Thursday, April 16, 2009

The NBA Blog: Awards, Playoff Preview/Predictions

It took until the final day of the regular season but the playoffs are finally set. Playoff basketball is finally here and it’s going to stay for a while. That’s both good and bad. It’s good because there will be at least one NBA game that matters every day for the next two months. The bad part is that the games are so spread out you may forget that the playoffs are even going on at least once or twice during the next two months. Half of the 8 first round series begin on this Saturday, the 18th of April, and the other 4 start the next day, the 19th of April. The quickest date on which any of these series can be wrapped up is the following Saturday, April 25th. Even if the Atlanta-Miami or New Orleans-Denver series turns out to be a 4 game sweep the series will not end until Monday, April 27th. If any series happens to go to a game 7 the earliest that the first round of play will end is Saturday, May 2nd. The Cleveland-Detroit series begins on this Saturday and if it ends up going 7 games it will end 15 days later on Sunday, May 3rd. And remember, this is just round 1.

It seems a little drawn out but I’m not going to complain too much about playoff basketball being extended into summer time. I was excited to do my predictions but when I got done there was something fundamentally unexciting about them. What I realized was that I hadn’t picked any upsets; not a single one. I tried to figure out why this happened and I’ve come up with a theory. This year’s playoffs are made up of 2 types of match-ups. In some cases one team is so obviously better than the other that it simply wouldn’t make any sense to predict an upset and I don’t see any shockers coming this year so I didn’t predict any. In the other match-ups the two teams are so evenly matched that there’s really no favorite and in these instances I just went with the team that has home court advantage. So I guess what I’m saying is that all of the series were either too one-sided or too evenly matched for me to predict an upset. Anyway, here is a preview of the playoffs along with my predictions and below that are my picks for this year’s regular season award winners.

Eastern Conference

I didn’t pick any upsets in the first round in the East and I really don’t think any of the series will be all that tight. Because of what the Pistons have been during this decade there is a tendency to look at them and think they are dangerous or at least capable of putting up a fight. But that outlook is not based in rational thought. I don’t know how that team finished 4 games under .500 but the fact is that they did and good teams don’t finish 4 games under .500. I can understand how the Pistons didn’t match last season’s 59 win regular season. It’s pretty obvious what happened. A number of key players lost time with injuries and they traded away Chauncey Billups after only 2 games. Allen Iverson brought nothing to the team to replace Billups; in fact his presence has had a negative effect. They actually started the season 4-0 and have been 8 games under .500 in their last 78 games. Since a 21-11 start they have gone 18-32 and they are 6-12 in their last 18 games. They are done. I don’t think they’ll win a game against Cleveland. I’ve heard some people talking about how the Bulls are a bad match up for the Celtics in a way that the Hawks were last season. It seemed pretty clear on Wednesday that the Bulls themselves wanted to stay in the #7 spot when they lost by 21 to the Raptors at home. Either way, I’m not buying this theory that the Bulls can give the Celtics a scare, I don’t care if Garnett misses the whole series. I think the Bulls may put up a fight but the Celtics will never be in serious jeopardy of losing the series. Last year the C’s went 7 games against the Hawks and were never really in danger of losing the series. I could see the Bulls winning a couple games because they are hot, having won 12 of 16 and 5 of their last 6, and they are 28-13 at home. However, they have zero chance of actually winning the series, as they are 13-28 on the road. Some people think the Sixers will give the Magic trouble but I don’t see it. I was starting to see the Sixers as a possible “team nobody wants to play in the playoffs” a few weeks ago when they had won 10 of 14. But then they finished up losing 6 of 7 and needed overtime just to beat Cleveland’s bench in the last game of the season. The Magic struggled a bit in the last few weeks, ending the year just 4-5 in their last 9, but I’m not worried. I became a believer in the existence of “nightmare match-ups” a couple of years ago when the Mavs lost to the Warriors in the first round. With this in mind, I thought if the Pistons ended up playing the Magic in the first round it could be intriguing because they were 3-0 against Orlando this season. But Orlando is 3-0 against Philly this year. I think they’ll cruise. The difference between the top 3 teams in the East and the rest of the conference is huge. The only series that seems at all close is the Atlanta-Miami match up. This should be a fairly tight series and it will be interesting to see if Dwyane Wade can will the Heat into the second round. Wade is amazing and the Heat have gotten better as the year has gone on but I don’t think it will be enough to win the series. The Hawks have won 3 of 4 games against Miami this year and they are 31-10 at home. I could see Miami winning this series because they have Wade and because the Hawks haven’t won a playoff series in over a decade but I don’t think it will happen. I don’t even think the series will go 7.

