The Commish Online                                                                                
2009 Season Preview
April 7, 2009

Unlike last year, there are a few known quantities heading into the 2009 season.  For starters, the Cubs are a lock to win the NL Central.  The playoffs are another story, but I guarantee they will be there.  Adam Dunn will once again hit 40 home runs, but it will be a fruitless effort as Washington finishes as a "competitive" last place team.  The Mets and Phillies are a notch above the rest of the NL East, but that doesn't guarantee a Wild Card spot for the loser. 

San Diego and Pittsburgh will be bad, really bad.  Everyone is picking Cincinnati as their NL "sleeper" team, but if there's one team that can make the prognosticators look stupid, it's the Giants.  In that ballpark with the rotation they have, a little luck could put them in position to win the West if a few games above .500 is enough.

In the AL, every team except the Blue Jays and Orioles have a chance at winning a division.  Wang will be the Yankees' unsung hero, but they won't outlast the Red Sox and Rays.  The AL Central is the most intriguing of all the divisions - each team has such a small margin of error in terms of the roster that one or two injuries can flip flop the entire division.  Miguel Cabrera will continue to quietly put up monster numbers, and when his career ends, we will all wonder how he posted such huge stats without anyone noticing.  I'm not buying everyone's sudden love affair with the Royals - they'll be improved, but I'm not expecting anything better than 80-82.

The AL West is starting to look pretty mediocre, but look for a veteran resurgence in Oakland leading to a division title (and early playoff exit).  Josh Hamilton will lead the majors in home runs, and no one in the Central or West will have a legitimate shot at the World Series - that spot will be claimed by someone from the East.

AL East
besides a good rotation and experienced lineup, this team can field, too
-Tampa Bay
top to bottom, the pitching staff will keep them consistent and in the hunt all year
-New York
CC and Wang solidify the rotation, but A-Rod's injury exposed the lack of depth
in the wrong division, and a "blah" middle infield and less pitching have them staring at .500
exciting young offense (Jones, Markakis, Scott) not enough to offset a rotation led by Jeremy Guthrie

AL Central
enough players reaching their prime will put them on top
steady but unspectacular team due to overachieve in this competitive division
relying on too many pre- and post-prime players
-Kansas City
poor defense will prevent KC from climbing the Central ladder
bad pitching and out-of-position players mean last place

AL West
suddenly formidable lineup meshes nicely with young staff to win the division
-Los Angeles
a rough start, too many offseason losses, and a reliance on injured arms keep the Halos out of the playoffs
too much pop in the lineup to slip into last despite the always shaky pitching
impressive collection of ballplayers, but the lack of a big time slugger means teams will work around the lineup with ease

NL East
-New York
an impressive bullpen and a similar lineup as last year puts them on top
plenty of MVP-caliber hitters, but the rotation is a bit shaky
an underrated staff, but a lineup that leaves them a bit shy of wild card potential
young talent is getting better, but still a notch below NY and Philly
too many outfielders and not enough pitchers = 72 wins

NL Central
a no-brainer, with depth and a willingness to spend to get better
-St. Louis
any team with a healthy Pujols can't be worse than second
Fielder, Braun, and Hardy will relieve the pressure off the younger pitching staff and generate a possible wild card run
still mediocre, but on the upswing with Cueto, Volquez, Votto, Bruce, etc.
too many holes (3B, CF, RF, starting pitching) to win consistently
unfortunately, another sub-.500 season for the Pirates is inevitable

NL West
-Los Angeles
too much dependence on Billingsley/Kershaw, but Manny carriers LA to 90 wins
Webb, Haren and co. keep the D-Backs in it 'til the end
Iannetta and Spilborghs help offset the Holliday loss at the plate, but anything more than 82 wins is a reach
-San Francisco
pitching will keep them competitive in most games, but destined to suffer Atlanta's '08 fate of frustrating 1-run losses
-San Diego
Peavy? good. Gonzalez? good.  Young? good.  not much else...

AL Playoff teams:  Boston, Minnesota, Oakland, and Tampa Bay (WC)
ALCS:  Boston over Tampa Bay
NL Playoff teams:  New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Arizona (WC)
NLCS:  New York over Chicago

World Series:  New York (NL) over Boston

It's hard to leave the Yankees out of the playoffs, but Boston and Tampa Bay seem better equipped to handle an injury or two over the long haul.  Boston has the talent and playoff experience to get through the first round, and Tampa Bay will play well, but not well enough in the ALCS to knock off Boston.

The Cubs will finally get over the hump by winning a playoff series, but look for the Mets to make a late season acquisition to shore up any weakness they might have heading into the playoffs.  With a healthy Santana and impenetrable 8th and 9th innings, the Mets will roll into the World Series.

The rematch of 1986 will not disappoint, but this time around, it's the Mets with the aura of late season failure thrust upon them.  New Yorkers need not worry, though, because Beltran, Wright, and Reyes will do all the right things, leading the Mets to a Game 7 victory and a World Series championship in 2009.