Recently Mike Francesa and Chris “Mad Dog” Russo came together for a one-time only radio show reunion for the Garden of Dreams. If they can come back after an 8 year break, I can too in time for an MLB 2o16 preview.
Why did i drag Mike and the Mad Dog through that crummy open? Because they did one of their classic bits: over/under for the upcoming season and I figured why don’t I take a crack at it, but with a twist. Instead of picking three overs and three unders from among the 30 MLB teams, I figured I would do a countdown of all 30 teams and having to pick at least 10 unders. That’s the rule.
So here we go:
30. Atlanta Braves (65 wins) UNDER– I expect the NL East to be a 2 team race with a lot of wins coming at the expense of the two worst teams in baseball. The Braves are gearing up for their new stadium by dealing for inexperienced talent. I expect them to be very bad again this year.
BOLD PREDICTION: They will trade Julio Teheran at some point this year for another major haul. I expect the Dodgers and Red Sox to be favorites in landing the cheap righty.
29. Philadelphia Phillies (66.5) UNDER- The second half of the doormat the NL East will serve up will be the new Phillies as the old Phillies and everything they used to be is gone. The team is determined to rebuild and I’m putting them slightly ahead of the Braves because I think JP Crawford will win them more games than Dansby Swanson will win the Braves. That’s, once both of them are up sometime in June and their teams have bought at least another year of cheap servitude.
BOLD PREDICTION: Ryan Howard doesn’t have 100 AB’s in a Phillies uniform left.
28. Milwaukee Brewers (71.5) UNDER- Teams are finally beginning to realize that going 162 games to end up .500 isn’t a way to live and that’s where Milwaukee is. Either they are overplaying their hand with Lucroy or they know they have a deal in place. Coming off a good draft, I do expect the Brewers to speed up the process by trading both Lucroy AND Braun. There are three excellent teams in the Central- the only path to salvation for Brewers fans is to go about the rebuild.
BOLD PREDICTION: The Brewers end up just a game off the worst team in the league.
27. Colorado Rockies (68) OVER- As organizations go, this is one that offers far more potential than the three i just named. The Rockies have some impressive young, hard throwing pitchers, which is how they should have been building from the start. They still have a good amount of offensive talent to stay relevant for a short time, but it won’t matter.
BOLD PREDICTION: The Rockies stay relevant till July. They don’t trade Gomez or Blackmon at the deadline and immediately regret it when they both suffer injuries limiting their production during the second half.
26. San Diego Padres (74) UNDER- You can understand why AJ Preller went all in prior to the 2015 season. He saw an opening and took it. Sometimes you miscalculate and run up the kind of rosters with bloated salaries unbecoming a small market like San Diego. But there are useful pieces there that the Padres can use to accelerate their rebuild. Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, James Shields and even Matt Kemp can be had for the right to appropriate price.
BOLD PREDICTION: Out of the four I named, I’d bet all of them get traded.
25. Oakland Athletics (75) UNDER- The Athletics I’m sure, are tired of hearing about how one sided the Josh Donaldson trade is. But if Franklin Barreto ends up being what they think, the A’s will have the chance at the last laugh. We know that Billy Beane can have the type of out-of-nowhere seasons, but I’m guessing this is still a rebuild year.
BOLD PREDICTION: The A’s do NOT trade Sonny Gray despite everyone’s absolute certainty they will.
24. Cincinnati Reds (71) OVER- Something about the Reds say they will be better than what most think. They let Mike Leake walk, but I don’t think he’s the type of player you give the type of money the Giants gave him. But such is the market. The Reds ask of Zack Wheeler in return for Jay Bruce tells me they will ask for a similar return in exchange for 1b Joey Votto. Many already are fitting him for a Bluejay uni, but I don’t think a deal happens and I doubt any other team will have the financial wherewithal or motivation to make a similar trade. They remain feisty until the end.
BOLD PREDICTION: Dusty Baker gets booed in his return. There is seriously nothing bold about this team.