If the Hawks do get by Miami they have no chance against Cleveland. The Cavs would likely be able to steal one of the games in Atlanta and the Hawks wouldn’t win a game in Cleveland. A Boston-Orlando series could be really good. Both teams play good defense and both teams can win on the road. They are evenly matched but I have to give Boston the edge for a few reasons. The Celtics have the home court advantage and experience. And I still don’t think the Magic are as good as they were with Jameer Nelson. What’s making my decision a little harder is that right in the middle of writing this news came out that Garnett may not be able to play at all in the playoffs. Obviously this makes me rethink things but I don’t think I’m going to change anything. First off, I’m just not convinced that KG is going to be out for the entire playoffs. There’s nothing structurally wrong with his knee that doctors have been able to zero in on so I don’t know why it wouldn’t get better with rest. And the spacing of the playoffs is such that game 3 of a potential Celtics-Magic series could be 3 weeks from now. I have to think the situation could be different by then. I still like the Celtics to beat Orlando.

During the first part of the year I thought the Celtics were probably going to repeat as NBA champs. They were basically the same team as the year before, their chief competition (the Lakers) were basically the same team as the year before, and the Celtics appeared to be just as hungry as they were the year before so I couldn’t think of a reason why they wouldn’t repeat. Then after the loss to LA on Christmas they seemed to lose their focus. I started thinking that they might not repeat after all. It wasn’t the loss to the Lakers that had me changing my mind; it was really the 2-7 stretch that they went on beginning with that loss. I still thought they would probably win the East and when they won 12 in a row following that downturn I was as certain as before that they were the favorite to at least win the East. But then they went 9-9 following that 12 game win streak. Even as they won 12 of their final 14 over the last few weeks, Kevin Garnett’s health has become more and more of a concern for me. While all of this has been going on with the Celtics, the Cavaliers have been winning me over. I was totally wrong about them this year. I thought they’d be a decent but not great team. They turned out to be the best team in the NBA during this regular season. They caught the Celtics and then pulled away from them in the race for the top seed in the East. Over that time I came to believe that they would probably beat the C’s, especially if they home court advantage which they do, and Garnett’s injuries have only made me more certain. I would be surprised if the Cavs failed to win the East.

Western Conference

The West is obviously a lot tighter than the East, mostly because the West is just better. Early in the year a lot of people were saying that the East was much better than it had been in recent years and that the gap between the two conferences had been closed. That’s probably true but only in that the top of the East was very good this season and the bottom of the West was awful. As far as the top 8 or 10 teams in each conference are concerned, the West is still better by a mile. This is nothing new of course. Last season the teams that finished 9th, 10, and 11th in the Western Conference playoff standings would have made the playoffs if they were in the East. And remember, you play your own conference more than the other conference, so these teams had better records against better competition. Last year the Warriors went 48-34 and missed the playoffs despite being 11 games better than the #8 seed in the East. They would have been the #4 seed in the East but instead they stayed home. Portland was in 10th in the West last year at 41-41. They were 4 games better than the 8th place team in the East (Atlanta) and would have been either the 6th or 7th best place team in the East. The Kings were 11th in the West at 38-44 but even they would have made the playoffs ahead of the Hawks if they had been in the East. This season it isn’t quite as bad, as only one team from the West would have made the playoffs by switching to the East. This year it’s Phoenix that gets the shaft. The Suns finished 46-36 with is 7 games better than the #8 seed in the East (Detroit) and they would be the 5th place team in the standings if they were in the East.

Just because the West has more good teams doesn’t mean the Western Conference playoffs will be any more competitive than the East. Last year the race for playoff position in the West was the best in history, as the top 8 teams all won between 50 and 57 games. I was so fired up for the Western Conference playoffs but they were a complete dud. No first round series went 7 games and only one of the four series went past 5 games. The higher seed won all four first round series. Only one of the two semifinal series went 7 games and the conference finals ended in 5 games. The only upset in the Western Conference playoffs wasn’t much of an upset, as the 56-25 Spurs beat the 56-25 Hornets. This year the top 8 teams in the West have won between 48 and 65 games so things are a lot more spread out compared to last season. Early on decided that the Lakers and Spurs were the only teams that could win the West and when Manu Ginobili was announced out for the year a few weeks ago it clinched it for the Lakers. I doubt they’ll be challenged. Utah was a little disappointing early, then put it together in the middle of the season to win 15 of 16, but they finished the year just 7-11 in their final 18, losing 7 of their last 9 games. They are great at home as always so they may get a couple games off of the Lakers but they’re 15-26 on the road so they’ve got no shot to win the series. Denver is the only one of the top 2 seeds in either conference that I could see possibly losing in the first round. They aren’t a great defensive team and they are going up against one of the best defensive teams in the Association. Denver hasn’t gotten out of the first round lately, something the Hornets did last year. This is a big series for Carmelo. He’s got Chauncey Billups now and that’s the biggest reason they won 54 games this season and one of the main reasons I think they’ll get past New Orleans. Another thing is that they are very tough to beat at home, while the Hornets home court advantage is not particularly great. Chris Paul is one of the top players in the game and other than that the Hornets are really ordinary. They got off to a bit of a staggering start this season, then they tried to deal away one of their top 3 players only to have the deal negated. The team rallied to a 28-14 record about halfway through but they’ve been just 21-19 since, including 2-6 in their final 8 games. The Nuggets come into the playoffs having won 14 of their last 17 and I think they’ll survive the first round. The San Antonio-Dallas series is one of the few first round series that I think a lower seeded team could win. This would be a surprise because the Spurs are always tough in the playoffs and Dallas has been a playoff disaster ever since game 4 of the 2005-2006 NBA Finals. However, the Spurs are going to be without Manu Ginobili and they’ve been fairly average over the last 19 games, going 11-8. They’re 21-14 over their last 35 games and they don’t have an overpowering home court advantage. On the other hand, they do have Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Gregg Popovich and a bunch of guys who know how to win. That last thing is something I’m not sure the Mavs have. Dallas is 48-25 since their 2-7 start but they’re only 10-7 in their last 17 games. They’re 32-9 at home but 5 games under .500 on the road. I think this series could be closer than expected but the Spurs should win. Defense is key this time of year and the Spurs are one of the best defensive teams in the NBA as usual, while the Mavs are a bit weak on the defensive end like they normally are. The Portland-Houston series is the toughest first round match up to call in my opinion. They are separated by just 1 game in the standings and they’ve go identical road records. The Blazers are inexperienced, making their first trip to the playoffs in years, while the Rockets haven’t won a playoff series in years. Portland is 10-1 in their last 11 going into the playoffs while the Rockets have cooled off a bit, going 6-4 in their last 10. I have to go with Portland because of the home court edge but it should be a 7 game series.

