Who Will Win The World Series?

March 15, 2012

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LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 26:  Jhoulys Chacin #45...

Do you know who this man is?

It’s the opening day of the NCAA tournament.  What better day to talk about baseball?  It’s finally time for me to give my playoff predictions.  The regular season is about twenty days away at this point, and temperatures in the 70s in Iowa are making the season seem ever closer. 

There’s have been a lot of changes this year, and the future will bring even more changes, with new penalties for exceeding signing bonuses for draftees and international free agents … not the mention the Astros being kicked to the curb (forced to the AL) next year).

American Legion

English: Carl Crawford between innings in an A...

East – For the first time, there will be two wild card teams in each division.  In theory, three teams from the same division could make the playoffs.  I doubt that this will remain a hypothetical situation for very long.  I fully expect the Yankees, Red Sox, and Devil Rays strongly content for the playoffs this year.  The real question is which team will earn a bye by winning the division and which two will be forced to square off in the coin-clip game.  I’m going to take the Red Sox.  I fully expect Carl Crawford to snap out of his funk and return to being a very good all-around player.  I also think this is the year that David Ortiz fixes his April/May problems and become a great hitter for all six months of the season.  The Sox do have to find a way to replace the production of the underrated Marco Scutaro at shortstop, but overall, I think this is a team that should be better than last year’s version.

Central – A good Tigers team adds Prince Fielder.  If they don’t have the division wrapped up by mid-September, I’ll be surprised.  The question does remain whether or not Miguel Cabrera can adequately field the ball at 3B, or whether one of Cabrera/Fielder is going to have to DH.

SURPRISE, AZ - FEBRUARY 23:  Yu Darvish #11 of...

West – This should be another great race.   The Angels sign free agent C.J. Wilson away from the Rangers and also nab Albert Pujols – and they still might not win the division!  The Rangers replaced Wilson with Yu Darvish and signed closer Joe Nathan – which should push stud closer Neftali Feliz into the rotation.  If Hamilton can stay healthy this year, the Rangers will win the west.

Wild Card – OK, I’ll pencil in the Yankees one last time.  I think they significantly strengthened their pitching staff by adding Michael Pindea and the underrated Hiroki Kuroda.  I think this is the year when we see a notable decline from Derek Jeter, but I think Cano, Big Tex, and company can keep the wheels on for one more season.

The only wild card team has to be the Angels.  While the Devil Rays have a lot of good young players, you can’t add an MVP caliber player and a Cy Young contending starting pitcher to a team and expect them to miss the playoffs (unless you’re the Mets).

The close-but-no-cigar award goes to the Devil Rays.

National League

East – This division is going to shape up to be  the best division in baseball in a couple of years.  At the moment, however, I think the Phillies still control the East.  Their ability to throw an ace at the opposing team nearly ever day means that they are a virtual lock for 90+ wins.  There are definitely some footsteps to be heard – Washington is building a good young team and the Marlins should also be on the upswing.

PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 12:  Matt Holliday #7 of t...

Central – Albert Pujols is gone after leading the Cardinals to an improbable World Series run.  That’s definitely a huge blow, but it is offset somewhat by the return of Adam Wainwright and the signing of Carlos Beltran (Lance Berkman will shift to first base).  Would the Cardinals be a better team with Pujols AND Wainwright in the lineup?  Definitely.  But I think the Cardinals can tread water in the Central and allow the Brewers to get worse.  This could also be the year when Matt Holliday re-emerges in the public eye after time in the shadow of Pujols?  Remember those people who predicted that Holliday would turn into a mediocre hitter once he left Coors Field?  It hasn’t happened so far.

SAN DIEGO, CA - JUNE 6: Troy Tulowitzki #2 of ...

West – I’m going to go out on a limb and pick my Colorado Rockies to win the west.  Is it a homer call?  Definitely.  Do I think there’s an actual chance of it happening?  Definitely.  Some pundits have said that Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd is considering age to be the new market inefficiency when it comes to player valuation.  I think they are correct in their beliefs, and I also believe that O’Dowd may have a point.  The Rockies should be one of the more interesting stories in baseball as they attempt to add some aging vets (OF Michael Cuddyer, SS Marco Scutaro, and possibly Jamie Moyer) to a team that is also going to expect significant contributions from a number of very young players notably pitchers Jhoulys Chacin and Drew Pomeranz and catcher Wilin Rosario, and perhaps even 20 year old 3B Nolan Arenado.  If the veterans play well, and the kids avoid the mistakes of youth, this could be a very good team.  If the veterans get old and the youngsters have trouble adjusting, this could be a very bad year.

