Welcome to our 2nd annual MLB Preview! Last year’s inaugural Baseball Preview was a rousing success! The “Dutch Lion” almost won the Commissioner’s Trophy with his World Series Championship prediction. He picked the Los Angeles Dodgers to break their 28 year drought (1988 WS Champs). As you may recall, it all came down to the final game of the season with the Houston Astros winning Game 7 over L.A. in dramatic fashion.
“Dutch” was upset that night, but he’s back and ready for another season of 108 seam baseballs, leather mitts, and maple and ash bats. (*Did you ever wonder how they have enough ash wood to make bats when the emerald ash borer is terrorizing ash tree forests across the land?…….Yes? Well I wondered the same thing so when we visited the Louisville Slugger Museum last summer I asked that very question. As it turns out, they have their own “protected” ash tree forests warded off from the pesky bugs……true story!)
He’s ready for some drag bunts, backdoor sliders, and delayed steals…….. He’s even ready for ducksnorts, frozen ropes, dingers, and grand salamis!…….. He’s really hoping for no-hitters, walk-off homers, and perfect games! “It Happens Every Spring” (there’s a book, check it out) as the “Boys of Summer” (I’m referring to the classic book by Roger Kahn, not the classic song by Don Henley, which coincidentally,
or not, is my favorite song) are back for baseball’s 150th season*. (*According to the Wikipedia entry for Major League Baseball which claims baseball officially started with the 1869 season, thus making 2018 the 150th season.)
Who’s pumped!?!?! We are! And so are these guys! Good Guys Wear Black!
Before we get to our 2018 Preview, first let’s recap what “Dutch” was right and wrong about last year.
- We picked the L.A. Dodgers to win it all and we were one victory away from singing along with Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.” as it played all offseason long. Nonetheless, the Dodgers won 104 regular season games (104-58), swept Arizona 3-0 in the NLDS, dominated the hated Chicago “Cooooo” in the NLCS 4-1, and fell just short to the Houston Astros 4-3 after losing two games in extra innings. That’s right guys. Los Angeles could have easily won last year’s World Series in 6 games with just a couple of breaks, but it was not to be.
- We correctly predicted 4 of the 6 division Champions (Boston, Cleveland, Washington, L.A. Dodgers). The two Champs we missed were Houston and Chicago (N.L.) who we picked to be 2nd place wild card teams. So all told we correctly predicted 6 of 10 playoff qualifiers. We missed on our picks of Toronto, Texas, St. Louis, and San Francisco (more on those below).
- Check out these prophetic words from Dutch regarding the beloved White Sox: “……….(regarding) Avisail Garcia. Don’t sleep on Avi….many Sox fans have already given up on him but I plead with you to not give up. He’s only 25 years old and I would bet he’ll start dominating in 2017. Watch out for the Sox in ’18, ’19, and 2020 when young guns like Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Lucas Giolito, and Reynaldo Lopez are contributing for the big league club. For now, watch for the Sox major league club to struggle while the AAA Charlotte Knights dominate down on the Farm.”……….So what happened? Avi Garcia had a breakout, career year!: .330 avg (2nd in the AL), 18 HR (career high), 80 RBI (career high), 5 SB, 27 doubles (career high), 75 runs scored (career high), and a 3.7 WAR (career high). Meanwhile, the Sox finished 67-95 in 4th place, more or less as predicted (5th). AAA Charlotte finished 4th out of 14 teams in the International League. Not bad. Nice work Dutch!
- Even though we were somewhat wrong about the hated Chicago Coooo, we were also somewhat right. ESPN The Magazine, Sporting News Magazine, and Paul Sullivan from the Chicago Tribune all predicted a Cubs repeat World Series Title. They all fawned over the hated Coooo, giving them glowing reviews left and right. They were all wrong, as we predicted! *Remember the awesome video I included by Alice in Chains? “Well, it’s over now!”. That was super fun! I found myself singing it out loud quite often during the 2017 season. Anyway, only fools predict repeat Champions in baseball. It’s a short-sighted, gutless, chicken-hearted, spineless way to forecast a sports season, especially in baseball (Tell me how you really feel Dutch!). Funny thing is, you see it every year, for every sport. Almost every publication will predict a repeat Champion, or at least a repeat Championship matchup with the other team getting revenge. I think it’s…….dastardly. At least four of five Tribune writers (Paul Sullivan was the lone exception) had Houston winning the A.L. West, but none of them had Houston winning the American League so we weren’t the only ones. Both Sporting News and ESPN also had the Astros winning the division but not the AL. Funnier still is Sports Illustrated had the Dodgers over the Indians, which copied our Dutch Lion’s prediction. However, why did SI do that when, in what has become a famous prediction from Ben Reiter in the June 24, 2014 SI cover story he predicted that the Houston Astros would indeed become 2017 World Champs!?! Fascinating. Now that’s a great crystal ball. Congratulations to Ben Reiter! Meanwhile, Paul Sullivan had the Dodgers finishing in 3rd place in the N.L. West. Really Paul? What were you thinking on that day??? At least he had guts to go out of the box. But really? When you predict a team for 3rd place and they win 104 games……you deserve to be called out. As they say on ESPN, “C’mon man!” That’s just poor analysis of a roster and worse forecasting.