If the Blazers do get out of the first round I think they might be able to win a game or two against the Lakers at home but I think LA would get by them without much trouble. A Nuggets-Spurs series would be interesting. The Spurs are an aging team and they’ll be going without Ginobili. I think there season will end short of the conference finals this year. By the time of the conference finals I think the Lakers will be in a groove. Regardless of opponent, I would expect them to win handedly and get back to the NBA Finals.

Finals: Cavs vs. Lakers

Early in the season it seemed very likely that the finals would be a rematch of last year’s Boston-LA battle that did not live up to the hype. But during the last few months it has become more and more clear that the finals match up we are most likely looking at is a LeBron vs. Kobe, Cleveland vs. LA series. Of all the series I picked—either the first round match-ups or the later rounds that I projected—I had the hardest time picking a winner for this one. I have felt more and more over the last few weeks that LeBron was going to lead the Cavs to the championship this year. I think having the home court edge is a big deal for Cleveland. They’ve lost only 2 games at home all season and one of those was the final game of the year when they really didn’t try to win (even still they only lost in OT). For the Lakers to win they will have to do one of two things, both of which seem fairly unlikely. They either have to win 2 games in Cleveland--which would equal the total number of games the Cavs have lost at home all season—or they’d have to win a game in Cleveland and beat the Cavs in 3 consecutive games—which would be a longer losing streak than the Cavs had all season. There’s no doubt that the Lakers are a better team than they were last year but it will be tough for them to beat James and the Cavs, especially without the home court edge. I really don’t know have a strong feeling about this one but I’ll go with the Lakers to win it based on the fact that they beat the Cavs in both of their head to head meetings this season, including the only real loss the Cavs had in Cleveland.


Eastern Conference

First Round

#1 Cleveland over #8 Detroit (4-0)
#2 Boston over #7 Chicago (4-2)
#3 Orlando over #6 Philadelphia (4-1)
#4 Atlanta over #5 Miami (4-2)

Conference Semifinals

#1 Cleveland over #4 Atlanta (4-1)
#2 Boston over #3 Orlando (4-3)

Conference Finals

#1 Cleveland over #2 Boston (4-2)

Western Conference

First Round

#1 Los Angeles Lakers over #8 Utah (4-2)
#2 Denver over #7 New Orleans (4-2)
#3 San Antonio over #6 Dallas (4-3)
#4 Portland over #5 Houston (4-3)

Conference Semifinals

#1 Los Angeles Lakers over #4 Portland (4-2)
#2 Denver over #3 San Antonio (4-2)

Conference Finals

#1 Los Angeles Lakers over #2 Denver (4-1)

NBA Finals

#1 Los Angeles Lakers over #1 Cleveland (4-3)

NBA 2008-2009 Awards


1. LeBron James
2. Dwyane Wade
3. Dwight Howard
4. Chris Paul
5. Kobe Bryant
6. Tim Duncan

Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard

Rookie of the Year: Derrick Rose

Coach of the Year: Rick Adelman

Sixth Man of the Year: Jason Terry

All-NBA First Team

G Chris Paul
G Dwyane Wade
F LeBron James
F Tim Duncan
C Dwight Howard

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Hockey (Yes, Hockey) Blog: Playoff Predictions

I probably don't have to tell any of you reading this that I no next to nothing about Hockey but just for fun I decided to post some predictions for the Stanley Cup playoffs. Since I don't know very much I sometimes just went with whatever team I was pulling for. I'm a little concerned because I know that the top seeds often get ousted early in hockey but I ended up with #1 vs. #2 in both conference finals. I think Carolina might upset NJ and Washinton might get knocked out early but other wise I'm confident. Here goes nothing.

