2010 MLB Predictions: Rankings, Standings, and Awards

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2010 MLB Predictions: Rankings, Standings, and Awards
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How do you decide which division in Major League Baseball is the best?

Last year, I attempted to do this and went as far as ranking the divisions, from worst to first. My pick for best team was unpopular, and I’m here to say I was wrong.

At least in terms of what actually unfolded, I was dead wrong. The NL East turned out to be not even one of the top two divisions in baseball last year, just based off the research I did after all was said and done.

Sure, they sent a team to the World Series, but they didn’t have two playoff teams, and against their NL competition and in interleague play, there were better overall divisions.

I’ve done the same rankings this year, not really tweaking my method, because it largely is an eye test. I use no formula, but I do use numbers to evaluate.

Here is my process in determining where I think each division should be. There are three statistical factors and two pure opinion factors.

Stats: Strength of each division from top to bottom

Stats: Success against other divisions

Stats: Interleague records

Opinion: Depth of division—how many teams can likely contend for first place

Opinion: On the field talent and offseason improvements

Within each ranking, I’ve also unveiled my projections for division standings. If you’ve been following along, I’ve previewed each division but did not give a definitive finish or winner. For reasons that came up last year, I wanted to wait until the last possible second, just in case my opinion changed.

Last year’s division ranking is listed under each division. I’ve also listed each division’s win percentage against the rest of their respective league. For example, the AL East was 189-171 against the AL Central and AL West for a .525 win percentage.

Wins Per Team is how many wins each team in the division had total, divided by the number of teams in the division. It’s an accurate way of determining how each division did over the course of the season.

In parentheses is the actual finish for that team last year. The order they are listed in is my projection for the 2010 season, and I’ve included my 2009 projection just to show you how off I was in many cases.

After each division is my justification for my projections, and after that I’ll sum up division rankings and try to justify them.

Following that I’ve given my playoff predictions and award winners. I will be glad to debate my award winners and justify them if you wish, but for the sake of trying to keep this article at a reasonable length, I have just listed the winners.

* Denotes Wild Card winner

 

1. AL East

Last Year: Second

Win Percentage Vs. AL: .525

Wins Per Team: 84.2 (Up 3.2)

1. Boston (2)

2009 Projection: 1

2. New York (1)*

2009 Projection: 3

3. Tampa Bay (3)

2009 Projection: 2

4. Baltimore (5)

2009 Projection: 4

5. Toronto (4)

2009 Projection: 5

In all the preseason prognostications I’ve seen, the Red Sox have been anywhere from first to third, the Rays in both second and third, and the Yankees no lower than second. I think Boston’s rotation and depth gives them an edge over New York and Tampa Bay. New York is my wild-card team by the slimmest of margins behind Boston.

Baltimore will do what I thought they would do last year and pull out of the basement. Their pitching may be equal to, if not better than Toronto’s, but their offense will be the difference.

I think everyone wants to know exactly why I’ve picked Boston over the Yankees. I guess aside from the rotation, I’ll equate it to age. The Yankees are old in a lot of positions. They’ve got four younger pitchers, but as good as their “core four” has been, something has to give. I’ve got them second winning at least 90 games though, so this is by no means an indictment on them.

 

2. NL West

Last Year: Sixth

Win Percentage Vs. NL: .540

Wins Per Team: 84 (Up nine)

1. Colorado (2)

2009 Projection: 4

2. Arizona (5)

2009 Projection: 1

3. Los Angeles (1)

2009 Projection: 2

4. San Francisco (3)

2009 Projection: 3

5. San Diego (4)

2009 Projection: 5

I may be foolish to pick the Diamondbacks for second place after they finished dead last, but I think last year was a setback. They weren’t picked as contenders for the division in 2009 for fun. I’ll risk looking like a fool.

Colorado is my pick to win the West this year for this reason and this reason alone: They’ve got the best balance between pitching and hitting in the division. San Francisco has stellar pitching, the Dodgers have great hitting and a great bullpen, and Arizona could have a good rotation and could have a good lineup.

