Mar 31, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer (10) congratulates second baseman Neil Walker (right) after Walker hit a walk-off home run against the Chicago Cubs during the tenth inning of an opening day baseball game at PNC Park. The Pirates won 1-0 in ten innings. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
With MLB Opening Day behind us and the season starting in earnest this week, the City of Champions staff predicts how the Pittsburgh Pirates will do, plus the division results across baseball and the major award winners. Each new page is a different writer’s picks. Enjoy!
NL East – The Nationals bounce back after a rough 2013 to regain their perch atop the division – and maybe the league. We’ll see more from Bryce Harper
and Stephen Strasburg
, of course, but the addition of Doug Fister
is huge for the Nats’ pitching depth.
NL Central – I said the Pirates would take a wild-card berth last year, so clearly I know what I’m talking about. This year, the Bucs get their first division title since 1992, riding an improved offense and continued innovation in defensive positioning.
NL West – Spending a ton of money doesn’t guarantee a winning season, but it sure helps. The Dodgers will demonstrate that much this summer, when they continue their post-June pace of last year.
AL East – America’s most-hated division gets a respite from Boston-New York nonsense when the Rays again defy a meager payroll and questionable fan support. Tampa may not have invented the “Moneyball” approach, but the boys by the Bay seem to have it down.
AL West – Is this the year the Angels finally get their crap together? I say yes. Mike Trout
is the best baseball player on the planet, and he’ll finally get some help from the supporting cast. Albert Pujols
can’t decline this fast, can he?
NL Wild Cards – It’s an even-numbered year, so that means the Giants are going to make the playoffs. Also, the Cardinals aren’t going to go away that easily. Their offense will take a step back, but I think the pitching makes up for that.
AL Wild Cards – I can’t in good faith say the well-balanced Red Sox will sit October out; they follow the Rays into the postseason out of the AL East. Out west, it’s impossible to resist those A’s, who find value in so many nooks and crannies.
Pirates prediction – I had the Bucs at 88 wins last year – the highest total on City of Champions, I might add – and it turns out I undershot the number by six. This time I plan on being bang-on with my prediction. Pittsburgh doesn’t match last year, but 92 wins are enough to edge St. Louis in the Central.
NL MVP – I don’t think we’ve seen Andrew McCutchen
‘s career year, yet. Now that he’s in the national consciousness, he’ll take home the prize for the second straight time if the Pirates make the postseason. Cutch is about to go off.
AL MVP – It’s finally the Year of Trout. Baseball writers will get their heads out of the sand and realize that WAR isn’t a curse word. The head Angel simply does it all, and he gets rewarded this time.
AL Cy Young
– I think Verlander gets an extra bit of motivation from seeing teammate Scherzer bring the Cy home last fall. JV will regain some velocity and put together one more all-time season.
NL Rookie – With Matt Harvey
on the shelf due to Tommy John
surgery, the Mets won’t be able to resist calling up 21-year-old righty starter Noah Syndergaard
to slot next to fellow young stud Zack Wheeler
. Syndergaard lives up to the hype despite spending the first month or so in Triple-A.
AL Rookie – We saw what Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts
could do in last year’s playoffs. After facing that crucible, the regular season will be a relative breeze. Being in a major media market won’t hurt his Rookie of the Year hype, either.
NL Manager – It’s not Clint Hurdle
this time, although he’ll once again get healthy representation in the balloting. Instead, it’ll be a division rival in Milwaukee’s Ron Roenicke
. I see a rebound season in the works for the Brewers; Roenicke will get some of the credit.
AL Manager – Much like the Brewers, the Royals will finish above .500 and challenge for the playoffs. Former Milwaukee skipper Ned Yost
gets the accolades in the Junior Circuit.