Remember: The predictions are always correct; it’s the actual players playing in the actual games who muck them up!
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST: Los Angeles, San Diego, Arizona, San Francisco, Colorado
The easiest of the six divisions to predict. The Dodgers have all the ingredients needed to win perhaps 108 regular-season games; but more importantly, they’ve finally figured out how to win in October. The Padres will cruise to one of the wild card spots.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL: St. Louis, Milwaukee, Chicago, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh
First and last are guaranteed; the middle three are good enough to be average or average enough to be well out of the playoffs. The Cardinals tried to improve in the offseason; the other four didn’t. At least three in the Cubs’ opening-day lineup could be gone by August.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST: Atlanta, New York, Washington, Philadelphia, Miami
This should be the most entertaining division in baseball. The Braves are good enough to make a deep playoff run, and the Mets should be good enough to do the same. The difference between the two teams right now might be familiarity with the others on the roster.
Ranking the NL 1-15:
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST: Houston, Oakland, Los Angeles, Seattle, Texas
The Astros remain at the top (and perhaps for only one more season), but a championship contender they are not. Oakland lost too much talent to steal the division. If the Angels are even just a little better than predicted, they might…nah, they’re never better than forecasted.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL: Chicago, Minnesota, Cleveland, Kansas City, Detroit
There’s lots of hype surrounding the White Sox. If Tony LaRussa’s old-school mentality fits with a free-wheeling club, Chicago might be the best pinstriped team in the AL. The Twins remain dangerous; they’ll attract less attention than Chicago, and might steal the division.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST: New York, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Boston, Baltimore
The Yankees should win this division; they’ll make one major move when it matters. The Rays won’t slip too far despite the off-season trades, and the more impressive bullpen keeps them ahead of the Blue Jays, the team that might fall victim to too much hype.
Ranking the AL 1-15
NATIONAL LEAGUE PLAYOFFS (based on the expectation of five teams making it)
Wild Card: New York beats San Diego. I trust the Mets’ ace more than the Padres’ top guy.
Divisional Round: Los Angeles beats New York, Atlanta beats St. Louis. The benefit of winning the NL East is apparent, no?
Championship Series: Los Angeles beats Atlanta. The Braves might be better than last year, but the Dodgers are. And they already were the best team.
AMERICAN LEAGUE PLAYOFFS (again, based on a five-team format)
Wild Card: Tampa Bay beats Minnesota. Until the Twins show they can win in October, well…
Divisional Round: New York beats Tampa Bay, Chicago beats Houston. You think the Rays will beat the Yankees again in the playoffs? Um, no.
Championship Series: New York over Chicago. The White Sox aren’t at the elite level yet.
The hype, the drama, the history of the franchises. And the Series lasts five games.
Los Angeles beats New York