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Friday, April 2, 2010

"Prediction Day" & Thoughts

Twins-Specific Predictions
• Twins MVP: Joe Mauer
• Twins Top Pitcher: Kevin Slowey
• Twins Best Rookie: Anthony Slama
• Twins Most Improved Player: Delmon Young
• Bold Predictions (there is a reason these are BOLD predictions)
o Kevin Slowey will win 20 games
o Pat Neshek will save the most games of any current Twins reliever
o Delmon Young will hit 25 homeruns this season
o The Twins will win the regular season series vs. both the Yankees and Red Sox
• A.L. Central Prediction (Standings):
1. Minnesota Twins (92-70)
2. Chicago White Sox (84-78)
3. Detroit Tigers (82-80)
4. Cleveland Indians (72-90)
5. Kansas City Royals (70-92
• Three Keys to Success for the Twins:
1. Health: The Twins have struggled in years past with staying healthy (Michael Cuddyer in 2008, Justin Morneau & Kevin Slowey in 2009, the list could go on and on). If this lineup stays healthy, it will score a ton of runs.
2. Starting Pitching: Somebody needs to emerge as a leader/ace of this staff. They need to break the constant barrage of chatter around how the staff is comprised of number 3 & 4 starters. It could be Liriano finally regaining some of his 2006 form, it could be Scott Baker continuing to improve as he has each of the last 4 years, it could be Kevin Slowey bouncing back from a season ending wrist injuring last year (see “Bold Predictions”). The Twins will score plenty of runs, we just need to make sure we don’t have a team ERA of 6.00
3. Closer Situation: The “closer by committee” approach that Ron Gardenhire will be using to begin the 2010 season cannot go on for the entire season, especially if the Twins see themselves making a deep playoff run. Somebody from the current bullpen needs to emerge as the closer, or the Twins will have to sign (possibly John Smoltz) or trade for somebody prior to July 31st.

Rest of the League Predictions
• A.L. MVP: Joe Mauer
• N.L. MVP: Albert Pujols
• A.L. Cy Young: Zack Greinke
• N.L. Cy Young: Tim Lincecum
• A.L. Rookie of the Year: Brian Matusz
• N.L. Rookie of the Year: Jason Heyward
• A.L. Breakout Player of the Year: Max Scherzer
• N.L. Breakout Player of the Year: Jay Bruce
• A.L. Comeback Player of the Year: Josh Hamilton
• N.L. Comeback Player of the Year: Russell Martin
• A.L. Playoff Predictions:
o AL East – New York Yankees (100-62)
o AL Central – Minnesota Twins (92-70)
o AL West – Seattle Mariners (94-68)
o AL Wild Card – Boston Red Sox (95-67)
o AL Champion – Minnesota Twins (defeat Red Sox 4-2 in ALCS)
• N.L. Playoff Predictions:
o NL East – Philadelphia Phillies (94-68)
o NL Central – St. Louis Cardinals (92-70)
o NL West – Colorado Rockies (93-69)
o NL Wild Card – San Francisco Giants (90-72)
o NL Champion – Colorado Rockies (defeat Phillies 4-3 in NLCS)
• World Series Prediction:
o Twins vs. Rockies (defeat Rockies 4-2)

With a new contract signed, and the distractions of contract negotiations in the rearview mirror, Joe Mauer can begin 2010 with a clear mind and focus on doing what he does best, being a stud. I fully expect Mauer to put up monster numbers this season, hopefully contributing to more wins out of the gate (rather than missing the first month of the season as he did in 2009). I am not saying that he will replicate the insane season that he had in 2009, but let’s face it, even if he comes close to those numbers, he will not only be the MVP of the Twins, but also of the American League.

Judging by the spring that he has had, Kevin Slowey’s wrist seems to be just fine heading into the season. Albeit a small sample size, Slowey has posted an ERA 0.56 with only 3 BB in 15 innings this spring, dismissing all of the talk that his control may never be the same following wrist surgery.

It is already beginning to happen in the bullpen, Jose Mijares has blurred vision, Clay Condrey has a sore arm, and it is inevitable that injuries will occur as the season progresses. The first guy to get the call may be Anthony Slama. I was actually hoping he would find a way to make the team out of spring training, but it just didn’t make sense that Slama would leapfrog anybody in the current bullpen. Slama gave up 0 runs and struck out 10 in the 6.2 innings he pitched this spring. Pair that with his outstanding minor league numbers over the past 3 seasons, and it is easy to see why I have tagged him as the “closer of the future” for the Minnesota Twins. Here are Slama’s numbers since 2007:

• 2007 A; 1-1, 1.48 ERA, 10 SV, 24.1 IP, 39 K, 0.99 WHIP
• 2008 A+; 4-1, 1.01 ERA, 25 SV, 71 IP, 110 K, 0.94 WHIP
• 2009 AA-AAA; 4-4, 2.67 ERA, 29 SV, 81 IP, 112 K, 1.20 WHIP

He didn’t dominate at the AAA level following his midseason promotion in 2009, but he still managed to strike out 112 in only 81 IP between AA-AAA. I would put an ETA of Slama at some point in June.

Delmon Young was an easy choice for most improved Twin, due to the fact most other players had great years in 2009, and also the fact that Young not only came to camp in the “best shape of his life,” but also that he has had success throughout the spring. I could have chosen Nick Punto or maybe JJ Hardy, the difference there is that Young’s ceiling is much higher than Punto’s, and JJ Hardy has had two all-star caliber seasons already, and had what I would consider to just be a "down year" in 2009.