I really expect Troy Tulowitzki to win an MVP award within the next 5 years, and this could be the year (after all, this is his age 27 season).  I think Tulo and Cargo will be a real force in the middle of the Rockies order.  On the mound, I expect people to finally notice Jhoulys Chacin.  He’s really good and really young (just turned 24).  He’s the mystery man at the top of the column.

English: Stephen Strasburg

Wild card – I think this is the year the NL East breaks through.  Not just multiple teams in the playoffs, but I see both of the wild card teams coming from the East.  The Nationals have been building  a very good team, and I think this is their breakthrough year.  Bryce Harper might make an impact this year, but my guess is that the return of Stephen Strasburg will have a bigger impact.  And in Florida, the Marlins have added Jose Reyes at shortstop (pushing Hanley Ramirez to third base) and also Heath Bell in the bullpen.  The new stadium opens with a bang – increased attendance (I hope) and a winning team.

DENVER, CO - JUNE 19:  Starting pitcher Justin...


Coin Flip round – The Nationals dump the Marlins and the Angels beat the Yankees.  Zero confidence in this, since one game is too small of sample size.

Division Series Winners – Red Sox, Tigers, Phillies, and Cardinals

League Championship Series Winners – Tigers and Phillies
World Series – Tigers over Phillies.  Rain thwarted the chances of the Tigers to fully utilize Verlander against the Rangers last year.  In the World Series, Detroit will pitch him in games 1, 4, and 7 and also nab another win from someone.

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It’s All About Football

January 9, 2012

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Professional football – Wild Card Weekend

This weekend, all of the home teams in the NFL playoffs won.  One game went to overtime with the new rules, but a quick touchdown made those new rules mute.  What did we learn from these games?  Well actually a lot.  First, apparently Tim Tebow can throw the ball.  The best defense in the league was not that good suggesting that offense is trumping defense this year.  The Houston Texans are for real, the Detroit Lions were not.  There will not be a rematch in the Super Bowl.  The Atlanta Falcons cannot buy a forth down conversion, and the Cincinnati Bengals cannot get a challenge in their favor.

Professional football – Divisional Weekend

In the end, the New York Giants move on to play the Green Bay Packers while the New Orleans Saints go to San Francisco to play the 49ers in the National Football Conference.  The Denver Broncos visit the New England Patriots while the Houston Texas will challenge the Baltimore Ravens in the American Football Conference.  Since I was wrong in three of my four predictions this week, I will reassess my predictions for the Super Bowl.  I now believe that we will have a Green Bay Packers – Baltimore Ravens match up with the Ravens winning it all.  Go ahead, make comments.

College Football – the Bowl Games

It looks like the Big XII did the best in the bowls with a 6-2 record.  That is pretty good for a conference with only 10 teams.  Next year they will be down to 8 of the original teams, 5 from the Big 8 and 3 from the Southwest Conference.  We will have to see what additional realignments come about.  The Mid-America Conference (MAC), Conference USA (CUSA),  and the Big East have the same winning percentage with a 3-1 record.  The SEC could have done better, but since tonight’s game is a win and a loss, they will be 6-3 in bowls.  All of the other conferences had losing records with the Big 10 having the most teams with 10 but only a 4-6 record.

You could say that there are way too many bowl games.  At this point more than half of the teams in the BCS conferences get to go to bowls.  We have to remember that this is part of the college experience and one last opportunity for some of these players to audition for jobs in the pros.  I like seeing people put on their college colors and cheer on the team.  I for one had a great bowl season since my school won.  I am hoping for a complete analysis of the BCS championship from Johnny since he is the ”sports guy” for the Soap Boxers.

