Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Canon Review 2010 MLB Preview Postseason Review (and Postseason Preview)

Another baseball season has come and gone, or at least it has for the majority of teams in Major League Baseball. With that in mind, here's a look back at the predictions I made at the beginning of the year, and just how accurate I was. If you want to check out the original preview post, and the mid-season review, they can be found at http://thecanonreview.blogspot.com/2010/04/canon-review-2010-mlb-preview.html and http://thecanonreview.blogspot.com/2010/07/canon-review-2010-mlb-preview-mid.html.

AL East: (* - Wild Card winner)

Predictions:                                 Final Standings:
1. New York Yankees                Tampa Bay Rays (96-66)
2. Tampa Bay Rays                    New York Yankees* (95-67)
3. Boston Red Sox                      Boston Red Sox (89-73)
4. Baltimore Orioles                   Toronto Blue Jays (85-77)
5. Toronto Blue Jays                   Baltimore Orioles (66-96)

Well, at least I got the playoff teams right. The Rays and Yankees spent most of the season trading first place in the division, and finished the season with the two best records in the American League. The Red Sox also had a solid season, but fell somewhat short of their preseason expectations due to a stream of injuries and problems with pitching, as the Sox did not have a solid third starter behind Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester. The Blue Jays exceeded expectations, as they finished with a winning record behind a major league leading 257 home runs, including 54 from the surprise of the year, 3B Jose Bautista. The Orioles weren't quite as good as I had expected, but they did play better after manager Buck Showalter arrived (34-23 under Showalter). The Orioles still have some good young talent, but have a large mountain to climb in order to just get out of the cellar next year.

AL Central

Predictions:                                 Final Standings:
1. Minnesota Twins                    Minnesota Twins (94-68)
2. Chicago White Sox                 Chicago White Sox (88-74)
3. Detroit Tigers                         Detroit Tigers (81-81)
4. Cleveland Indians                   Cleveland Indians (69-93)
5. Kansas City Royals                Kansas City Royals (67-95)

Well, I had this division down pat. The Twins were able to win the division despite playing without All-Star closer Joe Nathan for the entire season, and former MVP 1B Justin Morneau for half the season. Chicago and Detroit had realistic chances at taking this division, but Detroit fell out of contention by August and the White Sox were plagued by inconsistency on offense, outside of Paul Konerko. The Indians and Royals were never really factors in the AL Central race, as the two teams battled for fourth place for most of the season.

AL West

Predictions:                                 Final Standings:
1. LA Angels of Anaheim           Texas Rangers (90-72)
2. Texas Rangers                       Oakland Athletics (81-81)
3. Seattle Mariners                    LA Angels of Anaheim (80-82)
4. Oakland Athletics                   Seattle Mariners (61-101)

If only I had followed my gut and picked Texas to win. Instead, I went with what I felt was the smart choice and picked the Angels. Behind a solid pitching staff and an offense powered by likely MVP Josh Hamilton, the Rangers picked up their first division title since 1999. The Athletics were found lacking for offense, but their league leading pitching (3.58 team ERA) carried the team to a .500 record and a second place finish in the West. The Angels made a big move in acquiring SP Dan Haren in July, but they never were realistically in the race. The Mariners were a popular pick to win the West at the beginning of the year, and while I wasn't among their supporters, nobody expected the Mariners to drop off the way they did. The Mariners lost 101 behind an offense that finished last in the AL in nearly every major category. Outside of OF Ichiro Suzuki, the Mariners offense was a black hole, providing no support for a pitching staff that wasn't too bad.

