The Major League Baseball season is fast approaching, so now’s the time for some “bold” (or not so bold) predictions.
Read below, and then feel free to sound off against me on Twitter at @beyondthebets.
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1. THE PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES WILL MISS THE PLAYOFFS
How’s that for a bold start? I know, I know — it’ll be tough to dethrone the five-time NL East champions when they still have a top three consisting of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. Last year, the trio put up numbers that would’ve made Christy Mathewson jealous.
But how many 3-2 and 2-1 games can the Phillies win this season? Chase Utley is on a severe downslope and is out indefinitely with chronic knee pain, Ryan Howard is out until at least June after Achilles’ surgery, leaving Hunter Pence as the only real power threat in the lineup.
Making matters worse, the club has completely messed with top prospect Domonic Brown’s head by a) demoting him after trading for Pence last season and b) signing Laynce Nix and Juan Pierre in the offseason to block his return path to the majors.
There are enough good teams in the suddenly competitive NL East that — although it’s still unlikely — Philadelphia could be watching from home in October.
Bold meter: 9/10.
2. TORONTO WILL BE THE MOST PROFITABLE TEAM FOR BETTORS
The Blue Jays went 81-81 last season and profited 2.52 units (ninth-best in MLB) last season despite posting just a 56.9 save percentage, the worst in the American League. The bullpen blew an AL-high 25 saves, forcing GM Alex Anthopoulos to undergo a major overhaul.
He brought in Sergio Santos and Francisco Cordero — who combined for 67 saves in 2011 — and also added veteran lefty Darren Oliver.
Led by slugger Jose Bautista and stud prospect Brett Lawrie, Toronto has the offense to compete. The AL East is loaded, meaning the Jays will be underdogs in the majority of games, but they have the talent to win 85 to 90 games.
If that happens, you can be sure Toronto will be at or near the top of the 2012 money statistics.
Bold meter: 8/10.
3. IT WILL BE AN ALL-FLORIDA WORLD SERIES
Do the math. Yes, that means the new-look Miami Marlins will meet the Tampa Bay Rays in the Fall Classic.
Four years ago, the then-Devil Rays switched their name and then made a surprise run to the World Series. Can the same happen with the old Florida Marlins? Possibly, but it won’t have much to do with the name change.
This prediction will all come down to pitching. With David Price, James Shields and lights-out rookie Matt Moore, the Rays have plenty of it, perhaps the best starting rotation in the American League. For the Marlins, it depends on the health of Josh Johnson, who could very well win a Cy Young if he stays healthy.
Bold meter: 10/10.
4. ONE OF THE ADDED PLAYOFF TEAMS WILL REACH THE ALCS OR NLCS
Since Major League Baseball expanded to four playoff teams in each league in 1994, 10 wild card teams have reached the World Series, and five of them have won it, including last year with the St. Louis Cardinals.
I understand the added playoff team will increase excitement, particularly at the end of the regular season, but it only increases the parity we’ll see in the playoffs. When you shrink a 162-game season down to a one-game playoff, followed by a five-game series, anything can happen.
And it wouldn’t be shocking at all to see one of the extra teams upset the top seed in either league.
Bold meter: 5/10.
5. THE HOUSTON ASTROS WILL LOSE LESS THAN 100 GAMES
In the past 28 years, 34 teams have finished with 100 losses, an average of 1.2 per year. The awful Astros are virtually everyone’s pick to do so this year, but it won’t happen.
Instead, they’ll lose 99, which will result in a push on their historically low win total of 63.
Looking for a team that could top triple-digit losses? How about Baltimore, which is by far the worst team in the stacked AL East and is suddenly devoid of any real pitching talent.
Bold meter: 6/10.