And now, the HardballTalk staff predictions

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Our Springtime Storyline previews are the Official Previews of HardballTalk. But despite our little paragraphs entitled “So, how are they going to do?” their real value is in talking about the issues facing each team, not in providing predictions.

And, it should be noted, they are a collective product. For example, Aaron wrote up the AL Central and he and I may differ on the order in which the teams will finish. I wrote up the NL West and D.J. and Drew may think I’m full of beans.  Such is the nature of collaboration. And as such, I thought it would fun for each of us to provide a quick and dirty rundown of how we think things will end up come October.

For what it’s worth, there is nothing terribly radical here. My pick of the Cubs is unique. Drew’s prediction of the Yankees missing the playoffs is somewhat unconventional. D.J. feels more optimistic about the Athletics’ chances than any of us.

Anyway, as Casey Stengel said: “Never make predictions. Especially about the future.” So, you know, take this all with a grain of salt.

CRAIG CALCATERRA

AL East: Red Sox, Yankees (WC), Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles
AL Central: White Sox, Twins, Tigers, Indians, Royals
AL West: Rangers, Athletics, Angels, Mariners
NL East: Phillies, Braves (WC), Marlins, Mets, Nationals
NL Central: Cubs, Reds, Cardinals, Brewers, Astros, Pirates
NL West: Giants, Rockies, Dodgers, Padres, Diamondbacks

ALDS: Red Sox over White Sox and Yankees over Rangers
NLDS: Phillies over Cubs, Braves over Giants
ALCS: Red Sox over Yankees
NLCS: Phillies over Braves
World Series: Red Sox over Phillies

AARON GLEEMAN

AL East: Red Sox, Yankees (WC), Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles
AL Central: Twins, White Sox, Tigers, Indians, Royals
AL West: Rangers, Athletics, Angels, Mariners
NL East: Phillies, Braves (WC), Mets, Marlins, Nationals
NL Central: Reds, Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs, Pirates, Astros
NL West: Giants, Rockies, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Padres

ALDS: Red Sox over Twins and Yankees over Rangers
NLDS: Phillies over Giants, Braves over Reds
ALCS: Red Sox over Yankees
NLCS: Phillies over Braves
World Series: Phillies over Red Sox

D.J. SHORT

AL East: Red Sox, Yankees (WC), Rays, Orioles, Blue Jays
AL Central: White Sox, Twins, Tigers, Indians, Royals
AL West: Athletics, Rangers, Angels, Mariners
NL East: Phillies, Braves (WC), Marlins, Mets, Nationals
NL Central: Brewers, Reds, Cubs, Cardinals, Astros, Pirates
NL West: Rockies, Giants, Dodgers, Padres, Diamondbacks

ALDS: Red Sox over Athletics and Yankees over White Sox
NLDS: Rockies over Phillies, Braves over Brewers
ALCS: Red Sox over Yankees
NLCS: Rockies over Braves
World Series: Red Sox over Rockies

DREW SILVA

AL East: Red Sox, Rays (WC), Yankees, Blue Jays, Orioles
AL Central: White Sox, Tigers, Twins, Indians, Royals
AL West: Rangers, Athletics, Angels, Mariners
NL East: Phillies, Braves (WC), Marlins, Mets, Nationals
NL Central: Brewers, Cardinals, Reds, Cubs, Astros, Pirates
NL West: Rockies, Dodgers, Giants, Padres, Diamondbacks

ALDS: Red Sox over Rangers, Rays over White Sox
NLDS: Phillies over Brewers, Braves over Rockies
ALCS: Red Sox over Rays
NLCS: Braves over Phillies
World Series: Red Sox over Braves

BOB HARKINS

AL East: Red Sox, Yankees (WC), Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles
AL Central: White Sox, Twins, Tigers, Indians, Royals
AL West: Rangers, Angels, Athletics, Mariners
NL East: Phillies, Braves, Marlins, Mets, Nationals
NL Central: Brewers, Reds, Cubs, Cardinals, Astros, Pirates
NL West: Rockies, Giants (WC), Dodgers, Padres, Diamondbacks

Major League Baseball orders balls stored in climate controlled rooms for some reason

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Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated reports that Major League Baseball will mandate that teams store baseballs in “an air-conditioned and enclosed room[s]” this season. He adds that the league will install climate sensors in each room to measure temperature and humidity during the 2018 season, with such data being used to determine if humidors — like the ones being used in Colorado and Arizona — are necessary for 2019.

This move comes a year after Major League Baseball’s single season, league-wide home run record was shattered, with 6,105 dingers being hit. It also comes after a year in which two different studies — one by Ben Lindbergh and Mitchel Lichtman for The Ringer, and another by FiveThirtyEight’s Rob Arthur — found evidence that baseballs were altered at some point around the middle of the 2015 season which coincided with home run numbers spiking in the middle of that year, quite suddenly.

Also coming last year: multiple player complaints about the baseball seeming different, with pitchers blaming a rash of blister problems stemming from what they believed to be lower seams on the baseballs currently in use than those in use in previous years. Players likewise complained about unusually smooth and/or juiced baseballs during the World Series, which some believe led to a spike of home runs in the Fall Classic.

To date, Major League Baseball has steadfastly denied that the balls are a problem, first issuing blatantly disingenuous denials,  and later using carefully chosen words to claim nothing was amiss. Specifically, Major League Baseball claimed that the balls were within league specifications but failed to acknowledge that league specifications are wide enough to encompass baseballs which could have radically different flight characteristics while still, technically, being within spec.

Based on Verducci’s report, it seems that MLB is at least past the denial stage and is attempting to understand and address the issues about which many players have complained and which have, without question, impacted offense in the game:

Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday that MLB commissioned a research project after last season to study the composition, storage and handling of the baseballs. He said that investigation is not yet completed. “I’m not at the point to jump that gun right now,” he said about the findings.

The investigation is not yet completed, but the fact that the league is now ordering changes in the manner in which balls are handled before use suggests to me that the league has learned that there is at least something amiss about the composition or manufacture of the baseballs.

Major League Baseball is a lot of things, but quick to impose costs and changes of process on its clubs like this is not one of them. There is likely a good reason for it.