Ahh... only two more days until we can all get our heads out of our spreadsheets, climb the stairs of our mothers' basements, and start watching honest-to-goodness games that count.
But before the first pitch leaves Brett Myers' hand on Sunday night, we've got what you've all been waiting for: the Beyond the Box Score season predictions.
We've asked the writers to submit their picks for how the 2009 season is going to unfold and we've compiled them in one central location that we can easily delete in October so no one can see how wrong we all were.
Without further adieu, we'll start with
American League East
R.J.: Yes I am a dirty homer who can’t stand the thought of winning 90+ games and missing out on the playoffs. Baseball’s version of the group of death.
Graham: I think Arod obviously hurts the Yanks chances, and injuries are never a pleasant thing, is he going to be the same player right away? I have no idea, but I think it certainly knocks the Yankees down a peg or two. The Red Sox depth is just so grand I think they take the top spot. The Rays will likely be the WC anyway so they'll still be in the playoffs.
Check out the rest of the predictions after the jump...
American League Central
Graham: Royals love here. Unfounded? Probably, but I just don't know with this division. Twins over Indians is mostly about rotational depth, Cleveland is pretty shallow as it is and if something happens to Lee they're in big trouble.
R.J.: I wonder how the writers proclaiming the Royals as the new Rays are going to react.
Sky: This one's all Indians, although they probably won't win 90 games. Very good offense including some rebound and breakout seasons, plus a competent bullpen. It's not just adding Wood, but removing Borowski. I don't love Lee and Carmona, but the back end should surprise people, especially Anthony Reyes, a few years late for Cardinals fans. The Tigers have a similar team to last year's, which was supposed to be awesome. The White Sox, Twins, and Royals have too many holes, although I'd rather be a Royals fan this year because they're sloping in the better direction.
American League West
Dan: I don't really like any of the teams to win the division here - although they'll be better than the NL West last season. I don't think the Mariners will make the jump a lot of people are predicting (the improved OF defense will help, but not as much as getting better pitchers). And the Rangers just need to be better.
R.J.: Baseball’s version of the group of disarray. In the past month the Angels have lost three members of their rotation to injury, the M’s have turned their third best starter into the closer, and the Athletics have lost their ace and potentially their relief ace. The Rangers, meanwhile, signed and released Jimmy Gobble.
Sky: Take 90-win talent, swap a great closer for an okay one and one overrated outfielder for another one, let Mark Teixeira walk, and start the season with a handful of starting pitcher injury questions, and you're looking at a slightly above-average team. Texas, well, the pitching won't arrive by enough this year, and the defense is going to need another two upgrades. Nelson Cruz, mmmm.
National League East
Erik: I really could see the Braves sneaking in here and ruining my playoff predictions.
Graham: Early injury to Cole Hamels does not bode well, his large workload increase last year may already be showing. I think the Braves rotation has made enormous strides, more on the Lowe side than the Vazquez side (a player can only underachieve his FIP for so long before something is just up). The Mets are just the most solid team all around and since they've held the divisional lead in Sept. two years running now, third time should be the charm right?
R.J.: Poor Adam Dunn.
National League Central
R.J.: One thing is for certain: this is baseball’s most populated division. And the Cubs will likely take the crown again.
Erik: Being the homer that I am, I think the Cardinals will be better than projected. A healthy Chris Carpenter could push them into wild card contention, but I'm not holding my breath. The Reds are intriguing but still maybe a couple of years away.
Dan: The Cubs should have the best record in the NL again, but anything less than a championship will be a failure. I think the rest of the division is in for a down year, except for Superman, I mean Albert Pujols, who might be the one player Matt Wieters fears.
National League West
R.J.:I can buy any of the top three. The pitching is ridiculous. Seriously considering purchasing MLB.TV just to watch the Lincecum v. Webb/Kershaw/whoever games.
Sky: Yes, I'm putting the Giants with the Dodgers and Diamondbacks, partially because I think they'll surprise people and half because I think the Dodgers are a bit overrated. Brian Sabean has actually made a nice change in approach over the last couple years, ushering in a collection of talented young players to complement underrated veterans.
Sky: Do I have to project the playoffs? I'll just go by better teams and hope everyone on this site knows how little that means.
Graham: Yeah so I've got some change on the A's at 60:1 so sue me. Also I just like the fact that I have the Cubs get all the way to the WS only to lose. I am such a heartless bastard.
Sky on Grady Sizemore: He's that good and the Indians will be good. I know it's cliched at this point, but I'm wishcasting BJ Upton to go crazy, too.
R.J on Roy Halladay: Albert Pujols: NL MVP :: Halladay: AL CY
Graham on Matt Wieters: You know how I know Matt Wieters will win the ROTY award? Because Matt Wieters came to me in my dream and told me "Hey brah, I'm going to win the ROTY award", and I do not taketh the lord's name in vain, even in dream form.
Erik on David Wright: Only because the Cardinals miss the playoffs, Albert should be the man. Again.
Sky on Javier Vasquez: Out of a homer-friendly park, in front of a much better defense, in the National League, and on a surprisingly good team. Good pitcher, potentially great story. The best pitcher will probably be Brandon Webb (as one could argue he was last year), but with that infield defense and hitter-friendly stadium, his ERA won't be pretty enough.
R.J. on the Phillies: Doing a very nice job ensuring another World Series title will be a whiles away.
Dan on the Rangers: Some people are predicting them to compete in the AL West. They might, but it says more about the quality of the division than the quality of the team.
Sky on the Astros: They have Lance Berkman coming off a career year, an aging Roy Oswalt, and, uh, what else besides crash and burn?
R.J. on the White Sox: Because if they outperform projections this year I want to sound smart.
Graham on the Royals: OK, so Dayton Moore spent a good amount of money this offseason on some suspect moves. But I still think most of them are improvements, even if they cost a bunch of money. I think they'll make some folks turn heads. Just don't expect them to be this years Rays.
Dan on Michael Young: Should lose a lot of value in this move to third
Erik on Miguel Tejada: Maybe most people know that by now, but he's projected to be less than a 2 WAR player and is getting paid $13M.
Graham on Mark Ellis: The fact that he doesn't have a Gold Glove yet to his name is a traveshamockery.
Sky on Josh Hamilton: Two other names with a 136ish OPS+ last year: JD
Drew and Jack Cust. And Hamilton's more like an average corner
outfield than a center fielder. Good player, not THAT good.
Now it's your turn...
Put your predictions up against the collected wisdom of Beyond the Box Score. Just don't taunt us too much when you turn out to be right.