Baseball 2013: This Great Game’s Fearless Predictions
Who will reign as the best, worst and most surprising baseball teams for the upcoming 2013 season? Let Eric and Ed tell you all about it.
By Eric Gouldsberry and Ed Attanasio, This Great Game
Posted March 19, 2013
It’s that time of the year where we again put aside our biases, crunch the numbers, chow down the Polish hotdogs and declare the best and worst teams of the coming baseball season, seven months before they prove us wrong. Not that we got the self-deprecating humor out of the way, here’s the honest truth: We weren’t half bad last year—just half good. I called four of the ten postseason teams while Ed nailed down five (we both picked San Francisco to win the National League pennant); I also scored on both the AL MVP (Miguel Cabrera) and Cy Young Award (David Price), while Ed delivered on the NL Rookie of the Year (Bryce Harper) and Comeback Player of the Year (Buster Posey, in an echoing of his MVP performance). So occasionally our homework and intuition pays off.
It’s frightening that for all the time Ed and I spend apart from one another, we still seem to be on the same page as far as our guesses go for the new year. No, we didn’t Xerox each other’s picks, but our aligned guestimates prove that (a.) we’re reading the same press clippings, (b.) one of us is Xeroxing the other’s picks or (c.) our ESP has really gotten strong.
But sometimes, you just never know what’s going to happen. Who, last year, would have seen Mike Trout, Kris Medlen, the Oakland A’s and the Baltimore Orioles coming? What surprises lie ahead for us this year—and will Ed and I catch on now before everyone else?
Check back with us at the end of October. Until then, may our best picks win. —Eric
NL East: Ed's picks
NL East: Eric's rebuttal
NL Central: Eric's picks
NL Central: Ed's rebuttal
NL West: Ed's picks
NL West: Eric's rebuttal
AL East: Eric's picks
AL East: Ed's rebuttal
AL Central: Eds picks
AL Central: Eric's rebuttal
AL West: Eric's picks
AL West: Ed's rebuttal
Postseason/Awards: Eric's and Ed's picks
The Washington Nationals will have Stephen Strasburg back 100% healthy this year and the rest of baseball should be concerned—very concerned. I pick him to be dominant from Day One and win the Cy Young Award. On the other hand, a comfortable Bryce Harper will just get better and show it in a big way when he wins the NL MVP in 2013. Am I picking an All-Nats year? Damn right! With Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, Adam LaRoche and Danny Espinosa, the Nats have a potent offense that can score in big clumps. Add in the best 1-5 pitching rotation in the National League, featuring Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman, Dan Haren, Ross Detwiler and an improving closer in Rafael Soriano, and the Nationals are rock solid throughout. This should be the year Washington finally emerges, sequesters the rest of the league and wins the Capitol’s first World Series since 1924. I’m campaigning for this team, because without some major injuries or backroom dirty politics, the Nationals will go all the way!
The Atlanta Braves are begrudgingly entering the Post-Chipper Jones era, but critics that look at this team’s roster are chipper as well. With one of the best bullpens in baseball, led by closer Craig Kimbrel and some decent starting pitching including Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Tim Hudson and emerging rookie Julio Teheran, the Braves will stay in games. And the team will score more runs this year as well, because during the off-season they picked up the Upton Bros. (Justin and B.J.) to greatly enhance their offense, fielding and speed. Throw them in with Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Brian McCann and new third baseman Juan Francisco and I believe the Braves will finish right behind the Nationals and end up comfortably in one of the league’s Wild Card spots.
The Philadelphia Phillies have pitching even the vicious Philly fans won’t be able to boo, especially when they’re watching Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels throwing from the mound. And the offense is loaded, with proven performers such as Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins. They also have some upcoming players that might impress in 2013, including speedy Ben Revere and Dominic Brown. If everything comes together, the Phillies could make a run at the NL East title, but I’m picking them as the third-best squad in this mega-talented division.
Saying the New York Mets are “promising” this year is like saying people in NYC are “slightly agitated” by this team. The Mets have some interesting pitchers, including Johan Santana, Jonathon Niese and Shaun Marcum, and it was wise for them to retain David Wright, their only true star.
Good news: The only team that will prevent the Mets from ending up in the basement of the NL East in October is the sorry Miami Marlins, where owner Jeffrey Loria sold off all of his talent except for Giancarlo Stanton. Say goodbye to Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson and closer Heath Bell. 2012 was a disastrous season for the Flopping Fish, when the Marlins’ new stadium got bad reviews and Manager Ozzie Guillen said some rude things about the Cuban people. Triple-A teams could beat these guys and the Marlins will be pathetic—so bad, that they might consider changing their mascot to a less-respected fish, like Tilapia.
Ed's Predicted Finish:
New York 78-84
Bad point-counterpoint, Ed. I mean, we’re thinking too much alike right off the bat—so let me ratchet up the intensity by saying this: The Washington Nationals will not win 100 games this year! There, it’s out of my system. It’s weird to think that just a few years ago, anyone with the stones to pick Washington as the NL’s premier team would have been, well, stoned (and you can take that meaning any way you want). But back then, the Nats were saying they were building for the future with Strasburg and Harper—and that future clearly has arrived. I don’t think Strasburg and Harper will win their awards, though I do feel Harper will certainly take his game to an All-Star level and get a decent chunk of MVP votes. What really kicks the Nationals into high gear for 2013 is the addition of superlative closer Soriano to give the team one of baseball’s best pens and takes ninth-inning stress off solid set-up guys like Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard.
Because I’m still somewhat inured to the Nationals as a traditional flop, my initial gut was to pick the Braves to win the East. The addition of the Brothers Upton bring impressive depth to a young lineup featuring Heyward and Freeman (when Dan Uggla is projected to bat seventh, you know you got more than a few active bats), and the bullpen (led by the majors’ best closer in Kimbrel) tops Washington. But: The Atlanta rotation, as highly promising as it appears with second-half wonder Medlen, veteran Hudson and up-and-comers Brandon Beachy, Minor and Teheran, is fraught with fragility (Beachy won’t even be back until June, at the earliest) and thus makes it prudent to hedge my bets against the Braves to topple the Nats.
