Another year in the books. The local nine have protected their traditional (3 out of 4) last place position, though it took losing 4 in a row at the end of the year. Still - a richly deserved last place most of the year. I may have picked the Crimson Hose to finish first, but it was not the most optimistic prediction - their complete collapse in the early months was surprising only in that they did it by not hitting a lick. That was surprising (the horrible pitching was not) - and didn't last. They shed the old timers and let the kids play and started winning; they brought up young pitchers and seemed to straighten out a couple of their awful starters, and got a whole lot better - coming almost all the way back to .500 before the dip at the end. They purged the front office that built those 3 out of 4 last place teams. It bodes well for the future, though maybe not well enough to be too excited - yet. They have no bullpen; they still have a bunch of #3 starters (if they are lucky) and some kids who could be better than that. They are still paying Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval a lot of money to eat and sulk and hit .250. So - we shall see. But hope springs eternal, and there are reasons to hope here. They have some fine young players - Betts and Bogaerts are very good now, the rest of the opitfield showed real ssigns, Swihart and Vazquez are promising young catchers. They have some solid old timers (Ortiz and Pedroia when he's on the field), good parts (Brock Holt and maybe Travis Shaw.) They have a couple very nice looking young starters who showed stuff in the majors, in Rodriguez and Owens. Porcello didn't look half bad once he got healthy. Miley and Kelly showed the occasional sign. So - they probably need a #1 starter, and they need a lot of bullpen help - and they need to either lose Hanley and Panda or have them come back - which is not impossible - vets tend to revert to the mean, so they are quite capable of getting better... so - a fun offseason is in store, and then we can try again.
For now though - well - all right. So how bad did I do guessing? Sox? nope. The Blue Jays did indeed slug their way to some wins, then added David Price and became world beaters. I'll take it. I was deeply wrong about the Yankees, to my sorrow. (Sorry Sam.) I was completely wrong about the Central - lord. Royals played very well this year - though I'm still not sure how they got what they did from their starters. Bullpens help, of course. And out west - probably should just delete those predictions - Sox, Tigers and Seattle? One of those teams did not finish last! Actually - looking at the records of those teams - notice how bunched the AL was this year. Oakland'
s the only team to lose 90 games - Toronto and KC the only ones to win 90... Maybe I have an excuse there. I had the Texas teams 4 and 5 instead of 1 and 2 - but basically, they got the breaks and performed -t he Houston pitching was better sooner than they expected - I'm certainly glad to see them win.
Predictions? I certainly hope the Astros beat the Yankees - Keuchel has been fantastic all year, so there is hope. Tanaka has also been good - it's a good matchup. Then? Blue Jays beat the wld card team - I think that's safe. KC will probably win the other series, but Texas has Hamels, who has been there before - they've been very hot down the stretch as well - they were outscored through the beginning of September, but turned that around. KC has the team and the pen, but are their starters good enough? In the end - the winner there should fall to the Jays - they look like an awful good team. Hammering the ball, running out 3 or 4 first rate starters - if form holds, they are the real deal.
And NL? So I thought Washington was the easiest pick int he majors back in April? they should have been. That was without Bryce Harper turning into Mike Trout, and Max Scherzer throwing 162 consecutive no-hitters. Let us use the work Choke. I thought the Mets were close to respectability - like Houston, their starters got better a little faster than expected - and Cespedes reminded them how to hit. They did well. (Look at all the teams who finished with a rush - Blue Jays, Texas, NY - all came on like gang-busters in the second half.) In the Central - I got those right! I underestimated the Cubs - but about the only thing I got right this year was assuming SL and Pittsburgh would pick up where they left off. And the Cubs just did what everyone else expected. Out west? Bought the San Diego hype - sorry. But the Dodgers did what they were supposed to do.
Playoffs? I can't pick between the Pirates and Cubs - Cole and Arrieta - it's a strange case: the 2nd and 3rd best teams in baseball playing a one game playoff to face - the best team in baseball - all in the same division! Yeah. Pirates and Cubs are the teams I want to see come out of the NL - but one will be gone day one. Dodgers and Mets? no idea, though the Dodgers have been excellent chokers in recent years. Cards vs wild card? Again - best two teams left in the playoffs, playing the short series. Sad. Whoever wins it would seem like the favorites,but it might be the Cubs... I;m not going out on that limb.
I know what I want: Blue Jays beating the Pirates. Cubs if they must. It's got a pretty good chance, right? Meanwhile, there are some very interesting matchups. I'm sure the TV guys are salivating over a subway series. Me - that would be the most horrible thing imaginable - unless the Mets win. That - ah. I am, after all, a yankee hater second... NY/LA would go over well. I imagine a Missouri series would have its fans - and would be a showcase for the joys of solid, fundamental baseball - those two teams do play a good game. At the other extreme - Cubs vs Houston might be a true sign of the apocalypse - and I suspect if Pittsburg and Houston get there, Fox execs will be on suicide watch. Anyway - go Toronto!
And finally - I might as well offer up my season awards:
MVP - AL: Mike Trout was as good as ever - I suspect Josh Donaldson will win it, having better counting stats and playing on a better team. That would not be unfair: I think I would vote for him myself.
NL: If anyone votes for anyone other than Harper at the top, they should lose their credentials. (I picked Standon before the season - I might have been right, if he had gotten through the year unscathed. Though probably not: Harper was immense.)
CY Young: AL - the usual suspects pitched well, but Price and Keuchel put some separation up - I would vote for Keuchel, and he will probably win. He has the most wins - he has the best WAR - he pitched his team to the post-season. He deserves it.
NL: There's a pretty nice collection of candidates there - though wins and all the other numbers narrow it down to Greinke vs. Arrieta. (The supporting numbers keep Kershaw and Scherzer and de Grom in the hunt - but they aren't better than the guys with wins this year, so let the wins separate them.) If Arrieta wins, it won't be a travesty. If Greinke wins, it will be well deserved. If I had a vote - crap: Greinke, I guess. Let his battingbe the tie breaker - he hit 2 home runs; he slugged .343 - better than 2 of the Royals' regular starting lineup; 2 points behind Jacoby Ellsbury! It's worth half a run above replacement! Go Zach!