And now the HBT staff’s 2014 predictions

77 Comments

We’re usually way wrong with this stuff. Waaaay wrong. All of us picked the Phillies to win the NL East in 2012. We all picked the Nationals last year. Not picking the Braves is probably always madness, I have no idea. But we’re all likely going to all whiff on one or 24 of these picks this year, too. Bank on it. But we make our picks anyway because that’s what professional baseball writers do. And, unlike some folks out there, we own our wrongness. Those other analysts merely adopt the wrong. But we’re born in it, molded by it.

Which is to say: we don’t take this exercise entirely seriously. No battle plan survives engagement with the enemy and such. If these predictions make you angry or resentful or convinces you that someone harbors bias or a vendetta against all that you love, well, you probably need to see a therapist.

Whatever the case, it’s fun to try to predict the future, darn it, so here we are. Wild card picks have an asterisk next to them.

CRAIG

AL East: Red Sox, *Rays, Yankees, Orioles, Jays
AL Central: Tigers, Royals, Indians, White Sox, Twins
AL West: Rangers, *Athletics, Angles, Mariners, Astros
NL East: Nationals, *Braves, Mets, Marlins, Phillies
NL Central: Cardinals, *Reds, Pirates, Brewers, Cubs
NL West: Dodgers, Giants, Padres, Diamondbacks, Rockies
World Series: Cardinals vs. Rangers — Cardinals win.

AARON

AL East: Red Sox, *Rays, Yankees, Blue Jays, Orioles
AL Central: Tigers, Indians, Royals, Twins, White Sox
AL West: Rangers, *Angels, A’s, Mariners, Astros
NL East: Nationals, Braves, Phillies, Mets, Marlins
NL Central: Cardinals, *Pirates, Reds, Brewers, Cubs
NL West: Dodgers, *Giants, Diamondbacks, Padres, Rockies
World Series: Dodgers vs. Red Sox — Dodgers win

MATTHEW

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

D.J.

AL East: Rays, *Red Sox, *Yankees, Orioles, Blue Jays
AL Central: Tigers, Indians, Royals, White Sox, Twins
AL West: Rangers, Athletics, Angels, Mariners, Astros
NL East: Nationals, *Braves, Mets, Phillies, Marlins
NL Central: Cardinals, Reds, Pirates, Brewers, Cubs
NL West: Dodgers, *Giants, Padres, Diamondbacks, Rockies
World Series: Cardinals vs. Rays – Rays win

DREW

AL East: Red Sox, *Rays, Yankees, Orioles, Jays
AL Central: Royals, *Tigers, Indians, White Sox, Twins
AL West: Rangers, Angels, Athletics, Mariners, Astros
NL East: Nationals, *Braves, Phillies, Mets, Marlins
NL Central: Cardinals, *Reds, Pirates, Brewers, Cubs
NL West: Dodgers, Giants, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Padres
World Series: Nationals vs. Rays — Nationals win.

BILL

AL East: Red Sox, *Rays, Yankees, Orioles, Blue Jays
AL Central: Royals, Tigers, Indians, White Sox, Twins
AL West: Rangers, *Athletics, Angels, Mariners Astros
NL East: Nationals, *Braves, Mets, Phillies, Marlins
NL Central: Cardinals, *Reds, Pirates, Brewers, Cubs
NL West: Dodgers, Padres, Diamondbacks, Giants, Rockies
World Series: Red Sox vs. Dodgers — Dodgers win in 6

UPDATE: Donald Trump declines Nats offer to throw out the first pitch

Getty Images
63 Comments

UPDATE: Welp, we wont’ get to see that:

Sad!

8:53 AM: It’s just gossip now, but Politico is hearing that Donald Trump is in talks to throw out the first pitch at Nationals Park on Opening Day. The Nats are not commenting. Neither are the Palm Beach Cardinals of the Florida State League, who no doubt feel slighted given that the president effectively is a local.

With the caveat that, on Opening Day, tickets are likely to be more expensive and thus you’re likely to have a lot more rich people and friends-of-the-owners in attendance, thereby ensuring a more conservative crowd, I’m struggling to imagine a situation in which Trump strolls on to a baseball field in a large American city and isn’t booed like crazy. He’s polling as low as 36% in some places. He’s not exactly Mr. Popular.

Oh well. I look forward to him three-bouncing one to Matt Wieters and then grabbing his phone and tweeting about how it was the best, most tremendous first pitch in baseball history. Or blaming Hillary Clinton for it in the event he admits that it was a bad pitch.

2017 Preview: Texas Rangers

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Texas Rangers.

The Rangers somehow won the AL West last year despite not being super great at any one aspect of the game. There are stars here — Adrian Beltre, Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish and Rougned Odor are all spiffy players — but the Rangers won the division by being greater than the sum of their parts. They scored a decent number of runs despite some bad collective peripheral numbers and they allowed more runs than anyone in the AL except the Twins and Athletics. Yet they had a great record in one-run games and outperformed their pythagorean record by a WHOLE lot. Luck shined brightly on the 2016 Rangers.

It’s hard to expect luck to hold in any instance, but that’s especially the case when there have been some pretty significant changes. Changes like the loss of Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond and Mitch Moreland. In their place: A full season, the Rangers hope, from Shin-Soo Choo, a converted-to-outfield Jurickson Profar and Mike Napoli. That may wash out OK, especially if Choo is healthy, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see some regression in two of those offensive slots.

Starting pitching is also a big question mark. Cole Hamels at the top is not a problem, obviously, and if Yu Darvish is healthy and durable the Rangers have an outstanding 1-2 punch. Martin Perez in the third spot presents promise, but he’s been exactly average so far in five major league seasons. The back end of the rotation has some real problems. Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross are hurt at the moment and even if healthy, Cashner seems to be a shell of his once-promising self. A.J. Griffin is looking to pitch in his first full season since 2013. If the Rangers are strong contenders all year it’s gonna be on the “Spahn and Sain and two days of rain” model, but I have no idea what rhymes with “Darvish” and that’s sort of a problem.

The bullpen is going to look a lot like it did last year. Sam Dyson will close, but manager Jeff Banister has shown in the past that he’s not a slave to keeping guys in any one role down there. Jeremy Jeffress will likely set up but he’s closed before. Some think Matt Bush or Keone Kela could close. We’ll see Tanner Scheppers and lefty Alex Claudio. Banister has a Manager of the Year Award on his mantle and while that often doesn’t mean anything, it usually suggests that a guy knows how to deal with his pen. Banister will do OK with what he has.

Really, though, the rotation is a concern, as is hoping that a 35-year-old Mike Napoli and a soon-to-be 38-year-old Adrian Beltre can continue to be the types of players who can form the offensive core of a playoff team. There’s talent and a track record here, but there’s a lot of uncertainty. For that reason, I suspect the Rangers will fall back a smidge this year, even if they’re a playoff contender.

Prediction: Second Place, American League West.