Prediction #9: Speaking of Albert Pujols, the love he once experienced with the fans of St. Louis may be no more, but Angels fans will Love Love Love him when he takes home the AL MVP award this year.
First off, let’s get one thing straight: if there is anything resembling a tie when it comes to MVP contenders, Pujols is going to win out…because he’s Pujols. The national media loves him, he’s one of the all-time greats already, and the story of him having a triumphant year in his new digs will be too delicious to pass up.
The question is can Pujols put up the kind of season that is MVP-worthy? I think he can.
As I alluded to above, I’m not a big fan of the Angels making such a gargantuan commitment to Pujols long-term, but it’s all worth it if Pujols can help lead the Angels to a World Series title. No one man is that powerful in baseball, but I do think Pujols’ numbers in 2012 will be much closer to his 2010 numbers (.312/.414/.596, 42 HR, 118 RBI) than his 2011 numbers (.299/.366/.541, 37 HR, 99 RBI).
Many folks have been wondering aloud if Pujols is entering the decline stage of his career. Well sure he is, but it’s all relative. Pujols is 32 (or older), and his numbers have declined each of the last two years. Yet he has still finished in the top 5 in the NL MVP voting both seasons, and his numbers are still better than 99% of the rest of the players in baseball.
If there is one guy who can will himself to hold off Father Time and post truly elite numbers again, even if just for one season before his decline hastens, it’s the indomitable Pujols; and if it’s going to happen in any season, it will be this one, the year immediately after he signed his massive contract and has skeptical eyes on him for the first time…perhaps ever.
Put me down for Albert Pujols to win AL MVP as Miguel Cabrera deals with playing third base for the first time in a long time.
Prediction #10: Your Bones may not have been hurt over the last few years, but Kendrys Morales’ were…but now he’s back, and ready to give Angels fans another slugger to celebrate.
Kendrys Morales suffered one of the most unnecessary injuries in sports history when he fractured his tibia celebrating a home run. That was in 2010, when Morales was coming off a .306/34/108 season that placed him 5th in the MVP voting. He was off to another great start in 2011 before the injury, and now he hasn’t had an at bat since.
But Morales is back healthy now, and he should be ready to go for Opening Day. He’s hitting well this spring and is likely to slide into the DH role for the Angels and hit right behind the mighty Pujols in the clean up spot.
While expecting a repeat of 2010 in his first season back is likely unreasonable, there is no reason that 30 HRs and 100 RBI are out of the question…if he is truly healthy again and can stay that way.
I targeted Morales as my A+ sleeper pick in my last fantasy draft once news broke than he would be hitting clean up. I nabbed him in the 11th round and obnoxiously called it the “Sleeper of the Year” before making the pick. (Yep, I was that guy.) This galvanized a collective groan from my leaguemates, many of whom wanted him too but waited one round too long.
They’re smart. Morales is due for a comeback season, and I think he’ll be comeback player of the year in the Season of the Angels.
Prediction #11: Slump, Swoon, Sloom…whatever you want to call what Alex Rios, Adam Dunn, and Jake Peavy did in 2011, expect all three to be better in 2012 (one of them significantly so).
For the record, the name of this song was definitely the hardest one to work into a prediction, but I found a way. Fortunately, the lyrics are actually among the most easy of any of these songs to apply to the baseball talk, particularly this one:
And beat us to take this bludge to forgive us for our pasts
to be a better man, to be a better man, to be a better man
You’ve even got the appropriate number of “better man” references: three. What the Chicago White Sox need this year to outperform the dismal expectations most have for them coming into the season is for the team’s three high-price/low-performance veterans – Alex Rios, Adam Dunn, and Jake Peavy – to provide some positive value. They don’t need to live up to their contracts; that pipe dream left the South Side long ago. They just all need to be healthy and not abjectly awful, which has been much easier said than done.
Rios will be hitting in the 3-hole for the White Sox, at least to start out the season, which makes a bounce back particularly essential considering the importance of that spot in the lineup. Peavy will be counted on to deliver 150-170 solid innings with Mark Buehrle gone and everyone having to slide up a spot in the rotation.
