That's right. The master of brevity is back again, here to tell you everything you need to know about the upcoming baseball season in his customarily succinct-but-still-undeniably-brilliant way.
Every division, East to West.
Every team, in order of finish.
Two sentences, maybe less.
Here we go.
American League East
Boston Red Sox -- They had a big offseason, adding offense o'plenty, but the pitching is still a big worry, at least for now. They'll outslug most of their issues, though, and there's a crop of pitching talent on the way very soon, headlined by Henry Owens, the big lefty with the big curve I wanted the Cards to draft instead of Kolten Wong.
Toronto Blue Jays -- Alex Anthopolous is going for it in a big way this year, and for his sake I hope it works. The loss of Marcus Stroman lowers the ceiling on this club, though, and an extreme amount of youth throughout the roster makes them one of the highest variance teams in the league, capable of an extraordinarily wide range of outcomes.
Baltimore Orioles -- The Orioles are still built along the lines of the 2004 Cardinals, with a pitching staff composed entirely of solid-but-unspectacular performers and an overall roster construction that really has no serious weaknesses. The AL East will be better this year, though, and the O's will fall just short of a playoff berth in an extremely tightly-bunched division.
Tampa Bay Rays -- The offense is still going to struggle, badly, to score. The pitching, though, particularly the starting rotation (Jake Odorizzi is one of my very favourite young pitchers in the game, and a guy I have projected for a big breakout this season), has huge upside, and will keep an in-transition club from falling too far out of things.
New York Yankees -- It's rather dark in the Bronx right now, even if the names on the roster suggest a team with some real upside. Age and injury and just plain bloat will have the Yankees looking more like the Phillies than anyone is comfortable with this year.
American League Central
Cleveland Indians -- They're the best of a bad bunch, but I think that starting rotation (Kluber-Carrasco-Bauer in particular), buoyed by a somewhat-improved defense (yay no Asdrubal Cabrera at short!), will propel the Indians to the top of a brutally mediocre Central. Plus, Carlos Santana is certifiably awesome, ditto Yan Gomes, and Jason Kipnis can't possibly be as bad as he was in 2014, can he?
Chicago White Sox -- The White Sox came up with a coup before the 2014 season, signing Jose Abreu (who I was hoping the Cardinals would go after and trade Matt Adams, with the logic that money is always easier to find than talent in baseball), to a very reasonable deal and then watching him turn into a possible MVP vote-getter. This offseason was good as well, as they upgraded all over the roster, even if said upgrades were far less dramatic than their big Cuban Frank Thomas.
Detroit Tigers -- We've all been waiting for the other shoe to drop for the Detroit Tigers, with a roster that's looked poised to fall off a cliff for awhile. This is the year that falloff happens, with aging players doing what aging players do, and Dave Dombrowski unable to prop that window open any longer.
Kansas City Royals -- Yordano Ventura is one of the most exciting young pitchers in the game, and the Royals still boast both one of the best bullpens and one of the best defenses in all of baseball. Even if Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer maintain some of their October offensive gains, however, this is a team severely limited by their punchlessness, and by mid-July there will be articles written everywhere asking the question of the Royals: was it still worth it?
Minnesota Twins -- Yes, the Twins are still bad (and Ervin Santana's suspension certainly doesn't help matters this year), and yes, they still have plenty of high-end talent coming. Unlike the Cubs, however, the Twins have not been able to accelerate their timetable as of yet, leaving them again essentially irrelevant to the 2015 season.
American League West
Oakland Athletics -- The A's were baseball's most fun jigsaw puzzle this offseason, presenting a picture you couldn't quite see until all the moves were complete and the pieces were in place. I have serious doubts about the pitching, but the offensive side of things is much more stout, with one of the most intriguing infields in all of baseball.
Seattle Mariners -- The M's are a chic pick for nearly everyone this spring, and looking at their pitching -- both starting and relief -- it's easy to see why. I'm still not entirely sold on the offense, though, the bullpen will not perform to the ridiculous level of 2014, and there's risk in that starting rotation; in other words, enough questions I'll give them a Wild Card, but think they'll fall just short of a division crown.
Anaheim Angels -- They have the best player in baseball, and that's a hell of a place to start, even if the rest of the offense is likely in decline. The pitching is still spotty, though, and they're going to miss Howie Kendricks's ultra-dependable performance quite a lot, methinks.
Houston Astros -- The Astros are getting better, but don't yet have the firepower to compete in a very tough division. They'll hit for a ton of power, swing and miss just as much, and will regret Mark Appel the way Portland regrets Sam Bowie. (Okay, so that's maybe a tad hyperbolic.)
Texas Rangers -- It's kind of unbelievable to see how quickly it's all fallen apart for the Texas Rangers; they are currently baseball's perfect version of a memento mori. The Yu Darvish and Jurickson Profar injuries feel straight out of Job, but they do have Joey Gallo on the way, which could be incredibly awesome to watch.
National League East
Washington Nationals -- If you're picking against the Nationals, you're either trolling for attention or just not paying any. It's an incredibly risky rotation, though, so if you're looking for a way it could all fall apart, look no further than Strasburg/Zimmermann/Gio's injury-riddled pasts -- and futures, most likely.
