The Milwaukee Brewers. For some reason, I like the Milwaukee Brewers this year.

I don’t know what to base that upon, except to say that I have a good feeling about them. And what’s wrong with that? The vaunted Baseball Prospectus, my baseball guidebook of choice, pegged the White Sox to win 72 games this season–which might be worrisome if it hadn’t picked them to win 71 games two years ago, when they won the World Series. Even the Saint Louis Cardinals last season took the worst team they’d had in years and somehow parlayed that into the playoffs in the National League’s weak Central Division and ran the table from there to win the championship.

So this year I’m picking by feel–it’s as valid as any other approach–and I like the Brewers. They’ve been rebuilding for years, and the talent has finally arrived in the form of Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, J.J. Hardy, and Corey Hart, and I think they’ll get some help yet from Ryan Braun once he polishes his fielding back in the minors. I like Ben Sheets to finally put together a full season and anchor the pitching staff, and that will be enough to get the Brewers into first in the NL Central. From there, give me the San Diego Padres in the NL West, which should also produce the wild-card team in the Los Angeles Dodgers, but not until they stop dicking around with old farts like Luis Gonzalez and Brett Tomko and finally give playing time to James Loney and Chad Billingsley. For that reason, the Arizona Diamondbacks could surprise with their talented young lineup–if they get enough production from Randy Johnson (a big if for the Big Unit). Throw the Cubs into that “could” category as well, but I don’t like their defense any more than their pitchers figure to. I don’t like the New York Mets’ pitching at all, and for that reason I don’t like any team in the NL East, so I’ll take the Philadelphia Phillies under the theory that I was simply a year early picking them last season. I’ll take the Padres to advance to the World Series, with Jake Peavy besting Sheets, but I still like the Brewers as my surprise team. Now that the Seligs are no longer associated with our neighbors to the north, what’s not to like?

I’m taking the White Sox in the American League Central, but more by process of elimination than by choice. I think the Detroit Tigers‘ young pitching will pay the price for going so deep into the season last year, much as the Sox did last year and the Cubs’ Mark Prior and Kerry Wood have ever since 2003, and now Kenny Rogers is out for three months. The Cleveland Indians and the Minnesota Twins just don’t have enough pitching, although the Tribe will have enough to claim the wild card if Joe Borowski holds up as bullpen closer.

In spite of their off-season defections, the Oakland Athletics will be the best of a bad bunch in the AL West, as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim pay the karmic price for signing Gary Matthews Jr.–and for having a ridiculous name. Give me the Boston Red Sox in the East, as their pitching is better than the New York Yankees’–if  they can get the same sort of full season out of Josh Beckett I’m predicting the Brewers will get out of Sheets. I’ll take the White Sox to return as champs–and win it all, because by then they’ll have found a way to mix knuckleballer Charlie Haeger into the rotation to complement all those fireballing relievers they have in the bullpen. What better suits picking by intuition than to expect big things from the knuckler?