Monday

9-20-10: 2010 Peek at the Picks, Vol. 4

Hello again everybody...

Welcome back. I hope your weekend was as restful and relaxing as mine was.

Fortunately/unfortunately (depending on how you want to look at it), I was in attendance for the only win of the Twins three-game set against the A's. It was a brilliant fall Saturday and a great time was had by all.

The news wasn't all great this weekend, however. We here at Writing for the Cycle would like to pass along our best wishes to a couple of sports figures who've had better weekends.

First of all, Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio, who just Saturday night directed his club to a dramatic overtime win over Notre Dame, had a heart attack after the game which required surgery. As you can see in the article, the heart attack was described as “mild” (if there is such a thing as a “mild” heart attack), the surgery was successful and he's expected to make a full recovery. All the best to coach Dantonio and his family.

Secondly, Chicago Cubs outfielder Tyler Colvin was pierced in the chest by a shard from a broken bat. Colvin has also been stabilized and is expected to recover soon. Maybe this will be the incident that finally motivates Major League Baseball to do something about their broken bat issue. I hesitate to call it a “maple bat” issue, because I think it goes a little deeper than that. I've heard some experts say that the emphasis needs to be on the quality of the wood being used, not the type.

Whatever it is, some of you may recall a little over two years ago when I wrote this column in which I talked about umpire Brian O'Nora getting gashed on the neck by a shard from a broken bat. At the time I was all for a methodical study of the issue with reasonable guidelines as a result. But, like many, I'd since forgotten about that study. Either it's taking entirely too long, or it wasn't done correctly. Either way, this is a problem baseball needs to address now. We've had a guy nearly collapse a lung due to a bat shard. If that's not enough to bring about some change, then I fear for the player who's going to have to be killed before this gets fixed.

Get better soon, Tyler.

So ends the depressing part of a Monday column... I hope. Today we're taking a penultimate look at my pre-season baseball picks. The final look will be coming in a couple of weeks after the regular season has ended. The playoff teams have all but been decided in the American League. The National League is another matter entirely.

We'll check out how I'm doing...

Right after the quote.

“Everyone is born with genius, but most people only keep it a few minutes.”
- Edgard Varese (1883 - 1965), French-born composer


I'd like to think I kept mine for far longer than that! Now, if I can just remember where I put it...



2010 Peek at the Picks, Vol. 4

It's been entirely too long since we've revisited my pre-season MLB Picks. So let's take a look, shall we?

As always, before each baseball season, I pick the final standings for each of the six divisions. Periodically throughout the year, I compare the current MLB standings to my picks. I've even sought the help of one of my mathematically-inclined friends to create the Kelley Formula to measure how well I'm doing.

Off we go then...

AL East:

Current Standings: New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays -0.5, Boston Red Sox (whom I hate) -7, Toronto Blue Jays -15, Baltimore Orioles -31

Dan's Picks: New York, Boston (whom I hate), Tampa Bay, Baltimore, Toronto

Kelley Formula Results: 16 of a possible 20 points

Analysis: Those pesky Rays just won't settle into the Wild Card spot and allow me my pick of the Yanks as division winners!

This will be an interesting race to watch down the stretch since both clubs are virtual locks for the post-season. The only question is which one gets to start at home.

How important is that for the two clubs? Well, the Wild Card will likely play Minnesota and the division winner will likely host Texas. New York has pretty much owned Minnesota over the last few years, so if their “worst case scenario” is to travel to Minnesota to start the playoffs, it can't scare them all that much, can it?

Tampa has a 43-30 record on the road this year, so traveling can't scare them that much either I suppose. And they won the season series versus the Twins this year.

So maybe, in a way, this will be an intriguing race for the simple fact that neither club is going to feel a tremendous amount of pressure to win the division.

Oh, and did I mention they play each other four more times before the season ends?

Boston (whom I hate) is pretty much a lock for third. And as much as I'd like to see the “Flying Showalters” (I didn't come up with the nickname, but I love it) put together a hot enough streak to catch Toronto and earn me a couple more points, it's not going to happen.


AL Central:

Current Standings: Minnesota Twins, Chicago White Sox (-10), Detroit Tigers (-14), Cleveland Indians -27, Kansas City Royals -27.5

Dan's Picks: Minnesota, Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City, Cleveland

Kelley Formula Results: 18 of a possible 20 points

Analysis: This is the only division I have a shot at being perfect in, and Kansas City is doing their very best to muck it up for me.

