Wednesday, April 4, 2012

MLB Preview 2012


By Christopher M. Mackinder
@Chris_Mackinder


The 2012 World Series will feature the same
teams on the cover of this 1940 program.

In what is becoming one of the most anticipated baseball seasons in decades -- okay, I live in Detroit so maybe the local buzz is on steroids compared to the rest of the country -- the league seems as wide open as ever.

Sure, you have the Yankees, spending more than $200 million again on everything but starting pitching and the Phillies who have hoarded the market on No. 1 pitchers as "favorites," but no less than a dozen teams have the ability to be baseball's World Champions come October.

AL EAST
1. Rays       92-70
2. Yankees  90-72
3. Red Sox  89-73
4. Blue Jays 87-75
5. Orioles     64-98

Analysis: Three of the game's best teams still reside in the AL East. Pitching will be the difference in finishing first, second or third. Tampa Bay's got it while the Yankees and Red Sox might have it. Nothing says first ever Wild-card playoff like a one-game battle between the Yankees and Red Sox.

AL CENTRAL
1. Tigers        93-69
2. Royals       81-81
3. Indians       78-84
4. Twins          77-85
5. White Sox   71-91

Analysis: The AL Central is Detroit's division to lose this year. No team can compete with Detroit's pitching staff, let alone its powerful lineup. The Royals have the best shot to steal the division crown, but that's unlikely in 2012. In 2013, things might be different.

AL WEST
1. Rangers      91-71
2. Angels         88-74
3. Athletics      81-81
4. Mariners     68-94

Analysis: Many experts love the Angels because of the Albert Pujols addition. The fact is Pujols has very little protection in the Halo's lineup and pitching around him won't be that tricky. When push comes to shove, give me Texas' experience and daunting lineup any day of the week in this division. The Rangers still might be the AL's best team.

NL EAST
1. Phillies        95-67
2. Nationals    87-75
3. Braves        83-79
4. Marlins       80-82
5. Mets           71-91

Analysis: If every pitcher in the NL East stays healthy this should be the September finish. The Nationals, like the Royals, have a lot of young, unproven talent. The biggest difference is Washington's pitching staff has some lethal arms while Kansas City is relying on young hitters. While the Nats won't really challenge the Phillies down the stretch, the 87 wins will shockingly put Washington into the first ever National League Wild-card playoff game, which could lead to bigger things in 2013.

NL CENTRAL
1. Reds            96-66
2. Cardinals     86-76
3. Brewers       86-76
4. Pirates         80-82
5. Cubs            67-95
6. Astros          59-103

Analysis: One of these years the Cincinnati pitching staff has to blossom, right? This has to be the year. The addition of Mat Latos and Johnny Cueto's stuff gives the Reds a lethal 1-2 punch. Throw in a phenomenal hitting lineup and this will be the Reds' year. The division won't be a runaway, but anyone expecting St. Louis to make another late-season push is just looking for some juicy will-not-happen storyline.

NL WEST
1. Giants                 91-71
2. Diamondbacks   90-72
3. Rockies              85-77
4. Dodgers              81-81
5. Padres                 73-89

Analysis: The two best staffs in this division will battle down to the wire. The Giants have six games at the Padres and Dodgers to close the season while the Diamondbacks host the Cubs and the Rockies. Despite being on the road, neither of San Francisco's opponents will be fighting for anything while the Rockies will still have a shot at the league's second wild card. That will be enough to claw a win or two away from Arizona, handing the Giants the division title.

PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS

American League Wild-Card Playoff
 over  

American League Divisional Series
 over 

  over  
American League Championship Series
over  
=======================================================================

National League Wild-Card Playoff
 over  


National League Divisional Series
 over   
 over   
National League Championship Series
 over   

2012 WORLD SERIES
  over  
 (7 games)

Analysis: It would be too easy to pick the Tigers this season. Could Detroit very well win its first World Series since 1984? Absolutely. But there are so many other teams who have had Prince Fielder-like acquisitions that have flown under the radar that its easy to forget. I like the midwestern World Series between two teams that have made some splashy trades but have also home grown some important puzzle pieces. Because Justin Verlander, at most, would pitch three World Series games, I have a hard time counting on Detroit's other solid guys - Doug Fister, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello - to handle World Series pressure. Even in a Game 7, Verlander on short rest won't be as sharp. That leaves the door open for either Mat Latos or Johnny Cueto to throw an equally beautiful gem as the Reds win Game 7 in thrilling 2-1 fashion. 


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