MLB 2021 Predictions: American League

April is almost here, and when the month begins, so will the MLB season. Just like in my last 7 years writing this blog, I have put together predictions for the season. We only got 60 MLB games last year, but for this year we’ll have a full 162 game season. I just went on my cousin Michael Philipkosky’s podcast, the Master Plan, to discuss all 30 teams, with one episode for the AL and one episode for the NL. You can check out the AL podcast here, and I have my full AL predictions below.

AL East

  1. New York Yankees (96-66, #2 seed)
  2. Toronto Blue Jays (89-73, #5 seed)
  3. Tampa Bay Rays (84-78)
  4. Boston Red Sox (80-82)
  5. Baltimore Orioles (58-104)

I think the Yankees are in a good position to win this division. They lost some of the pitching depth they had last year, but this lineup is still on another level compared to the other teams in the AL East. Even with some injuries last year, the Yankees were able to dominate the AL East, and I expect the same this year. The question is whether they have the pitching staff to go all the way.

This should be a competitive division behind the Yankees. The Blue Jays, Rays, and Red Sox should all finish somewhat close in the standings. The Jays are really starting to come together. The young talent in the lineup is improving and they’ll be supplemented by new outfielder George Springer and new middle infielder Marcus Semien. Their rotation is also really starting to look sharp.

Tampa was the AL pennant winner last year, but this was a team that was highlighted by its dominant rotation and the Rays lost two of their top three starting pitchers. As a small market team, they tend to subtract in the offseason as opposed to adding. As they lose a key element of their 2020 team, they will see a significant World Series hangover.

The Red Sox should get Chris Sale back towards the end of the year, and when they do they could force the Rays into 4th place. After bringing back Alex Cora and making some underrated signings, I see the Sox finishing around .500 like they did back in 2019. However, this team is hard to read. They have a low floor (they could be a repeat of last year), and a high ceiling (they could potentially contend for a Wild Card). The signings by GM Chaim Bloom have included multiple utility players. Bloom, a University of Pennsylvania alumnus, explained some of his reasoning behind this in a Q&A at a UPenn event on Wednesday. He stated that in the past, utility players were often limited to utility role because they weren’t good enough to play a position every day. However, in modern baseball, there are utility players who can play every day at a variety of positions, like Enrique Hernandez and Marwin Gonzalez who he signed. These players likely flew under the radar due to the fact that they’re utility guys.

I can’t really see the Orioles competing with these teams. The Orioles have improved since 2019, but their early 2020 success was a bit of a fluke. I think the young talent is starting to come along but it won’t be enough to make a noticeable difference just yet.

AL Central

  1. Chicago White Sox (101-61, #1 seed)
  2. Minnesota Twins (90-72, #4 seed)
  3. Kansas City Royals (77-85)
  4. Cleveland Indians (75-87)
  5. Detroit Tigers (66-96)

The White Sox are really starting to come together. They have a good ace in Lucas Giolito. The lineup is looking great between young talent like Luis Robert, Eloy Jimenez, and Nick Madigral and more experienced players like Jose Abreu and Yasmani Grandal. I think they have what it takes to make a deep playoff run this year. I have them ahead of the Twins, who choked in the playoffs last year. Minnesota has a strong rotation headlined by Jose Berrios, Kenta Maeda, and Randy Dobnak, but their lack of elite lineup talent compared to other top teams is going to hold them back from more than a Wild Card. The Twins should be able secure 2nd place though, as the rest of this division is unlikely to compete.

The Royals have added talent, including starting pitcher Mike Minor, and they have a decent core led by Hunter Dozier and Whit Merrifield. However, I don’t think they have quite enough firepower to contend. I think they will get third place over the Indians, who dealt away Carlos Carrasco and Francisco Lindor in an effort to lower payroll. Star hitter and third baseman Jose Ramirez is still in Cleveland, but the Indians don’t have any other big name hitters. They also lack rotation depth behind defending Cy Young winner Shane Bieber. Aside from Bieber and Ramirez, the Indians lack star power. The Tigers got off to a strong start last year thanks to the emergence of outfielder JaCoby Jones. They should perform better than they did in 2019, but I still don’t think they’ll be anywhere close to playoff contention in a 162 game season.

AL West

  1. Los Angeles Angels (87-75, #3 seed)
  2. Houston Astros (84-78)
  3. Oakland Athletics (76-86)
  4. Texas Rangers (65-97)
  5. Seattle Mariners (63-99)

This division is not nearly as strong as it was last year. The Angels always tend to disappoint with a lack of success surrounding star outfielder Mike Trout, but I think they’ll be able to win this weakened division. That doesn’t necessarily imply playoff success. The Angels did add some pitching help and that should put them in position to win the AL West but taking down the Yankees or White Sox will be a difficult feat. The Astros should come close as well, even though they lost outfielders George Springer and Josh Reddick. This lineup’s success between 2017 and 2019 was likely boosted by sign stealing, and the depth of the rotation is slowly dwindling, so I have the Angels edging out Houston here, but it will be close.