NL East

Predictions:                                 Final Standings:
1. Philadelphia Phillies                Philadelphia Phillies (97-65)
2. Atlanta Braves*                      Atlanta Braves* (91-71)
3. New York Mets                      Florida Marlins (80-82)
4. Florida Marlins                       New York Mets (79-83)
5. Washington Nationals            Washington Nationals (69-93)

Well, I had the Phillies winning it at the beginning of the year, but truth be told, I also felt at the All-Star break that the Phillies would miss the playoffs. I guess I should have just stuck with my original pick. Other than that, this is the only other division I got exactly right. The Phillies looked like a disappointment the first four months of the season, but the mid-season trade for SP Roy Oswalt and likely Cy Young winner Roy Halladay powered the Phillies down the stretch, and the Phillies survived their numerous injuries in their lineup to finish with baseball's best record. The Braves were actually in first for most of the year, but injuries to 3B Chipper Jones and 2B Martin Prado hurt an already low-powered offense. However, the Braves' strong pitching staff and timely hitting has them in the playoffs in manager Bobby Cox's final season. The Marlins fired manager Fredi Gonzalez during the season, while the Mets fired their manager, Jerry Manuel, today. The Mets got off to a hot start, but injuries and a lack of hitting outside of 3B David Wright contributed to their downfall, while the Marlins were just too up-and-down to seriously compete. The Nationals were sparked by the debut of phenom SP Steven Strasburg, but they finished last once again, and with Strasburg likely out for 2011 due to a severe elbow injury, the Nats' might be visiting last place again next year.

NL Central

Predictions:                                 Final Standings:
1. St. Louis Cardinals                 Cincinnati Reds (91-71)
2. Milwaukee Brewers               St. Louis Cardinals (86-76)
3. Chicago Cubs                          Milwaukee Brewers (77-85)
4. Cincinnati Reds                      Houston Astros (76-86)
5. Houston Astros                      Chicago Cubs (75-87)
6. Pittsburgh Pirates                   Pittsburgh Pirates (57-105)

Well, lo and behold, the Reds pulled it out. I must admit that I didn't think much of the Reds' chances to hold on to the NL Central lead, but the NL's best offense pushed the Reds to their first playoff appearance since 1995. Reds' 1B Joey Votto is the likely MVP of the NL, and a resurgence from 3B Scott Rolen helped power the Reds' offense. The Cardinals looked like the most talented team in the division on paper, but they don't play games on paper, and the Cardinals disappointed down the stretch. The Brewers had the bats, but lacked the pitching to make them contenders. The Astros were actually a little better than I thought they would be, as they played hard under manager Brad Mills. The Cubs, meanwhile, had too many players that failed to live up to their massive contracts, and they might need to clean house completely. The Pirates has some quality rookies like 2B Neil Walker and 3B Pedro Alverez make their debuts, but this may have been the worst Pirates team yet in their 18 year stretch of losing seasons. There are a whole bunch of kids graduating high school next spring that have never seen a winning season from the Pirates, and next year will more than likely be more of the same.

NL West

Predictions:                                 Final Standings:
1. Colorado Rockies                   San Francisco Giants (92-70)
2. Los Angeles Dodgers             San Diego Padres (90-72)
3. Arizona Diamondbacks           Colorado Rockies (83-79)
4. San Francisco Giants              Los Angeles Dodgers (80-82)
5. San Diego Padres                  Arizona Diamondbacks (65-97)

Although I had the Giants fourth at the beginning of the year, I also said that they would be contenders in a tight division. Well, the Giants did surprise me, as rookie C Buster Posey and OFs Pat Burrell and Andres Torres gave new life to an offense that desperately needed it. That, along with a top notch pitching staff, powered the Giants to the title. The Padres surprised everybody, and spent most of the year in first place. They just couldn't hold on to the lead at the end, as the Padres just didn't have enough offensive firepower outside of 1B Adrian Gonzalez. The Rockies tried to get back in the race in September behind SS Troy Tulowtizki and OF Carlos Gonzalez, but came up short. The Dodgers were clearly affected by the chaos in their front office, and were inconsistent for most of the season. In hindsight, I overestimated the Diamondbacks' talent, although 2B Kelly Johnson did have a nice season, and young Daniel Hudson came out of nowhere to put together a spectacular second half.

