At the beginning of every baseball season, there are two guarantees. Chicago Cubs’ fans will think “it’s our year” and it will end in disappointment like it has for the last 104 years. Picking the division winners is a bit trickier, but I channeled my inner-Nostradamus to pick this year’s playoff teams.
NL East: Philadelphia Phillies
Despite their struggles so far this season with the absence of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, the Phillies are still going to win the East this season. They have the best starting pitching in baseball hands down with the trio of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. When Howard and Utley return, the Phillies’ offense will improve and they will once again be one of the best teams in baseball.
NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals
The 2011 World Series Champions will once again compete to be in the Fall Classic. Even with the loss of Albert Pujols, the Cardinals boast a strong lineup behind Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, Lance Berkman and David Freese. The return of Adam Wainwright from Tommy John surgery will give St. Louis a legitimate Cy Young contender. The Cardinals should win the division fairly easily.
NL West: Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks won this division a season ago and I expect them to do it again. Arizona’s pitching is suspect, but playing in a big ballpark will help negate that. Ian Kennedy and Joe Saunders will give the D-Backs a solid one-two punch. Arizona will win with their offense led by Justin Upton, Chris Young and Stephen Drew, when he returns from the disabled list.
NL Wildcards: Miami Marlins and San Francisco Giants
AL East: New York Yankees
The only thing that could keep the Yankees from another division title is a weak starting rotation. CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes are the only two proven commodities in the starting staff with the rest of the rotation being suspect. Despite the shaky pitching, it shouldn’t matter. The New York lineup should be as good as always with Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano leading the way. The Yankees will win a lot of games because of their offense.
AL Central: Detroit Tigers
The Tigers are far and away the best team in baseball this season. The addition of Prince Fielder will bolster the Detroit lineup to go with Miguel Cabrera. Justin Verlander gives the Tigers arguably the most dominant pitcher in all of baseball and certainly one of the best pitchers in the game. Detroit should win the Central by more than 10 games, as they face little competition.
AL West: Los Angeles Angels
No team made a bigger splash in the offseason, adding superstars Pujols and starting pitcher CJ Wilson. With Wilson, Jared Weaver and Dan Haren at the top of the rotation the Angels will compete with the Phillies for one of the best starting piching staffs in the game. Pujols, alone, will transform the Angels lineup. They will face stiff competition from the Rangers, but I believe in the end they will win the west by a couple of games.
AL Wildcards: Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays