Tuesday, September 30, 2008

As the baseball season winds (or wound) down, it's time for a couple baseball posts. After we find out whether the Twins or ChiSox make it, I'll make some nearly-guaranteed-to-be-wrong playoff picks and eventually before they're announced I'll make my year award choices. But for now it's time to for the last time evaluate my predicted records for every major league team. We'll start with the National League. I made these picks here and evaluated them at the half here.

NL East:

Philadelphia Phillies - final record: 92-70 / predicted record: 87-75
Number of games off: +5 (they were five better than my prediction)
Why I was wrong: Well, first what I was right about - that Jimmy Rollins' 2007 was a fluke and would not be repeated. What I was wrong about was the bullpen. Of course, it all starts with Brad Lidge who was the best closer in the NL (although he still walked too many batters, but that's obviously a minor complaint considering) but it continues with their supporting cast of relievers, Chad Durbin, JC Romero, Ryan Madsen and Clay Condrey who all put together fine years to take a Phillies team with a predictably very good line up and okay but not great rotation with lots of trouble on the back end to a first place finish.

New York Mets - final record: 89-73 / predicted record: 92-70
Number of games off: -3
Why I was wrong: Not far off in the wins column, though that number would at least tie them for the lead. The main thing here though, like with the Phillies was the bullpen. While everyone there put together a good season at the same time, a la 2005 White Sox, everyone in the Mets bullpen shut down particularly in the second half to go along with Billy Wagner, whose peripherals were okay, but who blew 7 saves before he got hurt. Aaron Heilman, Duaner Sanchez, Pedro Feliciano and Scott Schoenweis were all culprits among others.

Florida Marlins - final record: 84-77 / predicted record: 67-95
Number of games off: +17
Why I was wrong: Boy, this was a bad one. Well to look what I got wrong is to see what was the difference between the Marlins of 2007 and the Marlins of 2008. They got a little better at hitting, but not much - it was still a very good hitting team in 2007, and though guys like Jorge Cantu and Cody Ross stepped up this year, they had to replace a MVP-caliber season by Miguel Cabrera (hitting, anyways). It's the pitching, that while still below average, was far closer to average than the previous year, plus the fact that the Fins played a couple games above their pythagorean record, though they finally scored more runs than they allowed by season's end. Chris Volstad was a huge mid-season call up, Ricky Nolasco had a breakout huge year and Josh Johnson's midseason return was critical.

Atlanta Braves - final record: 72-90 / predicted record: 89-73
Number of games off: -17
Why I was wrong: Another stinker. Couple clear things that screwed me here. First, the decimation of their aging pitching staff - losing Glavine, Smoltz, and later Hudson for the season crippled their staff and forced them to start guys who have no business starting in the major leagues (though Jair Jurrjens was a breakout). Jeff Francoeur, who many, myself included thought would have a breakout year and continue his trend of slightly increasing his walk total each year, completely fell apart with a terrible 73 OPS+ for the year. Other than that, they hit okay - it was the pitching.

Washington Nationals - final record: 59-102 / predicted record: 73-89
Number of games off: -14
Why I was wrong: Well, I know they'd be bad, I just for some misguided reason though they'd show a little improvement - I'm not sure why. They really have the least promise of any team in the majors - even KC has a couple potential stars (Grienke, Gordon). Zimmerman is supposed to be their star, but he struggled most of the year. Nick Johnson, one of their best offensive players, was out most of the year which I suppose could have been predicted, and Chad Cordero was injured all year and Jon Rauch was traded. Also Shawn Hill their best pitching prospect (in the generic, as in prospect for winning, rather than prospect as in baseball america, as he's in his fourth season by now, albeit always getting hurt) was hurt as usual and terrible when he did play. Honestly, I'm not sure why I didn't predict them to lose more.

NL Central:

Chicago Cubs - final record: 97-64 / predicted record: 87-75
Number of games off: +10.5
Why I was wrong: Well, I still had them in first, so I get points for that. I knew they were good, but it's relatively easy to see what I didn't predict here, and relatively reasonable I think for not predicting it. I didn't think that Ryan Dempster would come out of nowhere to post a 152 ERA+, that they were acquire Rich Harden who would stay pretty much healthy for them, that Jim Edmonds would come over after being waived for being terrible, to be amazing, hitting for a 138 OPS+ with the Cubbies, or that Mark DeRosa would hit 21 HRs and Ryan Theriot OBP .387.

Milwaukee Brewers - final record: 90-72 / predicted record: 84-78
Number of games off: +6
Why I was wrong: Well, I could make this easy and just say CC Sabathia, who could easily account for the difference. But I'll throw in for kicks, Ben Sheets being healthy all year, though with the sad post script, that he's done for the year before the playoffs. And we'll add as minor little factors, Russell Branyan, Ray Durham and Gabe Kapler being great off the bench and in spot starts. But yeah, that's pretty much it, and I'll note they played 3 games over their pythagorean record.