One Week Remains In NFL Season

December 27, 2011

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As we finish the penultimate week of NFL play, many of you, like me, have been declared World Champions of the World…at least in your Fantasy Football pools among your friends and office workers (ok so I won 2 of my three leagues and got taken behind the woodshed in the semi-finals of my other league…but who is counting)

Playoff Scenarios

The playoffs in the NFL are mostly set. 5 of the 6 teams in the NFC are already in. It is down to playoff seeding of most of the teams, and the steel cage grudge match in the NFC East known as the Cowboys versus the New York Football Giants to decide which team makes it to the next stage.

Dallas is a fickle beast. Their Quarterback, Tony Romo is hurt early in the game this week against the suddenly red hot Eagles, No Romo…No chance. We saw this movie last year in Big D.

The Giants made a hot early start, then fell on their sword for a few weeks, now climb back into it again.

I give the edge to the Giants. Main Reason. The Cowboys secondary is…..(say it with me….Horrible) I predict a high scoring game but the Giants will win in the end by 3.

The AFC is not quite as clear but. The Broncos, Titans, Jets, Bengals and Raiders are all still alive for playoff spots and a myriad of scenarios could potentially play out. I won’t even attempt to name all of the division winning and potential who makes the wild card scenarios here in the AFC, but suffice it to say, that if the Denver Tim Tebow’s lose to the Kansas City Orton’s this week, then the studio analysts better be on their game. The Broncos losing starts a large cascading effect of possible scenarios. Of course even if the Broncos win, there are still a multitude of Wild Card possibilities.

Playoff Favorites

As we look forward into the playoffs, right now it would appear that the Saints, and Packers are the class of the league offensively. Green Bay is beat up on the line of scrimmage, and that makes it hard to go deep into the playoffs. The Saints are clicking as long as they are at home and playing on turf. The Niners are still the Rodney Dangerfield’s of the NFL getting no respect. They are by no means flashy but they just win baby.

Everything has to go through Title Town, and I think the offense is good enough to make that happen and return to a Super Bowl for the second straight year. Bottom line is Lambeau, January, Cold. The dome and warm weather teams have a hard time in those elements compared to the local boys in green and gold

In the AFC is this the year of the Raven? I don’t see anyone else making a serious push except the old standby, Steelers. Brady and Company have not been able to win a playoff game in what seems like a decade. Fortunately he is in New England and not Dallas so no one constantly brings this us or throws him under the bus on this fact. The Ravens are my pick, but my gut tells me the Steelers will be there again.

Stat of the Week

Amazingly there are 5 quarterbacks who are likely to finish in the top 15 all time in terms of most yards passing in a season. Drew Brees already has set the season mark, passing Hall of Famer Dan Marino last night.

Tom Brady is likely to surpass Marino’s old mark as well, and Aaron Rodgers would have an outside chance if he plays and the Packers decide to try and score a bunch in week 17. Eli Manning and Matthew Stafford also will end the year likely in the realm of 4800+ passing yards.

Until Next time, stay classy Bend, Oregon!


Let’s Talk Football

January 17, 2011

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The conference championship games are now set; the New York Jets will be visiting the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers will be visiting the Chicago Bears. Both are #2-#6 seed match ups. Some of the games this weekend were messy. Each provided the coaches, even the winning coaches, plenty to teach this week.

In the Pittsburgh – Baltimore game, we learned you play to the whistle, as a Baltimore lineman picked up the ball and ran in for a touchdown on a fumble that no one else noticed, they were just standing around with the ball sitting on the ground. In the New England – New York game we learned that when you are going to run a fake punt, pay attention to where the ball is. In the Atlanta – Green Bay game we learned not to hurry at the end of the half with short dangerous passes. And finally, we learned in the Chicago – Seattle game, we learned that you have to run your pattern and actually catch the ball to win games. I am sure that you can see many more teaching opportunities (like do not commit stupid penalties at critical points in the game).

All four of the teams in the champion ship games have been to and won at least one Super Bowl, so no new story line there. None of these teams have matched up against each other in the Super Bowl before, so some interest there. The Steelers already have six Super Bowl Championships, the Jets are undefeated in the Super Bowl (but only have one appearance). Only one #6 seed has ever made it to the Super Bowl, Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XL, which they won. The #2 seed has made it to the Super Bowl 22 times, winning 11 and losing 11. Two #2s have met only once in the Super Bowl. Two of the teams come from large markets, the other two have storied Super Bowl history behind them.

