I read many blogs and other publications about where teams will finish at the end of the season. Many call the baseball season a marathon and that is a good description. 162 games spanning seven months and close to eight if your team is winning it all. Throw in the spring training and we have a nine month journey. Pacing one’s self is necessary.Since Boston and the 2009 World Champion Yankees are kicking this race off tomorrow, I thought it would be fun to look at the past Boston and NYC Marathon winners to see if there are patterns that can help me in predicting the winner of the 2010 baseball season.
In recent history for the Boston Marathon, if you were male and from Kenya, you won 16 of the last 20 years. If you were from Kenya and your name was Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot, you won 4 of the last 7 years. If you were female and from Kenya, you won 7 of the last 10 years. If you were female and your name was Catherine Ndereba from Kenya, you won 4 of those 7 times. For wheelchair marathon participants, winning 8 of the last 9 years from South Africa was Ernst Van Dyk for the men and for the women the last three years was Wakako Tsuchida from Japan.
For NYC, the marathon results tell not so clear a dynastic story. In the men’s division Martin Lel from Kenya had won twice in the last 7 years. Marilson Domes del Santos from Brazil had won twice in the last four years. In the woman’s division, both Paula Radcliffe from Great Britain and Jelena Prokopcuka from Latvia had won twice in the last five years. In the wheelchair division for the men, Kurt Fearnley from Australia has won the last four years and Edith Hunkeler from Switzerland won 5 of the last 6 years for the wheelchair woman’s division.
With dynasties and rivalries also present for marathons in these two cities as I have tried to show presently, I will now try to predict the winners of the 162 game baseball marathon and playoffs. My mantra for picking the winners this year is pitching and defense win the championship.
2010 American League East Division
With a rotation that has a proven ace in Josh Beckett, a ready-to-be ace in Jon Lester, a former ace of the Angels in John Lackey, a former ace of Japan in Daisuke Matsuzaka and arguably a future ace in Clay Buchholz along with a formidable bullpen that ends with Papelbon along with defensive improvements with the additions of Adrian Beltre, Mike Cameron and Marco Scutaro, this team will be hard for the Yankees and Rays to beat. Add this to the lineup of Ortiz, Martinez, Youkilis and Pedroia and this seems like a team ready to win again.
I really think the Angels lost too much to repeat as the winners of this division. That being said, I wonder if anyone has an all-around stronger pitching rotation and defense than them. Here is where I wonder if I have to go against my mantra and pick the Rangers with a formidable “softball beer league” lineup. The Mariners made great improvement but red flags go up for me when I see two great aces but no one proven behind them and a bullpen that is unproven. Sure, Chone Figgins helps but with Milton Bradley present, expect there to be “behavior” problems. The Athletics are a team I do not think has enough to compete. Winner by default: the Angels (only because of the deepest rotation in the division, bullpen and manager.)
When I see the Phillies, I see Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels leading a staff and team that wants to return. This being said, the Braves are going to be a team to reckon with because if enough of the Braves players want to win one to send the old man to retirement with, look out! They have a team that can do it. Still I think that the defending National League champs have a mission in mind. It is sort of this “until they are beat, give them the prize” mentality. They have the proven offense and aces to win a lot of games. What holds me back from saying it is a sure thing is the fact that Lidge is listed on the DL.This worries me.
2010 National League West Division
Okay, take the offense of the Dodgers along with their closer. The starters just do not excite me so much. The starters of the Giants are the deepest rotation with a competitive pop in the offense and one never knows. The Rockies have a formidable rotation, good offense and better bullpen so perhaps they can regain the edge to be on top. This is a tough division to choose for me. I like the Giants with their pitching and defense slightly ahead of the Rockies to pull it out in the end.
2010 National League Central Division
When you have two of the best sluggers, an outstanding ace and a formidable bullpen in a division where a team that has a curse over its state of mind, one can say that your chances of repeating as division winners are good. I like the Cardinals to win in this division simply because I think they are the most balanced of all the divisional teams.
