Okay, it’s late March and somehow, baseball is here! We’re officially underway, but since I’m not picking the Mariners or Athletics to do anything worthwhile this year, their Japan games are trees falling in the forest that didn’t make a sound. Last year was about as bad a beatdown as a parity-lover could take, and why wouldn’t it be? The 2017 season ended just about as perfectly as you could imagine, with the Astros becoming the first team ever to beat the Evil Empires (Red Sox and Yankees) in the same postseason. That capped a wonderful three-year run in MLB where the champions all felt like Cinderella’s of sorts, with the Royals, Cubs, and Astros all ending long championship droughts (in the Astros case, having never won one before). But now, it’s a Red Sox and Yankees world and we’re living in it. The National League might offer a few surprises, but the American League has turned into the AFC in the NFL. But hey, baseball still has its great moments, right? So let’s try and stay a little positive, even if we know how this one is likely going to end. A look now at my 2019 MLB Predictions:
1) New York Yankees (98-64)
Danger! Danger! I hear the warning signs not to pick against the Red Sox in 2019. I basically flipped a coin between these two last year and landed on the Yankees, with the caveat that whichever team emerged from the holy “Rivalry” would be the World Series champion. Mission accomplished. A loaded bullpen, power bats galore, and improved-enough starting pitching should carry the Bronx Bombers in 2019.
2) Boston Red Sox (95-67)*
What a century to be a Boston sports fan. First, the Patriots break the seal. Then, the Red Sox break the curse. The Celtics and Bruins soon follow suit. 2018 is lather, rinse, repeat. Could a Boston sports grand slam be on the title? Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves, but despite supposed bullpen questions, the Sox are still pretty darn loaded. Once again, if the Yankees don’t meet expectations, the Red Sox will be right there to pick up the slack.
3) Tampa Bay Rays (86-76)
I expect the Rays to be competitive, but not 90-win competitive. Things just went too right last year for the tight-wallet Rays.
4) Toronto Blue Jays (75-87)
Slight improvement, but still “No, Ca-na-da” for these Jays. Vlad Jr. will be exciting once he’s healthy, though.
5) Baltimore Orioles (57-105)
As a lifelong Orioles fan, I have no words. Still, how about a 10-win “improvement” in 2019!
1) Cleveland Indians (87-75)
They simply aren’t as good as in 2018, but no one in the Central wants to catch them.
2) Minnesota Twins (85-77)
Oh-so-close for the Twinkies, but no cigar.
3) Chicago White Sox (75-87)
Baby steps, but that’s not saying much. Eloy Jimenez, though…
4) Detroit Tigers (68-94)
All the fat contracts have taken their toll, and now Michael Fulmer is done for the year. Ouch.
5) Kansas City Royals (66-96)
Losing Salvador Perez for the year is even worse news for the Royals. Hard to believe they held a World Series parade just 40 months ago.
1) Houston Astros (97-65)
No one is going to challenge the Astros in the West, which could actually be detrimental when the team faces the heavyweights in October.
2) Los Angeles Angels (82-80)
Some improvement, but still not enough for the Halos. Kudos to Mike Trout on his bank-breaking deal, though.
3) Oakland Athletics (81-81)
Moneyball is hard to sustain these days.
4) Seattle Mariners (79-83)
The Mariners were sitting pretty until late last summer. Now, somehow, it’s yet another rebuild in the Pacific Northwest.
5) Texas Rangers (74-88)
One strike away from a title in 2011, this franchise has gone south and things aren’t looking particularly bright at the moment.
1) Philadelphia Phillies (89-73)
Is the Bryce Harper addition the missing piece? The bullpen was awful down the stretch as the Phillies faded, but a number of veteran additions and the law of averages getting to the Braves should be enough to push the Phightins’ to the top of the division.
2) Atlanta Braves (88-74)*
Things went very well for the young Bravos in 2018, but can they repeat their magic? Adding Craig Kimbrel would help, but this club might be due to take a slight step back in 2019.
