10-4-10: Peek at the Picks, Vol. 5

Hello again everybody...

Here we go!

The regular season is over, and the post-season is set to begin!

For Twins fans, we all knew this was coming, right? Once again Minnesota's in the playoffs and once again their opponent will be the New York Yankees.

When people asked me who I wanted the Twins to face in the first round, naturally I said the Rays. That's not any disrespect to them. It's just that New York has owned a distinct psychological advantage over the Twins for the last few years.

But now that it's been decided, and once again the Yankees will be the Twins first-round opponent, I'm starting to think that perhaps it's strangely appropriate.

I'm put in mind of the 2004 Red Sox (I want to write it, but they won four and I promised I wouldn't anymore). The Yankees were in their heads too. New York had dominated that “rivalry” - for lack of a better term - for ages on end.

It's almost as though Boston (grrrrr) had to slay that particular dragon before they could go on to win their pair of World Championships. I'm starting to believe that perhaps the Twins are in a similar position.

Maybe they're catching New York at the right time. Maybe there's some magic in Target Field that will cause the breaks to go Minnesota's way instead of New York's. Maybe this is Minnesota's year to steal second off Posada and make a dramatic comeback against Rivera.

Maybe, just maybe, this will be the year.

We'll find out starting Wednesday night. First pitch is scheduled for 7:37pm on TBS. Check your local listings.

With another season finished, it's time for a look back at my preseason picks, and how they turned out. And we'll get to that...

Right after the quote.

“Foolish writers and readers are made for each other.”
- Horace Walpole (1717 - 1797), English art historian, man of letters, antiquarian and politician

Who you callin' “foolish” Walpole?!

2010 Peek at the Picks, Vol. 5

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.

Today, we break down the final standings from 2010.

AL East:

Final Standings: Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees -1, Boston Red Sox (sonuva ...) -7, Toronto Blue Jays -11, Baltimore Orioles -30

Dan's Picks: New York, Boston (you realize this is killing me right?), Tampa Bay, Baltimore, Toronto

Kelley Formula Results: 14 of a possible 20 points

Analysis: Thanks a ton, New York! You had the division in your hands to win, and not only did you piss it away, you cost me my “whom I hate” tag! Do you seriously think I'd have offered that up if I thought there was a chance in hell you'd drop four of six to a club with more medical bills than Jimmy Carter?! (Too soon? I can never tell.)

Fine. Be that way. I hope the Twins sweep you bums and you get railed on by the New York media for the next six months. Jerks.

Congratulations to the Rays. They clearly exceeded my expectations. I hope, for their sakes, they pull out all the stops this post season. Given their financial shape, the 2011 Rays will look a good bit different from this year's version.

The Red Sox (please?) had one of those lost years. Every team has to deal with injuries, but Boston (come on!) was plagued in a way that they simply couldn't recover from. It's going to be a very interesting off-season in New England. There's every reason to believe that they could be right back in the hunt next year. Ah, Boston (one more time, for old times sake?) how you vex me. No, I still don't like them very much.

The Blue Jays are an interesting club. They led the AL in home runs this year, but their pitching was young and not deep enough to allow them to truly compete in the East. They're certainly better than I thought they were going to be though. I have to give them that.

Baltimore got things headed in the right direction when they hired Buck Showalter. Unfortunately for them, they didn't make that hire until they were way too far behind to be any kind of factor. The 34-22 record they amassed during his time at the helm bodes well for 2011. I'm not ready to say they'll compete for the division, but combined with Toronto's improvement, I can just about guarantee that the East will be the best division in baseball in 2011.

AL Central:

Final Standings: Minnesota Twins, Chicago White Sox -6, Detroit Tigers -13, Cleveland Indians -25, Kansas City Royals -27

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

Kelley Formula Results: 18 of a possible 20 points

Analysis: Tied for my best division score (with the NL East) here. I suppose that makes sense in a way since I'm more familiar with these five clubs as a group than any other in baseball.

The Twins excelled despite losing their All-Star closer in spring training and their All-Star/MVP first baseman in July. That's astonishing when you think about it. How many clubs could lose two key cogs like that and still end up winning 94 games? Their new home Target Field was a raging success and they're set up well to compete in the Central for years to come.

The White Sox led the Central for a good chunk of the season. But when the chips were down and the season was to be decided, they folded like a house of cards. I truly hope their meltdown doesn't cost Ozzie Guillen his job. He's far too entertaining to allow to go somewhere else!

Around mid-season, I was convinced the Tigers were the Twins' main competition for the division. Sadly for them, they experienced their own rash of injuries, and their pitching didn't hold up the way I expected. Their 52-29 home record was tied with New York for the second best in the AL... one game behind the Twins.

