62 Bold and Burning Predictions for 2010

Originally published in the now defunct: Two On One Out | 01 April 2010

It’s like this every year.

Everyone thinks that they can predict what will happen that year. Especially the experts, although, as it is their job, they get a free pass.

None of us can ever correctly call these things, so if anyone is ever dead serious about predicting anything, they ought to take a look at their priorities.

For those who drone on for paragraphs about how they are never right, how they consistently miss on their predictions, they are missing the point. There is no formula to go by which you can guarantee results; if there was, there would be no point to playing the season.

By predicting, we are taking something, Major League Baseball in this case, and adding a spin to it, adding excitement, a little edge.

This is something that will entertain us and when readers look back and realize that you or I or they wrote something that came true, it somehow gives us more credibility than if we got it wrong.

1. The New York Yankees will not win the 2010 World Series.

If you’re wondering how I came to this decision, it was rather simple and I will gladly explain.

In the last 10 years, only the Boston Red Sox have won more than one world championship and they were three years apart (2004 and 2007).

Shared talent is the reality of the major league competitive field these days. There are so many quality teams, so many talented young players under team option, dispersed throughout the league, that no matter how hard the large-market clubs try to buy their stars, they will not gain any more leverage than a mid-market team whose excellent scouting has brought up players who are just as talented and much cheaper than the New York’s and Boston’s of the world.

This argument suggests that teams that only buy championships, as many disgruntled fans of baseball like to suggest, is not only no longer plausible, it never has been.

For example:

The Yankees’ payroll increased an average of $16 million each year from the start of 2001 through the end of 2005. They made the playoffs each year and appeared in the World Series twice, 2001 and 2003. They lost both times.

In the final year, 2005, the payroll sat at the highest it had ever been, to a tune just over $208 million. They then went and lost to the Anaheim Angels in the first round of the playoffs.

The payroll dipped in 2006 to just under $195 million, and then again in 2007 to just under $190 million before it exploded to the tune of $209 million at the beginning of the 2008 season.

That year, they did not even make the playoffs.

In 2009, it actually dropped to just under $202 million and they went on to win the World Series for the first time since 2000, when their payroll was just under $93 million (although at the time that was the highest in baseball as well).

This year, their payroll has risen again to over $209 million.
The evidence suggests that money will not factor in with winning the World Series because we see a trend where, although you as a team are free to spend money just the way you want to, it might be able to buy you the playoffs, but it won’t necessarily buy you a championship.

Yes, you have to spend money to win. But just as Malcolm Gladwell argues in his book, Outliers , you don’t have to “spend the most” (have the highest IQ), you just have to “spend enough” (be as smart as you need to be in order to succeed).

My final point is this: there is a fine line between a bold prediction and a realistic bold prediction and a bold prediction and an unrealistic bold prediction. The goal is to find a bold prediction that is underrated and unexpected, not one that is obvious (Albert Pujols will hit 40 Home Runs) or one that is ridiculous (Jake Fox will hit 40 Home Runs).

A little fact behind the reasoning won’t hurt one bit either.

But enough of this. I feel like this whole intro should be like 25 bold predictions instead of just one.

Let’s continue on with the AL East…

2. Carl Crawford will soon share the OF with Desmond Jennings. Together they will steal 100 bases.

3. Evan Longoria lovers will not be upset. He will clear 140 RBI this year, thanks to Crawford/Jennings.

4. The Tampa Bay Rays will fight, and scratch, and win the AL Wild Card.

5. The Boston Red Sox will not make the playoffs.

6. David Ortiz, however, will hit 30 Home Runs.

7. This will be the year Alex Rodriguez once again explodes. He will hit at least .300 with 40 plus home runs and 125 RBI. I think I might be modest here, but I don’t want to get too carried away. I can sniff a 50 plus homer season for him in his first full 81 games at the “House He Built.” Let’s forget all the issues concerning everything he has dealt with in the past because they are over. 2010 is the year he makes the most money in his current contract and he is going to want to prove he is worth it and now that there are no obvious hurdles (divorce, steroids, lack of positive postseason performances, injuries), there is nothing to stop him. Remember, he hit 30 HR and 100 RBI last year in only 444 ABs.

