Predicting the 2017 Season

It's that time of year again, when I'm wrong in public and write "it's that time of year again, when I'm wrong in public" to diffuse just how wrong in public I'm about to be. Baseball predictions are hard and pointless, but you're here, so we'll suspend our disbelief together.

Last year, the gimmick was false confidence. It ended with a prediction that Hector Olivera would win the National League Rookie of the Year award. He was arrested for domestic violence, traded, suspended, convicted, and released before the year was over.

He did not win the National League Rookie of the Year award.

This year, no gimmicks. I'll use the same alchemy of available information and gut feeling that I always do, except maybe this way will lead to fewer dumb emails from people who thought I was actually confident in last year's predictions. I'm not confident. I'm scared and cold, just like you.

AL East

This is easily the most difficult division to predict. Not at the top, with the Red Sox having a clear advantage according to the computers and our common sense, but the rest of the way down. Will the Yankees have enough youthful power to overcome their declining veterans? Will the Rays stop giving up dingers like it was 1987? Will the Orioles cobble together an average rotation? Will the Blue Jays overcome the loss of Edwin Encarnacion?

Maybe! Unless they don't. Unless they do. Give me answers to all of those questions, and we'll have a proper order for the East. But without those answers, we're just stumbling around with gut feelings and unconscious biases. The Blue Jays feel nice in second place because we're used to them. The Orioles look like a last-place team because it physically hurts me to watch Ubaldo Jimenez pitch. And so on.

The Red Sox are the easy pick for first, and there's a temptation to suffer from Red Sox fatigue and talk yourself into a wacky surprise of a pick. Don't fall for it. Even if David Price is out until May, this is a team with everything you want to see in a franchise: a stable mix of veterans and youngsters, a deep minor-league system, and the money and willingness to fix problems as they come up.

The Blue Jays made the postseason in consecutive seasons after going decades without getting in, and they have a deceptively deep rotation with a lot of upside. They're counting on an awful lot of over-30 guys, and that'll keep them away from first, but don't be surprised if they play deep into October again.

The Rays were blindsided by the jumpy home run ball last year, but they're too smart not to have address the problem internally over the offseason. They have the best defensive outfield in the game, and entire organization seems like it's built to prevent runs by suffocating hits. Their hitters also seem good at suffocating hits, which is why third place is as high as I can go.

The Yankees are going to be the Yankees from the GIF again, and it's going to happen soon. They've done a remarkable job building up the farm, and their worst contracts are coming off the books soon. This will be a year of purgatory, but it will be one of the last.

The Orioles might hit 250 home runs, bless them, but they might allow 260. There are a couple of ways that it might work. There are a couple hundred ways that it might not.

AL Central

It's taken a while, but the Indians are finally the clear favorites. This used to be the realm of the brainless Tigers prediction, easy as pie, until the Royals came around. Now there are two rebuilding teams and two reloading teams sinking under the weight of time and money. And there are the Indians, who won the pennant last year despite losing two of their best starting pitchers.

The Indians have health on their side right now, and they should get to show off the rotation that would have made them World Series favorites or close to it. They also made the most inspired move of the offseason, signing Edwin Encarnacion, who fits perfectly in the lineup.

The Tigers won 86 games last year, which is about six or seven more than I would have guessed if you asked me in February. They got nothing out of Jordan Zimermann, who seemed like the best value of the offseason, and Justin Upton was a bit of a flop, too. They should get more from both of them this season, but the question is if the pitchers will stay healthy and effective.

Also, I regret to inform you that the bullpen might be a problem, but there's no way anyone could have seen that coming.

The Royals were dealt an unfair, devastating blow with the death of Yordano Ventura, and there's no quantifying just how much they'll miss him. They're a team staring over the abyss, with important pending free agents and aging players who might not be this good again.

The White Sox and Twins are rebuilding. This has been enough content about the White Sox and Twins to hold you over for a couple months.

AL West

Another tricky division to peg, but this time at the top. The Astros have the burgeoning young stars and they enjoyed a productive offseason. The Rangers have history on their side, having won the last two divisions. The Mariners will pick one of these years to not be the Blue Jays of the west, just like the Blue Jays decided to stop being the Blue Jays a couple years back. The Angels are a little better than you think, and the A's aren't exactly a 100-loss disaster.

The Mariners have power and speed, and they should help their pitchers out with improved outfield defense, too. The rotation will need all the help that's offered, but everyone in the starting five makes sense for a win-now team, with the right mix of risk vs. reward.

The Astros have both risk and reward, too, but there's a little too much risk to pick them as easy favorites. They should play a game in the postseason, at least, and they have the talent to win 100 games with a few breaks, but that starting pitching, man. It was the wrong offseason to have that problem.

The Rangers were supposed to be rebuilding, remember. Their 2015 was a surprise, and their 2016 was, too. They needled the sabermetric community by winning nearly every one-run game they played, setting all-time records and tinkling on logic. They can win again, and they can do it in a way that makes us all less cynical. An awful lot has to go right for them, though.

The Angels can't rebuild — not when they have so many untradeable high-priced players who at least contribute a little bit, and not when they have the best player in baseball — but they don't have the money to reload. They split the difference and added some underwhelming but logical players, and now they'll have to hope their young pitchers stay healthy and stop acting like, well, young pitchers.