Kansas City? Well, they're still the Royals. It's sad. Kansas City was once one of the best baseball towns in the country. And it probably could be again. But given the awful state the organization is in, I doubt it will be any time soon. I pity Royals fans. I really do. Having to watch that dreck for 162 games per year ought to earn them some sort of tax write-off at least!

I knew when I saw them in spring training that Cleveland was going to be bad. I had no idea it would be this colossally bad. Talk about your lost seasons. And what's worse, I don't see any reason to believe they'll be better next year.

There's a clear pair of tiers in the AL Central. Minnesota, Chicago and Detroit can all contend over the next few years. Cleveland and Kansas City? Not so much.

AL West:

Final Standings: Texas Rangers, Oakland Athletics -9, Los Angeles Angels -10, Seattle Mariners -29

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

Kelley Formula Results: 8 of a possible 16 points

Analysis: Along with the NL West, this division tripped me up as bad as any. Two things cost me dearly: one, the Angels seriously under-performed; and two, Seattle was awful beyond belief.

I have to give the Rangers credit. I didn't know they had it in them. Certainly we've seen a lot of young talent pass through Arlington, TX, but this year, they actually managed to make it through a season without a mid-summer collapse. The trade for Cliff Lee cost them a good chunk of prospects, so hopefully they're able to re-sign him this off-season. Otherwise, there's a danger the club to take a step backwards in 2011.

Perhaps the most surprising team in the division was Oakland. I had them on life-support when the season began. But through hard work and a surprisingly good young pitching staff, they were able to hang around the .500 mark most of the year. They still don't score a lot of runs, so they'll need to upgrade their offense in order to seriously contend. But they've got a shot.

The Angels were one of my big disappointments really. I'm a big fan of Mike Scioscia's managerial skills, but even he couldn't coax life out of this club this season. I know they lost Lackey and Vlad before the season started, but still, they should've been better than this.

What can I say about Seattle? It's not often you see a team that's so bad they get their future Hall of Famer to retire mid-season as well as getting their manager fired. That's a helluva daily double! It's my opinion that as bad as they were, they're still going to end up with a Cy Young winner this season. Other than that, there aren't many more positives to point to with this club.

NL East:

Final Standings: Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves -6, Florida Marlins -17, New York Mets -18, Washington Nationals -28

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

Kelley Formula Results: 18 of a possible 20 points

Analysis: For two years in a row, this division has been one of my best. I have no idea why. I struggled when I put my picks together to decide between Atlanta and Florida for the second spot. I went with Florida only because I thought they could produce more offense. Woops.

Philadelphia was once again the class of this division. I picked them to win the World Series in spring training, and if I had to make the pick again right now, I don't think I'd change it. The Phillies took their sweet time getting going, but now that they are, they're exactly the force I thought they'd be. Strong pitching, All-Stars at multiple positions and a line-up that can compete with anybody in baseball. I don't want to jinx them, but they have to be the odds-on favorite to win the NL pennant.

Atlanta leaned hard on their pitching staff to carry them, but found some offense along the way too. Chipper Jones wasn't as much of a factor as they'd hoped with all his injuries, but Troy Glaus and rookie sensation Jason Heyward more than made up for it. Their first round series against the Giants should be a doozy. If you're a betting man, just take the “under”. Trust me.

Florida had the opportunity to be a contender this season, but internal strife killed their chances. Chemistry isn't as big a factor as people would like to believe, but if your most important players hate each other and no one can get along with the manager, you're not going to win enough games to be in the mix.

The Mets are a mess. They're firing their GM and their Manager, and deservedly so. A team that spends as much money as they do has to get more out of it than 79-83. Especially in a town where you're already second-best to the Yankees.

Washington still isn't very good, and with Strasburg's Tommy John surgery, it'll be a little longer until they start showing results. But if they hang with the direction they're headed, being in the mix isn't as far off as it may seem. There's a lot of talent there. I'm not sold on their skipper, and with a new GM coming in, that situation may change. Let's just say I won't be making any “if they were playing in my kitchen” jokes about this club any time soon.

NL Central:

Final Standings: Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals -5, Milwaukee Brewers -14, Houston Astros -15, Chicago Cubs -16, Pittsburgh Pirates -34

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

Kelley Formula Results: 16 of a possible 24 points

Analysis: Last year this was one of my better divisions. This year? Not as much.

First of all, congratulations to the Cincinnati Reds. I knew they had some talent, but I had no clue they were going to make a leap like this. Their pitching was good, though that was expected. What wasn't expected was the quantum leap 1B Joey Votto made. He's had loads of potential his entire career, but this was the first season that he managed to put things together offensively to carry this club, and he carried it all the way to a division title. MVP material, anyone?

