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The 2010 Season in Review [Wednesday Morning Quarterback]
Oct 6th, 2010 by Dan

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Chicago Cubs 19 June 2010 Wrigley Field

Time to check out my prediction score

Another season is now behind us and the playoffs begin this afternoon at 1330 EST in Tampa Bay. How did I do in my projections? Who do I predict for the World Series? Let’s check it out!

AL East

My guess:

Yankees
Rays
Red Sox
Orioles
Blue Jays

Actual Results:

Rays
Yankees
Red Sox
Blue Jays
Orioles

Way off on Baltimore, perfect with Boston, and I got the top two mixed up.

After a (glorious) season where the Yankees didn’t make it to the playoffs for once, the Bronx Bombers came back with a vengeance and took it all. The Yanks may have lost Damon and Matsui, but they’re still in a strong position in the AL East and look poised to make the playoffs in the division. Players are getting older on that team and the pitching isn’t as strong as they’d like, but, barring some kind of major injury, I stand by that prediction.

The Red Sox also made a few big moves, getting rid of Jason Bay and adding in Adrián Beltré, and they’re projected to have a solid season with strong defense and slightly weakened bat strength. I think a lot of how well they do this year depends on whether or not they’re able to produce runs at the plate with David Ortiz, who did not perform to standards last year.

My favorite in the East, the Tampa Bay Rays, have had a super strong spring. With the best spring record of the AL, they could upset the Yankees or Red Sox if and only if their rotation and bullpen return to 2008 form. The offense is there, the defense on the field is there, it’s just a matter of making outs. Will Rafael Soriano be enough to solve their closer woes? That alone will tell you what this team will do this year.

I’m excited to see what the Orioles put together this year. Their investment in youth is starting to bear fruit as prospects make their way onto the field, but this young, inexperienced team is up against juggernauts in the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays. I’m going to call this a building year for the Orioles, even if that’s selling them a bit short. They would have a good chance in any other division, but not the East.

There are few teams in baseball that bore me more than the Blue Jays (:cough: Royals, Pirates, and Padres :cough:). This is a team that acknowledged that they have no chance to make a run of it by trading Roy Halladay to the Phillies.

When I try and underestimate my team for the sake of avoiding bias all I end up doing is getting their position in the standings wrong. As predicted, the ascent of Rafael Soriano was a real blessing to the team, allowing the bullpen to focus on being awesome and the rotation on turning in a fine season. David Price was Cy Young caliber all season, Matt Garza threw a no-hitter, and the rookies Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann made a solid statement in the rotation. Add in Jeremy “Hellboy” Hellickson to the bullpen and Tampa had great numbers off the mound. On the field, defense and small ball continued to be key. Carlos Peña had a rough season at the plate, but the rest of the team was able to pick him up. Jettisoning Pat Burrell was also a fantastic idea. Longoria continued to be amazing.

Seems I was right on the perennial favorite Yankees. Their squad got it done all year long behind a Cy Young caliber season by C.C. Sabathia. Unfortunately for the Yanks, it seems I was also right about their aging lineup. Pettitte started ten fewer games than the rest of the rotation due to injury and his ability to pitch in this postseason remains a question mark. The rest of the rotation has been pretty shaky too with Javier Vasquez putting in a poor performance and AJ Burnett getting progressively worse, but Phil Hughes looks okay while the rookie Ivan Nova was pretty good in the opening innings. Jeter and Posada have started to show their age, but, overall, this is a top tier team that has feasted on its opponents all year long.

I was way off about David Ortiz, who put in a solid season, but there’s no way I could have predicted the injury-fest that was the 2010 season for Boston. They were remarkably able to stay somewhat competitive to the end, but they just couldn’t overcome Tampa or New York.

Maybe Toronto would have put together a third place finish had they kept Halladay, but his loss did not prevent the Jays from looking mighty dangerous in the East. Their 85 wins would be hyper-competitive in plenty of other divisions and the ascent of Jose Bautista as the only 50 HR hitter this season was remarkable.

The funny thing about the Orioles is that they’ve played their best baseball when it mattered least. Replacing their manager with Buck Showalter seems to have done the trick, but it remains to be seen if they can win in situations where they play meaningful games.