And then there is Dunn.
He had possibly the worst season ever by a hitter last year, though there fortunately are a few semi-reasonable explanations for at least a portion of the decline. Dunn clearly came back to soon from his appendicitis surgery, and the entire franchise got sucked into the hurricane of Guillen destruction that swept through the South Side last season.
Rios hasn’t done a whole lot this spring to inspire hope, but at least the odds are highly in his favor that he can’t be as bad as he was last year. Peavy will be serviceable if he can just healthy. Dunn, however, has had a terrific spring in which he’s shown power and plate discipline, leading many White Sox fans to dream of the kind of productive season he was signed to deliver.
Expect Rios, Peavy, and Dunn to the be the poster boys for the White Sox 2012 season mantra: hey, at least it’s not as insufferable as last year!
Prediction #12: Astros fans living in Houston should probably book that August trip to the Lakehouse; there won’t be any meaningful baseball to stay in town for by then.
This lyric from Lakehouse pretty much sums up how Astros fans will feel by the time the nightmare dog days of summer hit:
Can you chase this fire away?
In the fall we sleep all day?
Just make it end. That’s how they will all be feeling, probably unable to sleep from the visions of bad baseball before them, and the near-dearth of hope for the future. (But don’t sleep too long Houston denizens; the Texans will provide you plenty of joy come the fall.)
When your most notable hitter and pitcher, by a long shot, are Carlos Lee and Wandy Rodriguez, you’ve got serious short-term problems. And then you don’t have much to look forward to in the way of September call ups, you’ve got serious long-term problems. And when you have to simultaneously be prepping for a move to the American League, you’ve got unique, unexpected problems.
Simply put: the Houston Astros have problems, and unlike in some other places, where one can at least envision a way for the season to be a decent experience, it is impossible to fathom 2012 being anything other than a a long, long, miserable season season for the ‘Stros.
Prediction #13: Approach with caution, like a Yellow Light, when prognosticating the 2012 Kansas City Royals.
The Royals are definitely going to be an interesting team in 2012 because of the plethora of young talent they have accumulated; but will they actually be a good team? That I’m not so sure about.
Kansas City’s lineup should be solid with Alex Gordon and Billy Butler entering what should be their prime years and young studs like Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas supposedly ready to become solid, perhaps even spectacular, season-long contributors.
This is all well and good, and the Royals will score some runs, but what about the pitching?
Bruce Chen is slated to be the Royals’ Opening Day, which intimidates no one but the White Sox (and even they just got done crushing him in a Spring Training game). After Chen it’s Luke Hochevar, Jonathan Sanchez, Felipe Paulino, and somebody with the last name of Duffy whose first name isn’t Patrick…so who cares? (I wonder if Scuzzlebutt is available to pitch…)
Plus, with Joakim Soria now being out for the year, the Royals’ bullpen depth will not be nearly as strong, and the team has to count on Jonathan Broxton to reverse his horrible 2012 and lock down saves, or else the bullpen depth gets even worse by having to slide Aaron Crow or Greg Holland into the role.
Look, as a baseball fan I’m excited about the future of the Royals; and I would not be shocked if they end up finishing second in the AL Central because the Indians, Twins, and White Sox all could suck terribly. That said, this is not a team I think will go from a losing record to a winning one this year. So temper the expectations just a bit.
The Royals are a Yellow Light this season, but quite possibly a green light come 2013.
Prediction #14: Not surprisingly, Cubs fans will be Numb Bears once again in 2012.
Let the countdown continue.
Not even the great Theo Epstein can get the Cubs turned around in one year, though to be fair that isn’t really his plan. Theo and the Cubs seem smartly focused on building for the future, and I would describe the Cubs as a “franchise to watch” over the next several years.
But this year? They’ll be about as much fun to watch as…the White Sox, which is to say: not much.
But hey, at least you’ve got Starlin Castro to enjoy and the promise of Alfonso Soriano’s contract expiring soon. Rejoice!
So sorry Cubs fans. You’ll have to be Numb Bears for one more playoff-less October as the wait continues for that elusive World Series title.