Wednesday, April 10, 2019

2019 Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions + a look back at Regular Season Predictions that went wrong

In another installment of this blog's "cheap content" machine, here we'll look back on my regular season predictions for the last NHL season that went terribly, while also giving out my sure to be wrong predictions for the playoffs. Some content is better than none.

Division Winners (predicted): PIT, TB, NSH, SJ
Division Winners (actual): WSH, TB, NSH, CGY

Not too bad. Pittsburgh finished third in the Metro and San Jose finished second in the Pacific, and would have won the division if Martin Jones could have stopped a beach ball.

East Playoff Teams (predicted): TB, TOR, BOS, FLA, PIT, WSH, PHI, CBJ
East Playoff Teams (actual): TB, BOS, TOR, CBJ, WSH, NYI, PIT, CAR

Overrating the Panthers and Flyers might be a sad new trend I've started that I will be sure to end in October. Both teams should have been far better than they were, but a gross combination of bad coaching and bad goaltending sunk them. I had Carolina as team nine in the East, and they ended up being team seven, and I thought the Islanders would be one step removed from the Senators in the East's basement, and they had the fifth best record. Barry Trotz is a wizard.

West Playoff Teams (predicted): NSH, WPG, STL, DAL, SJ, VGK, LA, CGY
West Playoff Teams (actual): NSH, WPG, STL, DAL, CGY, SJ, VGK, COL

Those LA Kings..., I deserve no credit for predicting the Central as it happened because it didn't sort itself out until the last day of the season, and I looked pretty dumb in January when the Blues were terrible. No one saw the Flames being this good, although I did have them sneaking into the postseason.

Awards (prediction then comments):
Hart: Connor McDavid (he could win it every year, but Nikita Kucherov is running away with this)
Art Ross: McDavid (again, Kuch ran away with this)
Rocket Richard: Patrik Laine (he has goalless streaks that make your mind go numb. Also Ovi is immortal).
Norris: Erik Karlsson (spent too much time injured, although over a full season he would have been in the race. Mark Giordano has won this)
Calder: Andrei Svechnikov (good, but not great season. Elias Pettersson has it locked up)
Jack Adams: Jim Montgomery (he did a good job, but not "best NHL team in a quarter century" or "reviving the Islanders from the scrap heap" good.)
First Coach Fired: Todd McLellan (4th of 4 fired in November. Congrats to John Stevens!)

Preseason Conference and Stanley Cup Finals Picks:

All could happen, but they don't look as likely now.

Postseason Predictions:

TB over CBJ in 5
BOS over TOR in 7
WSH over CAR in 6
PIT over NYI in 6

TB over BOS in 6
WSH over PIT in 7

TB over WSH in 6

NSH over DAL in 7
STL over WPG in 6
CGY over COL in 5
VGK over SJ in 7

STL over NSH in 6
VGK over CGY in 6

VGK over STL in 6

2019 Stanley Cup Final:
TB over VGK in 6

Conn Smythe: Nikita Kucherov

Pretty chalky. Enjoy the playoffs!

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

2019 MLB Season Predictions

I do apologize for those of you who remember when this blog had fleshed out ideas for columns beyond making jokes about Mike Milbury and prediction pieces to populate the blog with cheap content. Sometimes, the sports media world can chew up your will more than you expect. But for now, here comes another prediction piece, this one for the upcoming MLB season!

After an offseason of drama because of "collusion", big name free agents being frozen out from signing until the start of spring training and long features on how minor leagues can't make minimum wage because of somewhat shady lobbying, the baseball itself can finally begin. Even though baseball's system has created more parity in recent years, the sport has never felt more top heavy with just as many teams openly tanking and tearing down as there are trying to win at the highest level. Such intrigue leads more to talk about the next CBA rather than who wins the World Series, but with baseball to be played, there are predictions to come. And here they are:

