MLB Preview: Six Big Questions

I hear baseball is boring a lot.  It comes from people who mostly enjoy football or basketball.

Pace of game has to change in baseball if that statement is never to be heard again.  It’s one of the things  new commissioner Rob Manfred needs to tackle.  Sure, it’s a long term thing, but the quest starts now, with this new season.  This brand spankin’ new season.

So, whoever thinks baseball is boring, should just try it.  See how baseball is played.  This is the season to do it.

Last year’s playoffs were ridiculous.  We had insane games filled with excitement and heartbreak.  The World Series was a blast.  The Trade Deadline was ridiculous (like the NBA’s in February).  Heck, I was in a VIP box for the All-Star Game at Target Field.  Last year was one of my favorite baseball seasons ever.

With the new season here, there are questions to answer.  Let’s do that!

Can the Rangers succeed if they are healthy?

Texas was annihilated by injuries last year. Prince Fielder, Shin Soo Choo, Jurickson Profar (Do I hear something? Wait? He’s hurt again?  What a shocker!), and Mitch Morland were just some of the names that were on last year’s DL.

With manager Ron Washington stepping down in the offseason, the beginning to the Winter wasn’t great.  They didn’t do much in the offseason, but did acquire Yovani Gallardo, a very nice starting pitcher who’ll add an arm to the rotation.  The trade only looks better after the devastating news about Yu Darvish.  Darvish was their ace, and was predicted to have a great season.

Texas, this year, has to stay healthy.  Without Darvish, the pitching overall takes a hit.  Their lineup is full of power guys, a very balanced group.  The offense will be there.  The defense is fine, but could use improvement after last season.  The Rangers’ biggest worry this year is the pitching staff, and whether without Darvish, they can pitch effectively enough.

The AL West is tough, adding to the rough-looking chances.  Texas finished behind Houston last year.  That doesn’t sound fun.  No one can predict injuries.  The Rangers just have to hope that those have a minimal impact on their season.

How will the Nationals rotation play out?

There was lots of talk in the Winter, after signing Max Scherzer, which pitcher the Nationals were gonna trade.  I wrote about it.  I for sure thought that Jordan Zimmerman would have been traded by now.

It still could happen, but trades at this time are rare.  Perhaps Washington waits until the Trade Deadline, sees who’s struggling, and deals one of their guys somewhere else.

There’s not a lot that can go wrong with the Nats rotation this season.  It’s stacked.  Absolutely stacked.  It has a great mix of young guys full of potential and veterans who’ve been pitching for awhile, and on good teams.

In my opinion, there really isn’t a an ace on this team.  Yea yea, I know Max Scherzer is considered it.  But really.  Everyone on this staff is so good.  There’s no reason to not like it.  A couple injuries or two is the only thing that could derail it.

With more columns coming, the Nats will be featured a lot.  If there’s one team that can dominate the NL (in October), this is it.

Is the AL Central too good for the Tigers to repeat as division champions?

Man.  There are so many good divisions this year.  This is one of them.  The AL Central has an interesting mix of great, bad, and on the edge teams.  Two, or even three teams, have no clue how they’re going to do this year.

In baseball, teams know whether they want to compete or not this year.  Something tells me that the Indians, Royals, and White Sox are going to be those teams.  They’ll have decisions at the deadline.  Buy or sell.  Compete or not.

The safest pick is the Tigers, for now.  They have the names, the power, the pitching.  However, they took hits like everyone else too.  Scherzer left, Rick Porcello is in Boston.  The Tigers re-did their outfield.  Yoenis Cespesdes came over from Boston, after being the human pinball last year.  Austin Jackson is in Seattle, which is probably a good thing.

Detroit’s pitching this coming year is their strength and weakness.  The rotation is still very good, even though Justin Verlander is a question mark.  They have new additions in the rotiation though, with promising young Shane Green and Alfredo Simon coming over.

The Tigers’ bullpen was just a disaster last year.  I mean, there’s no way else to put it.  Their average ERA last year was 4.01.  They haven’t added anyone.  Sam Miller at Baseball Prospectus always says that bullpens don’t typically have good back to back years.  And usually don’t improve too much.  This is the dilemma Detroit faces.  Though the stat wasn’t available, the WAR for this bullpen must have been horrendous.  And it won’t improve.