2009 NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions

Eastern Conference

First Round

#1 Boston over #8 Montreal (4-2)
#2 Washington over #7 New York Rangers (4-3)
#3 New Jersey over #6 Carolina (4-3)
#4 Pittsburgh over #5 Philadelphia (4-3)


#1 Boston over #4 Pittsburgh (4-2)
#2 Washington over #3 New Jersey (4-2)


#1 Boston over #2 Washington (4-1)

Western Conference

First Round

#1 San Jose over #8 Anaheim (4-2)
#2 Detroit over #7 Columbus (4-0)
#6 St. Louis over #3 Vancouver (4-3)
#4 Chicago over #5 Calgary (4-1)


#1 San Jose over #6 St. Louis (4-1)
#2 Detroit over #4 Chicago (4-3)


#1 San Jose over #2 Detroit (4-3)

Stanley Cup Finals

#1 San Jose over #1 Boston (4-3)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Baseball Blog: 2009 MLB Predictions

Baseball's Back and Just in Time

Thank Budda opening day (or week) is upon us. Now can we please stop talking about who shot what in their butt and just play ball? Here are my predictions and some comments. More to come.

2009 MLB Predictions

Predicted number of wins and losses are exact.
(#)- Rank by win-loss record within League.
[#]- Rank by win-loss record in MLB.
Teams with winning records are in italics; postseason qualifying teams are in bold italics.

American League


1. Yankees (1) [2] 94-68: I often pick the Yankees to win it all simply because they “should.” They always operate with a much higher payroll than anyone else and they almost always have the best team “on paper.” Recently, things like “pressure” and “chemistry” have given the Yankees problems and that certainly could be the case again. But I really think luck has had more to do with their 8 year championship drought than any of those other things. The biggest factor, however, has been a flawed strategy by the front office. They’ve brought on aging stars and flavor of the month pitchers thinking that winning the World Series would be as simple as just writing checks. But this time their money was well spent (or at least well meant). The plan could fail if the new players wilt under the pressure but I just don’t see that happening. The Yanks have hitting and pitching and they have the ways and means to improve their roster and fill in any holes that may appear as the season goes along. And the way I see it, the Yanks are just due to win a title.

2. Red Sox (2) [T-4] 91-71: There’s a part of me that says the Sox are going to have a rougher time than expected this season. In my opinion, they are not as strong a team as they were a couple of years ago. Manny is gone; Ortiz is almost a shell of his former self; Varitek is cashed; Schilling is gone blogging for good; Beckett is inconsistent; Drew and Lowell are always hurting; etc, etc. I’m not that big of a Dice-K or Jason Bay fan. However, when you look at it, they’ve still got just about as much as any team out there, because along with their vets that can still play when healthy, they’ve got all of that youthful talent that should only get better and better. And this team knows how to win in a way that the Yankees seem to have forgotten. They also have a manager with a steady hand who knows how to handle the pressure—something New York maybe doesn’t have—and Boston’s front office is top notch. I just feel the Sox have a lot of guys who aren’t sure things anymore.

3. Rays (3) [T-6] 88-74: I don’t see a dramatic crash to Earth for these guys. Why should it happen? They’ve got a great roster of young and talented players, many of whom haven’t even fully blossomed. I’m also a big believer in Joe Maddon. They should be a better offensive team this year and they won despite some bad injury luck last year. The only place they didn’t have injury troubles last season was in the starting rotation and I wonder if the rotation will be that consistent this season. And they also had a great bullpen last season and relief pitching success is the hardest to maintain from year to year in my opinion. I think Tampa will have another solid year and I believe they’re here to stay but I think they’ll take a step back in the standings this season. If they played in another division I’d have them making the playoffs. But this year they won’t be sneaking up on anyone and they’ll be expected to win. It will be tough to get back to the postseason.

4. Orioles (12) [T-23] 74-88: The Orioles were really bad at the end of last season but I think they’ll be better this year. It will almost certainly be a 12th straight losing season for Baltimore but I think they’re coming out of this awful era in their franchise’s history. The reason is that they’ve finally stopped trying to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox by overspending for aging stars. They have a solid lineup and the bullpen should be better. However, they don’t have much starting pitching. And even if everything goes right for them they still can’t come close to doing anything significant because they are in the same division as the best 3 teams in the AL. I do think they can avoid losing 90 games.

5. Blue Jays (13) [28] 71-91: I think the Jays have given up. They gave it an honest try there for a few years and they just never could get over the hump and now they know that their window has closed. Even if they didn’t know it, I don’t think the franchise is in any position to do anything about it. After Roy Halladay the rotation is unimpressive and the lineup is made up largely of guys who haven’t lived up to expectations. And again, they play in a really tough division, and that matters a lot with the unbalanced schedule. I think the Jays are headed for their toughest season since 2004.


1. Twins (T-4) [T-9] 85-73: No one in the AL Central really excites me but I never think the Twins look that great and they always end up being rock solid. So I’m going with Ron Gardenhire’s boys to once again win a division that I think will be chalk full of mediocrity. The Minnesota bullpen is always solid and they have a promising rotation. I’m a little concerned about the health of the two cornerstone position players, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. But if those two are okay then the Twins’ should be fine offensively, as they have a number of players whose styles are well suited to the Metrodome.

