Third Time Is {Probably} The Charm

June updates to predictions? DONE! Nick Waltz style…

AL East:

I thought all along that the tales of the Red Sox demise was foolish at best, and now I look like a freaking genius. Sox are still my pick for the AL East but I’m changing my Wild Card pick to the Rays. A few reasons: They’ve played out of their minds since Manny left town, and the reworked bullpen ACTUALLY IS WORKING! Their biggest strength last year became their biggest weakness and now it’s a strength all over again. By the way, look at this lineup: Sam Fuld? Johnny Damon? Kyle Farnsworth as your closer? You’ve got to be kidding me, but it’s WORKING. Amazing. Plus I hate the Yankees.

AL Central:

So the Twins are done and the White Sox are looking like it? Amazing. Nothing in the American League Central makes sense this season. I want to stick with the Indians winning the Central (Which was my new pick after picking the White Sox at the beginning of the season), but I have to agree with the great and wise Josh Stover: Tigers look good, and I honestly think they are underperforming right now. Plus there is no way a team could look like one of the 3 worst teams going into the season and ending up being one of the top 3 teams right? Right?

AL West:

So a funny thing happened while no one was looking: The Mariners are 1.5 games back of Texas, and this is happening with Ichiro apparently forgetting he’s one of the greatest hitters ever to play baseball. Amazing. However I’m picking the Rangers to win the division this year. Oakland is looking like they are about to fall down hill fast, and the Los Anaheim Angels of Anaheim have no offense. especially with Morales gone for the whole season yet again. The M’s have no one hitting for them either, which means the Rangers, who were in good shape offensively already before Beltre started  killing it for them this season, will only be better has Hamilton comes back to form, plus you’re looking at a very good rotation still.

NL East:

So the Phillies are still the team to beat, or rather their rotation is, and so they stay my pick for the NL East champs, but what the heck is going on with Florida? They’re making me doubt picking the Braves to win the Wild Card, until I noticed that Josh Johnson is now on the DL and that’ll affect them a LOT. Braves still win the WC but they have some middle relief issues that needs solving, and Dan Uggla needs to stop doing his best impression of Carlos Pena and start getting on base.

NL Central:

The Brewers continue to impress me each time I watch them play. Rickie Weeks is crazy good and Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun have put together incredible offensive season almost completely under the radar, which makes no sense to me at all. Jonathan Lucroy is the hottest young catcher in baseball and Shaun Marcum is showing how good he really is, all this while Zach Greinke isn’t pitching at his peak yet. Brewers still for the win.

NL West:

What in the world? Arizona is in first? This league is crazy. Losing Posey is a huge blow, but the Rockies took a bigger one with De La Rosa out for the year, so instead of a Giants/Rockies chase, it’s not a Giants/Diamondbacks chase. Will Arizona continue to perform this well? Who the heck knows, but I do know that I’d take the Giants pitching over theirs, (and that includes the bullpen) 100 times out of 100, and there is NO WAY the Giants continue to hit so poorly. Hopefully Huff’s 3 HR night breaks him out and when Pablo comes back, watch out. Giants still win this one.

(-NW)

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Prediction Reboot: The (correct) Stover Addition

Steve has issued some re-picks as we enter June and I thought I would set him straight on a few…

AL East

Steve is half right here. The Red Sox are back and they are going to win this division. I differ with his assessment of the Rays though. I don’t think you can succeed in that division without more hitting. Yes, they are a very similar team to the Giants, but they don’t play in the NL West (thankfully) and I can’t see them beating the Yankees and the Red Sox. They rank 21st in hitting and I’m not sure that will cut it in that division. In addition, the Yankees actually are ranked higher in pitching stats and I don’t think they are going to lose 1st place to anyone but the Sox.  I’m taking the Red Sox to win it, and the Yankees to win the wild card. One side note, I think Joe Maddon is one of, if not THE best manager in all of baseball. I would want to play for him.

AL Central

Ok so this one is super confusing….still.  Even more confusing is the White Sox. They have turned around, or at least slowed, their awful start. Steve, I like that you aren’t just picking chalk here, but I don’t see a division win in their future. I don’t see it in Cleveland’s either. At some point, Cleveland is going to start playing up, or should I say down to their potential. I’m taking the Tigers in this one.

AL West

This division still lines up clearly for me. The Rangers are winning it. Billy Bean came out today and said he didn’t want his catcher getting run over at the plate so he told him to avoid any home plate collisions. That should keep the A’s from having a repeat of the Buster Posey incident. However, Suzuki isn’t Posey, and the A’s aren’t as good as the Rangers. I’ll still take them to repeat as AL west champs.

