Wake me up when September ends

Albert Pujols

Today is August 27th, which means football season is nearly upon us. More importantly, though, we’re just over a month away from the baseball postseason. It’s been a pretty odd season (actually, it’s been a pretty odd month of that season), so I figured I could look back at my predictions from before spring training and see how they’re stacking up. In fact, I’ll be classy about this and get started…wait for it…after the jump! (I’ve always wanted to say that.)

American League

East

My original prediction: Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles

Where they stand now: Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles

What I got right: The Yankees clearly have a dominant pitching staff and their offense is still a force to be reckoned with. They started slow, but have come on strong in the second half, and with a four-game sweep of the Red Sox earlier this month, are well on their way to running away with the division. The Red Sox have faded quicker than I would have anticipated, as some of their veterans have aged quickly (and hey, when you’re not juicing, it’s really hard to hit home runs. Sorry, had to). The Jays, while a good team, are simply overmatched in their division, and the Orioles are still not quite ready yet (although they looked good when I saw them at Camden Yards in May).

What I got wrong: I did predict that the Rays would have a bit of a letdown year, which has taken place, but they are not out of it by any means and may very well steal the wild card from the Red Sox (or Rangers, but more on that in a bit): as of this writing, the Rays still play the Red Sox six more times this season. If they stay on the bit of a roll they’ve been on since the break, the Rays have a very good chance of getting back to October.

My current prediction: Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles. While I think the Rays have a great chance of getting back, I don’t think they’ll be able to pull it off, and the wild card spot will go elsewhere.

Central

My original prediction: Indians, Twins, Tigers, White Sox, Royals

Where they stand now: Tigers, White Sox, Twins, Indians, Royals

What I got right: Pretty much nothing. I’m done trying to predict the AL Central, because clearly I’m missing something. The only thing I got right in this division was the Royals (I’ll probably keep saying “watch out for those Royals, they’re due!” until the day I die).

What I got wrong: The Indians bullpen acquisitions did nothing in the beginning of the year. The Indians starting pitching did nothing in the beginning of the year. Actually, I think the Indians just got off to that 0-5 start and tailspun from there by putting too much pressure on themselves. Once again, they’re playing good baseball after the break – the key for the Indians next year is to catch lightning in a bottle with some of these young pitchers and hope that they don’t get off to as slow a start.

The Tigers were just the opposite: I predicted their pitching would suck, but they’ve actually produced. Verlander is having an excellent season, and newcomers like Edwin Jackson and Rick Porcello are having great seasons too. Even their bullpen has come through. Curtis Granderson (one of my favorite players in all of baseball) is having a down year offensively, but still the Tigers are putting up runs and winning games, and the weak competition in the AL Central is bad enough for them.

The Twins and White Sox, I think, are two teams at opposite ends of their generation: the White Sox are too old, and the Twins are too young. Both still have a shot, albeit a longshot, to unseat the Tigers though.

My current prediction: Tigers, White Sox, Twins, Indians, Royals. The White Sox will make some noise, but in the end their pitching will betray them and they won’t make it. The Indians will have an outside chance at third place but playing four games in Boston in early October will derail those chances.

West

My original prediction: Angels, Athletics, Mariners, Rangers

Where they stand now: Angels, Rangers, Mariners, Athletics

What I got right: Any team managed by Mike Scioscia is going to be very good. The Angels started slow but heated up in the second half.

What I got wrong: Where did the Rangers come from? They got an ex-pitcher (some dude named Nolan Ryan) as their president, who came in and started talking about making the pitchers tougher and increasing conditioning, etc. We all dismissed him, as an iron horse of an older generation. Then what he did worked. The Rangers have the 5th best pitching staff in the American League (in terms of ERA) and the best pitching staff in the West. Their hitting has been solid but surprisingly, not powered by Josh Hamilton, who’s having an off year.

The Mariners have hung around, too, and are having a nice bounceback season after last season. They have the best ERA in the American League – their only problem is hitting. The Athletics, who I predicted would finish second, are just too young and thrown together to do much.

