Monday, March 27, 2006

2006 Predictions

Predictions like this are, as always, offered up as “fun” item and not as serious analysis. Last year I made a point about predictions that I think is worth recapping. When you say “I pick the Yankees to win the AL East”, you usually do not mean that you think it is a sure thing that the Yankees will win the AL East. What you mean is that you think that they have the best chance. This chance might be very high, say 80%, or it may be much lower, say 40%. Of course, at any chance under 50%, what you actually think is that the odds are that the Yankees will NOT win the AL East. But since you gauge them as having the highest chance, you predict that they will win.

This problem gets even worse as you move up to higher and higher championships. It would be silly to suggest that any of the thirty teams is an even money to choice to win the World Series. But yet I will go ahead and pick a World Series winner, even though I think it more likely then not that team will not win it all.

Of course, most people inherently recognize this I think, and don’t feel the need to explicitly state it when they make their predictions. Maybe I am particularly gun shy because to be honest, my predictions usually suck. I have been doing this for many years now, and just going from memory, have not gotten an impressive percentage right. Last year’s happen to be preserved on this blog, so reviewing them, I successfully predicted the AL West(LAA), the NL East(ATL), and the NL Central(STL). I had the Red Sox and Yankees in the playoffs, but reversed the order (actually, since they finished in a mathematical tie, I guess you could consider these two predictions correct). I thought the Twins would repeat in the AL Central, and had the White Sox in fourth, which is not slick at all. I picked the Phillies to win the NL Wildcard, which they contended for until the last day of the season. I had the NL champs from Houston in fourth in their division as well. So if you are a Tigers or Astros fan, take heart. I picked the Dodgers in the NL West, and embarrassingly predicted a Red Sox WS repeat over them.

I also predicted the three major awards, and got ARod as MVP, although that is a really absurd thing to predict, because ARod could have easily won the AL MVP five times now, and you just get lucky in the years he actually wins. How much courage would it take to predict Pujols to win the NL MVP this year? So I will try to make my award picks at least a little daring. The other predictions at the bottom are meant to be taken somewhat TIC.

AL EAST
1. New York
2. Toronto
3. Boston
4. Baltimore
5. Tampa Bay
The Yankees remain a ticking time bomb in my mind, but I don’t expect it to explode this year. Although the pitching staff could wind up the same way it did last year, as the Yankees are now expecting last year’s patches like Wang and Chacon to be key guys. I’m not crazy about Toronto’s moves, but they could provide enough oomph to overtake a Red Sox team that has its own issues. Baseball Prospectus made a very good point in their book this year about the Jays that should temper some of the enthusiasm; while they had something like a .545 EW% last year, based on RC and RC Allowed(or what I call PW%), it was more like .490, which is how they actually played. So while it may appear that they only need to improve their standing against Boston or New York by three or four games based on Pythagorean record, the actual gap is probably a lot larger. Baltimore is not a bad team, and could surprise if Mazzone can work his magic there; they already have a farily solid group of pitchers to work with in Benson, Cabrera, Bedard, and Chen. I remain skeptical on Mazzone’s magical abilities, and so will pick the Orioles in fourth. The Devil Rays should not change their name, at least not to “Rays”.

AL CENTRAL
1. Cleveland
2. Minnesota
3. Chicago
4. Detroit
5. Kansas City
I intend to write a little more in-depth thing on the Indians before Opening Day on Sunday, but I think they can win this, with the caveat that I think the top three are all essentially equals and would be surprised not one bit if the order was reversed. The Indians’ bullpen will likely be far short of where it was last year, and there won’t be a repeat ERA leader in the starting rotation. And the offense has a number of players who could be due for some regression, particularly Sizemore and Peralta. But the team had the highest PW% in the game last year(.617), so I think they could lose a lot of ground and still win here. The Twins would be a lot more interesting if they could hit, but they still have Mr. Santana and I would take Francisco Liriano over any rookie pitcher in the game. The White Sox are widely hailed as favorites, which I can’t help but think is shortsighted. Their W% was around seven games better then their EW%, which in turn was about four games better then their PW%, which indicates they should have won 87 games last year. Yes, adding Jim Thome and Javier Vazquez seems to improve the team on paper, but I don’t think you can expect their starters to repeat their performances of a year ago. The Tigers are making progress, but remain a year or two away from contending. The Royals signings of veteran flotsam may make them better, but I’m not sure of it. They will likely improve a bit just because nobody’s really that bad.

AL WEST
1. Oakland
2. Los Angeles (wildcard)
3. Texas
4. Seattle
The A’s look really, really good to me. The biggest concern to me is that the young pitching will not repeat their performances, but I think the offense could improve, as Crosby ideally will stay healthy and Frank Thomas, even for 300 PA, is a big bat. Plus they have Nick Swisher, the only Buckeye in the major leagues at this moment. That has to count for something. The Angels are still a solid team, though. I’m not terribly excited about the Rangers adding solid pitchers to their rotation, although they could be better, and they weren’t that far out of this thing to begin with. There are three teams in each AL division that really wouldn’t surprise me if they were to be playing come October. The Mariners have King Felix, so he should keep them contented for another poor year at least. I realize that most people are older then the ballplayers they watch, and so I don’t expect a lot of sympathy, but it is kind of odd to now be watching some guys younger then myself. Felix Hernandez is the first player to have a star-caliber performance in the majors who is younger then me, so I guess my window of opportunity at being a professional baseball player is closing rapidly, as if my lack of talent hadn’t slammed it shut years ago.