2010 American League Wildcard
I think of the teams remaining, one has to think that the team with the best pitching and defense of the rest of the teams is between the Rays and the Yankees. I like the Yankees simply because of their ability to be consistent. Experience and consistency does well in marathons. Give this one to the Yankees! I always wonder when age will catch up with the Yankees. I won’t be disappointed if the Rays regain the Wildcard. I just think it is easier to give a current world champion their due.
2010 National League Wildcard
At this point in the season, I like the Braves to regain the Wildcard but I will not be surprised to see a team like the Rockies and Dodgers here either. I’ll give it to the Braves just because it makes for a great story! l like their overall team better than all the rest that are not division winners at this time. The rotation and overall team is the strongest of the teams remaining. What a fitting tribute to have Bobby Cox go into the playoffs one more time.
Don’t ask me anything about the playoffs because the teams have to get there first! After all, I plan to be watching them without my favorite team there once again. Enjoy the season, everyone! By the way, I think it is brilliantly ironic that the season starts on Easter this year. After all, every baseball fan holds a miracle of hope that somehow their team will rise up and become the champion they want them to be!
This week has been one where I was either working or watching ballgames live at a ballpark or playing the game or trying to catch up on rest. Whatever you may think, it has been a busy time.
Since I last wrote a blog, my thoughts were focused on Pavano pitching like the ace of the staff this year. What happens? He gets shelled. It was a night I wish I would have taken off early when working at the gate. Instead, I stayed and saw the worst game of the year so far performed by the team. The team gave up early and the effort given was inexcusable.
The next night, it was clear on paper that we were going to outdueled by Zack Greinke, a candidate for the AL Cy Young What happened? We got to him late and pulled off an upset thanks to Jhonny Peralta key hit to tie the game up with a shot that almost went off the left field wall. Shin Soo-Choo later hit a bird that was well publicized. It caught the attention of one of co-workers the next day saying they were a good luck charm. Also, he thought, it might be a sign that we need to change the name of the team to the Lake Erie Seagulls instead of the Cleveland Indians. Whatever results from this suggestion, the team more importantly won another series.
Friday was a spectacular night. The sun was shining. The atmosphere was buzzing. In were coming the St. Louis Cardinals. Someone told me without naming the source that nationally, the Cardinals were the third or fourth most followed team in the nation as a whole behind the Yankees and Dodgers at least. Although, I think the Red Sox are above the Cardinals in popularity, nationally. Anyway, scouting the Cardinals as I was, (Mind you, I am an amateur) I found the Cardinals to be a team where Pujols is the only one to worry about on that team. Hey he hit 2 homeruns and drove in a third to help the Cards score 3 runs while our team approach was good enough Friday to score 7. Game 1 of the series belonged to the Tribe.
Saturday I went to the game with my children and my wife. We sat in the upper deck to see Albert Pujols hit another two home runs. Someone please tell Wedge, the manager that it’s okay to walk Pujols. Quit pitching to him. No one else seemed to hit that much. To solve the bird problem, the team kept shooting fireworks to keep the birds off the field and it worked. The effort offensively was not there this day and it resulted in a loss.
After the game, the birds were everywhere on the field as the fans including my family were treated to Major League. For Cleveland Indians fans, this will always be a classic.
Sunday afternoon, my family again attended a minor league game at Classic Park to see a game between the Lake County Captains and the Phillies affiliate from Lakewood, New Jersey. Lakewood is on their way to winning the first half of the South Atlantic League. The Captains fell behind early yet scored 4 in the bottom of the ninth to make it interesting and almost pull off a solid comeback. Wow, what a finish! Unfortunately it was not enough as the Captains fell short losing 9-7. Hey we were down 9-3 and were able to make it interesting at the end.
Sunday night, I needed a break from baseball. Yet I still wanted to watch to scout the Indians hitters since I needed to perhaps pick one to continue my streak from Beat the Streak. Here I was surprised to find how easily our team was getting to Chris Carpenter. On paper, I was thinking again that a loss might be ours. Why? Cliff Lee led the league in hits allowed and Albert Pujols was a hitting machine. Yet, this is not what happened. Instead, Mark DeRosa hit a two-run homerun and Kelly Shoppach hit a solo shot and had a double. This alone was enough to beat the Cards. Pujols and the rest of the Cards were almost no-hit by Cliff Lee. A three hit shutout was thrown by Lee on the second consecutive national television audience. What it meant was a third consecutive series win by the Indians. All I can say is WOW!
