"Lazzari's Sports Roundup" - - - - 4/7/12
Yes, it's that time of the year, folks--the obligatory crapshoot better-known as making MLB predictions. Here's how they'll finish in 2012......
Boston Red Sox
Toronto Blue Jays
Chicago White Sox
AL EAST- Yanks still have too much offense AND Rivera in the 'pen; probably the last year Mo, Jeter, and Pettitte have a chance to make some noise together. Rays have the best starting pitching in the league, but not enough "O" to take division. Valentine brings too much of the authoritative approach to Boston--which doesn't work w/today's pampered babies; their 7, 8, & 9 spots in the batting order remind me of a Lugosi movie. Jays can be a sleeper, but their bullpen will ultimately disappoint. O's have lost 90 or more for the past six years; they may lose 100 in '12.
AL CENTRAL- Tigers will score a ton while Verlander remains a "throwback"-type pitcher--a rare breed; key will be how Leyland paces the other starting pitchers. Tribe will surprise many people, but back-end of the rotation will keep them out of the post-season. Royals have a decent offense, but when Bruce Chen is your top winner from the previous season, that's worrisome. Twins have no power; Mauer's best days may be behind him (with 7 yrs./$160 million left on contract). White Sox trying to rebuild (poor Paul Konerko), but new manager Ventura's most difficult job will be preventing ulcers.
AL WEST- Pujols puts Angels over the top--and with their great staff, they may win 100. Darvish is the real deal in Texas, but will Nathan be able to close like he once did? A's newcomer Cespedes will do fine/add punch, but they have too many .250 hitters and a questionable 'pen. M's have no power and no bench; if they finish anywhere NEAR .500, yours truly is dating both Charlize Theron AND Jennifer Aniston by the end of 2012.
St. Louis Cardinals
NL EAST- Phils' pitching still incredible; Pence is an MVP candidate, but will they stay healthy until the very end? Marlins' P Josh Johnson bounces back, but the bottom of their lineup may be a concern. Nats may surprise if Werth can rebound, Ryan Zimmerman stays healthy, and Strasburg makes 30 starts. Braves have the ability to win between 80 and 90, but the chances of Chipper Jones NOT missing significant time during his final season are about the same as gas prices being $2.50 by the Fourth of July. Mets pitching too questionable--and lack of power (along with a man named Madoff) puts them in the cellar.
NL CENTRAL- Take your pick--Cincy, Milwaukee, OR St. Louis can take division; loss of Madson makes it a bit more difficult for Reds. If Greinke stays healthy, Brewers will be there until the end. Cards still have just enough offense w/o Pujols, but bullpen may be enigmatic. Cubs have too many 'streaky' players and their "key" acquisitions in the off-season were David DeJesus and Ian Stewart (groan). Bucs' Hurdle a fine manager, but a $40 million payroll is synonymous with fifth-place. Astros lack power, a bullpen, and need to tear up the team before moving to AL; manager Brad Mills doesn't last the season.
NL WEST- Giants' staff is terrific, but will a lack of power/low-scoring games catch up with them? L.A. needs more than just Kemp on offense--and their pitching will tire late in the season. D'backs have some great arms/innings-eaters, but also too many .250 hitters. Rockies will score a ton, but give up the same--which translates to a .500 record; if you can name their pitching staff, you need more variety in your life. Padres lack power but have decent prospects (i.e. Gyorko, Kelly); "good" news is that they will stay under 100 losses and may be a factor a year or two from now.
*Postseason: Rangers, Rays, Brewers, and Marlins are wild-cards; none go to the World Series. Angels and Phillies emerge from their respective leagues to play in the Fall Classic--with Albert Pujols snagging a second straight championship ring with his new team. Enjoy the season, everyone.