The Cardinals have a problem on their hands. This is not a team that expected to have three (maybe four, we'll see tonight) wins in their first ten games. There's trouble brewing in the bullpen, but I'm not sure you can really blame it all on Ryan Franklin. He has a nasty history of his outfield betraying him. It hasn't really cropped up this year, but I also wonder how Matt Holliday is consistently ranked as a top outfielder by the stats. He just looks so shaky out there and has so many near-errors. He has some pretty big actual-errors, too. Maybe it's because he looks so awkward fielding, and stats don't really take into account how you look, they just care about results. Must be the whole thing about how your eyes can fool you.
I didn't get a chance to watch the Cubs much this weekend, and when I did turn them on, they were getting thoroughly thumped by the Brewers. The Brewers, it should be noted, climbed back to .500 this weekend, tied for second in the division. I think you can pretty safely ignore the bad start. This is a very good team, which would make me worried if I were a Reds fan. Or whoever they draw to play as a wild card (as I'm still convinced they will be the NL Wild Card). I don't know if I ever actually gave my predictions for the year in any earlier posts, so I will do so now.
In the NL Central, I do think the Reds will carry the day. I thought that from the start, but the way they've opened the season, I believe it even more strongly. The Brewers I think will finish second (obviously) and take the wild card. They've got a ton of offense, and their pitching staff looks to be much, much improved. Plus, they don't have Trevor Hoffman still trying to hang on for that 600th save. That was a huge issue last year. Made me really sad to see him go downhill so fast. Anyway, back to prognostication. My preseason pick for third was the Cardinals, but they've looked pretty bad. I'm going to stick with them, though I'm not nearly as confident about this one.* To finish fourth, I'm going to go out on a limb and say the Pirates make a big jump. They're going to finish a few games under .500, but I get good vibes coming from this team. Clint Hurdle is key here, along with the young guys just being that much more experienced. The Cubs will finish a few games behind the Pirates in another disappointing year. And the Astros behind them in a long, miserable summer in the Texas heat.
*I really wanted to slide the Pirates here. Seriously.
The NL East I believe will be carried by the Braves. It'll be a tight race, but I think they pull it out. The Phillies will push them after figuring out somebody to pick up to boost their offense. Not sure who that might be at this point, but there's always somebody. The Marlins will finish third in a good, but not particularly memorable season. The Mets will follow them, being pushed hard by the Nationals. I don't think much of either of those teams.
The NL West is going to be rough. Both the Giants and Rockies are awfully good, and I think they're going to beat up each other enough to allow the Brewers to slip into the playoffs. It's really hard to choose here, but I'm going to go with the Rockies to pull this one out, followed by the Giants. It's a coin flip, though. Nobody is going to want to face either of them in the playoffs, either. Might make for a great NLCS if they both get into the postseason. Behind them, I would say the Dodgers, who have a lot of talent, but I don't think they're on that elite level. The Padres will follow them, and the Diamondbacks will bring up the rear. I'm afraid Arizona has a long year ahead of them, but there is definitely some talent there for the future. The Padres have pitching again, but I don't know where their runs are going to come from.
The AL Central will be won by the Twins again. The White Sox wouldn't surprise me, but I think they'll finish second. The Tigers will also be in the mix, but I have them finishing third. No real reason, just a gut feeling. Those three could finish in any order and I wouldn't be surprised. I think Kansas City will be in fourth in a surprisingly good year (for the Royals, anyway). There is help on the way, and you're going to start seeing some of it making the big squad. The Indians will be last, and I'm afraid that's a lost organization right now. Shin-Soo Choo might be the highlight of that team. I really like Choo, but I don't think you want him to be the best player on your team. Of course, they're off to a 7-2 start, so what do I know?
The AL West is going to be another good race, but I think the Rangers end up taking it fairly comfortably. A lot of talent on that team, and they might be my pick to win the AL again. I'll be thinking about it and post it at the end here. But, yeah, I just don't see the Rangers not being the best in the division. Though the A's will push them and finish second. Not quite good enough for a wild card, but it will make it interesting. The Angels I think will finish third in a season a lot like last year. Not bad, but not what we've been accustomed to, either. The Mariners will finish last. Probably better than last year, but (like the Padres) I just don't see where they're ever going to score enough runs. We'll see though.
The AL East (which I almost forgot, so it goes here) I was going to give to the Red Sox, mainly going along with the crowd. After that start, I'm going to say Boston finishes second and takes the wild card (though I wouldn't be surprised to see it go to a central team). I hate to say it, but that gives it to the Yankees. That should be a more than potent enough offense to cover their pitching holes. The Orioles I think will finish third. I really like where they're heading. Maybe playoffs next year, but not quite this year. They'll be on the cusp, though. The Blue Jays will finish behind them, in a decent year that will be overshadowed by the more popular teams on the east coast.* The Rays were already looking bad, and things just got worse with the Manny debacle. I would go into more detail, but I think I'm going to save that for tomorrow. In any case, it's back to the basement for them. Too bad for Evan Longoria, another player I really like.
*Which I think is all of them. Except maybe Tampa, going by ticket sales. But I think you would find a lot more Rays fans around the city than Jays fans. I haven't walked the streets in either of those cities (at least not recently, I did go to Toronto once to see the Pope), so I may be surprised.
As far as postseason predictions, let me review a bit here. I've got the Reds, Brewers, Braves, and Rockies in the NL. Yankees, Red Sox, Twins, and Rangers in the AL. I don't think TV would like that NL side very much, but screw TV. Ratings are near meaningless today. I would love to watch those teams. I'll write sometime about how MLB screws themselves with how they do TV. Anyway, I would have to say the Rockies come out of that playoff, and after quite a bit of thinking about it, I would go with the Rangers again to come out of the AL. I'm an NL fan, but I would think the Rangers take that one, the first championship for Dallas since the Stars won the Stanely Cup in 1999.
What, you thought the Cowboys still won championships?