The magic crystal baseball says…

Let me look into my crystal baseball for this year’s prediction…

I’m as excited as Smitty to be writing about baseball again, and luckily the off-season was busy enough to write an article here and there. I spent most of the off-season basking in the glow of how accurate I was in predicting things last season. The White Sox and Milwaukee Brewers kept me from perfection in the preseason predictions, but nothing kept me from perfection in the playoffs. Let’s not forget that I had accurately picked the Giants to be in the World Series in May.

As Smitty pointed out in his post yesterday, it’s been an interesting off-season with signings, blow-ups, and something more serious, concussions. All the drama of the off-season will be answered by October, and for some teams will be answered by June.

AL East Division Champions: Boston Red Sox
While the Boston Red Sox seem to be the clear-cut favorites by making the biggest splash this off-season with the signings of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Bobby Jenks let’s not forget about a team on the rise, the Toronto Blue Jays. I’ve forgotten about the Yankees already, as they keep getting older and less talented. Where Boston failed to improve was starting pitching, but it won’t be enough to keep them from winning the division with their All-Star offense. The Yankees have a strong chance of finishing behind the Blue Jays this year, with no true fourth and fifth starters. It never works in Chicago and it certainly will not work in the AL East. We’re shipping up to Boston!

AL Central Division Champions: Chicago White Sox
I’ve never been happier with the White Sox front office. Making all the right moves for the team and releasing dead weight, Bobby Jenks and Scott Linebrink aka Linestink, to improved the bullpen. They signed Adam Dunn and Jesse Crain (ex-Twin and proven set-up man), and resigned Paul Konerko and AJ Pierzynski. It looks like Jake Peavy will be back in the rotation by the end of April, and all should be well with the White Sox. For the Minnesota Twins to repeat they need a lot of things to go well for them, including Justin Morneau to return to form post concussion and for Joe Mauer to hit more than one home run at Target Field. I’m also not convinced that the 70’s porn mustache of Carl Pavano will continue to baffle AL Central hitters. The White Sox this year truly have the makings of a World Series ball club.

AL West Division Champions: Texas Rangers
How you cannot pick the Rangers to win this division is beyond me? Not only do they have young proven arms from last season, they also have a young proven offense from last season. To me this adds up to an AL West laugher. Everyone’s waiting for the Josh Hamilton implosion or the first trip to the DL for Nelson Cruz, not sure you should be counting on that. The Rangers prove what a good front office can do for you, and while I enjoyed the book Moneyball it doesn’t win you championships, it only wins you divisions. Money wins you championships and Oakland does not have it, and the Angels and Mariners are in a state of flux.

AL Wild Card: Toronto Blue Jays
I love the look of this team, they have a stable of young arms that will watch their ERA’s take a dive under four this season and they have more than enough pop to give the Red Sox a run for their money. I don’t think anyone expects Jose Bautista to hit 54 home runs again, but he will be in the 40’s along with 30-plus candidates Adam Lind and Travis Snider.

NL East Division Champions: Philadelphia Phillies
Best regular season rotation ever assembled, however the post season for many of the veteran Philly staff has not been friendly. So, while I think they’ll have no problems winning the division I do not see a World Series in their future. This older veteran staff pitched a lot of innings last year and will be worn down by October. As far as offense goes, well it’s hard to tell if the Braves have a better offense than Philly. I’ll say this, if Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins are not in 2009 form the Phillies will have some problems, but not enough to derail a 95 win season.

NL Central Division Champions: Milwaukee Brewers
I was a year early when I picked the Brewers last season, but this is their year. Zack Greinke will return from his rib injury to lead a staff that has been improved by his addition and Shawn Marcum. Let’s not forget that Prince Fielder is in a contract year, which will lead to numbers that will surpass Albert Pujols this season. Let’s talks about Albert Pujols for a minute, I see an injury in his future. I can’t support the Reds because of the Dusty Baker factor, and with injuries to the Cardinals pitching staff; well they will not be there. As for the Cubs, well I’ll give them credit for not putting Carlos Silva in the rotation but this team is a year away from competing again. I have a feeling next year, I’ll have the Chicago Cubs in bold, be patient, a solid nucleus is forming.

NL West Division Champions: San Francisco Giants
Why are both West divisions so weak? They are always the hardest division to predict since they are all kind of the same team. The Giants fresh off a World Series victory should prevail with the best young rotation in baseball. I’m going to stick with the Giants here despite the recent news of that Brian Wilson may not be available for the opener and Cody Ross’s strained calf muscle. As for Smitty stating the Giants were “lucky,” well they won 92 games last season, I would hardly call that lucky. That’s nine more wins than St. Louis had when they EMBARRASSED THE TIGERS. In 2008, the Phillies won 92 games; no one accused them of barely making the playoffs.

NL Wild Card: Atlanta Braves
A solid rotation and an improved offense make the Braves all but a shoe-in for this spot.

World SeriesChicago White Sox over the Atlanta Braves in 7
Ozzie will square off against his old team one year too late. What a great story it would have been for Ozzie to manage against mentor Bobby Cox. That series probably would have had the most ejections in World Series history, instead the Sox and Braves will battle to the brink with the White Sox clinching game seven at home because the AL will win the All-Star game this year. I feel dumber for having to type that an exhibition game decides home field advantage in the playoffs, but that’s another article for another day.

AL MVPJosh Hamilton, TEX

AL Cy YoungJohn Danks, CHI

NL MVPPrince Fielder, MIL

NL Cy YoungTim Lincecum, SF