The A's are a creative small-market team that's struggled to produce capable major leaguers from their own farm system. That's a problem. They've been active enough to build a competent roster, but an optimistic and worthwhile goal would probably be .500.

NL East

The Nationals and Mets are the Mr. Pibb version of Yankees/Red Sox, with an annual rivalry that'll do just fine until some of the other teams can join in. The good news: Some of the other teams are about to join in.

The Nationals are the favorites, though, with one of the deepest rotations in baseball, if not the deepest. It's worth noting that they won 95 games with Bryce Harper being merely okay and several veterans falling down the stairs. They probably won't get the same kind of season from Daniel Murphy, but that doesn't mean this isn't one of the most well-rounded rosters in baseball.

The Mets are close, though! The Mets are close, especially if Matt Harvey pitches as well as he's capable of pitching, and the spring reports were looking good. They'll struggle to score runs, though, with so many boom-bust guys in the lineup that they're almost daring the baseball gods to light the fuse.

The Phillies can pitch! A little. When healthy. Possibly. But they're on the right track, and I'll reward them by being a little aggressive with this prediction. They could win 84 or 85 games, which would mean that we'd pay attention to them all the way into September. When they fell, they fell hard, but they didn't stay down for that long.

The Marlins, like the Royals, deserve better. They'll wear a patch on their sleeve and a hole in their hearts, and they'll have to make do. They have the best outfield in baseball, depending on your confidence in the young Red Sox or the renaissance of Andrew McCutchen, but there are just too many gaps in the rest of the roster to get overly confident.

The Braves might be the best last-place team in baseball, depending on the AL East, but they've done a nice job of being interesting in a crucial year for the franchise. I don't know if Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey are going to combine for 64 starts this year, but I know there's a chance, and that they're two of the most watchable 40-somethings in baseball history.

NL Central

The Cubs won the World Series. Seems like people should have made a bigger deal about that, but here we are. They'll win the NL Central in 2017, too. The fine print doesn't matter as much.

The Pirates are pretty good, too! Just not as good the Cubs. But if Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow break out together, they might be as good as the Cubs. Let's all hold hands and wait for these young pitchers to not disappoint us, because when has that ever happened?

The Brewers aren't really better than the Cardinals, but this is my court-mandated Super Esoteric PickTM, and I'll stick with it. They have a young lineup that's worth paying attention to, even if their rotation features more Matt Garza than the FDA recommends.

The Cardinals aren't really worse than the Brewers, but I enjoy a good trolling and cigar before the season. In fact, in a previous edit of this prediction, I wrote that the team overachieved their Pythagorean record last year, when they actually underachieved. But I'm not here to talk about "facts," and I'm not convinced the lineup or rotation is steady enough to guarantee 89 wins and wild-card contention. Maybe I'm just bitter about the time Mike Matheny almost broke my face with a home run in 2005.

The Cincinnati Reds are an American professional baseball team based in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Reds compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the National League (NL) Central division. They were a charter member of the American Association in 1882 and joined the NL in 1890.[2] (source)

NL West

The NL West has been a Giants/Dodgers battle for the last couple years, as it has been throughout history, and that shouldn't change much here. Except, hold on, watch out for the Rockies, who might score a million runs. And the Diamondbacks are probably talented enough to pay attention to, even if Yasmany Tomas is going to trip over the period at the end of this sentence.

The Dodgers are rich, the Dodgers are talented, the Dodgers have an enviable farm system, let's all blow kisses toward the Dodgers.

Miss u, Frank McCourt.

The Giants are also rich, but they've spent millions keeping players like Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Buster Posey, and Hunter Pence around, while spending big on Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto. They, uh, don't have an enviable farm system, though that means they're good for at least one surprising rando making a huge difference this season.

The Rockies are the dark horse team of 2017, with Nolan Arenado leading an impressive lineup that plays in a good ballpark for impressive lineups. The pitching isn't exactly suspect, but it's just dodgy enough to keep them away from the top two. If the rotation makes significant progress, though, we'll know by the end of May, and it'll be all aboard the Dinger bandwagon.

The Diamondbacks probably aren't as bad as they were last year. That's the good news. The bad news is that they won't be as good as they were supposed to be before last year, either. A.J. Pollock coming back will help a great deal, and it's not like Shelby Miller can be any worse, but a thin farm and a rotation that's almost entirely comprised of pitchers who stumbled last year will keep them away from the postseason again.

The Padres are rebuilding and proud of it. They're doing it right, so don't make fun of them.


Okay, maybe a little bit.


But Manuel Margot is going to be one of your favorite players, so you might as well start appreciating him right now.

Awards & Playoffs

American LeagueManny Machado
National LeagueNolan Arenado
Cy Young
American LeagueFelix Hernandez, dammit
National LeagueNoah Syndergaard
Rookie of the Year
American LeagueClint Frazier
National LeagueTyler Glasnow
Wild Card
American LeagueAstros over Blue Jays
National LeagueMets over Giants
Mariners over Red Sox
Astros over Indians
Dodgers over Mets
Cubs over Nationals
Astros over Mariners
Cubs over Dodgers
World Series
Astros over Cubs