Yesterday, ESPN's Steve Berthiaume wrote about how predictions are essentially meaningless, saying "This abstract presence of the unfolding baseball season -- the realization that the end result is for now hidden but will gradually reveal itself only in brief but glorious flashes over the course of the next seven months -- is this beautiful game's most graceful commodity. It's the sport that is measured not by a clock but a calendar in our drive-thru, RedZone channel culture and nothing in sports beats it ... nothing." We don't know how the season will turn out, and predictions are just a "harmless exercise" because fans expect us to do them, and it's ridiculous for people to get so worked up over them. That sounds like a man who predicted the Astros would win the NL Central in 2011.
Actually, TCM generally agrees with Bert's point. These are harmless exercises, there are countless variables, and there is a massive amount of information that we don't know yet and will learn as the season progresses. No one should take them too seriously. Which is why it's totally ok that TCM picked the White Sox to win 90 games in 2011 and the Twins to win 87. Or that he thought the Blue Jays would lose 107 games in 2010.
That said, while they may not matter, and be hilariously wrong, they are a lot of fun. And since today is our first here on the new TPA, The Common Man figured it was only fitting to lead things off with something that's bound to make him look foolish by June or so. Here’s what he sees happening in 2012; some of TCM’s picks are fairly self-evident, while some might surprise you.
The Yankees looked like clear favorites until The Common Man heard about the Pineda injury and remembered that Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter got another year closer to potential cliffdiving. And it’s hard to see the Andy Pettitte signing being worth that much to them after his year off and the time he still needs this spring to get ready. The Rays look great again, with improved starting pitching and a more balanced offense, though the bullpen probably won’t be as good again. Frankly, TCM has no idea what the Red Sox will do. Much will depend on the back end of their rotation. The Jays, as ever, are poised to make a big move that hopefully will come soon. For now, they have a lot of really talented players but won’t rise unless the Red Sox really crater. Finally, the Orioles…hahahahahahahahahaha!
TCM had the hardest time with this division, mostly because he’s blinded by his loyalty to the Twins. The Tigers are still the class of division, and should win it going away, but TCM doesn’t have faith in any of the other four franchises. The Indians showed some improvement last year, but Ubaldo’s troubles still persist, and Grady Sizemore is already falling apart. TCM still thinks theTwins have the talent to be an 80-85 win team. But the way the roster is currently constructed, and the injury problems they’re already showing, make it unlikely they’ll reach that. Still, The Common Man can’t predict another 99 loss horror show. TCM’s far less bullish on the Royals and White Sox than most people, it seems. The Royals still have little pitching, and will see drops in production at all three outfield positions. And TCM still sees the White Sox trying to sell off pitching as the season starts, and gaping holes at 2B, 3B, RF, and potentially C.
The Angels and Rangers both look incredibly tough, though the Angels seem perfectly willing to sacrifice defense to get Mark Trumbo plate appearances, and to leave one of their best players at Salt Lake City to start the year while playing Vernon Wells. That probably will be corrected soon, but it would be nice to see them at full strength by the end of May. Texas needs Yu Darvish to be the phenom everyone expects, and for unlikely repeat performances by Napoli and Young to keep pace. The Mariners seem uninspiring once again, but hopefully full and healthy seasons by Ackley and Smoak, coupled with a mid-season debut from Danny Hultzen can infuse this franchise with hope. At least they’re not the A’s, who are in full on rebuilding mode, and may be casting off parts as the season progresses.
The Braves are making moves to close our Spring Training, have a strong rotation of their own, and potential for growth from Jason Heyward, Dan Uggla, Martin Prado, Freddie Freeman, and a full season of Michael Bourn. Hopefully Chipper will come back soon, and Brian McCann is the best catcher in the NL. The Marlins also look improved, although we’ll see how much Josh Johnson is able to pitch, and whether Jose Reyes can stay on the field. An improvement by Logan Morrison would go a long way to helping this club. With injuries to Ryan Howard, Placido Polanco and Chase Utley, the Phillies look pretty banged up this year in the infield, and TCM doesn’t have much faith in Vance Worley. The Nats offense will be thin gruel if Mike Morse doesn’t bounce back from his oblique injury, and the starting rotation is suspect behind Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, and an innings-limited Stephen Strasburg. Still, this is a step forward for a team with a good looking future. The Mets are playing out the string before the season even gets started. At least R.A. Dickey’s memoir is good (review forthcoming).
The Reds have made a lot of strong moves this offseason (though moving Chapman back to the bullpen isn’t one of them), and look strong across the board in 2012 if they can get their bullpen straightened out. The Brewers have some question marks in Marcum and Hart, but those seem to be looking much more positive heading into Opening Day. The gaping holes at 1B and SS are concerning, however. TCM likes the Cardinals’ acquisition of Beltran a lot, especially as it moves Berkman back to 1B. Carpenter’s injury hurts, but they’ll get more out of him than they got out of Wainwright last year. Welcome to .500, Pittsburgh, may you stay above it for a couple more campaigns. TCM loves Andrew McCutchen, even with his 2nd half struggles last year. The Cubs and Astros both have long roads ahead of them as they rebuild.
TCM really likes the D-Backs starting 5 as a whole, and sees a lot of potential for improvement as the year goes on, with Bauer and Skaggs poised to debut. Goldschmidt should be fun to watch over a full season too, and TCM is juiced at the prospect of Miguel Montero in a contract year. TCM thought the Padres could compete last year and was wrong, but they have strength at a lot of positions in 2012, have cut dead weight, and there’s a lot of good young players on the horizon. As much as TCM loves Jamie Moyer, the Rockies are hugely suspect in the rotation for 2012. The Giants have made noises about not playing their third-best hitter (though he made the opening roster), and TCM wouldn’t be surprised to see the pitching take a step back this season. The Dodgers spent a lot of money on some true mediocrities, but they are making Magic Johnson pay for it both literally and figuratively.
Finally, as he did last year (as a response to Bill’s predictions), here are 11 weirdly specific things TCM thinks will happen in 2012:
- Andy Pettitte’s comeback will disappoint Yankee fans, and his ERA will be north of 4.40.
- Stephen Strasburg will spend time on the Disabled List.
- This is a holdover from last year, when he was outpaced by both Alex Avila and Mike Napoli: Before the end of the year, Carlos Santana will be acknowledged as the best catcher in the American League.
- On a related note, neither Mike Napoli nor Alex Avila will top 5.0 WAR in 2012.
- His injury problems behind him, Carlos Beltran will top 550 plate appearances.
- Cameron Maybin and Jason Heyward make the National League All Star team.
- The Twins trade a resurgent Francisco Liriano at the Trade Deadline.
- Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers are traded by the Astros, but the return for both is questionable.
- Justin Smoak’s OPS tops .830.
- Prince Fielder will not hit more than 30 homeruns.
- Adam Dunn and Justin Morneau battle it out for AL Comeback Player of the Year, but Morneau wins it.