2010 Major League Baseball Preview

OUR JIM SEZ MAJOR-LEAGUE BASEBALL PREVIEW - A DIVISION-BY-DIVISION LOOK AT WHAT'S AHEAD PLUS WE FORECAST THE INDIVIDUAL AWARD WINNERS AND THE 2010 WORLD SERIES TOO!

By Jim Hurley:

Baseball's Back ... and not a moment too soon!

After a cold/wet/snowy winter in much of the U.S.A., the Boys of Spring/Summer return for the 2010 season with everyone out there wondering who might possibly be able to KO the defending World Series champion New York Yankees and the back-to-back National League champion Philadelphia Phillies.

As you'll note in our World Series "Win It All" chart below, the Yanks and Phils are listed as co-favorites to cop the crown this year but there's rumblings coming from Boston and Tampa and Colorado too.

Or might we be getting a "Freeway Series" between the LA Dodgers and LA Angels come October/November or maybe an-all Midwest hoedown in the Fall Classic between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago White Sox?

Everyone's got high hopes as the Baseball '10 season swings into action - and we'll break it down division-by-division in just a moment in today's Jim Sez but first this important reminder:

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get you the College Basketball National Championship Game Winner along with the NBA and don't miss out on all the fun-and-profits in this 2010 Major-League Baseball Season action too when you check in with us each and every day right here online or else at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453. Remember that check-in times are after 11 a.m. ET for Monday-through-Friday day-time Baseball action and after 1 p.m. ET on weekdays for all night games in MLB and the NBA and than anytime after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays and Sundays.

Extra, extra: We'll have our NCAA Championship Game Side & Totals releases after 1 p.m. ET on game-day afternoon on this first Monday in April - so make sure you cap your College Hoops Season with a real loud bang!

 

AMERICAN LEAGUE

EAST

Now that Yankees manager Joe Girardi has changed his uniform number from 27 to 28 (more than just a little haughty, if you ask us!), the Bronx Bombers are in the market for yet another World Series banner but can closer Mariano Rivera, LHP Andy Pettitte and others hold off "Father Time"?

The Yanks are loaded even with the exodus of OF Johnny Damon (Tigers) and DH Hideki Matsui (Angels) and it's safe to say that New York's looking for 50-plus wins from its triumvirate of starters CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and the aforementioned Pettitte and so RHP Javy Vazquez could give the Yanks some real icing-on-the-cake wins here.

Both Boston and Tampa Bay are considered major threats to the Yankees but both have more than a few questions marks:

Where do the Red Sox get their power should DH David Ortiz fall off - and will SS Marco Scutaro finally be the guy Boston's been looking to plug the shortstop hole after a revolving door situation at that position the past six or seven years?

Meanwhile, the major query with the Rays wrests with the starting rotation that really doesn't know what it will get from young LHP David Price (to say nothing of RHPs Jeff Neimann and Wade Davis)? If free-agent-to-be LF Carl Crawford has a real bust-out season this year, than maybe than 12-to-1 Tampa Bay can win it all.

The goal for Baltimore? Win at least 75 games and play spoiler in September in this AL East race.

The goal for Toronto? Try to forget that RHP Roy Halladay (Phillies) doesn't pitch for 'em anymore!


CENTRAL

Maybe the biggest question mark 'round this division is what impact will playing their home games outdoors have on the Minnesota Twins?

Heck, you could argue that if Minny didn't play inside the Metrodome last year it wouldn't have beaten Detroit in that epic one-game playoff but now Ron Gardenhire's club is headed to the great outdoors with three-time AL batting champ C Joe Mauer but without star closer Joe Nathan who's out for the year with a damaged right elbow.

So, in steps the Chicago White Sox as just about the co-favorite here (see the Win It All chart below) and the Pale Hose have plenty of standout starting pitchers including LHP Mark Buehrle and RHP Jake Peavy but there's little pop in this attack unless CF Alex Rios finally lives up to some of his billing - stay tuned! The Chisox will be a run-run team this year and so things just might come down to whether or not the aforementioned Mauer can throw out potential Sox base stealers this season.

