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MLB Playoff Predictions

This may well be my last post for a while on The Scores Report, so I figured what better way to go out than with some way-too-early playoff predictions? I’ll forecast each of Major League Baseball’s six division winners as well as each league’s two wild card teams. You know, so all my readers can come back and mock my wild inaccuracy in two months time.

Below, you’ll find the name of my predicted champion with their current record and place in the standings in parentheses. Also inside the parentheses is the percent chance that team will win their division (DIV) as well as make the playoffs in some fashion (POFF) as calculated by coolstandings.com and showcased on ESPN’s Hunt for October.

AL East: New York Yankees (72-52, First Place, DIV: 74.9, POFF: 96.5)

This is one of the easier predictions to make, as despite losing three straight to the White Sox, the Yankees hold the American League’s best record. As good as the Rays are, they’re simply not going to catch up with  the boys from the Bronx, especially with ace C.C. Sabathia returning to start on Friday.

AL Central: Detroit Tigers (66-57, Second Place, DIV: 31.0, POFF: 55.7)

This one’s a real toss-up between Detroit and the first place Chicago White Sox. The way I see it, the Tigers have been seriously underperforming. They should have been on top of the division all year, instead the AL Central race has turned into a competition to see who can be the most above average.

Although Chicago’s being given a 69 percent chance to win the division (83.3 percent to make the playoffs), for me, that’s the Tigers. They’re only two games back in, and 16 of the 39 contests left on their schedule are against teams with winning records. Detroit will play nearly a quarter of their remaining games, nine, against the Kansas City Royals, against whom they’re 7-1 so far.

The Tigers and White Sox will face off seven more times this year, and those games will be the key to the division. Both teams have a bit of extra incentive: there’s a solid chance that the one that comes in second place won’t make the playoffs at all, what with the Rays, Orioles, and A’s playing as they have.

AL West: Texas Rangers (72-51, First Place, DIV: 84.9, POFF: 96.2)

This may be the lone lock among these predictions. The Rangers are looking to return to the World Series for the third straight season, and I’d bet they’d like to win one after losing to the Cardinals and Giants in the past two championships. Will the third time be a charm?

We’ll see, right now we’re just talking about winning the division, and as of now, the Rangers have an AL-high 84.9 percent chance to do that. The Rangers have without a doubt the league’s best offense. They lead the league in runs scored (627), average (.277),  and on-base percentage (.340), while trailing only the Yankees in slugging percentage (.444). Lucky for Texas, the Angels have fallen off hard of late, and while the A’s have been quite a surprise, it’s unlikely they’ll close their five-game gap.

AL Wild-Cards: Tampa Bay Rays (69-55, Second Place AL East, DIV: 23.3, POFF: 79.1), Oakland Athletics (65-56, Second Place AL West, DIV: 13.2, POFF: 55.0)

The Rays will ride into the first AL wild-card spot with relative ease on the backs of their pitching staff. They’re tied for the best team WHIP (1.20) and batting average against (.232) in the majors and rank second in ERA (3.27).  Plus, they’ve been one of baseball’s hottest teams as of late, winning seven of their last ten.

The second spot is much tricker. The O’s have been perhaps the season’s biggest surprises, but I just don’t seem them making it given the strength of the AL East. Instead, it will be another team with a vowel-based nickname, the Oakland A’s, who have games with Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle, Baltimore, Detroit, New York and Texas remaining on their schedule. Ironically, they’ve only got losing records against the worst two teams on that list, Minnesota and Seattle, so they’ll just have to keep doing what they have been. Having recently acquired shortstop Stephen Drew from Arizona, the A’s aren’t going to just lay down and die.

NL East: Washington Nationals (77-47, First Place, DIV: 87.7, POFF: 99.7)

I’ve been saying it all year, the Nationals are doing it right. It’s been rumored that the team would shut down Stephen Strasburg after he reached around 160 innings, although GM Mike Rizzo has consistently said there is no set limit and that he alone would make the decision. Strasburg has 145.1 under his belt thus far, and the team recently announced that he’ll be sitting for two or three starts. We’ll see what the 24 year-old ace is able to do in the playoffs with all that rest. For now, John Lannan will take his spot in the rotation.

With the team six games ahead of the Atlanta Braves and holding the best DIV and POFF scores in the majors, they’re unlikely to miss Strasburg too much.The fact is they’ve got the league’s best pitching staff with or without him. Sure, Strasburg is a huge part of their league highs in ERA (3.23), quality starts (79), WHIP (1.20), and batting average against (.232), but baseball is a team sport, and the Nats aren’t going to fall off the map without him on the hill every fifth day.

