With a week or so of baseball now in the books, here are ten shameless predictions for this MLB season. Some of the following may dissent my earlier predictions, but it’s my blog so I’m considering it fair game.
1. St. Louis’ Rick Ankiel will hit 40 home runs and be more in contention for the National League MVP award than heralded teammate Albert Pujols. Ankiel’s inexplicable breakdown in a playoff game so many years ago remains one of the most fascinating occurrences in sports over the last twenty-five years, and his self-reinvention should not go unnoticed. As a corollary prediction, Ankiel will make it the entire season without so much as a whiff of steroid talk.
2. Former Twins center fielder Torii Hunter will be regarded as the top acquisition by any American League team after a monster year for the Angels. Hunter, who is known for his defensive prowess, will hit 30 home runs as well as have 25 stolen bases for the Angels, and will be a key player in the team’s run to the Wild Card. He will end up outshining other new arrivals like Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera and Seattle’s Erik Bedard (more on Bedard later).
3. By the end of the season, Brewers’ outfielder Corey Hart will eclipse first baseman Prince Fielder and reigning Rookie of the Year Ryan Braun as the most indispensable player on Milwaukee’s team. Hart’s superior defensive play and heads-up base running will make the difference for the Crew down the stretch, leading to Hart leapfrogging his two power-hitting teammates in Milwaukee’s lineup.
4. Pedro Martinez will make fewer than ten starts for the Mets and will thus be a complete non-factor in their season. Ten years ago, Martinez was the best pitcher in baseball by a WIDE margin; now he is living on name recognition only and has little chance to return to anything remotely resembling his previous form after a variety of injuries.
5. Oft-discussed Mariners pitcher Erik Bedard will in no way live up to unrealistically high pre-season expectations and will not be a serious contender for the AL Cy Young Award. Bedard, who was highly-regarded (if not always effective) in Baltimore over the past couple of seasons, but the notion that he is ‘one of the best pitchers in baseball’ along with the weight of an enormous contract prove to be too much stress for Bedard, who has never pitched in a truly meaningful game in his career. Seattle stays in the pennant race until mid-August before folding, in part due to an implosion by Bedard over the course of three starts.
6. Rich Harden of the A’s and Ben Sheets of the Brewers will buck their injury histories by making upwards of twenty-five starts each this season. Both will also live up to their potential by contending for their league’s Cy Young Awards, though they will ultimately come in third and fourth in their respective races.
7. The Colorado Rockies will not only slide back from last year’s World Series appearance, but they will finish fourth in the NL West behind Arizona, San Diego, and Los Angeles. Matt Holliday will have another year of excellent power numbers, but will struggle to bat .300, afar cry from last year’s .341 average.
8. The Padres’ Jake Peavy will not only win the NL Cy Young Award, but will once again dominate the league and complete a second straight pitching Triple Crown. By doing so, Peavy would become the first pitcher since Roger Clemens in 1997-98 to lead the league in Wins, ERA and Strikeouts in consecutive years, and would be the first man to accomplish the feat in the National League since Sandy Koufax in 1965-66.
9. The Yankees will be at least 10 games out of first place by mid-Summer, forcing them to make a desperation trade that sends a major player packing. I’m saying like Jorge Posada or Bobby Abreu or Hideki Matsui is a Mariner or an Astro by Independence Day.
10. The Brewers will not only win the NL Central by more than 7 games, but will have the highest scoring offense in baseball. The Brewers will score over 900 runs, eclipsing the franchise record of 894 set in 1996, and will actually surpass the team record for home runs in a season (216 in 1982) as well. The home run total will be helped by a resurgent year by third baseman Bill Hall, whose power numbers dipped significantly last season after what seemed to be a breakout year in 2006.