In less than one month, the biggest day of the year for myself and many like me will arrive. I’m not talking about Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day, or any other official holiday, although it certainly is a like holiday for many.
As Roger Hornsby once said, “People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring,” and I can certainly understand exactly what he was talking about.
Opening Day of the Major League Baseball season kicks off on Sunday, April 4th, and it just can’t get here soon enough.
Of course, Spring Training is great. It’s already arrived and is in full swing, but it’s been more than four months since a meaningful game of professional baseball has been played, and that’s about four months too long.
Regardless of whether or not you care about the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, it certainly will be a breath of fresh air when those two rivals take the field on Opening Night. Just to see that packed stadium and those players take the field for a game that actually counts in the standings will surely be enough to bring a smile to any baseball fan’s face.
So, with that, I bring you my predictions for the 2010 Major League Baseball season.
American League East
The Yankees won the AL East in 2009 by a comfortable margin, and I don’t see anything changing at the top of that division in 2010.
While New York let a few aging stars in Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon walk, they added centerfielder Curtis Granderson, formerly of the Detroit Tigers. Granderson, coming off a down year of .249/.344/.828, should vastly improve those numbers in the stacked New York lineup. In 2009, Granderson’s numbers took a hit across the board, except in the power column, in which he set a career high with 30 homeruns. In New York’s lineup, however, he won’t be relied upon to provide the power, and should bounce back to an average of around .280, while being a 20/20 guy.
The Boston Red Sox should be able to keep the division race interesting enough in the AL East, at least until the last month or so of the regular season. While Boston added John Lackey through free agency, they lost outfielder Jason Bay to the New York Mets, and Boston just didn’t do enough to catch up with New York.
Tampa Bay and Baltimore should both hover close to the .500 mark this season, while Toronto, in a rebuilding mode, should only win about 65 games.
American League Central
In the AL Central, I’m looking for the Chicago White Sox to bounce back from a 79-win season to recapture the division crown. In 2009, Chicago traded for righthander Jake Peavy from the San Diego Padres. Peavy, who was injured, never took the mound for the Southsiders in 2009, but should be healthy and ready to go in 2010. In 2009, Carlos Quentin experienced a significant decline in his numbers from the previous year, and if he can come up with a season similar to his ’08 campaign, the White Sox should win a tight three-horse race in the Central, with the Sox finishing just ahead of Joe Mauer’s Twins and the Detroit Tigers.
American League West
The AL West is, in my opinion, the toughest division to predict. While the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have taken the division in five out of the previous six seasons, they lost many key players this offseason. With Vladimir Guerrero leaving for the Texas Rangers, John Lackey heading to Boston, and Chone Figgins moving North to Seattle, LA’s run of three consecutive titles ends in 2010.
With the additions of Chone Figgins through free agency and Cliff Lee through trade, Seattle should move from the 85-win team we saw in 2009 to a 93-win team in 2010. With a pair of studs at the top of the rotation (Felix Hernandez and Lee), Seattle should find themselves in a close race with Nolan Ryan’s Rangers and the Angels, but it’s a race that the M’s will win.
National League East
The Philadelphia Phillies have won the NL East each of the last three seasons, and that streak won’t end in 2010, despite the division improving this year. While the New York Mets adding Jason Bay and the Washington Nationals signing a slew of free agents certainly won’t push either team to the top of the division, it should result in a few more wins for each of those teams, and consequently, a few more losses for Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Florida.
While the back end of Philadelphia’s rotation and bullpen may have some question marks, they aren’t quite big enough to predict any other team catching up with them. The Phillies late-innings relief was incredibly terrible last season, and they still managed to win 93 games. It’s hard to imagine 2010 being any worse than 2009, so if Philadelphia’s bullpen is even remotely close to 2008’s version, Philadelphia could be looking at a 97-100 win campaign and fourth division title in as many years.
The Atlanta Braves should finish second, with a record that should be good enough to have a chance at a Wildcard, while the Mets, Marlins, and Nats should battle it out for the rest of the division.
National League Central
With the best player in the game, Albert Pujols, the St. Louis Cardinals will be looking at another NL Central crown this season. The Cardinals were able to resign Matt Holliday, and while the 2009 seasons of Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright aren’t likely to be repeated, the Cardinals should easily win the Central.
Unlike most other divisions, the NL Central really doesn’t have a clear number two team to me. Chicago, Milwaukee, and Cincinnati should all be fairly close to where they were a year ago, hovering right around .500. I’m watching for Cincinnati to make the jump up to second in the division this year, while the Cubs will fall to fourth, with the Brewers sandwiched in the middle. Ed Wade’s Astros will finish fifth, while the Pittsburgh Pirates will likely have yet another losing season and Andrew McCutchen will be counting down the days until he hits free agency.
National League West
In 2009, the Los Angeles Dodgers won the NL West, but this year, they will fall to third or possibly fourth. In my upset pick, I’m predicting the 92-loss Arizona Diamondbacks to win the NL West in 2010. Arizona should be vastly better than last season, which saw starting pitcher Brandon Webb go down with an injury. Webb, before the 2009 season, had been a perennial Cy Young candidate, winning the award in 2006. However, he made just one start in 2009, but looks to be healthy for the start of 2010. Arizona should also have a healthy Connor Jackson in left field this season. Jackson has the potential to bat .300 while possibly being a 20/20 guy. Arizona also added Adam LaRoche to solidify a potentially potent lineup that also contains emerging stars Justin Upton and Mark Reynolds. Arizona added Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy as well, and they should improve a starting rotation that already includes Webb and Dan Harren. If Webb stays healthy, Jackson produces, and Upton doesn’t experience a decline similar to the one his brother B.J. experienced in his second full season in the Majors, the Diamondbacks could win this division with around 90 wins.
So, there you have it, my totally genius predictions (also known as total guesses) for the 2010 Major League Baseball season. Regardless of what happens in the 2010 season, I’ll just be glad that there’s baseball on again.