2011 was the year I gave up predicting baseball. For the poor souls among you who didn’t watch that season, stop reading and watch this and this. Tom Verducci called the last day of the 2011 MLB season the “most thrilling 129 minutes in baseball history”, but that was before he had the chance to witness the even crazier minutes that would come in Game 6 of the World Series.
I predicted the Rangers to win the World Series over the Cardinals that year, and after watching my prediction come one strike away from coming true three separate times in that wild Game 6 before ultimately unravelling, I decided to never think that baseball could predicted ever again.
But that doesn’t mean a guy can’t try just for fun. So here are my predictions for the 2016 MLB season. I fully expect each and every one of them to be wrong, but it’ll be fun to revisit at the end of the season regardless.
American League Standings
2. Red Sox (WC)
2. Indians (WC)
5. White Sox
Despite all the love the Red Sox are getting from Vegas and most forecasters, and the love I lavished on their bullpen, the Jays are going to win the AL East for the second year in a row. The offence crushes lefty pitching in a historic way, is good enough to win games against the aces in the division (Price and Archer), and is underrated defensively.
In the Central, I like the Indians should snag the second wildcard spot with their insane rotation and their budding young offence, but I can’t defend picking them over the Royals to win the division.
The Astros were the easiest division winner to pick, but the Rangers could easily snag a wildcard spot or even upset Houston for the pennant with a little luck.
National League Standings
2. Mets (WC)
2. Pirates (WC)
The NL has more elite teams than the AL, but doesn’t have the same scrappy parity. The NL East is going to be a tight race between the Mets and the Nats, and despite the Mets deep rotation, I think this is Bryce Harpers year to lead his team on a deep postseason run.
Nobody sane would bet against the Cubs winning the Central, but the Pirates will give them a run for their money. I see the Cardinals taking a step back this season despite the return of Adam Wainwright, and could envision a world in which the Brewers finish higher than St. Louis (thanks for planting that seed in my mind, Carson Cistulli)
The Atlanta Braves, with their current payroll of $84,821,541, could not afford the list of players that will open the season on the Dodgers disabled list. But hey, that’s why you spend on depth, right? The Giants have a revamped rotation and a laundry list of pesky guys (Matt Duffy, Joe Panik, Brandon Crawford, Angel Pagan, Kelby Tomlinson) who will not make it easy for L.A. to get the top spot.
American League Awards
AL MVP: Mike Trout
AL Cy Young: Chris Sale
AL Rookie of the Year: A.J. Reed
Mike Trout and Chris Sale are the safest picks I could make. I could see Josh Donaldson and Carlos Correa making runs at the MVP if a) the Jays/Astros win their divisions, and b) the Angels turn in another on-fire garbage can of a season. A dark horse I like for the Cy Young is Carlos Carrasco.
A.J. Reed is a shot in the dark that will make me look super smart if it pans out. He can flat out hit, and if he gets called up early enough I’m counting on him getting some counting stats in the heart of the potent Houston lineup.
National League Awards
NL MVP: Bryce Harper
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw
NL Rookie of the Year: Corey Seager
All of these picks are slam-dunks. In my mind, Kershaw was the Cy Young last season (I’m saying that despite the fact that Jake Arrieta single-handedly carried my fantasy team to a championship), and if voter fatigue gets in the way of him getting his due again I’ll be pissed like a fist used as a whisk.
Comeback Player of the Year: Matt Kemp
There are a lot of peripheral factors working in Kemp’s favour after a lackluster debut season with the Padres. He had relatively bad luck on balls in play (.311 BABIP was over 30 points lower than his career average). He posted his highest Hard Hit% ever but saw a dip in his HR/FB rate and his home run total. He cut into his K% by two points. The departure of Justin Upton will take away some offensive opportunities, but I see Kemp bouncing back into the top-20 outfielders.
Biggest Second-Half Collapse (Player): Chris Archer
I’m not denying that Archer is probably the best pitcher in the AL East, and that his slider is one of the best pitches in baseball, but I look at his high workloads over the past two seasons and his fatigue at the end of last season (2.74 vs. 3.89 pre/post All-Star ERA split) and think that the stage is set for a spectacular collapse for Archer after the All-Star break.
Biggest Second-Half Collapse (Team): Red Sox
This one is based on David Price hitting the DL and Boston’s lack of starting pitching getting exposed. Also based on hating the Red Sox, sue me.
The Unlikely MLB Home Run Leader: Randal Grichuk
This one is based on the ridiculous ISO mark he posted in his rookie season.
Comment with your own predictions, and as always, here’s a fun poll just for fun!