Without further ado, here are my division champions and wild card choices for the American League and National League, along with their current odds to win the senior circuit.
National League Champions
My three division champions are Washington, St. Louis and Los Angeles.
Honestly, I am not forecasting any hot pennant races in the National League, as these teams all look to be at least five games better than anyone in their respective divisions. Granted, this still takes us down to the last week of the regular season, but I view each club having a working margin by that point.
The Dodgers (+275) have the most talented roster in the league and realistically only San Francisco has the right mix of players and winning attitude to make a legitimate run at them in the NL West.
St. Louis (+300) lost in the World Series, but had the youngest roster of any playoff team in 2013 and that experience only drives them to win a fifth National League title in 11 years.
It was hard to put a finger on exactly what went wrong with Washington (+450) last year, other than they were mentally not up to the task of living up to expectations of those setting the MLB odds. On the presumption of greater health, learning from past mistakes and believing in themselves, the Nationals hold off Atlanta and are champs of the NL East.
National League Wild Card Choices
I have seen enough of San Francisco (+900) to think they bounce back and they are the top wild card team. The middle of the lineup will drive in a lot runs and the starting pitching and bullpen might not be as good as the recent World Series teams of 2010 and 2012, yet they are good enough to reach the postseason.
While I will not call for Pittsburgh to win 94 games again like last season, I am equally hard-pressed to conceive they will tumble all the way to 83 wins for 2014, as some sportsbooks win total suggest. The Pirates hold off Atlanta and Cincinnati and return to the postseason.
National League Playoff Results
San Francisco beats Pittsburgh in the Wild Card conflict and advances to face the top-seeded Dodgers.
The betting odds will dramatically favor Dodger Blue; however, the resilient Giants push this series to the max in this bitter rivalry, before succumbing to L.A.
Washington extracts their revenge against St. Louis from 2012 and knocks out the Cardinals with better overall pitching and timely hitting.
After coming tantalizing close in Montreal and a couple of years ago, Washington pulls off a major surprise and upsets Los Angeles to win the National League. Bryce Harper, Jordan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg all make heavy contributions, but veteran Jayson Werth is the NL series MVP.
American League Division Champions
Two of the three division races will come down to the last few days and have fans and MLB baseball handicappers downing Maalox like an energy drink.
Tampa Bay is the preseason choice to win the AL East with Boston’s defections, nonetheless, this proud group has one more run left in them and the Red Sox (+500) sneak by the Rays in the final two weeks of the season thanks to their pitching staff and as per usual, timely hits from David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia.
The other tight race has the Texas, Oakland and the L.A. Angels going toe to toe in September. In a surprise, it will be the Halos (+1000) who emerge as champions, with their offense hot at the right time and stunning all of baseball with a pitching staff that comes together during the regular season.
Detroit (+350) is the favorite in the NL Central by a wide margin and will doddle for third straight year for three months before elevating their play after the All-Star break and leave Kansas City behind.
American League Wild Card Choices
Manager Joe Maddon once again leads his team to the postseason and the usual throng of 20,000 Tampa Bay fans will cheer them on. Tampa Bay (+700) grabs the top wild card slot playing the “Rays way”.
Because of the early season pitching woes, Texas (+800) makes a late run with a complete staff and passes up Oakland and the Yankees to secure the last postseason seat in the junior circuit. The Rangers enter the playoffs with The Majors best offense.
American League Playoff Results
For a second straight year, Tampa Bay takes Texas out of the postseason, this time on the home field before a near sellout crowd.
The Rays run into a smoldering Tigers team which has been playing great baseball for two months and are eliminated.
The Red Sox and Angels series goes the limit with compelling contests each time, but it will be Boston’s know-how of winning that makes the difference playing before the Fenway faithful.
Detroit is able to play the revenge card on Boston from last season in this same spot and wins the American League crown. The Tigers pitchers silence the BoSox bats and Miguel Cabrera tatters Red Sox pitching to become the MVP, making me look real smart with one of my MLB picks.
The World Series Winner Is…
Having lost the World Series in 2006 and 2012 to St. Louis, Detroit faces Washington and beats them in six games to earn their first trophy since 1984. The payout is not enormous, but sports bettors who took the Tigers in March collect on a 7-to-1 payout.