I know the Rockies will have a good rotation, a good bullpen, and a good lineup, as well as solid defense. Do they have the best bullpen or rotation? No. Do they have the best lineup? No. But they are deep and have the fewest questions in all those areas.

Why the fall from grace from Los Angeles? No explanation really; just one of those gut feelings. Chalk it up to me feeling like something unforeseen may happen with them. Remember I’m the fool who picked Arizona to finish second, so I could again be grasping at air.

 

3. AL West

Last Year: Fifth

Win Percentage Vs. AL: .548

Wins Per Team: 86 (Up five)

1. Texas (2)

2009 Projection: 3

2. Los Angeles (1)

2009 Projection: 1

3. Seattle (3)

2009 Projection: 4

4. Oakland (4)

2009 Projection: 2

Last year I bought into the moves the Athletics made and called it a two-horse race between Oakland and Los Angeles. This year, it will be a three-horse race, and I like Texas the most. Some might be shocked that I have Seattle finishing third again, but I have more faith in the defending champions.

The Rangers will score runs, and they’ve got the best pitching coach in the American League, Mike Maddux. With a solid defense as well, I have them making a big statement and beating out the Angels for the division.

 

4. NL East

Last Year: First

Win Percentage Vs. NL: .491

Wins Per Team: 79 (Down 0.2)

1. Philadelphia (1)

2009 Projection: 2

2. Florida (2)*

2009 Projection: 1

3. Atlanta (3)

2009 Projection: 4

4. New York (4)

2009 Projection: 3

5. Washington (5)

2009 Projection: 5

Yeah, that was me that picked the Florida Marlins to win the division last year. I wouldn’t have blamed you if you called me borderline crazy. But they did finish second, three games shy of 90 wins, so I think I deserve some credit for going out on the limb.

I was full on selling the Mets short, but like I mentioned in my division preview of the East, I didn’t sell them short enough. I didn’t give the Braves enough credit, and this year, perhaps I’m not as well.

But I’m full on the Marlins bandwagon, as I believe their pitching is even better than it was last year. Is it better than Atlanta’s rotation? Perhaps not, but I’m a sucker for youthful pitching with experience.

I’ll pick the Phillies to repeat in the division, but they are going to be pushed. Even though I have Atlanta third, I think both they and Florida will continue to push them. I think all repeat the 85-plus win seasons they had last year and then some. It will be a tight one in the East.

 

5. AL Central

Last Year: Third

Win Percentage Vs. AL: .428

Wins Per Team: 76.4 (Down five)

1. Chicago (3)

2009 Projection: 4

2. Minnesota (1)

2009 Projection: 2

3. Cleveland (4)

2009 Projection: 1

4. Detroit (2)

2009 Projection: 5

5. Kansas City (5)

2009 Projection: 3

Fool me once, blah blah blah, I think you know how it goes, right? I couldn’t set my Cleveland Indians bias aside last year. But in my defense, Cleveland was considered a division contender by a lot of people. Where I went wrong was putting faith into the Royals.

Would it surprise me if they didn’t finish last this season? Yeah, it actually would. There will be no crashing and burning by Chicago and Detroit this year, something I thought would happen in 2009.

The White Sox have pitching, and I love pitching. They’re also getting back to a style of ball that Ozzie Guillen loves. For that, I’ve got them winning the division over the Minnesota Twins. Even if they had Joe Nathan, I like Chicago’s pitching too much to not pick them.

Why do I have Cleveland ahead of Detroit? Because I’m insane, remember? I don’t know what to think of the two young guys in the Tiger lineup, and the other parts of it are getting up there in age. Throw in questions in their rotation and bullpen beyond Justin Verlander, Jose Valverde, and Rick Porcello, and I could see them finishing fourth.

But you say to me, don’t the Indians have as many, if not more questions as Detroit does? Yes they do, but I guess this is another one of my patented hunch picks. Maybe I follow too closely; I’ll be the first to admit I know more about the Tribe than any other team. But I’ve seen a lot of positive things from the young-but-hopeful Manny Acta era.

