Friday, November 13, 2009

20/20 Hindsight---National League Central

  • My predictions in retrospect----National League Central:

Bad decisions + being bitten by a snake = the Cubs of Chicago.

National League Central, Paul's Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Chicago Cubs
  2. Cincinnati Reds
  3. St. Louis Cardinals
  4. Milwaukee Brewers
  5. Houston Astros
  6. Pittsburgh Pirates

National League Central, Actual Order of Finish:

  1. St. Louis Cardinals
  2. Chicago Cubs
  3. Milwaukee Brewers
  4. Cincinnati Reds
  5. Houston Astros
  6. Pittsburgh Pirates

St. Louis Cardinals:

Paul's Predicted Record: 85-77

Actual Record: 91-71

Because of the way the Cardinals management had disintegrated into a battle of warring factions between the stat zombies in the front office and old-school ways of manager Tony La Russa, there was no reason to believe that either side was going to take command. In fact, I felt very strongly that this would be La Russa's last season in St. Louis. So tired he seemed of the way his desperate entreaties for veteran help to try and win immediately were universally ignored, it made sense that he'd use his expiring contract to walk to other (I won't say greener) pastures. To me, that was the Baltimore Orioles.

Instead, the contending Cardinals----faced with the very real prospect of losing La Russa and letting a golden opportunity to win slip from their grasp----eschewed the practice of humoring the manager while doing nothing and looking for cheap alternatives to available star players, acquired Mark DeRosa and Matt Holliday to go for it all in 2009. The biggest prediction I missed on was La Russa's faction winning the inter-organizational war.

No one else that I know of mentioned Adam Wainwright as a Cy Young Award contender; I nailed that one. I had Kyle Lohse taking a step back and he took about five steps back into the anger-inducing talent he's been for most of his career. Given his injury history, it was completely fair to dismiss the possibility that Chris Carpenter would return to any semblance of his Cy Young Award winning form, but he was masterful after missing a chunk of the first half with a strained oblique. Joel Piniero surpassed even my suggestion that he could "return to something close to what he was at his best".

I had no concept that Ryan Franklin would: A) be the closer; and B) be any good at it. But he was reliable for the most part. I thought Rick Ankiel would repeat his numbers and he was injured and terrible. Believing La Russa would get a career-year from the shot Khalil Greene was a total gaffe.

Chicago Cubs:

Paul's Predicted Record: 96-66

Actual Record: 83-78

Good grief.

In many ways, the Cubs were a worse disaster than both the Mets and Indians. At least those clubs have a list of reasons why things went so horribly wrong. The Cubs were a victim of mismanagement; inserting players into improper roles; misjudging personalities and the skills of the manager to handle them. I too was a victim of this in my predictions.

Suffice it to say I had the Cubs going to the World Series and losing to the Yankees.

Suffice it to say that it didn't happen that way.

The whole mess for the Cubs began with the odd acquisitions of Kevin Gregg to be the closer and Milton Bradley to play right field. Never in my wildest dreams did I think anyone would be stupid enough to think that Gregg could be a closer on a team with championship aspirations; because of that, I wrote that Carlos Marmol would take over as closer; instead the Cubs chose to use Marmol as set-up man and Gregg as closer. I understood at the time why they did it----let Marmol do the heavy lifting in the seventh and eighth----but Gregg is so unreliable that he descended into what he's always been as the season wore on and lost the job to Marmol late in the season. I expected Marmol to dominate with his strikeout stuff, but his control disappeared.

I accurately predicted Ryan Dempster's fallback from his career year in 2008, but in fairness, he pitched better than his 11-9 record indicates. It may be time to stop waiting for Carlos Zambrano to put everything together and become the star his potential says he's supposed to be----he is what he is until he's something else; that 's an injury prone head case. No one should take credit for predicting Rich Harden to get hurt.

I thought Geovany Soto would repeat his wonderful work from 2008 and he was horrific in 2009. Aaron Miles, a feisty Tony La Russa favorite from his days in St. Louis, was a disaster for the Cubs. This pales in comparison to the biggest problem that sabotaged the Cubs.

Milton Bradley.

I thought Bradley's well-behaved and statistically excellent season with the Rangers in 2008 was a sign for a new, improved player who would embrace his chance to win a championship in a loyal, baseball-mad town, and playing for a manager, Lou Piniella, who'd know how to defuse any potential explosions.


Well, it sorta made sense at the time.

Bradley needs help. Very serious mental help. He's clubhouse poison and any team with designs on contention shouldn't just stay away from him; they shouldn't just walk away from him; they shouldn't just run away from him; they should choose to jump over the cliff rather than give him the satisfaction of taking them over with him. At least it'd be done of their own volition.

I had a few things right about the Cubs, but you can't dress up the prediction of this team making the World Series and becoming the dysfunctional nightmare they were.

Milwaukee Brewers:

Paul's Predicted Record: 81-81

Actual Record: 80-82

After a stunningly good start----especially considering their shortness in pitching----manager Ken Macha is the latest former Billy Beane manager to look pedestrian when out from under the cocoon the good A's teams created for them. He hasn't endured the ridicule that Art Howe did, but it's been a similar result so far.

Yovani Gallardo showed flashes of developing into the Cy Young Award contender I predicted he'd be. Gallardo will be a top shelf starter, but he's not there yet. Braden Looper has become a surprisingly durable and useful starting pitcher as I predicted. Jeff Suppan was the mediocre (and worse) journeyman that his talent dictates. Trevor Hoffman was far better than I figured he'd be, although I did think he'd get the job done the majority of the time. Hells Bells are still ringing.

