Baseball begins tomorrow.
There has been plenty of offseason drama, with huge contracts doled out to megastars such as Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, and Manny Machado.
But now it's finally time to play the games. With that said, we want to get on the record with five bold predictions for the 2019 MLB season.
Buckle up, because here we go:
1. The Lowest Average National League Batting Title Ever
This almost happened last season. It took a monster September for batting champion Christian Yelich to surpass Tony Gwynn's record-low 1988 average of .313. Scooter Gennett finished just behind Yelich with a .310 average.
What's driving the batting averages lower? For one thing, great pitching. For another, there has been an analytical and philosophical shift away from pure hitting as a skill towards the ability to get on base. A walk may not be as good as a hit.
But it's still pretty good.
2. The Atlanta Braves Will Finish Fourth in the NL East
Atlanta were a wonderful story last season. But the East is not the same as it was then.
For starters, the Washington Nationals have added top of the rotation starter Patrick Corbin. Corbin's 3.15 ERA in 2018 may even improve as it was supported by an underlying 2.47 FIP.
Expect improvement from the New York Mets as well. Boasting a top tier starting catcher - Wilson Ramos - for the first in what seems like decades - the Metropolitans have also added much needed bullpen help with Edwin Diaz. Robinson Cano is a bonus at second.
Oh - and the Phillies have added a little player named Bryce Harper, with the potential to completely change the look - and power - of their lineup.
While the division is much better, the Braves really did not add much. Could Atlanta still acquire Dallas Keuchel to challenge Harper and the other big bats of the NL East?
Maybe. But, for now, this is a team primed for a slump.
3. Gary Sanchez Will Lead the Yankees in Home Runs
These predictions are bold but are they also daring? This one is.
It is based on the belief Gary Sanchez will have a major bounce back season. He was hurt for much of last year and never got going at the plate. And he could be very ready to make trouble for the Red Sox and everyone else standing in the way of the Yankees' path to glory.
Sanchez is a prime candidate to bounce back with 40 home runs. That could definitely beat Judge or Stanton this season in terms of the long ball.
Miguel Andujar has an underdog's chance to come through with this feat as well. But, that depends on how much his defense keeps him out of the lineup.
Flash that leather, Andujar. In the meantime, watch out for Gary.
4. Teams That Won a NL Division Title in 2018 that Will Repeat: Zero.
It is not just the Braves who may have trouble defending a division title.
The Dodgers' lineup got better, but their rotation is getting older. Probable future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw is already struggling with injuries.
Meanwhile, the Rockies are young and just extended star Nolan Arenado, giving Colorado a great chance to usurp Los Angeles and win the NL West. They lost out to the Dodgers in a tiebreaker game last year. Expect some hunger for revenge.
In the Central, the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs have a great chance to knock the Milwaukee Brewers off their perch as the division champ.
Will it happen? We say yea.
5. Manny Machado Will Not Eclipse 30 Home Runs or 100 RBIs
Manny Machado is a terrific player. He should improve the San Diego Padres, who need a lot of improvement.
However, no longer protected by the more stacked Dodgers' lineup, it will be easier to pitch around him. Can you say intentional walk?
He also won't have as many base runners in front of him, so expect those precious ribbies to drop.
Sure, Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers are there, but they have yet to show the consistency needed to protect other hitters in a lineup. And Hunter Renfroe is still finding his way as a hitter, meaning Machado will likely not have nearly as many RBI opportunities as he would had he signed with, say, the Yankees.
There you have it. Five bold predictions. Check back with us at season's end to see how right or - gulp - not we were.
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