Friday, April 3, 2009

Felger, Bob and Shaughny Archives Part 4

Here's a throwback to this point in 2008, when MLB predictions were being made. I decided to look at Nick Cafardo's visions and see where I differed from him. In the end, we were about 50-50 on what we disagreed on.


Nick Cafardo is one of the better sports writers in New England, especially when it comes to baseball. Maybe I think that because I’m “biased” and I often agree with him. If that’s the case you make against me, then give up, because I’m about to refute pretty much half of his 2008 season predictions. This time, I’m focusing not on the quality of the writing, but rather the quality of the predictions. I’m not going to say what I agree with him on, because that’s a lot. However, I do greatly disagree with a few major things.

Whack predictions

-Blue Jays winning the AL East


The Blue Jays have to play 38 games against the Red Sox and Yankees this year, which doesn’t seem to be much of a problem for them. However, B.J. Ryan will be out for a while, so the bullpen and starters will be taxed that little extra bit. With the Red Sox lineup full of clutch hitters (David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez are only the tip of the iceberg), the majority of the lineup will be tough outs late in games, as will the Yankees’, which is constantly at the top of the league in offense. The Blue Jays have a great starting rotation, especially if A.J. Burnett stays healthy, and their bullpen is good as well. However, their offense is a big question. Will Frank Thomas be able to put up the same numbers again, and will Vernon Wells have a year like 2006 or 2007? The Blue Jays could very well be the wild card team in the AL with all the talent they have, but they won’t leapfrog the Yankees AND the Red Sox in the standings this year.

Tigers winning the AL Central


The Indians needed a three game losing streak to avoid a World Series berth last year. They were up three games to one on the eventual champions, and they had two games remaining from their best two pitchers, C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona. Granted both of those pitchers collapsed in the playoffs, it doesn’t mean it will happen again. They have that experience on their record now, and more importantly, Eric Wedge will know better than to use them that much in the regular season. Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner, perhaps the two best hitters in the Indians lineup BOTH had off years, and there are many reasons to believe at least one of them will bounce back very strong. (I personally think they both will.) The Tigers have one of the best lineups in recent memory, but remember that Gary Sheffield and Jose Guillen are a year older, and that goes without mentioning Pudge Rodriguez, who also happens to be a catcher, where there is more deterioration year to year than any other position. Magglio Ordonez won’t necessarily duplicate his MVP-caliber year, either. His batting average last yer was a huge outlier in his career stats. We haven’t even gotten to the pitching yet and there are already plenty of questions. For starters (literally), the Tigers could be in trouble in the back end of their rotation. Will Kenny Rogers put up another good season given his age? Will Jeremy Bonderman ever live up to his potential? There’s no more Andrew Miller to look forward to in the next couple years because of the Miguel Cabrera trade, and does the salary dump from that move, Dontrelle Willis really impress anybody, when he’s now in an infinitely better hitters’ league? How about the bullpen, where Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney, their two best relievers, are out indefinitely? Todd Jones’ lucky years have to come to an end eventually. His underlying stats are begging for a year of correction. Yes, the Tigers will threaten the Indians for the AL Central title, but they will not get it. They don’t have the depth to be the best of the central five. They can certainly make the wild card and make some noise in the playoffs, especially if Zumaya comes back strong and the pitching holds up all year, but those are some pretty big ifs.

Dodgers winning the NL West

Here’s why: the two teams in the 2007 NLCS, who are both in their division, and have better teams. The Dodgers have a manager that used to be among the game’s finest, but he has gone considerably downhill since his overuse of his bullpen in the 2004 ALCS. He is also known for playing veterans over high-potential rookies, even when the veterans aren’t that good. He may have been improving with that over the last couple years, but he hasn’t shown that is a permanent change. The Dodgers’ hitting is abysmal, and it’s highly unlikely that ALL of the Dodgers young talent will pan out in order to get the offense going. It’s going to be tough for Andruw Jones to have a big comeback year hitting in that ballpark, and his fielding is considerably worse than it used to be. That could be a problem in the spacious Chavez Ravine. Right now, the Dodgers don’t have a legitimate third baseman for this year. As much as it pains me to say it, Nomar Garciaparra (my favorite player), who is currently injured anyway, is not good enough to provide a spark in this Dodgers lineup anymore.

Another mistake in the NL West standings: the Padres in front of the Rockies.

The Rockies’ hitting and fielding is better than the Padres and Dodgers pitching, and their pitching is good enough to keep them around the second spot in the division. They went on the best hot streak since the Athletics won 20+ games in a row a few years back, and every one of their blossoming young players is a year older. They did make the World Series after all, and they were in a win or else situation for the majority of September. Give the division title to the Diamondbacks, who had the best record in one-run games last year and added 2007 AL Cy Young Candidate Dan Haren to an already good rotation. Throw in 25 starts from Randy Johnson in (who is looking great this spring), and that’s a formula to seriously challenge the Mets for the NL crown.

Cafardo says about the Rockies: their pitching depth was an issue, and not much was done in the offseason to fix that. They made two decent moves in signing Mike Redman and Kip Wells, plus the pitching was not necessarily the problem for them. None of their players were in a game for 11 days, which meant nobody was fresh and ready to play, as much as they may have thought they were. The pitching had one bad game, but they also held the Red Sox to four runs at Coors Field in the final game, which was an accomplishment given the explosiveness they had shown since game five of the ALCS.

So there you have it. I think similarly to Mr. Cafardo in the rest of his predictions, although I have a different World Series winner (not Detroit). There’s nothing wrong with the format or grammatical stuff with the article, but there is certainly some content I feel strongly against. I can't give this article a grade on its content yet, because the season is just starting. If Nick Cafardo ends up being right, I may have to eat my words. On the other hand, I could be right. I'll have to re-assess this in October.

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