Friday, July 04, 2008

Time to review the National League portion of my preseason MLB predictions.

Again, the predictions can be found here.

NL East

Philadelphia Phillies - Predicted Record: 87-75 - Current Record: 47-39

Well, they're a couple gains ahead of the pace I had them at, and a couple places ahead in the standings, but even more stunning, they're still playing four games below their Pythagorean Record. Utley has played up to his now four years running MVP-candidate self, while Pat Burrell, always an underrated player because of his three true outcome skills, is playing out of his mind, slugging 100 points above his career average, a number which might fall, but the Phillies have room for gain in the weak performance of Ryan Howard, who while still walking and slugging, needs to up his batting average a bit above the .219 mark, because he simply can't take many more walks to up his OBP. Their starting pitching is still shaky however, with everyone outside of star Cole Hamels having lousy K/BB ratios and I wouldn't be surprised to see the ERAs of Kyle Kendrick and Adam Eaton sink further. However, they still have to be the division favorites from here, though I think I stand a fine chance of them finishing within a couple of games from my prediction.

Florida Marlins - Predicted Record: 67-95 - Current Record: 44-41

Another big whiff here. Having allowed more runs than they've scored, they seem good candidates to sink back under .500, but certainly not to accumulate 95 losses, which would require a 22-54 record from here on out. They're doing it with their lineup, where every hitter, aside from catcher Matt Treanor has been above average, led by Dan Uggla's unreal numbers, which are unlikely to stay this high, and Hanley Ramirez's, which are. They lead the league in HRs, but are third to last in OBP which could be trouble in a power drought. Still, if they hit HRs like they have been it may not matter. The pitching still spells trouble though with only Scott Olsen and Ricky Nolasco fairly reliable starters, and while Andrew Miller has improved greatly since April, he still walks too many batters to be successful long term. Ultimately, my prediction will prove off, but not by as much as it is now, as they'll likely recess to a bit below .500.

New York Mets - Predicted Record: 92-70 - Current Record: 42-43

Another big miss so far. While I may be a fan, I think it was far from crazy to thing what had been a fairly successful team, even with the collapse would be superior after losing almost nobody and gaining Johan Santana. I did think there would be a few problems, but may have underestimated the income. I thought Carlos Delgado would continue to decline, and he has, for the most part even worse than I thought, but he has improved greatly over the last month or so. I knew not to count on El Duque or Moises Alou, but I thought the Mets would have Alou for maybe half the games in the season, and not 15, as he's played so far. The Mets have been hurt by the lack of even a mediocre fifth starter, the underperforming Claudio Vargas and Nelson Figueroa have been replaced by a so far incredibly disappointing, but healthy, Pedro Martinez. All in all, the Mets still have a shot at the playoffs, as much as they've underperformed, but they're going to need Delgado to continue his hot streak, Ryan Church to stay healthy and Mike Pelfrey to continue the revelation he's undergone in the past month - I'd still say I'm going to be off at least a few one this one.

Atlanta Braves - Predicted Record: 89-73 - Current Record: 40-46

While I certainly didn't expect Mike Hampton to throw a pitch all season, I did not expect John Smoltz to miss the majority of the season as well, which has hurt the team a great deal. Still, the problem with the Braves so far has unexpectedly been the hitting; they're second in the league in runs allowed per game, but ninth in runs scored per game. They are significantly underplaying their Pythagorean record, by a tune of 6 games, largely attributable to their 4-21 record in one-run games. Tim Hudson has been outstanding predictably, as has Jair Jurrgens less so, and Brian McCann, Mark Teixeira, and most of all Chipper Jones. If Jeff Francouer plays even a little bit up to the breakout season many people expected the Braves could at least finish over .500, though unlikely up to the record I called for.

Washington Nationals - Predicted Record: 73-89 - Current Record: 34-53

Not sure why I predicted these guys would win more games, looking back, seeing how few real weapons they have. A couple reasons are that I thought Nick Johnson might stay healthy, that Austin Kearns would produce more than the OPS+ of 50 he's put up so far, and that Lastings Milledge might break out even a little bit. Their third-to-last runs allowed per game is almost as bad as their league worst runs scored per game, hurt by a largely disappointing performance from Shawn Hill and the injury to one of the few reliable Nationals over the last couple years, Chad Cordero. This doesn't seem like a situation likely to change this year at least, and GM Jeff Bowden has to be on his last legs. They may avoid the 100 losses mark barely, but if they do it won't be by much.

