Pop quiz: 20 questions about the upcoming season

If you’re ready for the season opener, hopefully you’re ready for a season-opening quiz. Here you go.

Which will be greater?

Home runs by Jason Heyward, or games missed by Chipper Jones?
Jones missed 19 games last season, his fewest since 2003. After all the Heyward buildup, fewer than 20 homers will be a disappointment. I’m buying the hype.

Pablo Sandoval will have to work to keep his weight under Tim Lincecum's strikeout total.
Pablo Sandoval will have to work to keep his weight under Tim Lincecum’s strikeout total.

Tim Lincecum’s strikeout total, or Pablo Sandoval’s weight?
The "Freak" had 261 strikeouts last season. "Kung Fu Panda" is listed at 246 pounds after an offseason nutrition program failed to make a noticeable difference. I’ll stick with Lincecum, partly because few will be privy to Sandoval’s real weight.

Stolen bases by Michael Bourn, or wins by the Astros?
Houston will be fortunate to match last year’s 74 wins. Bourn stole 61 bases while reaching base 238 times (up from 146 in 2008). If he can reduce his strikeouts (140), he’ll have more chances to run. I’m going with Bourn, 72-70.

Innings pitched by Dan Haren, or strikeouts by Mark Reynolds?
Haren worked 229 1/3 innings last season, his fifth consecutive season with at least 216. Reynolds went from 204 to 223 strikeouts. He has to start cutting back, doesn’t he?

Walks, or strikeouts by Albert Pujols?
No contest. Pujols has had more walks than strikeouts in every season other than his rookie year.

Tirades by Lou Piniella, or regrettable Tweets by Ozzie Guillen?
Who cares? Both are sure to be entertaining.

Wins by Zack Greinke, or homers by Royals new center fielder Rick Ankiel?
Greinke should match his 16 wins from 2009 with just a little help. He is due for some. He won just once when allowing more than two runs last season (in that game, he gave up three). With the chance to play every day, Ankiel should rebound from his 11-homer disappointment as long as he lays off curveballs in the dirt. That is easier said than done.

Runs scored by Erick Aybar, or runs scored by Chone Figgins?
That is asking too much of Aybar, who is assuming Figgins’ role as Angels’ leadoff hitter. Even without a lot of pop behind Figgins in Seattle, he’ll score more.

Stolen bases by Dexter Fowler, or doubles by Todd Helton?
Helton hit 38 doubles while Fowler stole 27 bases in 2009. But being a year older will benefit Fowler more than Helton. Fowler will have more steals even if Helton’s production doesn’t dip.

Over or under?

3: Snowouts at new Target Field.
I agree with all the players not on the Twins. "They’re going to regret not having a retractable roof," said Torii Hunter, who spent nine full seasons in Minneapolis.

You don't think approaching retirement will suddenly make Bobby Cox a teddy bear, to you?
You don’t think approaching retirement will suddenly make Bobby Cox a teddy bear, to you?

6: Ejections for Bobby Cox.
That’s how many times he was booted last season, according to retrosheet.org. Don’t expect him to mellow just because he says this is his final year.

20: Wins for Roy Halladay.
The Phillies haven’t had a righthanded 20-game winner since Robin Roberts in 1952. I’m going with history.

50: Headlines in New York dailies about Carl Crawford’s assumed signing with the Yankees.
Expect Crawford’s free-agent situation to be a "story" before each of the six series between the Yankees and Rays. With at least seven newspapers following the Yankees, multiply six times seven. Add a few more for the "what’s in store for next year" stories and this one will be very close.

81: Sellouts at Fenway Park.
Take the 81 because that is all they’ll play. The Red Sox’s sellout streak is up to 550 games and there is no reason to believe it won’t continue.

Before or after?

May 1: First manager fired.
Before. One to watch: Jerry Manuel. The Mets will need to do something to keep fans interested — and it won’t be winning. Their April schedule includes only one team (Washington) that finished with a losing record in ’09.

May 15: Aroldis Chapman’s arrival.
Though the Reds have had a spirited competition among three youngsters for their No. 5 spot, Chapman has pitched too well and is being paid too much to spend more than a few weeks in the minors.

June 1: Stephen Strasburg’s arrival.
A May 19-23 homestand seems a bit soon. But when the Nationals return from a 10-game trip on June 4, Strasburg will be with them.

July 1: Milton Bradley wearing out his welcome in Seattle.
I’m going after. Like not at all this season. Ken Griffey Jr. will prevent Bradley from imploding.

July 31: Manny Ramirez traded.
Joe Torre will be fed up long before the trading deadline, when the Dodgers will pay Ramirez’s salary to dump him on an A.L. club.

Thanksgiving: The World Series will be completed.
Before, but not by much.

Stan McNeal is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at smcneal@sportingnews.com.

