AL EAST PREDICTED:
New York Yankees (98-64) 96-100 win range
Boston Red Sox (93-69) 91-95 win range
Tampa Bay Rays (87-75) 85-89 win range
Toronto Blue Jays (79-83) 77-81 win range
Baltimore Orioles (73-89) 71-75 win range
And here’s what actually happened:
AL EAST ACTUAL:
New York Yankees (103-59) + 5 Wins
Boston Red Sox (95-67) +2 Wins
Tampa Bay Rays (84-78) -3 Wins
Toronto Blue Jays (75-87) -4 Wins
Baltimore Orioles (64-98) -9 Wins
Other than the Orioles, all of my predictions fell within five wins of the mark, a reasonable margin of error.
Those Orioles confounded me because I expected them to rebound this year. In the big picture, they did – it just didn’t show up in the win column. I expect them to take a step forward in 2010, and after that they become an actual threat for the first time since 1997. Ah, 1997 -- the year I got my learner’s permit.
AL CENTRAL PREDICTED:
Cleveland Indians (88-74) 86-90 win range
Minnesota Twins (84-78) 82-86 win range
Chicago White Sox (79-83) 77-81 win range
Detroit Tigers (78-84) 76-80 win range
Kansas City Royals (72-90) 70-74 win range
AL CENTRAL ACTUAL:
Minnesota Twins (87-76) +3 wins
Detroit Tigers* (86-77) +8 wins
Chicago White Sox (79-83) Exactly Right!
Cleveland Indians (65-97) -23 wins
Kansas City Royals (65-97) -7 wins
* -- denotes Wild Card
I’ve only been doing these predictions for four years. Still, I might as well rename this column “The Indians make me look like a putz.” To be fair, I wasn’t the only one who thought the Indians would rebound this year. And while they did have some big problems (starting pitching), it didn’t seem much worse than it was in 2007, when they won the division.
But everything was much worse. I really wonder if the Indians’ strategy all these years hasn’t been somewhat short-sighted. That’s easy for me to say now, as I try to patch up a gaping hole in my credibility. But I really have to wonder how much better off the Indians are having played the market as they have the past 3-4 years. What are their real trade/free agent success stories? Will their success always be in the abstract, manifested only in the occasional C-level transaction dutifully applauded by saber-heads while only inching the team forward? How many clauses can I fit in one sentence?
I missed on the Tigers by a fair margin, but they really overachieved last year. Their Pythagorean record was 82-82, which is a better indicator of their true talent, I think.
Having indulged in some self-flagellation over the Indians, I think I am allowed to congratulate myself for getting a team’s record exactly right for just the second time since I started doing this. The White Sox were (and are) a top-heavy collection of a few stars balanced by mediocrities. And as they get older, they’re going to see more mediocrities and fewer stars (with the possible exception of Tyler Flowers and whomever else Kenny Williams can steal).
AL WEST PREDICTED:
Los Angeles Angels (85-77) 83-87 win range
Oakland Athletics (84-78) 82-86 win range
Texas Rangers (78-84) 76-80 win range
Seattle Mariners (70-92) 68-72 win range
AL WEST ACTUAL:
Los Angeles Angels (97-65) +12 wins
Texas Rangers (87-75) +9 wins
Seattle Mariners (85-77) +15 wins
Oakland Athletics (75-87) -9 wins
Ugh. I ranged from the somewhat bad to the terrible here. I thought I was being brave predicting 70 wins for the M’s, considering their poor showing in 2008. But they’ve turned things around pretty quickly. I don’t think they were as good as 85 wins last year, but with what they’ve done in the offseason thus far, they’re definitely up to 85-90 wins with some money left over.
The Angels are my anti-Indians. I’m getting tired of predicting their slide away from excellence. When it really does come (and it might, in 2010), I’ll at least be ready.
I have no excuse for my optimism concerning the A’s. In retrospect, I think I was overly influenced by the rosy predictions of several commentators (Rob Neyer comes to mind) who considered the A’s to be legitimate contenders coming into the season. The idea was plausible, I guess. Unfortunately, I feel like I just caved in to the superior judgment of Neyer, et al rather than trusting my gut feeling that this was a young team that couldn’t really hit even if the pitchers did blossom. If the A’s had been contenders, though, I’d probably be celebrating my good judgment.
NL EAST PREDICTED:
New York Mets (95-67) 93-97 win range
Philadelphia Phillies* (89-73) 87-91 win range
Atlanta Braves (87-75) 85-89 win range
Florida Marlins (76-86) 74-78 win range
Washington Nationals (65-97) 63-67 win range
* -- denotes Wild Card
NL EAST ACTUAL:
Philadelphia Phillies (93-69) +4 wins
Florida Marlins (87-75) +9 wins
Atlanta Braves (86-76) -1 win
New York Mets (70-92) -25 wins
Washington Nationals (59-103) -6 wins
That Mets number looks awful, but it wasn’t much different from the general consensus. I wish I had been here – so to speak – to comment on the Mets’ collapse as it happened. But until I prepare a more lengthy postmortem, I’ll just have to say that the Mets aren’t nearly as bad as they looked this year. Although they might be by Opening Day, if Omar and the Wilpons can’t get their shit together.