Obviously I should've known better than to trust a team that thought spending big money on Gil Meche and hiring manager Ned Yost were the answers to their problems.

Minnesota's got a death-grip on this division, which certainly is a sea change from my last Peek at the Picks column.

I know they significantly increased their payroll this season, but I honestly didn't see them salting this thing away this early. In fact, when it became clear that Justin Morneau's battle with post-concussion syndrome was going to keep him out for the bulk of the year, I really thought the Twins could be in trouble.

But all they do is keep winning. Their 43-18 record in the second half is the best in baseball, and mind-boggling considering the number of injuries they'd have to deal with. We've seen plenty of clubs - Detroit and Boston (whom I hate) spring to mind - crumble under the weight of players lost to the DL, but not the Twins.

Justin Morneau, Scott Baker, and Kevin Slowey have all missed significant time with injuries. Jason Kubel, Jim Thome, J.J. Hardy, Orlando Hudson and Nick Punto have all spent time on the shelf as well. That's a lot of pitching and hitting to lose over the course of the year, and yet the Twins are right there for the best record in the the big leagues.

Maybe their skipper finally deserves some hardware? That's probably a subject better suited for a Friday column, eh?


AL West:

Current Standings: Texas Rangers, Oakland Athletics -9, Los Angeles Angels -10.5, Seattle Mariners -26.5

Dan's Picks: Los Angeles, Seattle, Texas, Oakland

Kelley Formula Results: 8 of a possible 16 points

Analysis: Scored a lousy 50% in this division, and it's not likely to change much over the last couple of weeks. Sure the Angels could catch the A's for second place, and that would notch more a couple more points, but I'm not holding my breath.

After watching Oakland take two of three in Minnesota this weekend, I was reminded of what makes the A's such a pain in the... well you know. Their pitching staff is solid. They can't score runs in bunches, but boy can they pitch. And it's not just the starters - though they have a solid young core of them - their bullpen is pretty good as well.

The Rangers started selling Division Series tickets last week, and as well they should. They've only had this division sown up for a month or so.

I haven't thought a ton about what my picks for 2011 will be, with one exception. Though I reserve the right to allow some off-season moves to change my mind, the Seattle Mariners will be my pick for last place in the AL West in 2011. Just because a club has a dreadful year doesn't mean the following season has to be bad, but the Mariners have so many problems that it seems near to impossible they'll be competitive again any time soon.


NL East:

Current Standings: Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves -3, New York Mets -15, Florida Marlins -15, Washington Nationals -26.5

Dan's Picks: Philadelphia, Florida, Atlanta, New York, Washington

Kelley Formula Results: 17 of a possible 20 points

Analysis: Well it's about time Philly!

Not only has my World Series pick finally seen fit to take over first place from the Braves, they've begun putting some distance between themselves and Atlanta as well.

The trade deadline acquisition of Roy Oswalt seemed a little shaky at first, but he's since settled in, and the Phills now have the best 1-2-3 combination of any of the potential playoff teams. That doesn't guarantee they'll win anything in the post-season, but when you have to face the likes of Halladay, Hamels and Oswalt in the first round... well let's just say I don't envy their division series opponent.

The Braves, in the mean time, have to be careful not to let their slide out of first place turn into a slide out of the playoffs. The Padres are now closer to the Braves for the Wild Card than the Braves are to the Phillies for the NL East pennant. The Bravos have been surprising me all year with their ability to stay in this race. I'm still not entirely sure how they're doing it. But now that they're there, it'd be a shame to see them stumble and miss the post-season in Bobby Cox's final go-round.

The Marlins have been a big disappointment for me. I went out on something of a limb to predict they'd be the Wild Card for the NL, but no such luck. I knew I was in trouble when they fired their manager even though most baseball pundits thought it was undeserved. Some organizations just have trouble getting out of their own way, and the group running things in Miami now isn't the same one that led them to two World Championships. Don't be fooled by those titles. The Marlins aren't threatening to add a third one any time soon.

The Mets continue to be bad, but I'm not sure they'll be bad enough to sink back to a comfortable fourth for me. I take some solace in knowing that I correctly labeled them as non-contenders when many wanted to see them as “in the mix”. Now if they'd just relax down the stretch and let Florida step out front a few games ahead of them, I'd be much obliged.