NL EAST
1. New York
2. Philadelphia (wildcard)
3. Atlanta
4. Washington
5. Florida
The Mets are the kind of team I hate to love, but in this division, that can get you picked to win. They have made additions that could improve their team, although I don’t for the life of me understand the Seo and Benson trades, and Pedro’s health is a big concern. I have been picking the Phillies for years, and have always gotten burned--I think they have less potential then they’ve had in the past, but they’ve been underperforming for years, so maybe some day they’ll exceed expectations. The Braves did a remarkable job to win again last year, and you pick against them at your own risk, but what better time to take that risk then when Mazzone leaves and they do little to improve the club in the off-season? The Nationals are an embarrassment to baseball, and desperately need an owner and a plan of how to build their organization, and preferably not one that includes Jim Bowden. The Marlins should be just plain awful.

NL CENTRAL
1. St. Louis
2. Milwaukee
3. Chicago
4. Houston
5. Pittsburgh
6. Cincinnati
The Cardinals have the potential for implosion, but there’s nobody in this division who I see as ready to fill the void, even if the Cards drop to around 88 wins. I was on the Brewers’ train last year, picking them third, and I am downright bullish on their future prospects, but I don’t think it is their time yet. The Cubs could win if the stars align and Prior, Wood, and Zambrano all pitch a full season like they have the potential to (I realize Zambrano has a record of good health, but given the way pitchers go and fate’s seeming opposition to the Cubs, would anyone truly be surprised to see him break down with the other two having Cy Young-type seasons? I know I wouldn’t), but the odds of that aren’t that great and they sure won’t win because of their offense. You can’t expect Pettitte and Oswalt to be as spectacular as they were a year ago; then you take away Clemens, do nothing to improve a weak offense, and the Astros don’t look so hot. But keep in mind that I picked them in fourth last year as well. The Pirates are picked fifth only because the Reds are no good either. The trade of Pena, who while far from a sure thing has some decent major league success at a young age and seems to have worlds of talent, for a middling pitcher like Bronson Arroyo, makes me unenthusiastic about the Wayne Krivsky era being any better then that of Dan O’Brien.

NL WEST
1. San Diego
2. Los Angeles
3. San Francisco
4. Arizona
5. Colorado
I thought about this one a lot--are the superhuman powers of Barry Bonds enough to overcome the myriad of problems with the Giants? Are the Padres improved over last year (I’m inclined to think yes), but if so, does that mean they’ll win 85 games? Will the Dodgers, with many of the same players I picked to win the NL pennant last year, rebound? Can the Diamondbacks defy Pythagoras again? Can a division look this bad two years in a row? As an aside, I mentioned earlier that I was bullish on the Brewers’ future. I will disclose here, for the first time, that I was once bullish on the Rockies future. The fact that you do not need me to tell you when exactly I thought that to know that I was colossally wrong says a lot about the Rockies’ organization, and why I consider them the most boring team in baseball.

WORLD SERIES
Oakland over St. Louis
Although you could spin the bottle for the NL pennant if you wanted to.

AL ROY: Craig Hansen, BOS
The theory here is that Hansen is thrown in as the closer and gets thirty saves and gets tons of pub. You may not buy it; I’m not sure I do.
AL CY: C.C. Sabathia, CLE
Sabathia has never emerged as the ace the Indians and their fans have hoped for, but he is still just 26 and had a 4.02 eRA last year; improve a bit, get some run support, win 20 games, team wins the division, win the Cy? Unlikely, but possible.
AL MVP: Eric Chavez, OAK
Chavez bounces back, A’s look like best team in league, he gets MVP. Again, I’m trying to avoid the real obvious picks here.
NL ROY: Ryan Zimmerman, WAS
Would Jeremy Hermida get ignored because he plays for the league’s worst team, or get sympathy votes because of it?
NL CY: Jake Peavy, SD
Not an out on a limb pick at all, but he’s good and he hasn’t won it yet, so why not?
NL MVP: Albert Pujols, STL
Despite what I said above, he’s too good and too consistent not to go with the obvious pick.
Most annoying story of the year: Barry Bonds, home run record, BALCO, steroids, Bud Selig, Fay Vincent, etc.
Funniest story of the year: Alfonso Soriano, Jim Bowden, Jose Vidro, left field, second base, etc.
Most predictable headlines of the year: “Rockies remain mired in mediocrity”; “Rays name change met with yawns”; “Pujols records 120th RBI”; “Guillen’s comments spark controversy”; “Selig to remain commissioner for an additional two years”; “World Baseball Classic blamed for [fill in the blank]”
First manager fired: Buck Showalter, TEX
Over/under on number of games NL West winner wins: 87
Over/under on number of Bonds homers: 28
Over/under on number of Marlins losses: 100
Over/under on number of posts on this blog between now and offseason: 15

1 comment:

  1. I always enjoy your writing.

    Here's a vote for the "over" on comments posted between now and the off-season.

    BlondeLeadingTheBlonde

    ReplyDelete

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