Everyone seems so focused on the Nats and Braves, but don’t count out the Phillies. They’re loaded with veterans who’ve experienced total victory and can carry the team into October—but only if they stay healthy. That’s been a huge problem over the past few years for Philadelphia, on top of the fact that the generation gap remains with the vets balancing out a very young core of prospects who’ve struggled to make their mark (powerful rookie Darin Ruf may change all that this season). Six players in their mid-30s account for the bulk ($100 million) of the Phillies’ payroll: Howard, Utley, Halladay, Rollins, pitcher Cliff Lee and first-year Phillie Michael Young. If this reincarnation of the Wheeze Kids can avoid the DL, Philadelphia will make the Nats and Braves sweat at the top of the East. But given the realities of the recent past, it’s a tall order to carry out.
The New York Mets are carrying on with star third baseman David Wright (assuming he’s over his WBC injuries) and without R.A. Dickey, the Cy Young Award winner shipped away to Toronto for a boatload of prospects. So it appears to be rebuilding time in Flushing Meadows with a young rotation (building up with Niese, Matt Harvey and, should he make the final roster, prized prospect Zach Wheeler) and, for now, not much else outside of Wright. Yes, there’s broken-down ace Johan Santana, for whom many remember last year for tossing the Mets’ historic first no-hitter—but insiders also remember him for a 15.63 ERA over his last five starts before bowing to shoulder problems which still bedevil him. The Mets may reach rock bottom this season, but it won’t be Houston Astro-nomically bad—and the upswing back to the top should come sooner than later.
Angela Smith may have the worst job in baseball. You’re probably asking: What does Angela do? Angela’s the Director of Community Outreach for the Miami Marlins. How would you like to face the locals who feel betrayed, scammed and suckered by owner Jeffrey Loria and sell goodwill? Angela will more likely give out free tickets to those who care to accept them, as that’s about the only way the Marlins are going to draw anyone to their second-year ballpark after a most alarming offseason in which Loria pulled the plug on his big-budget machine and went on the cheap, again. The Marlins may not be as bad as everyone thinks; imposing outfielder Giancarlo Stanton is a marquee impact player, there’s promise with outfielder Justin Ruggiano (.313 average, 13 homers in 91 games) and second baseman Donovan Solano (.295 in 93 games), and veterans Juan Pierre and Placido Polanco have been brought in to bring sage to the youth. But the Marlins are a callow team in a tough division with a woeful pitching staff; poor ol’ Angela can throw all the freebies she can to the community, but you’re likely to hear a pin drop at Marlins Park this summer.
Eric's Predicted Finish:
New York 71-91
I don’t care that Chris Carpenter and Rafael Furcal are both out for the year, or that manager Mike Matheny is broke and riddled with back pain, or that fans are still throwing fruit at Albert Pujols’ statue; I still think the St. Louis Cardinals have the guns, guts and gusto to unseat Cincinnati as NL Central champs. Remember, this is a team that got farther in the postseason than the Reds and came within a mere game of winning a second straight NL pennant. The failure to close out the Giants last October sticks at the Cardinals like a cactus needle in the side and will likely provide extra motivation for a roster loaded with talented vets (outfielders Matt Holliday Carlos Beltran, catcher Yadier Molina and ace Adam Wainwright) and emerging stars (first baseman Allen Craig, third sacker David Freese and pitcher Lance Lynn). Carpenter and Furcal may or may not be missed—they were gone for most of 2012 and look where it got the Cardinals; besides, their likely replacements (pitcher Shelby Miller and shortstop Pete Kozma) are viable Rookie of the Year candidates. This is a sound organization with a sound roster and a sound fan base—and I think it’ll all be rewarded with a divisional title come year’s end.
The Cincinnati Reds have all the parts in place to repeat, and had they not lost All-Star pitcher Johnny Cueto in the playoffs, they might have gotten further into October. But there’s a little volatility that leaves me thinking that the Reds will finish a notch below the Cardinals. Shin-Soo Choo replaces Drew Stubbs in center field, but the ex-Indian has been increasingly injury-prone. Star first baseman Joey Votto is back after missing half of last year, but will the power stroke that evaded him after his return still be AWOL? And the Reds are fantasizing the idea of placing supersonic fastballer Aroldis Chapman in the rotation, but can the Cuban émigré survive the expected load of innings—and will Jonathan Broxton fill the bill as a suitable replacement for Chapman in the closer’s role? So while the Reds may look settled in after a superb 2012, I just don’t feel the vibe for an equally rewarding 2013.
Rumor has it that the Pittsburgh Pirates are lobbying Bud Selig to reduce the season to 100 games and have it finish on July 31. Why? Because in each of the last two years, the Bucs have impressed through July only to collapse afterward. Some believe that the Pirates’ teases of the last two years show signs of a 20-year losing bubble ready to burst—with many of the Bucs’ young cadets (outfielders Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte, second baseman Neil Walker and third baseman Pedro Alvarez) hitting high gear, there’s credibility toward that notion—but I think the departure of closer Joel Hanrahan, who could be argued was more valuable to the team last year than MVP candidate McCutchen, is going to badly hurt the Pirates, especially when one considers that his projected replacement for the ninth is 36-year-old Jason Grilli, who has five career saves. Hate to say it, Bucco Nation, but your team’s run of losing is going to reach drinking age come season’s end.
Not very long ago, the Milwaukee Brewers were considered contenders with a fine balance of impressive hitting and solid pitching. Today, the hitting is still there; the pitching ain’t. Beyond ace Yovani Gallardo, the Brewers are crossing their fingers with one of baseball’s most untested rotations and a underwhelming bullpen anchored by closer John Axford, himself coming off a partial meltdown last season. At bat, Ryan Braun once again must prove he can perform with controversy overlooking his shoulder, while Aramis Ramirez needs to show again that he can profitably coexist with Braun. But even on offense, the Brewers need to address a few issues, most starkly at first base with Corey Hart (knee) out until late spring. The Brewers won’t collapse because they thrive at home, fielding the majors’ eighth best such record last year; but only six teams were worse on the road. That disparity could change in 2013—for the worse.
