Posted by Kevin Durso
The Phillies won a franchise-record 102 games and their fifth straight NL East title in 2011. (Philliedelphia/Kevin Durso)
Another baseball season is just days away. It's the best time of the year in my opinion, because for once we can take all the offseason talk and just let the story of the season unfold. That being said, there are still a few days left to keep that talk going. With that, here are my predictions for the 2012 MLB season.
AL East winner – New York Yankees
AL Central winner – Detroit Tigers
AL West winner – Texas Rangers
AL Wild Card Teams (2) – Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels
AL MVP – Prince Fielder (DET)
AL Cy Young – Jon Lester (BOS)
AL Rookie of the Year – Matt Moore (TB)
AL Manager of the Year – Bobby Valentine (BOS)
The AL is mainly a six-team race for five playoffs spots. Not really all that dramatic, but somebody with plenty of talent will be left out. Before the playoff expansion was in the picture, two of those good teams had to be left out of the picture. With only one missing the playoffs, I’m picking against the Rays, who can’t find a way to repeat their comeback from a year ago. It was just too hard to see the Red Sox missing the playoffs once again and pick against the team that had two of the biggest pickups of the offseason.
The Tigers will roll to a Central division title, mainly with the help of Prince Fielder, who will win MVP in my mind. The Red Sox will overcome last year’s shocking turn of events at the end of the season with a Cy Young worthy year from Jon Lester, and behind new skipper Bobby Valentine. The Rays may not make the Postseason, but with Matt Moore still being considered a rookie, I see him impressing many this season.
NL East winner – Philadelphia Phillies
NL Central winner – Cincinnati Reds
NL West winner – San Francisco Giants
NL Wild Card Teams (2) – Atlanta Braves, Milwaukee Brewers
NL MVP – Jay Bruce (CIN)
NL Cy Young – Roy Halladay (PHI)
NL Rookie of the Year – Trevor Bauer (ARI)
NL Manager of the Year – Dusty Baker (CIN)
The NL East is incredibly competitive, but with them beating up on each other, I still see only two teams making the Postseason from that division. Injuries or not, the Phillies pitching is too good not to allow them to be successful. Honestly, so is the offense. With everything that happened last season, the Phillies still won 102 games. It’s all about finding away. I think way too many of us reflect on the short Postseason run the Phillies made to realize that the 162 games before that weren’t too bad. Meanwhile, the Brewers will suffer without Fielder and Braun carrying a shadow of speculation over him may hurt his performance. The Giants also return to the top of the West with Buster Posey back and healthy. Hard to pick against the Braves for a wildcard spot being the second-best team in the NL East. The other pick goes to the Brewers, who will still compete, but won’t take the Central title.
The MVP pick then must come from one of these returning teams. I’d say it’s Posey, but the numbers won’t back it up. I’m going with Jay Bruce, who had an excellent season last year, but suffered as part of a mediocre Reds team. In making the playoffs, Bruce will get seen in a different light, and his manager will get accolades for leading them back to the Postseason. Roy Halladay is still the class of all pitchers, so after leading the league in wins, he’ll pick up his second Cy Young with the Phillies. This Trevor Bauer kid is supposed to be really good. He’s got incredible talent, and is supposedly a super-genius in the mechanics of pitching. Not sure how that equates on the field, but he’s got the talent, and now that Bryce Harper isn’t going to play in the majors all season, it opens the door for someone else.
World Series matchup – Tigers vs. Phillies
World Series champion and # of games – Tigers in 6
The Tigers are just going to be so good this season. They’ve got the perfect combination of power and contact in their lineup and a loaded pitching staff. The Phillies are simply the best bet I can find in the NL, which honestly says a lot since they are flying very far under the radar to begin with. As long as there are no surprises, like the Cardinals last season, the Phillies will be back in the Fall Classic. That being said, with the NL being the far inferior league, the Tigers will win the World Series in 6.
Total number of Phillies wins - 92
What date does Ryan Howard return to the Phillies lineup (if at all) – July 20
What date does Chase Utley return to the Phillies lineup (if at all) – May 3
Which Phillies ace has most wins and how many – Roy Halladay, 20
To follow up "Good game, let's go eat," what will be Hunter Pence's next catchphrase? – “I want a ring!”
The Phillies will still have to win a decent number of games to be NL East Champions again, injuries or not. In that case, let’s go with a realistic number here. With Howard out until nearly the All-Star Break, in my opinion, forget about 100 wins. If you add in Utley for as long or more, start thinking closer to 90. Just those two players alone could add up to up to 15-20 more wins for the Phillies.
For both of these guys, the return date is in question. I’ve got Howard due back in the days after the All-Star Break. That should be enough to take it slow and let the Achilles’ tendon heal the way he wants while still being somewhat rushed back to help his team. Utley’s was easier to pick. I say he misses a month of the season if he doesn’t miss the whole season. He’s either going to have a timetable on this or will be back at the closest date he can to help the team should they struggle out of the gate. So I’m thinking May at the latest, or not at all.
The other two answers are somewhat self-explanatory. Halladay will be one of the only 20-game winners this season in all of baseball. Meanwhile, I don’t think we’ll ever see any catch phrase like “Let’s Go Eat!” but if anybody can make the “I want a ring!” line stick as a catch phrase, it’s Pence.