What’s Brewin’? Major League Baseball, that’s what

Play ball and shiver.

Here we go again, as Major League Baseball in its infinte wisdom – and the need to satisfy a powerful union – starts its regular season in late March so players have more days off during the season.

And here we go again as yours truly will try to peer into his crystal baseball and tell you what to expect all summer and come October you’ll see just how crazy predictions can be.

For example, last year we said the Nationals and the Indians would be in the World Series. Washington didn’t make the playoffs while Cleveland was a first round knockout at the hands of Houston. At least we had the Red Sox winning the AL East and the Yankees as the Wild Card.

But Thursday it all starts again. Well, really, it started last week in Japan with Seattle beating Oakland twice but nobody really knew about it, right? Another great MLB move.

Now the weather in the east (as opposed to Far East) is expected to be a little bit more toward baseball weather, in the 50s and 60s. But March 28 is still the earliest Opening Day on this continent ever. The Red Sox are out west in Seattle, but the Yankees will open up at home vs. Baltimore.

At least Manny Michado and Bryce Harper are signed, right?

Let’s take a look at what we think will happen this year:

AL EAST – Red Sox one, Yankees two, rinse and repeat. Why? Same reason as a year ago, better starting pitching for Boston and better contact/on base hitters. The Yankees are still reliant on the big boppers, and that will win you a lot of games against the Baltimores and Torontos of the league. But with New York minus ace Luis Severino to start the season (shoulder), and Boston not seeing any big worries yet with newly signed Chris Sale and postseason hero David Price, Boston has two arms up to start. Tampa will make a push but fade; the Blue Jays and Orioles again bring up the rear. Looks a lot like last year, actually.

AL CENTRAL – Cleveland, based on the last few years under manager Terry Franconia, is a traditional pick, but hearing the trade rumors in the off-seson it appeared the Indians were ready to break things apart. Closer Cody Allen is gone, and so is all-purpose lefty Andrew Miller, whose injury woes hurt this team a year ago. They barely made any off-season acquisitions. That’s why we’ll go trendy over traditional: The Twins. A lot of prognosticators like Minnesota and so do we, not just because a former Silver Knight’s relative is managing them now, Rocco Baldelli. Six potential regulars had double digits in homers, led by Nelson Cruz (37 a year ago with Seattle).

You can stir Kansas City, Detroit and the White Sox in a pot and come up with any order the rest of the way. OK, maybe the White Sox third.

AL WEST – Really, who is going to dethrone Houston? Still, the ‘Stros are not the powerful champions they were two years ago because they have lost some pitching. But a Justin Verlander-Gerrit Cole one-two punch is better than anything else in the division, as is the presence of Jose Altuve and newly signed Alex Bregman at the plate. They pass the Sox for best regular season league mark and top seed. The Oakland A’s are rarely good two years in a row, so we say Seattle, despite all their player losses, will finish second – the Mariners if memory proves correct did pretty well without the then-suspended Robinson Cano (now a Met) compared to when he returned from exile. Oakland third, and the poor Angels – pitching, pitching, pitching – fourth and Texas fifth. What happened to the Rangers, anyway? It’s like they’re back to the 1980s with lousy teams year-in, year -out.

NL EAST – OK, OK, Philadelphia, you win. We’ll say the Phillies with all their splashy moves and silly money bought themselves a division title, in the names of Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto. But that’s likely as far as it goes, because Harper simply isn’t a winner, period. Who is second? Hard to see the Braves falling from from where they were a year ago, but they didn’t do much in the off-season. Atlanta does have one of the best young pitching staffs around, and that gets them perhaps second. But quiick, can anyone actually name a Brave?Then there’s the Mets. Every year they look good on paper, and then thud. Agent-turned-new GM Brodie Van Waga-somethin did a lot in the off-season, but adding Robinson Cano may not be enough for that offense. Great pitching, though. Meet the Mets, greet the Mets. Nationals fourth, poor Marlins last.

NL CENTRAL – The Brew Crew by a nose or a weird-can’t-believe-it-worked-out Craig Counsell managerial move. It’s Milwaukee’s time to shine; the Brewers should have made it to the World Series a year ago. Starting pitching, yes, is a question, but don’t you love that lineup and reliever Josh Hader? They’ll get creative and also make a deal like they did years ago when they got C.C. Sabathia at the deadline. Second is hello, Cardinals. The Cubs have struggles offensively, believe it or not, and St. Louis just missed out on the playoffs a year ago but is poised for a comeback, especially if new bullpen toy Andrew Miller is finally healthy. They nudge out the Cubs. Then it’s the Pirates and Reds.

NL WEST – When the Dodgers jettisoned outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp, it was thought they were making room for Harper. Nope. But they’re still better than the Giants, Padres, Rockies and Diamondbacks because of good young stars like a healthy Corey Seager and potential new ace Walker Buehler. OK, we’ll say the young Padres can finish a surprise second while the rest all fight for the othe spots.

NL WILD CARDS: Cardinals, Braves (almost said Mets – almost).

NLCS: Brewers over Cardinals.

AL WILD CARDS: Yankees, Indians.

ALCS: Red Sox over Yankees (‘Stros get AL best record)

WORLD SERIES: Brewers over Red Sox in seven. If you’re of age, have a sip of the beer that made Milwaukee famous.

Clip, save, and laugh come October.

Tom King may be reached at 594-1251,tking@nashuatelegraph.com, or@Telegraph _TomK.