"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

My Prediction? Pain

SI.com has it’s 2009 MLB preview material up, and yours truly is one of the so-called experts picking the division, pennant, and World Series and major awards winners and pontificating on the whys and wherefores.

I have the Yankees winning the Wild Card and losing to the AL East champion (and eventuall world champion) Red Sox in a hard-fought ALCS. The AL East (which should beget the pennant-winner, whoever it might be) was almost a coin-flip for me between the Yanks, Sox, and Rays (anyone have a three-sided coin?), but when push came to shove, the Sox were just deeper, younger, and had less down-side than the other two, at least in my mind. I’m bully on the Yankee pitching staff, but merely hopeful about the offense.

Surprisingly, I was the only “expert” to pick CC Sabathia to win the AL Cy Young award, though two others picked Mark Teixeira for MVP. I went with Josh Hamilton for the latter, though I could certainly see Tex taking the trophy.

In addition to my comments in the roundtable linked above, here are my responses that didn’t get used:

Which division is the best in baseball, top-to-bottom?

The AL East is the best division in baseball because it is home to the three best teams in baseball, the Red Sox, Rays, and Yankees. Every division has a team as bad as the Orioles, but none has one as good as any of the top three teams in the AL East.

What is your sleeper team for 2009?

I think the Reds’ streak of eight-straight losing seasons is going to come to an end this year. I think Joey Votto is going to have a huge sophomore season. He’s surrounded by talented young hitters in Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips, Edwin Encarnacion, and Chris Dickerson. Ramon Hernandez is a sure improvement over Paul Bako. Willy Taveras and Alex Gonzalez won’t hit much, but they’ll improve the Cincinnati defense, which was among the worst in baseball last year, something Dickerson will also help correct. That will benefit the rotation–which features the up-and-coming duo of Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto as well as innings-eater Bronson Arroyo, bounceback candidate Aaron Harang, and could be rounded out by a new and improved Homer Bailey–and the already solid bullpen. They’re not a playoff team, but for the first time in a long time, they look like a good team.

Which rookie will have the biggest impact?

Matt Wieters will win the AL Rookie of the Year award because he’s a flat-out masher who will put up outstanding numbers once he’s installed as the Orioles’ starting catcher (think Evan Longoria last year), but David Price will have the biggest impact as he’ll be entering the impossibly tight AL East race as a member of the Rays’ rotation.

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1 51cq24   ~  Apr 1, 2009 5:24 pm

high treason

2 Chyll Will   ~  Apr 1, 2009 6:32 pm

Oh I get it, April Fools!

3 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Apr 1, 2009 6:46 pm

No, for realsies.

4 jkay   ~  Apr 1, 2009 7:00 pm

Why does SI put Sabathia on the cover when they pick the Mets to win it all?

5 Chyll Will   ~  Apr 1, 2009 7:05 pm

[4] The SI Jinx! Those guys have had it in for the Yankees the last I don't know how many years! >;)

[3] (censored)... >;)

6 Rich   ~  Apr 1, 2009 7:35 pm

I like the Yankees being the underdogs.

They are winning #27 this year. Book it.

7 RIYank   ~  Apr 1, 2009 7:56 pm

David Pinto has the Yankees as (slight) favorites to win the division. Predictably the prediction brought Fenway yahoos out of the woodwork, so don't bother reading the comments. David uses WAR for starters, bullpen, rotation, and just sums them.

8 Rich   ~  Apr 1, 2009 8:03 pm

[7] Fenway yahoos = bane of the internet

9 Just Fair   ~  Apr 1, 2009 8:37 pm

I pity the fool who don't pick the Yankees!

10 williamnyy23   ~  Apr 1, 2009 9:36 pm

Actually, I think the Red Sox have a lot more question marks than the Yankees, or at least more negative question marks.

In the rotation, they are depending on Wakefield AND one of the injured duo of Smoltz/Penny. Meanwhile, Beckett is coming off an injury (and another season well below 200 innings), while the jury remains out on Dice-K (will he be as lucky as he was in 2008 - he had the largest differential between real and expected ERA - or revert to 2007 league average form?

On offense, Youkilis is a likely candidate for regression, while Lowell, Drew and Ortiz have injury/age-related red flags. Also, Ellsbury was no better than the 2006-07 version of Melky and is already 25. Throw in the black hole at catcher and the uncertainty around Lowrie and the Sox offense could sputter.

Finally, with the additions and subtractions made by the Yankees, I am not sure there will be much difference between the average age of both team.

If Arod returns to anything close to himself by May, I think the Yankees will win around 98 games and win the East by a 5 or 6 game margin, with Boston taking the wild card and TB winning around 87 games.

11 williamnyy23   ~  Apr 1, 2009 9:42 pm

As for sleepers, I like the As to win the west with around 88 wins and the Royals to approach 80 wins. I like the Reds too, but think .500 is their ceiling.

In the AL, I'd keep an eye on the A's Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill as well as Elvis Andrus of Texas and Travis Snider of Toronto.

In the NL, Tommy Hanson could be a big mid-season to the NL East race, which I think the Braves will win. Guys like Maybin and Rasmus (if he still qualifies) could also vie for the NL ROY.

12 SteveAmerica   ~  Apr 1, 2009 10:11 pm

A-Rod MVP. He's going to rain down holy hell on pitchers this season. He'll put up a better season in 4.5 months than anyone else in six. I can just feel it.

13 Diane Firstman   ~  Apr 1, 2009 10:26 pm

Ramiro Pena for AL Rookie of the Year

(printing up the t-shirts)

14 Mattpat11   ~  Apr 1, 2009 10:53 pm

I don't disagree with Cliff. I think the Yankees offense can be really bad this year. I certainly hope not, but I have a bad feeling about that outfield in particular.

15 Rich   ~  Apr 1, 2009 11:46 pm

[14] Both Damon and Nady are in their walk year (as is Matsui), which at least anecdotally, seems to have a way of boosting a player's production (although Reggie Jackson's 1981 season was an obvious exception).

16 SteveAmerica   ~  Apr 2, 2009 1:58 am

So all the opinions are "offense is trouble" but all the math, Pinto and RLYW, say the Yankees take the division. I put my faith in math, not gut.

17 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Apr 2, 2009 2:12 am

But how many at-bats do you give Posada or Matsui in your math? How much power do you give Jeter in your math? What kind of production do you give Cano or Gardner in your math? I'm a numbers guy and often objective to a fault, but I see too many question marks to make the Yanks my pick. I absolutely think they can win it all, but their chances are ever so slightly longer than the Red Sox, in my opinion thus my pick.

That said, these picks are more of a parlor game than real analysis if you ask me. I have a hard enough time figuring out who the writers are going to give the MVP or Cy Young award to in October, never mind on April 1. I'll do a more detailed analysis of the Yankees' prospects for the coming season in advance of Monday's opener.

18 randym77   ~  Apr 2, 2009 6:55 am

The Reds will be talking to Gary Sheffield today. I'm not sure adding Sheff would be an improvement at this point...

19 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Apr 2, 2009 9:22 am

I think it is a mugsd game (but fun) to call the AL East right now. As Cliff says, 3 very strong teams. Injuries and kids meeting or failing to meet expectations will decide. (Cano, Buchholz, Chance Gardiner, Pedrioa being 'real', Godzilla, Drew...)

Me, I think the Angels are going to be seriously, brutally good if they get two of their three killer starters rolling, and the West is weak enough to give them time. Lackey/Escobar/Santana? My, my. Add a very strong bullpen and kids who can come up and play...

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