No one will miss the Houston Astros from the NL Central lineup more than the Chicago Cubs, who looked good for a team losing 100 games last year because the Astros lost more. But now with Houston drafted into the AL, the Cubs are all alone at the bottom and likely to stay there for at least the short term. If this team is looking for clubhouse leadership, they’re not going to find it in veteran slugger Alfonso Soriano, who’s on record saying he’d be okay getting traded out of Wrigley; nor will they get it from wild closer Carlos Marmol, also rumored as trade bait; nor will they get it from dynamic young shortstop Starlin Castro, who has the tendency to mentally drift off on defense. Newfound guidance may have to come from emerging slugger Anthony “Italian Stallion” Rizzo (hey, he played for Italy’s WBC team because his great grandfather was born in Sicily) or from newly arrived mid-line starting pitchers Edwin Jackson and/or Scott Feldman. But with an overall roster with very little to get excited over, this is a five-year plan at work—whether it’s designed that way or not. To paraphrase Jimmy Buffett, the Bleacher Bums will be wastin’ away again in Wrigleyville.
Eric's Predicted Finish:
St. Louis 93-69
Eric has the Cardinals winning a close race over the Reds in 2013, and I’m not too far from agreeing with him, but I just think the Reds are finally ready to make a run. Last season, the Reds stumbled when they lost their best player (Votto) to injury. He was back for the playoffs, but he wasn’t 100% and his power completely disappeared. With one of the best pitching staffs on any NL team, led by Cueto and followed by Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo and (if he starts) Chapman, the Reds are deep. Most teams have a decent 1-2 punch with their starting pitching, but how many have a strong 3 through 5? Not many, but the Reds do! With Broxton throwing BB’s from the pen, the Red Machine’s pitchers will gobble up innings like a free buffet—all day! With emerging stars like Todd Frazier and Zack Cozart playing aside proven studs such as Votto and second baseman Brandon Phillips, I have the Reds taking the NL Central in a close race that will still be undecided during the final weekend of the regular season.
The Cardinals will compete, because they’re balanced and have enough pitching to keep themselves in close games. But you can’t lose your top starting pitcher (Carpenter) and your shortstop (Furcal) and then just sit there and say it doesn’t matter. Eric must know something we don’t know. St. Louis has a ton of offensive talent, led by great young players like Craig and Freese. Molina is one of the NL’s best catchers; Holliday and Beltran can dominant games; and the Cards do have two-to-three really solid prospects. But the Reds are just a little better and tad deeper, and that’s why I have the Redbirds sitting in some bar under the arches in ‘old St. Lou in early October, watching the playoffs on TV.
The Pirates teased the world last year and Bucs fans saw a glimmer of hope in the eyes of this young, untested bunch. Improvement is the main focus for a team that is getting better in baby steps and the Pirates play like infants at time. Led by megastar McCutchen, an amazing hybrid of speed and power, and with future stars such as Marte and Garrett Jones, the Pirates will score in bunches at times this year. The problem is their opponents will regularly score a lot more. A shaky pitching staff consisting of Jonathan Sanchez, A.J. Burnett (can he repeat or will he retreat?) and Wandy Rodriguez, the Pirates will return to their old form and once again be “just not enough.”
The Brewers are another pitching-challenged ball club and that’s why I have them finishing tied for third in the Central. The Brew Crew’s staff is going to audition a lot of castoffs this season, and there’s no time for that, unless you’re a judge on American Idol. You’d have a better chance winning the Wisconsin Lottery than finding any studs in this group. Eric and I agree that Gallardo will excel, but no one on the rest of this pitching staff will be able to compete in this division. Braun will have a great year and help a lot of fantasy teams and players like Ramirez, second baseman Rickie Weeks and catcher Jonathan Lucroy will shine at times, but Milwaukee will roll around in a stew of mediocrity—like hops in a brewing kettle—without ever really refreshing their fans.
Why do I have to write about the Cubs? This underachieving franchise is year-in, year-out a second-class operation. You can hire all the wunderkind GMs and pull promising kids out of your minor leagues to momentarily impress and wow the fans all day long, but the numbers don’t lie. With Soriano, Castro, superstar-to-be Rizzo and up-and-comers like Wellington Castillo and Darwin Bailey, they will win a few games. But, their pitching is suspect and they haven’t proven anything to anyone yet. Now that I’ve trashed them, watch the Cubs become that surprise team I’ve been trying to find in 2013.
Ed's Predicted Finish:
St. Louis 90-72
The San Francisco Giants re-entered a perfect storm (their second in three years) that led them through the Golden Gate, while the rest of baseball scratched its collective heads. If you would have told me that Brian Wilson would get injured and out for the season; that Aubrey Huff would completely disappear; and that the team would lose a major part of its lineup at the most crucial time (Melky Cabrera), I would have replied by telling you this team would have finished third, behind the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks. But instead, the Giants—led by Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Matt Cain and role players like Brandon Crawford, Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro and Hunter Pence—won it all in style. Some questions for 2013 are about pitchers Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito (can they continue to rebound?) and will Sergio Romo be able to hold down the closer spot for an entire season?
The Giants stayed pat and changed their roster very little, while the Los Angeles Dodgers spent money on personnel like a drunken sailor on a three-day leave. With new ownership led by Magic Johnson, the Dodgers became the “Red Sox West” when late last season they picked up Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford. If Gonzalez can continue to play like a future Hall of Famer and one of the other two can contribute at all, the Boys in Blue might win the West this year. With proven stars like Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Hanley Ramirez in the mix and a solid pitching staff, led by Clayton Kershaw and newly added Zach Greinke, I’m picking the Dodgers to compete but finish second to the Giants and get into the wild card to play Atlanta for a spot in the “real” playoffs.
The Arizona Diamondbacks got off to a fast start in 2012, but faded like the desert sun. With a fairly impressive staff of stalwart pitching starters (Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill, Wade Miley and newly-added Brandon McCarthy) and an offense led by Jason Kubel, Cody Ross, Aaron Hill, Miguel Montero and super prospect Adam Eaton, the D-Bax will play well at times and finish over .500, I believe—but they just won’t have enough to make it to the postseason.
The San Diego Padres played admirably during the last two months of the season in 2012; so many people are picking them as the surprise team of 2013. (Baseball season prognosticators are always looking for that one surprise team, because there is always at least one. Last year there were two, both in the AL: Oakland and Baltimore). I don’t concur; the Padres will occasionally thrill their laid-back fans at Petco Park infrequently and will finish 8-10 games under .500. Sure they have some decent hitters like Carlos Quentin, Yonder Alonso and Chase Headley, but if you can name one of their pitchers without a scorecard, you’re a better man (or woman) than me.