- N.Y. Yankees finished 2nd behind Boston as a Wild Card but we had them 4th. We had Minnesota in 4th also but they too finished 2nd behind Cleveland and made the other Wild Card.
- We missed on our playoff picks of Toronto, Texas, St. Louis, and San Francisco.
- Toronto (76-86) looked old and slow in 2017, a much different team from their 2015 & ’16 squads who both advanced to the ALCS. Was Edwin Encarnacion that big of a loss? Apparently. Is Jose Bautista close to retirement? Likely.
- Texas finished tied for 3rd place (78-84) even though we thought they’d somehow beat out Houston, who dominated at 101-61 and became World Champs, for the A.L. West crown. Ooops! Just a bad prediction.
- St. Louis finished in 3rd place (83-79) behind not only Chicago but also Milwaukee (predicted 4th).
- San Francisco……..(see below). However, it all fell apart when Madison Bumgarner got hurt early in the season. Without their big horse in the rotation, it quickly led to a season to forget in the city by the bay.
- San Francisco had a horrible year, finishing in last place at 64-98! I couldn’t believe it. After losing to the Cubs in the 2016 NLDS, it looked like San Fran was headed back to the playoffs after adding a very good closer in Mark Melancon. But baseball is baseball. Madison Bumgarner got hurt and it spiraled out of control. They finished in last place, tied with Detroit for worst record in MLB! Now that’s ugly! They should fire Manager Bruce Bochy. (Just kidding. He’s wonderful in that crusty old baseball lifer role, just like the actor James Gammon as Indians Manager Lou Brown in “Major League”.)
Enough with the past. Let’s move on to the present and future! And now…..roll out the red carpet for Dutch Lion’s 2018 Crystal Ball! Here it comes barreling down the runway.
Dutch Lion’s 2018 MLB Predictions
American League East – Once again, a solid division. New York looks incredible on paper. They have two 50 HR guys in the middle of their order along with a bullpen that brings back shades of “The Nasty Boys” with Aroldis Chapman as the closer and three outstanding set-up men in David Robertson, Dellin Betances, and Chad Green. Boston isn’t going anywhere with Chris Sale, Mookie Betts, and Andrew Benintendi becoming a young star. Will David Price rebound? Is Toronto still a contender? How about Baltimore? Only Tampa seems like a tanker in the A.L. East. Ultimately, I’ll be shocked if someone other than New York or Boston wins this division.
- * New York Yankees (97-65)
- * Boston Red Sox (96-66) – Wild Card
- Toronto Blue Jays (81-81)
- Baltimore Orioles (79-83)
- Tampa Bay Rays (63-99) – Tanking, or at least they should be tanking if they’re smart.
American League Central – The Central has one dominant team and 4 teams in fluctuating modes of rebuilding or tanking. Minnesota was a surprising contender last year but I don’t believe they were really as good as their record (85-77). Look for them to take a step back. 2nd through 5th place could be one jumbled mess. If Cleveland does NOT win this division, you know the apocalypse is near.
- * Cleveland Indians (100-62) – A great team. They seem to have it all.
- Minnesota Twins (81-81) – Sano, Buxton, Dozier, and Mauer. To us, just an average club in a crappy division.
- Chicago White Sox (77-85) – Young and talented. Trying to win rather than tank for draft position, expect Chicago to finish ahead of the loser Royals and Tigers.
- Kansas City Royals (72-90) – Rebuilding and probably tanking
- Detroit Tigers (65-97) – Miguel Cabrera, Michael Fulmer, and not much else. Tanking.
American League West – This division is much improved. They may make a run as the top division in baseball.
- * Houston Astros (94-68) – I’m not making the same mistake I made last year. Houston is good, not good enough to repeat, but very good.