Houston Astros - final record: 86-75 / predicted record 71-91
Number of games off: +15
Why I was wrong: Oof, another bad one here. I'll first note they played 9 games over their pythagorean and allowed more runs than they scored, which means there's a lot of luck going on here. Aside from that, there's the excellent year Wandy Rodriguez turned in, along with the career year for Ty Wigginton. Also, boy, is Michael Bourne bad, and did they get fleeced in that trade. That's not really a reason for anything, just something I thought I can include. Looking over the team, I can see that they clearly overplayed their hand. Good for them.

St. Louis Cardinals - final record: 86-76 / predicted record 71-91
Number of games off: +15
Why I was wrong: Well, I was right in guessing that the Astros and Cards would have the same record. Not many little things here, but rather a couple of huge things. First, Ryan Ludwick. I had accounted him for nothing and instead he goes out and gives 150 OPS+ and 37 dingers. Damn. The other big one is the amazing job by a couple of no-name (or bad-name) starters - Kyle Lohse with a 113 OPS+ in 200 innings, higher than he's ever had, and 115 for Todd Wellemeyer who pitched more than twice the highest number of innings he's ever thrown in his career.

Cincinnati Reds - final record: 74-88 / predicted record 77-85
Number of games off: -3
Why I was wrong: Here's a good one. I wasn't really. Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey were traded, smartly, but hurt the team a little bit. Aaron Harang disappointed big time, as did Johnny Cueto, and Homer Baily never materialized at all, though this is at least partly made up for by the breakout year of Edinson Volquez. Oh, and Corey Patterson mysterously got way too many at bats. That's it.

Pittsburgh Pirates - final record: 67-95 / predicted record 65-97
Number of games off: +2
Why I was wrong: Pretty close again. The team is bad. They had some breakouts which I didn't anticipate - particularly the excellent seasons by all three outfielders (well Pirates before the all-star break) Nate McLouth, Jason Bay and Xavier Nady (well I expected Bay to come back but couldn't be sure). These were made up by the disappointing seasons from their young pitchers, particularly Ian Snell, Zach Duke and Tom Gorzelanny. These pretty much made up for each other - pretty much just a bad team.

NL West

Los Angeles Dodgers - final record: 84-78 / predicted record: 87-75
Number of games off: -3
Why I was wrong: Wrong order, but pretty good record here. Pierre played too much, and Jones was a disaster, while Kemp and Loney maybe under played what I thought by just a little. The starting pitching was very solid led by Chad Billingsley and Derek Lowe, and their bullpen was excellent - their pitching was best in the league - if they could hit any better, they'd really rack up the wins.

Arizona Diamondbacks - final record: 82-80 / predicted record: 91-71
Number of games off: -9
Why I was wrong: I mean, I knew they didn't hit in 2007. But they featured a bunch of young guys who all seemed to have the potential to get better, and none of them did. I knew Eric Byrnes had a fluke good year in 2007, but not so much that he would be both awful and hurt for most of the year in 2008. In addition, their bullpen was quite disappointing.

Colorado Rockies - final record: 74-88 / predicted record: 89-73
Number of games off: -15
Why I was wrong: As much as I underpredicted the teams in the central, I overpredicted the teams in this division. Troy Tulowitski was hurt a lot and terrible. Todd Helton was hurt a lot. Garrett Atkins was terrible disappointing - their hitting went from 2nd in the league in 2007 to 8th in the league in 2008. Their pitching fell a ton as well - Jeff Francis really fell off and whoever they threw at the back of their rotation was miserable.

San Francisco Giants - final record: 72-90 / predicted record: 69-93
Number of games off: +3
Why I was wrong: Not really wrong here. Some great pitching prospects, but can't hit at all. Their starter with the highest OPS+, 111, was Ray Durham and was traded midseason. Tim Lincecum was Cy Young worthy as the Giants abused the hell out of his young arm for no reason (I'll need at least one more rant about this at some point) and Matt Cain was good, but aside from that everyone struggled everywhere.

San Diego Padros - final record: 63-99 / predicted record: 87-75
Number of games off: -24
Why I was wrong: Nothing like ending with my worst pick. This was one of my dumbest going back as well in that there was really no reason to pick them to have so many wins. That said, there was no reason to have picked them to lose 99 either. Chris Young was injured for half the year, as was, well, pretty much every pitcher. Khalil Greene was just beyond putrid, and well, the team was just bad. Peavy was great, Adrian Gonzalez was great, Brian Giles was reliably strong and Jody Gerut was a nice suprise. Beyond that everything else was bad.

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