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Wednesday Morning Quarterback: State of the League – A Look at My Predictions and the Necessary Adjustments
Jul 16th, 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.

Way back on the 7th of May I published a blog post with my predictions on the way the MLB season would unfold (along with a recap of my mechanical bull and bowling experiences). How well did I do? Were the predictions spot on? Let’s take a look at the state of the league and compare it with what I thought.

AL East

Not even I could have predicted how amazingly awesome the Rays have been this season. A month in and I thought the major competition for the Rays would be the relatively unimportant Orioles. Little did I know their main competition would actually be the defending champs, the Boston Red Sox. Despite having dropped seven in a row coming into the All-Star break and losing their hold on first place, I’m fully confident that the Rays will continue to play dominant baseball all the way to the playoffs. If they don’t make it in the division due to the Red Sox, I see at least strong contention for a wild card berth.

The Red Sox are a very strong team and they will either place first or second in the AL East, based on whether or not the young Tampa team can manage to keep it together in the second half. The real wild card in the AL East is, surprisingly, the Yankees. At six games back, they’re certainly doing much worse than anticipated. For quite some time now they’ve been a second half team, so we’ll have to see what happens after the break. Can they remedy that large deficit and be competitive in the division?

Forget about the Orioles and Blue Jays. There is no way they can properly compete with three ridiculous powerhouses in the AL East.

Projected standings at the end of the year:

Rays (I really want them to win this year)
Red Sox
Yankees
Orioles
Blue Jays

AL Central

Here’s one where I was part right, but for the wrong reasons. The Twins, a team which I made almost no mention of, are especially close to first in the division, sitting only a game and a half back from the White Sox. The Tigers are further away than I thought too, sitting a whole seven games back. This division still will get more exciting and heat up, but not at all like I thought it would. The Royals and Indians are a pathetic twelve and thirteen games back, respectively, with almost no chance of actually winning. Even the Indians know that they’re a lost cause this year, after being World Series contenders last season, they’ve traded away C.C. Sabathia to the Brewers for prospects to cut their losses in the future.

The White Sox are the real story in the AL Central. They’re doing quite well and caused some to predict a Cubs vs. White Sox World Series. I’m not so sure, but they will continue to do well in their division.

Projected standings at the end of the year:

White Sox
Tigers
Twins
Royals
Indians

AL West

What a pathetically one-sided division. The Angels are a ridiculous six games up on the nearest team, the Athletics. The A’s must sense that their post-season chances have dwindled away to nothing, because they’ve just dealt away Rich Harden to the Chicago Cubs. Still, they have strong pitching and will hold on to second place in the AL West.

The Mariners are an absolute mess this season. They’ve been forced to fire management, release players, and are still TWENTY games back in the AL West. At this rate, they’ll be lucky to break a .400 win percentage. They are, without a doubt, this year’s biggest waste of money team.

Texas may have a chance to compete in the division, but it’ll take much better playing to catch up to the Angels. The release of Harden might propel them past the Athletics, but certainly not beyond Anaheim.

This is at least one division that I’ve gotten mostly right and I’m proud of that.

Projected standings at the end of the year:

Angels
Athletics
Rangers
Mariners

NL East

My favorite division, NL East, is actually shaping up to be as close and competitive as I thought it would be. After closing the gap to half a game, the Marlins fell to 1.5 games back and are now in third place behind the Mets (half a game back) and the Phillies (first place). Can it be any more tight at this point? I think not. Let’s get down to it then, after a celebratory self-pat-on-the-back about being right about two divisions so far.

I don’t think the Phils will be able to hold on for too much longer. After firing Willie Randolph as the GM, the Mets have catapulted back into a competitive position in the NL East. It may be to early to say it, but I think the Mets are back in contention in NL East this year. Can they stay above the marlins and the Phils? This I’m not so sure about.

The Marlins have gotten major pitching boosts with the return of Josh Johnson, the major league debut of Chris Volstad, and the eventual return of Anibal Sanchez after the break. As a team with remarkably weak pitching, despite its win-loss record, the Marlins are set to do much better in the second half so long as their amazing offense continues to produce runs at an AL team’s rate. Dan Uggla, Hanley Ramirez, Jeremy Hermida, Jorge CantĂș and more have combined to give the Marlins a Major League leading 135 home runs this season. You can bet they’ll continue to do well in the second half. Many a sportscaster has lamented youth’s ability to do well in the post-season, but I say again and again, look at the 2003 Marlins World Series victory.