The Colorado Rockies could be that surprise team of 2013, but I’d be shocked. They C-Rox still have some of the best talent in the division, including Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, Dexter Fowler and Todd Helton. But they’ve long since traded their best starting pitcher (Ubaldo Jimenez) to the Cleveland Indians, so they’re light on the mound and should be easy prey for the rest of the league.
Ed's Predicted Finish:
San Francisco 95-67
Los Angeles 92-70
San Diego 77-85
Damn it, Ed, you’re killing our ratings. Are you peaking at my cliff notes or what? Well, give the man who bleeds Dodger Blue credit; even with Los Angeles spending like it has a bottomless bank account, he’s picking the relatively stand-pat Giants to win the West again. I agree, in part because we both agree with Brandon Belt: You can’t buy chemistry. The Giants have it, the Dodgers don’t. But the Giants haven’t won two championships in three years simply because of clubhouse vibe. Those picking the Dodgers are probably doing so not because the Dodgers got stronger on paper, but because the Giants did not. But think of the growth that will likely occur from within at AT&T Park. Yes, Scutaro, Pagan, Zito and outfielder Gregor Blanco won’t play over their heads the way they did last October, but Belt, Crawford and, yes, maybe even Posey will improve based on their youth and gained experience—and Lincecum is almost guaranteed to be better after that god-awful performance of a year ago. Injuries, which decimated the team two years ago, and the question of whether Romo can sustain ninth-inning greatness all year are potential fly traps, but the Giants’ combination of solid pitching, young talents getting better and (arguably) the majors’ finest manager in Bochy will likely assure the Giants another divisional title.
If anything else, the Dodgers have assured themselves as baseball’s spare-no-expense darlings (or evil, depending on your point of view), not afraid to open their checkbook at a moment’s notice to fill a hole or to add to one already plugged up. Every facet of the Dodgers’ game appears strong on paper, but as it’s been said so many times in the past, baseball isn’t played on paper. Three years ago this would have been a killer roster, but Beckett, Crawford, Ramirez and maybe even Greinke and Gonzalez have seen better days; injury concerns for Crawford and Greinke have cast a mild shadow over the team’s prospects. Yet at full strength, the lineup is solid from top to bottom, and the wild card that could send the Dodgers past the Giants might be South Korean import Hyun-jin Ryu to complement Greinke and ace Clayton Kershaw in the rotation. But are the Dodgers hungrier or more “chemical” than the Giants? If manager Don Mattingly can’t prod his team to those ends, he’ll be looking for new employment next year.
It’s the Gibson Way or the highway in Arizona, where the third-year manager is trying to distill his hardened, loyal brand of ball upon his players—which may explain the departure of star hitter Justin Upton, who lacked that “rugged” gamer element Gibson is fond of. The Diamondbacks should not be forgotten amid the Giant-Dodger conversation; expect maturation from Eaton and first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, a solid rotation and the arrival of Prado and Ross, two players who know something about October. If the team believes in Gibson—if it can create its own potent potable of chemistry—the Diamondbacks have a shot at defying the experts and taking down the West.
The Padres picked the wrong time to bring in the fences at pitching-friendly Petco Park; an underwhelming rotation and thin bullpen will likely suffer from the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune as opponents bash away at the not-so-distant walls. So it’s goodbye, 1-0 games—and hello to more losses for the Padres. The silver lining for the expected increase in live hitting is that it should benefit Headley, who quickly emerged as a borderline superstar with a monster second half last year; but the rest of the lineup is either fragile (Quentin), suspect (catcher Yasmani Grandal, who misses the first 50 games due to PED usage) or a work in progress (Alonso). I’m not sure where Ed is getting his rumors about a surprise performance from the Padres, for it’s sure been quiet on my radar—and probably for good reason.
Alright, so folks in Colorado probably think I’ve always had it in for the Rockies, with all my talk about the team being incapable of winning a World Series and all, but even they might go along with me on this not-so-brash prediction: The Rockies will be baseball’s worst team of 2013. Yes, even worse than Houston. Sure, the Rockies have MVP-level players in Tulowitzki and Gonzalez (when they’re healthy) and a rising star bat in catcher Wilin Rosario, but they’re always going to hit in Denver, where almost every Rockie regular batted over .300 last year (while hitting .270 or worse on the road). The real horror story of this team is the pitching, which might flunk the test even at pre-shrunk Petco Park. This is a team that nearly became the first in major league history without a single pitcher notching 100+ innings; part of that was due to former manager Jim Tracy’s insane policy of limiting his starters to 75 pitches per start, which almost never guaranteed them a win. Tracy is gone, Walt Weiss is in and the pitch limit has been raised to 90, but that’s still a misguided notion on how to survive Coors Field. Like last year, the new season will be a pure exercise in torture for the Rockies and their fans—only worse.
Eric's Predicted Finish:
San Francisco 92-70
Los Angeles 91-71
San Diego 73-89
This may be the first time we’ve looked at a division where every team truly believes they have a shot to take first place; even considering that nearly half the schedule is reserved for playing each other, there is a realistic chance that all five AL East teams could finish above the .500 mark.
Of course, crashing the divisional conversation this year is the Toronto Blue Jays, who saw vulnerabilities among the usual suspects at the top and decided it was time to go for it—making one offseason splash after another to declare themselves as big-time contenders. The moves speak volumes. The Jays reeled in ace-level pitchers in reigning NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle; dynamic shortstop Jose Reyes; and former (we assume) steroid user Melky Cabrera. The added pitching certainly beefs things up; Ricky Romero, last year’s no. 1 in the rotation, is now down to no. 5. And Reyes and Cabrera bring cheddar to a lineup already powered by Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. But is a divisional title a sure thing for Toronto? The Devil’s Advocate rebuts: Johnson and Bautista could still be fragile, Buehrle is baseball’s most dependable .500 pitcher and nothing more, Dickey’s knuckler could go south—or north, or east or west, anywhere but the strike zone—an un-juiced (we assume) Cabrera will need to perform clean, and Encarnacion has a tough encore ahead after breaking out with 41 homers last year. The Blue Jays are hoping to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their last world title with another—but as Miami, Seattle and the Chicago Cubs, other clubs who have “gone for it” over the last five years and failed, will tell you, be careful what you wish for.