- * Los Angeles Angels (90-72) – Wild Card – I’m buying what most are selling. The Angels are solid. They imported Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani and I’ve already gotten a case of “Ohtani Fever!”. This kid is going to revolutionize the game by being a pitcher AND hitter. Nobody has really done this since 1919. That was the Babe, George Herman “Babe” Ruth. I’m sure there will be growing pains, but early returns look promising. Celebrate by breaking out a case of Sapporo beer!
- Seattle Mariners (85-77) – Adding speedy leadoff man Dee Gordon to hit in front of Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano, and Kyle Seager will help Seattle stay in contention most of, it not all of, 2018.
- Texas Rangers (82-80) – This franchise is so up and down. They could be 1st place or last place most years. This year……2nd place at best, possibly in last place, probably in 4th place.
- Oakland Athletics (66-96) – They stink. Plus, they play in a tough division. Their GM Billy Beane will sell off all assets by the trade deadline. I’d hate to be an A’s fan. Ugh. Tanking……..again and again and again. It’s like the movie “Groundhog Day.” Beane should get a player named Phil Conners, change their mascot to a groundhog, and hire Bill Murray to film promotional videos to sell more tickets to their god-awful football stadium. Why is Beane still working here? Does the Athletics ownership think they have Brad Pitt working in their offices? Why hasn’t Beane left for a better gig? How can they stand the constant selling off of their team for younger guys? If I were an A’s fan I’d be pulling my hair out and moving to Las Vegas. At least then I could get a jump on the Raiders tickets for their new stadium just off the Strip.
American League Playoffs
AL Wild Card:
AL Division Series (ALDS):
AL Championship Series (ALCS):
American League Award Winners:
AL MVP – Mike Trout/Los Angeles Angels
AL Cy Young – Corey Kluber/Cleveland Indians
AL Rookie of the Year – Shohei Ohtani/Los Angeles Angels * Gary “The Gut” Goombah’s Lock of the Year!
AL Manager of the Year – Mike Scioscia/Los Angeles Angels
National League East – The Nationals are gonna get some competition this year in the N.L. East division. The New York baseball Mets are gonna have a big season, rejuvenated by rookie manager Mickey Callaway. However, the Nats are the greatest team in baseball. Their roster is loaded. They’re hungry. This is the year they get over the hump.
- * Washington Nationals (97-65)
- * New York Mets (90-72) – Wild Card
- Atlanta Braves (77-85)
- Philadelphia Phillies (70-92)
- Miami Marlins – (60-102) Almost assuredly will finish in last, except Philly and Atlanta have a habit of tanking too. Miami might lose 100 games!
National League Central – I can’t decide who to pick to win this N.L. Central Division so I’m calling for a tie. A one game tiebreaker will be needed to determine the division champ while the loser will hopefully get a wildcard spot. It’s gonna be a great pennant race as the Cubs will make a run despite plenty of injuries. Pittsburgh and Cincinnati are still on the outside looking in. What’s gonna happen with Reds superstar Joey Votto? He still has 6 years left on his contract, but is he tired of this losing franchise? Will the Reds give him a competitive team anytime soon? He’s one of those guys who doesn’t get enough recognition. If he were in a big city with a winning franchise, he would be a superstar. Look at his numbers! (.320, 36, 100, 106 runs, 34 doubles, 134 BB! (NL leader, while 2nd place had 109) .454 OBP! (NL leader), .578 slug %, 1.032 OPS! (NL leader).
- * St. Louis Cardinals (91-71) – The Cards added star OF Marcell Ozuna from the tanking Marlins, as well as solid closer Greg Holland from the Rockies. Luke Weaver showed promise as a young stud starting pitcher to go along with Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, and Adam Wainwright. Last year Tommy Pham had a breakout year. They still have Dexter Fowler, Matt Carpenter, and Yadier Molina, one of the best catchers in the baseball business, not to mention his family business (former major leaguers Bengie and Jose are now both retired). Add it all up along with a hunger to take over the hated Cubs and look for St. Louis to add pieces at the trade deadline and win this division and get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2015.
- * Milwaukee Brewers (91-71) – Wild Card – Talk about hunger! Bernie Brewer is hungry for wins and postseason home games in Miller Park. He can’t wait to dive down the yellow slide after big home runs from offseason acquisitions Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain. SS Orlando Arcia is pretty good. So is 3B Travis Shaw. He’s really underrated too (.273, 31, 101, 10 SB). Don’t forget about Eric Thames and Ryan Braun. Milwaukee’s biggest problem might be their starting rotation. Jimmy Nelson will be out for at least half the year with a shoulder, and you know how pitching shoulders can be…….. inconsistent and chronic. Nonetheless, the Brewers have grit because that’s exactly how Manager Craig Counsell used to play during the course of his 16 year playing career.
