Thursday, July 03, 2008

What better time than the beginning of July and the mid-season point to do a team by team evaluation of how my preseason MLB standings predictions are doing. AL edition today, NL tomorrow.

My original predictions can be found here for quick viewing:

Anyway, let's start with the AL East.

Tampa Bay Rays - Predicted Record: 79-83 - Current Record - 52-32

Oops. I did certainly think they'd do better than they'd ever done before in Rays or Devil Rays or whatever you want to call their history, but leading the division? I thought they were a year away with all their incredibly potent young players. And unlike some of the other teams that I made mistakes on - this isn't particularly fluky - they're playing just a couple games above their Pythagorean record, and no one on there team, with the possible exception of Dioner Navarro and some members of their bullpen, that are having strangely exceptional seasons considering their histories, and Carl Crawford is underperforming by a little bit. One of these situations where I didn't have the guts to predict too much too soon.

Boston Red Sox - Predicted Record: 97-65 - Current Record: 50-37

Okay, so this was probably the easiest pick, give or take, out of them all, and the one I was most relatively confident in. The Red Sox have rewarded mine and just about everybody else's conventional wisdom with a strong first, albeit, in second not first, but still in excellent position for a playoff spot. David Ortiz's injury may come back to bite them a little bit, but they are the deepest team in the majors, and are pretty much getting above average performances from everyone not named Varitek or Lugo.

New York Yankees - Predicted Record: 94-68 - Current Record: 45-40

I'm not quite willing to concede total defeat here, though I'd be thrilled if they do worse. 94 will be tough but not impossible, and just below that is certainly within reach. Few contending teams have been hurt as much by injuries as the Yankees, without injuries keeping out Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui, Alex Rodriguez for significant amounts of time and now Chien-Ming Wang likely out until September. Still, the strong lineup here should generate plenty of runs, and Joba in the starting rotation is starting to pay off a bit - no reason to count them out yet.

Baltimore Orioles - Predicted Record: 63-99 - Current Record: 43-40

Wow. The Orioles playing over .500 baseball - didn't see that one coming. I still don't think that'll last - I would bet they'll be under .500 by the end of the season, but there's no way they're coming so far down to end up with 99 losses. Nick Markakis has become a real standout player, and Brian Roberts, Aubrey Huff and Luke Scott are also having strong years to lead the offense, while Jeremy Guthrie has been the only above average starting pitcher. Again, I don't see this lasting, but just the fact that they've played this well this far has got to be encouraging for Os fans.

Toronto Blue Jays - Predicted Record: 82-80 - Current Record: 41-44

Few teams have as stark differences between pitching and hitting as the Blue Jays, who are 2nd in runs allowed per game, and fourth to last in runs scored per game. They're still well within sight of my predicted record, though they would be vastly helped in reaching it if Alex Rios could remember how to it, and if Aaron Hill could recover from his concussion. AJ Burnett has struggled mightily, but Roy Halladay continues to be amongst the best in the league, and Shawn Marcum may be on pace to enter that class.

AL Central

Chicago White Sox - Predicted Record: 72-90 - Current Record: 49-35

Another one I, and most others, were way off on, and the Sox are actually playing three games behind their Pythagorean record, getting both huge hitting performances and leading the league in ERA. I expected big hitting performances from Dye and Thome, who have been good, Swisher and Konerko, who haven't been, but have been more than made up for by stellar performances of Carlos Quentin and Joe Crede. What I didn't expect was insanely good pitching performances from both the starting rotation, particularly from so-so prospect Jon Danks and once-was-big-prospect Gavin Floyd, as well as ridiculous comeback performances from Scott Linebrink and Octavio Dotel. I'm still doubtful that the pitching will entirely hold up, but even with somewhat of a drop, the White Sox will have an excellent shot at the playoffs and should finish far above my prediction.

Minnesota Twins - Predicted Record: 75-87 - Current Record: 47-38

Is it so crazy that I thought losing their best player and gaining a bunch of talent that wasn't truly major league ready would lose to more losses, and not less? I don't see this one holding up all season long, as they're playing three games over their Pythagorean record and I'm hesitant to believe that they're pitching can be even as mediocre as it's been. In addition, Alexi Casilla has a better OPS than he's ever had in the minors, although they still have reliable big bats in Morneau and Mauer. Still, it's going to be tough to finish as low as I've had them with this big start.