NL East

Steve and I are in complete agreement here. Even though Hanley Ramirez is stinkin’ this year, the Marlins are finding a way to win. Pitching is the key to their success, but Josh Johnson is on the DL and they don’t have a lot of proven winners on the staff or in the bullpen. They should come back down soon. The scary part for that division is even when the Marlins are playing great, the Phillies still lead by 2 games. Philly will win this one easily and I am changing my wild card pick to Atlanta. That has more to do with Cincy stinking than with my faith in Atlanta.

NL Central

So I have publicly ripped the Brewers in previous posts and it looks like they listened. They are playing great right now and only 2.5 games out. It looks like they may make my pre season pick correct after all. Here’s a fun fact: they are amazing at home and AWFUL on the road. 21-7 vs 9-19. I don’t know what to do with the Cards. They are surprising, especially noting the slump that Pujols is in. My bold prediction is that he is going to stay in that slump all year. I know he didn’t want to negotiate his contract during the year, but maybe he should reevaluate that stance. Something is bothering him and he says he isn’t injured. I will choose to believe him and say it must be mental. Sign a contract for 26 mil a year for the next 7 years and he’ll be fine.  I’ll keep the Brewers winning the central but knock Cincy off of my previous wild card choice.

NL West

Nobody panic. Arizona isn’t winning the west. Every team gets hot at some point, they just put a couple of hot streaks together. I also don’t believe that Colorado is out of it. I look for the Rockies to be in it until September. I am still concerned about the Giants. I watched the game last night and even though we got 16 hits, I just have no faith in where our offense is coming from. Especially when Huff is up, I have no faith. I am the eternal pessimist when my team is up but I’m still not a believer yet. Trade options are a discussion for a separate post but we need to strengthen our lineup. We have 5 outfielders that Bochy has to try to time their hot streaks (ie Ross and Nate right now) and that isn’t a recipe for success.

Ok so Steve and I agree on a lot of picks.  That is a natural occurrence because we are both very smart males.  I’m really looking forward to this summer.  I broke down and got the MLB package so now I can watch the Giants more.  Blasted east coast time is killing me though.  Enjoy the games!!!

(-JS)

Prediction Reboot: June Edition

June 1st means that we are effectively one-third of the way through the season. The old adage is that a team spends the first third of the season figuring out its identity and needs, the second third getting what it needs to fill the holes, and the final third making a run at the playoffs. If that is true then the next two months will be defined by the moves teams make to help with the final push. Each division remains close with multiple teams in contention…this is shaping up to be a fascinating season. Here’s another prediction reboot as I evaluate my pre-season picks and give my take on each division:

AL East

Order has been restored in the East and as improved as the Orioles are and as fun as the Blue Jays have been, this is and will continue to be a three-horse race between the Sox, the Yanks, and the Rays. The interesting thing about this division is that the Red Sox and Yankees are virtually identical: good offenses, star-studded line ups, veterans who are underproducing, and big questions marks in the back half of the rotations. The Rays are the opposite…they are the AL version of the Giants: pitching, pitching, pitching, and hope for some runs. Still going with my original predictions: Red Sox take the division and the Rays win the Wild Card.

AL Central 

I continue to admit that picking the Twins was one of the worst predictions I have ever made! That said, this division presents a conundrum to many around baseball. Are the Indians for real? They seem to be playing above their heads, especially in the pitching department, and the gap has closed between them and the rest of the division recently. Detroit continues to be the primary adversary to date, and the Twins and Royals are essentially done. That leaves Chicago. They appear to have righted the bullpen issues that plagued them early and I have to believe that their offense will heat up as the weather continues to warm. My money is still on Chicago to get hot and take this division, but I have little confidence in any prediction I can make about the AL Central.

AL West 

The AL West is extremely close and incredibly mediocre. Each team has 27, 28, or 29 wins. First and last are separated by 2 wins (2.5 games). The big surprise has been the Mariners who could be in first place by tonight if things go right. As impossible as it might seem, given their atrocious offense, they might be able to stay in this slowest of  races. The Western divisions are probably the two that will be most affected by mid-season trades. Whoever makes the best moves here will probably prevail. Last year it took 90 wins to take this division, right now the winner is on pace for 87. That’s not great. My thoughts: I have the most confidence in the Rangers to pull off a difference making move, but I am not ready to change my original pick. The A’s will make a move too, and they will also see their starters go on a crazy run and win 15 of 17 at some point this summer to separate themselves from the pack. Oakland prevails.

