Random observations of the season to come:
Most overrated. Boston. Yeah, we hate the Red Sox and will never pass up an opportunity to rip them, but their rotation really sucks. They lack not only an ace but a legit second starter. Their presumptive Opening Day starter, Rick Porcello, averages 5.5 K and 10 H/9 IP for his career with a 4.30 ERA. Clay Buchholz had a 5.34 ERA, half-a-run better than free agent Justin Masterson. Like their rotation mates, Joe Kelly and Wade Miley are hittable and don’t miss many bats. Boston’s offense will be better, but could be limited by age (Big Phony nears 40) and injury (Hanley Ramirez has missed 110 games over the last two years)
Senior again. The National League has long played second fiddle to the AL, but St. Louis, Washington, Pittsburgh and the Dodgers are better than any team in the Junior Circuit. And the Marlins, who will take on the Pirates in the play-in game, aren’t far behind, especially once Jose Fernandez returns.
Will anyone show up to watch the AL champion? Did you know the Indians drew fewer fans last year than the Rays? Cleveland hasn’t topped two million in attendance since 2008, when they were 81-81. They’ll be much better than that this year, winning the highly competitive AL Central en route to their first World Series appearance in 18 years. Their rotation is deep and talented, led by Cy Young winner Corey Kluber and the best pitcher you haven’t heard of: late bloomer Carlos Carrasco, who struck out 140 and walked just 29 in 134 IP last year, with a 2.55 ERA and 0.985 WHIP. Highly touted Trevor Bauer took a big step forward in 2014, and Danny Salazar has the best stuff of any of their starters. If Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher and Jason Kipnis can bounce back from career-worst seasons, the Indians will be dangerous offensively, too. Counting newly acquired Brandon Moss, the Tribe will feature four players who hit at least 20 HR a year ago.
Which Chicago team will be most improved? The White Sox and Cubs will emerge from irrelevance to compete for the playoffs. The North Siders will earn a Wild Card but the Cubs will fall short. Toronto, the Mariners and Angels will join the Pale Hose and Tribe in the AL playoffs.
Them again? Seems as if you can’t have a World Series without the Cards or Giants these days, and 2015 will be no different. St. Louis will best the Indians in 6 games, led by Fall Classic MVP Jason Heyward.
Race to the bottom. The more I look at the Braves line-up the more I’m convinced they’re going to suck hard in 2015, though the Phillies and D’backs will suck more. At least Fran Wren won’t be running the draft next year. And a 73-89 finish should be enough to cost Fredi his job. He’ll be replaced by a member of his staff — not TP, as we’d prefer, but Roger McDowell, who nonetheless will be a huge upgrade.
(FWIW, last year’s preview correctly forecast 8 of the 10 playoff teams.)