Oh yeah, the Braves and Nationals are also in the NL East. At sixteen games back, I think we can mostly rule out the Nationals. Despite having a strong April, they’ve continued to slip and slip this season. Miracles wouldn’t be enough to bring them a post-season berth. I can’t let my intense hatred of the Braves let me give them a fair shake either, I think they won’t really be able to make a dent in the crowded NL East.

Proposed standings at the end of the year:

Marlins
Mets
Phillies
Braves
Nationals

NL Central

Here’s another division where I didn’t do too terribly predicting. The Cubs and Cards certainly do sit at the top of the division, but the Cards are an alarming 4.5 games back with the Brewers half a game further behind at five.

I pretty much think the Cubs will be able to hold strong in this division. Their team is doing amazingly well against just about anyone in the majors, but will it be enough to end the curse? God, I hope not. I love seeing the Cubs lose every year and a World Series win would just ruin that.

The Cardinals have more or less reached their limit, so they won’t do much against the Cubs, but the Brewers could stand a chance now that they’ve added Sabathia to their starting rotation. We’ll see what happens between these three teams, but I’d more or less rule out the Pirates, Reds, and Astros. None of those three teams are closer than eleven games back on the Cubs and I don’t see them doing any better.

Proposed standings at the end of the year:

Cubs
Brewers
Cardinals
Reds
Pirates
Astros

NL West

We now come to the last division in baseball and one of my more incorrect predictions. The Diamondbacks are not, as I predicted, the best team in baseball. With a full ten wins less than both the Red Sox and the Cubs, they’re still managing to stand strong at the top of the NL West, but not with as much dominance as the earlier parts of the season. The undefeatable Brandon Webb was dealt his first loss by everyone’s favorite Marlins and hasn’t really pulled together many wins since then. That being said, they’re still a strong team, but they’ll have to work hard to stay ahead of the Dodgers who are currently one game back.

L.A. can definitely be strong this season, but I’m not sure they can knock out the Diamondbacks. Those are really the only two teams that can possibly compete in the West though, since the Rockies, Padres, and Giants will never be able to mount a proper offensive unless they have one of those amazing streaks that the Rockies had last year. I’m pretty sure the Diamondbacks will be the team to watch in this division.

Proposed standings at the end of the year:

Diamondbacks
Dodgers
Rockies
Giants
Padres

So that’s that, let’s see how my well predictions have done come October. I’m gonna hold off on World Series team predictions until, at the very earliest, the playoffs, since at this point it would just be a wild guess.

Now let’s see the All-Star game recap in the next post.

Wednesday Morning Quarterback: 2nd Place Woes
Jun 18th, 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.

Once Florida managed to turn their rough road trip around and take two of three from Philadelphia, we got ourselves tripped up by the stellar Tampa Bay Rays, taking only one win out of the three in that series. Now our hopes of landing in first place lie solely in our ability to trounce the MLB’s worst team, the Seattle Mariners, while the Phillies hopefully lose to one of the best, the Boston Red Sox.

Monday’s game worked properly for the Marlins with a 6-1 win over Seattle, but Philadelphia’s 8-2 drumming of the Red Sox isn’t helping things any. Unfortunately for the Fish, the schedule jumps from relatively easy to unbelievably difficult in a few very short days. Our next opponents are the underrated, yet strong Oakland Athletics, another series (this time at home) against the very good Tampa Bay Rays, followed by our last series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Baseball being the unpredictable game that it is, we could see the Marlins stay very strong against all of these teams, but we’ll see what happens for the squad on yet another tough group of series.

I should also mention that Andrew Miller is finally turning in some high-quality performances. The past two games he’s pitched he’s allowed only two runs and gone for seven innings both games. Perhaps he might turn into a great pitcher after all…

Other notable baseball news from the past week include the firing of Mets manager Willie Randolph along with two other members of his coaching staff. This is most definitely due to the Mets being tied for third place (of five) in their division and an epic 6.5 games back from the Phillies. The Mets are a high-salaried team and I know that management was expecting a LOT more from the team this year. As NL East rivals, I can’t hope for too much good to come their way, but let’s hope some luck heads their way with the new internal shakeups.

Wednesday Morning Quarterback: Bowling, Mechanical Bulls, Standings and Predictions
May 7th, 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.

