Anthony Beers, Staff Writer
Predicting the best teams in MLB any time before September is one of the toughest challenges for a sports fan on any level. The lengthy 162 game season often makes or breaks any team towards the playoff push and overcoming the six month regular season can bring teams together at the right time. With approximately 83 percent of the regular season remaining, here’s the buzz around some of the teams that have established themselves as respectable ball clubs early in the season:
AL East: In the most competitive division in baseball, the one team that was not expected to compete was the Boston Red Sox. But in the wake of recent tragedies in Boston, the Red Sox have looked like the best team in the division. Pitchers Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz appear to be back to their old ways and they have sold fans that the Red Sox are still in the race. The Red Sox will surprise everybody and win this division.
AL Central: In a rather mediocre division, the Kansas City Royals have had the best start to the 2013 season. But the Detroit Tigers will continue their reign in this division as they have in previous years. Justin Verlander has been the best pitcher in baseball for a few years now, and that goes a long way.
AL West: The Texas Rangers regular season success has been the norm of baseball over the past few years. Rangers fans hearts were broken this offseason as Josh Hamilton signed with Los Angeles Angels. With Albert Pujols signing with the Angels as well, the Angels understandably became the complete favorite in the West. The amazing line up in L.A. will give the Angels the division title at the end of the day.
Wild cards: The Baltimore Orioles youth made them a likeable squad as they made the playoffs last season and that chemistry will continue as the Orioles will make the playoffs again as a wildcard. But the insanity of the AL East won’t end there, the Yankees await the return of Derek Jeter and upon that momentum shift they will clinch a wild card berth as well. The Yankees days are numbered, but they still have the depth to make the playoffs.
NL East: The Atlanta Braves have cooled off since their ridiculous start to the season, but they are still, without question, the best team in the division. With one of the best outfields in baseball consisting of the Upton brothers, Jason Heyward and their excellent pitching led by Tim Hudson, the Braves should be able to maintain their dominance at the end of the day and claim the division as theirs own.
NL Central: In one of the closest division races, the St. Louis Cardinals always seem to come together as a team at the right time. But with the recent departure of Albert Pujols and the rising youth in the Pittsburgh Pirates, there will be some changes in the Central. Andrew McCutchen will be in the MVP conversation as the Pirates assert themselves as a playoff team for the first time since 1992.
NL West: Some of the favorites in the West consist of the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants, but so far this season the Colorado Rockies have had the best start to the season. A lot of that has had to do with home field dominance; the Rockies have a home record of 9-3 as traveling teams have suffered the freezing conditions of Coors Light Field. Don’t expect this to last, as the Dodgers will turn it around and start playing the way fans expected them to and take the division.
Wild cards: The Washington Nationals, led by head coach Davey Johnson last season, showed baseball fans that times have changed with their dominant starting pitching and young lineup. Both will keep them in the playoffs as a wildcard.
The San Francisco Giants have a lot of World Series experience and a lot of all around talent. Ace Matt Cain will be a twenty game winner and the Giants, as usual, will be a substantial threat heading into the playoffs.
World Series Prediction: A Los Angeles Subway (trolley?) series would bring great excitement to the World Series. And after a high spending offseason for each team that difficult prediction is at least somewhat fathomable. The Dodgers will beat the Angels in 7.
Bobby Lemaire, Staff Writer
AL East: The New York Yankees had both a tough offseason and spring training. They lost starting catcher Russell Martin, outfielder Nick Swisher and all-star reliever Rafael Soriano. During spring training, first baseman Mark Teixeira and centerfielder Curtis Granderson suffered major injuries keeping each of them out for a couple of months. In addition to the injury Derek Jeter suffered in the previous postseason, so you may ask why I am picking this team to win the toughest division in baseball. The New York Yankees know what it takes to win. While these losses will hurt, MVP candidate Robinson Cano, along with strong pitching from CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda, will keep the Yanks in the race until the reinforcements arrive.
AL Central: With Cy Young and MVP candidate Justin Verlander, along with the superstar hitting trio of Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez, the Detroit Tigers are the runaway favorites to win their division. Besides Verlander, Detroit has Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez, two quality starters behind their ace. The biggest issue for the Tigers is whether or not they will be able to find a closer to finish off the games. If they can, this squad is without a doubt the best team in this division.
AL West: The Los Angeles Angels have started their 2013 campaign slowly, as their record is below .500, but the Angels faithful should not worry too much.With Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols, Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout filling out a monster lineup, this team will score runs. However the Angels do have some question marks in their pitching rotation. With Jered Weaver out with an elbow injury, C.J. Wilson becomes the new ace of the club. But, behind him there are question marks. Regardless, expect the hitting to carry this team to October.
Wild cards: Last season, the Orioles surprised everyone by making the playoffs for the first time in the new millennium. With great hitters Matt Weiters and Adam Jones, the Orioles will be playing October baseball once again. The Blue Jays had one of the busiest offseasons in the MLB by trading with the Marlins for shortstop Jose Reyes, along with pitchers Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson. They also made another trade with the Mets for 2012 National League Cy Young award winner, R.A. Dickey. With this influx of talent, it should push the Jays over the edge to a playoff spot.