To understand the Blue Jays’ timing for taking aim at weakened contenders, I present you with the New York Yankees. Pundits and historians are already murmuring that the 2013 edition of the Bronx Bombers could resemble that of the 1965 team—a former champion weighed down by aging and/or physically shattered star players who could no longer bring it. Nearly half a century later, a new Picture of Dorian Gray is emerging at Yankee Stadium; a dogged and hobbled Alex Rodriguez (38 in July) is possibly out for the year, shortstop Derek Jeter (39 in June) and closer Mariano Rivera (43) are coming back from major injuries, CC Sabathia (33 in July) is trying to crank it up after offseason elbow surgery, and once-feared talents Kevin Youkilis (34), Ichiro Suzuki (39) and Travis Hafner (36 in June) have been brought on, somewhat desperately, to kick start the club. There’s even trouble among the guys in their prime; Curtis Granderson (broken arm) and Mark Teixeira (wrist issues) will both miss at least April, while Robinson Cano could possibly be distracted as the vulture-cultured New York media plays up his ongoing contract extension. Throw in serious holes in the outfield and behind the plate, and you’ve got a Yankee team that, in a division suddenly devoid of walkovers, are in danger of becoming irrelevant.
The Boston Red Sox can tell the Yankees all about hitting rock bottom, as we all know from their early checkout last summer. Most of the distracters are gone, including manager Bobby Valentine and the busload of disgruntled star players given a one-way ticket out of town; in their place is former Toronto pilot John Farrell (traded from the Blue Jays) and a horde of upper-middle class veteran talents (Shane Victorino, Stephen Drew, Mike Napoli, Ryan Dempster, Joel Hanrahan), brought in to get the team refocused on baseball. It’s odd saying this about the Red Sox, but they could be the surprise team of baseball this year, as not much is expected from a unit that finished 69-93 last year. But remember, this team was 53-51 at last season’s trading deadline before alternately imploding and giving up over the final two months. In a competitive division entirely up for grabs, the Red Sox have the deliverables to make people remember who they once were.
If a picture of Rodney Dangerfield was ever considered chalkboard motivation, then the Baltimore Orioles might need to pin one up. After winning 93 games last season and taking the Yankees to the limit in the ALDS, the Orioles seem to have entered the 2013 season with no respect. Vegas certainly isn’t giving the O’s any respect, pinning them at 76 victories on the sportsbook board. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that they were nearly outscored for the entire year, or that the rest of the division has strengthened, or maybe everyone thinks 2012 was all just a dream. One thing is for sure: The Orioles did nothing to improve the roster, perhaps looking inward for continued development from first baseman Chris Davis, catcher Matt Wieters and third baseman Manny Machado, still just 20 years of age. But the rotation is the East’s weakest, the bullpen can’t be any better than it was last year, and the team’s failure to land a critical free agent will hurt their chances. It’s sort of like Rodney’s opening line in reverse: “I was alright last year but now I’m in rough shape, I tell yak.”
That leaves us with the Tampa Bay Rays, who I think will emerge from this quintet of contenders on top of the whole heap. In a division that’s loaded with volatility (both good and bad), the Rays have remained a powerful constant that will serve them well in the coming AL East wars. Even without workhorse James Shields (traded to Kansas City), the pitching staff remains the league’s best, led by returning Cy Young winner David Price, an emerging Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore and an utterly lights-out bullpen. That the Rays didn’t make the playoffs could be attributed to an offense that missed star third baseman Evan Longoria for the bulk of the season and lugged deadwood in Carlos Pena and B.J. Upton, both of whom are now gone along with a combined .223 average. Waiting in the wings (but probably not for long) is exciting monster prospect Wil Myers, who came Tampa Bay’s way in the Shields deal, and several other young players who hope to improve on a major league-worst .200 average after the sixth inning last year. As long as top-line manager Joe Maddon is running things on the field and owner Stu Sternberg doesn’t panic over the team’s puzzling attendance figures, expect October anew at Tropicana Field.
Eric's Predicted Finish:
Tampa Bay 93-69
New York 84-78
Oozing talent and by far the most competitive division in baseball, things could get ugly before it’s over in the AL East this season. As the Bronx Bombers get grayer and the rest of the division gets hungrier and bolder, the Big Apple’s script so popular for decades could flip in 2013. I have the Blue Jays taking the division crown. You can’t buy team chemistry, but don’t tell the front office in Toronto that. They don’t care. By assembling an impressive lineup after raiding the Marlins and adding some key components to a team that was already pretty good, the Jays are poised to rock the Rogers Centre. With Dickey knuckleballing his way to 18-20 wins and with Johnson adding 15 to the mix (if he’s healthy), the Jays will get a lot of shutout innings, especially when they can also count on guys like Romero, Buehrle and Brandon Marrow. With an offense led by Bautista and two new additions—Reyes and Cabrera—the only way Toronto won’t get in the playoffs is by experiencing a complete collapse. Maybe next season, the Blue Jays will be this year’s Marlins—unloading almost an entire team as their season goes awry. But, I don’t think so; I’m picking the Jays because this chemistry kit is going to blow up the rest of the AL East.
Eric likes Tampa Bay a little more than I do. I’m selecting the Rays because they feature a healthy combination of everything that wins games—speed, defense, pitching and just enough power to get them there. With David, Moore and a plethora of healthy, live arms, the Rays will be in most of their games. In the bullpen, Tampa Bay has Fernando Rodney, the most underrated closer in the AL (0.60 ERA last season) and the up-and-coming Jake McGee, who could eventually become the best setup man in all of baseball. If Longoria can stay healthy and players like Ben Zobrist, Matt Joyce and Yunel Escobar can step up and contribute on a daily basis, the Rays will swim to a wild card spot.
The Orioles will finish in third place, but they won’t be satisfied until they make it into the postseason again, where I believe they’ll be in 2014. With a bunch of young talent ready to blossom, Baltimore will battle most of the season and might even get out a good start, but the long season will bite them on their back feathers as they wilt in the Eastern humidity on the road. Outfielder Adam Jones, Wieters and developing stars like Machado are going to be genuine All-Stars year after year (Jones is already there), but right now they’re aging in oak casks and not quite table-ready. I can’t believe Eric hasn’t mentioned any of their promising pitchers, led my Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen, just to name a few. Don’t overlook the Orioles, but start thinking next year right now for this up-and-coming squad.
