Saturday, April 03, 2010

2010 Predictions

As always, these are offered in the spirit of fun and not serious analysis. If you want the latter, there are plenty of smart folks in the saber-sphere that do W-L projections based on their projection systems. Even with fancy tools, the margin of error inherent in this exercise is enormous.

So I don't do anything special. I put together a very rudimentary spreadsheet and than I just make my best guess as to how the teams will finish and put it out on the internet for the world to see.

One thing to always keep in mind about predictions: picking a team first doesn't mean that I think they'll win. It just means that I think they have the highest probability of winning. If you don't understand what I mean, don't waste your time by reading on.

I'll keep the rambling introduction short this year and get to the point.

AL EAST

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

On paper, it's extremely hard to pick against the Yankees. They have the most potent projected offense and strong pitching to boot. That being said, any notion that the Yankees are some sort of unbeatable juggernaut is silly, as such notions usually are. It's an old team, there are multiple players that have noteworthy lingering injury concerns, and one wonders how sure even their brass is about the structure of their pitching staff. They are an easy choice as favorite for me, but not a super-team.

The Rays would probably be my pick to win any other division save the NL East and perhaps the NL Central, but we all know they're in a tough spot in the East. It would be foolish to write them off. The Red Sox have retooled around pitching and defense, but it seems as if the mainstream take is underestimating the offensive prowess of a healthy Beltre and Cameron. Picking them third is just a means to deviate a little bit from the conventional wisdom; they could easily end up with the best record in MLB. The Orioles are improving, and I expect big things from Matt Wieters, but it's not their year to get back in the hunt and even if it were, they'd be buried in this division. The Blue Jays may be a challenger...for the Royals, that is.

AL CENTRAL

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

My track record at predicting AL Central results is horrible. Some of it has to do with the fact that I'm a Cleveland fan, and am probably a little biased towards them in my picks (although when I've picked the Indians I've hardly been the only one doing so, I've admittedly tended to pick them whenever it is reasonable to do so).

Joe Nathan's elbow injury is obviously a blow to the Twins, and it does cut into the gap between them and the rest of the division, but I still think they stand out as the clear on-paper favorite. Chicago figures to have excellent pitching, but their offense is among the worst in the AL. The additions of JJ Putz and Juan Pierre and the subtraction of Jim Thome just serve to increase my (somewhat irrational) antipathy towards the team. The Tigers didn't seem to have much of a plan; apparently they really like Max Scherzer, because otherwise the Granderson trade is very puzzling given that they acted like contenders by signing Damon and Valverde (Just to make it clear, I don't have a problem with the trade for the Tigers, except that it doesn't make a whole lot of sense for winning in 2010). I've written about the Tribe in detail; suffice it to say, the pitching is a major weakness but they should score some runs and aren't as bad as many seem to think. The Royals...I don't even know where to begin.

AL WEST

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

On paper, this should be the best pennant race of the year. It's easy to see any of the first three winning it, and Oakland can't be dismissed out of hand. I had a hard time deciding which team to pick, as the Angels and Mariners are just about even in my crude spreadsheet. On one hand, it's boring to pick LA; on the other hand, Seattle has gotten so much love from certain segments of the saber-sphere that it almost feels like groupthink to pick them.

I'm thoroughly unimpressed by the Angels off-season maneuvers and like just about everyone else, I love what Seattle did. However, the Mariners are still short on offense, and carrying Ken Griffey and Mike Sweeney does not help. Their spring training moves have not impressed as much as their winter deals, to say the least. The Rangers have high hopes, but I'd be surprised if they matched the 87 games they won last year; less could be enough, though, and while I would have pegged them third when spring training started, I've moved them up a notch. I'm probably a little behind the curve in admitting this, but Oakland does seem to be floundering about without a long-term plan. Whether they're in a holding pattern until their stadium situation is resolved, changing their minds on the strength of the rest of the division, or just plain confused is a different question. There's some talent here, but the offense also leaves a lot to be desired.

NL EAST

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

Just after the turn of the century, I was always picking against the Braves--it had gotten so boring to pick them that anytime I thought they had a halfway-serious challenger, I'd pick the challenger. However, in the last three seasons I've gotten in the habit of picking Atlanta when I probably should know better.

This season, my crude analysis indicates that the Phillies are the best team in the NL. But picking them would mean picking a World Series rematch, which is beyond boring. If my goal here was to be as painstaking as possible and strive for the highest possible chance of being right, I'd do it. But this whole exercise is for kicks and nothing else, so I'm going with Atlanta.