Washington's an enigma. There's a lot to like about the club's future, I'm just not sure when that “future” will be arriving. Strasburg will be back from his Tommy John surgery... sometime. Bryce Harper will be in the big leauges... someday. All the while Ryan Zimmerman has to be wondering when the heck he's going to get a little help around there. I'm not sure I can pick the Nats to finish out of the cellar next year, but I really think this club has a shot to get markedly better in the next two or three years.


NL Central:

Current Standings: Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals -6, Houston Astros -11.5, Milwaukee Brewers -14, Chicago Cubs -15.5, Pittsburgh Pirates -32.5

Dan's Picks: St. Louis, Milwaukee, Chicago, Cincinnati, Houston, Pittsburgh

Kelley Formula Results: 14 of a possible 24 points

Analysis: This division is perhaps my biggest disappointment as a whole. How the Cardinals fell out of this race, I don't understand.

Pitching? Check. Clutch offense? Check. Decent defense? Check. How is it they're losing all these games? Maybe my resident Cardinal-fan reader, Jeff in Des Moines, has a clue. Because I sure don't.

Meanwhile, not only has Cincinnati extended their lead in the division, but 1B Joe Votto is making a serious case for NL MVP. There are several worthy candidates, and the balloting is going to be very interesting, but given his ridiculous 1.012 OPS and his crazy-high .422 OBP, he's got to be the favorite. I can guarantee you one thing, anyway. He'll finish just a bit better than 22nd in the balloting, which is where he finished in 2009.

Don't be fooled by the Astros sitting in third place. All due respect to their second-half surge, they've never been in this race. They can try and sell fans on the idea that they'll be better next year based on what they've done in the second half. The only problem with that pitch is it's the same one they made in 2009 when they did well in the second half after sucking the bag in the first. The middle of this division (Milwaukee and Chicago) came back to the Astros more than the Astros jumped up and got them.


NL West:

Current Standings: San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres -0.5, Colorado Rockies -1.5, Los Angeles Dodgers -11, Arizona Diamondbacks -25

Dan's Picks: Colorado, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Arizona, San Diego

Kelley Formula Results: 10 of a possible 20 points

Analysis: This division is the only real “race” left in baseball, and there's still time for it to sort itself out to my advantage.

Much as I've been befuddled by the high quality of play from Atlanta and Cincinnati, the Padres have mystified me in 2010. I know their pitching has been unexpectedly dominant, but that doesn't seem like quite enough to explain their presence in this race.

The Giants, meanwhile, have had every opportunity to put a strangle-hold on this division, yet lead by only half a game. They're good, and if they get into the post-season, not many teams will want to face Lincecum and Cain in the first two games of a division series, but they're not there yet.

Colorado, meanwhile, has finally gotten into the thick of this race... hopefully not too late. 7-3 in their last 10 has gotten them close, but while 1.5 games may not seem like an overly large deficit, when you've got to pass two clubs to make it happen, it gets a lot larger.

The Dodgers have officially checked out for this season. When you start announcing that your current manager is going to “retire” (though he wouldn't rule out managing another team down the line) and you're already announcing his replacement... well, that's pretty much a white flag move. Not that they had any hope of getting back into things, but they at least could've tried to play something of a spoiler role here.

The Diamondbacks... well, they're the Diamondbacks. Just when they start to put a little something together, they go on yet another losing streak and give it all back. I'll say this at least, of all the last-place clubs in MLB, they've got the best chance to jump back up and be competitive next season. I sure won't be predicting it to happen, but still...


Total:

Combined Kelley Formula Results: 83 of a possible 120 points (69.2%)

2009 Kelley Formula Results: 87 of a possible 120 points (72.5%)

Analysis: A grand total of one-point improvement since last we checked.

Given that it puts us only four points behind last year's pace, I'd say that single point isn't insignificant. But it is interesting how things can change so much, and yet so little over the course of 6 weeks or so.

There's something of an equilibrium to baseball. I can only hope that a few more things settle my way I guess!


That'll wrap things up for today. Like I said, we'll take one more Peek coming up in a couple of weeks when the regular season ends. Until then, come on Florida, Kansas City and Colorado! Help a guy out!!!

I'm back on Wednesday with the usual college football goodness.

Until then, thanks for reading!

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