Award Predictions:
1. Joe Mauer, C, Twins (.327 BA, 9 HR, 75 RBI,)
2. Mark Teixeira, 1B, Yankees (.256, 33, 108)
3. Kendry Morales, 1B, Angels (.290, 11, 39)
Dark Horse: Nelson Cruz, RF, Rangers (.318, 22, 70)

Current Favorites:
1. Josh Hamilton, LF, Rangers (.359, 32, 100, 1044 OPS)
2. Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Tigers, (.328, 38, 126)
3. Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees, (.319, 29, 109)

Mauer had a strong season, finishing third in the AL in batting average and third in on-base percentage (.402). He didn't hit for the same power he did last year, but Mauer should get some MVP votes. Teixeira led the league in runs with 113 and finished in the top 10 in home runs and RBIs, but most people wouldn't consider Teixeira the most valuable player on his own team. Morales missed most of the season after breaking his leg celebrating a game winning home run, while Cruz also battled with injuries for much of the season. Among the favorites, Hamilton has the best numbers, leading the league in batting average, slugging percentage (.633) and OPS. However, Hamilton's chances may be hurt by his missing most of September with a rib injury. Cabrera led the AL in RBI, finished second in batting average and third in home runs, but he will be penalized due to his team's lack of success. Cano is coming off one of the best seasons a second baseman has ever had, finishing the season with 200 hits, over 100 RBIs and runs and nearly 30 home runs. Ultimately, the award will probably go to Hamilton, but it will be a close vote.

1. Chase Utley, 2B, Phillies (.275, 16, 65)
2. Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals (.312, 42, 118)
3. Ryan Braun, LF, Brewers (.304, 25, 103)
Dark Horse: Justin Upton, RF, Diamondbacks (.273, 17, 69)

Current Favorites:
1. Joey Votto, 1B, Reds (.324, 37, 113, 1024 OPS)
2. Pujols
3. Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Rockies, (.336, 34, 117)

Utley missed over two months due to injury and was never really a candidate, so bad choice on my part. Pujols put together yet another MVP-caliber season, leading the NL in home runs and RBIs and finishing second in OPS (1011). Since his Cardinals failed to make the playoffs, that could hurt, especially since Votto put together similar numbers to Pujols, leading the league in OBP (.424), SLG (.600), and leading his Reds to the postseason. Gonzalez led the NL in hitting and had a monster second half, but will lose votes due to the Rockies not making the playoffs and because of the season his teammate Troy Tulowitzki (.315 BA, .949 OPS) had. As for my other preseason choices, Braun had a solid, but unspectacular year, and Upton failed to build on his solid season last year. Look for Votto to capture the MVP this season.

AL Cy Young Award:
1. Felix Hernandez, SP, Mariners (13-12 win-loss record, 2.27 ERA, 232 Strikeouts)
2. C.C. Sabathia, SP, Yankees (21-7, 3.18, 197)
3. Zack Greinke,  SP, Royals (10-14, 4.17, 181)
Dark Horse: Brett Anderson, SP, Athletics (7-6, 2.80, 75)

Current Favorites:
1. Hernandez
2. Sabathia
3. David Price, SP, Rays (19-6, 2.72, 188)

The only thing that could keep Hernandez from winning his first Cy Young is a lack of wins. Hernandez led the AL in ERA and H/9 (6.993), and finished second in strikeouts as well as WHIP (1.057). However, since Hernandez played for a team that couldn't score if they lead off each inning with a runner on second, his win total of 13 would be the lowest of any Cy Young Award winning starting pitcher. Sabathia was solid, leading the league in wins and finishing in the top ten in many other categories, while Price finished 2nd in wins and 3rd in ERA. As for my other preseason choices, Greinke could not repeat his remarkable 2009, while Anderson pitched well when healthy, but only started 19 games due to injury. The award should go to Hernandez, but his low win total could make voters go with Sabathia or Price instead.

NL Cy Young
1. Roy Halladay, SP, Phillies (21-10, 2.44, 219)
2. Tim Lincecum, SP, Giants (16-10, 3.43, 231)
3. Chris Carpenter, SP, Cardinals (16-9, 3.22, 179)
Dark Horse: Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, Rockies (19-8, 2.88, 214)

Current Favorites:
1. Halladay
2. Jimenez
3. Adam Wainwright, SP, Cardinals (20-11, 2.42, 213)

Halladay was everything the Phillies hoped for when they traded for him last offseason, leading the NL in wins, innings pitched (250.2), and complete games (9). Halladay also finished second in strikeouts and third in ERA, and led the league in SO/BB (7.300). Lincecum and Carpenter both were very good this season as well, but there were others that were just a little better. For the season's first few months, it looked as if Jimenez might win 25 games, but he slowed down some in the second half. Still, Jimenez finished third in both wins and strikeouts, and may get some credit for pitching in the league's toughest pitchers park, Coors Field. Wainwright put together a season that would have won him the award most seasons, finishing second in wins in ERA, but Halladay was just that much better, and should win the award this year.