2. White Sox (7) [T-14] 83-79: Man these guys are old. But they’ve got pop and they’ve got pitching. They should be in it down the stretch but I think they’ll be just a little better than average in the end.

3. Indians (8) [T-16] 82-80: The Indians have been perhaps the most up and down team in the Majors over the last 5 years. They’ve gone into each of the previous 5 seasons with high expectations; twice they’ve fulfilled expectations, and the other 3 years they underachieved. They are due for a great year but I don’t trust them. The lineup is full of talented, young players, but it’s just not as impressive to me as it was a couple of years ago. Travis Hafner’s career has plummeted over the last 2 seasons, and Victor Martinez is also coming off of a horrible season. The rotation is a major question mark for me. CC is gone; Fausto Carmona took a major step back last season; and I don’t see Cliff Lee doing what he did last year again. The bullpen is okay but Kerry Wood will always be a question mark in my mind because of his injury history. Cleveland could bounce back and have a tremendous year but I’m going to predict another season of mediocrity.

4. Tigers (9) [19] 81-81: I’d like to call for Detroit to rebound this season. Heading into last season they were favored by many to go back to the World Series and I definitely thought they had as strong a team as any on paper. Instead, they were a total bust, finishing last in the AL Central. I lot of things went wrong last year and because I remember how good I thought they were going to be I have an urge to predict a comeback season. But I think that feeling is irrational. While they did have a lot of bad luck last season, I also think they were simply never really as good as I thought they were. Offensively they had a lot of big names but their lineup was also old and injury prone. There were plenty of sluggers but the lineup was not dynamic. Now the lineup is still fairly old and injury prone, only now it’s also weaker. However, I’m most concerned with the rotation and the bullpen. The Tiger pitching staff is loaded with guys who have had success before but who also have had problems with injuries; stamina; control; consistency; and more. I think the Tigers will be better but still mediocre.

5. Royals (10) [20] 79-83: The Royals have improved their win total each of the last 3 seasons, winning 75 games last season to finish out of last place in the AL Central for the first time since 2003. The strange thing about KC is that they’ve somehow managed to build an almost reasonable roster despite the fact that their homegrown talent hasn’t produced much to this point. I always thought it was moronic when the Royals would sign some lower-mid level free agent that nobody wanted instead of just focusing on giving their young talent playing time. But somehow the Royals have actually been able to improve their team with a tiny budget and without a bunch of good young players. I believe two things that have led to this current state are Dayton Moore and the economy. I can’t say that I know Dayton Moore is a great GM but he’s definitely doing a better job than his predecessors. Recently I think the downturn in the economy has helped the Royals in free agency. In the past, most of the decent free agents were too pricey for the Royals, and any player they could give a reasonable offer to would most likely choose to sign elsewhere because they had no hope of winning in Kansas City. But this off-season was different. Nobody wanted to pay for “luxuries” like middle relievers. I mean, how the hell did KC ever end up landing Kyle Farnsworth, Juan Cruz, and Ron Mahay? They should have a solid pen with Joakim Soria ready to lock it down in the 9th. They have a couple of good young starters heading the rotation. And while the lineup might not look like much, it’s a lot better than it used to be. They basically had a AAA roster a couple of years ago; now at the very least they have a weak Major League roster. I think the Royals will flirt with stone cold mediocrity.


1. Angels (T4) [T-9] 85-77: The Angels are hurting. They’ve been one of the most consistently good teams in all of baseball over the last 7 years, but I was tempted to predict a major fall for the Angels this year. Actually, I do think they’ll suffer a significant drop off, but I still think they’re the best bet to win what I think will be the weakest division in the AL. They lost a ton this off-season with Mark Teixeira, Francisco Rodriguez, Jon Garland, and Garret Anderson departing. They didn’t exactly go all out in replacing these exiting pieces either. Brian Fuentes isn’t exactly LaTroy Hawkins but he is no K-Rod. Losing Teixeira from the lineup really hurts because of the fact that Vlad Guerrero is no longer a top tier offensive player. Bad Vlad’s batting style is not going to serve him well as he gets on in age. And am I the only one who suspects he might be more like 36 rather than 34? I might still be looking at the Angels as a 90+ win team were it not for the rash of injuries that has hit their starting pitching corps this spring. John Lackey and Ervin Santana begin the season on the DL. Despite all of this, I still think the Angels will be good. Their lineup can score without the long ball, the bullpen should still be strong, and unless Lackey and Santana are out for an extended period of time they should still have a very good rotation. I think they’ll stay on top of the AL West for one more year.

2. Rangers (6) [T-11] 84-78: Some people like the Rangers to win the West this season and I wish I could share that belief because their fans have not experienced much winning this decade. But is there really anything new going on here? They have a stacked lineup that should score a lot of runs; they have some capable arms for the 8th and 9th innings but the front of the pen is a weak spot; and they have almost no starting pitching. This is pretty much an apt description of the Texas Rangers going into every season. I think they’ll contend because I believe the Angels will take a big step back towards the back. But eventually I think the pen will fall apart from overuse and the Rangers won’t be able to score enough runs to overcome the pitching problems. I think they’ll come up short in the end as always.

