If you have been following my tweets over the past 24 hours or so, you know that I have been gloriously entranced listening to the soon-to-be-released debut album by Of Monsters and Men, hands down the best new band I’ve heard in 2012.
During that time I have also participated in my final fantasy baseball draft, tracked the first game of the season between the Mariners and A’s over in Japan, and started working on an MLB predictions article. So since my mind has become a muddled maelstrom of Monsters and Men and MLB, I just decided to combine it all into one bountiful baseball blog post for you all to enjoy.
Here are my 14 predictions for the 2012 baseball season, with each of the 13 songs on Of Monsters and Men’s new album serving as the inspiration for a prediction.
Prediction #1: My Head is an Animal will be the best new album of the spring and summer (and probably the winter too)
Before we get into the song-by-song predictions, I’ll make my boldest prediction of this entire post: listen to every new album that comes out between now and the final out of the World Series; you won’t find one better than Of Monsters and Men’s My Head is an Animal, the first full-length album by the Icelandic sextet.
The album is being released on April 3rd, but you can stream all of the tracks on album here at NPR.org, which I have been doing non-stop since Tyler sent me the link. (Thank you Tyler.) Or, just start scrolling down and listen to the songs via YouTube as you read each prediction.
The album is so good that I will confidently tell you that the $6.99 you can spend right now to pre-order the album on iTunes (it comes out April 3rd) will be the best seven bucks you spend on music all year. Think about it: for about the price of a large, watery beer at the ballpark you can get 13 songs that will provide a splendid spring and summer soundtrack.
(Note: We have no affiliate relationship with iTunes or Of Monsters and Men, if you were wondering. I just love their album and want to tell as many people about it as I can.)
Prediction #2: Ryan Braun won’t be able to shake the suspicion that he had Dirty Paws last year, but he’ll shake off his slow spring and the absence of Prince Fielder to put up great numbers once again.
Braun, of course, won the MVP award in the National league last year. His numbers were video game-like ridiculous: .332/.397/.597; 33 HRs; 111 RBI; 33 SB; an OPS+ of 166. But now he faces doubters.
- Was that his peak production at age 27? (Maybe.)
- How much will Braun’s numbers be affected by Prince Fielder’s departure? (Maybe a little.)
- If Braun was in fact juicing, is he due for a major dropoff? (Unlikely.)
Look, we know that guys often peak in their age 27 seasons. If last season is the best it gets for Ryan Braun, that is one hell of a peak season to have on a resume. But look at how consistently great Braun has been every year he’s been in the Majors. That’s Pujols-like production from Day One.
We may have seen Braun’s peak, and losing Prince Fielder isn’t going to help, but no one should be worried about Braun’s .143/.314/.250 this spring. He will continue to be one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball this year and for many years to come.
Prediction #3: Speaking of Prince Fielder, he and Miguel Cabrera are now the King and Lionheart duo that will lead Detroit to another AL Central crown.
When it comes to this duo, Prince is the prince both nominally and in terms of production. Very few can tough the consistency of the Great Miguel, who is truly the king among all MLB hitters right now as Albert Pujols slides gracefully into the next stage of his career as a still-great but no longer dominant hitter. (Is that so? More on this later…)
I didn’t like the Prince Fielder contract initially, and I still don’t like it now. Nine years for a hefty hitter like Fielder? When has that worked out? But if the Tigers can win a World Series over the next 3-4 years, the contract will be worth it, or so everyone tells me. I suppose I agree.
Could it happen this year? The Tigers will have the chance. With Fielder and Cabrera anchoring the lineup, along with a resurgent Delmon Young behind them, and Justin Verlander still anchoring the pitching staff, no one in the AL Central is competing deep into September with Detroit.
Prediction #4: That Mountain Sound you hear over and over again this year will be Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez forming the best 1-2 hitting punch west of Detroit.
The key for this dynamic duo is just staying healthy. Both were limited somewhat last year – Tulo to 143 games (after playing in only 122 the year before) and CarGo to 127 games (after playing in only 145 the year before).
I’m pretty sure the Rockies would take it if you told them these two talented young stars were both going to play 140 games this year. If they do that, watch out.
Tulowitzki is entering his age 27 season, while Gonzalez is 26. Both have at least three years of Major League experience; hell, both have been in the top 5 in MVP voting before. Everything points to explosive seasons from each.
I say they both deliver top 10 fantasy value at season’s end.
Prediction #5: The Slow and Steady goodness of Paul Konerko will continue to be under-appreciated nationally, but not in Chicago.
Did you know that Paul Konerko is four dingers away from 400? (Watch out Big Hurt, Paulie’s coming for your franchise record…)
Did you know that he is one of a small handful of sluggers in all of baseball to hit .300 for two consecutive years?
Did you know that Paulie, at the ripe old ages of 34 and 35, has put together back-to-back .300-30-100 seasons carrying a lineup in which he has been the only consistent threat?
Paul Konerko has been one of the most under-appreciated sluggers in baseball over the last decade everywhere but on the South Side of Chicago (and sometimes even there). He is a lot like Mark Buehrle in that regard.
Year in, year out, Konerko is a terrifically good player, and he remains so as he ages because his intelligence as a hitter is among the best in the baseball. That, and he can still turn on anyone’s fastball.
