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
Posted in: MLB
Tags: AL East, Andrew McCutchen, Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, baseball, C.C. Sabathia, Chicago White Sox, Cincinatti Reds, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Dodgers, Melky Cabrera, MLB, New York Yankees, Oakland Athletics, Pittsburgh Pirates, Playoff predictions, playoffs, San Francisco Giants, Stephen Drew, Stephen Strasburg, Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers, Washington Nationals, World Series
Baseball’s Two Biggest Surprises
Every team in Major League Baseball has now played over 40 games. That’s more than a quarter of the season, which means we can no longer say Albert Pujols is having a slow start or the Orioles are just getting lucky. Let’s take a look at the two most surprising team performances so far, one bad, one good. Along the way, we’ll have a little fun at the expense of ESPN’s absolutely expert preseason predictions.
I’ve tallied the expert predictions and made all sorts of charts. The most surprising thing to the team over at ESPN has got to be the performance of the Los Angeles Angels, and more specifically that of Albert Pujols, their $240 million man. Jayson Stark said as much in his own quarter-season roundup, and the charts don’t lie. Of the 49 ESPN experts, 24 picked the Angels to win their division and 45 said they’d make the playoffs. As if that wasn’t enough, 18 of those savvy professionals picked them to win the World Series. That’s more than any other team by 10, in second place with eight picks were the division rival Texas Rangers.
Obviously, things are not going as well as was expected for the Angels. I mean, it’s not really going well by any means of calculation. They’re in last place with an 18-25 record, eight games behind the AL West leading Rangers, and to top it all off they’ve lost three straight.
If there’s one thing that’ll rile up a fan base, it’s the underperformance of a big money off-season signing. Just ask a Giants fan what they think of Barry Zito. Zito was one of my favorite players during his time on the A’s, and I wanted the Mets to get him, bad. Luckily I’m not the team’s GM, so we dodged a major bullet. For any Giants fans reading, I’m sorry to have brought that up. If you want I can riff about Mo Vaughn a while to make you feel better. No? Alright, moving on.
The trouble with Pujols is not that he’s underperforming, but that he doesn’t seem to be performing at all. The three-time NL MVP is hitting .212 with 3 home runs and just 18 RBI. His Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is at -0.1 according to baseball-reference, meaning he’s only a little bit worse than your average Triple-A shmo. He’s on pace to hit 12 total homers this year, or one for every million dollars he’s being paid. Fear not Angels fans, it’s far from a lost season, and I do believe Pujols will turn it around once he’s adjusted to all the AL pitchers he’s almost never seen. That said, I’m not sure I’d put any money on seeing him in the playoffs this year.
The Unbelievable Orioles
When I say unbelievable, I mean it. I don’t think anyone expected this kind of performance out of the O’s. If we look back at those preseason predictions, not one of the ESPN wunderkinds predicted the Orioles would grab a wildcard spot, let alone win the highly competitive AL East.
But look at them now. Forty-three games into the season, the O’s are at a cool 27-16, two games ahead of the Rays and five and a half in front of the tied-for-last Red Sox and Yankees (whom 37 of the analysts predicted would win the division). Like I said, a quarter of a season is far too long to call this a hot streak, lucky, or anything else of the sort.
If the fans in Baltimore have one man to thank, it’s manager Buck Showalter, who’s led his team to a 15-6 record while on the road. The Braves are the only team in the bigs with more wins on the road (16), but they’ve also got four more road losses (10). Furthermore, Showalter has helped Adam Jones develop into the star we’ve been told he is for oh so long, as well as getting fantastic performances from his starting rotation. Perhaps most importantly however is what Showalter has gotten out of his bullpen. Those of you who read my column last week know how I feel about closers. Showalter may not feel quite as strongly as I do, but he uses his pen with more logic than just about any other manager. It’s working too, the bullpen has converted 19 of 24 save opportunities and includes five different pitchers (Jim Johnson, Pedro Strop, Darren O’Day, Matt Lindstrom, Luis Ayala) with ERA’s of 1.75 or under in more than 13 appearances. Just don’t tell anyone who likes what I had to say about closers that the 5 blown saves have come from pitchers other than Johnson.
All that said, just as the Angels have plenty of time to turn things around, the Orioles have plenty of time to regress. Some statisticians see the team’s dominance as unsustainable. The team has relied fairly heavily on home runs to score, their league-leading 65 jacks has helped them score more runs (199) than just five other teams. Home runs, of course, are the fossil fuel of baseball energy, and you never know when the O’s will pass peak oil. If the team hopes to maintain its success they’re going to have to get a little more eco-friendly, meaning upping their team batting average (.249, or twelfth in the league) and OBP (.310, 21st).
If these preseason predictions tell us anything, it’s that preseason predictions are worthless. But hey, that’s what makes baseball great. Any team can get hot and come out of nowhere (or go into a total nose dive) at any time. Then again, it’s a long season and the baseball gods still have more than enough time to correct themselves if they see fit.
