Mr. Optimism Defends the Tweeners
If you missed our most recent podcast, which officially kicks off-season number two for Three Up, Three Down, then you’re tacky and I hate you. Also, you can find the aforementioned work of art right HERE.
The majority of this episode was dominated by the five guys at 3u3d taking their hypothetical bets on whether to go over or under the Vegas betting lines for team wins this season. After the first two divisions (the AL West and NL West, respectively), had been discussed, it was noted that I had picked nine of the first 10 teams to outperform the betting line.
When all was said and done, 20 of my 30 decisions went in the positive direction. Apparently, nobody is going to lose any games this year.
But in all seriousness, there are a lot of very good teams this year. I believe 11 of the 15 National League teams could finish above .500 in 2013, and there is an argument to be made for 13 of the 15 in the junior circuit, too. Of course, that won’t happen. This won’t stop me from invoking another one of the podcast’s favorite pastimes, “DEFEND YOSELF,” and explaining why I picked certain “tweener” teams to go over the line this year.
For context, there will be only a handful of teams selected here. I think it’s a safe bet that the Houston Astros, Minnesota Twins, Miami Marlins, Chicago Cubs, and Colorado Rockies will go under. Similarly, it’s safe to say that both Los Angeles teams, the San Francisco Giants, Cincinnati Reds, Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves, and Detroit Tigers will go over.
That leaves me with 18 teams to choose from, 13 of which I said would go “over” the total set by Vegas for wins. I’ve chosen the five most controversial picks of mine and explained further, below. It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to pry that golden jock off last year’s winner, KP, and I’ve got goggles and gloves at the ready.
Feel free to rip me a new one in the comment thread, and VOTE in the poll at the bottom! For a full list of everyone’s picks, go HERE.
1. Arizona Diamondbacks (Line: 82.5 wins)
Enough with this two-horse division race crap. The more we ignore the venomous snakes lying in the grass, the more their bite will hurt. Yes, they got rid of Justin Upton this winter which significantly depleted their power. Except that they still have Jason Kubel, added Cody Ross, and can expect even more production from Paul Goldschmidt and Miguel Montero. We know the bullpen is solid, and bringing in Brandon McCarthy makes the rotation sneakily, ridiculously dangerous.
When you have three candidates fighting for the fifth spot in the rotation who are all number three’s on most staffs, complaints will be at a minimum. Adding McCarthy and Martin Prado were two of the more underrated moves of the off-season, and when all is said and done, the D’Backs will not only destroy that 82.5-win line, but they might settle closer to 90.
2. Kansas City Royals (Line: 78.5 wins)
My man-crush team tried really hard to put together a pitching staff this winter that would make my Wild Card prediction not look so foolish in 2013. I was burned last year by the Royals, but I’m sticking with my guns this season. James Shields is the ace they’ve been missing since whatever they had in Zack Greinke back in 2007, and they’ve added so many arms that last year’s number-one starter might not even make the Opening Day rotation. Frankly, I’m insulted by the below-.500 projection from Vegas, and I pledge never to give them my business again (straight up LIE).
I don’t need to tell you about the offense, but I will. Especially Billy Butler. Because I think I’m in love with the man. Anyone who can hit .300 consistently on a diet of what I presume is strictly tobacco, PBR, and steak deserves a couple MVP votes every year. And Butler’s young, talented supporting staff is chock full of breakout candidates like catcher Salvador Perez. This applies to almost every batter in the lineup. Almost. Because Jeff Francoeur still starts for KC. There’s no fixing that.
3. St. Louis Cardinals (Line: 86 wins)
Contrary to popular belief, I did not pick the Cardinals to win over the allotted 86 games because my girlfriend loves the team more than Barney Stinson loves suits. I can think for myself, guys! I realize Chris Carpenter is out for the season, and likely for his career, that Jason Motte, David Freese, and Rafael Furcal are injured, and that Grandfather Beltran could kick the bucket any day now. But I’ll take a banged-up Cardinals team to contend over many teams, and here’s why.
Not only is St. Louis likely the most well-coached and well-run organization in the National League, but the depth of their farm system is preposterous. If Beltran does go down, MLB’s number three overall prospect Oscar Taveras is there to pick up the slack. If the starting rotation struggles, Joe Kelly, Trevor Rosenthal and Michael Wacha ride to the rescue. Matt Adams can take over if Allen Craig has to cover second base duties in the event of a true disaster. A dynamic offense, a great bullpen, and good starting pitching makes me a believer.
4. Seattle Mariners (Line: 77 wins)
I’m higher on the Mariners than most of their own fans. Right, right!? No? Marijuana-is-legal-in-the-state-of-Washington joke? Fine, whatever. That brilliant line still holds true, because I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see the M’s top .500. By a couple of games, even. For the first time in years, they have an offense capable of supporting the always-strong rotation, and I can’t understate the value that two bats like Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales bring to the heart of the order.
Let’s say, in a worst-case scenario, that some of the young talent (Kyle Seager, Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero, for example) don’t pan out. Well, they can still count on the return of Franklin Gutierrez, and the impending arrivals of Nick Franklin at shortstop and Mike Zunino behind the dish. In short, Seattle is a time bomb waiting to explode all over the AL West, much like the A’s did in 2012. The farm system is overflowing with Major League-ready talent, and ace Felix Hernandez pretty much guarantees them a win every fifth day. Be optimistic, Seattle. Your time is coming.
5. Philadelphia Phillies (Line: 84.5 wins)
Really? The Phillies’ clubhouse may double as a nursing home, but those are the most wise, shuffleboard-dominant, sexually active old men at (Senior) Citizen’s Bank Park. Just in case that comparison went over your head, I’m stating that the Phillies are old and injury-prone in general, but still have a talent-laden roster. Look at who the Phillies are returning from injury in 2013, and tell me they aren’t going to improve by at least four games on their 81-win campaign a year ago.
The heart of the order is back in Chase Utley and Ryan Howard–both of whom can still crush–and Roy Halladay will rejoin Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee in the most fearsome rotation this side of Washington D.C. I know what you’re thinking: But Jeremy…Halladay is struggling SO much this spring! Yeah, well Lonnie Chisenhall is also hitting over .400 this spring. Whoop-de-doo. The Doc is back in town, and he’s helping bring Philly closer to 90 wins than that lowly 84.5.
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)
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