3. Athletics (11) [T-21] 77-85: A lot of people are talking about the A’s being the team to knock off the Angels in the AL West. I don’t see it, but then again I never think the A’s will be good and they somehow always are, at least until they quit mid-season for financial reasons. I realize they now have Matt Holiday but the lineup is still suspect in my opinion. Plus, unless they’re in 1st place by 7 games or so in July, aren’t they just going to deal Holiday before the deadline? I’m sure their pitching will be really good and they’ll probably hang around for a while but by season’s end I think they’ll be below .500.

4. Mariners (14) [29] 62-100: The Mariners will be a little bit better but I still think they’ll be among the worst teams in baseball. Felix Hernandez is my AL Cy Young Award pick for the 2nd year in a row, but their lineup is a joke and so is their bullpen. I think it could be another 100 loss campaign.

National League


1. Mets (2) [3] 92-70: The Mets have gagged hardcore the last 2 seasons but on paper they probably have the best team in the NL. Their lineup is stacked with speed and power. They have the best left-handed starter in the game in Johan Santana and some capable guys behind him in the rotation. Most importantly, they may have the top bullpen in the game this season. The bullpen was the biggest thing that kept the Mets from winning the division the last two seasons but it now may be their biggest strength. The pen is deep and it ends with the scary setup-closer combo of JJ Putz and K-Rod. The Mets face a tough challenge mentally. The media will jump on any misstep late in the year and the fans will see dome in any blown lead or 3 game losing streak. The Phillies have to be in the Mets’ heads at this point but I think New York will get it done this time. For one thing, K-Rod of course has no connection to the collapses of the last 2 seasons, and the stability he will bring to late game situations will take away a lot of the anxiety. I also believe David Wright will enjoy the best season of his career to date and will carry the Mets to the postseason on his way to the MVP. This is what I think will happen, but here’s hoping they choke on their own vomit for a 3rd straight season.

2. Phillies (3) [T-4] 91-71: I don’t think the Phils will be quite as tough as they were late last season when they came from behind to win the East again and then went 11-3 in the postseason to win the Championship. First of all, there’s just no way their bullpen can be that airtight again. Lidge has got to have a few off nights and J.C. Romero is suspended for the first few months. Cole Hamels is a true ace but he’s fragile. And after Hamels the Phils’ rotation is less than intimidating in my opinion. I also think they will miss Pat Burrell more than expected (at least offensively). Having said all of this, I believe the Phils will be among the best teams in the NL and I have them getting back to the postseason for a 3rd straight season. The Phillies were on the verge of being a playoff team for a long time but they could never get over the hump. They finally got to the postseason a couple of years ago (thanks to a legendary choke job by New York), they put it all together last year, and now I believe the Phils are here to stay for a while. If the Mets slip, the Phillies should be there to step over their gagging bodies once again.

3. Braves (5) [8] 87-75: I try to make these predictions objectively, thus I don’t have the Bravos winning the World Series. I have high hopes for this season but I’ve been pretty hopeful going into each of the last 3 seasons and I’ve been disappointed each time. For the Braves to get to the postseason they would have to have a whole lot go right for them and have a lot go wrong for the Phillies and Mets. It could happen, but I don’t think it will, in part because the NL East should be easily the best division in the NL this year. The Braves are solid in all areas but not great in any of them. If they have spectacularly good luck staying healthy and get good seasons from all of their key players they could stay in the race late into the season. If that happens, and the front office is able to pull off a trade or two to bolster the roster, the Braves could make it back to the postseason this year. Even if they just have decent luck and get good seasons from most of their key players they should win around 85 games but that most likely won’t be good enough to win the division or the Wild Card.

4. Marlins (8) [T-14] 83-79: Anyone who is a fan of an NL East team has known for years that the Marlins are a dangerous team. If they can ever get everyone healthy and playing together at the same time they should win more games than they lose. They may end up having the best starting rotation from #1 to #5 in the NL. The bullpen is loaded with talented young arms. They have a potent lineup, loaded with power and speed. If they play just decent defense in the field they could contend. I think the Fish will finish over .500 but if they are in the race late in the year I think their inexperience will keep them from making the postseason.

5. Nationals (T-13) [T-25] 73-89: The Nats were horrid last year but I think they will be much improved this season. They have a capable lineup and I believe they’ll get solid work from their young starting pitchers. The problem is that their bullpen has the potential to be historically bad. I think the Nats should win 10 to 15 more games, but that still won’t get them to .500.


