Monday, June 30, 2008

Prognostications: 81 Games To Go

Nearly every Major League Baseball team has played at least 81 games this year, which means it is time to once again look back on my preseason (AL and NL) and 40-game predictions for how the divisions would wind up.

AL West: Preseason Pick - N/A; 1/4 Season Pick - Angels
Despite struggling to score runs at times, the Angels are still in the hunt for the best record in baseball (thank you AL West-laden schedule). The A's are hanging in there and the Rangers are within a hot two-weeks off of the lead, but this division is over and I hereby disavow any knowledge of whether I did or did not pick the Mariners to win the division before the season started. The Angels pitching is too deep (and getting deeper with Kelvim Escobar sooner to return) to allow even this disappointingly mediocre offense to screw it up.
81-Game Pick: Angels (95-67; currently 1st - 49-33)

AL Central: Preseason Pick - Indians; 1/4 Season Pick - Indians
While I was very proud of my choice to leave the Tigers out in the cold and then they jumped out to be one of the worst teams in baseball, they have since rebounded and are currently the hottest team in baseball. That said, they have won 17 of 21 games and are still five games behind a very good White Sox team. Their pace cannot continue and when they come back to earth and play a few games over .500 for the rest of the way (10-15 over probably), the Sox will likely just match their pace and hang on. I still like the Indians team but they are so listless, I don't know if they can put a run together. Though that's what I might have said about the Tigers. I am sticking to my guns with this division and staying with the 4th place Indians who are 9.5 back, but it will be a barn-burner.
81-Game Pick: Indians (90-72; currently 4th - 37-45)

AL West: Preseason Pick - N/A; 1/4 Season Pick - N/A
I still don't really care about the AL East. While I respect the Red Sox for finally getting the better of the Other Team that plays in New York, they are almost equally obnoxious now. Almost. I would love to see the Rays hang on - they just moved back into first place with the best record in baseball (49-32) yesterday - but I don't have great hope. As for my noting a stat that the Other NY Team goes nuts after April and May, they were a pedestrian 16-11 in June, with one game to go. Most of that success was in Interleague (8-3 against NL teams that are not the Mets), which they are now done with for the season.
81-Game Pick: Still don't care.

AL Wild Card: Preseason Pick - AL East Runner-Up; 1/4 Season Pick - A's
I am sticking to my guns on this one. I don't think the Rays can keep up with the Red Sox, and I don't think the Yankees can last with their pitching problems. The AL Central is too tough and they will all beat the hell out of one another down the stretch. That leaves the West. The Mariners are already mathematically eliminated from the playoffs for the nest three years (sorry Jim Britt), and the Rangers aren't closing on anyone in September. So the A's and Angels will have the only 2-team race for the finish, with the Angels winning by 5-10 games, but pulling the A's along with them.
81-Game Pick: A's (90-72; currently 3rd - 44-37)

NL West: Preseason Pick - Diamondbacks (92-70); 1/4 Season Pick - Diamondbacks
After jumping out to a 200 game lead through the first month and a half, the Diamondbacks have apparently remembered what division they play in and now absolutely stink. The Dodgers are 14-22 since I last made my predictions and are closing in on the front-running D-Backs who are are 12-24 in the time. They now lead this miserable excuse for a collection of professional athletes by just 2.5 games. I nailed the picks of the Rockies' and Padres' seasons so far, and the 36-46 Giants are actually the team playing best in relation to expectation! Currently now team in this division is over .500 and the division is 52 under collectively. It is time to move the Marlins to Portland and the NL West, move the Rockies to the Central, and move the Pirates back to the East.
81-Game Pick: Diamondbacks (88-74; currently 1st - 41-41)

NL Central: Preseason Pick - Cubs (97-65); 1/4 Season Pick - Cubs
Where the heck did the Cardinals come from? They were absolutely rolling until Albert Pujols went on the DL and ruined the season. Oh wait, they played over .500 and closed the Cubs' lead to 2.5 in that time. I still don't believe in the Cards (perhaps it is because Braden Looper pitches for them), and the Brewers (who were supposedly dead in the water) are now 7 over .500 and right in the hunt. All that said, it is still the Cubs' division to lose. They've scored 50 runs more than any other team in the division and they have the best team ERA.
81-Game Pick: Cubs (97-65; currently 1st - 49-33)

NL East: Preseason Pick - Mets (95-67); 1/4 Season Pick - Mets
As I wrote in May, this division is easily the most disappointing of the...oh wait, I forgot that the NL West still counted as a "Major" league division. The Marlins continue to play over their heads and they in the race, but I cannot see it continuing. If they have two bad weeks this month, the ownership will cut and run again like always. The Phillies have missed a golden opportunity to run away and hide while the Mets dealt with the Willie Randolph situation and the Braves lost Larry Jones for a spell. The Mets are now settled, they have Ryan Church back, they have Pedro back and everyone's roles seem to be solidifying. I hate to make a statement like this before the All-Star break, but their season hangs in the balance of what happens in the next eight days (four games in St. Louis and four in Philadelphia). If the Mets can win three in each city, it will go a long way towards making them gel as a team and will get them five over .500 and likely in a tie for first place. If so, game over.
81-Game Pick: Mets (87-75; currently 3rd - 40-41)

NL Wild Card: Preseason Pick - Braves (90-72); 1/4 Season Pick - Dodgers
Why I gave the Dodgers any respect will haunt me for a long, long time. They are a two-man team and one of them (Furcal) hasn't played for most of the year. They've allowed the 3rd fewest runs (A's and Red Sox), but have scored the third fewest as well (Padres and Nationals). Considering how poorly the big three in the East are playing, I can't see the second best of them making any noise down the stretch, especially since they are already currently five games behind the Cardinals and in third for the Card.
81-Game Pick: Cardinals (90-72; currently 1st - 47-36)

Red Sox host A's and win in 6. Angels host Indians and win in 5.
Angels host Red Sox and win in 6.
Diamondbacks host Cardinals and win in 5. Cubs host Mets and lose in 3 (it will blow your mind)
Diamondbacks host Mets and lose in 4.

Angels host Mets (because K-Rod will knock down the All Star game save), but Mets will in in 4.

Looking back at my picks from May, I saw that that was right after the NBA Draft Lottery balls were picked and the Clippers got the #7. On May 21, I called that the Clips would draft Eric Gordon and the Celtics would beat the Pistons in 7 and then win it all over L.A. Look it up (scroll all the way to the last paragraph). Suck on that Chad Ford.

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