Secondly, what the hell happened to the St. Louis Cardinals?! I understand they have some holes, but for them to flop down the stretch in this division is almost unforgivable. I say “almost” because at this point Tony LaRussa has earned the right to have a bad stretch or two. But if they had a less-established manager and had a season like the one they just had? Exit visas would be imminent.

The Brewers will be announcing some time today that they're not exercising their option on manager Ken Macha's contract, and I couldn't be more in favor of the move. The last thing a club with their talent needs is a guy who feels the need to re-invent the wheel 162 times a year. Maybe Macha can get the Mets job. All his tinkering would go over like gangbusters in New York! Oh, and Milwaukee is still in desperate need of some pitching help.

Houston is a baseball enigma. They've got an overbearing owner who inserts himself into operations more than he should. They're also an impatient organization in a sport that demands poise, restraint and big-picture thinking. They made a big trade to send Oswalt to Philly. Now let's see if they've got the patience to develop the pieces they got in return.

The Cubs are an interesting situation. Every year it seems there's a new bit of drama on the north side, and 2010 was no different. It's entirely understandable why Lou Pinella left, but how often do you see that happen to a club? It'd be one thing if there was a lot of talent and this was a low-payroll club. But they spent an awful lot of money on guys who didn't perform up to expectations. Things can only get better though, right. I mean it's not like they could be worse than the...

Pirates. Oof. Poor, poor Pittsburgh. At least the Steelers are 3-1, right? Oof.

NL West:

Final Standings: San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres -2, Colorado Rockies -9, Los Angeles Dodgers -12, Arizona Diamondbacks -27

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

Kelley Formula Results: 10 of a possible 20 points

Analysis: I improved a little bit here only because the Padres faded down the stretch. And believe it or not, I think that's a shame.

For San Diego to have led this division for as long as they did was truly remarkable, and skipper Bud Black ought to get some hardware for it. The Padres strength was clearly their pitching staff, and that should be expected given that their manager is a former pitcher and pitching coach. Now the front office needs to build on what they did this season and get them some line-up help. If this club had scored even an average amount of runs this season, they'd have run away with the division.

San Francisco also had some trouble scoring, but thanks to uber-rookie catcher Buster Posey, they put together just enough offense to win the West. As I said earlier, their series with Atlanta won't be one of offensive wonder. But I'm looking forward to it more than any series other than Twins/Yankees, simply because we could see 1-0 gems every time they play.

Colorado really let me down this season. I figured the Dodgers would take a step back and open the door for somebody, and the Rockies run at the end of last season convinced me they'd be the team to do it. But as good as Ubaldo Jimenez was (and he was brilliant) they couldn't ever put together any kind of consistent effort. When the offense got going, the pitching faltered, and vice versa. Usually I put that on the manager, but Jim Tracy was the one who engineered their turnaround in the first place. Maybe by next spring I'll have figured out what happened!

Like I said, I figured the Dodgers would take a step back. I didn't figure they'd take three steps back. This is another spot where there will be a new skipper in 2011, and I'm not sure that's going to help. I know Don Mattingly is a solid baseball guy, but as a first time skipper? It's going to be very interesting to see how he handles these guys given their inability to perform for Joe Torre.

As for the Diamondbacks? Well you've heard me bitch and moan about them every Friday for the entire season, so I won't belabor the point here. They're also making a managerial announcement today, only in their case it's that Kirk Gibson will get the “interim” tag removed from his title as manager. Along with new GM Kevin Towers, he's got a lot of work to do to get this ship righted. But as San Diego showed this year, the distance from “last place” to “contender” isn't as far as you might think.


Combined Kelley Formula Results: 84 of a possible 120 points (70%)

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

Analysis: When you're dealing with a 120 point scale, a difference of three points is pretty negligible. But given that I'd be throwing my shoulder out of whack patting myself on the back had I improved to 90 points, I have to take my lumps for finishing with 84.

It's funny. I actually thought that I had a better handle on this season going into it than I did in 2010. But the Kelley Formula doesn't lie!

Still, to be right on an average of seven out of ten times in baseball? I'll take it.

That's going to wrap things up for today. The playoffs start Wednesday, so I've got to figure out how I'm going to preview that and bring you the usual college football goodness all at the same time.

Uber-column? Special Thursday college football column? There are several possibilities. We'll see.

Until... well, whatever I decide to do... thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. If you're putting it up to vote, I vote for a special Thursday column, 'cause the Huskers visit K-State that evening, and I'm heading to the parental home to watch it. More college football that day could only make it better.