1. Cubs (1) [1] 95-67: Despite their lack of success in the playoffs, the Cubs have enjoyed one of the best two year periods in their history the last couple of seasons. This was the first time the Cubs had reached the postseason in consecutive seasons since they won 3 straight pennants from 1906-1908. Folks, that is a long time, and I think the fact that the Cubs won 2 straight division titles is a big deal. The Cubs have finally managed to become consistently good. From 1973 to 2000, the Cubs had 4 winning seasons out of 28. Since 2001, the Cubs have had 5 winning seasons out of 8. They were the best team in the NL all season long last year and I think they will be among the top teams in League again this year. They have a very solid lineup that can score runs in a number of ways. They have a strong rotation. They play good defense. The bullpen is the one question mark I have. It could end up being their weakness. On the other hand, it could be a strength. Kevin Gregg and Carlos Marmol have the potential to form a nasty setup-closer tandem. I like the Cubs to cruise into the playoffs again this year as I think they will feast on the rest of the NL Central. This time I’m picking the Cubs to find a way to reach the Fall Classic for the first time since 1945. I’ve stayed away from such predictions in the past. But now the Cubs have taken the step of becoming consistent contenders and their really, really due.

2. Astros (T-6) [T-11] 84-78: The Astros just about always figure out a way to be in the mix by the end of the year. They’ve had just 2 losing seasons in the last 17 years, and I do not see number 3 coming this year. The strength of this team will be the offense, but they have Roy Oswalt at the front of the rotation, and Jose Valverde to close things out in the 9th. On the downside, the back of Houston’s rotation is very weak, and other than Valverde the bullpen is shaky. I don’t know if Houston will ever really contend but I’m betting that they end up with more wins than losses when all is said and done.

3. Reds (T-9) [T-16] 82-80: Some people are predicting big things from the Reds this year. At the very least it seems like the Reds are on the right track and there is a more positive and hopeful attitude radiating from Cincinnati this spring. The ill-fated Griffey/Dunn/Kearns/Casey/Mo Pena era is now dead and gone. Offensively the Reds should be solid and maybe more than that if Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, and Brandon Phillips all continue to progress into great hitters. The rotation has the potential to be dynamite if Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo can rebound from their disappointing 2008 campaigns, along with the young guns Edison Volquez and Johnny Cueto. Francisco Cordero is solid as the closer but the rest of the bullpen is a question mark. However, the Reds have a lot of talented young pitchers who could step up and perhaps turn it into a solid pen. I’m calling for Cinci to have their first winning season since 2000.

4. Cardinals (11) [22] 75-87: I picked the Cardinals to finish in the cellar in the NL Central and lose 100 games last year. Instead, they won 86 games and stayed in the postseason race late into the season, finishing just 4 games back of the Wild Card winning Brewers. I still have no idea how they did it but Tony LaRussa seems to be able to get the Cards to play decent baseball no matter what. They’ve had only 3 losing seasons in 13 years under LaRussa, never losing as many as 90 games in any year. It seems like the Cardinals should suck this year too, but LaRussa and Dave Duncan will no doubt get great work from a bunch of mediocre starting pitchers, and Albert Pujols will carry the offense as always. On the other hand, the bullpen looks like it should be an issue again, and other than A-Pu the lineup seems suspect. Will Ryan Ludwick be the hitter he was last year again? Will Rick Ankiel’s career go up or down from here? Will Troy Glaus ever play again? I don’t think the Cards will be able to stay over .500 this time.

5. Pirates (12) [T-23] 74-88: There are rebuilding processes and then there are the Pittsburgh Pirates. Last season I predicted the Pirates would have their first winning season since 1992 but instead they finished under .500 for a 16th straight season. They have lost at least 89 games in 10 of the last 13 seasons, and they’ve lost at least 94 games each of the last 4 seasons. I’m not calling for the Pirates to snap their streak of losing seasons this year but I do think they will be improved. On paper, the Pirates have a decent lineup, a decent rotation, and a decent bullpen. Unfortunately, when the Pirates actually take the field they usually figure out a way to lose. If they can get the ball to Matt Capps with the lead they will win almost every time and they should be able to avoid losing 90 games this year. But then again, they are the Bucs.

6. Brewers (T-13) [T-25] 73-89: Last year the Brewers fired the manager with 12 games left in the season and for the final 2 months they used a 1 man rotation. You got the feeling that they felt like they had to throw everything into making the playoffs last year because they might not have another chance for a while. Thankfully for Milwaukee fans the Brewers got to 90 wins to secure the Wild Card and make the postseason for the first time since 1982. They lost in the NLDS but at least they could say that they got to the playoffs. I don’t think they’ll be back this year. I’m actually predicting a major fall for the Brew Crew this season. They may get right back into contention in the next few years but I think their will be a major step back this year. They have a very dangerous lineup but it’s a lineup that it highly susceptible to cold streaks. Basically every Milwaukee position player is a capable offensive player, but at the same time they all have flaws in their hitting styles that make them inconsistent. Still, the Brewers should put runs on the board. Pitching is a much bigger issue for Milwaukee. With CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets gone, the Brewers have the young Yovani Gallardo and a bunch of #4 starters left in the rotation. The bullpen is a major weakness, especially with new closer Trevor Hoffman battling injuries as the season opens. Even if Hoffman comes back and stays healthy, he’s not a top notch closer anymore. I’m picking the Brew Crew to finish last in the Central this season.