- Chicago Cubs (89-73) – This is the year that the injury bug bites the Cubs. They have several veterans that have a lot of mileage after going to the LCS or the WS for 3 consecutive seasons. Anthony Rizzo has already been placed on the DL with back pain. What happens when Jon Lester (age 34), Yu Darvish (31), Ben Zobrist (37), Brian Duensing (35), Brandon Morrow (33), Steve Cishek (32), and Pedro Strop (33) start feeling their age? Even Jose Quintana (28) has over 1100 career innings. Plus most of the youngsters have played deep into the postseason for 3 years running. Watch it all come crashing down in ’18. The Cooooo will still make a run, but the Brew Crew and the Cards will finish ahead of Chicago and panic will ensue under the Big Top Circus, otherwise known as Wrigley.
- Pittsburgh Pirates (75-87) – Could be a surprise……just kidding. Not really.
- Cincinnati Reds (67-95) – Their pitching stinks. Their hitting is ok, led by Votto and some other surprising young hitters. Overall, until they get some solid arms, this franchise is stuck in last place.
National League West – Last year this division was surprisingly solid. Besides L.A.’s historic 104 victory season, the D’Backs won 93 and the Rockies won 87. But the Giants scuffled and could never get going. They were like a car battery that needed to be jumped in the cold weather. At some point, they didn’t know what to do themselves so they just slammed the hood and called AAA Auto.
- * Los Angeles Dodgers (95-67) – I’m a little worried about a World Series hangover after that Heartbreak City loss to Houston. Nonetheless, I think L.A. is just too good. They can’t equal their amazing 104 victory season but they won’t need to.
- Arizona Diamondbacks – (88-74)
- San Francisco Giants – (84-78) Once again they have injury issues early in the season. Madison Bumgarner is out again. Jeff Samardzija started the season on the DL too. Closer Mark Melancon has a chronic problem. Bruce Bochy is probably grumbling in the clubhouse……”Here we go again. Hey guys, get me the phone number for AAA”.
- Colorado Rockies – (78-84) – The Rocks are hard to gauge. They have some awesome hitters, as usual, but overall do they have what it takes in this N.L. West? Nolan Arenado is a stud at 3B.
- San Diego Padres – (70-92) Last place…….. again. They only have a couple/few good players. Wil Myers is excellent. They added Eric Hosmer from the Royals. Other than that……….ehhhh? Mark it down…….they’re tanking.
National League Playoffs
NL Wild Card:
over – This would be a really interesting Wild Card Game, played in Miller Park. I’m already looking forward to this game. Maybe I’ll go and tailgate at the best tailgate in the majors.
NL Division Series (NLDS):
over – This is a mismatch. Watch Scherzer and Strasburg mow down the Brew Crew on their way to their first postseason series victory ever as the Nats, since they moved from Montreal where they were the Expos. So far, they’re 0-4 with losses in 2012, ’14, ’16, and ’17. Enough is enough!
over – This matchup seems like such a throwback to the legendary NBC Saturday afternoon Game of the Week. Remember the 1985 NLCS? Ozzie Smith, a switch hitter, hit his first homer ever from the left side of the plate in over 3000 at bats, giving St. Louis the walk-off 3-2 victory in Game 5! “Go crazy folks, go crazy! It’s a home run and the Cardinals have won the game on a home run by the Wizard! Go crazy!” – Jack Buck’s iconic call. Smith hit only 28 home runs in over 9300 at bats over 19 regular seasons in the big leagues. This was his only postseason dinger. According to baseball-reference.com, Ozzie hit only 6 total homers out of his 29 while batting lefty. Incredible.
Then Jack Clark provided a 3 run blast off of the same pitcher, Tom Niedenfuer, in Game 6 to win the series for the Cards 4 games to 2. Wow! Now that was a series! As a kid in the 80s, it seemed like every year there were incredibly dramatic postseason games and series. Let’s hope we get more dramatics like this again someday.
NL Championship Series (NLCS):
over – I said the same thing last year……..”I love both squads.” Last year I picked L.A. This year I’m taking Washington. The momentum continues for D.C. as the pressure is off after finally winning a playoff series in the NLDS. Even though the Dodgers are amazing, so are the Nationals. You could flip a coin but the “Dutch Lion” feels that this is the Nationals year.