One nice thing to see from the Cardinals’ series was the amount of Cubs’ fans with DeRosa on the back of their jerseys amidst all the Cardinal fans that showed up. Way to go Tribe and way to go, fans!
Tonight, the NL Central leading Brewers are in town. Its’ again time for Pavano to erase the poor start he had against KC. He will be going up against Dave Bush who lost his last four starts. Hopefully this series winning mentality will be continued. We shall see. Go Tribe!
I previewed the National League Western Division for 2009 and where I thought the teams may finish. You can find it here if you care to add your two cents as to where you think the teams may finish.
Now I will take the time to analyze where the National League Central Division will end up for the year 2009.
It will be a cruel summer for the Reds this year. They lost too much offense and really need the pitching to pick up in order to compete. They will be competing with the Pirates and Astros to stay out of the cellar this year. It will be a long summer for the fans. Yet some might say in the team’s defense that the offense will receive their spark from Jay Bruce and Joey Votto. I just don’t see a team that is ready to be a threat to the top three in the division. Let’s just say the shocker will have the Reds replacing the Bucs as the sixth or last place club in the division. I challenge them to prove me wrong in 2009.
The National League Central has me hoping that when I go to see how Neal Huntington has improved the Pirates that they will be competitive for 2009. However being competitive and consistent can mean two different things. I just hope they start to fill a nucleus of players to build around again. According to some sources I have heard, the Pirates have coaches from other “winning organizations” to infuse winning back into the Pirates organization. From what I know, Neal should build the organization up through the farm system wich is what the Tribe’s goals have been also. With such a beautiful ballpark and an enjoyable time when I make the trek eastward and will again to see the Indians in the coming year as well as other games like the ones against the Mets perhaps, I hope to hear much enthusiasm from the fans as they rally behind the Bucs for another year. I just hope this means that the team on the field is closer to playing .500 and will be closer to contending once again. As for now, fifth place is still in the plans unfortunately. Hopefully the record will improve nevertheless.
It will not surprise me to see the Astros in fifth place this year. It will not surprise me to see them in third. The bottom three teams will be log jammed in this division battling to keep out of the cellar, so there is definite hope for the Pirate fans to possibly end up in third. Like the Pirates, I think .500 will be hard for the Astros to find also. the reason is that I think the top two teams will be that dominating in this division for 2009. Fourth place will be my call for the Astros for this year by default.
I really think this team is a weak third place team. Losing former Indian CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets really did not help this team. Yes they were able to get Hoffman. However, the rest of the pitching is weaker. I believe the offense will feel pressure to compensate for the loss of star pitchers especially if the offense gets into a slump. Luckily they have a quality manager in Ken Macha who will keep them competitive hopefully. He was able to keep the A’s teams in the race with him at the helm. Still, I will not be surprised to see them closer to fourth than second in this division in 2009. This team will see third place yet I believe it will be a disappointing third at that.
The only team that will put up a fight to the Cubs this year may be the Cardinals. With Carpenter coming back, and Pujols always a threat along with former Indian Ryan Ludwick, the Cards may be in contention and make the Cubs sweat a little. Still, they may be closer to the Brewers and the rest of the NL Central rather than the Cubs in 2009. I really think with no big name closer and missing out on Fuentes, the Cards may take a step back to third and have the Brewers at a weak second. Still, I pick them a weak 2nd place rather than third based merely on reputation.
When I see the Cubs this year, it reminds me of the division the Indians had in 1995 when they won by double digit games. The Cubs, I believe will be dominant in this division winning it also by at least 10, possibly 20 games leaving everyone in the dust. Former Indian Lou Pinella will have his team ready to win and conquer this division early. The depth on this team is tremendous and will have the Cubs in the driver’s seat of first place and in the playoffs once again in 2009.
I have no doubt about the Cubs this year at least going to the playoffs. Their depth is far greater than any other team’s depth in this division for 2009.