Assessing My Pre-Season MLB Predictions

Here we are, smack-dab in the middle of August, in the heat of the Major League Baseball playoff hunt. Back on April 3, I made my predictions for which teams would make it to the post-season. With only about a month and a half to go, there are some teams clearly out of the race, some surprising contenders, and some divisions probably (though not statistically) out of reach.

Let’s see how my predictions are holding up, division by division, starting in the other league and other coast so I can end with Red Sox talk.

 

The National League West

Pre-season prediction: the Los Angeles Dodgers, but only by a few wins.

I didn’t have the San Francisco Giants even as a Wild Card, and I’m somewhat regretting that prediction. After all, it’s an even year to follow their World Series wins in 2010, 2012, and 2014. The Giants’ off-season acquisition of Johnny Cueto has made a difference, and the Dodgers are doing well enough with the loss of Zack Grienke. As of this morning, the Giants are leading the Dodgers by half a game, and I think this race is going to go all the way to wire and end with both teams making the playoffs. This is one of only two divisions with a really tight race, and whichever team doesn’t win the division will end up being the first NL Wild Card.

 

The National League Central

Pre-season prediction: the Chicago Cubs win the division, and the St. Louis Cardinals take the second Wild Card.

As of this morning, this is one division that my prediction is correct…sort of. The Cubs are doing legendary things this year and only got stronger with the addition of Aroldis Chapman. They’ve got the best record (73-43) in all of baseball and are the only team winning more than 60% of their games (win pct: .629). With a 12-game lead, the largest lead in all of baseball, they should breeze into the playoffs. As for the Cardinals, the loss of John Lackey to the rival Cubs is one factor in the gap between the teams. The Cardinals aren’t definite in the playoffs because if the season ended today, they’d be tied with another team (The Marlins?) for that second Wild Card spot.

 

The National League East

Pre-season prediction: the New York Mets win it handily, but the Washington Nationals get the first Wild Card spot.

I really thought that the NL-Pennant-winning Mets would repeat in the division, but they’re currently at .500 and would have to climb over three teams for a Wild Card spot. I predicted Washington to win the 2015 World Series, but they had a late-season collapse and missed the playoffs completely. Then they stole Daniel Murphy from the Mets, got solid seasons from their great pitching staff, and recently released Jonathan Papelbon (who hasn’t helped them recently, but could help the Sox). With a current 8.5-game lead, they should win the division. But the surprise is the Miami Marlins, tied with the Cardinals for the second Wild Card spot. Every other time the Marlins made the playoffs (1997 & 2003), both times as the NL Wild Card, they won the World Series. Exceeding expectations, these fish might not get caught.

 

The American League West

Pre-season prediction: the Houston Astros take it.

I really thought that the Astros were going to improve upon their unexpected and amazing season last year, but I guess I forgot that in the end, the Texas Rangers took the division from them. The Rangers are doing that magic again this year, currently with the best record in the American League and a 5.5-game lead in the AL West. They’re playing wonderfully, and if they made it to their third World Series this decade, I wouldn’t be surprised. As for the Astros, they’d have to climb over a few teams to snag a Wild Card, including their in-division rival Seattle Mariners, who are having a surprisingly good season.

 

The American League Central

Pre-season prediction: the Kansas City Royals win the division, and the Cleveland Indians get the second Wild Card spot.

“I’m calling this one a lock before the season even begins,” said me on April 3. Yeah, but no. The Royals aren’t making the playoffs this October. At two games under .500, they’re ten games out of the division lead and have too many strong teams to climb over for the Wild Card. Terry Francona’s Cleveland Indians are the team to beat, holding the second-best record in the American League, so I was correct that they’d be in playoff contention. The Detroit Tigers, with a resurging Justin Verlander, are only a few games outside the Wild Card hunt, and at five games behind the Indians, aren’t completely out of it.

 

The American League East

Pre-season prediction: the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox both make the playoffs, with Boston winning the division by a game or two.

This is the tightest division race in all of baseball right now, with my Red Sox one game behind the Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles. We’ve got three teams in full contention, and if the season ended today, they’d all be in the playoffs. The Sox really could be leading this division by at least four or five games due to some inconsistent play. Sure, David Ortiz is having an offensive year like no other 40-year-old, Hanley Ramirez is hitting well and adjusting well to first base, both Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Boegarts had 20+-game hit streaks, and Mookie Betts should be in contention for the AL MVP. But the pitching hasn’t been where it should be given the off-season addition of David Price. The pitching hero of the season is Rick Porcello with his 16-3 record. Imagine where the team would be if Price also had a record like that? Baltimore and Toronto would be battling for top Wild Card. This division is too close to call, especially with all the remaining intra-divisional games between these teams. This is where it’s exciting.

 

World Series Winner

Pre-season prediction: the Chicago Cubs

The movie Back to the Future II had them winning it all (finally) last year. I think they have an even better chance this year. Don’t get me wrong, I want to see another Red Sox World Series win, but as a fan who knows what (part of) that drought between 1918 & 2004 felt like, I empathize with Cubs fans waiting since 1908. Side notes: Indians fans have been waiting since 1948, and Rangers fans since the team’s move to Texas in 1971 and their inception in Washington in 1961. I’ll be back in early October where I rank the ten playoff teams.

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