8. Derek Jeter will get 200 hits.

9. Ichiro Suzuki will not. Sorry guys, too much of a good thing will eventually end.

10. B.J. Upton will redefine himself just as everyone accepts that he is a failure.

11. Roger Clemens will have yet another embarrassing story released this year. (Post Mindy McCready).

12. While I love Pat Burrell, he will not play even half the season for the Rays. It won’t be due to injury, but to poor performance. He will begin a platoon with Hank Blalock (who both have ironically have endured absolutely a horrid spring) and by the beginning of June, Burrell will be out of a job.

On to the AL Central…

13. Joe Nathan will not save even 20 games for the Minnesota Twins. There is such a thing as “too-good-too-be-true.” Mariano Rivera does not apply to this rule because he is of another world. Nathan has just completed his seventh straight season of more than 64 appearances and then had surgery in Oct. to remove bone spurs and other “loose bodies” in his right elbow. I smell something fishy here. (I kept this in here because I wrote this one in late Feb., before anyone knew anything about his elbow. At least one of my predictions came true)

14. Despite losing Nathan, the Twins will not fall out of the division race. In fact, I think they will win it all now that Kevin Slowey, Francisco Liriano, and Carl Pavano will have the opportunity to enjoy full and healthy seasons with the club. I see no issue with losing Nathan because while he is a great closer, they have Jon Rauch (17 SV, 2.98 ERA with Washington in 2008), Matt Guerrier (batters hit .207 against him last year), Jose Mijares (career 2.13 ERA), and Jesse Crain (3.50 ERA in 305 career games). This is a situation that does not resemble Tampa Bay’s 2009 struggles. They employed nine different closers who all struggled at one point during the season and it resulted in 28 blown save opportunities at the end of the year.

15. The Kansas City Royals will not finish in last place this year. Sorry, Mr. Goodkat. The Cleveland Indians have no real hope at all of losing less than 90 games and that is being generous. For a team whose opening day starter will either comprise of a pitcher who, a) has seven wins since the beginning of 2007, b), an ERA of 6.32 last year, or c), who has 25 career starts under his belt, I’m not exactly shaking in fear and neither are any other teams in the AL central.

16. Magglio Ordonez will bat .320 and crush 25 home runs and earn that final $18 million.

17. Joe Mauer will prove that his power stroke is not a fluke thanks to Target Field . He will hit over 30 home runs in 2010 and battle for another batting crown. Now that he is locked up for the next eight years for $184 million (which is a story that is as good for baseball and small market teams as there ever will be), entering his new home, and enjoying the fruits of a now competitive franchise, he will continue his acceleration into baseball lore. Any concerns about him catching? He plays in the AL, there’s a DH. If his story seems almost too good to be true, it’s not. I really think that it’s going to stick.

18. The Tigers will fall to third place in the division. I can just sense it and now I’m pouting. I hope I’m wrong, but Chicago is bound for another solid year thanks to Jake Peavy.

19. And Ozzie Guillen will manage to keep his job and his Twitter account.

20. Jim Leyland will somehow find a loophole to smoke inside Comerica Park .

Go to the AL West young man…

21. The Seattle Mariners will not make the postseason. Everyone, and I mean everyone , says that the Mariners are going to make the playoffs this year. They are built on “Pitching and Defense”.   I can see how they have the best defense. Just look at their position players. As for pitching, I ask…how can you label them the best? Sure, they have added Cliff Lee in a pitching friendly ballpark. And they have a nice bullpen, which does make a big difference. But who are their 3-5 starters? The competition is Ryan Rowland-Smith, Ian Snell, Doug Fister, Luke French, and Jason Vargas. That won’t fly in a division with the Angels or even the Rangers. Furthermore, who’s going to bat cleanup? Milton Bradley? Sure, the team is improved, but I honestly see a lot of 3-2 losses this season. The Mariners are built for the postseason, but they will struggle to get there.

