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Thursday, April 01, 2004

 
And now, baseball blogging!:

Baseball isn’t the biggest sport down under. In fact, when I was over in New Zealand, they were very excited because their men’s SOFTBALL team had won a world championship (although I was polite about it; apparently one of our girls was in a bar and the softball was on, and made an extravagant point about how only girls play softball in America. I wasn’t about to harp on that). But at least the season starts over here in the Far East, and maybe ESPN here will carry the Yankees-D’Rays tilts (At the time in which I’m writing this, it’s about 10 minutes away). And in the interest of doing some baseball blogging to keep my name on Aaron’s blogroll, here’s some predictions for the 2004 MLB season.

Note: Do the math, all the teams should add up to even, although not among the leagues, because of interleague play. By my calculations, I’m giving the AL a 12 game edge in interleague play, which seems reasonable. *=Wild Card

NL EAST: Atlanta 98-64, Philadelphia 88-74, Florida 84-78, Montreal 75-87, New York Mets 73-89.
Analysis: I’ll be honest, maybe giving Atlanta a 5 game edge on the Phillies is a bit much. But I don’t trust Philly. They’ve been the trendy pick to win the division three years running, and I refuse to pick against Atlanta until they lose the division. Florida’s in the mix, with a little regression to the mean, but I can easily see them finishing second and even winning the wild card. Montreal’s going to have another season which will leave them hanging around longer than anyone expects. The Mets will be better, but they’re still flawed enough that they’ll probably finish last again, although if they finished 4th, I wouldn’t be shocked. Third, on the other hand, would take a bit of luck.

NL CENTRAL: Houston 95-67, Chicago Cubs 89-73, St. Louis 87-75, Cincinnati 70-92, Milwaukee 61-101, Pittsburgh 57-105.
Analysis: Houston is probably my best pick to win this division, although Chicago and St. Louis both have a decent shot. I’m not enamored by Houston, as they’re a bit on the old side at a lot of positions, but I don’t like the way Dusty Baker kills his ace pitchers (and the Prior situation makes me more wary of them), and St. Louis’s pitching isn’t that deep, and they’re pretty injury-prone. Still the top three could finish in any order, as could the bottom three. Cincinnati may win 70 games on the bats of Adam Dunn and Austin Kearns alone, and I’ll admit that this prediction may be a bit on the high side. Milwaukee is looking better, especially with the kids Fielder and Weeks coming up soon, but they’ll still lose 100 because they are tainted with the curse of Selig. Pittsburgh is just awful, and 57 might even be a high prediction. I’ve got them slated for the worst record in the majors.

NL WEST: San Diego 92-70, *Los Angeles 90-72, San Francisco 82-80, Arizona 79-83, Colorado 70-92.
Analysis: Yes, I’m doing the trendy sabermetric thing in picking the Padres. Mainly because I don’t like anyone else in this division, and in the end, it might be a worse division, especially at the top, than the AL Central. The Padres have a good offense, and the young pitching might pull a Marlins and be spectacular; if they’re just average, that should be enough to win this division. Of course, if the Dodgers show any signs of hitting, they could pull out the division, as it is I think they’ll win a wacky wild card race (Note: 4 teams within 3 games of each other). San Francisco will regress, although Bonds and Schmidt will probably keep them above .500 and in the playoff chase. Arizona’s going to regress even further, and even with some of their stars, they probably need to be in rebuilding mode. Colorado will be Colorado, awesome at home, dead on the road.

AL EAST: New York Yankees 104-58, *Boston 100-62, Toronto 90-72, Baltimore 80-82, Tampa Bay 68-94.
Analysis: What, like I’m going to pick against the Yankees? New York and Boston are the two best teams in the majors, they will fight each other like dogs, and then beat up on Tampa a lot. They’ll both make the playoffs pretty handily (as you’ll see, Boston’s closest competition for the wild card in these predictions? Toronto!) Speaking of Toronto, they’re going to wish they were in another division, by, oh say, June. They will be pests for the Yankees and Red Sox. Baltimore will improve, but they have no pitching, and will just miss .500. Tampa will play valiantly, Aubrey Huff will continue to be overrated, and the Rays will threaten, but just miss, Lou’s goal of 70 wins.

AL CENTRAL: Kansas City 84-78, Minnesota 83-79, Cleveland 80-82, Chicago White Sox 74-88, Detroit 58-104.
Analysis: Kansas City should win this division if they don’t trade Carlos Beltran, even if all their pitchers get hurt again. Minnesota should win this division if they maybe flipped one or six of their minor league, major league ready outfielders for someone who can play middle infield and hit. Cleveland won’t win the division, but they’ll threaten if the kids like Victor Martinez, Travis Hafner, and Billy Traber make progress, and if Milton Bradley plays as well as he can. The White Sox should be better than this prediction, but I don’t trust the pitching past Buerhle (you heard it here first, Loaiza will win no more than 10, with an ERA over 4.50), and the hitting is streaky and there are huge holes in the lineup. Detroit should improve by 15 games, which will make them just regular bad instead of really really really horrible (Bill Walton voice).

AL WEST: Oakland 96-66, Anaheim 86-66, Seattle 72-90, Texas 70-92.
Analysis: Oakland should have no problems winning this division. Anaheim’s improved, but not that much, Seattle’s going to stink, and Texas is going to continue to stink. And they have a ridiculously good rotation. Vladimir Guerrero will help Anaheim, but not as much as some people think, since they’ll lose a lot moving Darin Erstad to first base. Seattle has decimated itself in the offseason, the pitching stinks outside of Jamie Moyer, who can’t hold it together forever, and given their makeup, they may be relying a lot on Quinton McCracken. The more at-bats he gets, the worse Seattle gets. Give him 500, and Texas might finish third. I’m banking that Texas won’t, but for once, they’ll make a face of it.

Wild Card Round: Atlanta over Los Angeles in 4, San Diego over Houston in 5, Oakland over Boston in 3, Yankees over Kansas City in 4.
Divisional Round: Atlanta over San Diego in 6, Yankees over Oakland in 7.
World Series: Yankees over Braves in 6.

Analysis: Yes, I know, Yankees-Braves, yawn. I don’t really want to pick against the Yankees (although if I had to, it would be for Oakland. I will predict a Boston victory in the World Series after it happens). I could have picked San Diego, but I’m not that bold (Then again, remember Yankees-Padres in ’98? Yawn). Odds are that someone I have pegged between 75 and 90 wins will make and/or win the World Series (for the record, and these officially are my “sleeper teams”: Montreal, Arizona, Cleveland, San Francisco, Minnesota, Kansas City, Florida, Anaheim, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Chicago Cubs, Toronto), but I’m going with the safe route (like I always do). It tends to work more often than not.

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