NL East

One of the best stories of the year has to be the Marlins. They were my NL Sleeper pick back in January and they are making me proud! That said, I still can’t help but think the Braves will overtake them. And now with the news about Hanley Ramirez and his bad back, I feel even more strongly that the Marlins will fade. It will be close though. The Braves squeak by for the Wild Card and the Phillies ride their four horsemen to the division title.

NL Central 

I have to admit that I am starting to believe in the Cardinals. However, not much has changed here as far as my opinion about this division. Still think the Brewers are the team to beat, still think the Reds are/were overrated, still think the Cubs and Pirates are actually close to contending and could be annoying down the stretch. The Cardinals though are really going to make this interesting. Their offense is great as much because of the Allen Craigs and David Freeses and Ryan Theriots even though much credit  goes to the big three of Berkman and Holliday and Pujols (who WILL break out soon). If they make a significant pitching move, it could be enough to make the playoffs. I don’t think Milwaukee can make a big move (ala Jose Reyes) because they lack the prospects (after their two big offseason trades). They will have to do this with what they have. That could be the difference. Nonetheless, I still stay the Brewers take the Central.

NL West

So, the Rockies lose their best pitcher for the season and everyone concedes the division to the Giants. The next day the Giants lose their best player for the season and meanwhile no one really notices that, hey, the Diamondbacks are winning the division! The loss of De la Rosa and Posey means the West is wild and wide open. However, it is pretty safe to say that the Padres and Dodgers aren’t going to join the party. The Rockies are in danger in burying themselves, but even down an important arm I think they are too talented to go away and die. The Diamondbacks are good, young, and talented, but their pitching is a far cry from what the Giants have. I expect the Giants to make significant move and I hope it involves Eric Surkamp and Thomas Neal, not Zack Wheeler or Brandon Belt, and I think that move will be helpful. But at the end of the day, no one in the West pitches like the Giants. It might only take 88-91 wins to take this division and I think the Giants can manage that even sans Buster. Sticking with my boys: Giants win the West.

As you can tell, not much has changed in my opinion here in the last month. Still a long way to go and as we head into trade season much will be illuminated. As it was last year there are a lot of good teams, but no GREAT team and so anything seems possible. It’s going to be a crazy summer!

(-SB)

Thoughts on Fantasy, Predictions, and Soup

I love soup. Watching baseball in DC is like ordering soup in a restaurant. I won’t leaving you hanging with that little nugget, I’ll explain. Recently I went to a nice little restaurant called “Not Your Average Joe’s.” Steve may know this place because it is a Boston chain. We didn’t go on Friday which is a little disappointing because Friday is clam chowder day. I never end up at restaurants on the right soup day. I always get stuck on “Southwestern Chipotle Lintel Bean” night. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still order the Southwestern Chipotle Lintel Bean soup, it just isn’t clam chowder.

Many of you may be tracking where I’m going here, other’s may not, so let me drive this car into the garage. Every time I flip on the TV to watch some sports, I’m stuck with many options. Orioles, Nationals, Cubs, Red Sox or Yankees are always on TV here. The Giants are never on.  All those other teams are Southwestern Chipotle Lintel Bean soup to me. I enjoy the heck out of watching them, they just aren’t clam chowder. I miss clam chowder. Nay, I need me some chowder.

After the first week of May, I feel the need to evaluate some of my choices. I have made some bad choices. Bad choice #1. Picking the Brewers to be good. You may be thinking, “you also picked the Red Sox to be good and their records are similar.” Great thought, however, the Red Sox have some proven veteran players. I think the Red Sox are performing at their lowest level. Eventually, those good players will start producing and average out this slow start.  I’m not so sure the Brewers are at their low point. This could just be their actual performance level.

Bad choice #2. The AL central. Ok so we all got this one wrong and it may even out in the end. However, this start is almost exactly backwards from how I predicted it. I think it is great for baseball when Cleveland is good, but this start came out of nowhere. I hope they can continue it.

Bad choice #3 is all about fantasy baseball. I drafted Troy Tulowitzki and Ryan Howard with my first two picks. How’s that working out? Well it could be worse, but besides the HR totals, I’m not impressed. Tulo is ranked 69th and Howard is ranked 33rd. I currently don’t have any hitters ranked higher than 33rd on my team. Suckfest! I guess my bad choice #3 should be my whole draft. Terrible. I am in fifth and sinking fast.