23. Minnesota Twins (77.5) UNDER- This under is based solely on their pitching staff. And expecting Byron Buxton to have a dramatically good season is not out of the realm of possibility but I wouldn’t put the mortgage on it.
BOLD PREDICTION: Byron Buxton spends more time on the DL or Triple A than he does in the majors.
22. Chicago WhiteSox (80.5) UNDER- I would say push but since you absolutely need an answer, there it is. For the record, I think this Drake LaRoche situation is ridiculous. The fact that they allowed Adam LaRoche’s son to be homeschooled AND allowed in a major league clubhouse as frequently as he apparently was, in my opinion, unprofessional and should not have been allowed.
BOLD PREDICTION: The WhiteSox move one step closer to trading their ace Chris Sale, but eventually sign him to a long term deal by the end of the season.
21. Los Angeles Angels (82.5) UNDER- Under new GM Billy Eppler, I expect the Angels to make a ton of moves this season with only one goal in mind: getting the best team around Mike Trout. I was a fan of the Andrelton Simmons trade. The scouting community freaked out because of the return, but you are getting the kind of up the middle defense for the next five years that teams only dream about. This will mean a step back, but if they can take a long term step forward, this season will not have been a total waste. Oh wait, wasting another season of the best young player in all of baseball is a waste.
BOLD PREDICTION: Mike Trout once again finishes second in the MVP race.
20. Miami Marlins (80.5) UNDER- The Marlins always find a way to blow up expectations so I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Marlins be feisty all season. They play the Mets tough and have the talent to hang in the race for a long time. The Mattingly pick up will likely help a team that came in with high expectations last year but fell short for a number of reasons. Expect Jose Fernandez to be on a very strict innings limit which ultimately undermines how far this team can go.
BOLD PREDICTION: The walls moving in will STILL not help Christian Yelich reach 20 home runs.
19. Tampa Bay Rays (78) OVER– Whatever magic or voodoo this team possesses to keep itself in contention seems to be wearing out since the Andrew Friedman move but they are still a bunch that gets the rest of their division mates attention. This is a team that won’t wait too long to pull the trigger on a move that could make them better in both the intermediary and long run. The problem is finding a team willing to deal with them. Kevin Kermaier and Brad Boxberger are two guys I expect the Rays to deal for the right package.
BOLD PREDICTION: The Rays win the season series against the Red Sox.
18. Arizona Diamondbacks (84.5) UNDER- I expected this to be an 87 win team WITH AJ Pollock. Now with this injury, just a few days prior to Opening day, this has the makings of a disaster season. Their 1-3 should keep them in games but this is the type of scenario people warned the Diamondbacks about when talking about possible regrets of the Shelby Miller trade.
BOLD PREDICTION: Diamondbacks host a statisticians get-in-for-free promotion which simultaneously turns into a group interview as the D-Backs finally embrace advanced stats.
17. Detroit Tigers (85) UNDER- The Tigers still boast the best hitter in the game and replaced David Price with Jordan Zimmerman. Trades of both Price and Cespedes helped the team load up in the minor leagues but this is still a team that can do better than what they have. Their number one is no longer a number one and their offense is probably a bit overrated, but I still can see a better season than most expect.
BOLD PREDICTION: Cameron Maybin fulfills his promise for the Tigers boasting a line of 20 HR’s, 20 steals, 80 RBI’s and a .285 BA.
16. Baltimore Orioles (80.5) OVER- Statistical forecasting never seems to give Buck Showalter’s group any kind of love. Their end of game relief and lineup should make up for any noted weakness in the pitching staff. But I’m expecting Adam Jones to continue to be an elite level talent and play Gold glove worthy defense in centerfield and for the Orioles to once again compete.
BOLD PREDICTION: Chris Davis plays half the season, and the O’s are ok.
15. Seattle Mariners (83) OVER- I’m sold on an improvement for this team, but I think anyone predicting playoffs for the Mariners need to pump their brakes. The Mariners one day will surround King Felix with a team worthy of putting him in big September match ups but for now, they have to make do with what they have, an ever improving team, one step closer.