The bold predictions speak for themselves, and before anybody rips me on these predictions, let me remind you that the definition of bold is “requiring or exhibiting courage and bravery.” Therefore I am not saying that I expect all of these things to happen, I am simply going out on a limb to make these predictions based mostly on a “hunch” or a feeling.

I discussed how I believed the AL Central would shake out in my post, “Examining the Twins Offseason.” I still believe the Twins will win the division, with the White Sox finishing second behind one of the strongest starting rotations in baseball, the Tigers coming in third behind a solid starting rotation as well, and strong contributions from a couple of young talents in Austin Jackson and Scott Sizemore. The Indians and Royals are both rebuilding, and I expect them both to finish well below .500, and although I have them pegged to finish last, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kansas City finish 4th in the division, ahead of Cleveland.

Looking at my predictions for the rest of the league, I feel that I should provide at least some sort of reasoning to support my decisions. As I mentioned earlier, if Mauer comes even close to the season he had in 2009, he will not only be the MVP of the Twins but also the American League. Albert Pujols is Albert Pujols... Need I say more? I expect Greinke to have a similar season to what he did last year, possibly with a bit higher ERA but more wins. As I said with Albert Pujols, Tim Lincecum is Tim Lincecum... He is going to strikeout a ton of people, have a low ERA, and win a lot of games for a San Francisco Giants team that has a shot to win the NL West this year.

My AL Rookie of the Year prediction is a bit of a shot in the dark, but I expect Brian Matusz to have a good year on the mound for a Baltimore Orioles team that has to face the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays each 19 times a year. If he has a good year in that division, I expect him to win it. Jason Heyward is a unique talent who was just handed the starting RF job for the Atlanta Braves out of spring training as a 20 year old. That doesn’t just happen... He is a guy with enormous power, and is extremely patient at the plate for any hitter, let alone a 20 year old rookie. He could have some competition if Stephen Strasburg lights the world on fire when he is called up, but I expect Heyward to win it. Hardball Talk recently wrote about the possibilities of what Heyward could do this season.

I remember hearing Max Scherzer being touted in 2007 amongst fantasy baseball experts as the “next Tim Lincecum,” due to his excellent fastball and high strikeout rates in the minors. He wasn’t spectacular when coming up with the Diamondbacks in 2008, and followed that up with an average to below-average season in 2009. I expect with the change of scenery by moving to Detroit this offseason that Scherzer will find some success this year with the Tigers. Jay Bruce is pretty much the same story as Scherzer. Highly touted throughout the minors, but not sensational when called up with the Reds. I expect both Scherzer and Bruce to breakout this season, but to be completely honest this is as much of a shot in the dark as anything.

The comeback player of the year is a little less of a complete gamble, due mainly to the fact that the candidates have had some success in the past, and either experienced a down year or went through injury ridden seasons the year before. Both scenarios apply to my choice in the American League, as Josh Hamilton not only struggled mightily in 2009, but was also limited to 89 games and only 365 plate appearances. Hamilton hit .268/.315/.426 with only 10 HR during his limited time in 2009, after he absolutely set the baseball world on fire during a 2008 season in which he hit .304/.371/.530 with 32 HR and 130 RBI. I expect Hamilton to return to numbers a lot closer to those of 2008 as long as he stays healthy. My pick in the National League, Russell Martin, did not struggle with injuries in 2009, but rather just struggled at the plate. Martin hit .250/.352/.329 with only 7 HR and 53 RBI in 2009. This came after averaging a line of .285/.371/.434 with 10 HR and 74 RBI from 2006-2008. I expect Martin to come back from his current groin injury and return to performing similar to how he performed from 2006-2008.

Finally, I see the playoff picture shaping up to be a World Series matchup between the Twins and Rockies. In the AL I have the Twins defeating the Yankees 3 games to 1 in the ALDS, and the Red Sox 4 games to 2 in the ALCS. In the NL I have the Rockies defeating the Cardinals 3 games to 2 in the NLDS, and the Phillies 4 games to 3 in the NLCS. I then have the Twins going on to win the World Series by defeating the Rockies 4 games to 2.

This idea of a prediction day, similar to “Nick Punto Day” on February 12 was exciting to me. Then once I began writing I realized that for the first time, my preseason baseball predictions would be documented on my blog for all to see, and as a result I will not only be held to them, but also be able to see just how “off” I can be. I am excited to look back at these following the 2010 season, and hopefully I will find most of them to be true (mainly the World Series prediction). Let the games begin!

3 comments:

  1. There is no way that Roy Halladay will win less than 23 games this year. He has to be the favorite for Cy Young over Lincecum.

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  2. You're MVP and Cy Young predictions aren't exactly bold because they're the same 4 guys that won last year. But they are logical.

    But Halladay will win it. He dominated the AL East playing for a crappy team, now he goes to a great team in the crappy NL.

    If LA gets anything from Martin, like you said, there's no way they finish in 3rd in the NL West. They're still stacked especially if Furcal does anything. Giants are still weak hitting even with DeRosa. Two great pitchers didn't get them anywhere last year. Which is also why the Mariners won't win it. Two great pitchers, but they lost two huge power hitters (Beltre and Branyan) and replaced them with singles hitters(Figgins and Kotchmann) plus streaky and crazy Milton Bradley. Angels staff is much better 1-5.

    For the record, "Nick Punto Day" is everyday for me.

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  3. Delmon Young's ceiling is much higher than other players, but I do think he has issues with lack of effort. I think sometimes he simply thinks that a fly ball is going to be out of reach and merely jogs, without any indication that he is giving his best effort. He does have a lot of room to improve, and we'll have to see if he takes advantage of that.

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