If you’re ready for the season opener, hopefully you’re ready for a season-opening quiz. Here you go.

Which will be greater?

Home runs by Jason Heyward, or games missed by Chipper Jones?
Jones missed 19 games last season, his fewest since 2003. After all the Heyward buildup, fewer than 20 homers will be a disappointment. I’m buying the hype.

Pablo Sandoval will have to work to keep his weight under Tim Lincecum's strikeout total.
Pablo Sandoval will have to work to keep his weight under Tim Lincecum’s strikeout total.

Tim Lincecum’s strikeout total, or Pablo Sandoval’s weight?
The "Freak" had 261 strikeouts last season. "Kung Fu Panda" is listed at 246 pounds after an offseason nutrition program failed to make a noticeable difference. I’ll stick with Lincecum, partly because few will be privy to Sandoval’s real weight.

Stolen bases by Michael Bourn, or wins by the Astros?
Houston will be fortunate to match last year’s 74 wins. Bourn stole 61 bases while reaching base 238 times (up from 146 in 2008). If he can reduce his strikeouts (140), he’ll have more chances to run. I’m going with Bourn, 72-70.

Innings pitched by Dan Haren, or strikeouts by Mark Reynolds?
Haren worked 229 1/3 innings last season, his fifth consecutive season with at least 216. Reynolds went from 204 to 223 strikeouts. He has to start cutting back, doesn’t he?

Walks, or strikeouts by Albert Pujols?
No contest. Pujols has had more walks than strikeouts in every season other than his rookie year.

Tirades by Lou Piniella, or regrettable Tweets by Ozzie Guillen?
Who cares? Both are sure to be entertaining.

Wins by Zack Greinke, or homers by Royals new center fielder Rick Ankiel?
Greinke should match his 16 wins from 2009 with just a little help. He is due for some. He won just once when allowing more than two runs last season (in that game, he gave up three). With the chance to play every day, Ankiel should rebound from his 11-homer disappointment as long as he lays off curveballs in the dirt. That is easier said than done.

Runs scored by Erick Aybar, or runs scored by Chone Figgins?
That is asking too much of Aybar, who is assuming Figgins’ role as Angels’ leadoff hitter. Even without a lot of pop behind Figgins in Seattle, he’ll score more.

Stolen bases by Dexter Fowler, or doubles by Todd Helton?
Helton hit 38 doubles while Fowler stole 27 bases in 2009. But being a year older will benefit Fowler more than Helton. Fowler will have more steals even if Helton’s production doesn’t dip.

Over or under?

3: Snowouts at new Target Field.
I agree with all the players not on the Twins. "They’re going to regret not having a retractable roof," said Torii Hunter, who spent nine full seasons in Minneapolis.

You don't think approaching retirement will suddenly make Bobby Cox a teddy bear, to you?
You don’t think approaching retirement will suddenly make Bobby Cox a teddy bear, to you?

6: Ejections for Bobby Cox.
That’s how many times he was booted last season, according to retrosheet.org. Don’t expect him to mellow just because he says this is his final year.

20: Wins for Roy Halladay.
The Phillies haven’t had a righthanded 20-game winner since Robin Roberts in 1952. I’m going with history.

50: Headlines in New York dailies about Carl Crawford’s assumed signing with the Yankees.
Expect Crawford’s free-agent situation to be a "story" before each of the six series between the Yankees and Rays. With at least seven newspapers following the Yankees, multiply six times seven. Add a few more for the "what’s in store for next year" stories and this one will be very close.

81: Sellouts at Fenway Park.
Take the 81 because that is all they’ll play. The Red Sox’s sellout streak is up to 550 games and there is no reason to believe it won’t continue.

Before or after?

May 1: First manager fired.
Before. One to watch: Jerry Manuel. The Mets will need to do something to keep fans interested — and it won’t be winning. Their April schedule includes only one team (Washington) that finished with a losing record in ’09.

May 15: Aroldis Chapman’s arrival.
Though the Reds have had a spirited competition among three youngsters for their No. 5 spot, Chapman has pitched too well and is being paid too much to spend more than a few weeks in the minors.

June 1: Stephen Strasburg’s arrival.
A May 19-23 homestand seems a bit soon. But when the Nationals return from a 10-game trip on June 4, Strasburg will be with them.

July 1: Milton Bradley wearing out his welcome in Seattle.
I’m going after. Like not at all this season. Ken Griffey Jr. will prevent Bradley from imploding.

July 31: Manny Ramirez traded.
Joe Torre will be fed up long before the trading deadline, when the Dodgers will pay Ramirez’s salary to dump him on an A.L. club.

Thanksgiving: The World Series will be completed.
Before, but not by much.

Stan McNeal is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at smcneal@sportingnews.com.

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