22. The Oakland Athletics will trade Ben Sheets in June or July for one to two prospects, plus cash considerations, and end up not even paying half of his $10 million contract. This will further cement Billy Beane’s place in baseball lore as the most intelligent GM ever. That’s all that needs to be said about him.

23. Vladimir Guerrero will return to his old form by hitting at least .310 with 30 Home Runs and 100 RBI. He has hit .394 at the Ballpark in Arlington in his career. It’s the top average a single player has in any stadium with at least 100 at-bats. Guerrero also has 14 homers, 33 RBIs and a .705 slugging percentage at the ballpark. Then again, this was all against Texas pitching…

24. The Texas Rangers will not make the postseason this year. While they have the bats that Seattle desperately needs, and Seattle has the pitching, both teams are weak where the Angels are still strong. Although the Rangers are led by pitching guru Nolan Ryan, the likes of Scott Feldman (although he showed promise last year, his career ERA is still over 4.50), and injury-prone Rich Harden ( he has not started more than 26 games or thrown more than 150 innings per year since 2004—and he missed five starts that year too while pitching just under 190 innings. The next year he appeared in nine games) will not be able to lead C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, and Matt Harrison.

25. Ian Kinsler will not hit more than 20 HR or steal more than 20 bases. He won’t play 120 games. This one isn’t so bold is it?

The NL East is becoming one of the better divisions in baseball…

26. The Atlanta Braves will win the NL Wild Card in Bobby Cox’s final season. This is not because it will be a nice story for Bobby Cox; I could care less (unlike ESPN this spring) about what Cox is doing next year. The Braves have improved in every area they could this off-season with the veteran Troy Glaus (1B), underrated Martin Prado (2B), national sensation Jason Heyward (RF), and resurrected Billy Wagner (CL). The Braves will go deep into the NLCS, but stop there thanks to the deadly Philadelphia Phillies, who are the closest thing to a dynasty since the 1996-2001 Yankees.

27. Jason Heyward will hit .285 with 25 plus home runs and 90 plus RBIs given he gets at least 500 at bats. Having been compared to Hank Aaron and Ken Griffey, Jr., I will not be surprised if he posts numbers like that or better, this year. That’s a relatively similar stat line to both players’ first full seasons in the major leagues.

28. Jose Reyes will not play more than 100 games this year. He has been a disaster waiting to happen ever since his hamstring troubles began in 2003. He has never been a player I thought would produce more than a couple of seasons before slowly fading away due to “injury.” Now that he has had his four good seasons, I very much doubt his body will be able to hold up much longer.

29 . Ryan Howard will hit 50 HR and win the MVP award. Howard for Pujols? No way! I’ll keep Howard!

30. Stephen Strasburg will emerge as the Washington Nationals’ ace by the All-Star break. He will be so popular, that if fans were allowed to vote on pitchers, he would be voted into the midsummer classic. Because that’s not the case, Charlie Manual will ignore this kid completely, and rightly so. I think that we’ve all heard how good he is, and if you have seen some of his pro ball video, you will be forced to agree. I don’t like to hype players up to the point where we are expecting Cy Young awards from them, to me, that’s just stupid. But, Strasburg is the real deal and he will get his chance early. The only concern are his mechanics during delivery. All I have to say is they complain about Tim Lincecum too. Nobody is ever happy with the way things are.

31 . Roy Halladay will win the NL Cy Young. Wait…That’s not so bold. Am I getting lazy? Am I running out of ideas? No…I think that people are forgetting that Tim (sure I’ll put him in here this year again) Lincecum, Dan Haren, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, and Johan Santana, who are all perennial, top of the rotation starters, are all in the National League as well and have a much better shot at winning the award this year than he does. I mean, Halladay is coming into a new team and a new league. The odds are stacked against him. But, following the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays for as long as I have results in seeing Doc Halladay more than a few times per year. The guy is insane, even masterful. He won’t be fazed by a thing. I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins 25 games and strikes out 300 batters.  The one thing that irks me is that people are getting giddy over this guy’s conversion to the National League and jumping all over him. While I hate bandwagon jumpers even more than traitors (at least there is thought involved in those confounded Benedict Arnolds!), they do have reason to be excited. I just think we should all understand why before we all take him in the second round of our Fantasy Baseball drafts…sigh.