The Yankees are no longer the hyper-consistent dominators of the division. When Jeter got injured last season at the most inopportune time imaginable and Rivera recently announced that 2013 would be his last year, it echoed through the Bronx and broke a few eardrums. The Bombers have significant holes and it all starts with their pitching. Sabathia is no longer a lights-out starter and their numbers 3-5 are not stopping the presses. Adding Youkilis won’t be enough to get this team into the playoffs. Most of their stars (Rodriguez, Texeira and Suzuki) are on the downside of great careers, so they will need to restock or rebuild after this season. But for now, they’re going to play barely above .500 while most everyone else gets fatter and happier.
The Red Sox were Valentine-less on Valentine’s Day and I don’t think they were crying about it. Former manager Bobby Valentine lost this team during spring training last year and never won them back. Say goodbye to a lot of old beat-up luggage (especially Carl Crawford, who hated the Boston press and vice versa) and then look at all of the recycled talent they accumulated during the offseason (Victorino, Napoli, Drew, Dempster and Hanrahan) and it’s kind of sad. Light in almost every single category, the Red Sox will have nightmares about Bill Buckner and Bob Gibson, Ghosts of their Not-So-Distant Past, because this will be a long 2013 at Fenway and the reporters will soon be foaming like rabid mutts and looking for more heads to roll over the Green Monster.
Ed's Predicted Finish:
Tampa Bay 91-71
New York 84-78
The Detroit Tigers are strong and roaring mad after getting spanked by the San Francisco Giants in the World Series last year. The team from the City by a Less-Polluted Bay made stopper Justin Verlander look hittable (just ask the Kung Fu Panda) and their bullpen looked tired after a long season, but the Tigers are still the class of the AL Central. With Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, Austin Jackson and Andy Dirks hitting taters and taking names and a pitching staff that includes Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez and Rick Porcello, the Tigers will dominate this division from start to finish. The Tigers look ferocious on paper, so watch out AL!
The Kansas City Royals are tired of being picked as the surprise team every year, but I look at this lineup and I see nothing but roses, promise and unlimited po-tential! They have balance, defense, a modicum of power and their pitching is strong from James Shields, Ervin Santana (both added), Bruce Chen and Luke Hochevar. With an offense consisting of Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar and Salvador Perez, this team could one day be compared to the Royal’s glory days, or am I dreaming? Can the K.C. Royals finally do it this year? I believe they’ll capture one of the AL Wild Card spots and once you get into the postseason, who knows?
The Cleveland Indians look promising at times, but then reality seeps in like a bad joke re-visited since the 1940s. Does the Tribe have enough pitching? No. After Justin Masterson, there are multiple question marks named Ubaldo Jimenez, Daisuke Matsuzaka (since throwing out his arm during the 2009 World Baseball Classic) and Brett Myers. And then if you look at their lineup, you’ve got a lot of recycled once-wasses, coulda-beens and almost-greats. Nick Swisher, Michael Brantley and Michael Bourn are “good” players, but “good” can’t compete in the AL Central this year. The Injuns are a combination of limited power, with iffy pitching and inexperience in all the wrong places.
The Chicago White Sox were led by Manager Robin Ventura in 2012 and with a decent performance the critics stopped snipping at him about his lack of previous coaching experience. With a lineup containing names like Paul Konerko, Alex Rios, Gordon Beckham and Alexei Ramirez, the Chisox won’t have too much trouble scoring runs. But with a very questionable pitching staff led by Jake Peavy (too worn out?); Gavin Floyd (can he re-find his mediocrity?) and a Closer named Addison Reed (who?), the White Sox might get roughed up all season long, especially during those sticky summer humid days in Chi-Town. Pitching and defense is what it’s all about and the White Sox lack both.
Finally, writing about Minnesota Twins’ chances in 2013 is like eating dirt after a fine dinner of caviar and filet mignon. The Twins’ ownership must not realize that their pitching staff is probably the worst in baseball. The M&M Boys look great on the covers of magazines, but former MVP Justin Morneau is still feeling the effects of a serious concussion and his other half Joe Mauer does a great TV commercial, but is he a leader and he is getting tired of playing on this team?
Ed's Predicted Finish:
Kansas City 94-68
Finally, something to argue about with Ed. Well, a little bit, anyway. First off, I have no bone to pick with Ed on the Tigers. This is one of baseball’s best-balanced squads, beefed up even more with the addition of Torii Hunter (yes, he’s 37, but he had a eluvia renaissance last year in Anaheim) and, more importantly, the return of pure hitting talent Victor Martinez, AWOL for all of 2012 with an ACL tear. This simply makes the one-two punch of Cabrera and Fielder all the more frightening to opponents. On the mound, Verlander and Scherzer are hoping for year-round support from Fister and Sanchez; the bullpen brings the Tigers’ lone potential question mark with the closer role, where big rookie Venezuelan Bruce Rondon brings a 100-MPH fastball to the ninth to replace the departed Jose Valverde; of course, if that doesn’t work out, they can always bring back Valverde, who at upload time was still a free agent. Throw it all together and you got a team that no one in the AL Central will be able to touch.
The one team that has the tantalizing promise to make contact with Detroit is the Royals, who quietly went now or never this offseason while the Blue Jays stole the headlines—poaching away two solid (and much-needed) arms in workhorse Shields and Wade Davis from Florida’s other team, the Rays, in exchange for highly prized prospect Wil Myers. But the loss of a future with Myers hardly stings, as the Royals are already blessed with enough young hitting talent that appears ready to burst to the big time as Ed noted. But again, it’s that uptick in pitching that will finally send the Royals over the .500 mark—but probably not over the top as Ed’s projected record suggests, as inexperience will ultimately weigh down the team’s October prospects.