 

6. NL Central

Last Year: Fourth

Win Percentage Vs. NL: .470

Wins Per Team: 78 (Down 5.3)

1. St. Louis (1)

2009 Projection: 2

2. Cincinnati (4)

2009 Projection: 3

3. Chicago (2)

2009 Projection: 1

4. Milwaukee (3)

2009 Projection: 4

5. Pittsburgh (6)

2009 Projection: 6

6. Houston (5)

2009 Projection: 5

I will start from the very bottom and go with the young Pirates over the elderly Astros. Am I insane? Look, we’re talking about fifth and sixth place, they’ll both be in the basement, but it matters none who is fifth and who is sixth. They both have problems.

I think I took it on the chin last year from people in the Houston and Milwaukee camps. I think I was pretty much on point with both of them. This year I think Milwaukee drops to fourth place behind a surging Cincinnati team.

Who I have coming in second over the Cubs. I have questions and concerns from both clubs, but I think the Reds have more potential. They’ve got more potential in the pitching staff, more potential in the lineup, and a lot of youth.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I nearly picked the Cardinals to win the division over the Cubs in 2009. I said “bad things would have to happen” to the Cubs to not win it, and bad things actually happened. I have the Cardinals back on top with a solid lineup and a solid rotation.

 

Division Rankings

Where do I start in trying to iron out the mess that I just laid out on the floor?

I guess we’ll start from the top. I don’t think many people will argue with me like they did last year about my top division. Everyone said the AL East was the best, and they are right.

They’re still right. They’ve got three legit playoff teams, and some think if Baltimore was in a division like the Central, they’d finish with a far better record than they will finish with in 2010. I buy that, and I don’t think there is much to dispute there.

Let me put the depth into perspective though. Of those 189 wins against the rest of the AL, 118 of them came from Boston, New York, and Tampa Bay. That’s 62 percent of the wins coming from those three teams, while the other 38 is coming from Toronto and Baltimore.

The bottom two are contributing just as many wins to that record as the top three are. That tells me all I need to know.

Beyond the AL East is where it gets interesting. The team that I had last in the 2009 season is now second. The NL West boasts three teams that I think are consensus contenders for the division among baseball followers.

Their worst team from 2009 could be actually one of the most improved teams this year and is partially the reason I’ve picked them over their counterpart in the AL. Here is why the NL West is the best in the NL though.

Every team was above the .500 mark against the NL Central and the NL East, except for San Diego and Arizona, but they barely missed that; San Diego was 37-38, while Arizona was 25-30. They dominated the rest of the NL to the tune of a .540 winning percentage, while the East and Central both finished below .500.

So why is the NL West better than the AL West? It’s tough when you have a division with four teams and all of them finished with 75 wins or more and three of them finished with 85. But the NL West did the same thing with five teams, and their fifth team wasn’t even in the bottom five of all of baseball. They were sixth, but every win counts, my friends.

Along those lines, that fifth team is Arizona, and I think they are primed to bounce back and be a contender. That gives the division four possible strong teams to the AL West’s three possible strong teams.

The AL West was just as far down as the NL West was in last year’s rankings and now are just as high. It is all thanks to their stellar record against the rest of the league, which is actually better than the AL East’s. They’ve got those three strong teams, and their “punching bag” is competitive.

I won’t spend any more time on why I have the AL West in the top half of the rankings, but I will give you their lone weak links record-wise. All four teams finished with good records against the other divisions. The only blemish was a 22-25 for Seattle against the Central. Oakland finished 21-23 against the East, which is below .500 but very respectable given how strong the East is.

Next up is my No. 1 division from the 2009 season, the NL East. I’ll flat out say that this team has three slam dunk playoff contenders, and that is where it ends. They could bring two playoff teams, and I have them doing so, but they don’t have the overall depth that the NL West does.

Overall their record last year and the fact that they only have three teams that I believe can contend is the reason they are behind the three divisions they are behind. But I’d sort of break these rankings into two tiers. I’d have the East and the West divisions and then the two Central divisions.

The two bottom divisions are both the AL Central and the NL Central, but which one is ahead of the other? In the end I made a last-second change of putting the AL Central ahead, and here is why.

