You know what, who really cares! Baseball is almost here! This has been one really long baseball off season. The free agency period seemed to drag, but the Cubs did net notables in Jon Lester and Dexter Fowler. Theo and Jed also were able to swing a deal for Miguel Montero to help out the pitching staff and convince Joe Maddon to manage the crew.
I've followed Joe Maddon the last couple of years in Tampa just because he seems like a fun guy, and I like fun. From what I'm quickly learned during spring training is that he possesses a pretty astute head on his shoulders: he deflects attention from players when needed, he speaks his mind rather than skirting around a question, and he has some pretty innovative ideas concerning lineups and how to maximize the potential of his players.
I'm not sure how things will pan out, but the team has more talent this year than what they've had on the roster in the last five years, which saw them accumulate five consecutive fifth place finishes.
I like the depth of this year's team and I really like the young talent that is finally starting to boil over onto the major league roster. Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo are both just starting to enter in their prime years. Montero knows how to handle a staff. Jason Motte and David Ross bring some veteran leadership. These are all things which point to more wins.
On the flip side we're looking at relying on both Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks for 200 innings this year. I'm a fan of both pitchers, especially the cerebral Hendricks, but neither never thrown more than 167 innings before. The offense is chocked full of young talent, but young talent can be really streaky. Arismendy Alcantara, Mike Olt, Javier Baez, Tommy LaStella, Jorge Soler, and Kris Bryant are all unproven at baseball's highest level. Come May, at least three of those names will be starting everyday and possibly four depending on what Maddon wants to do on any given day.
There are some things to like and there are definitely some things to worry about. The national pundits seem to like the Cubs this year. I guess they are a "sexy" pick to make the playoffs, but this is still a team which narrowly avoided 90 losses last season.
Okay, enough chit chatter... onto the predictions. Feel free to call me a moron come October.
Cubs predictions first!
Cubs Record in 2015: 83-79 (10 game improvement from 2014)
Team pitching leaders: Team hitting leaders:
Wins = Jake Arrieta Hits = Starlin Castro
ERA = Jon Lester Home Runs = Anthony Rizzo
WHIP = Jon Lester Runs = Dexter Fowler
Strikeouts = Jake Arrieta RBI = Anthony Rizzo
K/BB = Kyle Hendricks Stolen Bases = Arismendy Alcantara
Saves = Hector Rondon Average = Jorge Soler
As one might infer, I believe the offense has more balance to it this year. I also think it's deeper and opposing pitchers might have to face a pretty good stick all the way down to the 7th spot in the order. If I had to bet on who would lead the team in slugging percentage, then I would throw Kris Byrant's name out there, which would be the seventh different name in the hitting leaders categories out of seven.
Playoffs this year? Nope, but I like the Cubs chances to finish third in a pretty tough NL Central.
AL West = Angels - If they can put the Josh Hamilton distraction behind them it's their division to lose.
AL Central = White Sox - The Indians are getting better, I think the Royals are a flash in the pan, and the Tigers pitching worries me.
AL East = Toronto Blue Jays - They have a very solid lineup and it's paired with a decent, young staff.
Wild Card1 = Seattle Mariners - They've been trending upward over the last few seasons.
Wild Card 2 = Cleveland Indians - Yes, I do think they'll outplay the Tigers in 2015. Call the psych ward.
In the Wild Card picture during September = Baltimore, Boston, Detroit, and Oakland
AL MVP = Mike Trout; Jose Abreu is a distant second
AL Cy Young = Chris Sale is filthy; I'll take King Felix to earn his third second place finish
AL ROY = Daniel Norris, with Rusney Castillo being the first runner up
NL West = Dodgers - They're payroll is too big. They have to win based on that alone. Right?
NL Central = Cardinals - I question the health of their pitching, but I think Jason Heyward will infuse some much needed vigor in the lineup.
NL East = Nationals - In my opinion they have the best starting five in baseball.
Wild Card1 = Padres - The Friars made a ton of moves, and there might be adjustment period here, but it's an "odd" year for the black and burnt orange.
Wild Card2 = Pittsburgh - I like their young talent and their pitching. They could feasibly take the division from the Cardinals.
In the Wild Card picture during September = Chicago, Miami, San Francisco
NL MVP = Andrew McCutchen, with Paul Goldschmidt a close second
NL Cy Young = Andrew Cashner, assuming he stays healthy; otherwise Mr. Kershaw
NL ROY = Jorge Soler with Kris Bryant nipping at his heals
Please, take comfort in the fact that my predictions are almost never right. There are just too many variables to predict during a 162 game season. Heck, Trout could slide into third and tear every ligament in his right thumb on the third day of he season. Obviously, my pick for AL MVP and the AL West would be all washed up. Or maybe the Tigers make a trade for a stud pitcher at the deadline and they make my White Sox and Indians predictions look foolish.
There you have it! Now that these have gone live feel free to poke fun at them. The only thing that is for certain about the predictions above is that it won't take me six months to regret most of them.