Miami Marlins -- Headlined by one of the game's best outfields, the Marlins have put together another surprisingly sexy roster. (And not just because of bodypaint Giancarlo.) They should get Jose Fernandez back sometime this year, also, and while we've seen pitchers coming back from Tommy John are likely to be lessened in the short term, he's still Jose F. Fernandez.
New York Mets -- The Mets have young firepower in their rotation and more on the way, even if that firepower all seems to be of strictly the glass cannon variety. The offense still has on-base issues, though, and overall the Mets feel like a quiche that's only been in the oven for 20 minutes: that shit just isn't quite done yet.
Atlanta Braves -- The Braves are a really, really weird club right now who can't seem to decide which way they want to point themselves. They still have most of a decent club's core locked up on reasonable contracts, but the pitching looks very shaky to me outside of a few stalwarts, and, well, the Braves are roughly as half-baked as the Mets, but somehow seem to be uncooking their own egg pie.
Philadelphia Phillies -- Two sentences is both not nearly enough and far too much to write about the Phillies. They're old, and bad, and expensive, and it's going to get worse before it gets better in Philly.
National League Central
St. Louis Cardinals -- More John Cena-like than ever, the Cardinals are suddenly the third most-hyped team in the NL Central, due to premature salivation over the Cubs and analysts desperate for a new champ picking the Pirates left and right. The offense could still be a concern, and the rotation has breakdown potential, especially at the top, but for all that the Cardinals were still the club that added the most wins in all of baseball at any one position, and were starting from the top of the division to begin with.
Pittsburgh Pirates -- The Pirates have the best outfield in baseball and an enviable pipeline of talent that should keep them competing for the Central crown -- if not higher achievement strata -- for years to come. They're going to miss Russell Martin in a big way this year, though, and there is some regression coming in the infield, leading to them appearing in the Bud Selig Memorial One Game Classic for the third year running.
Chicago Kris Bryants -- The Cubs will take a big step forward this year, led by Jorge Soler and the presence of Jon Lester in the rotation. They're still at least one year away from being big-time contenders, though, and the number of articles written in the next five years about whether the Cubbies can succeed while striking out at the rate they do is going to be staggering.
Milwaukee Brewers -- The Brewers return most of a team that overachieved its way into a long first-place stay in 2014, with the addition of an actual, real-life major league first baseman this year. The division has improved around them, though, markedly, and the Brew Crew will find themselves again on the outside looking in at the toughest division in baseball.
Cincinnati Reds -- The one club in the Central who could blow it all up midseason -- with the possible stumbling block of a distinct lack of sellable assets -- the Reds have a curious mix of valuablecheapyoung emerging stars (Frazier, Mesoraco), overpaid, oft-injured, terrible contracts (Votto, Homer Bailey, Brandon Phillips), and virtually nothing in between, with Johnny Cueto perhaps the most notable exception. Cincinnati is outclassed in this division, needed to make tough decisions two years ago, and may be looking for pieces to sell off to start a rebuild soon; one has to wonder if Walt Jocketty has the stomach for such a thing.
National League West
Los Angeles Dodgers -- Oh, how I hate the Dodgers. They're really good, though, and really smart, and look on paper like a top three team in all of baseball.
San Diego Padres -- The Padres made ALL TEH MOVES this offseason, and they should be quite a bit better. It's still one of the worst infields in the game, a terrible defensive outfield, and an injury-plagued (James Shields aside), rotation that the offense will not be able to prop up completely, leading to them winning the prestigious Most Likely to Underachieve and Be Referred To As Overhyped by Mid-July award that I just made up.
San Francisco Giants -- The rotation is an enormous question mark outside of Madison Bumgarner, the offensive core is suddenly looking very depleted and shaky outside of Buster Posey, and the bullpen looks mighty iffy outside of Yusmeiro Petit, somewhat bizarrely. In other words, it's really amazing this is the team that's going to win the 2016 World Series.
Colorado Rockies -- The ending sequence of 2001 is easier to figure out than how to win in Colorado. Until the Rockies realise it just isn't happening and move on from the Tulowitzki/Carlos Gonzalez tandem in order to try and find the building blocks of a great team, this is pretty much the spot in the division they're going to perpetually occupy.
Arizona Diamondbacks -- I don't really have two sentences to say about the DBacks, and that includes this one sentence saying I don't have two sentences. Instead, I'll simply quote Joe Sheehan on Will Leitch's podcast recently: "The Diamondbacks are one of the worst teams in the game, and one of the worst organizations in the game."
My World Series pick: The St. Louis Cardinals to win it all. Why? Because when they did the Cards' season preview on Effectively Wild recently, the opening music was Blur's "Best Days", one of my favourite Blur tracks from their greatest record (and a truly forgotten classic), "The Great Escape." No other team had an intro song that came even close, and so the Cardinals will bring home a championship. And yes, that is my real and honest prediction.
Baseball is tonight. Real baseball. Sure, baseball without a proper outfield wall, but baseball all the same.