BOLD PREDICTION: Robinson Cano finishes in the Top 5 of MVP vote.
14. New York Yankees (85) OVER- Give the Yankees this, even with the 30 game suspension, the price they paid for Aroldis Chapman makes him a steal. They managed to improve their team without adding payroll which is remarkable and I’m in the very silent minority who believe the Yankees had a better offseason than the Mets did. I think the Yankees can be relevant, but expecting Mark Texeiera and Alex Rodriguez to hit nearly 60 home runs between them is unrealistic.
BOLD PREDICTION: Brett Gardner gets traded by midseason.
13. Cleveland Indians (84) OVER- The Indians are an intriguing team that is beloved by the stat community. They boast young cost controlled talent all over the diamond which make them players but what really makes them unique is that they are teetering between mediocrity and on the cusp. This is the swing year and I wouldn’t be shocked if they made a push, but they are still a deal or two away and not being able to take back a contract or two that’s horrendous could hamstring any type of talent acquisition that could help.
BOLD PREDICTION: Trevor Bauer becomes the indians closer by midseason.
12. St Louis Cardinals (87.5) UNDER- The under also is my bold prediction. Look, this is a team that won 100 games last year but advanced metrics said they were the luckiest team in the majors and those kind of clues along with multiple free agent defections (to an in division rival no less) will add up to a very tough transition year for the Cardinals fans. Which will eventually lead to every one of those flowery fans to scream to the high heavens about how tough a year its been being a Cards fan. Prepare yourself.
11. Boston Red Sox (85.5) OVER– This has a chance to be the dumbest over/under call, but Dave Dombrowski won’t allow this team to just give up by midseason. He’s a move the chips to the middle kind of guy once he feels his team is ready and he’s walking on to a team that began its rebuilding process and an ownership group trying to parlay a Big Papi farewell tour deep into October, so you know the purse strings will be open to take back a bad contract or two. No longer will prospects be protected for a better tomorrow. Tomorrow is today.
BOLD PREDICTION: Joe Kelly will statistically be the best pitcher in the Red Sox staff.
10. Washington Nationals (87) UNDER- This team was the most focused spring training team in all of baseball, but I can’t see this team doing it for a full season. They got rid of Jordan Zimmerman, Doug Fister, Ian Desmond, Denard Span, Yunel Escobar and Drew Storen and replaced them with very little. Trea Turner is the shortstop of the future and Lucas Giolito should step into the rotation sometime in June. People who predict big things for Washington also are banking on a huge year from free-agent-to-be Stephen Strassburg. If he gives them 30 starts, he could win 20 games. Its getting him to that number. Joe Ross is quality and Dusty Baker is their biggest offseason pick up. I’m not buying it.
BOLD PREDICTION- Stephen Strassburg has more starts than Max Scherzer (I’m asking for it aren’t I?)
9. Texas Rangers (86) OVER- The lasting image from last year was Adrian Beltre barely able to move, playing 3rd base in that awesome Game 6 in Toronto. I like how this team was constructed and Queens own Jon Daniels has the kind of positional talent that can mask whatever their rotation will be. Also, Yu Darvish will potentially return by June but I’m sure will force a 6 man rotation.
BOLD PREDICTION: Roughed Odor becomes the unquestioned best player on the Texas Rangers.
8. Toronto Blue Jays (87) OVER- I like this Blue Jays offense a lot. I like that it has a pissed off Jose Bautista in a contract year and I love that its ace is a bulldog who can win you games by his mere presence. They just seem to know how to get juiced for the big games and you know how that crowd gets. I am also a fan of Russel Martin. He’s got two more seasons of relevant baseball left before he becomes a liability, but that guy is a leader.
BOLD PREDICTION: The Blue Jays say eff it and trade for James Shields who goes 6-0 down the stretch but loses every playoff start he makes.