32. While we’re on the subject of Halladay and the Phillies, let’s backtrack and talk about Cliff Lee, the former Cy Young winner who was unceremoniously shipped out to Seattle for a couple of prospects. Why the Phillies didn’t keep him to basically guarantee a third straight World Series appearance, I don’t think they even know, but if I can shed a little light on the subject, I might be able to ask some constructive questions. Lee will not pitch like he did last summer. He was traded to a World Championship team in the middle of a heated pennant race. The adrenaline must have been spectacular for a pitcher who hadn’t even been on the 2007 Cleveland Indians club when they went to the ALCS. There is a lot of truth in how much a player wants to win affects his performance. Last year, Lee wanted to win; he needed to win. He even admitted that his trade to Seattle unnerved him. Then again, this is his walk year. Perhaps he really does want to make$200 billion dollars .

33. Chase Utley will hit 35 home runs.

34. Raul Ibanez and Jason Werth will not combine for that total.

35. David Wright will hit more homers and drive in more runs than Jason Bay.

36. But the New York Mets will once again stumble to fourth place in the NL East. I don’t think they will be as bad as last year because they will not have as many injuries, but you have to think about this: They really have only one legitimate established starter, they lost their first baseman, and have no catcher. Bay will discover that Citi Field is not as friendly as Fenway or even PNC, and he will have difficulty adjusting. It does not help that they are also in a division where Atlanta, Florida, and Philadelphia are all 90 win ball clubs.

But you can’t forget the NL Central because…

37. Colby Rasmus will be a 25-25 man.

38. Actually, it’s because Albert Pujols will not hit 30 HR or drive in 100 for the first time in his career. He will not play a full season and finally succumb to injury this year. This is about as bold as it will get, but hear me out. He has battled through elbow and back problems for years now, playing through pain, nursing his sores and bruises enough so that he can go out for that night’s game. Here is a guy who has been documented during the off-season at being so concentrated on perfecting his swing, that he would not stop his daily drills even when he was openly bleeding from a cut on his hand. Most men would not be able to swing the bat, much less hit an 80-90 MPH pitch. That is how tough he is. But after two separate incidents this spring concerning his back, someone is going to finally admit that something serious is going on and all of a sudden, Albert Pujols will be out for something like two months and everyone will be shocked. Don’t forget that you were warned here first!

39. The Chicago Cubs will not make the postseason…wait, I’m doing it again, this was supposed to be bold!

40. Despite MVP efforts from Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, and Rookie of the Year Alcides Escobar, the Brewers will not make the postseason thanks to their atrocious pitching staff. Enough said.

41. And while the Reds are everyone’s favorite upcoming new team, they are still at least two years away from seriously competing.

42. Even with Albert Pujols’ inevitable injury graying their horizon, the Cardinals will still win the division and get him back in time for a postseason run. This time, Matt Holliday will not drop a fly ball.

And finally the NL West…

43. The San Francisco Giants will make the 2010 postseason.

44. The Unofficial Baseball Glutton will not reconsider his stance on the Seattle Mariners.

45. The San Francisco Giants will figure out a way to get Buster Posey in the everyday lineup.

46. The San Diego Padres will not trade Adrian Gonzalez this summer.

47. They will trade him this winter.

48. Manny Ramirez will return this year to hit .320 35 HR and 120 RBI. There is a little back story on this. Quoting Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com, Manny Ramirez “…is a 37-year-old man ashamed and determined. Ashamed of being suspended for 50 games last season for violating baseball’s drug policy, and determined to prove himself and his abilities once again.” Let me ask you: what happens when Manny Ramirez is determined? Just look at his stats upon arriving in Los Angeles for the answer. Ramirez explodes.

