MLB Week One


Steve Rand, Instructor

American League East Division

It’s the year of the pitcher! So they say. Well, the Boston Red Sox may not have much in the way of starting pitching, but it is safe to say the team’s offense is pounding the baseball as predicted. We’ll see how often they’ll have to comeback from big deficits created by a mercurial starting staff, arguably the weakest in the division. Luckily, the Red Sox have a pitching guru at the helm, Manager John Farrell, a dynamite strategist with a knack for knowing when to rest his pitching staff and when to push his Eckersleyesque chuckers of cheese. By the end of this season, the bullpen may very well end up breaking the record for most innings pitched. Here’s to hopin’ Tazawa’s arm doesn’t fall off!

American League Central Division

My God! The Kansas City Royals are making mincemeat outta everyone so far. They lost two key players — James Shields and Billy Butler — yet haven’t looked back. In fact, the Royals seem to be on a mission to prove the team deserved to be in the World Series last year — albeit, losing to the Giants — and the loss really ticked them off! The team has been hitting homers, swiping bases, and generally destroying the morale of the opposition with great play defensively. Centerfielder Lorenzo Cain has single-handedly stolen the show offensively and defensively. If Cain can somehow sustain this play and the starting staff can keep games close until the best bullpen in baseball can takeover, the Royals will win the division, maybe the World Series. Cain has arrived.

American League West Division

What is going on with Seattle Mariners outta the gate?! A 4.85 team ERA has led to a 3-7 record. They’ll most certainly turn it around, but Taijuan Walker, a top pitching prospect, has posted a 17.18 ERA in two starts. Hopefully, the twenty-two-year-old’s confidence is not shaken. My guess is the Mariners will settle into a groove and start linking some wins together. I really can’t see anyone else taking this division this year.

National League East Division

Look out! Here come the New York Mets! What a pitching staff: Colon, deGrom, Harvey, Niese, Gee. What is going on with Bartolo Colon? The guy is acting like it’s 2005 when he won the Cy Young. It would be heartwarming to see the Mets succeed this year, yet doubtful. The pitching may remain strong for the entire year, but the offense won’t, not enough to contend, not enough to get timely hits during the dog days of summer. Speaking of dogs, The Washington Nationals have begun with a whimper as if the team were slumbering by a winter fire. But the big dogs will be barking loudly soon enough. Too darn talented to keep this team down. They may not win 100 games as predicted, but they will certainly take the division comfortably. Too much depth in pitching and fielding. Stacked.

National League Central Division

My heart and soul is with the Pittsburgh Pirates. But I think the St. Louis Cardinals have too much experience, too much depth, and too much Wainwright/Wacha, which might be the best one/two punch in baseball. Not to mention the best catcher in baseball, Yadir Molina. The only thing keeping the Cardinals from going to the World Series this year will be a red-hot pitching staff, like last year (A guy named Bumgarner!), which will probably be the Nationals, and/or key injuries. If Wacha or Wainwright goes down, my Pirates might slip in and steal the division. It needs to be said, the Pirates are talented enough to win it outright but it’d mean some guys having career years, such as Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco, who is touted as being as good or better than Andrew McCutchen.

National League West Division

This division is the Los Angeles Dodgers to lose. With major upgrades in the middle-infield (Rollins & Kendrick) and the jettisoning of major egos (Kemp & Ramirez), the Dodgers should have full control over its destiny. Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw has looked all too human so far, but still getting his fair share of strikeouts. Look for him to get stronger and stronger. Zack Greinke is up to the same ol’ shutout mentality. There is enough depth to make up for Ryu’s early injury — he’ll return in May. It’s hard to imagine a completely revamped San Diego Padres team, who has started strong, can gel enough to win a division over the Dodgers, a team that has proven chemistry is the difference between good and darn good. Not sure the Padres, with a whole new starting outfield, a new third baseman, a new catcher, a new ace, and a new closer, can make all the pieces come together quickly. Far too early to see if the Padres got the moxie, the mojo, and the right mix of characters for a playoff run.