I thought the club should try and move Prince Fielder after his 2008 drop off, but he returned to his power numbers from 2007.

I was almost right on the money about the Brewers.

Cincinnati Reds:

Paul's Predicted Record: 85-77

Actual Record: 78-84

The Reds were well on their way to a 95-loss season when an August-September hot streak dressed their record up enough to make it appear better than it should've been.

I don't know what's happened to Aaron Harang, but after picking him for the Cy Young Award in 2008 and watching him lose 17 games, I stuck with him believing he'd rebound to something similar to the innings-eating, strike-throwing winner he was in years past----he went 6-14.

Jonny Cueto was up-and-down; Edinson Volquez got hurt. Both were part of the reason I felt the Reds would contend----pitching. It didn't work out. I'm more of a fan of Bronson Arroyo than the stat zombies because I appreciate what it is he does and don't lament what he can't do. He ate his innings and won his games because that's what he does.

Edwin Encarnacion was obviously never going to fulfill his potential in Cincinnati; I suggested that if the Reds received a good offer for him in a trade, they should jump at it. I do not consider the trade they made for Scott Rolen a "good" offer. Joey Votto was emerging into the star I saw in spurts, but his mental and physical issues prevented him from putting up bigger numbers than the 25 homers he posted.

I was off about the Reds because of their injuries and again overestimating manager Dusty Baker's skills at coaxing his team to contention. This is after believing they'd win the division in 2008. It's a mistake that won't happen for a third year in a row in 2010.

Houston Astros:

Paul's Predicted Record: 75-87

Actual Record: 74-88

The Astros had a lineup that, on paper, should've scored enough runs to keep them respectable enough; they wound up 14th in the league in runs scored. Their pitching staff was shambolic after Roy Oswalt and Wandy Rodriguez, just as I predicted.

Speaking of Rodriguez, I've long been a fan and have repeatedly said that he's a 13-16 game winner waiting to happen and he finally put it together in 2009 winning 14 games; it could easily have been 20.

Brian Moehler took a tumble to the journeyman that he is after a solid 2008; Mike Hampton was an injury-riddled waste of time. Anyone could've gotten that right.

Manager Cecil Cooper was an excellent player and I thought he did a good job in 2008 manipulating a strangely constructed club into contention late in the season. He engendered no respect in the clubhouse in 2009 and was summarily dismissed late in the season.

I was accurate on the Astros.

Pittsburgh Pirates:

Paul's Predicted Record: 64-98

Actual Record: 62-99

Would the Pirates have been any better than the misery they were had they held onto veterans Adam LaRoche, Jack Wilson, Freddy Sanchez and Nate McLouth? Probably a bit better, but not much.

If anything, I was too gentle on the Pirates front office before the season. The moves they made---signing the likes of Eric Hinske and Ramon Vazquez----made no sense. It seemed as if they were doing things to make it look like they were doing things and that gradually extended into the season with the strange trades they made.

I thought GM Neal Huntington and team president Frank Coonelly were clueless 2009 has proven that they are, in fact, less that clueless. They're baseball anarchists who, like the Joker, just do things without benefit of a plan.

It's time for me to give up on Ian Snell. He looked like a winner a few years ago and I still like his stuff, but as Bill Parcells says, "you are what you are"; and Snell is a mess who's now the Mariners problem since the Pirates shipped him off in the Wilson trade.

I've relentlessly ripped Zach Duke after everyone fell in love with him during his blazing start in 2005. In fact, I thought he might get non-tendered or outright dumped by the Pirates----and he had an excellent year despite an 11-16 record; in all fairness, his won-lost total should be reversed.

I was impressed with Ross Ohlendorf when I saw him pitch for the Yankees, thought he had the potential to be a good starter for the Pirates and he began to fulfill that in 2009.

I was definitely not a fan of Andy LaRoche despite the lust the stat zombies show for him, but after a wretched start, he played very well for the Pirates as the season wore on.

I was pretty close to the bullseye with the Pirates.

  • Viewer Mail 11.13.2009:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes:

I love being called brilliant but worshipped? That made my day, week, year, life, afterlife, etc.

Somewhere along the line, I became so inordinately smooth with the ladies that I'm bordering on obsession-level irresistible----and I dunno what it is I've done other than simply being me.

Stat vampiress is a great line. And I'm a Mets fan giving said worship to a Yankee fan!! They're gonna write books about us.

What am I saying? We could write the books ourselves. And you could get yours published!!!

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes:

In a world...

Where Stat Zombies have infiltrated the highest offices of Major League Baseball...

Where feasts of brains cause one after another after another to fall (Joe, where are you?)...

Where life as we know it has been ultimately compromised...

A NEW fiend is unleashed:


...The WAR has JUST BEGUN.

In anticipation of said war, this is as good a time as any to make this announcement: Jeffrey (Red State) Lung has been promoted to Underboss. In a succession of power, that means the silent but deadly Allen (Blue State) Krause will be the new Mid-West Capo running the Lung crew.

Jeff should be prepared to handle the duties of acting boss of the Prince of New York family. Things are getting very hectic and the tightrope I'm currently walking could pay off big or turn into a personal and professional train wreck. I have confidence in my navigation skills, but Jeff can run things given any unforeseen or unexpected occurrences that befall me as I complete construction of the ultimate weapon and sort everything out.

Don't ask.

It's my mess and I'll clean it up. One way or the other.


jeff said...


She-Fan said...

Congratulations to Jeff for being named Underboss. I think.