sox: 90-72: John Adams – Ozzie might be the only MLB managers that could start an X, Y, Z affair via Twitter.
  2. Minnesota Twins: 86-76: James Monroe – Mostly so I could mention the Morneau Doctrine, which I think involves keeping Michael Cuddyer out of his locker.
  3. Cleveland Indians: 82-80: James K. Polk – Clearly, the darkhorse here, just like Polk.
  4. Detroit Tigers: 77-85: Martin Van Buren – He tried so hard to be President but never really got it right.
  5. Kansas City Royals: 72-90: Rutherford Hayes – Now, if ever there was a caretaker roster, it is your 2011 Royals. You’d be lucky to see 10% back for 2012-13.

AL West

  1. Texas Rangers: 95-67: James Madison – The War of 1812 might be like losing Cliff Lee, but it probably helped the country unify.
  2. Oakland A’s: 85-77: William McKinley – In which I suggest that Oakland provoke war with San Francisco in order to move to San Jose.
  3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: 82-80: Herbert Hoover – Things started off so promising from Mike Scioscia, but the Depression looms.
  4. Seattle Mariners: 68-94: Barack Obama: Last year, I picked the Mariners to win the AL West. I was high on the unbridled enthusiasm about their plan to cultivate defense and pitching to win games … and then they sucked like you wouldn’t imagine. Yeah, that about sums it up.

Playoffs:

ALDS

  • Red Sox over White Sox
  • Rangers over Yankees

NLDS (* COL wins tiebreaker over Atlanta)

  • Philadelphia over Colorado*
  • Chicago over San Francisco

AL/NLCS

  • Boston over Texas
  • Chicago over Philadelphia

World Series

  • Boston over Chicago
Yet again I make the Homer pick.

Some Awards!

  • AL MVP: Dustin Pedroia (2B Boston) – Everyone says Adrian Gonzalez, so I’ll be different
  • NL MVP: Carlos Gonzalez (OF Colorado)
  • AL Cy Young: Jon Lester (SP Boston)
  • NL Cy Young: Roy Oswalt (SP Philadelphia)
  • AL Rookie of the Year: Hank Conger (C LAA) – This will only happen if they fire Scioscia, which they won’t.
  • NL Rookie of the Year: Freddie Freeman (1B ATL)

Enjoy … !

The state of the 2011 Red Sox Roster

Over the last year or so, I haven’t done a lot of blogging over here on the Intellectual Thicket, mostly because I’ve been busy with (a) being a junior faculty member and (b) blogging about volcanoes. However, whenever baseball season is around the corner, I start to get that itch to write/think/obsess about baseball, so I have to do something about it. Last year I joined way (as in waaaay) too many fantasy baseball leagues, which didn’t really end up being very productive. This year, I might try writing about baseball here on the Thicket instead. So, to steal liberally from Lookout Landing’s post on the state of the Mariners roster in 2011 (admittedly, a much less static target than the Boston Red Sox), I’ll look at the Sox for 2011.

Death-grip mortal locks – position players

  • 1B Adrian Gonzalez
  • 2B Dustin Pedroia
  • 3B Kevin Youkilis
  • CF Carl Crawford
  • LF Jacoby Ellsbury
  • DH David Ortiz

This bunch was easy, except for maybe Ellsbury, whom I briefly hesitate to put as a mortal lock but then came to my senses.

Death-grip mortal locks – starting pitchers

  • Jon Lester
  • Josh Beckett
  • John Lackey
  • Clay Buchholz

So, not much drama in starters 1-4

Death-grip mortal locks – bullpen

  • Jonathan Papelbon
  • Daniel Bard
  • Bobby Jenks

I suppose all three of these guys could take over each other’s roles, or possibly get dealt at some point, but none would conceivably be left off the Opening Day roster.

Battles – starting position players

  • SS: Marco Scutaro, Jed Lowrie (and in the shadows Jose Iglesias): Tito has already said that Scutaro is the starter for Opening Day at SS, but after his shoulder troubles in 2010 where he ended up moving to 2B in September, you never know. I get the impression that Theo would love to have Jed Lowrie start at SS and Scutaro moved in a deal, but Theo can’t do everything (at least I think). Jose Iglesias likely needs more AAA seasoning in the hitting department, but hey, stranger things have happened.
  • RF: J.D. Drew, Mike Cameron, Ryan Kalish: You have to image that J.D. and Cammy are the top of the heap for RF – if only you could take all their working body parts and merge them into some sort of Frankenfielder, then we might be onto something. Now, if they both break down, which given their age/track record isn’t unimaginable, we might see the return of Ryan Kalish to start in RF. This is a walk year for both J.D. and Cameron, so hey, maybe they’ll find the fountain of youth.
  • C: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jason Varitek (and in the shadows Mark Wagner): Going into Opening Day, you have to expect that the Sox will give Salty every opportunity to start, oh, maybe 5 days a week with ‘Tek someone’s personal catcher (Beckett?) It could have been a much more interesting positional battle if the Sox hadn’t lost Max Ramirez on waiver to the Cubs, but Theo love to rifle through players like so many used books that we barely knew Max existed.

Battles – starter

  • The #5 slot: Diasuke Matsuzaka, Felix Doubront, Tim Wakefield: Nothing like an exciting battle for the 5th roster spot, eh? Again, considering the money involved, unless a trade happens, I would expect to see Daisuke as the #5, tantalizing/terrorizing us as much as he can. Hopefully, 2011 will allow me to see anyone on the Red Sox start a game I attend beyond Daisuke (unlike 2010). However, if Daisuke collapses or is moved, I might expect to see Felix in the #5 spot unless Tito gets nostalgic and slots in Wakefield.