NL East:
1. Philadelphia
2. Washington
3. Atlanta
4. New York Mets
5. Miami

The Phillies said openly that they were basically going to spend funny money, and they did. They added not just Bryce Harper, but J.T Realmuto, Jean Segura, Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson. While their rotation and bullpen are not deep, and Gabe Kapler hasn't exactly endeared himself to Phillies fans yet, sometimes talent may just win out in the end. Washington has an even deeper rotation now that Patrick Corbin is added to the mix, and having super prospect Victor Robles take up some of the Bryce Harper airspace will only help the Nats transition away from him. Atlanta snuck up to win an open division last year, but it feels like the other two teams ahead of them took their shine a little bit, though they will be competitive. It seems as if the Mets picked the wrong time to contend as the rest of the NL East loaded up, but if they can stay healthy and get offense from some unlikely sources, they can be a playoff team. And the Marlins will be good one day, so let's celebrate how awesome their new look is so we can say something nice about them in the present.

AL East:
1. New York Yankees
2. Boston
3. Tampa Bay
4. Toronto
5. Baltimore

Everything last year seemed to go perfectly for the Red Sox, from Mookie Betts to J.D Martinez, Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel. Repeating all of those tricks again seems hard, especially if there are more questions at the back end of the rotation and bullpen that are still unanswered. For that, and since the Yankees made a deep bullpen even deeper, and they still have that lineup. It seems like it's their time. For how much everyone hates "the Opener", it certainly worked for the Rays, and for all of their limitations, they manage to find great talent and cultivate it well. It's certainly not enough in the AL East, but perhaps it's enough for a Wild Card. In Toronto, we're all waiting to see Vlad Guerrero Jr., and the sooner the better. And in Baltimore, what's the baseball equivalent of tanking for Tua?

NL Central:
1. St. Louis
2. Chicago Cubs
3. Milwaukee
4. Cincinnati
5. Pittsburgh

Adding Paul Goldschmidt is a big deal for the Cardinals, who needed that extra pop in the lineup last year and didn't get it. They have plenty of young pitching, and it's certainly provided more upside for the predictions machines than a certain rival, who those predictions weren't exactly bullish on. While St. Louis made some upgrades, the Cubs basically stood pat, and that was a team last year who seemed a bit long in the tooth, particularly on the mound. That difference is going to be enough to swing the division. Milwaukee took such a great step forward last year and it couldn't close the deal in Game 7 against LA, and it remains to be seen how long that window for them will stay open. It's good to see a team like the Reds spending and trying to compete even when the in-vogue logic would tell them not too, but losing Scooter Gennett for nearly three months hurts. And for the Pirates, balling on a budget is pretty dang hard to do.

AL Central:
1. Cleveland
2. Minnesota
3. Chicago White Sox
4. Kansas City
5. Detroit

Once again, the AL Central seems to be about the Indians and everyone else, and the Indians are starting to falter. They're not as deep as they've been, and Francisco Lindor is already fighting major injury problems. The only issue is that there's no one else in the AL Central that can really touch them, with Minnesota being the closest. Do they have enough with some of their additions to really push the Indians, or is it token competition? The White Sox went big game hunting this offseason, didn't get anyone, and are handing out mega-contracts to players who haven't played a major league game yet. At some point, all their talent has to come good, right? Kansas City is a long way away from the team that won the World Series, and the Tigers are trying to rebuild the old fashioned way, which maybe is the new market inefficiency if you squint hard enough.

NL West:
1. Los Angeles
2. Colorado
3. San Diego
4. Arizona
5. San Francisco

The Dodgers have been left at the altar the last two years in the World Series, and they still don't seem to be a team that got that final piece of the puzzle. Clayton Kershaw not being healthy to start the year doesn't help, but they were awful early in 2018 and that didn't seem to matter. Are the Dodgers going to be able to pitch well enough to win at the highest level? The Rockies were dispatched easily from the playoffs because their highly paid bullpen collapsed, but after re-upping MVP candidate Nolan Arenado, there's a good feeling in Denver. The NL Wild Card race is crowded, but that slight uptick in bullpen performance could get them there. San Diego signed Manny Machado, and brought up a top prospect for an opening day assignment. That will make them interesting, but not necessarily a contender. Arizona wanted to contend, saw how difficult it will be, and decided to tear it all down again. And the Giants would be a World Series contender if this was 2012.