Posted in: MLB
Tags: Adam Jones, Albert Pujols, Baltimore Orioles, Barry Zito, Boston Red Sox, Buck Showalter, Darren O’Day, Jayson Stark, Jim Johnson, Los Angeles Angels, Luis Ayala, Matt Lindstrom, New York Yankees, Pedro Strop, Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers
Rangers advance to ALCS with Game 4 win over Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays had an incredible season, but the Texas Rangers were more than ready for them. Adrian Beltre smacked three solo home runs to power the Rangers to a 4-3 victory.
Beltre has been a terrific — if imperfect — player over the course of his career. But many fans have viewed him as disappointment, especially in Seattle, after the Mariners signed him to a big free-agent contract following his monster 2004 season with the Dodgers and he was never able to replicate that .334, 48-homer season. But with the Mariners, I liked that he always played hard, played great defense (recognized with Gold Glove awards in 2007 and 2008) and hit for power in a tough park for right-handed pull hitters.
After a year in Boston where he compiled his best numbers since 2004, the Rangers signed him to play third base. The signing was controversial, not because of Beltre’s abilities, but because it left Michael Young without a position. In the end, it all worked out. Young filled in at DH and around the infield while contending for the AL batting crown and Beltre loved hitting in The Ballpark in Arlington — he hit a .326/.372/.706 at home with 23 of his 32 home runs, compared to .271/.297/.440 on the road.
Let’s see if the Tigers can wrap thing up against the Yankees tonight.
MLB Playoff predictions from the guy who said the Red Sox would win the World Series
My 2011 MLB season predictions were a little off this year.
I said the A’s would win the AL West and they actually finished 22 games out of first.
I said the White Sox would win the AL Central and they just traded their manager to another team, which sums up how well they did this year.
I said the Giants would repeat as National League champions and in doing so I cursed Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Freddy Sanchez and the 900 other players they placed on the DL this season.
I had the Braves winning the NL Wild Card and we all know how that turned out. Yiiiiiikes.
While I did have the Phillies winning the NL East and the Yankees making the postseason as the AL Wild Card, those were gimmies. My only claim to fame was predicting the Brewers to win the NL Central, although when you have the Red Sox winning the World Series and they don’t even make the postseason you have no right to brag about anything.
So if you’re offended by my postseason predictions below, don’t be. Chances are I’ll be wrong anyway.
ALDS: Yankees over Tigers.
I don’t trust the Yankees’ pitching but I trust it more than I trust Doug Fister. Justin Verlander was the best pitcher in the American League this season but he’s had a knack for coming up short on the road throughout the years. Knowing the Yankees they’ll be down in every game of this series and figure out some way to advance. Derek Jeter will be 16-for-18 with 11 doubles and one game-winning home run or something ridiculous.
NLDS: Phillies over Cardinals.
The Phillies did the Cardinals a favor by beating Atlanta but if I were them, I would have wanted the downtrodden Braves to advance. That team would have just been happy to reach the postseason after a miserable September. Nevertheless, the Phillies’ pitching will dominate the hot-and-cold St. Louis lineup and the Cardinals’ pitching will fail them in Philadelphia. They’ve got Edwin Jackson slated to start Game 2 in that bandbox the Phillies’ call a stadium, which should work out well considering he’s a fly ball pitcher. (Read: sarcasm.)
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in: MLB
Tags: Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, Cliff Lee, Derek Jeter, Detroit Tigers, Edwin Jackson, Joe Maddon, Justin Verlander, MLB Playoff Predictions, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Roy Halladay, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers
Red Sox complete epic collapse
Last night will go down as one of the most riveting nights in the history of Major League Baseball’s regular season. Two wild card races came down to the last game, with the Boston Red Sox and the Atlanta Braves trying to avoid disaster.
For a while, things were looking pretty good for the Red Sox. The Rays were down 7-0 to the Yankees, and the Sox were clinging to a one-run lead in the 7th against the Orioles. And then the rains came. We’re always prone to look for meaning in random events, but when a team is staring down the worst September collapse in baseball history, a dreary rain delay seemed like a really bad sign.
By the time the night was over, Red Sox relief pitcher Jonathan Papelbon had given up the lead, and the Rays completed an incredible comeback to beat the Yankees in extra innings.
They’ll be talking about this one for a while. Here’s Scott Lauber from The Boston Herald:
It has been a slow, month-long march to baseball’s version of death — elimination from playoff contention — for the Red Sox.
Last night, it became pure torture.
One out from guaranteeing the Red Sox no less than a play-in game today against the Tampa Bay Rays, closer Jonathan Papelbon melted down. He allowed three consecutive hits, including a game-tying double by Nolan Reimold and a game-winning single by Robert Andino in a 4-3 loss.
Then, a few minutes after Papelbon and the Red Sox trudged off the field at Camden Yards, Evan Longoria belted a solo homer in the 12th inning at Tropicana Field. After trailing the New York Yankees 7-0 in the eighth, the Rays won 8-7.
And, with that, the Best Team Ever suffered the Worst Collapse Ever.
Lauber points out that no team has ever missed the playoffs with a lead as large as 9 games in September. The Braves managed to come close to the Boston choke job by blowing an 8 and 1/2 game lead in the National League.
Papelbon has always been a loudmouth, so watching him blow it was pretty entertaining. His post-game news conference is equally satisfying.