AL Rookie of the Year:
1. Wade Davis, SP, Rays (12-10, 4.07, 113)
2. Scott Sizemore, 2B, Tigers (.224, 3, 14)
3. Brian Matusz, SP, Orioles (10-12, 4.30, 143)
Dark Horses: Lou Marson/Carlos Santana, C, Indians (Marson: .195, 3, 22 Santana: .260, 6, 22)

Current Favorites:

1. Neftali Feliz, RP, Rangers, (40 saves, 2.73, 71 SO)
2. Austin Jackson, CF, Tigers (.293, 4, 41, 27 steals)
3. John Jaso, C, Rays, (.263, 5, 44)

Realistically, this is a two horse race between Feliz and Jackson. Feliz will get credit for being the closer on a playoff bound team, and his 40 saves finished third in the AL. Plus, Feliz held batters to a .176 batting average against and struck out 9.2 batters per nine innings. Jackson proved to be a capable center fielder for the Tigers, finishing sixth in the AL in runs (103), and ninth in hits (181). Jaso had a decent year as the Rays leadoff hitter, posting a .372 OBP. As for my preseason picks, Davis was a decent starter, but his performance was rather unspectacular. Sizemore lost the second base job in Detroit and struggled most of the year. Matusz had his moments, but was too up and down to be a serious contender for the award, and while Santana played well in his limited action, Marson struggled, and both men didn't get a whole lot of at bats in their first year. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if Feliz is a unanimous selection.

NL Rookie of the Year:
1. Jason Heyward, RF, Braves (.277, 18, 72)
2. Alcides Escobar, SS, Brewers (.235, 4, 41)
3. Stephen Strasburg, SP, Nationals (5-3, 2.91, 92)
Dark Horse: Pedro Alvarez, 3B/1B, Pirates (.256, 16, 64)

Current Favorites:
1. Heyward
2. Buster Posey, C, Giants, (.305, 18, 67)
3. Jaime Garcia, SP, Cardinals, (13-8, 2.70, 132) 

One thing's for sure, this is a vote that will be very close. Heyward impressed from the very first at-bat, finishing 4th in OBP (.393) and walks (91), and getting many timely hits for the Braves. Posey turned the whole season around for the Giants after his callup, giving the Giants a much needed bat in the middle of the order, and Posey was named the NL Player of the Month for July. Garcia finished 4th in the NL in ERA and provided the Cards with a solid third starter behind Wainwright and Carpenter. As for the other presason picks, Escobar couldn't hit enough to seriously contend for the award. Strasburg was great for the Nationals, but didn't play enough to draw much consideration. Alvarez, much like Posey, was a midseason callup, but did not provide the same impact Posey did. My pick would be Heyward, but Posey could get some votes due to his offensive superiority at a defensive position, and his impact on the Giants' division winning campaign.

As for the playoffs, in the National League, I predict the Braves and Phillies to get past the Giants and Reds, respectively. As much as I would like to pick the Braves to go to the World Series, it's pretty hard to ignore the Phillies' pitching and the fact that they ate the Braves alive during their games in the last month. So I'll have to go with my head and pick Philadelphia for the pennant. In the American League. I predict the Yankees and Rays to continue their year-long battle for supremacy, with the Yankees ultimately beating the Rays in the ALCS. As for the World Series, I picked the Yankees to win it all at the beginning of the year, and despite the questions surrounding their pitching, I will still pick them to win it all at the end of the year.

Well, that took a while. I hope that it wasn't too bad of a read. Thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about the just completed baseball season, then please feel free to share those thoughts in the comments. Also, if you have an idea for a future post, then share those either by leaving a comment or sending me an e-mail at KtheC2001@gmail.com.

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