The X-factor in this AL Central is Detroit - if RHPs Justin Verlander and kid Rick Porcello can stay healthy and get the Motowners close to 40 wins between 'em than Jim Leyland's crew could be game for snatching up this division.

Meanwhile, defending Cy Young winner RHP Zack Greinke gives lowly Kansas City a legit shot every time he steps on the mound while Cleveland is counting on CF Grady Sizemore giving the Tribe a big-time bounce-back season. If either of these teams can somehow scratch out 75 wins, than they did better than expected in 2010.


WEST

The general feeling out there in media-land is that this is the year the Seattle Mariners unseat the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim from the top of the AL West perch ... but not so fast, my friends!

The Halos - despite the free-agent exodus of RHP John Lackey (Red Sox) have plenty of sturdy arms in the starting rotation and keep a close eye this year on RHP Ervin Santana and LHP Scott Kazmir - don't be shocked if they combine for 35-plus wins for Mike Scioscia's club. Plus, the Angels will be able to replace 3B Chone Figgins and DH Vladimir Guerrero with other bats including the aforementioned Matsui.

The fact is neither Angels closer Brian Fuentes nor M's closer David Aardsma can be trusted at crunch time and Seattle's starters following the nifty #1-#2 punch of RHP Felix Hernandez and LHP Cliff Lee is really shaky ... did someone say Ryan Rowland-Smith is the team's expected #3 starter?

No doubt Texas is the most intriguing team in this division and maybe the most intriguing team in all of Baseball as last year's Rangers won 87 games and now brings a better pitching staff into play here with RHP Rich Harden a real star if he can just deliver 30 starts. Look for a bounce-back season from Texas OF Josh Hamilton who should be good for 30-to-35 dingers and 110 RBI.

Oakland is expected to finish in the basement here but if born-again RHP Ben Sheets can deliver a magical year than the A's could make some noise.
 

NATIONAL LEAGUE

EAST

Perhaps you've heard the sentiment in recent days that this Philadelphia Phillies club is the "best team in the NL in 30 years" - and if Charlie Manuel's guys win the Senior Circuit again in 2010 than who's to argue?

Naturally, there will be folks who consider the addition of RHP Halladay and the subtraction of star LHP Lee (Mariners) to be a "push" but the fact is the former's been the best pitcher in baseball the past seven or eight years and he could threaten a 25-win season while facing less-demanding NL lineups while backed by one of MLB's best overall lineups.

Both 1B Ryan Howard and 2B Chase Utley could be considered serious MVP candidates every year - and SS Jimmy Rollins has won one already - and it's quite possible that all three of Philly's OFs (Raul Ibanez, Shane Victoriano and Jayson Werth) will wind up on the NL All-Star team this summer in Anaheim.

So, should anyone be surprised if the Phillies win close to 100 games and get into a third straight World Series? No way.

It will be interesting to see if either Atlanta or Florida can put some pressure on Philadelphia this season - if the Braves have a renaissance in manager Bobby Cox's final go-around than rookie OF Jason Heyward probably will be a star performer while the Fish are banking on an MVP-like year from SS Hanley Ramirez who generally is regarded as the second-best player in the NL these days.

The New York Mets were injury-ravaged last year and need CF Carlos Beltran (knee) to make it back ASAP (look for mid-May) while Washington's pointing to the future with RHP Stephen Strasburg who probably will get somewhere between 15-to-18 starts this year once he's called up.


CENTRAL

The St. Louis Cardinals are just about everyone's pick to click in this division but the daunting question here is will everyone love 'em should RHP Chris Carpenter get hurt (as he usually does)? The one-two punch of Carpenter and righty Adam Wainwright is the best in the NL but there are weak links in the rest of this rotation (Kyle Lohse is the #3 starter and Brad Penny is #4) and Tony LaRussa's crew is lacking for quality depth should either 1B Albert Pujols or LF Matt Holliday go down at any time.

If there is a gonna be any competition for the Central crown, than it will be either the Chicago Cubs or the Milwaukee Brewers that figure to make the biggest challenge:

The Cubs come off a disastrous 83-win season last year - they were expected to win in the low-to-mid-90s - but believe they rid themselves of "dead wood" and attitude problems but the key here is will the hitting pick up now that well-respected batting coach Rudy Jaramillo has joined the club? Maybe LF Alfonso Soriano can finally get back to a 30-homer, 100-RBI, 100-runs scored type season.