AL Central

My Guess:

Twins
White Sox
Tigers
Indians
Royals

Actual Results:

Twins
White Sox
Tigers
Indians
Royals

Whoa, I was scarily on the money with this one.

For a while there, this division was the Twins’ to lose. Then the second best closer in the game, Joe Nathan, went down for the season, muddying up the waters. Add in that the team is moving to a brand new ballpark and things could get interesting. Gone are the super-competitive advantages of the Metrodome, replaced by what will be a SUPER frigid open-air ballpark that will take some getting used to. When it comes to Joe Mauer, I’m reminded of the fictional words of Michael Bluth, “You gotta lock that down.” Lucky for the Twins, they managed to get that done with an eight-year, 184 M$ contract. It should help.

I hear a lot about Chicago’s rotation being so vastly improved, but it’s almost always followed by the caveat that Peavy needs to pitch well. It’s been a long while since his 2007 Cy Young campaign and he hasn’t been able to remain healthy. Despite how much Obama loves this team, I can’t stand A. J. Pierzynski and, by extension, the team.

Detroit has a team that I want to love. Those poor guys live in a third world city that is on the verge of absolute collapse. They keep giving Dontrelle Willis chances to succeed (and he might be in the rotation this year), but I’m not sure that they will be able to keep up with the Twins this year thanks to weak pitching. I’ll be keeping an eye on these guys.

The Indians may be on the upswing and ready to bounce back, but I’m not ready to believe that yet. I don’t see much happening for this team.

Kansas City has an awful team aside from Zack Greinke.

Well, Minnesota went and won this division, like I thought. They didn’t have to worry too much about closers and they picked up Matt Capps just to make sure that they’d be fine in the stretch. Target Field seems solid and the team just played well.

Chicago had a chance to make this division closer, but they just couldn’t lock it down. Jake Peavy barely pitched and the team was just middling almost all season long. They’ll be remembered best this year for Mark Buehrle’s amazing play to first in the first game of the season.

Detroit was so close to doing something with the division! Miguel Cabrera was playing MVP-caliber baseball, but the rest of the team just wasn’t on board. Sidenote: Willis was traded to Arizona.

Cleveland still doesn’t have it. I’m skeptical that they’ll have it next year either.

Kansas City has an awful team aside from Zack Greinke (and even he was mediocre).

AL West

My Guess:

Mariners
Angels
Rangers
Athletics

Actual Results:

Rangers
Athletics
Angels
Mariners

So very wrong here. Wow…

Despite their stupid long name, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have had one of the most consistent teams of the century. They contend every year and make it to the playoffs almost every year. It’s hard to ignore how solid this team is. Unfortunately, they’ve been fighting a war of attrition these past two years with Texas and Seattle getting closer and closer to robbing AL West dominance away from them. They gained Matsui, but lost vital starter Lackey. Will it be enough?

Seattle wants it this year. They went and signed Cliff Lee and even took the risk of signing the volatile Milton Bradley to bolster their bats. Things were looking great for Seattle until Cliff Lee ended up on the DL and Milton Bradley got himself ejected from two straight spring training games. Will they be able to keep it all together and make a real run for the West?

The Rangers are solid, but they have a lot of reliance on players like Josh Hamilton who are very injury prone. They’ve been just short of the playoffs for several years now and they’re real hungry for it.

I have so much apathy for the Athletics. I’m sure their team is pretty good and has a chance this year, but it never seems to pan out for Oakland.

Texas is looking the best they have in a long time. Josh Hamilton is looking like the favorite for MVP and the boys from Arlington have a phenom on their hands with Neftali Feliz. Will they finally make it to the World Series?

Where did Oakland come from this year? Maybe it’s the east coast bias, but I had no idea these guys were doing better than the other two teams in the division. Maybe the dynasty is reemerging.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. What did you do this year? At least you made the Rays look brilliant thanks to Scott Kazmir sucking it up all year long.

Seatlle. I drank your kool-aid. All I got in return was the most anemic offense since the introduction of the Designated Hitter. Your season was historically bad. At least Ichiro continues to dominate and I got to see Griffey before he retired.