I refuse to concede that the Marlins were really that good last year. I keep ending up on the wrong side of the yo-yo as the Marlins go from good to bad on a yearly basis. The reality is that they’re a .500 team that’s never going to be a real winner until the ownership/protection racket moves into their new
NL CENTRAL PREDICTED:
Chicago Cubs (91-71) 89-93 win range
St. Louis Cardinals (84-78) 82-86 win range
Milwaukee Brewers (80-82) 78-82 win range
Cincinnati Reds (78-84) 76-80 win range
Houston Astros (67-95) 65-69 win range
Pittsburgh Pirates (66-96) 64-68 win range
NL CENTRAL ACTUAL:
St. Louis Cardinals (91-71) +7 wins
Chicago Cubs (83-78) -8 wins
Milwaukee Brewers (80-82) Exactly Right!
Cincinnati Reds (78-84) Exactly Right!
Houston Astros (74-88) +7 wins
Pittsburgh Pirates (62-99) -4 wins
This was my best division, even considering that I whiffed on the Cubs. I didn’t think the Cardinals could take that extra step up to 90 wins. Keep in mind, though, that before the season began, no one knew just how many innings Chris Carpenter could give them, or at what level. That he was an ace again with nearly 200 IP was a revelation.
The Brewers were predictably dismal. They’re stuck in .500 territory until they can assemble another two or three starters behind Gallardo. Adding Randy Wolf helps, but unless they can clone two more of him, they still won’t be contenders.
In hindsight, it’s astonishing to me that the Reds won 78 games. I have a really strong feeling that we’re going to 90 losses here in Reds country. With the payroll trimmed, the farm system traded away, and the pitchers handed back to Dusty “The Mangler” Baker, this is (pardon the vulgarity) nut-cutting time for Walt Jocketty & Co.
If I may extend the analogy, the nuts have already been cut in Houston.
NL WEST PREDICTED:
Los Angeles Dodgers (93-69) 91-95 win range
Arizona Diamondbacks (87-75) 85-89 win range
San Francisco Giants (78-84) 76-80 win range
Colorado Rockies (76-86) 74-78 win range
San Diego Padres (62-100) 60-64 win range
NL WEST ACTUAL:
Los Angeles Dodgers (95-67) +2 wins
Colorado Rockies (92-70) +16 wins
San Francisco Giants (88-74) +10 wins
San Diego Padres (75-87) +13 wins
Arizona Diamondbacks (70-92) -17 wins
In a way, it’s good to be surprised in baseball. Without surprises, life ceases to be interesting. I’ve heard other people remark that they’d love to be omniscient, if they had the choice. I think that nothing in the world could possibly be more boring. Admit it – if God really is incredibly bored, it explains a lot.
Such is my roundabout way of addressing the Diamondbacks. The year before I brought my inner monologue to the InterWeb, I issued a set of predictions for the 2005 season. I picked the Diamondbacks, a promising young team down the stretch in 2004, to win the NL West. They lost 111 games. That basically set the tone for my relationship with the team.
They really did have a lot of talent, though, didn’t they? They had Webb/Haren at the top of the rotation (at least I thought they did when I made my predictions) and a solid core of young offense. Sure they had holes, but who didn’t in that division?
I guess you know the rest. Webb made exactly one start, Chris Young’s development went backward (a scary thought), Stephen Drew went on Drew-ing away his potential, and we got to see more of Augie Ojeda (309 PAs) than is medically appropriate. Put that together with their puzzling offseason moves, and all I safely predict is their very unpredictability.
It wasn’t just Arizona, either. Other than the Dodgers (who fell right in line with my predictions), the whole division went all funhouse-mirror on me. The Dollar Store Padres scraped their way toward respectability, and Colorado management successfully pulled a pitching staff out of their ass. Will we see another big shift in outcomes in 2010?
Postseason Predictions:NLCS: Dodgers over Cubs
ALCS: Yankees over Indians
World Series: Dodgers over Yankees
In spite of myself, I almost got the World Series match-up right.
Awards Predictions:NL MVP: David Wright, Mets
AL MVP: Mark Teixeira, Yankees
NL Cy Young: Johan Santana, Mets
AL Cy Young: Josh Beckett, Red Sox
NL Rookie of the Year: K. Kawakami, Braves
AL Rookie of the Year: M. Wieters, Orioles
The Teixeira prediction wasn’t out of line; in another year, his HR/RBI totals and defense might have been enough to win. But then no one could have predicted what Joe Mauer accomplished in just five months.
As I said earlier, I’d like to do a more extensive postmortem if I have time. But I do have a lot to catch up with before I even take a look at the blockbuster offseason we’ve had so far.
I leave you with a picture, taken from my camera-phone, of the most determined squirrel in the world:
Coming to a motivational poster near you.