The A’s will probably have the biggest drop off in the division. They have a very talented young rotation, but without shortstop Marcus Semien and designated hitter Khris Davis, this lineup is lacking standout hitters. Corner infielders Matt Olson and Matt Chapman are improving at the plate, but that’s not enough lineup talent for a playoff team. I have them falling to third place, but finishing ahead of the Rangers and Mariners.

The Rangers failed to contend last year with an awkward mix of young talent and older players, so they’ve torn it down and prepared for a rebuild headed into this season. Joey Gallo is still here but I don’t expect him to stay for long. Seattle has some young talent that is starting to develop and could have a very strong outfield soon once Kyle Lewis and top prospect Jarred Kelenic fully develop alongside Mitch Haniger. Even with the outfield and the rotation improving, this isn’t the year for Seattle to contend.


That’s all for these American League predictions. I’ll have my NL predictions out in the next couple days. In the meantime, feel free to comment with your thoughts.

March Madness 2018: Previewing The Midwest Region

Welcome to my second annual March Madness preview series, where I break down each region on the bracket and pick my winners for the first two rounds and make my pick on who’s going to the final four.  If you’d like to see my full bracket, click on the link below.

Tournament Challenge – ESPN – Boston Sports Mania.pdf

I am starting with the Midwest region.  It was named the strongest region of this year’s tournament by Jim Nantz on the Selection Show, and I agree.  It’s top three seeds are Kansas, Duke, and Michigan State.  But that doesn’t mean that there’s no room for upsets.

Round of 64 Preview

Wichita: Games Start Thursday, March 15 at 2:00 PM EST on TBS

#1 Kansas Image result for kansas logo vs. Related image #16 Pennsylvania

Penn put up a nice victory over Harvard in the Ivy League finals.  But the Jayhawks have had another great season, and there’s no way they will lose to the #16 seed in the first round, something that has never happened to a 1 seed.  Ivy league things have had a strong history of upsets in the NCAA Tournament, but Kansas won a much bigger conference, the Big 12, and this will be easy for them.

The Pick: Kansas

 

#8 Seton Hall Image result for seton hall logo vs. Image result for nc state logo #9 North Carolina State

NC State had a strong season, and they deserved a tournament bid now that I think about it.  But their loss to Boston College was embarrassing.  They also lost to Georgia Tech, UNC Greensboro and Northern Iowa during the season, their best wins being over UNC, Arizona, and Duke.  The point is that Seton Hall has the better profile this season.  They’ve gotten more quality wins on a tougher schedule, and they match up well against NC State.

The Pick: Seton Hall

 

San Diego: Games Start Friday, March 16 at 7:27 PM EST on truTV

#4 Auburn Image result for auburn logo  vs. Image result for charleston logo #13 Charleston

The Tigers were another team who had a late-season skid.  They were in the conversation for a 2 seed back in February, but an early loss to Alabama in the SEC tournament hurt them, and they went just 4-4 in their final 8 regular season games, including a loss to the 17-16 South Carolina Gamecocks.  But Charleston had it pretty easy in the CAA, and they aren’t the team to upset Auburn.  They are just 56th in RPI and had a very easy schedule.  Their strong defense will not be enough to top an all-around good Auburn team, who will win game one in their first NCAA Tournament since 2003.  Although they finished 4-4, the SEC was really good this year, and Auburn kept up and won the regular season title despite their conference tourney loss to Alabama.

The Pick: Auburn

 

#5 Clemson Image result for clemson logo colored background  vs.  #12 New Mexico State

The Aggies have had a better season than you might think.  They dominated in the WAC, ranked 35th in RPI, and scored more points per game than Clemson.  They’ve also allowed less PPG to their opponents than Clemson has.  Clemson skidded a little towards the end of the season after a great start, so they are not coming into this game with as much momentum as they would’ve liked.  Clemson’s schedule was much stronger, but recently, Clemson has struggled to keep up with their tough competition, going 9-8 in their final 17 games.  Meanwhile, NM State went 12-2 in the WAC while beating Miami, Davidson, and Illinois out of their conference.  I’m sensing an upset.

The Pick: New Mexico State

 

Pittsburgh: Games Start Thursday, March 15 at 12:15 PM EST on CBS

#7 Rhode Island Related image  vs. Related image #10 Oklahoma

Oklahoma is another team that really struggled late in their season, but URI was not great in late season play either, losing to Davidson in the Atlantic 10 championship.  The Sooners did beat Kansas, Texas Tech, and TCU (twice) early on though.  They also beat Wichita State as well as Oregon and USC, who were both on the bubble before the Selection Show.  However, Rhode Island had a great season, and they had a fair share of quality wins.  They beat Providence and Seton Hall outside the Atlantic 10, and did not have any notably bad losses despite being swept by Davidson.  Their RPI is also 14th, which is great compared to Oklahoma’s #48 in RPI.  URI’s strong defense will shut down Trae Young and the Sooners, who have proven that they cannot always beat who they need to beat in losses to OSU, Baylor, Texas, and Iowa State in their final games before the tournament.  But Oklahoma will come close.