Detroit Tigers - Predicted Record - 94-68 - Current Record: 42-42

I definitely drank the Kool-Aid on this one, but finally they're starting to play like the team everyone thought they would be. It's going to be tough to get to 26 games over.500, but they could definitely make a playoff run in a division that has a lot of vulnerabilities. They've given up the second most runs per game in the league, which is definitely a problem, but ace Justin Verlander is starting to recover, posting a sub-3 ERA in June, and youngster (well, relatively) Armando Galarraga has pitched well, though with peripherals that make it unlikely to keep up his performance. Everyone except Pudge and Edgar Renteria is hitting now, though, so hopefully they won't make this pick a total embarassment.

Kansas City Royals - Predicted Record: 74-88 - Current Record: 38-47

Probably one of my most accurate predictions, I thought they were play better, but not by a ton. I see absolutely no reason why they will not continue about this pace through the end of the year, and end up with a relatively similar record to my prediction. The team still needs so many parts, though Alex Gordon has begun to show why he was so prized, and Zach Grienke has become the stud so many thought he would years ago. Tony Pena, while a very good defensive shortstop, is just too absolutely awful a hitter to justify playing time, and Ross Gload is likely the worst everyday first baseman in the majors.

Cleveland Indians - Predicted Record: 93-69 - Current Record: 37-48

These guys have got to improve. Basically they've been killed by two of their seemingly young stars, Travis Hafner, which many (myself included) assumed could not have been as bad as he was last year, and even if he was in a decline, it couldn't be this fast, this young, and by Victor Martinez, taking a very strange nose-dive to a sub-80 OPS+. Ryan Garko has also been awful, and no hitter has performed to expectations except for Grady Sizemore and an unexpectedly and unlikely to last strong performance for seven-year Indian Casey Blake. Their starting pitching has actually been very strong, capped by the unlikely comeback of Cliff Lee, and just broad down by a terrible bullpen. Their playing a crazy 6 games below their Pythagorean record though, so there's a good chance they'll improve at least a little bit.

AL West

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - Predicted Record: 94-68 - Current Record: 51-34

Another one of the records that are looking relatively prescient. The main problem is that the Angels are playing a ridiculous 7 games above their Pythagorean record, and the main reason for this is their utter inability to hit at all, leading to their having the 2nd lowest runs scored per game in the American league. To remedy this, they'll need better performances from, well, pretty much everyone, but particularly if they could get anything from their terrible contract with Gary Matthews Jr., and some more from Casey Kotchman and a healthy Howie Kendrick, since Garrett Anderson is probably finished. Their pitching has been strong and probably will continue to be, although John Lackey will not keep up this ridiculous 281 OPS+.

Oakland Athletics - Predicted Record: 69-93 - Current Record: 45-39

I haven't looked over all my records yet, but I'm going to go ahead and say this is my worst pick so far into the season(I'll be happy to correct if I find a worse one). This is one I should have seen coming at least to some extent - Billy Bean is a master of finding underutilized talent, and of course everyone knows the type of damage a healthy Rich Harden can do, though it can be nearly impossible to predict that he will be healthy. The main problem with the Athletics I think is keeping up their starting pitching - obviously it would shocking if Justin Duchscherer kept up his 1.91 ERA all year long, but even Dana Eveland and Greg Smith keeping up their above average performance with less than 2/1 K/BB ratios will be difficult. I have a feeling their record will finish somewhere between how they're doing now, and where I had them, but that gives them quite a bit of wiggle room.

Texas Rangers - Predicted Record: 75-87 - Current Record: 44-42

So there is a team more extreme than the Blue Jays - the Rangers, destroying the league in runs scored per game, and getting killed in runs allowed per game. They simply don't have an above average starting pitcher, while pretty much every hitter has been putting up exceptional numbers with Milton Bradley, Josh Hamilton and Ian Kinsler leading the pack. I do think Hamilton will come down a bit, and Bradley stands a good chance of either coming down or injured while their pitching does not improve, but I still think they'll end up above my guess, but I've got at least a shot at not being off by too much.

Seattle Mariners - Predicted Record: 84-78 - Current Record: 32-51

Wow. Another situation where I showed I had no balls. Now, unlike many other pundits, I did not think the Mariners were real playoff contenders, and I thought they vastly over performed last year, finishing with 88 wins, despite allowing more runs than they scored. However, I figured virtually the same offense, plus some of top prospect Jeff Clement, along with the far bigger improvement of Erik Bedard, and an improving Felix Hernandez, would at least be good to take them into more-runs-scored-than-allowed territory. How wrong I was. The Mariners are done, and will be trading anyone they can, thus essentially running up the losses, and making the prediction look even worse than it was in the first place.

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