Freud: Happy baseball season and the picks |

Freud: Happy baseball season and the picks

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Come on, everybody sing it.

The Masters, the Stanley Cup Playoffs gearing up and the arrival of baseball.

We look into the crystal ball for the upcoming baseball season.

NL West

The San Francisco Giants will return to the top of the heap here. Do remember that the Giants were in first place at the All-Star Break even without catcher Buster Posey, who went down in May. Giants pitching was actually better in 2011 than it was in 2010, the year of glorious deliverance.

San Francisco hit .219, dead-last in baseball, last season with runners in scoring position – did you ever wonder why the sports editor is a recovering alcoholic? – and still went 86-76.

Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and the bullpen that leads up to Brian Wilson, whose beard is just getting nasty, is that good. (No comment on Barry Zito.) Seriously, the G-men were 24th in the Majors with a mighty .248 RISP average in 2010, and were able to win the Series.

The Giants do not need anyone to set the world on fire offensively. I’m just hoping maybe we can get a sacrifice fly with a runner on third and fewer than two outs, or maybe, one of our guys can get hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. That’s all we need. (Favorite moment of 2011? Giants beat the Indians, 1-0, on a bases-loaded balk.)

Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Belt (if allowed to play), Melky Cabrera (good spring) and Angel Pagan (bad spring) should give the Giants enough of an offensive nudge.

Arizona will challenge. They were a nice story last year, but pitching beats hitting over 162 games. The Dodgers have superb lefty Clayton Kershaw and center-fielder Matt Kemp. Kershaw can’t pitch everyday, and I have no idea why anyone pitches to Kemp. I’d walk him every time and force someone, anyone else, to beat me. Yes, the Magic Johnson ownership group has taken over, but it won’t be able to make much of an impact until next offseason.

As for the state’s beloved Rockies? Jamie Moyer is the No. 2 starter. Thank you and good night. And can anyone name a San Diego Padres player? (Edison Volquez and Houston Street, but you get the picture.)

NL Central

Who wants to win this division? After Albert Pujols headed to Anaheim and Prince Fielder to Detroit, there isn’t much left here. It’s hard to see the Cardinals repeating sans Albert as well as pitchers Chris Carpenter to the D.L. and Adam Wainwright just coming off it.

The Milwaukee Brewers take it by winning about 85 games. (And I would be interested to watch Ryan Braun’s stats this year.)

NL East

The Phillies are aging offensively, but don’t bet against the pitching rotation. The Miami Marlins are a trendy pick – what the heck is that in center field in their new ball park? – and there is hope for the Nationals in some quarters of this office. I have a hard time burying the Braves as most have. They’re a wild card as are the D-backs.

AL West

ESPN may have finally realized that there is baseball west of Philadelphia, be it the Texas Rangers and the Angels of Somewhere in Southern California. I know the Rangers are the two-time America League champs, but they keep losing pitching. The Angels are the top team in Los Angeles – that felt good – and the best in the West. Rangers get a wild card.

AL Central

Detroit. (This ain’t a hard one, people.)

AL East

The Yankees appear to have enough pitching – you’d be a fool to doubt the offense – and they’ll pick up a few more arms along the way. But stop ignoring the Tampa Rays. They are not a surprising team any more. If they had a few more bats, I’d take them over the Yanks. The Rays, not the Red Sox, get the wild card.

World Series

Tigers over the Giants.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or

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