My current prediction: Angels, Rangers, Mariners, Athletics. No surprise here. What is surprising is that in the end, the Rangers will be in the thick of the wild card race, however, my prediction is that it will go to the Sox, who are just too experienced in playing meaningful games in the late season for the Rangers to compete. The Red Sox have a slightly easier schedule, closing with series against the Royals, Yankees, Blue Jays and Indians (in that order), while the Rangers close against the Athletics, Rays, Angels and Mariners. In the end, the Rangers will be a story much like the 2005 Indians, a happy story without a happy ending.

National League

East

My original prediction: Phillies, Mets, Braves, Marlins, Nationals

Where they stand now: Phillies, Braves, Marlins, Mets, Nationals (Braves, Marlins tied for second)

What I got right: The defending champs are still good. They somehow got better this year by adding a rookie phenom (J.A. Happ) and a proven veteran (Cliff Lee), the only question is how far that will take them into the playoffs.

What I got wrong: The Mets. Unlike the Yankees, who also have a new stadium, the Mets seem to be a cursed franchise and can’t figure out how to win consistently. After spending millions on a new back end of the bullpen, the Mets rarely get that far and they’re lodged in fourth place with tons of injuries. The Braves and Marlins have hung around longer than I thought they would, and even the Nationals have played better of late (and are in good shape for next year, after signing Stephen Strasburg).

My current prediction: Phillies, Braves, Marlins, Mets, Nationals. The Braves will outlast the Marlins for second place, but I think they’ll miss the wild card to a team in the West.

Central

My original prediction: Cubs, Cardinals, Brewers, Astros, Pirates, Reds

Where they stand now: Cardinals, Cubs, Astros, Brewers, Reds, Pirates

What I got right: The Cardinals are a team managed by Tony LaRussa, meaning they play the game the right way, they have Albert Pujols (pictured above) meaning they can hit, and they have Dave Duncan, meaning their pitching is excellent. Colby Rasmus, Rick Ankiel, Ryan Ludwick and midseason acquisition Matt Holliday have excelled as well. Milwaukee has done pretty well, considering the talent they lost in the offseason, but just can’t hang with the Cardinals or Cubs.

What I got wrong: The Cardinals weren’t a team that had a ton of talent at the beginning of the year, but they weren’t going to beat themselves. The Cubs were supposed to be that team to beat them, but like most years (that is, every one of the last 101 years) something has gone wrong. This year the Cubs are just plain dysfunctional and can’t seem to sustain any momentum.

As for the other three teams, Houston has overachieved, I think, and Cincinatti and Pittsburgh are both just about equally bad.

My current prediction: Cardinals, Cubs, Brewers, Astros, Reds, Pirates. I don’t see St. Louis giving up that lead easily, but Milwaukee might have a nice September.

West

My original prediction: Dodgers, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Giants, Padres

Where they stand now: Dodgers, Rockies, Giants, Diamondbacks, Padres

What I got right: The Dodgers are good. The Rockies are also good and underperformed last year and early this year. The Dodgers excel in hitting, the Rockies excel in pitching. The D-Backs and Padres are in rebuilding mode.

What I got wrong: The Giants are a pretty solid team all around, with a Cy Young leading their staff and the Majors’ best ERA. Now if only they could hit…

My current prediction: Rockies, Dodgers, Giants, Diamondbacks, Padres. I see the Rockies overtaking the Dodgers for the division title this year, but the Dodgers sneaking in for the wild card.

Playoffs

Original predictions:

  • ALCS: Yankees over Red Sox
  • NLCS: Phillies over Cubs
  • World Series: Yankees over Phillies

Current prediction:

  • ALCS: Yankees over Angels
  • NLCS: Phillies over Cardinals
  • World Series: Yankees over Phillies

So there you have it. A somewhat different path to get there, but in the end, the result is the same. What do you guys think? Let me know in the comments!



Originally posted on Cleveland, Curveballs and Common Sense on August 27, 2009 at 11:59 PM. Post text content © 2009 Jimmy Sawczuk. All rights reserved.

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