NL East:

My Guess:

Phillies
Marlins
Braves
Mets
Nationals

Actual Results:

Phillies
Braves
Marlins
Mets
Nationals

If I hadn’t let bias toward the Marlins blind me I would have had another perfect pick.

My favorite division also contains two of my least favorite teams in baseball, both of which are set to have great seasons. Last year’s NL Champions, the Philadelphia Phillies, are still just as good with Roy Halladay instead of Cliff Lee. They’ve still got a great lineup with good pitching and, even without their closer, they should still have a solid season. They are The Team To Beat (TM) in the East.

Atlanta, my least favorite team, has got stars in their eyes for Jason Heyward, a top-prospect who made the team this spring. Heyward’s bat, combined with Hanson and Kawakami’s arms, could be very formidable in the East. This is a team that worries me.

The Mets have had such terrible luck recently that it’s almost bound to start swinging back in the other direction…right? With an adjusted outfield to help home runs, their offense might perform a little better, but that injury-riddled team is not looking all that much better this year. If they outperform the Marlins, I’ll be surprised.

Speaking of teams that won’t outperform the Marlins, Washington is almost guaranteed to make marginal improvements this year. Their rotation is still a mess, but veterans like Chien-Ming Wang and Liván Hernández can combine with the brilliance of Stephen Strasburg and the promising performance of Drew Storen and produce what might actually be a major league rotation. The lineup needs some work to score runs, but pitching is infinitely more important for a team that wants to win.

Speaking of a team that emphasizes pitching, we’ve finally arrived at my favorite team, the Florida Marlins. Over the off-season they finalized a strong contract for Josh Johnson and kept Dan Uggla, keeping the rotation and lineups strong. Combined with Hanley Ramirez and Chris Coghlan destroying NL pitching and Ricky Nolasco’s brilliant performance on the mound, this is a solid team with only a few holes that need filling. If Cameron Maybin and Gaby Sanchez live up to their potential, I don’t see much standing in this team’s way. There’s always a question of pitching with the back end of the rotation, but Chris Volstad has been looking good of late and Anibal Sanchez fluctuates, but trends on the better side most times. The real question is in the bullpen where the Fish will be relying on Leo Núñez to close games. I’m not confident in Núñez yet.

The Phils were the best. Blah blah blah. They made it to the postseason as the national favorite to win it all, despite stupidly trading Cliff Lee away. Their starting three, Halladay, Oswalt, and Hamels were solid all year long, Halladay should win the Cy Young, and…I hate this team. If the Rays don’t make it in the East, I’d love to see Texas get there and stomp on the Phils thanks to the amazing leadership of Cliff Lee

Atlanta barely scraped by to take the NL Wild Card. They came this close to making me happy and not making it to the playoffs. Despite losing Chipper Jones, they were able to hold on to their spot in the final eight thanks to fantastic performances by Jason Heyward and Tim Hudson. Bobby Cox should be proud of this team in his final year. Sidenote: Kenshin Kawakami was terrible this year.

I really thought that Florida could be a second place team this year. JJ pitched fantastically for most of the season as did Nolasco and Sanchez, but they just couldn’t hold it together long enough for the bullpen to not screw it up. That’s where the most offseason work should be focused, IMHO. Nuñez did his best as the closer, but they might need someone new next season. Losing Cogz to a season-ending knee injury on a shaving cream pie was also super ridiculous.

Everyone’s favorite Metropolitans continued to be the worst run team in the league. Thankfully for all of us, ownership has fired the GM and manager so hopefully the team can go in a new direction next year, assuming its contracts don’t weigh it down too much to make many changes.

The Nats were looking primed to be reasonably competitive this year from the getgo. Their record was solid, Strasburg was coming up, things were optimistic. Then the bottom fell out. Starting pitching failed completely before June, Strasburg got injured in August (sidelining him until 2012), and everyone’s hopes and dreams died. The simple fact is that the Nats have no starting pitching. You can’t run a team without starting pitching.

