Monday, September 30, 2019

2019 MLB Season Predictions in Review + Playoff Predictions

More cheap content for this old blog with the same design it has had for eight plus years, but is the perfect place for said content that doesn't fit anywhere else and is fun to write up. How badly did I do with my 2019 MLB Predictions? Badly, let's say.

Actual standings in parenthesis.

NL East:
1. Philadelphia (ATL)
2. Washington (WSH)
3. Atlanta (NYM)
4. New York Mets (PHI)
5. Miami (MIA)

Atlanta is becoming a quiet juggernaut with a great young lineup and rotation. They've won the NL East for the second straight year and are second favorites to win the NL. Philly didn't have the rotation and bullpen to buoy all the money they spent this offseason, and Gabe Kapler's seat is getting toasty. Washington did end up making the playoffs after their awful start after all.

AL East:
1. New York Yankees (NYY)
2. Boston (TB)
3. Tampa Bay (BOS)
4. Toronto (TOR)
5. Baltimore (BAL)

In spite of the litany of injuries the Yankees endured, they still won 103 games. It truly is a remarkable achievement. Boston's World Series defense went poorly, like most of theirs have since 2004, and Tampa Bay continues to do the absolute most with the least to make the playoffs again. No wonder everyone in the league wants everyone in their front office. The back end of the division was as bad as predicted.

NL Central:
1.  St. Louis (STL)
2.  Chicago Cubs (MIL)
3.  Milwaukee (CHC)
4.  Cincinnati (CIN)
5.  Pittsburgh (PIT)

Saying the Cubs were long in the tooth turned out to be prescient after their September collapse, which allowed the Redbirds to sneak up and win the NL Central while getting Milwaukee back into the postseason minus a potential league MVP in Christian Yelich. Joe Maddon is gone, so the Cubs in many ways are going back to the drawing board. The NL Central was the most equal division this year, and some big runs, positive or negative, drew the lines for the playoffs.

AL Central:
1. Cleveland (MIN)
2. Minnesota (CLE)
3. Chicago White Sox (CHW)
4. Kansas City (KC)
5. Detroit (DET)

Hitting the most home runs in a single season in MLB history helped propel the Twins back to the postseason for the second time in three years, but they have to play the Yankees again. They had a little more consistency everywhere than the Indians, who had the same 93 wins they did a year ago, but last year that was enough to win them the AL Central, and this year they just missed the playoffs with a historically high win total for a team to miss. They would have won the NL Central, for instance. A frugal offseason really did cost them. Everyone else ranged from scuffling to outright tanking and historically bad.

NL West:
1. Los Angeles (LAD)
2. Colorado (ARZ)
3. San Diego (SF)
4. Arizona (SD)
5. San Francisco (COL)

The Dodgers are still the Dodgers, and everyone else is playing catch up. Arizona's rebuild on the fly allowed them to have a positive season with a platform to build on for the future. San Diego and Colorado both underwhelmed in a major way after their preseason expectations, and that cost San Diego manager Andy Green his job. It doesn't look like anyone is challenging the Dodgers any time soon.

AL West:
1. Houston (HOU)
2. LA Angels (OAK)
3. Oakland (TEX)
4. Seattle (LAA)
5. Texas (SEA)

The Astros are still the Astros, and no one gave them much of a run in the AL West again. The A's continue to do quite a bit with not very much and make the playoffs again, but it's going to be tough to see them winning a series if they do make it to play their division rivals. Mike Trout is still being let down by everyone around him, and perhaps Joe Maddon is the solution to that problem. Everyone else is rebuilding to varying degrees, and the order is shuffling deck chairs.

Preseason Playoffs Predictions:
NL: 1. LAD 2. PHI 3. STL 4. WSH 5. CHC
AL: 1. NYY 2. HOU 3. CLE 4. BOS 5. LAA

Actual Playoff Order:
NL: 1. LAD 2. ATL 3. STL 4. WSH 5. MIL
AL: 1. HOU 2. NYY 3. MIN 4. OAK 5. TB

5 out of 10 playoff teams predicted isn't great! When the league is so clearly sorted into teams that are trying and teams that aren't, those predictions feel even worse! But there are only a few teams who really failed to live up to the hype this year, which include Boston, Philly and Colorado.