7. Pittsburgh Pirates (87) OVER- Its interesting how this team manages to pick every team’s scrap heap and turn them into stars. Another MVP caliber season from Andrew McCutchen will be outdone by Starling Marte’s real break out season as he will join his teammate in MVP ballots.
BOLD PREDICTION: The Pirates bullpen blows several late leads causing them to lose several tight games.
6. San Francisco Giants (90) OVER- Here’s a stat for you: the Giants have won a World Series every even year since 2010. This year is 2016 so it stands to reason that they will be in the hunt again. Here’s where it gets tough. I wasn’t a fan of the other rotation adds but I think the idea is that the Giants ability to defend will help both Jeff Samardzjia and Mike Leake’s stats along with pitching in AT&T Park which is known for being a pitcher’s haven. I expect huge things from Brandon Crawford this year.
BOLD PREDICTION: The Giants do NOT win a world series this even year.
5. KC Royals (87) OVER- Here’s where the computers seemingly always have it wrong. The Royals have consistently defied logic to win more than they are supposed to and gotten farther than expected because computers can’t account for heart and the sheer dramatics of this team. The Royals should have lost to the Astros. The Royals also should have lost to the Mets in 3 of the 4 games they won but there’s something called heart which computers have been unable to project and account for and the Royals win because they have that in spades. I loved their signing of Dillon Gee. He could be a 16 game winner for that team.
BOLD PREDICTION- The Royals run out of things to fight for, and finally succumb to PECOTA and every other computer projection model that says they are an average group.
4. Houston Astros (85.5) OVER- I have them winning their division and representing the American league in the World Series. Carlos Correa is the kind of talent that comes along once a generation, but we’ve had a few of them come along recently. The game is in good hands. I don’t think the Ken Giles trade will have the desired results, just a hunch.
BOLD PREDICTION- The Astros only leak will be the new Ben Affleck directed Batman script and the Astros will have two no-hitters pitched by their pitchers this year.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers (87) OVER- Vegas clearly thinks the loss of Zack Greinke and a completely left handed pitching staff will undermine all the good rookie manager Dave Roberts will bring to the team. His biggest task will be corralling the wild talent of Yasiel Puig and how to bring along super prospect Corey Seager slowly. If he manages that the rest should be easy.
BOLD PREDICTION: The Dodgers lose in the division round to the Cubs.
2. New York Mets (88) OVER- They shocked me with the signing of Yoenis. They had a horrible spring. All their pitchers seemed to be “working on stuff” and we dealt with the lack of velocity of Jacob DeGrom who every year seems to walk into camp with the “can he do it again” question and answers it. I’m not worried about the pitching staff, I have legitimate concerns about how they are bringing along Michael Conforto and whether we will see the team give him regular AB’s against left handed pitching. He’s not afraid of the moment as he showed with a two home run performance in the World Series and can be the number 3 hitter that David Wright was. Terry Collins will have a full year of a very strong roster from top to bottom- his Mets career will thus be judged by how he does this year.
BOLD PREDICTION: The Mets win 100 games and win the World Series. If you’re a Mets fan you know why that’s bold.
1.Chicago Cubs (89) OVER- They can sleep walk to 95 but it depends on a few things. How will the young kids respond to the expectations. How will Jake Arrieta follow up his historic second half and will we see a hangover like we saw in that Mets start? I love their line up and they seemed to double down on it by adding Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward. Ultimately it will come down to one thing: can they get enough pitching out of old men Lester and Lackey? Virtually every move the Cubs did had a double purpose of hurting their rivals (Cards/Mets). The fans in Wrigley are excited but they need that pitching.
BOLD PREDICTION: They lose to the Mets on a walk off HR in Game 6 of the NLCS to the Mets.
AL MVP: Carlos Correa
NL MVP: Bryce Harper
AL CY Young: Marcus Stroman
NL CY Young: Matt Harvey
AL Rookie of the Year: Byron Buxton
NL Rookie of the Year: Corey Seager
World Series: Mets def. Astros 4-1