Friday, April 3, 2015

MLB Postseason Award Predictions

I'm going to go out on a limb and predict there will be no repeat winners in either league for any postseason awards.  That doesn't mean last year's winners won't have another great season; they will.

But voters like to reward the players who maybe came up a little bit short in previous years.  And there are some good candidates that could go all the way this year.

Let's review last year's results:

Clayton Kershaw - last year's NL Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner - will still finish in the top ten in the MVP voting and will likely finish second in the CYA voting.

Mike Trout - last year's AL Most Valuable Player - will probably finish second this time around.

Corey Kluber - last year's AL Cy Young Award winner - will finish in the top ten this time around.

Buck Showalter - last year's AL Manager of the Year - will finish in the top five this time around.

Matt Williams - last year's NL Manager of the Year - will likewise finish in the top five this time.

...and the winners will be:

NL MVP goes to Giancarlo Stanton.  The Miami Marlin's right fielder was on an MVP pace in 2014 before a mid-September beaning abruptly ended his season.  Still, in 145 games played, Stanton (.288/.395/.555) hit 37 home runs with 105 RBI, while posting a 6.5 WAR.  He finished second to Kershaw (21-3 - 1.77 ERA), who ironically, had an injury-marred season as well (just 27 games started), but still posted an impressive 8.0 WAR (tops in the NL).  Stanton should have his best season ever in '15 - and that's scary for the rest of the league.

AL MVP goes to Michael Brantley.  Last season, the Cleveland Indians left fielder (.327/.385/.506) hit 20 home runs among his 200 hits, with 97 RBI.  He finished third in the voting last year, but his 7.0 WAR wasn't far behind Trout (7.9) who had another amazing season (.287/.377/.561) with 37 home runs and 111 RBI.  Playing for a team possibly heading for a division title, look for Brantley to lead the charge into the postseason.

NL Cy Young Award goes to Madison Bumgarner.  The San Francisco Giant's ace was nearly flawless in the postseason, and appears likely to continue that trend in the upcoming regular season.  This could be the year he becomes the best left-handed starter in either league.

AL Cy Young Award goes to Chris Sale.  The Chicago White Sox ace (12-4 - 2.17 ERA) had his season curtailed by injury (just 26 games started), but still finished third in the voting last year, posting a 6.6 WAR with a league-best 178 ERA+.  If he can avoid the DL in 2015, he should rise to the top.

NL Rookie of the Year Award goes to Kris Bryant.  The Chicago Cubs power-hitting third base prospect seems to have a perfect swing.  Although he'll start the year in the minor leagues for financial reasons, he'll be called up soon enough to finish with 30 home runs.  His biggest weakness seems to be fielding his position, where he may match that 30 HR total with 30 errors.  Still, the future looks bright for this guy; and postseason play may be a possibility for the Cubs in the next year or so.

AL Rookie of the Year Award goes to Rusney Castillo.  The Boston Red Sox outfield prospect seems to have the best chance of making a splash this season, while other higher-rated prospects from other organizations will likely spend most of the season in the minors.  Castillo could hit .300 with some power potential; maybe hit 20 home runs.

NL Manager of the Year Award goes to Bud Black, who should be the beneficiary of the newly revamped San Diego Padres roster.  This could very well be a postseason team, making Black a very strong candidate to win the award again (he won it in 2010).

AL Manager of the Year Award goes to Terry Francona, who won it in 2013 after guiding the Cinderella Cleveland Indians to a wild card slot.  This year could very well bring a division title to Cleveland, as they appear poised to supplant the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Despite Off Season Moves, Dodgers Still Best in NL West

When the Los Angeles Dodgers traded oft-injured but talented Matt Kemp to the San Diego Padres this past off season, they automatically turned the Pads into a legitimate postseason contender.  Acquiring Justin Upton from Atlanta and Will Meyers from Tampa Bay to help Kemp patrol the spacious San Diego outfield further legitimized that franchise's postseason potential.  Signing free agent workhorse James Shields to anchor their starting rotation may have been the final piece for San Diego to reach the postseason promised land - probably as a wild card, but that would be a vast improvement over where they've gone the last several years:  Nowhere.

Meanwhile, LA also passed on trying to re-sign shortstop Hanley Ramirez (now the Boston Red Sox' new left fielder), then swung a deal acquiring aging shortstop Jimmy Rollins from Philadelphia.  J-Rol's career has been in decline for a few years now, but he may have enough in the tank to give the Dodgers some degree of stability at the shortstop position.  Meanwhile, LA also dealt speedy second baseman Dee Gordon to Miami, then acquired the underrated Howie Kendrick from the Angels to take his place at second base.  The net effect of all these transactions should help the Dodgers, defensively - but it may cost them, offensively.  And they may regret trading their former face of the franchise to a division rival.  If nothing else, watching the Dodgers and Padres in head-to-head competition this season will be more interesting than it's been in years.

In the meantime, the reigning World Champion San Francisco Giants appear to be taking this year off - especially after their popular corpulent third baseman - Pablo Sandoval - left via free agency and landed in Boston.  His replacement:  Casey McGehee, whose better days are well behind him.  Adding to the Giants' woes is having the hyper active Hunter Pence on the DL (broken arm) to start the season, further hindering the San Francisco offense - which will be borderline anemic in 2015.

Neither the Arizona Diamondbacks nor Colorado Rockies appear close to contending in 2015.

Here's how the Final Standings should look:

Los Angeles            93-69
San Diego               87-75
San Francisco         82-80
Arizona                   70-92
Colorado                 62-100

Could we see another postseason showdown between the Dodgers and Cardinals?  It's quite likely.  Interestingly, most of the so-called experts are picking the Dodgers to beat the Cardinals in any possible playoff series.  Of course, most of them picked the Dodgers to beat the Cardinals in the 2013 NLCS and again in the 2014 NLDS.  Go figure.  For the record, the Cardinals are 16-9 all-time vs the Dodgers in postseason play.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Another Division Title in the Cards for St Louis

Until last season, the Cardinals had never reached the postseason four consecutive years.  As the 2015 season is about to unfold, the Cardinals appear to have the talent to extend their postseason streak to five straight years.

Final Standings for NL Central in 2015 should look like this:

St Louis         93-69
Pittsburgh      88-74
Cincinnati      83-79
Chicago         82-80
Milwaukee    74-88

Pittsburgh will put a very good lineup on the field, but their starting rotation is suspect.

Cincinnati will be vastly improved, offensively, but their starting rotation is even more suspect.

Chicago should finish over .500 - not quite the World Series champions their delusional fan base is expecting, but they're improving.

Milwaukee spent most of last season in first place before collapsing in September.  Their collapse should occur by May this time around.