We’re getting closer and closer to opening day of the 2015 MLB season. It has been a crazy last four years in baseball to say the least. There was St. Louis winning in seven games over Texas in the 2011 World Series as they just wouldn’t say die.
The San Francisco Giants fell down 0-2 to the Cincinnati Reds in the NLDS in 2012 before winning the final three games all on the road to advance to the NLCS. There, they would fall behind the defending champion Cardinals 3-1 before rallying for three straight victories to advance to the World Series. The Detroit Tigers had no chance of slowing down their momentum as San Francisco swept the series for its second championship in three years.
In 2013, it was the Boston Red Sox going from worst to first in the AL East before making a run to their third World Series title since the turn of the century. They wound up going back to worst last year, finishing in last place in the AL East.
In 2014, the Giants were left for dead as they barely made the playoffs as a wild card team. They would go on to beat the Kansas City Royals in a Game 7 behind perhaps the best performance in postseason history from Madison Bumgarner. His 52.2 innings was an all-time record for workload in a postseason, and he posted a 1.03 ERA in those 52.2 innings to lead the Giants to their third World Series title in five years.
We can only hope 2015 can continue this trend of exciting baseball in October. Here is a look at how I have each division playing out this season.
AL East: For years, the AL East was dominated by the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. That appears to be the case no longer. The Red Sox have finished in last place in two of the past three seasons. The Yankees have missed the playoffs two straight years for the first time in the wild card era. The Orioles have averaged 91.3 wins over the past three seasons and will be right there again. The Rays have lost a lot in Joe Maddon, Wil Myers, David Price and Ben Zobrist, so I don’t see them being competitive in 2015. I look for the Blue Jays to take that next step and get back to the playoffs for the first time in 29 years. I love what they did this offseason in adding Josh Donaldson, which gives them arguably the best lineup in baseball. This division is wide open, but I really believe the Blue Jays have the goods to win it in 2015.
AL Central: The Detroit Tigers have been the kings of the AL Central. They have won the division four straight years, though that hasn’t led to a ton of postseason success. The Tigers figure to be right there again with a chance to win the division a fifth straight season. However, the losses of Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello will certainly have the rotation taking a step back. I could see Kansas City, Cleveland or Chicago winning this division as well. I am going with the Royals, who have proven that speed, defense and a dominant bullpen are a recipe for success. The Indians are one of the most underrated teams in baseball and should be right there as well due to their dominant starting staff. They also had a ton of injuries last year to their lineup and should receive a lot better health in 2015.
AL West: The Los Angeles Angels bounced back from a disappointing 2013 campaign to win the AL West with a dominant 98-64 record in 2014. The big money they spent in the offseason two years ago is finally paying off. The Angels figure to be right there again, but I’m going with the Mariners to win this division. They have one of the best rotations in baseball with Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker leading the way. They added Nelson Cruz, who led the majors with 40 homers last year. The Rangers had horrible luck in the injury department last year and figure to bounce back. The A’s lost a ton this offseason, and I have them barely finishing ahead of the Astros, who are one of the biggest up-and-coming teams in baseball.
NL East: The Washington Nationals have won the NL East two of the past three seasons. They went 96-66 last year to run away with the division title. They have only gotten stronger this offseason by adding Max Scherzer to an already dominant rotation, which is easily the best in baseball now. The lineup remains mostly intact and should produce at a high level again. The Marlins are a team on the rise, and the Mets have even gotten better this offseason. These two will battle it out for the 2-3 spot, while the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Philadelphia Phillies will be trying to stay out of the NL East basement. Both are in major rebuilding mode right now, and the Phillies may be the worst team in baseball.
NL Central: The St. Louis Cardinals have been perhaps the best organization in North American professional sports since the turn of the century. They have made the postseason 11 times in the past 15 years, which includes a ridiculous nine trips to the NLCS and four trips to the World Series, where they’ve won two. They added Jason Heyward to improve their lineup this offseason and should win the NL Central once again. The Cincinnati Reds are perhaps the biggest bounce-back candidates in 2015 after an injury-plagued 2014 campaign where they lost an MLB-high 38 games by one run. The Pittsburgh Pirates have averaged 91 wins the past two seasons while making the playoffs in each. The Cubs had a tremendous offseason in adding Jon Lester and Joe Maddon to go along with all of their young talent, but I believe they are still another year away. The Brewers led the NL Central for 150 days last year, but their collapse down the stretch will be a sign of things to come in 2015.
NL West: The Los Angeles Dodgers won the NL West for a second straight season last year, but it’s the San Francisco Giants who had all the postseason glory once again. They came into the playoffs via wild card, and Madison Bumgarner pitched them to their third World Series title in the past five years. I do believe the Giants will have another down year following a World Series, which has been a trend for them. They lost Pablo Sandoval and Mike Morse, and their starting staff did not get any better this offseason. The Dodgers will be right there again, but they did lose Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez. Kemp was one of several key additions this offseason for the San Diego Padres, who had the best offseason in baseball. I look for it to pay off right away as the Padres take down the NL West in 2015. The Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks have two of the worst rotations in baseball, which will overshadow the potential both of their lineups have. They’ll battle it out for last place in the division.