NL Central:

My Guess:

Cardinals
Cubs
Reds
Brewers
Astros
Pirates

Actual Results:

Reds
Cardinals
Brewers
Astros
Cubs
Pirates

Wrong, wrong, wrong. All I placed accurately were 4th and 5th

The Central has a chance to be interesting this year with strong squads being fielded by St. Louis, Cincinnati, and “this is our last chance for a while” Chicago. St. Louis has the best chance here thanks to strong pitchers Carpenter and Wainwright and their strong offense in Pujols and Holliday. Cincinnati has been a dark horse so many years in a row now that they’d better start performing. The promise of Aroldis Chapman could push them ahead if the offense follows, but otherwise the team has a strong uphill climb. The Cubbies don’t have much time left before they have to start “rebuilding”. If they don’t put together a playoff season this year, it might be a while before we see one happen again. I still love Fukudome, even if the Cubs don’t. He’s a consistent and solid player.

I don’t know much about Milwaukee’s squad this year, but they’re usually a solid team, but I didn’t hear much in the offseason that would convince me they were ready to push ahead of last year’s performance.

The rest of the Central, the Pirates and the Astros, really don’t make an impact in baseball nowadays. Pittsburgh is really a AAAA team and Houston has failed to make any kind of splash in a long while.

Cincinnati was the surprise here for me as they put together their best performance in something like 15 years or so. Votto might be NL MVP. Their success can be mostly attributed to Votto and the late-season call-up Aroldis Chapman’s stellar stuff in the home stretch. They get to face Philadelphia right off the bat and if they can’t hit Halladay and Oswalt right away, they could have problems.

St. Louis just gave this division away. It was theirs to win at one point in August, but they just squandered their lead proving that Pujols, Carpenter, and Wainwright a complete team does not make. Will they fire La Russa now?

What’s there to say about Milwaukee? Just not enough there at all to win. Maybe next year guys. Braun can’t carry a whole team.

Houston and Pittsburgh. You guys are terrible. The ‘Stros picked it up later in the season, but it was far too late for that to matter.

NL West:

My Guess:

Rockies
Giants
Dodgers
Padres

Actual Results:

Giants
Padres
Rockies
Dodgers
Diamondbacks

Arizona was so forgettable to me that I left them off of the list completely. The Rockies looked like they might make a run, but it fell apart and I was way off on LA and San Diego.

Colorado made the biggest turnaround I’ve seen since the last time they did it in 2007 to win the wild card last year and make the playoffs. After that strong finish and with LA’s messy divorce keeping them from making significant progress on their team, I see Colorado as the frontrunners in this division.

A messy divorce has been draining Dodger ownership of cash and the ability to run their team. At best, the Dodgers remain as good as they were last year. Realistically, they fall behind the Rockies and maybe even the Giants too.

Solid pitching, but not much offense. It’s been the same story for years now. A strong team only because it keeps the run count down on the opposing team.

What about the Padres?

San Francisco is my favorite team in the playoffs right now. Solid starting pitching (Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez) make for a potent postseason combo as well as great anchors for the 5-man rotation. Somehow this team managed to score runs despite Pablo Sandoval’s season-wide slump. I guess that the solid pitching was enough to hold off the West competition.

The Friars (Padres) had a real chance of turning this into the NL West Wild Card, but they squandered it in the last few weeks and couldn’t complete. If this team can be this good next year they’re bound to win the West.

Colorado really fell off from last season. For a while in September Tulowitzki made it look like the Rockies would repeat their ridiculous last minute run for the third year in a row making me look like a genius. Ah well…maybe next year.

The McCourt divorce really sapped this team a lot more than I thought it would. Manny didn’t hit and the pitching wasn’t there. Torre will probably leave this year and I predict this team will not perform much better next year.

Oh god the Diamondbacks are awful. They need a lot of work.

Three Sweeps and a Disappointing Win [Wednesday Morning Quarterback]
Oct 14th, 2009 by Dan

It’s time for Wednesday Morning Quarterback, your weekly sports round-up.

Just like that we’re fully back to our regularly scheduled programming. I’ve gotta say, I missed this, but I’m also glad that I wasn’t here to write about Tampa Bay’s 11-game losing streak or the elimination of both Florida teams from playoff contention.