NL Central: Cincinatti Reds (76-49, First Place, DIV: 87.5, POFF: 98.1)

Even without Joey Votto, the Reds have won seven of their last ten. Only the Nationals have a better record than Cincinatti, and that’s why only the Nats have a higher probability of winning their division or making the playoffs. But the Reds have a bigger lead in their division (8 games over St. Louis and 8.5 over Pittsburgh) than any other team in baseball, and nothing’s going to stop that train from rolling.

NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers (67-58, Second Place, DIV: 23.7, POFF: 30.6)

Much like the AL Central race, this one is going to be impacted in large part by the six games the Giants and Dodgers play against each other. Sure, L.A. is a game behind the Giants. And yes, they just got finished losing three straight to San Francisco. But losing Melky Cabrera is going to take a toll on the Giants over their next 38 games, although the effects may not have manifested quite yet, so I’m still picking the Dodgers to take the NL West crown.

NL Wild-Cards: Atlanta Braves (71-53, Second Place NL East, DIV: 12.3, POFF: 89.4), Pittsburgh Pirates (67-57, Third Place NL Central, DIV: 3.7, POFF: 35.7)

Much like the Rays, the Braves are going to have a relatively easy time taking the first NL wild-card spot. Atlanta is better than the record, if that even makes sense considering only four teams have better records. Unfortunately for the Braves, one of them is the Washington Nationals.

The second NL wild-card spot and final pick on my list is the Pittsburgh Pirates. Although they’ve got a fairly tough schedule moving forward, the Bucs will also play Milwaukee, Houston, and Chicago. Pittsburgh is going to have tough time moving ahead of division rival St. Louis and contending with the rest of the pushing and shoving going on for the last NL playoff spot. To be honest, this one is more of a hope than a prediction. I mean, the last time the Pirates made the playoffs was 1992. When else should the Bucs get their luck back, if not exactly twenty years later? If nothing else, their fans deserve it. So does Andrew McCutchen, who’s likely to be the NL’s most valuable player.

Follow the writer on Twitter @NateKreichman

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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Red Sox, Rays each drop to 0-6 – time to panic?

Raise your hand if you had the Red Sox and Rays going 0-12 to start the year…

…oh, stop it. You don’t count, Yankee Fans.

The Red Sox, a preseason favorite of many pundits, have started off the year losers of six in a row. Their team ERA is 7.13, Kevin Youkilis, Jacoby Ellsbury, Marco Scutaro, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and big money free agent Carl Crawford are all hitting below .200, and Indians starter Mitch Talbot just struck out 13 Boston batters on Wednesday night. (That’s 13, and that’s Mitch Talbot.)

The Rays have also started off 0-6, but they haven’t even held a lead this year. They’ve scored one run in five of their first six games and fans are already booing Manny Ramirez. Ironically, White Sox starter Edwin Jackson also struck out 13 Tampa Bay batters in a 5-1 win on Thursday.

What does this all mean? Maybe something, maybe nothing. Pundits figured that the Rays could struggle with the amount of talent they lost in the offseason, but nobody saw an 0-6 start for Boston. Not after they shelled out big money for Crawford and traded for slugger Adrian Gonzalez. But the reality is that they’ve done nothing right so far.

Of course, we haven’t even reached the middle of April yet. If Boston sweeps two three-game series, they’ll be back to .500 (I took math in college) and this 0-6 start will fade a bit from memory. Besides, you can’t look too deep into what a team does in April – nevertheless the first week in April. Does anyone think the Pirates will continue to play well? No, they’ll eventually fall off. They’re playing well now because everyone expects them to finish dead last in the NL Central and therefore, the pressure is off.

That said, teams like the Red Sox that are expected to make a World Series run have a tendency to press when things aren’t going their way. Boston shouldn’t worry too much about being 0-6 but they obviously can’t wait too long to start winning either.

Pirates prove that the current structure in baseball doesn’t work for fans

July 18, 2010 - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States of America - 18 July 2010: The view from behind the plate at PNC Park prior to the National League game between the Houston Astros and the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates Paul Maholm.

The Associated Press released information this morning that should make Pirate and general baseball fans sick and Yankee fans even more appreciative of what they had in George Steinbrenner.

The AP reports that the Pittsburgh Pirates have been able to turn a profit over the last three years – the same Pittsburgh Pirates that haven’t had a winning season in over 18 years.

According to the financial documents that were obtained by the AP, the Pirates took home $15,008,032 in 2007, $14,408,249 in 2008 and $5.4 million 2009. That’s chump change compared to what a team like the Yankees have been able to take home, but they also win.

