The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
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Predicting the 2022 MLB Division Winners

MLB’s Opening Day has been delayed to April 7 due to the protracted negotiations on the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. But that’s okay. MLB will still get in a full season, with doubleheaders scheduled to catch up on games that had to be cancelled.

It will be interesting to see what affect the shortened spring training will have on teams. Rosters are being expanded to 28 players (29 for doubleheaders) through May 1 to allow for additional pitchers on the rosters. That should help those clubs whose starting pitching is not up to par yet. But what about the position players? I can envision a lot of pulled hamstrings early on. It begs the question of whether these types of issues will have an effect on the final standings. Pennants can’t be won in April, but they can be lost if teams get off to a poor start.

Here are my predictions for the six major-league divisions. Note that MLB will have six teams from each division in the playoffs this season.

American League East

I extolled the virtues of the Toronto Blue Jays in my blog post last week, and they are my favorites to win the division. I believe they will overcome the losses of Robbie Ray and Marcus Semien with the best overall roster in the league. The Yankees will beat out Tampa Bay for the second spot. The additions of veterans Anthony Rizzo (with a full season) and Josh Donaldson, and a true shortstop in Isiah Kiner-Falefa, upgrades the team from last year. If Gerret Cole produces like he’s capable, the Yankees will claim a playoff berth. This is still the toughest division in baseball.

American League Central

The Chicago White Sox will repeat as division champs. They were the runaway leaders last year (13 games over second-place Cleveland), and with their lineup from last year largely intact again, they will be hard to beat. Detroit, who’s been in re-building mode the past few years, is poised to claim second place. Manager AJ Hinch doesn’t have a lot of big-name players in his lineup but look for his youngsters to jell. By the end of the season, expect to know much more about Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene, two former first-round draft picks.

American League West

The Seattle Mariners narrowly missed a post-season berth last year despite a late-season surge. With the addition of Robbie Ray, 2021 Cy Young Award winner, all-star second baseman Adam Frazier, and all-star outfielder Jesse Winkler, the Mariners will deliver on higher expectations this year and win their first division title since 2001. The Houston Astros’ hopes for a repeat division championship seem hinged on the return of Justin Verlander, who missed last year with recovery from Tommy John surgery. With the loss of shortstop Carlos Correa to free agency and Lance McCullers Jr. starting the season in the IL, the Astros will have to a battle for second place with the Los Angeles Angels. The Halos will have Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon healthy this season to augment AL MVP Shohei Ohtani in the batting lineup.

AL Playoff Teams

Toronto, New York, Tampa Bay, Chicago, Seattle, Houston

National League East

Recent history says the Atlanta Braves won’t repeat as World Series champion (the Yankees were the last in 1999-2000), but they will win their fifth consecutive division title. They lost the face of their franchise in Freddie Freeman. Yet believe it or not, the Braves got better by signing first baseman Matt Olson through free agency. Outfielders Marcell Ozuna and Ronald Acuna Jr. (in May) will return to full-time status after missing much of last season due to injuries. Former Dodger reliever Kenly Jansen provides a big lift in the bullpen. The Phillies will make a run at the Braves with new sluggers Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber, but their pitching staff remains below average. The Mets’ new manager Buck Showalter will need a year to make the Mets legitimate contenders.

National League Central

I like the Milwaukee Brewers to win the division, based solely on their pitching staff. Christian Yelich is due for a resurgence after having two subpar seasons. The Cardinals will be their closest competitor, mainly due to their offense led by Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. I guess the Cardinals added Albert Pujols for sentimental reasons, maybe to let him retire in a Cardinals uniform. The rest of the division is in “tanking” mode. The Cubs, Pirates and Reds will be fodder for the rest of the league.

National League West

Dave Roberts declared his Dodgers will win the World Series this year, and he just may be right. They will regain the division title after San Francisco interrupted their string of eight consecutive titles last year. The Dodgers have one of the most talented teams in recent history with their collection of MVPs, CY Young Award winners, and all-stars. San Francisco has health and age issues and won’t come close to winning 107 games like they did last year. They will compete for second place with the San Diego Padres, who will be starting the season without superstar Fernando Tatis Jr., who foolishly injured his wrist during the off-season in a motorcycle accident. New Padres manager Bob Melvin was a solid hire. Unlike Showalter with the Mets, Melvin will get the Padres into the playoffs in his first season at the helm.

NL Playoff Teams

Atlanta, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Los Angeles, San Diego

World Series Winner

Dodgers over Blue Jays

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