The Express’ sports junkies make their predictions for what should be expected out of this year’s professional baseball season. Find out the division winners, award winners and eventual champion just two weeks into the season.
It’s a new season for Major League Baseball, which means hope springs eternal for all 30 teams.
A few of the big moves this offseason include the San Diego Padres, who spent gobs of money to upgrade their lineup. The Boston Red Sox, who caused thousands of Giants fans to burn their panda hats by signing Pablo Sandoval and the Washington Nationals, who added Cy Young winner Max Scherzer to their already stacked pitching rotation.
Although many teams spent millions of dollars to upgrade their teams, that does not mean that they can just buy their way to a championship. The Kansas City Royals were in the bottom half of payrolls in 2014, yet they made it to the World Series. Not only do I expect them to repeat that in 2015, I believe they will win it all.
After making it to their first World Series since 1985 and losing to the San Francisco Giants last season, it would be a tough feat to get back and win it all the very next year.
The last team to lose a World Series and win it the next season? The Oakland Athletics, who lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1988 and bounced back the next year to defeat the Giants in the “Earthquake Series.”
The Royals did not spend insane amounts of money this offseason because they did not need to. The team already has a number of talented young players who are only getting better.
Most of their players were in the postseason for the first time in their careers. There’s an old sports cliché that goes like this: You must first learn how to lose before you can win it all. I absolutely hate it, but I feel like this is true for the Royals.
With a three-headed monster in the bullpen of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland, a dominating trio of Royals pitchers nicknamed “HDH,” the pressure is already on opposing teams to score runs before those flamethrowers enter the game to close out the final three innings.
While they lost their No. 1 pitcher in James Shields to the Padres, 24-year-old pitcher Yordano Ventura is more than ready to replace him as the ace of the staff. After bursting onto the scene with a shutout of the Giants in Game 6 of the World Series, I expect Ventura and his 100 mph fastball to be in contention for the AL Cy Young Award in 2015.
For the third time in five years the San Francisco Giants started their season by raising a championship flag and hoping to repeat. And for the third time in five years, the odds are stacked against them.
The Giants will be forced to chase the Dodgers, the highest paid team in MLB, and the Padres, with a completely rebuilt roster.
The Dodgers will, again, win the NL West division title.
The cross-Bay rival Oakland A’s are in a similar boat, having lost key contributors to last year’s Wild Card team. Like the Giants, the A’s southern California rivals, the Angels, have emerged over the past few seasons as a perennial favorite. And, like the Padres to the Giants, A’s fans now must look at the Mariners as a fellow challenger to the divisional crown.
Neither will have what it takes to upset the Angels, though, as both the NL and AL West pennants will make home in Los Angeles come season’s end.
The East’s divisions, though, is another story entirely. The Nationals and Red Sox will run away with the NL and AL East championships respectively. And it won’t be much of a race, come September.
The Central divisions, like the West, will have at least two fan bases encapsulated in a heated race down the stretch.
The Tigers and Royals each seem poised to make a run, not only at the AL Central title, but the Major League’s best record.
The Royals’ dynamic athleticism will prove to be too much for the Tigers brutish power, when it is all said and done.
In the NL, the race between the Pirates and Cardinals will come down to a three-gamer between the two teams at the end of September. In the end, an MVP season from Andrew McCutchen will carry the Pirates to their first division title since Barry Bonds roamed their outfield.
McCutchen, along with LAA’s Mike Trout, will reintroduce the true five-tool athlete to MLB fans. And both will be rewarded for their complete games with MVP trophies.
More than any other pitcher since Nolan Ryan, Clayton Kershaw embodies all that is dominant in a pitcher (until he gets into the postseason). His velocity and control will once again win him the NL CY Young.
In his first season with an offense to provide him capable support, Felix Hernandez will win his second CY Young. Perhaps this year a sub-2.0 ERA will mean an above-.500 record.
While both Bay Area franchises will find themselves in the Wild Card game, neither will survive, as a late surge will cost them their ace in the play-in game.
And when November rolls around, there will be celebrating in the streets of Detroit as the Tigers will make a triumphant return to baseball’s pinnacle.