Though I agree with Ed that the White Sox are due for a regression, I’ll differ with him as to why. For me, the rotation is the team’s strength with ace Chris Sale (young and locked in for five years and $32 million) and Peavy, who may not be as fragile as Ed thinks; the bullpen is also a work in progress with no proven closer (Reed didn’t prove anything with a 4.75 ERA last year, despite 32 saves) but plenty of promising young arms that could provide a pleasantly surprising solution. For me the White Sox’ hitting is the bigger issue; it’s lost two clubhouse leaders in catcher A.J. Pierzynski and third baseman Kevin Youkilis (who did well in his brief time at Chicago) and is saddled by a slugger (Dunn, who hit .204 last year) annually struggling to clear the Mendoza Line and three young regulars (Ramirez, outfielder Dayan Viciedo and second baseman Gordon Beckham) who aren’t hitting much better with even less impressive on-base figures. The sum total of the Pale Hose’s chances lies in the negative.
Gee, has that new ballpark in Minneapolis brought success to the Twins or what? Empty seats will be more common than wins at Off-Target Field this year as the Twins continue to struggle with putting together that kind of sound, overachieving roster that made them a constant success back in the 2000s. The starting lineup is an underwhelming wasteland of name recognition (or lack thereof) save for Mauer, outfielder Josh Willingham (35 homers and 110 RBIs in 2012) and what’s left of Morneau; the bullpen is a mess; and the rotation is made up of arms like Vince Worley, Scott Diamond and Mike Pelfrey, all 3’s, 4’s and 5’s amid a set that lacks a true ace. Maybe manager Ron Gardenhire can turn water into wine as he’s done before—but if he doesn’t, it may be his last dance in the Twin Cities.
Maybe Ed’s sold on the Indians outlook to hit the .500 mark, but I’m a bit more skeptical. Yes, the Tribe brought in eager pegs and legs in Swisher, Bourn, first baseman Mark Reynolds and outfielder Drew Stubbs, but all that guarantees is that Cleveland will lead the AL in strikeouts. Terry Francona has also arrived after taking a year off to recover from the Boston Flee Party, so we’ll see how good a manager he is without endless Red Sox bucks. His biggest challenge will be to boost the Indians’ fortunes with a pitching staff that’s one of baseball’s worst; Masterson and Jimenez are coming off lousy campaigns, Myers has been thrown in a year after relieving, potential back-end starters Scott Kazmir and Carlos Carrasco haven’t thrown a major league pitch in two years and 22-year-old Trevor Bauer, a potential diamond in the rough, could shine if he doesn’t sour his teammates as he did in Arizona last year. Give typically tight-fisted Cleveland owner Larry Dolan credit for finally taking some chances, but his choices should have been wiser.
Eric's Predicted Finish:
Kansas City 85-77
Every so often, a team comes along with a lineup so star-studded and potent, the average fan has to sit up and shout, “This I’ve gotta see.” Such is the case with the 2013 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Even folks in the Angels’ out-of-market segments of the country (sorry, Vegas) will want their mlb.tv and plug straight into a Murderer’s Row that starts with 21-year-old almost-MVP Mike Trout and hits its heart with Albert Pujols and, because one pricey superstar isn’t enough for owner Arte Moreno, Josh Hamilton. What can opponents possibly do to stop this awesome collection of thunder? Stick a leg out and trip them up, or spike the pregame buffet with nightmare bacteria—anything to force the Angels to reach into a lack of depth (led by the majors’ most expensive benchwarmer in Vernon Wells) that could hound the team should it get too sickly; that certainly goes for a pitching staff that includes oft-injured newcomers Tommy Hanson and closer Ryan Madson. But overall, the Angels will likely have enough punch to deliver a knockout blow to the rest of the West—and perhaps the entire AL in general.
The Oakland A’s are every bit the opposite of the Angels—no-namers and overachievers, strangers even in their own homeland as the Giants grab all the glory and ticket sales across the bay. But the A’s quietly became baseball’s best-kept secret last year, a low-budget David beating down the Goliaths of the West and nearly upending eventual AL titlist Detroit in the ALDS. Can Moneyball 2.0 continue to flower? They’ll be good enough to contend thanks to a typically young (if typically fragile) rotation led by Brett Anderson and Jarrod Parker and an outstanding bullpen led by vocal Aussie Grant Balfour. Beyond second-year Cuban star Yoenis Cespedes and slugger Josh Reddick, the A’s everyday posse, beautifully platooned by manager Bob Melvin, is enough to lull not just fans but opponents to sleep—and maybe that’s the secret to their stealthy success. But now that the cat’s out of the bag, Billy Beane’s batch won’t sneak up on anyone—yet they won’t lie down and die, either.
Nolan Ryan usually loves to publicly guess how good his Texas Rangers will be, in part because he’s often accurate. One reason we haven’t heard him make a prediction this spring is because he may be afraid to speak the awful truth of where the Rangers—and perhaps even himself (he’s rumored to be headed out the door)—are headed for 2013. That Josh Hamilton is gone isn’t the Rangers’ only problem; Nelson Cruz could be suspended for his ties to Biogenesis, and their pitching staff has been thinned by departure and there’s nagging discussion as to whether Neftali Feliz (recovering from reconstructive surgery) and Alexi Ogando should start or relieve. Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt represent the next wave of saviors emerging from the farm, but they’re infielders who can only make an immediate dent by taking a crash course on outfield play, a definite area of weakness in Arlington. Sure, newly arrived vets Lance Berkman and A.J. Pierzynski bring potential leadership to the clubhouse, but can they avoid wilting in the Texas summer heat in their late 30s? Ryan the Soothsayer probably holds the answers to this and other questions, but he ain’t talking.
With the Ichiro era officially purged, the Seattle Mariners drag into the new season loaded with has-beens, wannabes and very little in between save for ace Felix Hernandez, destined to become a Mariner lifer after a gracious wintertime contract extension. The once mighty consists of sluggers Jason Bay and Kendrys Morales, an outfield reunion of Franklin Gutierrez and once-and-current Mariners Raul Ibanez and Mike Morse, and pitchers Joe Saunders and Jon Garland. The up-and-coming include catcher Jesus Montero, infielders Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley and Kyle Seager and outfielder Michael Saunders—all of who aim deep and miss often. This messy mix gives the Mariners the look of a team desperate to hit for the brought-in Safeco Field walls to see what sticks; unless there’s a stunning amount of evolution by the wannabes, nothing much will. The silver lining for the M’s? They’ll get 19 more games against Houston then they got last year.