1. Diamond Backs (4) [T-6] 88-74: I picked the D-Backs to have the best record in the NL last year but they faded down the stretch and barley had a winning record. Still, they finished only 2 games out of 1st and this year I think they’ll win the West and get back to the postseason. Offensively, Arizona’s hitters are talented but undisciplined. They shouldn’t need to score too many runs, however, as the D-Backs have some of the best pitching in the NL. They definitely have the best 1-2 punch in Brandon Webb and Dan Haren, and you could make an argument that they have the strongest rotation in the NL now that they have a healthy Doug Davis, the newly acquired Jon Garland, and future star Max Scherzer. There is no real “closer” at the back of Arizona’s bullpen, but the trio of Chad Qualls, Tony Pena, and Jon Rauch should combine to form a more than sufficient stopper. If Arizona does get to the postseason they will be a very dangerous team because of the starting pitching they could send out in a series.

2. Dodgers (T-6) [T-11] 84-78: I realize that on paper the Dodgers are probably the best team in the NL West but I just don’t buy it. They have one of the greatest hitters in the game back in Manny Ramirez, but Man-Ram will now be there for the entire season and he’s not playing for a contract. My point is that a totally motivated and locked in Manny Ramirez can carry a team to the postseason; a less motivated Manny isn’t worth quite as much. Perhaps Manny will be the guy he was for the Dodgers the final two months of last season, and if so he will win the NL MVP. They really need that Manny to show up this year because the rest of the lineup isn’t very powerful. The lineup is solid but they are going to need Manny to carry most of the load. As usual the Dodgers have a plethora of talented arms in the rotation and the bullpen and pitching will be LA’s strength. But just remember that this team was dead in the water before that Manny deal and they didn’t seem to care. So Dodger fans better hope Manny cares this year. I think they’ll end up winning about as many games as last year but it won’t be good enough this time.

3. Giants (T-9) [T-16] 82-80: The Giants are a trendy pick to be a surprise winner in the NL East. I know what folks are thinking: the NL West is all about strong pitching, weak hitting, and big ball parkers, and the Giants have the kind of pitchers who can dominate a lineup. The problem is that the Giants might not have a hitter with double digit homers this season. Their lineup is beyond feeble. Furthermore, while Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain should be a prolific duo for the Giants for years to come, the rest of the rotation is not as much of a sure thing. Randy Johnson is the most dominant left handed pitcher of the modern era, but he’s 45; Barry Zito has been among the worst pitchers in the game over the past 2 seasons; and Johnathan Sanchez has yet to post an ERA under 4.95 during his 3 year career. The bullpen is okay but nothing special. I think the Giants can get to .500 or maybe better because of the front of the rotation and because the division isn’t very strong. But I think the postseason is a serious long shot.

4. Rockies (T-13) [T-25] 73-89: That fluky streak to end the 2007 season that carried the Rockies all the way to the WS seems like a long time ago, not to mention almost completely irrelevant. It’s still hard to take this franchise seriously. The humidor certainly helped things but then they followed up the NL Pennant winning season of 07 by going 74-88 last year and then trading their best player in the off-season. They have a bunch of good young hitters in their lineup but nobody like Matt Holiday. Having Troy Tulowitzki healthy for the entire season should help but they need some of their other young position players to step up. Compared to the first dozen or so years of Colorado’s history their pitching staff is awesome, but it’s still probably the worst in their division. The bullpen could be okay with Manny Corpas and Houston Street pitching the late innings but then again they could struggle or get injured. I think the Rockies will be just about the same this year as they were in 2008.

5. Padres (16) [30] 58-104: I’m not sure what’s going on with this franchise but they may need to relocate or just close up shop because there seems to be no intention of spending money in order to try and improve the team. Other than Adrian Gonzalez the lineup is trash. Jake Peavey is a true ace when healthy but he may not be in a good place mentally at this point. The rest of the rotation is essentially garbage. The bullpen is also a mess. The Padres should suck ass this year and I’m predicting they’ll be the worst team in baseball.

American League Playoffs

Yankees over Twins: 3-1
Red Sox over Angels: 3-0

Yankees over Red Sox: 4-2

National League Playoffs

Cubs over Mets: 3-2
Diamond Backs over Phillies: 3-2

Cubs over Diamond Backs: 4-2

World Series
Yankees over Cubs: 4-3

Awards and Leaders

NL MVP: David Wright
AL MVP: Kevin Youkilis
NL Cy Young: Johan Santana
AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez
NL ROY: Cameron Maybin
AL ROY: David Price
NL Manager of the Year: Jerry Manuel
AL Manager of the Year: Joe Girardi
NL Rolaids Reliever of the Year: Matt Capps
AL Rolaids Reliever of the Year: Jonathan Papelbon
NLCS MVP: Alfonso Soriano
ALCS MVP: Alex Rodriguez
World Series MVP: Mariano Rivera
NL Batting Champ: Manny Ramirez
AL Batting Champ: Ian Kinsler
NL Home Run King: Ryan Howard
AL Home Run King: Evan Longoria
NL Win Leader: Brandon Webb
AL Win Leader: Josh Beckett
NL Save Leader: Jose Valverde
AL Save Leader: Jonathan Papelbon