The Pick: Rhode Island

 

#2 Duke Image result for duke logo blue background vs. Image result for iona gaels logo red and yellow #15 Iona

After making the tournament for the third straight year, it’s about time Iona pulls an upset.  But Duke is not a team they can get past.  The Blue Devils, led by Marvin Bagley III (put up 21.1 PPG this season) have a dominant offense that the Gaels will fail to slow down.  Iona is just #108 in RPI, which is even low for a mid-major in the tournament.  Somehow, they still keep winning MAAC championships.  I don’t know when they’ll be able to go any further.

The Pick: Duke

 

Detroit: Games Start Friday 3/16 at 7:10 PM EST on CBS

#3 Michigan State Image result for michigan state logo vs. Image result for bucknell logo  #14 Bucknell

Bucknell did really well in the Patriot League, but they failed to grab hold of Quadrant 1 wins, and they had chances against UNC and Arkansas among others.  That means that they don’t have the same profile that other potential Cinderellas have, due to the fact that they failed to win quality games, even when given the chance.  MSU also had a pretty easy schedule, giving them fewer opportunities for quality wins, but any team who goes 29-4 in the B1G should beat mid-majors without quality victories with ease.  They will be led by Miles Bridges, the Spartans guard who averaged 16.9 PPG.

The Pick: Michigan State

 

#6 TCU Image result for tcu basketball logo vs. Related imageImage result for syracuse logo  #11 Arizona State/Syracuse

First of all, I have Syracuse beating the Sun Devils.  ASU struggled in a weak Pac-12, which weighs them down despite wins over Kansas and Xavier.  Syracuse had some nice wins despite a roller coaster of a season, and I can see the Orange winning.  TCU put up a nice season in the Big 12 after struggles in 2016-17, but they slipped up a couple times against mediocre teams like Oklahoma State and Vanderbilt.  I could see the same happening against Syracuse, who has had some strong wins mixed in with their tough losses, including one over Miami and one over Virginia Tech.  Syracuse advances to the Round of 32 after beating both ASU and TCU.

The Pick: Syracuse

 

Round of 32 Preview

If my first round picks are correct, the Round of 32 will line up like this:

#1 Kansas Image result for kansas logo vs. Image result for seton hall logo #8 Seton Hall

#4 Auburn Image result for auburn logo  vs.  #12 New Mexico State

#2 Duke Image result for duke logo blue background vs. Related image #7 Rhode Island

#3 Michigan State Image result for michigan state logo  vs. Image result for syracuse logo  #11 Syracuse

I think Kansas will beat Seton Hall here.  Seton Hall has had a nice season with quality wins in their conference on a tough schedule, but again, Kansas went 27-7 and won the Big 12 with the 2nd hardest schedule in the league, ranking 5th in RPI.  The Jayhawks have a dominant offense that will make the case for them.  I think there will also be more upsets in this round though.  New Mexico State will beat Auburn.  The Aggies were dominant all season, not just in the WAC but against high major non-conference opponents like Miami.  Auburn skid late into the season, going 4-5 to finish, losing to South Carolina in a regular season game and Alabama in the SEC tournament.  New Mexico State’s defense will shut down Auburn.

I see Rhode Island pulling an upset over Duke as well.  Name one game Rhode Island should be ashamed of losing.  There are none I can name, besides their losses to Davidson, and the Wildcats are underrated.  Duke has a history of losing in early rounds of the Big Dance, and they already lost to St. John’s, Boston College, and other lower tier teams this season.  I do think MSU will top Syracuse though.  The Orange may have had some good wins this season, but overall, it wasn’t a great season, and I think the committee had better options for the last team in when building the bracket, such as USC.  So don’t expect Syracuse to get past MSU and make the Sweet 16.  The Round of 32 is not out of the question though.

And The Projected Midwest Champion Is…

#3 Michigan State Image result for michigan state logo

With Duke being eliminated early by an underrated URI team, MSU’s odds to win this region will increase.  You could argue for them as a #2 seed, but they lucked out with their schedule, even though they might have to face Duke and/or Kansas, which would be tough.  They’ve had it easy in terms of scheduling all season, but they went 29-4, and just because their schedule was easy, it doesn’t mean they can’t beat other top teams.  Getting past Kansas will be tough, but I think this team is capable of great things.  This is their time to prove that they are the championship contender people think they are.

 

 

That’s all for this preview.  Stay tuned for Part 2, where I will take a look at the East Region.