Making bad choices is part of the fun of baseball.  For all the talk about luxury tax issues, baseball has an incredible amount of parity. You never quite know who will be good and who will struggle. The first month of this season points this out perfectly. Who knew the Indians would be so good, Lance Berkman would be playing out of his mind, or that the White Sox would already be 11 games out of first. If you knew those things, before the season you would be a genius or a  liar. Me, I’m just going to eat more Southwestern Chipotle Lintel Bean soup while thinking about clam chowder.

(-JS)

Nick’s Prediction Reboot

(note: nick’s article was submitted on may 6th, before the completion of the Giants-Rockies series).

AL EAST

Well the Red Sox certainly blew up my prediction for a dominant run at the AL title. That being said I still see them recovering nicely and being in the playoff hunt for the rest of the season. I still think I’m sticking with them for the title since the Yankees seem to be falling apart. As for the Rays, they’ve sold me after a really rough start. That, in addition to the terrible Central and West mean I’m picking them as my new AL Wild Card winners.

AL CENTRAL

I still think the Royals are a few years away, but good lord do the White Sox suck right now. No hitting, no pitching, no nothing. I have no clue what the Tigers really are and I don’t know if I can trust the Twins with Morneau and Mauer out so much. Looking at the Indians I think they’re the real deal, or at least real enough to win the Central.

AL WEST

Not sold on the A’s anymore and I’m changing my pick to the Rangers. Losing Feliz and Hamilton didn’t help, but Neftali is coming back and when Josh returns the offense will continue to swing large. The A’s could make a run and I wouldn’t be surprised if they did, but it’ll be down to those two teams as the Angels don’t seem to have the pieces necessary to win and the M’s are the M’s.

NL EAST

I don’t buy the Marlins at all. I know everyone says that and then they go win a World Series, but I don’t see that pitching and offense outlasting the Phillies or the Braves. That being said I still have the Phillies winning the division but after watching Atlanta this past few weeks, It’s going to be a LOT closer than I thought, close enough that I think the Braves will take the Wild Card in the NL.

NL CENTRAL 

I know St. Louis is playing really well, but honestly I still see this as the Brewers’ division to lose. I’m not picking them to win the NL anymore, but this division should still be there with good pitching and REALLY good hitting.

NL WEST

I just don’t know what to make of the Giants. They look SO bad some times, but they have had no Torres, Pablo, Zito, Wilson, Ross or Casilla and a bad hitting Belt for some or most of the season, and they’re still within a stones throw from the Rockies. The Rockies, on the other hand, are REALLY good. I’m sticking with the Giants out of plain homerism but I wouldn’t be betting against Colorado to win the division at this point.

(-NW)

Awards Predictions Remixed

Here’s the original post

Now, for the remix:

  • AL MVP: (original pick: Adrian Gonzalez) So much of the MVP choice tends to be tied in to who makes the playoffs (see Hamilton, Josh), but has there been a better player for the last 15 months than Jose Bautista? Obviously the award is only for 2011, but it is looking like 2010 (54 home runs, .995 OPS) was no fluke. Maybe the biggest sign of his turnaround is that he is walking twice as much as he is striking out. He is capable of a year that transcends the standings.
  • AL CYA: (original pick: Jon Lester) Thus far this award is Jered Weaver’s to lose, but I still think Lester will win. Jon usually starts slow and then has a torrid finish, but this year he has started strong and if he continues to dominate throughout I think he’ll win it with numbers clearly superior to Weaver. Part of what makes him so amazing is that he is left-handed and lefties typically don’t do well at fenway. Sticking to my guns here!
  • AL ROY: (original pick: Jake McGee) Huge whiff with this choice as Jake was just sent down to AAA to work some stuff out. Oh well, this is a hard one to pick anyway. The new pick is Eric Hosmer. He’s been killing it at every level and that will continue in KC. The future is rapidly approaching for the Royals.
  • NL MVP: (original pick: Albert Pujols) Pujols got off to a slow start and even then is not that far off from the numbers needed to be in this discussion. A big May could put him right back at the front of the pack. That said, Ryan Braun is going to be hard to catch, especially if the Brewers get going and take the division. I’ll take Braun for now, but with the full awareness that I might switch back to AP in June!
  • NL CYA: (original pick: Yovani Gallardo) Another big OOPS! Not only has Yovani not taken the step forward I anticipated he’s taken two major steps backward. Josh Johnson is the Jered Weaver of the NL right now and he is nasty but he always seems to get hurt or tire at some point. If he can keep it up for a full season he will be tough to beat. Halladay is right there in the mix, per usual (as is Cliff Lee). However, I think this may end up being Tim Lincecum‘s best season to date. His struggles of 2010 led to an evolution mentally and helped him develop his repertoire of pitchers. Now he has his fastball back. He is in the rare zone where his mental capacity and his physical abilities are on par. Very few athletes get to enjoy this. It’ll be number 3 for Timmy.
  • NL ROY: (original pick: Brandon Belt) Belt can still win this but he needs to come back by June 1 and he needs to absolutely rake. Otherwise, this is Brandon Beachy’s award to lose. This kid has come out of nowhere to dominate the NL this spring. Young pitchers like him tend to struggle the second and third times they face teams so he may be coming back to earth soon. Last year it was Giants vs. Braves for this award and everyone thought it would be again (Belt vs. Freeman) only we all got the wrong Brave!
(-SB)