Free bowling last night at the lanes in Helen Newman. I’ll be the first guy to say that I’m not a great bowler at all. I oftentimes don’t even break 100 in my score and last night was no different. It took me a while to find my bowling groove as I threw countless gutter balls in my 81 point first game, but once I figured out the best way for me to throw the ball (cannon it down the lane to give it less time to veer), I started doing a little better, finishing off the night with 96. The highlight of the night had to be Steph’s tenth frame turkey. She’s a little better than I am…

Another little quickie, the crew at Noyes brought some Moe’s food and a mechanical bull to the outdoor basketball courts this past Monday. My sore thighs will tell you that I got on that sucker three times, with a top time of 32 seconds before being bucked off. The highlight was, without a doubt, Nolan’s bull ride where he almost fell off and held on to the bull for at least ten seconds at about a 90 degree angle to the saddle. If you want to see some great pics of the bull, check out Facebook, there are a bunch up of us.

Almost as if to keep me from looking bad in this column this week, the Marlins have regained the first place position they lost during their series against the L.A. Dodgers. Their 3-0 win against the Brew-Crew pushed them into a two-way tie for first with the Phillies who lost last night to the phenomenally good Arizona Diamondbacks. Any time that NL East guys go to play the D-Backs I cheer for the inevitable losses they will suffer, but I know that these losses will probably hit the Marlins at some point soon, which almost makes them not count. Let’s not bother with that for now though, I’m just happy to keep seeing the Marlins near the top.

The American League exploded a week ago, with an unprecedented three-way tie between the Orioles, Rays, and Red Sox. Far from being the uncompetitive, under 0.500 team they have been since their beginnings in 1998, the Tampa Bay Rays are a game up on the Yankees and 3.5 back on the Red Sox in second place in the AL East.

AL Central has a surprising first place team in the Minnesota Twins, topping both the White Sox and Indians. The good ‘ol Tigers are still 3.5 games back, but are actually approaching the 0.500 no thanks to their abysmal April. AL West has the Angels on top with the Athletics right behind, light years ahead of the Rangers and Mariners who are both a pathetic 7.5 games back.

The National League is looking a bit more like what you’d expect it to look like (aside from the Fish tied for first in NL East) with the Diamondbacks a whole three games up on the Dodgers in NL West and the Cardinals 2.5 above the Cubbies in NL Central.

My standings predictions based on my limited baseball knowledge:

– The Cards and Cubs will keep competing for top in NL Central with only moderate competition from the Brewers
– The NL East will stay in a state of flux, at least until the All-Star break. If the Marlins are still holding strong even halfway through the season (Anibal Sanchez will be back!), it could stay tight until the Fall
– AL East will proceed in a more predictable fashion. Even under different management, the Yankees won’t be content in third for too much longer and the Red Sox will remain as dominant as they typically are. Tampa Bay and Baltimore will have to work their butts off to fight for second, unless the Red Sox and Yankees knock each other down the standings. Of course, this is what happened to the O’s and Rays when they were tied for first. The Rays are very hot though, I’d put my money on them over the Orioles at least until the All-Star break.
– AL Central has the potential to be the most exciting division of them all. The Tigers have finally found their game, the White Sox will put up a good fight, Cleveland will continue to be a strong team this year, and the Royals are under new, stronger management. The worst standings in the division (Tigers) are only 3.5 games back. This will make for an interesting year for AL Central fans unless one of the teams awakens into a dominant force and starts to control the division.
– AL West has all but been decided. The Angels and A’s will battle it out, but the A’s haven’t been a post-season team in God knows how long. No matter how well their season finishes, they just always collapse in October. Still, it’s definitely an impressive team. Hope that the Mariners and Rangers put something together, for Christ’s sake, or this will be the most boring division in baseball…
– The Diamondbacks will continue to be the best team in baseball for the foreseeable future. NL West is theirs to rule over as they see fit. San Francisco’s team is garbage with a weak offense and bad pitching :cough: Barry Zito :cough:, San Diego’s not gonna put up a fight, and the Rockies were a flash in the pan last post-season. The Dodgers are the only competition for the D-Backs, making this truly a one-sided division.

EDIT: I just wanted to add in that Micah Owning’s (a Diamondback and starting pitcher against the Phillies tonight) pinch hit home run last Wednesday was pretty sweet. Before you say “big deal,” remember one thing: Micah Owning is a PITCHER. There are even rumblings of including him in this year’s Home Run Derby

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