So yeah, it seems like I’m picking Detroit in this division.  You’ll have to wait and see in the prediction column.  I’m not ruling out anyone, and who I eventually pick, probably won’t win it.

Will the Twins and Diamondbacks win 70 games?

Chances look slim here.  For some reason, the projection systems really like the Twins this year. Not sure why, nor is anyone else.

I’ve been making fun of Minnesota since the beginning of the month.  The team stinks, and whenever it starts to look better, management screws it up.  The Twins, like Arizona, have a new manager, in Paul Moliter.  Moliter’s a hall of famer.  I think he’s very qualified for the job.  The Twins roster has lots of young guys who are still developing, with older veterans who are probably declining.  The Twins offseason was a little odd, which included the Ervin Santana signing.

Minnesota’s pitching looks like it’s gonna be awful again.  There’s really no other way to put it.  When Phil Hughes is your Opening Day starter, I’m not sure there’s a worse way to start the year.  The rotation is worse than the bullpen is, which means they’ll be playing catchup in most of their games.

If the Twins hit 70 games this year, it’ll be because the loaded farm system they have that gets called up.  It’s time.  Minnesota can’t go another season without one of these guys getting called up.  The have about six very good prospects, including Byron Buxton, one of the best prospects in the league.

Management has screwed this team up in the past.  It’s time for the new era for the fans.  Call up the prospects.  Please.

As a Diamondbacks fan, I’ve pretty much realized that this won’t be a good year.  We’re in rebuilding mode, and with Tony LaRussa in charge, I feel pretty good about it.

Last year’s fall was caused by one of two things:  1) Patrick Corbin and David Hernandez got hurt. Those were two of our best pitchers, with Corbin being hyped a ton.  With them back, at some point, that should give us a couple wins, or at least hope.

Paul Goldschmidt is the best offensive player the DBacks have, and that’s not a bad thing, whatsoever.  Goldschmidt is great; he’s my favorite player in the league.  His bat is huge, and Arizona’s gonna need it this year.

The only way this team is gonna hit 70 games this year, is well, IN TONY WE TRUST.

Can the Dodgers have another dominate regular season?

Notice the italicized regular season.  Man, after last year’s playoffs, I wouldn’t feel 100% confident in this team.  The pitching fell apart in October.  The bats were cold.  It was a mess.

Yet, it’s the Dodgers.  They have money.  They have good players still.  I still hate them.

Look, the Dodgers made moves in the offseason.  Dee Gordon went to Miami, while they also traded Matt Kemp to San Diego.  Jimmy Rollins turned into a Dodger along with Brandon McCarthy.

*Scans through roster again*

*Realizes they’re still really good*

*Kinda takes back what’s said above*

Yeah.  I mean, it’s gonna be hard to beat this team this year before October.  The outfield is loaded, and even a little crowed.  The rotation has phenomenal pitchers within it, including the $32 million man Clayton Kershaw (talk about a hefty salary).  They have two solid (at least) catches, A.J. Ellis and Yasmani Grandal.  Oh yeah, and did I mention they have a really good prospect in Joc Pederson?  Watch out for that kid.

The Padres are the newcomers in the NL West.  It’s likely they’ll challenge Los Angeles and San Francisco in the division.  However, for now, the Dodgers look like the best team here.  Until October hits….

Is Seattle the favorite in the AL West?

I have a friend in California who is Mariners fan.  Well, sort of.  He’s just fascinated by the idea that Nintendo owns the team, but doesn’t know they’re only goal out of the ownership is to make money.

The money earned this year should be a little more than in the past.  Seattle fans, get excited.  This is a really good team in front of us.  Robinson Cano has a great bat, which will slam at least 20 HRs this year (bold prediction) and challenge the Angels.  The rotation is probably this team’s greatest strength.  Felix Hernandez, is, well, better than great, and newcomer J.A. Happ has a fresh start in a great pitching staff.

Defense is a possible concern for this team, mostly within the infield.  Cano’s defense is average, and Kyle Seager is a tad bit of a liability.  They did add Nelson Cruz in the outfield, but his main contribution will be on the offensive  side.

There’s nothing to not like with this team.  They’re going to challenge the Angels this year.  Possibly into October.  So congrats Nintendo, you finally have a money making machine.

More MLB Preview to come…..