The Pirates claim that principal owner Bob Nutting doesn’t take a salary and that may be the case, but it’s also clear that they’re not using all of their resources to win on the field. How could they be? If they were, former All-Stars like Jason Bay, Freddy Sanchez, Nate McLouth and Jack Wilson wouldn’t be suiting up for other teams tonight. Nor would arbitration eligible or players close to becoming free agents like Tom Gorzelanny, Ian Snell, John Grabow, Xavier Nady, Adam LaRoche, Damaso Marte, Nyjer Morgan, Ronny Paulino and Sean Burnett be playing for other clubs right now either. (Let’s not forget that the Bucs also dealt Jose Bautista – the current home run leader in the AL – to the Blue Jays for 20 shake weights and an instructional shake weight at-home video.)

The Bucos say that they’re trying to win through the draft and with players like Andrew McCutcheon, Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata, Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie either on the big league roster or in the minors that may be case. They say that they’ve paid nearly $12 million for amateur draft picks and have raised their draft expenditures to $31 million over the last three years.

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It’s a big day in D.C. sports history

The Nationals have been based in Washington since 2005. Since then, they’ve managed to finish dead last in the NL East every year outside of 2007, when they shocked the masses by finishing fourth.

Outside of Ryan Zimmerman, the only other player the Nationals’ fan base could call a “star” was Dmitri Young, which is like saying Paul Walker is the star in his movies – any movie.

But tonight at 7:05PM ET at Nationals Park, the fans will have a new star – a legit star, to root for in young phenom Stephen Strasburg. The 2009 No. 1 overall pick will make his major league debut tonight against the Pirates in what will undoubtedly be a packed house in Washington D.C.

The media in Washington has been trying to get the fans to temper their expectations of tonight for the last couple of months. But that’s impossible for a fan base that has sat through horrid season after horrid season since 2005. They deserve to think the world of Strasburg, even though expectations should be kept at bay. He’s an incredible prospect, but he’s just that: a prospect. He has even admitted that he hasn’t proven anything yet.

In just over 55 innings and 11 starts in the minor leagues this year, Strasburg struck out 65 batters while walking only 13 and posting a 1.30 ERA. He has been so dominant that even if the Nats wanted to prolong his stay in the minors, they would have no reason to. Calling him up after June 4 allowed the club to delay the start of his arbitration clock, meaning the only reason to keep him in the minors would be so he could work on his game. And his game looks fine as is.

So June 8, 2010 it is. When Strasburg takes the bump tonight, all eyes will be firmly planted on No. 37. Whether he’s ready for the big moment is not really important. What is important is that his day is finally here.

D.C. sports fans’ day is finally here.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Top 10 active innings eaters

Chances are, you need a few pitchers on your fantasy baseball roster that can eat up innings. You know, that silly rule that prevents you from loading up on closers? Well, here is a list you could use, especially if your team if floundering and you need some steady pitchers to deliver quality innings of work. This is the list of active leaders in innings pitched. Some of the names will surprise you, but certainly not all of them:

1. Jamie Moyer, Philadelphia Phillies (3966 innings)—Remember when Jamie Moyer pitched for the Cubs? Yeah, neither does anyone else. He was a rookie in 1986, the year Mookie Wilson hit the ball through Bill Buckner’s legs. I know, most of you don’t remember that, either.

2. Andy Pettitte, New York Yankees (2984)—Though it’s early, Andy Pettitte is having a career year at age 38. And I’m just glad I had the foresight (errr, luck) to draft him for my fantasy team.

3. Tim Wakefield, Boston Red Sox (2980)—Remember when Tim Wakefield pitched for the Pirates? Seriously, he started out there in 1992 and joined the Sox in 1995. And dude is still beloved by the chowder heads.

4. Livan Hernandez, Washington Nationals (2795)—Two things are baffling. One, that Livan’s age is listed as 35. Thirty-freaking-five! Um, no. And two, that this guy is still getting hitters out with that blistering 80 mph fastball of his.

5. Javier Vasquez, New York Yankees (2532)—So this guy has banked $92 million in his career to date for losing as many games as he wins (145-144). That’s proof right there that innings eaters are worth something, but still sounds like highway robbery to me.

6. Jeff Suppan, Milwaukee Brewers (2437)—He’s relegated to the bullpen for the most part, but still racking up innings of work.

7. Kevin Millwood, Baltimore Orioles (2382)—Remember when Kevin Millwood was the fourth starter behind Smoltz, Maddux and Glavine in Atlanta? That was in 1997 but seems like it was 50 years ago.

8. Derek Lowe, Atlanta Braves (2191)—He may have peaked a few years ago, but this guy still has some of the nastiest stuff in the game.

9. Tim Hudson, Atlanta Braves (2124)—Through all of the injuries, it’s truly amazing that Tim Hudson has pitched that many innings. And hey, Javier, put this in your pipe and smoke it—a 153-79 career record.

10. Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies (2123)—This dude just keeps winning, but even he’s only got 154 wins to date. Does that seem right?

Source: Baseball Reference

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