baseball gods productions

Thoughts about baseball, from the perspective of sports psychology and the role of sports in society. It includes team and player analysis, predictions, and what I think needs to be changed in Major League Baseball. Brought to you from the heart of baseball, Brooklyn, by baseball gods productions.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Play Ball!

Almost opening day, the only American holiday I celebrate, and it's time to make some predictions.

New York
Tampa Bay

Kansas City

Los Angeles de Anaheim

New York

St. Louis

San Diego
Los Dodgers de Los Angeles
San Francisco

I think the Mets will win about as many as the Yankees, not because they are a better team, but because the level of competition is much lower in the National League right now. I'm glad Matsui is injured, so that he won't be the opening day second baseman. The sooner they get rid of him, the better off everyone will be. Kaz Matsui is the perfect example of a player having enough physical ability to succeed, but lacking in the sports psychology needed to succeed, especially in NY. As for the starting pitching, I'd prefer to see Heilman and Bannister start off in the rotation, and trade Trachsel or Victor Zambrano. Then again, a couple of years ago, Tyler Yates was their best spring training starter, and he never came close to living up to his talent since then.

Both NY teams have a good chance of winning the Wild Card, if not their division. This should be the year Atlanta finally doesn't win the NL East, but I can't bet against them based on their unbelievable history. We'll see how important Rockin' Leo Mazzone has been, now that he's gone.

As for the AL East, I predict the Red Sox will outlast the rest of the teams, mostly because of vastly improved infield defense, and the injection (pardon the steroid connection) of young pitchers as the season progresses. The Red Sox have more organizational depth than the Yankees, and over the course of the season, that could be the slight edge they need to finally win their division. I think they'll regret trading Arroyo instead of Clement or Wells, but one of their young guys will step up in the second half and join Beckett and Schilling as an awesome Big Three. Toronto should be very close to both NY and Boston, and could slip into second place if everything breaks right for them. I've never been impressed with A. J. Burnett, but with the right coaching, he could become a big winner. When I've seen him pitch at Shea, all he did was throw straight fastballs one after the other. Even a 98 mph fastball will be hit by major league batters if they know it's coming. He seems to have no idea how to pitch, but again, that's teachable. Their other moves were good, and should make the AL East much more interesting from top to bottom than it's been for years.

There will be a changing of the guard with some perennial winners. St. Louis looked incredibly old in the playoffs last year, and I think they will fall back into the back this year. Milwaukee and Pittsburgh will be much better this year or next, and Houston's incredible second half comebacks will be a thing of the past this year. Kudos to Phil Garner for lifting that team into the playoffs two years in a row with no offense at all. In the AL, the Angels are going to have a very hard time winning their division again, with Oakland's young and deep pitching staff, and enough offense to win the close games. It will be interesting to see if The Big Hurt has any hurtin' left to give to Oakland's opponents.