Continuing with our fun little prediction exercise, here are my BOLD predictions for 2013.
1. Josh Hamilton will fail to hit 25 home runs.
In my opinion, there a several contributing factors as to why I believe the Angels new $125 million man will fall short of the 25 home run mark one year after popping 43. Number one is Hamilton’s health. He has a track record of being injury prone, as from 2009-2011 he failed to play in more than 133 games. Next, the change of scenery from Texas to Los Angeles poses two additional problems for the 31 year old slugger. Even if he does stay on the field for a full season, he is going from the best hitters park in the American League to a notorious pitchers park. In nearly the same amount of games played, Hamilton hit 83 home runs at home for Texas compared to just 59 on the road. Also, Hamilton has to deal with playing under a lot of pressure. First of all, he is in the first year of his mega-deal, and that can cause a superstar like Hamilton to press. Second, he struggled mightily down the stretch and in the wild card game for Texas. Josh will want to prove to his new teammates and new fan base that he is the real deal and that can cause major problems especially for a guy like Hamilton who will swing at almost anything.
2. Buster Posey will lead the Giants to another title and earn his 3rd ring in his first 4 years.
A dynasty will be born in San Francisco in 2013. Even after coming off a championship, all the attention will be on the new look Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West. However, I believe the Giants can match up with their talent, and have one of the best overall teams in baseball. It all starts with pitching, and the Giants have it. With Matt Cain leading the staff, I believe Tim Lincecum will bounce back to have a season closer to his Cy Young years. Those two guys will go along with Ryan Vogelsong (3.37 2012 ERA), Madison Bumgarner (3.37 2012 ERA) and Barry Zito (4.15 2012 ERA). Zito is in the final year of his long contract and is coming off a brilliant 2012 postseason that will give him confidence heading into 2013. If these guys can stay healthy, it is one of the top rotations in baseball. The Giants also will have one of the deadliest bullpens in all of baseball. With guys like Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt, Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez, and George Kontos all coming of great years in 2012, the Giants should excel late in games. They also will put together a nice looking lineup in 2013. Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro should pose as two guys the Giants can rely on to get on base for guys like Pablo Sandoval, NL MVP Buster Posey, and Hunter Pence. Brandon Belt will also provide some pop in the lineup after gaining more experience at the big league level in 2012. Overall, I like the Giants as a team and believe they can make a run at a third title in four years.
3. Cliff Lee’s bad luck changes, wins 20 games and captures the NL Cy Young Award.
Cliff Lee started 30 games in 2012, threw 211 innings, and won 6 games. By looking at that, one may think Lee had an “off year.” Wrong. Cliff Lee was in fact one of the best pitchers in all of baseball in 2012. He was 9th in the National League in ERA (3.16) and 7th in the league in ERA+ (127). Also, with 207 strikeouts and just 28 walks, Lee led all of baseball in K/BB ratio (7.3), which is far and away ahead of the next best (4.4). The 2008 AL Cy Young winner was also tied with Cole Hamels for 7th in the National League in WAR for pitchers (4.2). Lee won 6 games, had a 4.2 WAR and Hamels had a 17-win season with the same exact WAR as Lee. Lee was just a victim of horrible run support and a pitcher is unable to control that. Lee did more than enough in 2012 to be successful, and he was successful despite picking up just 6 wins. Because his luck was so bad a year ago, I believe Lee will again be dominant, only this time his luck will change and he will have the wins to prove it this time. I predict Lee will get to the 20 win mark for the second time in his career, while capturing his second Cy Young.
4. Miguel Cabrera will fail to be in the top 3 in the AL in any one of the triple crown categories.
Miguel Cabrera has consistently been one of the top players in the game of baseball for the past 10 years. Heading into 2013 he will be a two-time defending batting champion in the American League. Not to mention he was first in all three categories in 2012, winning the first triple crown baseball has seen since “Yaz” in 1967. Cabrera hit a career-high 44 home runs in 2012, however his 162 game average over his career is 34 home runs. I believe Cabrera will return to a home run total in the mid-30s. Cabrera has also been the batting champion the past 2 seasons. He hit .344 and .330 in 2011 and 2012 respectively and it would be a daunting task in 2013 to hit for an average that high. With runs batted in, Cabrera will have to rely on his teammates getting on base in front of him. Austin Jackson had a breakout season and did not strikeout nearly as much as he used to. I look for Jackson to regress a bit, and not be on base as much for Cabrera. In 2012, his 139 RBI was 12 more than his previous career high, and I expect him to go down in that category as well.
5. Indians acquire Jacoby Ellsbury at deadline, he helps them secure the second wild card position.
Like the Orioles and A’s before them, I like the Cleveland Indians as a sleeper pick for a postseason spot in 2013. Nick Swisher and Mark Reynolds will be key in a Cleveland lineup with already some good looking young players. I think guys like Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Michael Brantley will all have solid seasons as well. As far as pitching, I am going to predict that Ubaldo Jimenez comes back and has a great year and will be the staff’s leader. He will go along with Justin Masterson, who looks to return to his 2011 form, newly acquired Brett Myers, Zach McCallister and Trevor Bauer. I do not believe that is enough to compete with the Tigers, however if healthy this could help the Indians contend all summer long. I believe they will be looking for one more bat to help make a push in the final 2 months, and with the Red Sox willing part ways with all-star center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, a trade will be worked out between the two clubs. Ellsbury, the 2011 American League MVP runner up, will add a rare dynamic of power and speed to the Indians lineup and will carry them into the wild card game.