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Talkin' Baseball

While I applaud the selections of Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar today, if Alomar is a HOFer, why not Barry Larkin? Having gone from 52.1|PERCENT| to 62.1|PERCENT| year-over-year, Larkin will get in eventually, but is there going to be a flood of new information suggesting Larkin is more Hall-worthy in 2012/2013 than he is now? Unlikely. Anyway… I'm about done getting outraged about these selections each year. I will say it is fun to see guys like B.J. Surhoff get two votes.
Can anyone suggest a better defensive left side of the infield in Elvis Andrus / Adrian Beltre not only now, but in baseball history? Ozzie Smith played with the likes of Terry Pendleton and Luis Salazar, not exactly defensive wizards. The only other combo that comes to mind is Luis Aparicio and Brooks Robinson, a worthy duo indeed.
Playoff predictions:
AL West – Rangers – another arm would help, and they have the farm system to make a July deal for a guy like Matt Garza.
AL Central – Twins – suspect infield (don't get letting J.J. Hardy go), and Tigers will be there as well, but getting Joe Nathan and Justin Morneau back will be huge.
AL East – Boston – need I say why? Look for a Josh Beckett bounce-back.
NL West – Giants – pitching, pitching, and more pitching.
NL Central – Brewers – are the Cardinals really relying on a keystone combo of Skip Schumaker and Ryan Theriot? Too many holes. This will be a tight three-team race (Reds), but Fielder will stay in Milwaukee and the Brewers will prevail.
NL East – Phillies – on paper, this could be a 115-win team, though things rarely work out quite as well as we might think they will in January.
Wildcards – White Sox and Braves.
ALDS – Boston over Chicago; Texas over Minnesota
NLDS – Phillies over Braves; Brewers over Giants
ALCS – Boston over Texas
NLCS – Phillies over Brewers
World Series – Phillies in 6.
Fearless (and not so fearless) predictions:
Bryce Harper is up by July and homers off Roy Halladay in his first big-league at-bat. He then saves a drowning baby after the game on his way to helping out at the local animal shelter.
The Phillies DON'T have four 20-game winners a la the '71 Orioles.
Matt Kemp takes a liking to Davey Lopes' tutelage and pushes for a 40/40 season.
Arizona manager Kirk Gibson is seen yelling at Xavier Nady in the dugout when Nady, nursing two bum knees, refuses to pinch-hit in the bottom of the ninth with the D-backs down 4-3 and [insert unhittable reliever here] on the hill.
Pablo Sandoval will come to camp out of shape and find himself playing third base for Fresno come Opening Day.
The Rangers will get a look at Brandon Webb in camp and immediately strongly re-consider Neftali Feliz's role as closer.
Albert Pujols will sign a 10-year $300 million extension with the Cardinals prior to Opening Day.
Clayton Kershaw will throw a no-hitter, but so will someone with less than half the talent a la Dallas Braden.
Justin Upton will get off to another slow start before being traded to Kansas City for Billy Butler and Danny Duffy. Upton will then be the centerpiece of your 2015 World Champion Kansas City Royals.
Aubrey Huff won't post an .891 OPS or better…ever…again.
Writers will tire of being ridiculed and will not hand Derek Jeter another Gold Glove.
Matt Wieters will NOT prove to be Alex Gordon with a catcher's mask.
Buster Posey will win the NL MVP, Tim Lincecum the NL Cy Young, and Brandon Belt the NL ROY once the Giants realize Pat Burrell can't hit.
Jordan Walden will finish 2011 as the Angels' saves leader once Fernando Rodney coughs up the closer job in mid-April.
The Indians will come to the conclusion that they have no hope and deal Shin-Soo Choo come July.  This after "Free Choo" signs are banned at the Jake.
I'm not sure Delmon Young is good for another 112 RBI, but a BB/PA jump from 2.9|PERCENT| to 4.6|PERCENT| is progress. Love to see that number in the 7|PERCENT| range in 2011. I think .300/.350/.510 is possible.
Angel Pagan was a nice surprise, but he turns 30 in July and with below-average power, much of his fantasy value lies in last year's. I'd expect more like 25 this year.
Drew Stubbs wasn't a total bust last year (22 HR, 30 SB), but unless he can improve upon last year's 67|PERCENT| contact rate, he's going to lose playing time.
The Cardinals are reportedly moving Matt Holliday to right field and playing Lance Berkman in left. Despite getting memorably cracked in the sack by a James Loney flyball in the 2009 playoffs, Holliday has been a very good defender in left field. Of course Lance Berkman has no range, so he's best served in the less-demanding LF slot, but Colby Rasmus is going to be one tired dude come August.
If you're looking at closer situations to monitor, watch Anaheim, Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago (AL), Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, and Toronto. Deeper sleepers I like include Jordan Walden, TB's Jake McGee, Kenley Jansen, Mark Melancon, and Jeremy Jeffress.
I'll defy conventional wisdom and say that Jose Bautista hits between 45-55 homers this year. He had 11 after August in 2010, so it's not like pitchers figured out how to avoid serving it up. I do wonder whether the shift to third base will put a dent into Bautista's numbers…
Cole Hamels had a 2.23 ERA and 104:22 K:BB in 96.2 innings after the All-Star break. Not a bad No. 4 starter.
Mat Latos saw his innings spike from 123 to 184.2 year-over-year. I write about this in a Verducci Effect section for the 2011 magazine, but I just have to wonder whether pushing Latos last year in an effort to win the NL West will come back to haunt the Padres.