Baseball season is close to beginning, and as spring training winds down, writers and baseball fans around the globe are making their predictions for the upcoming season. Predicting a baseball season is not easy by any means, but there are some telltale sings of which teams are likely to exceed expectations and which teams will fall short of them.
To accurately predict a baseball season, much like I did in 2010 when I prophesied the SF Giants winning the World Series before the season even began, you must account for players' improvement and decline, potential injuries and roster changes, and the competition and philosophy of the teams and their rivals.
Clearly, this is no easy task. However, after much analysis, here are the top five teams who are most likely to underperform in the 2012 season.
For the past few years the Phillies have been the consistent favorite among writers and baseball insiders to win the NL East and, usually, even the NL championship.
This year, however, don’t believe the hype.
The Phillies are another year older, their players are in decline and dealing with injuries, and the competition in the NL East has skyrocketed.
Every competitive team, especially ones like the Phillies who have been highly competitive for the length they have been, face a decline and dip into the lower parts of their division.
Simply put, a team cannot continue to win consistently, even with spending in free agency.
The law of averages tells us a dip is inevitable, and 2012 seems to be the beginning of this for the Phillies. In my predictions article on www.baseballchatter.net, I have the Phillies finishing third in the NL East and, thus, missing the playoffs.
And don't be surprised if they continue to fall as the Washington Nationals get better and better.
Sure, the Cardinals beat the odds and all the predictions and won the World Series last year, but don’t bet on a repeat.
In fact, making the playoffs this year isn't going to be easy, let alone winning in the playoffs. In addition to the loss of Pujols, the Cardinals have a lot of question marks that will ultimately hinder the team's success in 2012.
The most prominent issues facing the Cardinals are the pitching and the hitting. Pitching-wise, the Cardinals have no idea what Wainwright will be able to do after he missed all of 2011 because of Tommy John surgery. In addition to not knowing Wainwright’s status, Lohse is likely to be another issue for the Cardinals since he is very likely to end up on the DL.
The Cardinals hitting, while having a solid corps of Holliday, Berkman and Beltran, leaves a lot to be desired and worried about. I wouldn't count on Freese repeating his fantastic success in the 2011 postseason, so runs could be hard to come by for St. Louis.
Don’t expect to see the Rockies making a run at the playoffs this year; although they have some good pieces, the team simply isn't ready to compete at the playoff level quite yet. There are still some major holes the Rockies will need to address before they are ready to compete.
The question for Colorado will be if it can develop the team accordingly and compete, or will the Rockies miss their opportunity and stay stuck in the middle of their division?
The Red Sox still have some great pieces to form a contender around, especially their 1-2 starting pitchers, but the rest of the team is either too old, too injury-prone or in too much of a skill deterioration.
David Ortiz is another year older, Carl Crawford still cannot get healthy (and, even if he does, who knows what type of production the Red Sox will get from him) and the bullpen may be good, but it also could use some experience.
Unfortunately, the Red Sox are in a division with the Yankees, and the AL West is home to two big contenders bound for the playoffs. With the addition of the new wild-card spot this season, the Red Sox might be able to sneak into the playoffs but, as I wrote on www.baseballchatter.net, the Kansas City Royals might be the dark-horse that can make a run at the second wild card.
The Brewers had a good year last year, but with all that has happened to them this offseason and early spring, don't look for them to repeat their success from 2011 to 2012.
Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Corey Hart are just a few names who are sources for problems in Milwaukee.
Braun will not only be a huge distraction but he will also not produce at the same level as he did in 2011. Along with the departure of Fielder and Hart being hurt, the offense is already suffering a lot, so the inevitable drop in production from Braun will only add fuel to the fire.
The Brewers also have a fantastic 1-2 starting rotation with Gallardo and Greinke (Greinke being my pick for the NL Cy Young). After that, however, the rotation is decent and shaky, at best. Although the Cardinals won't be in it this year, the Reds are too strong for the Brewers to win the Central this year, and the NL East is too strong for the Brewers to poach a wild-card spot from a team over there.