You were spared my regular season woes (and the sobbing that would go with it), but now you’ve gotta endure my complaining about postseason results.

Let’s take a look at the series still going on as of today…

That’s right, none of them (not that any of them would have been by today, I don’t think). Three of the four ended in a straight sweep and the other was three to one.

The only bright spot in playoff wins: The Angels beat Boston, clinching the final game in an uncharacteristic and stunning 9th inning collapse by Boston in Fenway. I was mostly ambivalent to the Cardinals and Dodger series, but the Yankees and the Phillies both got my blood boiling with their respective sweeps. The Twins/Yankees series stands out most in that it involved a few highly controversial calls by umpires, huge mistakes by the Twins, and three straight games where they gave up the lead.

Philadelphia’s win annoys me because I hate the Phillies and any success they have. Their next opponent will be LA and I can’t think of two teams that are more opposite than the two. The Phils have strong starting pitching and a relatively weak bullpen, but LA has just the opposite. Out in LA the lineup, Manny Ramirez excluded, is much lower key than the entire Phillies roster. It will be interesting.

The Yankees are going up against an amped Angels team. Los Angeles is playing tough in memory of the death of their teammate, Nick Adenhart, and they’ve been good against the Bronx Bombers so far this season. Hopefully this one goes the distance and is much less disappointing, but there are few things I could care less about than an Angels/Dodgers World Series.

It’s short this week, but there you go! I’ll try and keep everyone posted on playoff goings on beyond Wednesday. See you after the Championship Series start up for both leagues.

Grand Slam: The Amazing Rays!
Oct 20th, 2008 by Dan

The Rays have finally gone and done it. In order to make the series more interesting, they let the Sox tie it up at three games a piece, but in Game 7, Matt Garza and the Rays showed the world that they were capable of going to the series and beating Boston in their 25th showdown this year.

It started out looking a bit rough for the Rays with a Dustin Pedroia homer that put the Sox up, but it started to turn around with an RBI double by Longoria, RBI single by Baldelli, and a homer by Willy Aybar, putting the Rays up 3-1. There was also that dicey moment where the relief squad kept the Rays safe in a bases loaded situation, all combining to bring the Rays their first world series berth ever.

Now it’s up to them to take down the hated Phillies in a matchup for the history books! No Florida team has ever lost in a post season they attended and no Florida team has ever lost in a World Series. Will Tampa Bay be able to keep it up?

Grand Slam: Disappointment
Oct 18th, 2008 by Dan

How the Rays managed to lose a 7-0 lead to lose the game on Thursday against the Sox, I do not know. It’s really a shame that they couldn’t hold on for the pennant. Now it comes down to the game tonight (or the next game).

In better news, Longoria smashed another one out of the park. He’s unstoppable.

Grand Slam: And We Have a Winner! LCS Day 7
Oct 16th, 2008 by Dan

Well, they’ve done it for the first time since 1993. The Phils have won the NL pennant. Their victory came at the expense of sloppy play by Rafael Furcal and the Dodgers in general. In the end, it didn’t matter that Manny Ramirez was batting .500 coming into the last game. It didn’t matter that the Dodgers had Joe Torre manning their ball club. It just mattered that the Phils wanted it more, were a more solid team, and took it in five.

Speaking of a team that wants it, the Rays will have a chance to take the AL pennant tonight as they face off once again in Boston. Let’s all hope that Longoria belts in another few homers.

Wednesday Morning Quarterback: LCS Day 6
Oct 15th, 2008 by Dan

You’ve probably heard the saying that hindsight is 20/20 on Monday morning, so just imagine how well I can call ‘em two days later on Wednesday. That’s right, it’s time for Wednesday Morning Quarterback, your weekly sports round-up.

13-4. I don’t think anyone expected that at all. Tim Wakefield used to be dominant against the Rays. Now, in the past two games, he’s been hammered. Evan Longoria set himself a rookie record by smashing in five homeruns in the post season. The Rays are now 3-1 over the Red Sox. It’s only a matter of one game. Could be over as early as Thursday when Daisuke will try to stun the Rays again like he did in Game 1.

Tonight could be the end of the NLCS, when the Dodgers and Phillies go at it in their series. There’s tons of pressure on the Dodgers, but I think they can turn it around for a great upset. Torre’s done it before.

