Rochester sports writer Andy Lipari‘s list of what to watch for this baseball season. Want to tell him what you think? E-mail him at email@example.com or find him on Twitter @alipari27
It’s easy to pick the obvious but it’s a lot more fun to make off-the-wall predictions that are so bold, the font needs to fit the words.
The Kansas City Royals will finish above .500– The Royals could hit their way to a winning record in a weak AL Central. Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler and Jeff Francoeur lead a young team that’s on the upswing. After years of misery in Kansas City, the team should look as good as the ballpark they play in, which happens to host the All-Star Game this year. Manger Ned Yost could be the new Joe Madden as he tries to get the most out of a young team with low expectations.
There will be a Yankees/Red Sox brawl– Two words, Vicente Padilla. You probably thought the two words were going to be Bobby Valentine but I think Padilla will be the bigger factor. It’s no secret that Padilla likes to throw in on hitters, averaging over 10 batters hit per season. That doesn’t include the batters he barely missed or threw behind. He’ll probably plunk Jeter or A-Rod, the mangers will start bickering to the media, someone on the Yankees will hit Ortiz or Youkillis, and benches will clear. I’d expect this to happen sooner than later, like in the first half of the season.
“Asdrubal” will become the baseball equivalent to “Kobe” for basketball– I think we’ve all squared up and yelled “Kobe” when we’re throwing out a piece of paper. Next time your making a wild throw off of one foot or flipping it behind your head, I’m already starting to call out “Asdrubal,” as in Indians shortstop, Asdrubal Cabrera. He has a defensive highlight almost every night that’s more incredible than the last.
Stephen Strasburg will pitch over 160 innings– 160 is the magic number the Nationals have given Strasburg this season following Tommy-John surgery. That’s an average of 27 starts throwing six innings. At that conservative rate, he would be shut down by the start of September. If he’s healthy and pitches the way he did in 2010, Strasburg could meet his innings limit by the middle of August. Washington should worry more about pitch count than innings because he’s capable of throwing a nine-inning game in less than 100 pitches. Some pitchers take over 100 pitches to complete six innings. This doesn’t even factor in the possibly of the Nationals fighting for playoff spot and deciding whether they should shut down their best pitcher.
A.J. Burnett will win 12 games– This is by far the boldest but possibly the dumbest prediction, considering he’s in Class A right now. The Yankees traded Burnett to Pittsburgh for a fruit basket in the off-season, the change of scenery will serve him well. He goes from the toughest division in baseball to the possibly the worst. In Burnett’s last season in NL with Florida, he won 12 games.
Matt Cain will have a better record and ERA than Tim Lincecum– Cain just signed the largest contract for a right-handed pitcher in baseball history. I think the league might be catching up to “Big Time Timmy Jim” who went 13-14 a year ago with a 2.74 ERA. Cain went 12-11 with a 2.88 ERA last season. This year is Cain’s turn to be the ace of the staff in San Francisco.