Saturday, April 03, 2010

Opening Day Commentary

It's become a tradition for me to publish a commentary just before opening day each year and this season will be no exception.  To varying degrees, much of the material I publish throughout the year in this space is either rooted in some sort of scientific method, whether it be completely unproven theories (such as our recently-discussed Asymmetrical Auction Strategy talked about this week) or more well-established methods, like our constantly revised forecasting process for individual player forecasts.

Today's piece is the exception.

In other words, what we're about to offer today isn't a scientific projection.  While I can't deny that my sense of each team is certainly influenced by the individual player projections we publish, we've often reminded readers that our focus on the individual forecasts does not enable the reader to add up the sum of the parts to make accurate estimates of how a team will do.  For example, we haven't forecasted every single at bat or inning for each team and there is an unfortunate but deliberate gap between how many innings a team will actually get and how many are projected in the individual forecasts.  This gap represents the complete unknown, players who are starting the season at Double-A and who get added to the 40-man roster in May and called up in July when three pitchers go down with an injury the same week.  For some teams, like Kansas City, this gap is much wider than, say, the one you'd find for the Yankees.

So, as I say every year, there's no need to send me an email to prove me wrong here as I'll go ahead and say that these are best guesses, my very rough approximation of how I see each of the division races shaping up.  We have no doubt that many readers are capable of forecasting the races much more accurately than I could ever pretend to do.  I even contemplated discontinuing this tradition a few years ago until readers told me that they can accept the warnings and the crudeness of the whole operation as if we were having a casual discussion and I was just openly saying how I thought each pennant race might go.  So, if you're still reading and are prepared to tolerate that, here's my take on the 2010 season:

American League East

1. Boston
2. New York (projected Wild Card team)
3. Tampa Bay
4. Toronto
5. Baltimore

I think both Boston and New York have incredibly good teams and with that said, the only surprise in this division will be ranking Toronto ahead of Baltimore.  No, it's not because I root for the Blue Jays and this ranking is almost a coin toss between the two.  I think Baltimore's pitching is going to be disastrous this year, among the worst in the majors.  As for the top of the division, I believe the Red Sox have put together the best run production machine in the majors and their pitching is comparable to the Yankees.  Most readers know that I have usually picked the Yankees in recent years but this year is an exception.

American League Central

1. Chicago
2. Minnesota
3. Cleveland
4. Kansas City
5. Detroit

Picking Detroit last here will not be popular with my friends in Michigan and this isn't so much a forecast to disastrous results as much as it is as I think the Royals are about to improve, especially on the pitching side, edging out Detroit.  I used Kansas City as an example in the introduction about the great unknown, those players we can't forecast who get called up later in the year when players go down and that will very much be a factor here.  I'm expecting Detroit's rotation to greatly disappoint compared to widely-held expectations.

American League West

1. Texas
2. Los Angeles
3. Oakland
4. Seattle

Yes, I considered Seattle's pitching and defense and I'm not picking them last to be a contrarian.  I think they're going to have great difficulty scoring runs and will be among the lowest-scoring teams in the majors.  I believe this is only the second time ever that I have picked Texas to win the division but it was very close and I could see a battle between the Rangers and Angels going right down to the final days of the season.

National League East

1. Philadelphia
2. Atlanta
3. Florida
4. New York
5. Washington

The gap between Atlanta and Florida is quite wide here and the Phillies remain the class of the league.  In fact, they are arguably an even better team than last year.

National League Central

1. St. Louis
2. Chicago
3. Milwaukee
4. Cincinnati
5. Houston
6. Pittsburgh

I won't be surprised it the Cardinals and Cubs are fighting it out in this division until late in the season with Milwaukee looking in from a slight distance.  I doubt the projected order in the bottom half here will be perceived as even remotely contentious.

National League West

1. Arizona
2. Colorado (projected Wild Card team)
3. San Francisco
4. Los Angeles
5. San Diego

If I'm right about this one, it will be because Arizona delivers what I think is going to be a surprisingly good offense and at least average pitching.  The Dodgers slide well back here because, like with the Mariners in the American League, I don't believe they have the run production ability to match the pitching staff and while there are unquestionably a few stars here, it's the overall offensive output that I'm questioning.


In short, I'm projecting disappointing seasons from the Tigers, Mariners and Dodgers with Arizona being the surprisingly good team of the 2010 season.  I never try to guess award winners but if we're looking at how the post-season shapes up, I expect it to be a Boston - Philadelphia World Series with Boston emerging as the best team of 2010, the Yankees (projected Wild Card winners in the AL) second and Philadelphia third.

I wish everyone an enjoyable opening day and, for those who are celebrating it this weekend, a Happy Easter. - DL