Grand Slam: LCS Day 5
Oct 14th, 2008 by Dan

It’s been a wild few games in the League Championship Series as Tampa moves ahead 2-1 and the Phillies come back in a ridiculous game to bring their series to 3-1.

After suffering from a mini-slump, it seems that Evan Longoria is definitely back. He’s homered in both of the last two games helping to propel the Rays to a 9-8 win in Game 2 and a 9-1 win in Game 3. Why these games have turned into such slugfests despite the excellent pitching on both sides of the plate baffles me, but there’s no reason to complain about excellent TB performance. Game 4 will begin tonight at 2007.

Despite having a strong lead early in Game 4, the Dodgers managed to drop another to the Phillies to lose 5-7 by allowing four runs in the 8th. As the series begins to look more desperate for Torre and his Dodgers, we’ve just gotta hope that Manny keeps being Manny and propels this team ahead tomorrow night to avoid elimination. Good luck Dodgers!

Grand Slam: The LCS Day 2
Oct 11th, 2008 by Dan

I skipped a day, but we’re here: The League Championship Series. Even though we’ve already had two days of competition, the ALCS has only played one game while the Phillies and Dodgers are two into the NLCS.

Philadelphia finds itself two games ahead after winning 8-5 last night and 3-2 on Thursday. I must admit, this series has been a little less close than I expected it to be. We’ll see what happens on Sunday when the series moves to LA. Will the Dodgers be able to pull a win in sunny LA instead of cool Philadelphia? We’ll find out in a few days.

On a sadder note, Daisuke Matsuzaka pulled some of his road magic on the Rays last night as the Red Sox shut out the Rays 2-0. I’m really hoping this isn’t just Red Sox postseason magic and just some solid pitching that held them down. The Rays play again tonight and should hopefully win.

Wednesday Morning Quarterback: The League Championship Series
Oct 8th, 2008 by Dan

You’ve probably heard the saying that hindsight is 20/20 on Monday morning, so just imagine how well I can call ‘em two days later on Wednesday. That’s right, it’s time for Wednesday Morning Quarterback, your weekly sports round-up.

So it seems that I was half wrong about at least the NLCS, since the Cubs managed to not save their collapse for maximal disappointment. Instead we have the Philadelphia Phillies going up against the Los Angeles Dodgers. This one is a bit tougher of a prediction. It’s going to be a tough and exciting series, but I hope the Phillies lose for the drama.

The big, main event for me is the Red Sox/Rays series. ESPN is already hyping the rivalry between the Rays and Sox as the most exciting in current baseball, citing several different events: sliding into second spikes first, beaning Coco Crisp, and the fight that followed the beaning. One thing can’t be debated though, this will be a rough, close, well-played series that will make for absolutely stupendous baseball. None of the opening pitchers have been announced yet for the series, but we will definitely see some good matchups.

I can’t wait.

Grand Slam: Day 6 – Onwards to the LCS!
Oct 7th, 2008 by Dan

We’ve finally reached the resolution of the ALDS series with victories by both Boston and Tampa Bay. As me move toward the ALCS and NLCS, the ability to predict the outcome becomes way less possible.

Take the Phillies and Dodgers series: The Dodgers steamrolled the Cubs where no one expected them to to get them to this point against the Phillies. Philadephia, on the other hand, has solid pitching and defense and their lineup can hit the long ball all day long. L.A. has got Manny. The Phillies have Ryan Howard. The Dodgers have had an epic second half with a strong postseason manager. Philadelphia has had a solid team all year and wants to make it to the World Series for the first time since 1993. I have no idea what will happen, but I think it will be closer than the NLDS. Let’s go with the Dodgers (I hate the Phillies) in 6.

Tampa Bay and the Red Sox have had a bitter rivalry all year long. There was even a brawl at one point in the season between them. It seems like the edge might go to the Rays with their home field advantage and the fact that they edged out the Sox in their regular season schedule, but the Sox are dominant in the postseason and will give the Rays a run for their money. Rays in 7, to make it interesting. More realistically, let’s predict Rays in 5.

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