Like the Angels, the Houston Astros will be must-see-mlb.tv this year—but for totally different reasons. The Astros will be an underdog every time they take the field, fielding only two players making over a million bucks: Reliever Jose Veras and slugger Carlos Pena, owner of a .206 average over the last three seasons. The rest of the roster mostly consists of first-timers and cast-offs working from minor league contracts. There is actual talent among the young’uns, including returning All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve, outfielder J.D. Martinez and Chris Carter, who banged 16 homers in limited time for Oakland last year. Sometimes, a team with nothing to lose and for whom everyone expects to do nothing but lose can gel more quickly and surprise with an us-against-the-world attitude. But it doesn’t matter whether they’re in the AL West, NL Central or MLS; the Astros will begin their season—and likely end it—in their Junior Circuit debut against Texas on March 31. Everything else will be just an everyday challenge of mere survival.
Eric's Predicted Finish:
Los Angeles of Anaheim 94-68
I keep picking L.A. of Anaheim because on paper they look unbeatable. And then they falter one way or another and make me look like a chimpanzee in the back of a limo. Are they going to be Paper Angels again and fold badly? I’m betting against it. Eric and I agree that the Halos are hellishly good, especially after adding Hamilton to subsidize an amazing offensive attack. Any GM should profusely salivate looking at this roster, led by super-rookie and now incredible sophomore Trout, the second coming of Mickey Mantle without the crazy late night partying. I believe everything will fall into place for this team, leading them to their first world championship since 2002. We all know that the big name stars will perform at a high level (sans injury, of course) but the key will be how the second-stringers will fare. Wells, Peter Bourjos and Mark Trumbo are exceptional role players and they will be the reason when the Angels take the whole thing. With a deep pitching staff led by stopper Jered Weaver and followed by C.J. Wilson, Hanson and Jason Vargas with Ernesto Frieri in the pen closing down games with small leads, L.A. of Anaheim will have the Rally Monkey back jumping around like Lindsay Lohan after a few Red Bulls. When the Angels win and yell, “Let’s go to Disneyland!” they won’t have to travel every far.
The Rangers, I believe, had a shot at their 15 minutes of fame over the last few seasons. But, they fumbled the opportunity and now it’s likely gone. Sure, they have a nice variety of top talent, but they lost their no. 1 hitter (Hamilton) and the excitement in Arlington is gone, at least momentarily. Can new additions like Pierzynski and Berkman bring the magical feeling back? I doubt it. Will third baseman Adrian Beltre and outfielder David Murphy contribute all season long and who is center fielder Leonys Martin anyway? The Rangers have a decent pitching staff, led by Yu Darvish (who will get better); Matt Harrison (who looked increasingly hittable as the season progressed); and Derek Holland (this will be the season where he is truly tested). With aging closer Joe Nathan in the bullpen, this team will give up enough close leads to finish second to the Angels in the West, and a few games out of the wild card chase.
The A’s shocked the world last season, but this year there aren’t going to be any rabbits jumping out of top hats. With a solid pitching staff led by Anderson and Parker and a deep pen, the A’s will stay in a lot of games. But, the offense will stumble and the team will wear out after the All-Star break to fade into the night in August and September. Sure, Cespedes is a legitimate star and manager Melvin is a brilliant strategist, but the team is not deep, so one injury will decimate the A’s. I have them finishing eight games above .500, which I think is exceedingly generous, because I believe in Moneyball—to a degree.
The Mariners didn’t improve themselves enough during the offseason to worry too many people. What they need is a few more live arms, a real power hitter and about 300 espresso shots from the nearest Starbucks. The Mariners spent a ton of money to retain the King Hernandez, but who is going to weigh in after he gets his 18-20 wins? They added Bay (he’s okay); Morales (the Angels ditched him, but he can play); and Ibanez (a great postseason player), but in the end they don’t have enough offense to compete in this division.
The Astros moved leagues and no one cares. This team is weak from top to bottom and the only player even writing about is Altuve. If the Astros get off to a decent start, watch them trade Altuve to a contending team. I could tout all of this team’s future prospects, but all I know is that Houston will be the worst team in this great game in 2013. If I miss every other pick, I know this one will undoubtedly come through.
Ed's Predicted Finish:
Los Angeles of Anaheim 98-64
We’re jumping on the Nationals’ crowded bandwagon and picking them to win their first-ever pennant; let’s just hope the weight of the vehicle doesn’t stress the axle to the point of breakdown. While Ed’s got the Angels to represent the AL at the World Series (again), I see the Tigers as a team on a mission after getting embarrassed by the Giants last year and playing all the way through October as a team loaded and badly determined to even the score. —Eric
NL: Washington Nationals (East), St. Louis Cardinals (Central), San Francisco Giants (West), Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers (wild cards)
NL Champion: Washington Nationals
AL: Tampa Bay Rays (East), Detroit Tigers (Central), Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (West), Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox (wild cards)
AL Champion: Detroit Tigers
World Series Champion: Detroit Tigers
NL MVP: Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles
AL MVP: Mike Trout, Los Angeles of Anaheim
NL Cy Young Award: Matt Cain, San Francisco
AL Cy Young Award: Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
NL Rookie of the Year: Adam Eaton, Arizona
AL Rookie of the Year: Aaron Hicks, Minnesota
NL Comeback Player of the Year: Ryan Howard, Philadelphia
AL Comeback Player of the Year: Eric Hosmer, Kansas City
NL: Washington Nationals (East), Cincinnati Reds (Central), San Francisco Giants (West), Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers (wild cards)
NL Champion: Washington Nationals
AL: Toronto Blue Jays (East), Detroit Tigers (Central), Los Angeles of Anaheim Angels (West), Tampa Bay Rays and Kansas City Royals (wild cards)
AL Champion: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
World Series Champion: Washington Nationals
NL MVP: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
AL MVP: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
NL Cy Young Award: Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals
AL Cy Young Award: Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
NL Rookie of the Year: Julio Teheran, Atlanta Braves
AL Rookie of the Year: Wil Myers, Tampa Bay Rays
NL Comeback Player of the Year: Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants
AL Comeback Player of the Year: Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers
The 2012 Midseason Report Card Our annual look at the best, worst and most unexpected during the first half of the 2012 major league season.
Fun Facts About Your All-Time Hit Leaders So you think you're smarter than the next trivia buff when it comes to major leaguers at the top of numerous hit lists? Here's 22 questions for you to prove it.
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