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Predictions

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Yesterday, I posted a new poll* that provides a wide range of projected wins for the '06 Nats. I figure I should also do an MLB predictions post---maybe, like others before me, with haikus or with swears. But BamaNats already did a great and fascinating job with predictions in today's diary, so I'm going to run with that and promote the diary up to the Main Page. Just so I don't mooch off BamaNats entirely, I'll add some comments for each division in bold:

NL EAST

  1. Atlanta Braves: I'm 29 years old.  The Braves have been winning the pennant for roughly half of my life. Consecutively. I'd call that a pretty strong trend.
  2. NY Mets (WC): They look great on paper. But don't be surprised if they stumble. It seems whenever the Mets look great on paper, they underachieve.
  3. Philadelphia Phillies: Ditto
  4. Washington Nationals: Like last year, pitching should be pretty good (thank you RFK). Also like last year, runs will be few (screw you RFK).
  5. Florida Marlins: Nice all-star Triple A team.
I agree, all the way down the board. Just like BamaNats, I am also 29. When the Braves won the NL West in '91, I was 15; it was their first playoff appearance since I was six, and it felt weird. The next few years, it was hard to escape the conclusion that this was a very good team. Then they kept on winning divisions, and it seemed like the streak must end at some point. Then they kept on winning divisions, and now I don't even make the effort to pick against them. I live in Richmond, of course, which is the Triple-A home and very much Braves Country. Following them as they win, over and over again, as if out of rote, is a bit bizarre. It's also boring. We get their radio broadcasts here (I can also listen on XM, as with the Nats), and that has to be the most lifeless radio experience in baseball today. But they win, and they win, and they win---and it's amazing to me that I can barely still associate this team, which was a laughingstock for nearly a decade in my formative baseball years, with any kind of losing. On a related note, Jeff Francouer is Brad Komminsk, only good.

NL CENTRAL

  1. St. Louis Cardinals: After Pujols, you have an old Edmonds, a recovering Rolen, a feisty Eckstein, and some questions. But love that pitching.
  2. Milwaukee Brewers:  I'm officially buying into this team.
  3. Chicago Cubs: Great line-up. Blue Cross pitching staff.
  4. Pittsburgh Pirates: With all the attention going to the Brew Crew, don't forget about these guys. They've got some nice players who have been together for awhile.
  5. Houston Astros: Crash & burn.
  6. Cincinnati Reds: Move those fences back. If the pitching staff can surprise, this is a dark horse for a wild card. A very, very dark horse.
I'd love to buy into the BrewCrew. A week or two, after the Bronson Arroyo trade, I was trying to convince myself that the Reds will be surprisingly strong---at least on the theory that, with Arroyo, Harang, and Claussen, they could get about 550 near-league-average innings pitched out of the front of their rotation, plus whatever Milton does (and he can't possibly be as bad as last year, right?). I don't know, maybe there's hope; Sister Daedalus seems to have it. I think I see the Cubs crashing-and-burning, and the Astros hanging around, but I certainly could be wrong about that.

NL WEST

  1. Arizona Diamondbacks: Call it a gut feeling.
  2. LA Dodgers: I like the pitching. But I don't love it. Same with the line-up.
  3. San Diego Padres: Line up is good-ish. Love Peavy, love Hoffman. Hate everything in between. What happened to this pitching staff?
  4. SF Giants: This team should be sponsored by Pampers. Seems like every player is a baby or ready for a nursing home.
  5. Colorado Rockies: Wouldn't really be shocked if they play .500 ball for most of the season.
I have the Dodgers either finishing first or finishing last. I also have the Giants finishing first or finishing last. I also have the Rockies finishing last. That's a lot of potential last----maybe the D-Bucks steal this one, like the Friars did a year ago.

AL East

  1. Toronto Blue Jays: Yes, I'm impressed by their core group of guys and off-season additions. But believe it or not, I mostly have them here because of how I feel about the two marquee teams...
  2. NY Yankees: Nice line-up. Horrible bench. It's the other way around with the pitching. Nice bullpen. Unimpressive rotation.
  3. Boston Red Sox: Every pitcher is either at the end of their career or injury prone. Hideous infield. Just hideous. I mean, wow.
  4. Baltimore Orioles: Ok line-up. Decent rotation that will only get better. But the bullpen is what it is.
  5. Tampa Bay Devil Rays: I keep hearing how this is the year the Rays turn the corner into respectability. Why exactly?
By Pythagorean record, the Blue Jays were only two games worse than the Yankees and Red Sox last season. And, in the real standings, the Jays hung around for a good while last season; on July 28, for instance, they were only four games back of Boston in the division race. What can the Jays do with a healthy Doc Halladay and all the new guys? I don't really know---it's been almost a decade since the Yankees/Red Sox hegemony was dislodged. This would appear to be the best shot, at least until (and unless) the Rays develop sufficient talent. On a related note, I am tempted to pick the Sox to blow up (in the bad sense). But then I figure they won 95 games last year, despite next-to-nothing from Schilling and Foulke. They might get next-to-nothing from them again, of course, but I still see 88-90 wins being a worst-case scenario for the Sox, probably a tick higher for the Yankees. I'm rooting for the Orioles to put together their first winning record since '97, but I'm not going to hold my breath.

AL Central

  1. Chicago White Sox: Defending champs got better in the offseason.
  2. Cleveland Indians (WC): Probably the second best team in the AL
  3. Detroit Tigers: Maybe I'm crazy, but I think these guys would win the West and contend in the East.
  4. Minnesota Twins: I don't like what I'm seeing here
  5. KC Royals: Made some quasi-decent pick ups during the winter. Kind of like dressing a 60 year old hooker up in a Easter dress though.
Ouch, Royals! I have the same order. I see a good bit of the plexiglass principle in the Indians, but they should still be good for second. As for the Twins, I agree that they will not halt their '05 decline.

AL West

  1. Texas Rangers: I love this line-up & I'm very impressed with how they actually made an effort and succeeded in improving their pitching. I'm actually shocked no one seems to notice how good they could be. Shocked I tell you.
  2. LA Angels: Will battle it out with Texas down to the wire.
  3. Oakland A's: It seems like everywhere I look, they're being listed as one of the top 5 teams in baseball. Um...ok.
  4. Seattle Mariners: They'll at least be better than they've been the last couple of years.
Texas? Bold, very bold! Playing in postseason ball would certainly provide Brad Wilkerson with a different perspective, wouldn't it? I've got the A's winning the division, with the Angels taking the wild card. Oakland has tremendous pitching depth, will likely benefit from a bounce-back season by Eric Chavez, and I've always liked Frank Thomas, so I'm hoping he's healthy---and, if he's healthy and producing, he'll add enough runs for the A's to bridge the gap. Plus, Billy Beane hasn't suffered playoff humiliation for two seasons now, and that's entirely too long for his $#!% not to work.

WORLD SERIES
Cleveland over St. Louis

I'll toss in a pick here. Just a WAG: Yankees vs. Braves. We haven't had a dull, lifeless World Series in awhile. In addition, I always pick teams I despise, so that's why I have the Yankees winning. Didn't work with Duke, though . . .

* In the previous poll, Team Lerner took over 60% of the vote, winning our online Nats Derby. Amazingly, Ernest Borgnine finished second with about 17% of the vote, beating out both Team Smulyan and Team Malek. Yes, that's right: I wasn't the only person to select Ernest Borgnine.