NL Central

Chicago Cubs - Predicted Record: 87-75 - Current Record: 51-35

Nice to get a position right, even if I severely underestimated the record so far. Everyone knew the Cubs would be good - they have a strong core on offense of Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee, and Alfonso Soriano, and one of the most reliable #1 starters over the past few years in Carlos Zambrano. What we didn't know is that Ryan Theriot and Mark DeRosa would have OBPs of .388 and .378 respectively or that Ryan Dempster would have a 3.24 ERA as a starter with a respectable, but not amazing 93/43 K/BB ratio. The Cubs have been buoyed by strong performances from newcomers Kosuke Fukudome and Geovany Soto as well as Kerry Wood sliding cleanly into the closer's spot with a 53/9 K/BB ratio. Frankly, there's no reason the Cubs can't keep this up, so I'll get their position right, but probably be at least a few games low on their record.

St. Louis Cardinals - Predicted Record - 71-91 - Current Record: 49-38

Yet another mistake, and one that I didn't even see having a chance of coming true. We all knew Albert Pujols is one of the biggest superstars in the game, but how could anyone expect a 146 OPS+ from journeyman Ryan Ludwick, or above average performances from Kyle Lohse and Todd Wellemeyer? Yadier Molina has also put up average offensive numbers, which are like superstar numbers to him and Adam Wainwright has been as good as some thought he might be when he debuted a couple of years ago putting up a stellar ERA and a better than 3/1 K/BB ratio. I have a hard time believing they're going to continue to put up the kind of pitching numbers they have over the first half and take a playoff spot, but they've certainly achieved far above my predicted record, and may get a shot for the playoffs in spite of my predictions.

Milwaukee Brewers - Predicted Record: 84-78 - Current Record: 46-39

What I like to see, a record that, although a few games better, is reasonably within my prediction, and has a good chance to end up that way, especially since the Brewers heretofore have allowed more runs than they've scored. Rickie Weeks continues to be a major disappointment, and Bill Hall has been an unmitigated disaster, but strong performances out of young stars Ryan Braun and Corey Hart have kept them in the race, along with a so far healthy Ben Sheets. To keep this pace up, they'll need Sheets to stay healthy, and Manny Parra to keep up his performance, which seems unlikely unless he sharply cuts down on his walks. A breakout performance by any of their young stars, such as some more power from Prince Fielder would also help them along. I could easily see them finishing where I put them, and consider it even fairly likely.

Pittsburgh Pirates - Predicted Record: 65-97 - Current Record: 40-44

Another bad team that has far overperformed my prediction. They've done this in large part thanks to their outstanding outfield, featuring Jason Bay, who successfully came back from a down 2007 season, and Xavier Nady and Nate McLouth, who have had unprecedented success so far, and their catch Ryan Doumit who while healthy has had an unbelievable 160 OPS+. They've been hurt by an absolutely brutal starting staff on which only Zach Duke has been above average, and Ian Snell has been particularly disappointing possibly due to the arm trouble that's put him on the DL. They'll probably continue to play like the above average team they are, but I think there's a lot better chance they stand at 87-90 losses than 97.

Houston Astros - Predicted Record: 71-91 - Current Record - 40-46

Slightly underestimated these guys, likely to the career year of superstar Lance Berkman and, well, I'm not really sure why else. Wandy Rodriguez has been outstanding but his great year has been made up for by Roy Oswalt's down year, although Oswalt has pitched much better in the month of June. Carlos Lee continues to be one of the most consistent sluggers in the game, and former Marlin and Tiger Brian Moehler has been a pleasant surprise so far, while touted catcher of the future JR Towles has disappointed big time. This team is pretty much sitting where it belongs, and I could see it either gaining a couple of games, or losing a few more to fall within the realm of my prediction. One thing I need to add though is that the Astros continue to shoot themselves in the foot by leading off Michael Bourne and his simply abysmal .280 OBP.