Meanwhile, the aforementioned Brewers believe LF Ryan Braun can put up MVP-like numbers behind 1B Prince Fielder but if Milwaukee's to crank out a winning year (went 80-82 last season) than RHP Yovani Gallardo must give 'em 200-plus innings and 15-or-more wins.

Cincinnati, Houston and Pittsburgh figure to finish in the lower half of this six-team division but one player to watch here is Astros LHP Wandy Rodriguez who could be the next true star hurler in this division.


WEST

No doubt about it this will be the most competitive division in all of Baseball - and don't be surprised if the divisional champ here wins fewer than 90 games.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are slight favorites over the likes of Arizona, Colorado and San Francisco but you can throw a blanket over this quartet and put 'em in any order you like because things are that tight.

Okay, so the Dodgers have a quality day-to-day lineup even if LF Manny Ramirez isn't always his old self as CF Matt Kemp appears the most likely player on Joe Torre's team to make a big-time leap in performance but can you trust a Dodgers rotation that is starting RHP Vicente Padilla on Opening Day?

Arizona has the NL's top hit-or-miss guy in the land in 3B Mark Reynolds and a healthy RHP Brandon Webb to go along with fellow righties Dan Haren and Edwin Jackson could make the D-Backs the team to beat here.

Colorado played .629 ball after the first 49 games last year and SS Troy Tulowitzki appears to be on the brink of super-stardom - plus the Rockies are getting solid LHP Jeff Francis back after an injury-filled '09.

San Francisco has the two-time defending CY Young winner in RHP Tim Lincecum and underrated star RHP Matt Cain but the Giants may not have enough long-ball hitters.

And San Diego figures to be at the back of the NL West pack but don't be surprised if the Padres play one-run games in about half their tilts.

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WORLD SERIES ODDS TO WIN IT ALL
(All based on $100 plays)

TEAM

ODDS

New York Yankees

+ 300

Philadelphia Phillies

+ 300

Boston Red Sox

+ 500

St. Louis Cardinals

+ 800

Atlanta Braves

+ 1000

Los Angeles Angels

+ 1200

Tampa Bay Rays

+ 1200

Chicago Cubs

+ 1500

Los Angeles Dodgers

+ 1500

Minnesota Twins

+ 1600

Seattle Mariners

+ 1600

Arizona Diamondbacks

+ 1800

Chicago White Sox

+ 1800

Colorado Rockies

+ 1800

Detroit Tigers

+ 1800

San Francisco Giants

+ 1800

Texas Rangers

+ 1800

Florida Marlins

+ 2400

New York Mets

+ 2400

Houston Astros

+ 3500

Milwaukee Brewers

+ 3500

Cincinnati Reds

+ 4000

Cleveland Indians

+ 4500

Oakland Athletics

+ 4500

Baltimore Orioles

+ 6500

Kansas City Royals

+ 6500

Pittsburgh Pirates

+ 7000

San Diego Padres

+ 7000

Toronto Blue Jays

+ 7000

Washington Nationals

+ 7000

THE 2010 JIM SEZ BASEBALL FORECASTS

     Okay, so it is once again prediction time and here's how we see things:
     In the AL, the division winners will be the Yankees, White Sox and Angels and we'll say the Rays grab the wild card.
     In the NL, the division winners will be the Phillies, Cardinals and Rockies with the Giants nabbing the wild card.
     The 2010 World Series ... we say it's the Yankees over the Rockies in 6 games.
    
In terms of individual awards, it's the following:
     AL MVP - Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees
     NL MVP - Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies

     AL Cy Young - Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
     NL Cy Young - Dan Haren, Arizona Diamondbacks

     AL Manager of the Year - Ozzie Guillen, Chicago White Sox
     NL Manager of the Year - Bruce Bochy, San Francisco Giants

NOTE: Our College Basketball NCAA Championship Game Preview is right here in the next Jim Sez.

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