I'll say this: while I can't vouch for the baseball knowledge of the staff at USA Today Sports, they certainly know a thing or two about bringing in the clicks. The nation's most widely circulated newspaper released their MLB predictions today, and they are wild:
Let's break down the highlights here:
- In 2015, the Chicago White Sox finished in fourth place in the competitive AL Central. They've probably gotten better this off-season by adding Todd Frazier to the middle of their lineup, and swapping Jeff Samardzija for Mat Latos, both of whom are pitchers that had very disappointing seasons in 2015 but have long track records of success, is probably a wash. So that's great for them, but the world champion Royals have remained mostly intact, the Twins will continue to improve as their talented stable of prospects, led by OF Byron Buxton, are starting to hit the major leagues, and you count out Jason Kipnis at your own risk. I just don't think I see the Southsiders adding 14 wins and becoming the best team in the American League. That's crazy pants.
- Announcing to the world that they just simply have no concept, USA Today predicts the Royals will win just 84 games and miss the playoffs. Doubt the Ned Yost dynasty at your own risk.
- In total, USA Today's predictions have the American League going 173-127 in Interleague Play, which would be a wild .577 winning percentage. That's not totally bonkers -- the AL has had carried a winning record in Interleague play every year since 2004, and most of the teams in rebuilding mode are in the National League this season. Still, that's quite a lopsided prediction. Mild takes don't feed families, folks.
- OKAY FINE it's time to talk about the Brewers. This isn't necessarily a burning, white hot take: they're taking the under on the Vegas line of 71.5 wins, but they don't have them quite at 100 losses and you know, 64 wins is in the "sure, that could be what happens" range. As we've said, I expect the Brewers to improve on last year's 68-94 record: they're either the same or improved at every position on the diamond except perhaps first base. The starting rotation replaced Kyle Lohse with Chase Anderson and Matt Garza with hopefully a better version of Matt Garza. And the bench looks like it might have some real promise -- let's just say at this point Hernan Perez does not seem to have a spot locked down on the Opening Day roster. Even if Jonathan Lucroy is traded this season, which is a very real possibility, he was downright brutal for a good chuck of last season. So even a half-season of him at something close to his career numbers could be worth more in terms of WAR than he was worth all of last season. I think you can book the Brewers for at least 70 wins.
- We know all about the hand wringing over the teams that are "tanking" this season, but these folks are going coo coo bananas with three 100-loss teams and another three with at least 95. This isn't the first time in MLB history that bad teams have existed, y'all. There hasn't been a 100-loss team since 2013, when the Houston Astros and Miami Marlins both dropped triple digits in the L column. You have to get real "Bowling For Soup" with it and rewind to 1985 to find the last season with a trio of 100 game losers. I'm not trying to tell you that the Phillies, Red and Rockies are good, I'm just saying that 100 is a lot of games to lose and seeing three teams do it in one year would be an aberration.
- Look, Bryce Harper is super good, okay? But he can't pitch, and while he probably could catch or play shortstop or first base or left field somewhat adequately, he can't do all of those things at the same time while still manning his regular post in right. So sure, if the Nationals had five Bryce Harpers, and they were going to play right and left field, first base, second base and catcher, they might win 89 games. But they don't have five of them, they only have the one, and they're also going to be handing the ball to Tanner Roark and Joe Ross 40% of the time. That might be okay, but the Mets have a starting rotation that could push the 90s Braves as one of the very best of all time. So I don't know, I think I probably like New York in the NL East. Call me crazy.