The New York Jets beat Pittsburgh during the regular season in their only meeting. Chicago and Green Bay split their two games. The Jets beat Green Bay but lost to Chicago. Pittsburgh did not play either NFC team this year. I am sure that the pundits will have plenty of stories and angles to comment on.

The good new is that one of the New York teams made it to the Conference Championship. Why is this good news? About 95% of the talking heads predicted a possible NY-NY show down in Dallas for Super Bowl XLV. In week 2 of the season, most of those same experts called the both NY teams’ seasons over, so much for predicting 4 months and 16 games out. I guess that I get some juvenile pleasure out of seeing the experts proven wrong.

I was glad that Seattle won in the first round of the playoffs against the New Orleans Saints. I am not bashing the Saints, but there were so many people on talk shows saying that Seattle should not be in the playoffs because they did not have a winning record. I disagree. The rules as they stand today are that you have to win your division to get to the playoffs. If you don’t do that, there is the gift of 2 wild card spots for teams that played well, just not well enough to win their divisions. It was not that long ago that there were only three divisions and one wild card for each conference, now twelve teams out of the 32 get into the playoffs. My objection is the demand to change the rules in the middle (or near the end) of the season.

I still have a horse in this race, so I am pretty excited. I will be having a Super Bowl party regardless of the participants. The Super Bowl is usually a good game and there are those commercials. My friends and I usually skip the half time show, ever since Janet Jackson was exposed in front of my young children. American style football has produced great entertainment for years, with the Super Bowl being there grand finale each year. I do no expect to be disappointed this year.

Baseball Playoff Preview (National League)

October 6, 2010

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Yesterday, we previewed the American League playoff teams.  Today, we look at the National League.

Philadelphia Phillies – National League East Champions (97-65)

How did they get here:
The Phillies were 7 games out of first place on July 22.  Going 47-17 from that date through the end of the season locked up the division for the reigning National League champions.


  • Rotation – Halladay, Hamels, and Oswalt are a stunningly potent trio.  The 33 year old Halladay paced the National League in wins and innings pitched, and will pitch in the playoffs for the first time in his career.  While Cole Hamels never seems to rack up high win totals, it’s not due to lack of performance on his part.  He posted a 3.06 ERA – the third season of 3.40 or lower in the past 4 seasons.  Roy Oswalt is the new kid on the block.  After starting the season 6-12 with a stellar 3.42 ERA for Houston, he flourished in Philadelphia, going 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA.  All three guys pitched at least 200 innings.
  • The big bats – Ryan Howard had an off year and still managed 31 homers.  Jayson Werth hit 27 homers while leading the National League in doubles (46).  He’s also a free agent at the end of the year – so he has extra incentive to perform in front of a national audience.  I’m not exposed to the east coast media, and perhaps he gets more coverage there – but Werth seems like a very under-the-radar star.  Chase Utley slipped a bit, but still posted numbers that are strong for a second baseman.  Carlos Ruiz put up a .302 batting average at catcher.


  • Shortstop Jimmy Rollins fought injuries and saw his OPS decline for the 3rd straight season.  It’s probably too early to yell that the sky is falling … but there is reason for concern.
  • 3B Placido Polanco doesn’t hit with the power most team expect from their third baseman.
  • Paul Hoover sucks.

Player to watch:
Jamie Moyer.  There’s not really a young breakout player to keep an eye on, so let’s focus on the 47 year old 267 game winner.  Moyer won’t pitch in the first round, but might crack the roster later in the playoffs, as a lefty out of the pen.

San Francisco Giants – National League West Champions (92-70)

How did they get here:
The Giants finished the season strong – 45-29 in the second half and 19-10 in August and September. However, it would be prudent to give the Padres some credit. A stunning collapse by San Diego – including a 10 game losing streak – allowed the Giants to snatch the division from them. The Giants won a game against San Diego on the final day of the season – and clinched the division as a result.