Preseason Award Predictions (with comments):
NL MVP: Paul Goldschmidt (Going to be Cody Bellinger, could have been Yelich if he didn't get hurt)
AL MVP: Aaron Judge (Spent too much time injured. Going to be Mike Trout again because he's simply not human)
NL Cy Young: Max Scherzer (Jacob DeGrom outpitched him again, but he'll be in the conversation)
AL Cy Young: Chris Sale (Like the rest of the Red Sox, he flopped. It'll be either Justin Verlander or Gerrit Cole who both had super seasons)
NL Rookie: Fernando Tatis Jr. (Pete Alonso made history every time he took an at bat, and Tatis had too many injuries)
AL Rookie: Vlad Guerrero Jr. (not quite there yet. Yordan Alvarez was insane for the Astros)
NL Manager: Dave Martinez (he took his team back from the brink, but he got them there in the first place. Craig Counsell has does another good job with the Brewers, but Brian Snitker deserves love for the machine he's built in Atlanta)
AL Manager: Aaron Boone (slam dunk considering the injuries his team has gone through)

New Playoff Predictions:

Wild Card Game: Nationals over Brewers

NLDS: Braves over Cardinals in 4
            Dodgers over Nationals in 4

NLCS: Braves over Dodgers in 7

Wild Card Game: Rays over A's

ALDS: Astros over Rays in 3
            Yankees over Twins in 4

ALCS: Yankees over Astros in 7

World Series: Yankees over Braves in 6

These will end up going wrong too, I bet.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

2019 NFL Season Predictions

The National Football League, the world's greatest reality show, has returned for it's 100th season. Nothing in the NFL is ever short of storylines, intrigue and drama, and this season should be no different. Is this the year someone other than the Patriots dominates the AFC (don't bet on it)? Is this the year where the Cleveland Browns awake from their decades long slumber of irrelevance (more than possible)? Is this the year that I finally do somewhat decently in this predictions piece? Probably not, but that's not going to stop me from trying!

AFC East:
1. New England: 12-4
2. Buffalo: 8-8
3. New York Jets: 7-9
4. Miami: 3-13

Since 2001, the Patriots have failed to win the AFC East only twice. In that time, they've won six Super Bowls. With a league that is more even than ever, that is truly an incredible accomplishment. The defending champs are a little weaker this year without Gronk and irreplaceable center David Andrews, but Bill Belichick and company always find players to plug in those gaps, and they do it better than anyone else. While it looks like the AFC East might be finally catching up, that Brady guy, if he's still healthy, is hard to beat.

Buffalo has a solid roster behind Josh Allen, who I'm personally not a fan of, but his skillset works well with the up-and-coming squad they have. They aren't quite contenders yet though. The same can be same of the Jets and Adam Gase, even though the new coach pulled off an amazing coup to get front office control after previous management threw money at anyone who would listen this offseason. Gase has the chops though. And for his old team, they're tanking. Watch Alabama and Oregon games instead, Dolphins fans, your next QB is on one of those two teams.

NFC East:
1. Philadelphia: 12-4
2. Dallas: 9-7
3. New York Giants: 5-11
4. Washington: 5-11

I'm not going out on a limb when I say the Eagles are one of the best run teams in the league. They always find a way to acquire, develop and manage not just talent, but assets. Even when their franchise QB gets hurt, and the Super Bowl MVP backup leaves, they still can feel decently confident in the roster they've built. There are few spots where they are thin on their roster, and that depth is enough to pull away from the pack.

Dallas' drama is going to hurt them at some point, and they took advantage of an incredibly mediocre division last year to win it. With the Eagles reloading, that's not happening this year. They are solid, especially in the trenches, but do they have the gamebreaker needed to take them over the top? That's a question yet to be answered. Both the Giants and Washington are in similar spots with talent deficient rosters and rookie QB's waiting in the wings. It's a matter of when not if both of them start. Both have also been chronically mismanaged to boot. There is very little separating them, including how sports talk radio phone lines will explode with "when should Haskins and Jones start" takes.

