AL East: Will There Be A Dominant Team This Season?
This is the question every year with this division. Its full of okay-to-good teams every year, and then someone comes out and wins 90 games. Last year it was Toronto. This year, PECOTA likes Tampa Bay, which is logical.
The Rays have a great infield full of guys who get on base, and an outfield that is a defensive showcase (the infield is underrated defensively too), and a rotation that features Chris Archer. The Rays starters were 4th in the MLB in strikeout percentage last year. This is the definition of a sabermetrically built team. They have everything and more a sabermetrically-geared GM would want.
The case against them? No true star-power, and the cloudy future of the team in Tampa Bay. Sure, Chris Archer was a AL Cy Young candidate last season, and I almost picked him, but he’s their most popular player. Kevin Kiermaier is a highlight reel, but is in no way a star… yet.
Look, I know this isn’t basketball where star power always wins. But the other teams in the division have big names who will produce too. Toronto looks like a division-winner yet again, but the pitching problems from last year still have to be factored in. Hopefully the development of Marco Estrada takes another leap, and Marcus Stroman comes back in old-form.
Toronto and Tampa Bay are the best bets for being dominate. But we know how injuries and other factors affect teams. It takes one to derail everything.
AL Central: Are The Royals Gonna Prove The Projections Wrong Yet Again, And If Not, Who’s There To Take Their Place?
PECOTA projection placed the Royals at the bottom of the AL Central, tied at 76 wins with the Tigers.
Why is this? Well, it has been happening for years. PECOTA has hated the Royals for years now, always assuming their regular seasons were flukes. Last year, they proved that wrong, and PECOTA didn’t care.
I was on that train prior to last season. The roster just didn’t seem playoff-caliber. But as you watched the numbers soar for their guys, you realized what it was becoming, and it translated perfectly into the postseason.
Now, looking at this depth chart, there’s proven guys who will produce. Except Omar Infante. But he has a special place in my social life, so he’s not too left out. (If I do explain why that is the case at some point, it might take a whole column.) Anyways, as this group of Royals has developed and improved, its become hard to not like them, and even pick againist them. PECOTA’s not a human, and it doesn’t care. It is hard to see things going so wrong for the Royals this season. Not to say though, that they won’t be challenged.
PECOTA likes the Indians to win the AL Central this year. Similar to the AL East’s projection, it is logical. I wouldn’t say it is as likely, but its not out of reach.
The Indians outfield has suddenly became a mess, but at least their defense will improve after last year’s horrendous output. Whats most likely to succeed on this team is it’s pitching, which is very good, and will quickly gain attention this year. Kansas City is more experienced, but if the Indians can pitch lights out in games and scrape runs together, then they’ll be contending for the division title.
AL West: What The Mariners And A’s Expectations For Themselves?
This is one of the divisions that doesn’t have too many questions when it comes to who’ll be good and who won’t. We’d expect the Astros and Rangers to contend. The Angels to be meh. And the A’s and Mariners to be, well, that is what I’m gonna answer.
The A’s do have a nice outfield. I loved the acquisition of Khris Davis. Billy Burns is a little Billy Hamilton-ish. The infield is the weak part, along with a rotation that features only three guys I have heard of. You’d have to expect Yonder Alonso to regress after a good season (That was a surprise). Jedd Lowrie and Marcus Semien are nice pieces, though you’d hope Semien starts to improve drastically. Danny Valencia feels like a place-holder (Why isn’t Eric Sogard starting?).
This team feels really underwhelming, which is okay. The A’s probably know that. This is a team that is rebuilding. They’ve never been a team to have too high of expectations of themselves for a season. They have smart fans. They get it. Trust me.
Best case scenario: The A’s pull off a .500 season and add some fun to it, but fall short due to the competitiveness of the Rangers and Astros.
The Mariners were one of the busiest teams this offseason, and that’s not surprising considering Jerry Dipito is their GM. With these moves, its okay for the front office and the media to have higher expectations. Mine are actually a little higher than you might think. That’s because this team may not be that bad.
I put them under this question because of those offseason moves, not because I thought they’d be bad. No one really expects Oakland to contend this year, and I don’t either. They’re under this question because they’re an outlier in the good division.
Seattle has a lot of experience on this roster, and the roster reflects a Jerry Dipito-like team. Part of the reason he was out with the Angels was because that wasn’t a roster you’d expect him to be in control of. Here, he got his due.
This team is really interesting. They, like Oakland, feature a good outfield. The Leonys Martin trade was a great move, and he adds to an already good defensive outfield. Seattle’s lineup has the balance of power and on-base; the power guys like Adam Lind, Robinson Cano, and Nelson Cruz.
