I Like the Tigers and Nationals in the Fall Classic

Justin Verlander

 

Justin Verlander
I expect Verlander and the Tigers to get over the hump and win the World Series.

In most parts of the country right now the last thing on anyone’s mind is Spring. After all, parts of the Midwest and Eastern portions of the United States were dumped on again by old man winter. Pittsburgh for example is supposed to host opening day in less than a week but the diamond at PNC Park was covered with snow yesterday.

Because the snow is still flying doesn’t mean I have to be relegated to discussing March Madness or the NBA right now because baseball’s Opening Day is within sight and it’s now time for my fearless predictions that you may or may not want to take to the bank.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

East Division Champions – Tampa Bay Rays

The Yankees are in trouble as are the Red Sox. I expect Toronto to make a more serious run with added pitching and the Orioles will present challenges but I don’t see them making it past Toronto and Tampa. The Rays have pitching, defense and solid hitting which means a division title.

Central Division Champions – Detroit Tigers

This is a mediocre division that I actually expect to be over by Mid-August. Kansas City will be better as will Cleveland but the Tigers are all-in with the addition of Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez back in the line-up to go with that pitching. Anything less than a World Series appearance for this team is a failure.

West Division Champions – Texas Rangers

Popular opinion says take the Angels with offensive prowess and I believe they’ll challenge Texas but I still like the Rangers’ pitching a little better in terms of winning the division. Don’t completely count out the Athletics simply because we never should. This could be a CY Young type year for the Rangers’ Yu Darvish.

Wild-Cards – Toronto Blue Jays, Los Angeles Angels

AL Championship – Detroit over Tampa Bay

AL Most Valuable Player – Miguel Cabrera, has too much protection around him to not have another huge year.

AL CY Young – Justin Verlander, until he proves otherwise, he is still the man to beat.

 

Stephen Strasburg
Look for Strasburg to make a run at the NL Cy Young Award in 2013.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

East Division Champions – Washington Nationals

Most pundits and myself expect a big year from Bryce Harper. I’m not ready to say an ‘MVP-type’ season yet, but it should be a big year. The pitching staff in D.C. is excellent and should keep the Braves at bay.

Central Division Champions – Cincinnati Reds

Aroldis Chapman will stay in the closer’s role and I like that. Let Joey Votto and company get the lead and Chapman can lock down games. I expect the Cardinals to be competitive but I’m not sure they have the man-power to hang with Cincy.

West Division Champions – Los Angeles Dodgers

For the first time in many years, there is finally stability in the organization and the ownership group has shown they will spend any amount to field a winner. I like Arizona to challenge but they just won’t be to hang in with the talent and spending power of the Dodgers.

Wild-Cards – San Francisco Giants, Atlanta Braves

NL Championship – Washington over Cincinnati

NL Most Valuable Player – Joey Votto, only a knee injury kept him from winning it last season. If he stays healthy in ’13 the award will be his.

NL Cy Young – Stephen Strasburg, I believe there will be serious motivation to prove he should have never been shut down last fall.

World Series – Detroit over Washington in 6 games, last fall the Tigers’ bats fell silent against the Giants. They will face tough pitching again this fall but they are now better equipped to handle it from 1-9. I also expect the experience of last year’s World Series trip to pay dividends for the Detroit.

Short slate of baseball before football kicks off

 

If the Dallas Cowboys upsetting the New York Giants on Wednesday night has put you in the mood for a spot of betting, there’s no need to wait until Sunday afternoon’s NFL kickoff games. Ahead of Sunday’s 13-game schedule there’s plenty of sporting action to be had.

First up is a short slate of Major League Baseball games on Thursday night. While most teams are currently prepping for three-game sets this weekend, 10 teams will be in action tonight. Four of the five games are series closers, with three involving teams looking good to make the postseason. The other is a biggie.

Tim Hudson and the Atlanta Braves are looking to close out their series against Colorado with a win Thursday night.

Kicking things off, Tim Hudson (13-5, 3.76 ERA) and the Atlanta Braves (77-60, 39-32 home) host the Colorado Rockies (56-79, 26-38 road). The Rockies have been nothing to write home about this season and the focus here will be on the Braves trying to maintain 4 ½ game lead in the race for a Wild Card spot. Jhoulys Chachin (2-4, 4.85 ERA) will go for the Rockies so Hudson is the favorite in this one. Despite Colorado having taken one of three from the Braves this week bet on the Braves at +110 to cover the spread.

Atlanta’s NL East rivals Washington will also be in action tonight. The Nationals (84-52, 42-25 home) host Chicago (51-85, 17-51 road). Leave it to the lowly Cubbies to help the Nationals out of a mini-slump. The Nats have taken three in a row against Chicago this week after struggling over the past two weeks, and with Jordan Zimmerman (9-8, 3.01 ERA) looking to make-up for a poor outing Saturday, it’s hard to see past Washington on Thursday. Oddsmakers agree. The Nationals enter the game as -1.5 favorites at -120 odds.

Elsewhere in the National League, the Milwaukee Brewers (67-69, 26-41 road) finish off a four-game series at Miami (60-77, 31-37). You’d have to be a diehard fan to watch this one, but some in-play action could be interesting for bettors. For the record, the Marlins are favored despite Milwaukee having taken two of three this week.

Over in the American League, AL West-leaders Texas (81-55, 38-30 road) has one game left in Kansas City (61-75, 31-37 home). Unsurprisingly, the Rangers enter the game as favorite (-1.5 at +115 odds) but Kansas snatched a victory on Tuesday and Rangers starter Scott Feldman (6-11, 5.01 ERA) is ripe for the pickings. Take the Royals for the upset here.

Rookie David Phelps will take the mound for the Yankees' opener in Baltimore on Thursday night.

The biggest game on tap Thursday night will be the New York Yankees (77-59, 36-31 road) travelling to Baltimore (76-60, 37-30 home) for the first of four. New York managed to edge one game ahead in the AL East after defeating Tampa Bay on Wednesday, while Baltimore fell to Toronto. This weekend’s series will be even bigger than last weekend’s showdown in the Bronx.

Thursday’s matchup see David Phelps (3-4, 3.13 ERA) go for the Yankees against Jason Hammel (8-6, 3.54). Phelps is spelling the injured Andy Pettitte. The rookie has impressed this season, maintaining a respectable ERA under the big lights of New York. Hobbled by injuries, the Yanks welcomed back Alex Rodriguez this week and despite Mark Teixeira still being on the DL, on Wednesday night the Bombers looked like they might be ready to turn a corner. Baltimore head into this one as underdogs and could be worth a stake, but this one smells like a statement game for the Yankees. Expect Derek Jeter to lead by example.

After all of that, if you still fancy an NFL warm up, College Football is back Thursday night with Pittsburgh (0-1) traveling to Cincinnati (0-0) in a Big East showdown. The Bearcats are narrow favorites (-4 ½ at -115) in what will be the team’s season opener.

Utah (1-0) travels to Utah State (1-0) on Friday night before a full slate of college games takes center stage on Saturday while the race for the MLB postseason continues across the weekend, including what could be Stephen Strasburg’s last outing of the year (Vs. Miami, Friday 7:05 PM ET).

Then, of course, NFL Week 1 kicks off proper on Sunday, with the pick of the bunch looking to be San Francisco at Green Bay and Pittsburgh at Denver. Oddsmakers like both home teams here, but Pittsburgh could well get after Peyton Manning and the Broncos for the [narrow] upset.