These rankings are not based just off last season, but what I think will happen this season. In the end, the NL Central’s six teams hurt them big time. I do not think Cleveland is going to be on Kansas City’s level, which would have put them equal to the NL in regards to boasting two bad teams.

Look, the AL Central was bad last year—a .428 winning percentage tells you all you need to know. They had two of the four AL teams with below .500 records in interleague play. But like I said, I’ve got Cleveland improving.

It basically is the same reason the NL West is ahead of the AL West; one team last year that was bad has the potential to be better.

Another reason would be a factor I don’t take into consideration as much as I do the others, but it still holds weight. That would be the potential for multiple teams to win the division. I think St. Louis is a heavy favorite, whereas there could be three different teams legitimately winning the AL Central.

Could the Reds or the Cubs win the NL Central? Absolutely, but it isn’t as likely as the Tigers, White Sox, or Twins winning the AL Central. Does that mean the AL Central is deeper? Is that fact bad for the AL Central? I don’t think so.

It’s healthy competition and while it may seem like the AL Central should give up their playoff spot to the third place team in the AL East, I think the “awfulness” of the Central is overblown.

Again, my opinion shines through more than anything. My opinion statistics take part into it as well. We all thought the NL West was awful last year, when it turned out they were just one of the best divisions out there. So you just don’t know.

But really, it’s the battle for fifth place; there isn’t much to get worked up over about that.

 

Playoffs Predictions

I will preface my playoff predictions by saying that I absolutely hate them. I never like them, but I already have the playoff teams set based off the division standings, so I might as go all the way. I was a series short with the Angels and completely off on the Diamondbacks in 2009.

I won’t really debate my predictions if you’ve got a beef with them. I probably have my own beef with them. It’s just pointless at this point to predict who will win an ALCS matchup that isn’t even guaranteed.

Division Series

1. Boston Vs. 3. Chicago

2. Texas Vs. 4. New York

1. Philadelphia Vs. 3. Colorado

2. St. Louis Vs. 4. Florida

Championship Series

1. Boston Vs. 4. New York

1. Philadelphia Vs. 4. Florida

World Series

Boston Red Sox Over Philadelphia Phillies

It’s the East’s world; we’re just living in it. I didn’t realize I did that until after I did that. Like I said, I hate this.

 

Awards

I did not pick awards last year, but at this point, why not? My AL/NL Hitter has to be different than my MVP, and it basically is Offensive Player of the Year, quite like the NFL’s differentiating from MVP to OPOY.

Again, if you’d like to know my justification for a certain pick, by all means let me know. I’d be glad to give you my insane reasoning for why Ricky Nolasco will the NL Cy Young.

AL MVP: Josh Hamilton, TEX

AL Hitter: Miguel Cabrera, DET

NL MVP: Albert Pujols, STL

NL Hitter: Pablo Sandoval, SF

AL Cy Young: Jake Peavy, CHW

NL Cy Young: Ricky Nolasco, FL

AL Reliever: Joakim Soria, KC

NL Reliever: Francisco Cordero, CIN

AL Rookie Hitter: Fernando Perez, TB

AL Rookie Pitcher: Neftali Feliz, TEX

NL Rookie Hitter: Pedro Alvarez, PIT

NL Rookie Pitcher: Drew Storen, WAS

AL Breakout Hitter: Matt LaPorta, CLE

AL Breakout Pitcher: David Price, TB

NL Breakout Hitter: Carlos Gonzalez, COL

NL Breakout Pitcher: Johnny Cueto, CIN

AL Comeback: Travis Hafner, CLE

NL Comeback: Geovany Soto, CHC

Top AL Outfielder: Franklin Gutierrez, SEA

Top AL Infielder: Asdrubal Cabrera, CLE

Another AL Defender: Elvis Andrus, TEX

Top NL Outfielder: Nyjer Morgan, WAS

Top NL Infielder: Troy Tulowitzki, COL

Another NL Defender: Yadier Molina, STL

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This 2010 MLB Preview is the culmination of a "2010 MLB Division Previews" series that was a part of a month-long look at the 2010 MLB Season. To see all previous articles in the "Month of Baseball" series, check out the schedule here.

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