Sunday, April 01, 2007

2007 Predictions

With the major league season getting underway today, it’s time for my annual exercise in public humiliation, otherwise known as predictions. I think that everyone sits around and tries to figure out who is going to finish where in the divisional races, but only a small percentage of us are dumb enough to post it on the internet for posterity’s sake.

I will repeat my usual caveat, because it bears repeating. One would think that everyone has an understanding of this, but sometimes when I read prognostications in mainstream outlets I wonder. If I pick, say, the Braves to win the NL East, that doesn’t mean that I think that the Braves are a lock to win the NL East. It doesn’t mean that I think the Braves are more likely then not win the NL East. All it means is that I feel that the Braves have the best chance of the five teams to win the division. But if, continuing to make up numbers, I feel the Braves have a 40% chance to win the division, the Mets 30%, the Phillies 20%, the Marlins 6%, and the Nationals 4%, then I am really saying that I don’t the Braves will win. I think that 60% of the time, the Braves will fail to win.

Of course, what this means I really should do is to provide a breakdown of the percent chance of each team finishing 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, as well as an average number of wins and standard deviation and all of that. Ideally, this is what one would do. But that would be taking this exercise, at least my version of it, way too seriously. This is me taking off the sabermetric cap and putting on the BS cap, and having fun. If you want “deadly accurate” predictions, you’re in the wrong place. (Editor’s Note: This was written about six days before it was posted. Thursday, at Reds and Blues, JP posted a similar type comment on “deadly accurate” predictions. I want you to know that I was clever and came up with this on my own, before I saw that comment. Great minds and all that. I digress.) In the spirit of fun, here is how I see it going down in 2007:

AL EAST
1. Boston
2. New York (wildcard)
3. Toronto
4. Baltimore
5. Tampa Bay

I think that the Red Sox are well-positioned to finally break the Yankees run at the top. Matsuzaka looks like the real deal, Beckett should bounce back, and adding JD Drew and Julio Lugo will help the offense put enough runs on the board. New York’s pitching is a little too shaky for my liking, and while their offense will still be excellent, they are not getting any younger and they’re not going to get much production out of first base. Toronto would be a serious threat in any of the other divisions, and could make it interesting here. Baltimore added some shiny relievers; that usually works out great. Tampa Bay could finish fourth, and they could build a contender in the next couple years.

AL CENTRAL
1. Cleveland
2. Detroit
3. Minnesota
4. Chicago
5. Kansas City

The Indians are my team, so one could accuse me of seeing things rosily, but I really think that this is a three-team war. The Tribe, Twins, and Tigers are all fairly evenly matched, and it is possible that 88 wins could take it. It is also possible that as Chicago did in ’05 and Detroit a year ago that one of them could assert themselves and run away with it, at least for a while. However, I don’t think that Chicago can be that team. I can see them finishing ahead of one or perhaps even two of the favorites, but not all three. I think under .500 is more likely for the ChiSox then the postseason is. Kansas City will have some promising players; Gil Meche isn’t one of them though.

AL WEST
1. Los Angeles
2. Texas
3. Oakland
4. Seattle

I keep going back and forth on the Angels and the Rangers. The Angels look better on paper, but Texas could get bouncebacks from Wilkerson and Blalock, and they could have a bullpen to match LA’s with some health for Gagne. There is also the tough, demanding manager replaced by a more laid-back type dynamic in play (Showalter and Washington). Oakland did it with mirrors to some extent last year; now with no Big Hurt, it’s going to be tough to get the offense, although a healthy Bobby Crosby would be nice. Seattle will be the first to get a new manager, and Bavasi will continue to wander in the wilderness without a plan.

NL EAST
1. Philadelphia
2. New York (wildcard)
3. Atlanta
4. Florida
5. Washington

I have been picking the Phillies to do SOMETHING for at least four years now, and I’m not stopping now. They have, I think, the best rotation in the NL, and their offense is pretty strong too. The Mets’ rotation is a disaster area, but they almost made it to the World Series with a similar situation last October. Atlanta will be in the mix too; their bullpen is vastly improved, their offense is strong, and their rotation could surprise. I can’t picture Florida’s youngsters taking another step forward, and it would take that in order to truly contend this year. Washington is the worst team in baseball, and they make the Mets rotation look like the ’54 Indians.

NL CENTRAL
1. Chicago
2. Houston
3. St. Louis
4. Milwaukee
5. Cincinnati
6. Pittsburgh

I cannot make up my mind with this; I could see any of the top four winning, and this could be just as ugly as it was a year ago. I hate picking a bandaged together team of free agent signings like the Cubs to win, although I had similar misgivings about the Mets a year ago. However, the Mets were definitely the rich man’s variant of the archetype. Houston’s pitching will be worse, especially without Rocket reentry, but I expect Brad Lidge to bounce back. It’s hard to pick a team who is going to put Braden Looper in the rotation to win anything, even if they are the defending World Champs, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see them patch things together. Milwaukee had some disappointing seasons last year; with health and good fortune, they could be the surprise of the season. The Reds are a lot further away then they seem to think they are, but at least they have Bill Bray and Gary Majewski to save them. The Pirates are the same as they’ve been for the last decade.

NL WEST
1. San Diego
2. Los Angeles
3. Arizona
4. Colorado
5. San Francisco

This one was probably the best race last year and it should be fun again. The Padres and the Dodgers will both take another shot, and I consider then basically equals on paper. I like the Padres trade for Kevin Kouzmanoff coupled with bringing in Marcus Giles to fill the second base hole that it created. They have an excellent staff too, but so do the Dodgers with Schmidt brought in, plus the youngsters like Billingsley and Broxton are pretty interesting. But don’t count the new-look Diamondbacks out. If their youngsters play as they are capable of, they could win this thing. But I am more comfortable picking a veteran team where the variability of performance is presumably smaller. The Rockies are making forward progress at least, although it remains to be seen if the humidor is really a magical somewhat normal condition creator. San Fran is a good bet to be the worst team in baseball in two years, if not sooner.

WORLD SERIES
Boston over Philadelphia

AL ROY: Daisuke Matsuzaka, BOS
I doubt he’ll actually win, as the anti-Japanese ROY tendency seems to be getting stronger, but that doesn’t mean he won’t deserve it.
AL CY: Felix Hernadnez, SEA
I would not be surprised to see King Felix go all Doc Gooden on us.
AL MVP: Grady Sizemore, CLE
I think he’ll actually regress from last year, but when the Indians win the division, he becomes this year’s Morneau.
NL ROY: Chris Young, ARI
This is one of the “youngsters” I was referring to in their comment.
NL CY: Ben Sheets, MIL
This obviously makes the shaky assumption of good health.
NL MVP: Albert Pujols, STL
Since he didn’t win it last year, he’s fair game to pick again this year.
Most likely manager to be fired: Mike Hargrove
Teams most likely to make playoffs despite managerial change: Cleveland, Philadelphia
Call this the Morgan/Garner award. Wedge and Manuel will each be on a short leash, but their teams could overcome a slow start that costs the skipper his job and still play in October.
Most annoying story of the year: the same story, year after year--the perpetual steroid witch hunt
Funniest story of the year: Pete Rose gets more and more pathetic
Most predictable headlines of the year: “Guillen issues apology”; “Wood, Prior on DL”; “Once again, Giants disappoint”
Over/under on NL Central champion wins: 88
Over/under on Washington losses: 95

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