MLB Preview: Twenty Truths for the 2010 Season
March is the most underrated month for sports. Sounds brash? Well, it’s true.
Think about it.
While I’m more than happy to grant October (MLB Playoffs, second month of NFL regular season, start of NBA season, NCAA football and even a few PGA Tour events sprinkled here and there) and April (start of MLB season, NBA in homestretch, NFL draft, the Masters) their rightful dues atop the chart; March brings a simple zest that even those months can’t quite match.
(For the record, my vote for best sports month clearly goes to October. In addition to all the sports madness, you’ve got Halloween and my Birthday. That’s right. I just capped the word Birthday. It’s mine and deserves a capital. KAAAAAZAM!)
(Sorry about the Kazam line. While my wife was sick this past week, we fired up the “instant comedies” section on our Netflix account. The goal was a mindless flick that would drone on and on, involving little to no mental investment. Mission accomplished. Also, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; anytime you start a movie and the words “Shaquille” and “O’Neal” appear, presenting you with the first and last name featured on the pre-movie credits, you just KNOW trouble is around the corner. You can feel it. Not so different from that rumble in your stomach ten minutes after you consumed that not-so-agreeable Taco Bell bean burrito. A STORM IS BREWING! LAND HOOOOO!!!)
(We really got off track there, didn’t we?)
March still may technically be winter, but the seasons are changing, bringing warmth and baseball. Plus the added bonus of St. Paddy’s Day (Which also happens to be Britton Dennis’ birthday. If you want to send him a b-day card or a chocolate gram, pop me an e-mail and I’ll give you his mailing address. And by chocolate gram, I’m clearly referring to the stinky oblong persuasion. Bon appétit sir!) adds to the flavor of March.
Many would argue in favor of March Madness over spring training, which to a naturalist like me, is just an added perk. Give me the desirable sound of crisp wood cracking against impeccably white balls over the sounds of screeching on the hardwood any day.
Maybe don’t read that last sentence aloud. Definitely not to your kids.
The point being, spring training exemplifies what little purity is left in Major League Baseball. It’s a new start. It’s the kids trying to break camp ahead of the journeymen. It’s nothing less than fantastic!
And the fact that you get to start prepping for and participating in fantasy drafts sure doesn’t hurt either.
As always, you are going to find a lot of baseball here at Not in HD in the coming weeks and months. Baseball, quite simply, is what we do. Or at least, what we do somewhat coherently.
You will find previews, breakdowns and probably boatloads of fantasy projections and comparisons, because here at this site, we’re all really just nerds at heart. Our numerical vice just happens to be jock related. No not THAT kind of jock. I hate you all.
In the meantime, allow me tighten my belt another notch by bringing you my Twenty Truths for the 2010 Season.
And when the final October chapter closes the book on the 2010 season and I bare my soul to you all, reviewing my missteps, remember people… it’s for the children. They’re our future.
(In no particular order, yet I’ll number them anyway…)
20.) Don’t Expect the Mets to Right the Ship
When you have to toy with the idea of hitting Jose Reyes in the three-hole, something is seriously wrong with your offense. If Carlos Beltran was still alive, he’d never stand for it.
The Mets may not induce quite so many gags or endure as many Quad-A references, but chances of a Beatles reunion tour are higher than the Mets making the playoffs.
19.) The Padres Will Finish with Fewer Wins Than the Lakers
(counting the playoffs)
I’m taking a small leap of faith here, assuming that including the playoffs, the Lakers win between 65 and 70 games. Because that’s all it’s going to take to surpass San Diego’s win total this year.
Look, gnash your teeth at me all you want, Friars fans, but the fact is SD punted this season when they traded Jake Peavy to the White Sox last year, third baseman, Kevin Kouzmanoff to the A’s this winter and Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox in July.
Speaking of which…
18.) The Padres WILL Trade Adrian Gonzalez Before July 31st
Gonzalez is gone. You know it and I know it. It’s just a matter of when and to whom. And though many say next fall, I’m saying this he packs his bags this season.
And yes, to Boston. It’s like that song by Augustana, coming to life.
“I think I’ll go to Boston…
…I’ll get out of California.”
And that my friends, will be the first and ONLY time you ever see me use this space to quote Augustana.
(Paul McCartney is giving me dirty looks right now. I’m sorry Paul, I didn’t mean it. I take it all back.)
17.) Albert Pujols Will Win Another NL MVP… and the World Will Yawn
The guy is healthy for the first time in six years. Can you believe that? He hit .327 and led the league in home runs (47) and OPS (1.101), with an elbow with six bone spurs – each the size of a dime – under his skin.
AND HE’S HEALTHY NOW!
What more can this guy do? Well, we are about to find out.
