"Lazzari's Sports Roundup" - - - - 3/29/14
Yes, it's that time of the year, folks--time to offer some MLB predictions. Yeah, it's the usual "crapshoot"; trust me--this yearly undertaking is more difficult than trying to type while wearing boxing gloves. Anyway, here's how they'll finish in 2014......
Boston Red Sox
Toronto Blue Jays
Chicago White Sox
AL EAST- If Longoria and Meyers stay healthy, the Rays will have just enough punch to supplement some very good pitching. Red Sox--possessing a little less "magic" in '14--may snag a wild-card (and Bogaerts wins Rookie of the Year), but will Peavy and Doubront give them enough quality starts? Yankees will miss Cano's production too much (and won't stay healthy enough)--although Tanaka emerges as one of the best starters in MLB. Jays' pitching just too questionable (Dickey and Buehrle will need more than 26 wins combined), and defense is a concern. O's will score plenty--despite continued questions about Machado's health/endurance--but closing games could be an adventure.
AL CENTRAL- If Joe Nathan can stay healthy at age 39, he'll still close games effectively and Detroit wins this division going away (even w/o Prince Fielder). Royals will score enough (look for a big year from Hosmer), but pitching--which looks decent on paper--will disappoint somewhat. Indians have too many .260 hitters (with a lack of power) in their lineup and their bullpen (inconsistency from Axford) will be shaky. Cuban newcomer Abreu will give the White Sox some "pop", but their starting pitching (besides Chris Sale) won't get the job done. Twins simply don't have an ace hurler (Ricky Nolasco?) and Joe Mauer will be the only hitter who even SNIFFS a .300 batting average.
AL WEST- The additions of Fielder and Choo put Texas over the top offensively; Darvish may win Cy Young and Soria closes effectively. Middle of A's line-up packs a punch (Donaldson, Moss, Cespedes), but will their table-setters get on base enough? Angels offense not a concern as Pujols becomes Pujols again and Trout wins MVP; I just question the second half of their rotation AND closer Frieri in big games. Cano sees less good pitches in Seattle but settles in nicely; I just question the rest of their offense (especially the outfield production) as a whole. Houston, well, we have a problem: There's just not enough pitching OR offense to avoid losing 100 games again in '14; if Astros were to finish at .500, yours truly may also be dating Sandra Bullock by the end of the year.
St. Louis Cardinals
NL EAST- Harper may win MVP (if he stays vertical) and Nats will coast to a division title. I believe that bullpen overuse (too many hard-throwers) will hurt Atlanta--although they can be a wild-card team. Miami's Stanton will put up huge #'s, but they're still in rebuilding mode; the bottom of their lineup is weak, too. An aging Phillies team will experience injury problems (a la the NY Yankees), and the second half of their rotation will give new manager Sandberg fits. Mets are still haunted by a jailbird named Madoff; some good, young pitchers in NY (i.e. Wheeler), but the offense strikes out too much and they won't score enough.
NL CENTRAL- Cards should cruise this year; just too much pitching for the rest of the division to deal with (Wainwright, Wacha, etc.). Reds' pitching is good, too (Cueto, Latos, and Bailey could combine for 50 wins)--but too many free swingers on offense keeps them at least 6 games behind the Cards. McCutchen has another fab year with Bucs, but the bottom of their lineup is just too weak. Milwaukee gets steroid-bum Braun back from suspension and the addition of Garza helps; however, they just happen to be in a "too-tough" division. Oh, poor Cubbie fans: Rizzo is perhaps Chicago's only source of power and they'll lose between 95 and 100 games; the "Bleacher Bums" will be, well, "bummed" once AGAIN.
NL WEST- Dodgers run away and hide here; the only question is if Mattingly can stay free of ulcers while keeping a leash on Puig (preventing the team's clubhouse from imploding). Giants will be much better than last year and Tim Hudson helps--but 90 wins simply won't get it done. D'backs' loss of LHP Corbin hurts A LOT; I'm not a fan of their bullpen, either. San Diego's pitching will be OK--especially the bullpen (Street, Benoit)--but a lack of power offensively is their downfall. Rockies will have no trouble scoring (Tulowitzki, Gonzalez, etc.), but LaTroy Hawkins as your closer? Ummm...NO.
*Postseason: A's and Red Sox capture AL wild cards; Braves and Giants do the same in the Senior Circuit. Tigers and Dodgers to emerge as pennant winners with Kershaw and Co. giving LA fans their first world championship since '88.
Enjoy the season, everyone.......