Battles – bullpen

  • LHP: Rich Hill, Felix Doubront, Adam Miller, Hideki Okajima, Randy Williams, some other guy who throws left handed: Theo is taking the “throw against wall/see what sticks” method for getting someone, anyone, to be an effective leftie out of the bullpen. Now, rather than spend money on this, Theo just has a bunch of hard and soft throwers that may or may not work. Curt Young, best of luck!
  • Other bullpen arms (3): some combination of Matt Albers, Scott Atchinson, Robert Coello, Dan Wheeler, Jason Bergmann, Brandon Duckworth, Tim Wakefield: My hunch is that Dan Wheeler is close to a lock, followed by Matt Albers and Scott Atchinson. Wakefield is likely the longman.

Battles – Bench

  • Utility Infielder: Marco Scutaro, Jed Lowrie, Yamaico Navarro : I suppose this isn’t too much of a battle considering the loser of the Scutaro/Lowrie SS fight will end up here.
  • 4th OF: Mike Cameron, Josh Reddick, Ryan Kalish, Darnell McDonald, Daniel Nava: With Drew and Cameron sharing a spot, Cammy is likely a lock. The Sox will likely want Kalish to play fulltime, so he’ll be a AAA, leaving Reddick and McDonald to fight it out. Nava will likely be on the Providence Shuttle if needed too.
  • Backup C: Jason Varitek, Mark Wagner: The backup job is ‘Teks, ideally to tutor Salty, but if Varitek goes down, Wagner is next.
  • Utility: Drew Sutton, Nava, Reddick: Sutton is the most interesting here, although he is only a NRI but has a lot of versatility.

So, the roster looks like:

  • Starting position players (9): Pedroia (2B), Drew/Cameron (RF), Crawford (CF), Youkilis (3B), Gonzalez (1B), Ortiz (DH), Saltalamacchia (C), Scutaro (SS), Ellsbury (LF)
  • Starters (5): Lester, Beckett, Lackey, Buchholz, Matsuzaka
  • Bullpen (7): Papelbon (CL), Bard, Jenks, Hill, Wheeler, Albers, Wakefield
  • Bench (4): Varitek, Lowrie, McDonald, Cameron

There ya go. Less than 3 weeks until pitchers and catchers report!

My 2010 MLB Predictions

Ah yes, Opening Day is around the corner, so as I do most years, I will make my prognostication about the 2010 MLB season. Now, sometimes I employ simulations, sometime I make wild guesses and sometimes I do a little of everything. This year I’m employing a system called Player Ranking and Evaluation for Season Standings, or PRESS. What does that mean? Not much beyond looking at the depth charts, assigning some values, adding short columns of small numbers and voila! I have predictions. Enjoy at your leisure…

American League East

  1. New York Yankees: 102-60
  2. Boston Red Sox: 98-64
  3. Tampa Bay Rays: 93-69
  4. Baltimore Orioles: 70-92
  5. Toronto Blue Jays: 61-101

After finding out that Shaun Marcum will be the Opening Day starter for the Jays, I feel like 61 wins is generous. Also, it sucks to be the Rays in the AL East.

American League Central

  1. Minnesota Twins: 81-81
  2. Chicago White Sox: 80-82
  3. Detroit Tigers: 74-88
  4. Cleveland Indians: 67-95
  5. Kansas City Royals: 63-99

The land of AL mediocrity. Again.

American League West

  1. Seattle Mariners: 93-69
  2. Texas Rangers: 84-78
  3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: 70-92
  4. Oakland A’s: 69-93

I worry I am blinded by the fact I really, really want the ‘Ners to win the West, because I’m fond of them and I like a lot of their players. I’m also concerned that the Angels might be undervalued here, but here, what is the fun of predictions if you don’t go out on a limb?

National League East

  1. Philadelphia Phillies: 99-63
  2. New York Mets: 92-70
  3. Atlanta Braves: 83-79
  4. Florida Marlins: 77-85
  5. Washington Nationals: 63-99

I would have to assume that the Mets winning 92 games is predicated on Omar Minaya being bound and gagged for most of the season and every member wearing a magic amulet to keep them healthy. But yeah, the Phils win the East again.

National League Central

  1. Chicago Cubs: 86-76
  2. St. Louis Cardinals: 85-77
  3. Milwaukee Brewers: 83-79
  4. Cincinnati Reds: 78-84
  5. Houston Astros: 75-87
  6. Pittsburgh Pirates: 71-91

Maybe, just maybe, things will break for the Cubs. Maybe.

National League West

  1. Arizona Diamondbacks: 94-68
  2. Colorado Rockies: 93-69
  3. Los Angeles Dodgers: 91-71
  4. San Francisco Giants: 85-77
  5. San Diego Padres: 73-89

Last year in this space, I bolding predicted the Dbacks would win the West … and they promptly sucked. This is a message to Josh Byrnes: please, don’t suck again.

Playoffs

ALDS

  • New York over Minnesota
  • Seattle over Boston

NLDS

  • Philadelphia over Colorado
  • Chicago over Arizona

LC

  • Chicago over Philadelphia
  • Seattle over New York

World Series

  • Seattle over Chicago

Yes, the ‘Ners win it all in 2010. I mostly wish this so I can hear whatever brilliant thing Ichiro might say upon winning the World Series.