Prediction Reboot

(**Note: records are taken from May 1st standings…also links to the original prediction articles can be found by clicking on the division titles). The first month of the season is in the books, so it seems like a natural time to review some of my preseason predictions and see how we’re doing and if we need to make adjustments. Today, we’ll look at the divisions, and later this week the awards.

AL East

Two weeks in to the season my Red Sox-first-Rays-take-second-and-the-Wild-Card pick was looking terrible. As bad as the Sox looked, the team I was really concerned about was the Rays. They looked awful out of the gate and then got hit with a big injury (Longoria). It seems, though, they’ve righted the ship, in part due to the emergence of Sam Fuld (thank you Manny) and also to the pitching, which I thought was the key all along. Now a month in and nothing has dissuaded me from my original pick. Red Sox still win it and the Rays have what it takes to win the WC. Sorry Yankees but your weak rotation and old man squad (I’m looking at you Jeter) aren’t going to cut it unless there is a major midseason trade.

AL Central

I will admit that the team I felt least excited about picking in all of baseball was the Twins. It felt uninspired in every way, yet I just couldn’t not pick them. Currently, though, this division is completely upside down from where I had everyone. Literally, my 1 through 5 is actually 5-1. I also don’t think the Indians can keep this up, but who else, honestly, is good enough to win this division? Maybe the White Sox. If I had to put money on someone, it would be Chicago, but wow, this division is completely baffling. Also, I would LOVE to see the Indians hang on and pull this out.

AL West

Texas got off a hot start but is coming back to earth. They have surprised me so far, but I still think their lack of quality starting pitching will be a liability. Best guess: it will only take about 90 wins to secure this division again, and so my money is still on the A’s. The Angels have been good, and they have a couple of hot pitchers right now, but in the end I still have to go with Oakland.

NL East

The Marlins are making me proud so far this season. I felt they would be good this year but really looking towards 2012 (new stadium, more maturity from Logan Morrison/Mike Stanton/Anibal Sanchez)…maybe they are ready now. That said, I believe this division still comes down to the Phillies and the Braves with the loser making it in as the Wild Card. Don’t be surprised though if both Wild Card teams are from Florida.

NL Central

The Brewers are right where they want to be with Zack Greinke coming back. If they can get Gallardo going they have a formidable four man rotation with Marcum and Wolf being lights out so far. Look for them to make some bullpen moves this summer to shore up what has thus far been their major weakness. I’m sticking with them winning this division. I love the Cardinals for so far proving that they won’t go quietly just because Adam Wainwright went down for the season. The Reds are still conundrum to me. Some days I think I was a fool for not picking them to win the division running away, and others I think third place is exactly where they deserve to be. Bottom Line: this is still the Brewers division to lose.

NL West

Other than the AL Central this is my biggest mistake so far. What to make of the Giants? If you had told me before the season started that the Giants would lose Torres, Wilson, DeRosa, Sandoval, Casilla, Ross, and Zito to the DL before May 1st and be at .500 only 4.5 games back, I’d say “wow, that’s pretty fortunate.” And yet, despite all that, I can’t help but look at this team and feel like they should be better. In addition to injuries, Huff has had a terrible start, Belt didn’t pan out (this time around), and Tejada has been a disaster. Meanwhile Bumgarner started slowly and the bullpen has some issues throwing strikes. Only 4.5 back. I don’t know…the injuries feel ominous…feel like the kinds of things that derail a successful championship defense. But, there’s still a lot of time left. Oh and the Rockies are good. Really good. I still think a healthy Giants club is the best team in the division, but they are going to have to do this the hard way.

(-SB)