  • Rotation – Reigning Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum’s 3.43 ERA ranks 4th among Giants starters – Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, and Jonathan Sanchez all posted ERAs of 3.14 or lower. This is the best rotation in the playoffs. However, it may be worth noting that Bumgarner is a 21 year old kid with a total of 19 career starts.
  • Hitters who rose to the occasion in limited roles. Rookie catcher Buster Posey made the most of his opportunity by batting .305 with 18 homers. Pat Burrell hit his 18 in just 289 at bats. Veteran players Aubrey Huff (26 homers) and Juan Uribe (24 homers) also had strong seasons.


  • 3B Pablo Sandoval saw his number drop dramatically across the board. He hit .330 with 25 homers in 2009, but just .268 with 13 homers this year.
  • An awful lot of players filled roles for the Giants this year. Only 1 outfielder (Andres Torres) got more than 500 at bats. Sure, some of the limited role players succeeded with their opportunities, but will the familiarity with teammates be there at critical junctures in the game?

Player to watch:
Buster Posey. 18 homers and a .305 average from a rookie CATCHER! Heck, he doesn’t even strike out very much. I was high on the kid when he was drafted, and I’m still a fan.

Cincinnati Reds – National League Central Champions (91-71)

How did they get here:
A 19-8 August, combined with an unexpectedly underperforming Cardinals team, allowed the Reds to claim the division title. They didn’t finish the season on a strong note, going 14-16 in their final 30 games.


  • Hitting, top to bottom. SS Orlando Cabrera was the only regular to finish the season with an OPS lower than .758. MVP candidate Joey Votto hit .324 with 37 homers.
  • Chemisty – This group should also have good cohesion, as everyone other than catcher Ramon Hernandez recording at least 494 at bats.


  • Rotation – Only Bronson Arroyo (17) and Johnny Cueto (12) won as many as 9 games. Edinson Volquez served a 50 game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs, and wasn’t great after he returned – he’ll need to step up in the post-season in order to have this rotation match up with the other teams.
  • Closer – Francisco Cordero’s notched 40 saves, but his 3.84 ERA and 11 decisions (6-5) are indications that he wasn’t as dominant as the Reds would have liked.

Player to watch:
22 year old Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman touched 105 mph on the radar gun. He had a bit of an up-and-down season in the minors before his call-up, but there have been more ups than downs. Chappy was used exclusively out of the bullpen late in the season, pitching just 13 1/3 innings.

Atlanta Braves – National League Wild Card (91-71)

How did they get here:
The Braves were in first place by 7 games on July 22, before fading and finishing 7 games behind the Phillies. Had the Padres beaten the Giants on the final day of the season, the Braves would have ended up in a tie for the wild card – but the Giants prevailed and punched playoff tickets for themselves and the Braves. The Braves were 14-16 in their final 30 games.


  • Bullpen – Billy Wagner notched 37 saves and posted a 1.73 ERA. He led a bullpen corps that included 5 guys who pitched in at least 56 games and record an ERA below 3.00.
  • Emotion – this is the final year for Braves manager Bobby Cox. Cox won more than 2500 games during a managerial career that dates back to 1978 – and 2149 of those wins were for the Braves. He took the team to the World Series 5 times, winning one title. He also holds the distinction of being ejected more times than any other manager in history (yes, they track this stuff), earning him the appreciation of his players. The players want to send Cox out on a high note.


  • Hitting – there are some serious holes in this lineup. Chipper Jones, the heart and sole of the team for a decade and half, suffered a season ending injury. OF Nate McClouth was an All Star in 2008, but was the worst hitter on the team this year. Once promising SS Yunel Escobar was traded to the Blue Jays. Only one player, catcher Brian McCann, managed to hit 20 homers (he had 21). There are still some solid hitters in the lineup, but it’s not as scary as what other teams will put on he field.
  • Rotation – Tim Hudson (17-9, 2.83 ERA) and Tommy Hanson (3.33 ERA) should be able to hold their own with the other top guns, but the Braves lack the third elite arm that their opponents are going to be able to throw at them.

Player to watch:
21 year old outfielder Jason Heyward is one of the best prospects in the game and could become a household name with a strong performance.

Who is my choice? I’m going to go with the Phillies. They have the second best rotation of the 4 teams, and their offense is much better than the Giants.

