Sunday, March 31, 2013

Baseball Predictions, Part 1: Sports Illustrated

Clayton Kershaw was featured in one of six regional covers to this week's SI.

Tomorrow, as Nomo put it, REAL baseball begins! (That's right, the Houston season opener tonight doesn't count, particularly as I get used to having them in the AL and f'ing up interleague play to persist all season long in 2013.) Here's the first in a series of prediction articles: Sports Illustrated, in which three of the seven writers polled picked the Dodgers to win the NL West. Here's Ben Reiter's comments:

The most financially lopsided World Series of all time -- LA's 2013 payroll could exceed Tampa Bay's by a factor of four -- will be won by the penny-pinchers. The Rays match the Dodgers in depth and quality of pitching (they could have seven above-average starters if you count Roberto Hernandez, eight if you count Fausto Carmona, which you shouldn't) but exceed them in fielding, versatility and relentlessness.

Tom Verducci picked the Giants, who finished with two votes; the Snakes and Padres stole one vote each. Of course, everyone picked the Nationals or Tigers to win it all...except the aforementioned Reiter, who picked the Rays. Hmm.

Meanwhile, four of the seven picked our man, Clayton Kershaw, for the 2013 Cy Young:

Joe Lemire: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers. Aside from one being a lefty and the other a righty, Kershaw and Justin Verlander are essentially mirror images. They are of similar height and effectiveness, both won their league's pitching Triple Crown and the Cy Young awards in 2011 and finished as Cy runners-up in '12. Look for the Dodgers' southpaw to lead the majors in ERA for a third straight season.

Jay Jaffe: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers. It's tempting to say Stephen Strasburg here, but he has yet to reach 162 innings in a professional season, let alone the 200 or more that Cy Young contention essentially requires. Kershaw already has one Cy on his mantle from 2011, and was nearly as good last year.

Cliff Corcoran: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers. Sure, Stephen Strasburg is the sexy choice, but Kershaw, like Verlander, won this award in 2011 and finished second in 2012, a year in which he finished second in the voting and was every bit as good as the man who won. I want to see how Strasburg holds up over a 200-inning workload before I'm willing to pick him over a 25-year-old stud whose career ERA (2.79, 138 ERA+) is better than Strasburg's was in 159 1/3 innings last year (3.16, 125 ERA+).

Joe Sheehan: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers. Kershaw won the award in 2011 and was arguably the best pitcher in the NL last year as well. In the NL right now, only Cliff Lee approaches his performance level and durability.

In the "Free Agent Flop" category (which Red Sox acquisition and former Dodger flop Shane Victorino won in a landslide with four votes), Verducci picks the Dodgers' Zack Greinke:

Verducci: Zack Greinke, Dodgers. Any elbow issue in spring training is a red flag, and even when healthy he has yet to put together back-to-back very good seasons of 200 innings.

photo: Brad Mangin, SI