I hope it doesn't sound as if I think Atlanta really doesn't have a chance--of course they do, and they'd be my wildcard pick regardless. Their offense is still shaky (in Jason Heyward I trust, apparently), the back end of the bullpen is a ticking time bomb of age and injury, and trading one of the NL's top starters of 2009 may make business sense but it certainly doesn't improve their 2010 hopes. Meanwhile, the Phillies have gotten too much of a halo in my opinion from the mainstream based on their playoff successes over the past two seasons. They have been remarkably consistent since 2003 (86 wins, 86, 88, 85, 89, 92, 93), but 93 wins doesn't make you a super-team and I see no real reason to expect improvement. It wouldn't be shocking to see them on the outside looking in during October.

The Marlins are interesting in their own right; they could very well slip in as the wildcard or challenge for the division with the right set of circumstances. What's kind of funny about a team that's consistently had good young talent is they've never had that one magical year in which everything comes together and they win 95+ games--their highwater mark is still 92 in 1997. The Rays, Twins, A's, and Indians have all managed to put together at least one season of that type in the same time period. The Mets' offense should bounce back to some extent, but the starting pitching is awfully thin to expect a strong contender. The Nationals' 2010 should vaguely resemble the Orioles' 2009--hoping for mediocrity while the primary drama is the debut of a much-hyped prospect.

NL CENTRAL

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

The Cardinals look like a clear favorite amongst a pretty motley group. Of course the proper candles must be lit for the health of Pujols and the twin aces. The Brewers look like a thoroughly average team, which makes them the safest pick for second here, but I think the Cubs might have a better chance of winning it. On the other hand, when your rotation includes Carlos Silva and your outfield is filled with two albatross contracts and a third that may end up as one, it's hard to be too excited. Reds fans seem to think it's their year; contention is certainly possible, particularly if St. Louis comes back to the pack, but this team is still a year or two away from being obvious contenders. The Astros are spinning their wheels as they have since they won the pennant, which may have been the worst thing that ever happened to them. They have the potential to be the worst team in the NL, but there's enough reliable-if-healthy veteran talent to make me conservatively pick them ahead of the Pirates.

NL WEST

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

This is another division where any of the top three winning would not surprise me in the least. The Rockies get the nod just to shake things up a little bit; I actually have Los Angeles ahead on paper. Colorado probably can't expect on repeat performances from Tulo and de la Rosa among others, and I'd like to take this opportunity to again advance my Free Chris Iannetta! campaign. The Dodgers are being written off all too quickly by a lot of mainstream writers; no, they didn't improve themselves in the off-season, but I don't see why their starting pitching is invoking hand-wringing. The Diamondbacks starting pitching looks shaky, but they have a solid offense and bullpen and with any luck should stay in the race. The Giants are seemingly an injury to one of the big two away from disaster; the incompetence in assembling an offense shouldn't be surprising any more, but it makes me shake my head. The Padres should challenge the Pirates, Astros, and Nationals for league cellar position--I'm looking forward to the potential of a Cory Luebke sighting later in the year.

WORLD SERIES

New York over Atlanta

It's boring to pick the Yankees, and of course I think the odds against any particular team winning the pennant are fairly formidable.

AL Rookie of the Year: 1B Chris Carter, OAK
I realize he's been optioned; these picks are anything but scientific and are more or less the first name that pops into my head.
AL Cy Young: Jon Lester, BOS
AL MVP: 3B Evan Longoria, TB
NL Rookie of the Year: OF Jason Heyward, ATL
It's way too easy to pick Heyward, but he'll have the hype machine on his side from the start if nothing else.
NY Cy Young: Yovani Gallardo, MIL
I hate making the obvious Cy Young picks, so I usually look like a moron.
NL MVP: 2B Chase Utley, PHI
The World Series seems to have finally convinced a lot of media-types how good Utley really is. Unfortunately, it may have come too late to earn him any hardware.

First manager fired: Ron Washington, TEX
Worst pennant race: NL Central
Best pennant race: AL West
Worst teams in each league: KC, PIT
Most likely to go .500 in each league: SEA, MIL
Team in each league most likely to disappoint mainstream consensus: DET, SF
Team in each league most likely to surprise mainstream consensus: OAK, ARI
Most obnoxious stories of the year: This is no longer fun to predict, as it's always and forever steroids. This year Mark McGwire as Cards hitting coach seems to be the leading cause for hand-wringing by the insufferable steroid crusaders. Others: Joba and Phil as relievers or starters, Jeter's contract, the Twins' closer situation, the various Twitter-fueled controversies that are bound to pop up (Ozzie and Oney could just be the beginning)
How stupid am I likely to look if one reviews these predictions after the season and ignores the disclaimers: Very

2 comments:

  1. I knew I liked your stuff for a reason: We line up on 4 of the 6 award picks, disagreeing just on AL RoY (I had Matusz) and NL Cy (Doc).

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great minds...or one great mind and one mediocre mind.

    ReplyDelete

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