While I expect Pujols to crush the frank and beans out of the ball for most of the summer and ultimately win the award, I do think guys like Chase Utley, Matt Kemp and Joey Votto will make some serious noise in the voting. Writers love how great Pujols is, but eventually, they will get sick of voting for him. It’s kind of like picking the Braves to win the NL East year-after-year in the Maddux/Glavine/Smoltz heyday. It just gets boring after a while.
It’s the only reason Charles Barkley owns an NBA MVP. People eventually wanted anyone but Michael Jordan to take home the hardware, deserved or not.
All that said, this isn’t going to be that year for Albert. The Utleys/Kemps/Vottos of the world will swipe a few votes, but Pujols will definitely win it. Put it on the board.
16.) Stephen Strasburg is Going to Let an Awful Lot of Fantasy Owners Down
I can’t get out of the NL here.
Strasburg is going to be good. There’s no doubt about it. But he’s not going to put up great numbers in 2010. If you’re drafting him for a sub-3.00 ERA and 200 strikeouts, mister, that lady’s gonna take you a ride for all your money, and let you DOWN.
Strasburg will end up closer to 100 MLB strikeouts than 200. Expect the Human Torch’s flame to flicker more than a few times this year.
Plus, Strasburg IS going to start the year on the farm, likely making his first start for the Nationals in early June. I’d expect him to end up with around 135 Major League innings, an ERA around 3.47 and somewhere in the ballpark of 125 strikeouts.
15.) The Seattle Mariners are For Real
Seattle fans, you won’t have to deal with my torturing much this season, because I’m a believer. For three reasons:
A) The AL West isn’t that good.
B) The Angels got a lot worse.
C) Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez are going to light up the summer skies.
You hear a lot about the Mariners having the best one-two rotation in the big leagues, but not the best one-through-five. I’ll definitely concede that. But in the AL West, having the best one-two is all it’s going to take. Because the M’s also find themselves with a fairly good bullpen and a much better offense than last year.
Chone Figgins is better than Adrian Beltre. Sorry, Red Sox Fans. Casey Kotchman is as good as Russell Branyon, who wasn’t going to hit as well as last year (think Jack Cust after his first season in Oakland), Ichiro should have an even better no-milestone-distracted season, electric center fielder Franklin Gutierrez is healthy, and perhaps best of all, Seattle won’t have to force-feed Kenji Johjima at-bats anymore.
Wins all across the board.
14.) The Chicago Cubs Will Break Your Heart
Not so much a prediction, as a recap of history.
This won’t be the year. I’ll go into greater detail as to why, in my NL Central preview later this spring. As for now, just know that the drought will continue.
13.) Former or Current Major League X Will Be Accused/Proven to Have Used PEDs.
Because baseball can’t escape its past. That’s why.
12.) Ryan Braun Will Win the HR Derby
I can just feel it. My gut tells me Braun needs to be my Safelite Secure, Safelite Replace, lock of the All-Star weekend.
11.) Alex Rodriguez Hits 50+ Home Runs
After missing about a month to begin last season, A-Rod got his swag back. Heck, he even produced in the playoffs. Shocking, I know.
I see no reason to believe that his late-year ’09 success won’t carry over. He will be starting the year with a clear head for the first time in years. No new-contract talk, opt-out clause, steroids admission or postseason choke in sight this time.
This could be a bad year to be John Lackey.
10.) John Lackey is Going To Break Down.
The contract was too big, with grand expectations on Lackey’s shoulders. Thing is, I doubt he will hold up. The Angels seemed all too pleased to let Lackey waltz over to LAX and board a plane back east. Generally speaking, fans of a team which loses a prominent starting pitcher, are unhappy with the decision to let the guy walk.
The last time I can remember a pitcher with the kind of reputation/pedigree of Lackey has, leave town to a chorus of sighs of relief, was Barry Zito in Oakland.
We all saw how that one turned out.
9.) If the Over/Under on Clayton Kershaw Wins was Set at Eleven, Give Me the Under
Let’s get one thing straight right now, between you and I: I love Clayton Kershaw the way a bearded Ron Burgundy loves milk on a hot San Diego summer day. Meaning, I’d choose him every time, knowing all the while, Kershaw’s going to let me down.
The fire-throwing lefty has as much potential or more, than any 21-and-under professional pitcher (including Strasburg). But that doesn’t mean I can’t be realistic regarding his ’10 performance.
I need to see Kershaw get better control of that hook and average more than 5.2 innings pitched per start, before I bank on double-digit wins from him.
8.) By July, Pirates Fans Will Clamor For Pedro Alvarez
As well they should, that kid’s going to be good. And Pittsburgh fans will probably get their wish too. But if last season’s Single-A/Double-A splits are any indication, that dude is going to be whiffing at a Mark Reynolds–like rate when he gets to the show.
7.) Andrew McCutchen Will Lead the National League in Steals
In his second year in the bigs? YOU BETCHA! This kid has wheels to burn. He’s not half-bad with the stick either. I’m expecting somewhere in the neighborhood of 24 homers and 48 stolen bases.
