Bumptious: MLB Predictions 2003

When it comes to baseball, nothing is predictable. Well, almost nothing is predictable. It’s predictable that the Red Sox will blow it, that the Yankees will do well, that pitching wins and that anything can happen. It’s predictable that everyone will complain about New York and George Steinbrenner, but still will struggle to find a way to topple the empire. It’s predictable that while Anaheim may have won a World Series, the Dodgers will outdraw more than the Angels. It’s predictable that strategies with clever titles like “bullpen by committee” and “Four Starters” will always fail. It’s predictable that Lou Piniella will be frustrated, that Joe Torre will be stoic and that Derek Jeter will always suck in Boston, the town that would rather watch the replay of his injury than a live Sox’ game. But, in the end, the results will be far from predictable, and far from what I’ve predicted:

In the American League, the race will be in the East. The New York Yankees will most likely struggle to win the division, but the inevitable 15 game collapse by the Red Sox will all but guarantee another Yankee playoff appearance. The Rays will make a significant amount of noise under new manager Lou Piniella. Ultimately, though, the Yanks will clinch because the Sox’ “bullpen by committee” won’t be able to withstand attacks by Torre’s batters and Lou’s strategizing. The Royals are playing some of the best ball in the majors right now, and will continue to do so until mid-July, when they’ll fall into the mediocre. Mediocre will be ample, though, to win the Central, undoubtedly the weakest division in the league. Meanwhile, the Detroit Tigers will dabble with the worst record in history over the course of the year, but will eke out a respectable last place finish. The West is a strong division whose teams will dominate throughout the league. Intra-division play will not net consistent successes for any team, with the A’s, M’s and World-Champion Angels all finishing around .500 against each other. Ultimately, Oakland’s interdivision record, strengthened by its impressive starting core will yield the Athletics the championship. I imagine that Barry Zito will win the Cy Young over a weak, inconsistent and overpaid Pedro Martinez. Ichiro will once again flirt with .400 over the course of the year before settling for an A.L. Batting title with a .365 average. The MVP will go to a Yankee, though, most likely Giambi.

In October, the American League will provide the most drama. The seemingly perennial match-up between the Yankees and the Athletics will be an exciting one; pitching wins in October, though, the young Athletics’ core will come out on top. Expect amazing American League playoff performances by Barry Zito, Jason Giambi, Derek Jeter and Jamie Moyer.

It’s amazing how pitiful the National League looks this year. San Francisco will put on a display, though, and again establish themselves as the best in the league. Barry Bonds will not be the hero, though, as the team will demonstrate its strength as it did last year. The Diamondbacks will also dominate outside of the division with Randy Johnson pitching well again in his Cy Young performance and earning the team a respectable Wild Card spot. The central will be exciting, though, with the Pirates, the Cards and Reds each fighting back and forth over the course of the year. I choose the Pirates because they look good and nobody else does.

In the East, Larry Bowa will demonstrate his prowess as the Phillies’ manager. The Expos will challenge, though, and in the process make a case for more major league games in Puerto Rico. Atlanta will find itself in a pitiful position in the East, where they find themselves now, and soon realize that with falling attendance and dismal players, they won’t even be able to afford the pitchers they have. The sorry story in the NL, though, will be the Mets, though, who should finish competing with Detroit for the spot as the worst team in the majors. Most likely they won’t attain that pinnacle of frustration. Again, Johnson will secure the Cy Young and either Brian Giles or Barry Bonds will win the MVP.

In October, the Pirates will upset the Giants and the Phillies will dominate the Diamondbacks. The Phillies’ experience and strategy will undermine the Pirates’ magic and will earn them a spot against the Athletics. Expect amazing playoff performances by Randy Johnson, Larry Bowa, et al., and Barry Bonds.

World Series Champ: Oakland A’s because their pitchers are just too damn good. Zito will win the MVP.