49. Despite his reincarnation, the Los Angeles Dodgers will not make the Postseason. I hate to say this because there is nothing more tantalizing than Chavez Ravine in Oct…sorry, Nov. baseball. This is a good team who is going to fall apart this summer thanks to its owner and lack of a formidable starting rotation. Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Vicente Padilla, and Hiroki Kuroda all have much more work to do before any of them can claim to be a start of the rotation leader. Finally, thanks to unanswered questions regarding the financial situation, no one is sure if the Dodgers will be able to go out and pick up a key player this summer if they need one. San Francisco has a team built to win in its ballpark and so does Colorado. Los Angeles will be the odd team out.

50. Speaking of Tim Lincecum and his delivery in section 30, I want to go into that a little more. While I defend Stephen Strasburg’s pitching mechanics, I do this because he is 6’4”. How can I say that based on height alone? Well, for starters, that long lanky body absorbs more abuse for a longer period of time. Tim Lincecum is five inches shorter; he stands at 5’11” and literally whips his arm around like a slingshot nearly 3,200 times per season. That’s not including warm-ups, preseason, postseason, and off-season drills. To back this up, let’s look at Pedro Martinez. I think comparing the two is reasonable; both had electric stuff at a young age and were dominating pitchers quickly. Both are small at, 5’11”, and both have the uncanny ability to throw a baseball 100 MPH. After a few years in the league, Pedro Martinez began developing constant arm trouble and missed three to five starts per year because of it (although he still managed to average over 200 innings per year in his prime, but that was mostly because he could pitch into the seventh or eighth inning every game). My point being this: While Lincecum is just too good to bet against, I’m wary about his arm just as you were wary about Pedro’s arm every time he started a game in the mid to late 90s. I’m not going to say he will fall apart this year, but I don’t think he will be able to keep up this kind of production year in and year out without serious consequences.

51. Jonathan Sanchez will put it all together with 200 K’s, 13 wins, and post an ERA under 3.75.

52. Justin Upton will hit 35 HR, 115 RBI, and steal 30 bases to cap off a .325 average.

53. The Colorado Rockies will not disappoint anyone this year, but will shock the average fan with their success in the postseason. This team is built to win despite not having a legitimate ace on the pitching staff. They are composed of relatively unknown starters: Ubaldo Jimenez, Jeff Francis, Aaron Cook, Jorge De La Rosa, and Jason Hammel. However, given their ballpark and the fact that they have built this team to win in that ballpark, the Rockies and all of their youth will go far. I mean, the seventh and eighth hitters in that lineup could combine for 60 home runs. 60. Most teams would be lucky to get that from their third and fourth hitters.

54 . Team predictions that I have intentionally left out due to utter hopefulness are Pittsburgh, Toronto, Kansas City, Oakland, San Diego, and Washington. Of all listed, Washington shows the most hope, but only because of Stephen Strasburg (which I have written about in 38).

55 . In the end, I’m fairly certain that the following teams are postseason bound: Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Anaheim, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and San Francisco.

56. I’m definitely positive on the following hitters: Evan Longoria, Miguel Cabrera (although not mentioned because it’s fairly agreed on that he will explode this year), Jason Heyward.

57. Pitchers I’m really big on: Roy Halladay.

58 . MVPs: Evan Longoria, Prince Fielder.

59 . ROYs: Desmond Jennings, Jason Heyward.

60 . CY Youngs: Justin Verlander, Roy Halladay.

61 . Comeback POY: Vladimir Guerrero, David Wright.

Not So Banal Burn…

62. Radical Realignment will not happen for at least five years. The reason? MLB’s previous expansion proposal, the Wild Card, was in the works for 13 years before it was officially ruled out. RR has only been discussed for the last couple seasons. The Wild Card was first used in the 1981 Major League Baseball season after the players’ strike wiped out the middle third of the season. It was decided that the winners of both “halves” of the abbreviated season from each division would qualify for the playoffs, with the caveat that if the same team won both halves, then the team with the second-best record from the second half would enter the playoffs as a “wild card”. However, in none of the then four MLB divisions did the same team win both halves, so no club entered the 1981 playoffs as the “wild card” team. In short, MLB doesn’t like to admit change to anything. See: Steroids.

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