AL West:
1. Houston
2. LA Angels
3. Oakland
4. Seattle 
5. Texas

It's all about the Astros here again, but now that some of their World Series building blocks are elsewhere, how high is the ceiling? They're certainly good enough to win the division, but the Red Sox handed it to them in the ALCS last year. Speaking of ceilings, will the Angels finally be good with Mike Trout in his prime putting up Mickey Mantle like numbers? They should be, but it's still an open question. After last year's impressive run to the Wild Card with seemingly so little, especially in the rotation, one wonders if the A's can hold it together for one more run. Seattle, like Arizona, saw that contending would be hard so they sold off just about everyone and are trying to rebuild from the ground up, though they have a little bit more in the stable than other rebuilding teams. The Rangers are going to open up a new ballpark with a roof in 2020, that's exciting. 

NL Playoff Teams: 1. LAD 2. PHI 3. STL 4. WSH 5. CHC
AL Playoff Teams: 1. NYY 2. HOU 3. CLE 4. BOS 5. LAA

NL Playoffs:

Wild Card: Cubs over Nationals
NLDS: Dodgers over Cubs in 4, Cardinals over Phillies in 5
NLCS: Dodgers over Cardinals in 7

AL Playoffs:

Wild Card: Red Sox over Angels
ALDS: Yankees over Red Sox in 5, Astros over Indians in 3
ALCS: Yankees over Astros in 6

2019 World Series: Yankees over Dodgers in 5

NL MVP: Paul Goldschmidt
AL MVP: Aaron Judge
NL Cy Young: Max Scherzer
AL Cy Young: Chris Sale
NL Rookie: Fernando Tatis Jr.
AL Rookie: Vlad Guerrero Jr.
NL Manager: Dave Martinez
AL Manager: Aaron Boone

These are sure to go wrong quick, so sorry to all who I picked to do well. 

Thursday, February 28, 2019

2019 MLS Predictions

Remember when I promised at the end of 2018 that I wouldn't fill this blog with solely preseason prediction columns and/or cheap looks back at what I got wrong when the seasons end? Two months in to 2019 and I'm doing a terrible job of that already. I personally blame Kingdom Hearts 3 for that, but since this blog is not about explaining the intricate plot details of a game I have waited for since I was sixth grade, let's focus on a new season starting this weekend: MLS. The league that is constantly changing, growing and evolving by the second is beginning a new campaign, and even now as some teams try to break free of single entity's chains, the league still feels as wide open as ever. With that, here are some predictions that are sure to be wrong in May, let alone October:

Eastern Conference:
1. Atlanta
2. Red Bulls
3. DC United
4. Union
5. Crew
6. Impact
8. Toronto FC
9. Fire
10. Orlando
11. Revolution
12. FC Cincinnati

Western Conference:
1. Sporting KC (Supporters Shield)
3. Timbers
4. Sounders
5. Galaxy
6. Real Salt Lake
7. Minnesota
8. FC Dallas
9. Colorado
10. Vancouver
11. Houston
12. San Jose

MLS Cup 2019: Sporting Kansas City vs. New York Red Bulls

Award Predictions:
MVP: Zlatan (obviously)
Coach: Jim Curtin
Defender: Walker Zimmerman
Rookie: Andre Shinyashiki
Golden Boot: Zlatan
Comeback: Jordan Morris

Zlatan will singlehandedly will a broken LA Galaxy team to the postseason after a two year absence. Atlanta United will still be very good, but with everyone gunning out to beat them, inconsistencies will slip in with a manager that hasn't ever hit his stride outside of Holland. MLS' best and most consistent team will be Sporting Kansas City, and that should allow them to outlast everyone and win the Cup. The best surprises will be the Union taking to Ernst Tanner's style better and quicker than anticipated, Montreal mastering a counter-attacking style to make the postseason, and Minnesota United finally making with a core of solid MLS veterans to push that team over the line.

One final predictions: CBA negotiations starting after MLS Cup in November are going to be wild, nasty and fascinating. How much if at all will the league's structure change?