Speaking of Cano… If there’s a year he gets it together in Seattle, it is this one. This is the best team they’ve had since he got there, and this is the highest expectations they’ve had since he got there. Then again, expectations don’t treat Cano that well.
NL East: Can The Mets Rotation Save This Division From A Complete Atrocity Of Baseball?
Notice the specific reference to the rotation? Yeah, thats because its the only thing you can like about this team. Like, Lucas Duda is this team’s first basemen. There is no reason to think David Wright will be good or even healthy. You’d expect a regression from Curtis Granderson, considering his age and last year’s 5.1 WAR performance. And then there’s Yo, who, well, lets discuss.
He stayed because of the money. The Mets threw everything they had at him and got him to stay. Fine, but the money and leverage they gave him was unreal, for what could perhaps be a one year stint. Then again, if the Mets win this division, that could be a different story.
And that is a reasonable expectation. This division has the two worst teams in baseball (the Braves and Phillies), the Sacramento Kings of baseball (the Marlins), and a talented, yet in-transition team in the Nationals.
There will be people who pick the Nationals. But after last year’s disaster, blamed on poor managing, injuries, and lack of production from some, its really hard to do that. Plus, is it possible to pick against the team that went to the World Series, without losing anything too important?
No, and its because of the super-rotation the Mets have. People have finally taken notice of it.
- Matt Harvey
- Jacob deGrom
- Noah Syndergaard
- Bartolo Colon
- Steven Matz
Colon starts out the season ahead of Matz because of the experience difference, but good Lord, this rotation is nuts. The pure dominance that is featured, plus the stark contrast of age and styles.
With this and not much else to like, it should prevail. Not like there’s much competition anyways.
NL Central: What Are The Odds The Cardinals Regress?
PECOTA believes the Cardinals will only win 81 games, which even giving the title of this question seems low. But the real question is: Could the Cardinals regress enough for another NL Central team to jump them? This doesn’t mean they won’t make the playoffs, but the NL did greatly improve.
Theoretically, the Diamondbacks and Giants should be contending for a playoff spot (more on that later). Two NL Central teams will as well. That creates a cluster for the two Wild Card spots.
The Pirates are tired of being in the 2nd Wild Card spot. They lose every year (that sounded harsh). Even with the Cubs making the dramatic improvements, there are spots left in this division.
St. Louis still has a great team. But injuries have already plagued the start to the season. Jhonny Peralta will be out 2-3 months. Lance Lynn, their best pitcher last season, had Tommy John Surgery this offseason. Granted, Adam Wainwright is coming back, and should be the ace like he was last year. This isn’t an arm injury he was dealing with.
The Cardinals do have depth, especially in the infield. That’s a change for once.
The other thing St. Louis doesn’t have going their way is luck. The Cardinals were 3rd in the majors last year in Cluster Luck, a stat that measures how a team staggered their hits against specific pitchers. That itself was concerning, and was a major reason why some people didn’t like their playoff odds. But since we have a weaker team to deal with, that stat points to even more regression.
The Cubs are the favorite in this division and no one can doubt that. St. Louis won’t fall apart. They’ll win at least 87 games or so. But that slight regression, in this division, may be too much.
NL West: Are The Dodgers Still Good?
You look at this Dodgers’ roster and you might go like this:
And others may go:
If I could make a meme of this:
“When you see Chase Utley is the starting 2nd basemen for the Dodgers.”
So yeah, there is issues, and there is a lot of talent. Corey Seager is really exciting. Clayton Kershaw will be Clayton Kershaw. Zach Greinke’s loss will hurt, but the Dodgers did a pretty good job building the rotation back up.
For years, it was Kershaw and Greinke and no one else in the rotation. Now, its an ace and a 2,3,4, and 5. Like a normal rotation. Los Angeles has a great bullpen, which is good news considering that the back of the rotation has trust issues.
The GIFS above represent the position players perfectly. Chase Utley fits DeAndre Jordan, as does Enrique Hernandez and Carl Crawford. Corey Seager, Adrian Gonzalez, and Yasiel Puig represent the top GIF. Justin Turner is somewhere in the middle.
Three years later and the Dodgers are still dealing with a cluttered outfield. Joc Pederson currently isn’t starting, neither is Andre Either, which is probably a good thing. You could argue they’re stacked with talent, but this isn’t basketball where you need talent that doesn’t start.
This wasn’t the issue with the Dodgers last year. Their issue is that they can’t win in the playoffs. But are we sure they’ll even get there this year? Arizona and San Francisco loaded up this offseason. They’re gonna be in the playoff race. A Dodgers regression is foreseeable, and this isn’t like the NL Central, where St. Louis will remain in playoff contention all year.