With Konerko already off to a rip-roaring start this spring, there is nothing to suggest a drop off is imminent. With the White Sox depending on so many aging veterans to bounce back from disastrous seasons, it’s nice to be able to count on one rock solid veteran in the middle of the lineup. That will continue in 2012.
Prediction #6: Speaking of Mark Buehrle, he and Carlos Zambrano are living out the lyrics to From Finner…and they’ll end up so happy in their new home.
Both Buehrle and Zambrano left the only baseball home they’ve ever known – Chicago – to head down with Ozzie Guillen to see, once and for all, if the baseball experiment will really work in Miami.
The Marlins have a new name (Miami Marlins), new colors, a new logo, new unis, a new stadium, a new first name for their biggest rising star (Giancarlo Stanton), new players (Buehrle and Big Z plus Jose Reyes and Heath Bell), a new manager, and whatever that ridiculous thing is that will be activated when the Marlins hit a home run.
That’s a lot of change, especially for a couple of grizzled veterans who have grown used to the same surroundings, but I think both will end up singing the tune of the chorus of From Finner:
We are from home, but we’re so happy
From from home, all alone, but we’re so happy.
Buehrle will be buoyed by pitching in the National League. He has always done well in Interleague Play, and what veteran AL pitcher wouldn’t enjoy getting to face a counterpart once every time through the order? Buehrle also isn’t a terrible hitter, for a pitcher, so I’m sure he’ll enjoy that challenge. Plus the early-season weather will be better in Miami than it will be in Chicago.
As for Big Z, he is finally out of the Wrigley Field pressure cooker where he was expected to be an ace. He can settle in easily at the back end of the Marlins rotation and go up against pitchers he is more talented and experienced than almost every time out. Plus, he should theoretically get along well with Guillen, since the two are friends.
I expect to see both of these guys have terrific seasons and be more valuable pickups than Reyes, who is always an injury waiting to happen.
Prediction #7: Pittsburgh Pirates fans will have to keep having Little Talks about the days of Bonds and Bonilla, because that will remain the franchise’s last playoff appearance.
All things considered, the Pirates have done an adequate job over the last several years of positioning themselves for improvement. Shoot, last year they were actually atop the NL Central some time after the first week of the season, which was a huge achievement in and of itself.
But there is no need to get carried away, and I doubt many people are: this team is still a ways away from actually competing for a playoff spot.
Little Talks, which is the most well-known of the songs on Of Monsters and Men’s first album, tells the story of a woman suffering from Alzheimer’s, the man who loves her, and the home that houses and protects them both through their struggle. The chorus goes:
‘Cause though the truth may vary
This ship will carry our bodies safe to shore
I believe Pirates fans should keep these lyrics in mind as they navigate the 2012 season.
There will be some ups this year, especially as Andrew McCutchen continues to develop into one of the best all around players in baseball, but there will still be plenty of downs. The pitching and lineup depth just aren’t there yet.
For this franchise, still, the main attraction will be beautiful PNC Park, which our very own Ari Kaufman continues to rate as one of the best, if not the best, ballparks in all of baseball.
So, like last year, while the truth may vary, and the Pirates may even tease with a hot start, no matter what happens PNC Park will carry Pirates fans safely to the shore of 2013, when the team might actually be positioned to compete.
Prediction #8: No matter what happens from April to the middle of September, all that will matter for the Texas Rangers is that they ultimately come up short in the Six Weeks that follow.
The Texas Rangers were one out away from winning their first World Series last year. The year before, they were one dominant pitching performance from the San Francisco Giants away from the same.
In the offseason the Rangers made one of the biggest signings in all of baseball, inking Japanese star Yu Darvish to a deal. They return one of the most potent lineups in all of baseball. Former All Star Joe Nathan was signed to pitch the 9th inning so fireballer Neftali Feliz could take his talents to the starting rotation.
I live down here in Dallas now, but you don’t need me to tell you that anything less than a World Series victory will feel like a disappointment to Rangers fans. (But if you do need me to tell you, I just did.)
The 2012 season isn’t necessarily “Super Bowl or Bust” like some seasons feel for the Cowboys (as silly as that sounds, considering they can’t even win a playoff game…or get to one anymore), and Rangers fans are from a jaded lot after just two great seasons; but in simple comparison to the last two seasons, how could any fan base or franchise feel satisfied with anything but a World Series ring?
It will be fascinating to see them try, and panic will certainly set in early if the Rangers stumble and the Angels storm out of the gate. Regardless though, success will be defined by trumping the Angels in the pennant race and then getting the job done in October. That’s the way baseball in Texas now go.
The Rangers have as good a chance as any contender to be the final team standing in October, but after seeing them fail to get the job done the last few years I find it hard to think they will do it this year. In the weird and wacky world of baseball, the smart money is usually on the field rather than any one particular team.
I’ll go with the smart money – as in the Angels, whose money may not be smart long-term, but who will reap the rewards of Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson, and the return of Kendrys Morales.
And just how smart will that Pujols money be? Jerod has a bold prediction coming up for Pujols’ production in this first season as an Angel.
Plus, if your fantasy baseball league has yet to hold its draft, keep reading to receive a supremely valuable sleeper pick that may just win you a league title.