Come to think of it, his nickname should be Power Wheels.
Let’s all just agree on that right here and now.
Andrew McCutchen will henceforth be known as Power Wheels.
Glad we could come to that understanding.
And I’m sorry for two Pirates truths in a row. It just worked out that way.
6.) Joe Mauer Will Not Hit Higher than .335
That prediction’s a tough pill to swallow for those of you planning on selecting Mauer with a first or second round fantasy pick.
But you need to face the facts; Mauer just isn’t a .365 hitter. He’s a very good hitter, we could all be so lucky (in real life and in fantasy) to have our catcher hit in the neighborhood of .330, but he isn’t really an MVP type hitter.
And for a guy who isn’t all that likely to hit 30+ dingers again, he would need to hit about .350 like clockwork, to be worth the $20-million-plus the Twins are about to find themselves paying the guy.
Give me Kurt Suzuki, Yaddy Molina or Russell Martin at their salaries any day, over Mauer at his.
Ok, maybe not Russell Martin.
Ok, DEFINITELY not Russell Martin.
(Searching for something to cram into my cranium…)
5.) Roy Halladay will End Tim Lincecum’s Cy Young Reign of Terror
It won’t be easy, because Timmy is going to have another phenomenal season, but the Doc is going to work wonders for the Phillies.
You already know all the reasons why, but let’s recap of few of the major ones:
-One less hitter to face every trip through the lineup.
-MUCH weaker offensive division. The best hitters in the division (that he will face) are Reyes, Ryan Zimmerman and Hanley Ramirez. Not exactly A-Rod/Mark Teixeira/Kevin Youkilis/Evan Longoria/Carl Crawford.
-Weaker lower-level teams. Pittsburgh, Washington and usually Florida? YES PLEASE.
-His offense is legit for the first time in his career. I don’t even care if Jimmy Rollins hits like Omar Visquel now. When you have Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth providing run-support, yeah, you’ll be fine. Cow-a-freaking-bunga man.
-Roy Halladay is really, really good. And that helps.
So sorry Lincecum, this writer adores your ability, but in 2010 Roy Halladay is going to steal your thunder. And your lunch money.
4.) The Boston Red Sox will Miss the Playoffs
To the chagrin of the Sports Guy and Red Sox fans everywhere, but to the sheer delight of everyone else.
Because unfortunately, even with the three best teams in the AL calling the East their home, one still has to sit home come October. And this year, the Sox will play the part of the cheese standing alone.
The Yankees are downright stacked. Print their tickets now.
The Rays are just as good if not better than Boston on the mound, better defensively (you can even tell Mike Cameron and Adrian Beltre I said so…), better on the base-paths and potentially, a LOT better at the dish.
Remember two years ago when Tampa seemingly reached their potential light years ahead of when they were projected to? And how that prompted writers (me included) and talking heads to proclaim ’09 the year of the Ray? Well, we were all forgetting that intelligent projections saw them finally coming together in ’10.
So what happened was Tampa unfortunately found success early, then ran into the firestorm that was the ’09 Yankees and Red Sox. But now they have matured and are ready to reach for the stars.
Look out world, here come the Rays.
3.) Evan Longoria Will be a Top-Three AL MVP Candidate
I’m not crowning Egore just yet, trust me, you’ll know when I do.
But I can’t lie to you, you know me too well. I absolutely fawn over this kid’s skill-set. It gets awkward at times.
Not quite Grady Sizemore showing the world his personalized bat awkward, but yeah, you think that under the right circumstances, something magical could happen.
And magic there will be in the Tampa batter’s box all year. He may not hit more home runs than A-Rod this season, but he should come close. Egore also happens to play the best hot-corner in the league.
Yes, better than Beltre.
I’m not ready to pencil him in for A-Rod or Miguel Cabrera offensive numbers, but I can see him being better than Mauer, Justin Morneau, Ichiro, Mark Teixeira and the like.
2.) Carl Crawford Will Swipe 80 Bases
That’s nearly a bag every other game, but unless Crawford finds himself on the 15-day-DL at any point in time (my get-out-of-jail-free-card here) he’s going to run crazy on fools.
Did you see the video of Crawdad fixing his mechanics on what appears to be a ratty-run-of-the-mill high school football field, this offseason?
For Rays fans and Crawford owners, it’s pretty exciting.
Only one thing puzzles me about it: why choose to train with the goofy looking white dude? Couldn’t he have picked someone cool, like former American gold medalist and all-around freak-of-awesomeness, Michael Johnson? Or Usain Bolt for that matter. Except for the fact that it was the football season, I would have loved it if Crawford had chosen Titans running back, Chris Johnson. YES!
But a random white dude who looks a little too much like Scooby Doo’s best friend Shaggy, only in a pair of sneakers and swish pants?
It’s just, so… weird. That’s all.
1.) It’s Going to be a Pretty Sweet Summer
How could it not be?
We have baseball back.