Cincinnati Reds - Predicted Record - 77-85 - Current Record - 40-47

I'm well within the area of correct prediction here, and the Reds should be granted a few free games for having to deal with the utterly inept managing of Dusty Baker. The Reds have been stunned by the Cy Young-caliber pitching of Edinson Volquez, but have been disappointed so far by the early performances of Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey. They've been killed by granting Corey Patterson and his .219 OPS 192 ABs that could have gone to Jay Bruce, who has been up and down, but still on the whole strong, after his eventual call up. Adam Dunn is another one of those players like Carlos Lee who has been incredibly consistent (in a good way) from year to year, but if the Reds want to get better, a stronger performance from their rookie pitchers and Bronson Arroyo would help. I've got a halfway decent shot of hitting near my predicted record here.

NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks - Predicted Record: 91-71 - Current Record: 43-43

This record looked too low for a while, and now looks too high, which probably means it stands at least a decent chance of being right on. Danny Haren has lived up to everything we expected from him, and Brandon Webb, although cooling off recently has made this possibly the best 1-2 starting pitching punch in baseball. They continue to be killed by the low OBPs on a couple of their young players, Stephen Drew and Chris Young, and the injuries and general come down from a career year from Eric Byrnes. Only Conor Jackson has truly lived up to his offensive billing so far, and the bullpen has been excellent. To reach my record and a spot in the playoffs, they could use improved performances from Randy Johnson and Micah Owings, but they have a good shot of at least shooting near my record, in that now putrid division.

LA Dodgers - Predicted Record: 87-75 - Current Record: 41-44

Simply by predicting this whole division to be good, I erred big time, and the Dodgers are just another example. Their culprit has clearly been the hitting - they're leading the league in runs allowed per game, with strong performances from Derek Lowe, Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda, and some possible room for improvement from Brad Penny, who hasn't had a season this bad, well, ever. Rafael Furcal has played well over his career norms while healthy, which hasn't been for very long, and Russell Martin has been excellent, but the Andruw Jones signing has been an unmitigated disaster (second time I've used that term in this post I think) and Juan Pierre has dipped back down to his normally abysmal .327 OBP. A second half breakout from youngsters James Loney, Andre Ethier or James Loney would surely help them reach my prediction, which is unlikely but not crazy.

San Francisco Giants - Predicted Record: 69-93 - Current Record: 38-48

Well, they've got Tim Lincecum and an amazing third place standing in the NL West, even if that third place standing comes with a record 10 games under .500. Still on a pace to outdo my prediction, but I could see that easily changing, as some of their old guys (and there are many) could break down after putting up reasonable respectable years so far such as Rich Aurilia and Ray Durham. The strong performance of youngster Jonathan Sanchez has also been a major factor in their continuing to play ahead of my prediction, even though they've been starting the second worst offensive regular in Omar Vizquel, who is simply past his time offensively (if he ever really had a time offensively). Still, I think they'll probably beat my prediction by at least a few games, but maybe not too many if the teams in their division play better.

Colorado Rockies - Predicted Record: 89-73 - Current Record: 35-51

Two major blunders coming to end out the league; perhaps I should have ordered the divisions another way. Of course, missing ROY runner up Troy Tulowitzki has hurt dearly, and even when healthy he was awful. Garrett Atkins and Brad Hawpe have also underperformed their 2007 numbers, and Willy Taveras has killed the Rocks from the leadoff spot with a sub-.300 OBP. The real killer has been the pitching, where former ace Jeff Francis has stunk it up, and while Aaron Cook has had a very strong year, there hasn't been enough pitching to follow him. Ubaldo Jiminez is starting to play up to his label as a top prospect, and Rockies fans can only hope Franklin Morales starts to follow him. Ultimately, there's little chance the Rockies can reach my prediction, especially as they may trade Matt Holliday, so I'll just chalk this one up as a lost cause.

San Diego Padres - Predicted Record: 87-75 - Current Record: 33-53

I blew it again. There were plenty of signs that this team was too old, and simply didn't have enough offense to compete anymore and that their window was over, but I thought their stellar pitching would hold that off at least a little bit. This hasn't been helped by ace Jake Peavy's and Chirs Young's injuries, even though one of their replacement starters Josh Banks has been solid in limited duty. Adrian Gonzalez has single-handedly carried them on offense, and they had the bad luck to see the worst of Jim Edmonds before he got hot with the Cubs. Frankly, this is just another one of these lost causes as before. Sad.

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