NL East: Led by aces Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Dan Haren, it is going to be tough for opposing teams to get runs. Along with their pitching, the Nats offense is one to be feared. Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper bring fear into any opposing pitchers eyes. They are a well-built team, even if they are young and following the disappointing loss of last season. Expect the Nats to make a strong push for a World Series title.
NL Central: This division is the weakest division in baseball. Besides the Reds and Cardinals,don’t expect any of the other three teams to finish over .500. It will be a two team race for the crown and the Reds are the favorite due to their solid lineup. Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips, with the addition of Shin-Soo Choo, are able to produce runs on any given night. Which will be important, because the pitching staff is a question mark. Aside from Bronson Arroyo, there is no starter pitcher who has been consistent over the years. Mat Latos and Homer Bailey are average at best, and the Reds have not selected a closer yet, rather choosing a closer by committee.
NL West: During the past few seasons, the Giants have been the best team in the NL West. and that will not change this season. Even though the Dodgers made major moves with the Red Sox, getting all-star slugger Adrian Gonzalez, it will not be enough to overtake the Giants. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner are a lethal trio in the pitching rotation. In addition, Buster Posey is the best catcher in baseball and if he can stay healthy, expect him to add another MVP trophy to his collection.
Wild cards: During the offseason, the Braves bolstered their outfield by adding the Upton brothers. With them and Jason Heyward, the Braves have one of the best outfields in the league. Another strength of the Braves is starting pitching. Kris Medlen has been sensational, and along with Tim Hudson, should have one of the lower ERA’s in the league. The St. Louis Cardinals may not be the most talented team in the NL, but they are one of the best run teams in baseball. Regardless of who they lose to free agency, someone else always steps up.
World Series Prediction: With the two most talented teams in baseball, the Nationals will face off against the Angels. The exceptional pitching of the Nationals will be too much for Albert Pujols and company to handle. Washington will take home the World Series in 6 games.
Justin Lovell, Sports Editor
As we approach May, the baseball season is still young as teams aspire for the playoffs. However, it is never too early to start looking ahead to the postseason. Since the season is just a month old, we now have a slightly better idea of how the postseason could unfold. Here are my October playoff prediction.
AL East: This division has shown just how different a year makes. The Red Sox currently have the best record in the big leagues, just a year after finishing with 69 wins. With the Blue Jays and Yankees dealing with the injury bug and Rays looking quite average right now, expect Boston and Baltimore to battle for the East title.
AL Central: The Central shall again belong to the Tigers by default, the rest of the division is average at best, plus they still have Miguel Cabrera and Price Fielder crushing the ball. In addition to Justin Verlander, the Tigers seem primed for another division title.
AL West: Though the A’s were hot all last season, they have already started to come down to earth this year. On the flip side, the Rangers look just as tough as ever even without former star outfielder Josh Hamilton, who departed for the rival Angels this past offseason.
Wild Cards: With the addition of Hamilton, to a lineup that features Albert Pujols and Mike Trout, the Angels will make the playoffs this year after last season’s disappointing effort. For the Orioles, they benefit from the rest of the AL East suffering from injuries; they are a talented team but if the Yankees or Blue Jays had been healthy, I would expect Baltimore to not be in playoff contention.
NL East: The two best teams in the NL are in the East, unfortunately only one can win the division and the way that Justin Upton has played so far and the way Stephan Strasburg hasn’t, it will be the Braves who win the division this year. The Braves jumped out to a great start to the season but have since cooled down. Regardless, come October, the Braves will be in contention for the Series.
NL Central: This division was supposed to be dominated by the Reds, who I expect will make the playoffs, but not via the division as the Cardinals are hungry for another World Series. The Cardinals always seem to lose players but are able to come back the following season.
NL West: The West results are going to be shocking this year as both the defending champion Giants and the team with the highest payroll, Dodgers, both miss the playoffs. The biggest surprise will be the Dbacks, who, with young players, will sneak out a division title this year.
Wild Cards: The Nationals are arguably the best team in baseball, so whether it’s either by the division title or wild card, the Nats will be playing playoff baseball. The Reds are also extremely talented as they are lead by Joey Votto. Both the Reds and Nats could win the World Series this year but will have to face off again each other in the wild card first.
World Series Prediction:Come October, the Tigers will be looking to make up for the embarrassing sweep they had last year in the Series, when they match up against the Braves, who are looking for their first title in over two decades. This series will come down to one key matchup, Atlanta’s hitting vs. Detroit’s pitching. Upton vs. Verlander is an incredible matchup to witness, in addition to it deciding the Series. I like Upton in the matchup and expect the Braves to ride him all the way to a World Series title, as the Tigers again come up just short of one. Atlanta over Detroit, 4-2