National League Award Winners:
NL MVP – Bryce Harper/Washington Nationals
NL Cy Young – Max Scherzer/Washington Nationals
NL Rookie of the Year – Lewis Brinson/Miami Marlins or Scott Kingery/Philadelphia Phillies
NL Manager of the Year – Craig Counsell/Milwaukee Brewers
2018 World Series
over – This is D.C.’s year! Washington will get over the hump by winning not only one playoff series but all three series in one season. With Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and/or Tanner Roark leading the rotation……… with a stacked lineup of Bryce Harper, Adam Eaton, Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman, Trea Turner, Daniel Murphy, Matt Adams, and Matt Wieters to exorcise their past playoff demons this October. New manager Dave Martinez will lead them in Harper’s swan song before free agency.
Of course, it’s not a given Harp leaves Washington after 2018. I think he’s most likely resigning with the Nats. If not, he’ll probably go West (Las Vegas native) to Los Angeles to play for the Dodgers, possibly the Angels, or maybe even the Arizona Diamondbacks. Do the Yankees have a spot in their outfield for Bryce? Unlikely with Stanton and Judge. Would Boston go for Harp? I think they’ll put up a solid offer. It will probably be 10-12 years for $400+ million. Expect the Dodgers to make that type of offer. Will Washington match it?
Anyway, that’s a story for another day. First things first. Harp will win the NL MVP along with the World Series MVP as the Nationals give D.C. their city’s first baseball World Championship since 1924!
Finally, how does the “Dutch Lion” compare to the other 2018 preseason publications?
Just like last year, SI and the “Dutch Lion” are picking the same World Series Champion. SI has Washington over the New York Yankees while we have Washington over Cleveland.
Street & Smith’s
One of the oldest publications in the industry, Street & Smith’s has combined with the old Sporting News to produce one preseason publication for each sport. This year they’re taking the New York Yankees over the Washington Nationals. Good. I like seeing these magazines taking a risk and picking a non-repeat Champion.
Athlon Sports has been making sports previews/yearbooks for years. In 2018, they’re making the same mistake they always make. They’re picking a repeat Champion, the Houston Astros. They have Houston over Washington. Sure Houston is great and all, but they won’t repeat. Nobody does. Last repeat winners were the 2000 New York Yankees.
Chicago Tribune – I love ripping on these guys and their homer picks. Notice the homerism of Greenstein and Haugh. Do they really think the 3rd Place Cuuuuu are going to win the National League? Does Haugh really think the Lovable Losers are going to win it all again for the 2nd time in 3 seasons? “C’mon Man”!!!! You’re a dreamer Haugh!
- Mark Gonzales – L.A. Dodgers over Cleveland Indians
- Teddy Greenstein – Houston Astros over Chicago Cubs
- David Haugh – Chicago Cubs over Houston Astros
- Paul Sullivan – Washington Nationals over New York Yankees
My brothers-in-law Jay & Joe married my wife’s sisters. They’re good guys, for the most part, when they’re not wimping out and giving in to those former Turner girls.
- Jay Nichols is a Milwaukee Brewers fan. He’s taking the Washington Nationals over the Houston Astros. In the LCS, he has Houston beating the Minnesota Twins (surprisingly out of the box pick!) and D.C. over the hated Chicago Cubs.
- Joe Ullrich is a lover of the hated Chicago Cubs. Believe it or not, he’s taking the Cubs over the Yankees in the 2018 World Series. In the ALCS he has New York over Houston and in the NLCS he has Chicago over Washington.
In conclusion, what does everybody have in common? We have ten predictions listed above including ours. Pretty much everyone has the Washington Nationals getting to at least the NLCS, with at least 7 of 10 predictions. (The four Tribune writers didn’t pick who was in the LCS. They only named the playoff teams and their pennant winners.)
In fact, all six predictions that named an LCS prediction took Washington to get there, which is surprising since they’ve never even won a playoff series. I guess everyone agrees that they are overdue. Of those six predictions, three picked the Nats to win it all and two picked them to lose in the World Series. (Only Joe didn’t pick them to make the World Series). Let’s tally it up……
World Series Champions Predictions:
- Nationals 4
- Astros 2
- Cubs 2
- Dodgers 1
- Yankees 1
So the majority are picking D.C. to bring home the World Series Championship to our nation’s capital. Surprisingly few have the L.A. Dodgers even getting back to the WS much less winning it all. The “Dutch Lion” thinks that may be a grave mistake. Don’t discount those Dodgers. This might be, it could be, their year…… perhaps we were just a season early. Or, they were a season late.