It’s been a long Winter… and for many places, we’re about to jump right over Spring and head straightaway into Summer. We’ve been poking, prodding, analyzing, speculating, suggesting… anything we thought might help this Atlanta Braves club for 2014.
We’re done. It’s now time to predict the year.
I solicited predictions on how 2014 would turn out from the staff here at TomahawkTake.com, and it’s now time to reveal our thoughts to you. So with that… here’s our takes:
All of us believe that both the Braves and Nationals are playoff teams for 2014. But only Brandon was bold enough to think that the Braves will be able to overcome pitching woes sufficiently to knock off the Nats for the top spot. As we covered in our lineup comparisons, the Nationals are just too balanced in their lineup, too solid in their pitching, and have too few question marks to ignore. But that was also the case one year ago – and they finished ten games out of first behind Atlanta.
Definitely mixed reviews about how the rest of the division will play out. Personally, I definitely see scenarios in which any of those teams can finish 3rd… or last. The Marlins will be scrappy and should improve through the year. The Phils probably don’t have enough pitching – paticularly if Cole Hamels continues to have health issues. The Mets…I have no idea! Could any of these three challenge for 2nd place? Not real likely: Atlanta’s pitching would have to totally fall apart to open that door.
Nobody sees a real challenge to the Cardinals’ right to the throne. They have a formidable rotation and a solid offense, top to bottom. Everybody else is playing for second in the Central. Additionally, we all think that the Cubs are going to show little-to-no improvement this year – no one will challenge them for last place.
Beyond that, we can’t seem to decide what happens in the middle. I gave the nod to Pittsburgh on the strength of pitching, but frankly, I think it’s going to beveryclose between Pittsburgh, the Reds, and the Brew Crew. It’s also for that reason that I do not believe that the Central will have a Wild Card playoff representative: everybody beats each other up, the best finishes with maybe 83-84 wins… and all see an early finish to the year. But I also wouldn’t be surprised if St. Louis ends up winning 100 games.
Late last night, there was a report that Clayton Kershaw has some inflammation of a muscle in his throwing shoulder (details here). That’s clearly a problem for the Dodgers, but frankly, not one that should derail their freight train this year. All of us believe that they should cruise to the NL West title. After that…no idea.
I am picking the Giants to snatch second place and a Wild Card berth: the reason involves their veteran pitching staff, though even that has been shaky this Spring. Regardless, when you compare that staff to the others in the division… well, none of those teams (San Diego, Arizona, Colorado) have enough to compete. In terms of offense, the Rockies can match up with the Giants and DBacks (probably the best of this group) well, and that’s why I placed them 4th. San Diego impresses Fred enough to get them to 3rd place, but most of us are putting Arizona and San Fran in the 2nd/3rd spots; Colorado and San Diego in 4th/5th.
The AL is wide open. Truly. We are split on the winner (Tampa Bay/Boston), split on second place (Tampa/Boston/New York), and can’t even decide who finishes last. We do believe that there will be at least one Wild Card team coming from the East, and most of us are thinking that the Yankees will actually miss out on the playoffs all together. That would be news, but it’s based on a serious reality check: can their pitching hold up and will their infield be sufficient? I am voting “no“, as Tampa Bay and Boston have many fewer questions going into the year. One thing for sure: Toronto is going to have an interesting year: a huge offense, no second baseman, and paltry pitching. They’re gonna have a bunch of 15-12 games in the land of the Maple Leaf.
Okay, let’s do the easy part first: the White Sox and Twins are going to stink. No disagreement on that at all. Honestly, if they’re bad enough, it could allow a Central division Wild Card team to sneak in again… just as happened in 2013 when Cleveland was able to leverage their September schedule into the playoffs.
Funny, though, that most of us think Cleveland will be unable to repeat that success, and we’ve pushed the Royals ahead of them. Clearly, Detroit is the team to beat (though Fred and Jeff believe Kansas City have the scrappiness of youth to do so) with their awesome offense and solid pitching (imagine: they have the regining Cy Young winner, and it’s not Justin Verlander).
Once again, we agree on who is bad: the Astros. After that, we’re calling this the most competitive division in baseball (along with the AL East).
News from the Rangers camp came after I solicited these predictions. Ben updated his slightly, but the rest remained (I already had placed them third). The Rangers have suddenly lost the top of their rotation (at least for a while) and a bunch of the starting nine are banged up, too. That’s going to be difficult for them as we get under way next week. If they can’t get healthy, then Seattle could take advantage. We’ll have to see.
Generally we are split, though, on whether Oakland can pull off another run, or whether the Angels have enough pitching, or whether the Rangers can overcome their bruises. Meanwhile, we think Seattle… pretty much didn’t get enough done to move up beyond fourth (maxing at third place in the minds of Jeff and Fred). In short, each team has its flaws and they will be exposed in various ways through the year.
This is always a long shot, but it’s part of the deal: we’ll throw out our guesses for the Last Team Standing:
ALAN – Tampa Bay over Cardinals in 6 games
BEN – Detroit over Cardinals in 7
BRANDON – Oakland over Atlanta in 7 (couldn’t quite bring yourself to get them to the Promised Land, eh?)
CHRIS – Dodgers over Tampa Bay
FRED – Cardinals over Kansas City in 7 (an I-70 Redux)
JEFF – Dodgers over the Angels (the TV ratings would be great for this one! uh, NOT)
JULIEN- Tampa Bay over the Washington
MVP Awards / Cy Young / Rookie of the year:
ALAN – Trout and McCutchen / Verlander and Jose Fernandez / Castellanos and Billy Hamilton
BEN – Trout and Kershaw / Darvish and Kershaw / Bogaerts and Hamilton
CHRIS – Cabrera and Freeman / Darvish and Kershaw / Jose Abreu and Travis d’Arnaud
FRED – Longoria and Heyward / Shields and Kershaw / (uncertain) and Trevor Rosenthal
JEFF – Trout and Harper / Matt Moore and Kimbrel / Tanaka and Hamilton
JULIEN – Trout and McCutchen / Darvish and Strasburg / Jose Abreu and Travis d’Arnaud
(Brandon opted out of this question)
As Fred would say, “That’s a Wrap”. Are you ready for some baseball? One more weekend to go! Feel free to throw in you predictions below!