3) Washington Nationals (85-77)
I think it’s actually addition by subtraction for the Nats losing Harper, but this team still lacks the intestinal fortitude to be a true contender.
4) New York Mets (78-84)
The Mets fixed some holes, but they had too many to begin with.
5) Miami Marlins (61-101)
Nope, I’m not being generous enough to the Fish to have them under 100 losses.
1) St. Louis Cardinals (93-69)
Yes, after three failed playoff seasons (yet in typical Cards fashion, winning seasons no less) this is the year St. Louis breaks back through to the top of the Central with the big-impact additions of Paul Goldschmidt and Andrew Miller.
2) Chicago Cubs (90-72)*
Things apparently went badly for the Cubs in 2018, with a scuffling offense and up-and-down rotation. And yet, they won 96 games. Things aren’t as bleak as they seem. This is still a playoff team.
3) Milwaukee Brewers (83-79)
The Brewers came painfully close to a Fall Classic appearance last year, but what are the odds the bullpen can carry them through again, not to mention Christian Yelich having another MVP season?
4) Pittsburgh Pirates (76-86)
The Pirates are always churning out young talent, but like the Rays, are too cheap to really be in the hunt.
5) Cincinnati Reds (74-88)
Improvement, but not nearly enough in the loaded NL Central.
1) Los Angeles Dodgers (89-73)
The Dodgers will figure out a way, even with injury concerns surrounding Clayton Kershaw.
2) Colorado Rockies (85-77)
Time to take a step back for the Rockies, who couldn’t take advantage of having great starting pitching for once in 2018.
3) San Diego Padres (80-82)
My one big stretch, Manny Machado helps leads the Padres close to .500.
4) Arizona Diamondbacks (79-83)
This team missed a big chance a couple years ago and now has an uphill battle.
5) San Francisco Giants (74-88)
It won’t be a happy farewell season for Bruce Bochy (plus, it’s an odd-numbered year, anyway).
AL WC Game – Red Sox 5, Rays 4. JD Martinez breaks Tampa’s little hearts with a walk-off single after Tampa ties it late.
NL WC Game – Cubs 7, Braves 3. No offensives woes this time around for the Cubbies as Anthony Rizzo and Wilson Contreras homer to back a strong Cole Hamels.
ALDS – Yankees over Red Sox, 3-2. I’m flirting with danger two years in a row, but no “New York, New York” blaring in the Red Sox’s clubhouse after this series. Aaron Judge belts three homers in the series, including a game-winner.
ALDS – Astros over Indians, 3-1. The Indians get a game this time, but too much Jose Altuve is the difference.
NLDS – Cardinals over Cubs, 3-1. It’s revenge time for the Redbirds as Andrew Miller regains his 2016 ALCS form and Matt Carpenter homers twice.
NLDS – Phillies over Dodgers, 3-2. The Phillies finish the job in LA to meet the Cards in the NLCS, with not Bryce Harper but Andrew McCutchen getting the big hit in Game 5.
ALCS – Yankees over Astros, 4-3. Flip the script from 2017 as the Yanks’ starting pitching rises to the occasion to outduel the Astros’ mighty arms. Gleyber Torres nabs MVP honors.
NLCS – Cardinals over Phillies, 4-2. Too much of NLCS MVP Paul Goldschmidt keeps the Phillies just short of the Fall Classic.
Yankees over Cardinals, 4-3. The Bombers rally from down 3-2 in the series with dramatic home wins in Games 6 and 7, riding the torrid bat of Series MVP Judge. Aroldis Chapman shuts the door in Game 7 over the team he owns.
AL MVP – Aaron Judge, Yankees
NL MVP – Paul Goldschmidt, Cardinals
AL CY – Chris Sale, Red Sox
NL CY – Max Scherzer, Nationals
AL ROY – Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays
NL ROY – Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres
AL MGR – Rocco Baldelli, Twins
NL MGR – Mike Shildt, Cardinals