Baseball Playoff Preview (American League)

October 5, 2010

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This is a preview of the American League teams.  You can also see my thoughts on the National League Playoff teams.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays – AL East Champions (96-66)

How they got here:
The young Devil Rays team battled the veteran Yankees for the division title and emerged victorious. They were 42-32 in the second half, but just 15-15 in the last thirty games.


  • Rising superstar David Price went 19-6 with a 2.72 ERA
  • Three starters topped 200 innings pitched
  • Closer Rafael Soriano notched 45 saves and posted a 1.73 ERA


  • Aside from 3B Evan Longoria and OF Carl Crawford, nobody in the lineup really scares you. 1B Carlos Pena had 28 homers, but posted just a .196 batting average. Longoria and Crawford were the only regulars with a batting average higher than .263.
  • The back end of the rotation has some holes.  Actually, once you get beyond Price, there’s a decent drop-off.

Player to watch:
Evan Longoria hit fewer home runs this year, but don’t be fooled – he’s one of the best young players in the game.

New York Yankees – AL Wild Card (95-67)

How they got here:
After a long duel with the upstart Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Yankees lost the division race by a single game and ended up as the wild card. The Yankees were just 39-35 after the All-Star break, including 13-17 in September and October.


  • Five players with 24 or more homers, led by 1B Mark Teixeira
  • 21 game winner CC Sabathia and resurgent veteran Andy Pettitte both posted ERA below 3.50
  • Closer Mariano Rivera remains one of the best in the game


  • Only one regular with a batting average higher than .288
  • Get deeper into the rotation, and there is a significant drop-off in talent level
  • Derek Jeter is winding up the worst season of his career – and might be in significant decline

Player to watch:
2B Robinson Cano has always hit for good average (.309 career average is 12th highest among active MLB players), but has added a power stroke in the last few years, with 25 homer last year and 29 this year. That’s great production from a middle infield position – watch for the Yankees to become Cano’s team in the next few years.

Minnesota Twins – AL Central Champions (94-68)

How they got there: After a lackluster 46-42 record in the first half of the season, the Twins posted a 48-26 record in the second half to pull away in the division.


  • Catcher Joe Mauer had his power numbers fall back to their normal levels, but continued to be the heart and soul of the team. He posted a .327 batting average and has the 3rd highest career batting average of any active player (also .327)
  • DH Jim Thome popped 25 homers in just 340 at bats as he looks toward the end of a Hall of Fame career.

Nobody in the rotation is really a bona fide ace.  Journeyman Carl Pavano led the team with 17 wins – nobody else won more than 14.  Brian Duensing has looked promising (10-3, 2.62), but he has just 22 career starts under his belt.

Player to watch:
It’s seems like OF Delmon Young has been in the league forever, and many fans have already written him off as a bust. However, Young just turned 25 in September and took a significant step forward this year, hitting 21 homers to go along with a .298 batting average. There’s plenty of upside potential for Young, especially if he can take a few more walks.

Texas Rangers – AL West Champions (90-72)

How they got here: A 21-6 record in the month of June pushed them to a big lead, and they were never seriously challenged in the division race. They had the luxury of resting some players down the stretch to get them healthy for the playoffs (notably Josh Hamilton).


  • Middle of the order hitters: OF Josh Hamilton led the league with a .359 batting average and hit 32 homers, DH Vlad Guerrerro resurrected his career with 29 homers, and OF Nelson Cruz contributed 22 homers in just 399 at bats.
  • Rotation: C.J. Wilson finally got an opportunity to start and responded with 15 wins and a 3.35 ERA, while 24 year old Tommy Hunter went 13-4 with a 3.73 ERA. Veteran Colby Lewis overachieved to post a 3.72 ERA. Although mid-season acquisition Cliff Lee didn’t pitch as well as the Rangers hoped down the stretch, he’s still a force to be reckoned with in the playoffs and is the ace of the staff.

There are holes in the lineup. SS Elvis Andrus provided zero homers, and the Rangers also struggled to get offensive production out of the 1B and Catcher spots.

Players to watch:
I can’t settle on just one. OF Josh Hamilton is a great story – a former number one overall pick finally getting past his demons to break out as a superstar. 22 year old closer Neftali Feliz is one of the best young pitchers in the game. Elvis Andrus has struggled offensively, but he’s just barely 22 years old.