AFC North:
1. Pittsburgh: 10-6
2. Cleveland: 9-7
3. Baltimore: 8-8
4. Cincinnati: 4-12

It's been 30 years since the Cleveland Browns won their division, and it feels like now more than ever is their best chance to. They had a spectacular offseason in bringing in loads of talent, and with a QB primed for a major jump in Baker Mayfield, it seems like this could be the year football in Cleveland is finally back. But not so fast my friends... the Steelers are still here. With everyone discounting them after the drama from last season, could it be that Pittsburgh is in a promising position now, one where they are the underdogs? Possibly. Replacing Brown and Bell is hard to do, but they basically had to do that last season and still nearly made the playoffs, and their defense is better now too. At some point, the pressure and expectations may weigh heavy on the young Browns shoulders.

Lamar Jackson took over towards the end of last season and lit up the league with inspired play running, but not so much throwing. The struggles in the Wild Card game against the Chargers might be an omen for 2019, especially because they've suffered through a major talent drain. Suggs, Mosley among others are not there, and that is going to catch up with them at some point. Jackson must show improvement as a passer, especially so the Ravens can win critical division toss-up games. And as for the Bengals, the Sean McVay coaching tree didn't drop a great apple here, with Zac Taylor struggling to build a staff and a healthy roster, especially with another awful AJ Green injury. Don't look now, but the Bengals are also very much in the Tua/Justin sweepstakes.

NFC North:
1. Green Bay: 11-5
2. Minnesota: 10-6
3. Chicago: 8-8
4. Detroit: 6-10

Matt LaFleur, another Sean McVay coaching tree apple, tries to ripen a bunch of stale Packers in cheese country. Aaron Rodgers seems on board, for now, and with that, plus a heavily revamped and revitalized defense, are the Packers back to being favorites again in this division? Seems so. Minnesota thought they were one great QB away last season, and they were right, because Kirk Cousins is not a great QB. But the offensive line did fail him, and they couldn't really run the ball nearly as well as they should have considering their talent. Some of that will regress back to "normal", which should make Vikings a playoff team.

There's something incredibly eerie about these Bears, namely that they remind me of last year's Jaguars. A team with a dominant defense that did things that are probably not replicable, and a QB that did barely enough to let the defense do what it needed to do. Mitch Trubisky should shudder at hearing Blake Bortles comparisons. Jacksonville finished 5-11 last season, and that was because the offense totally fell apart. That's not likely in Chicago, but some of those games that defense won in Chicago last year won't happen again this year. As for the Lions, Matt Patricia finds his team in limbo again. Not truly bad enough to tank, but not good enough to fully compete in the NFC for the playoffs. How much longer can that last?

AFC South:
1. Houston: 9-7
2. Tennessee: 8-8
3. Jacksonville: 7-9
4. Indianapolis: 5-11

Jeff Fisher, he very much the most AFC South coach of all time, said he wouldn't settle for 7-9 BS as coach of the Rams. His old division is very much the embodiment of 7-9 BS, with every team having a fatal flaw, but not so fatal that it could cost them the division. Houston (Bill O'Brien) traded away their entire future for an offensive lineman that they desperately needed in Laremy Tunsil, but they massively overpaid for, right after trading away former first overall pick Jadaveon Clowney for peanuts. But because Houston has DeShaun Watson, De'Andre Hopkins and JJ Watt, they may have enough to squeak the division out, even though they've mortgaged their future and could easily fall off again.

Tennessee is stuck with a QB in Marcus Mariota that is mediocre and unimpressive, which is also true of his skill position players, but buoyed by a solid defense, they should still be in contention, but just. The Jaguars realized their Blake Bortles mistake and overpaid Nick Foles to be their savior, and since he's a better QB than Bortles, and their defense is still one of the best in football, that should mean the Jaguars take advantage in this division, right? Speaking from experience, trusting them is incredibly difficult and finding consistency is even harder. They'll be better, but not playoffs better. And no matter what people say about Jacoby Brissett, he cannot lift the Colts to the playoffs, even though the roster around him is solid. An off year to draft/luck into a good QB might just be what's needed in Indy.

NFC South:
1. New Orleans: 12-4
2. Atlanta: 10-6
3. Carolina: 8-8
4. Tampa Bay: 6-10

After two of the most heartbreaking playoff exits in NFL history, the Saints try to regroup for one last ride with Drew Brees, who even through his Bayou superpowers might be starting to fade just a little. But with the talent around him, that won't hurt the Saints just yet. The postseason will once again define them. Atlanta lost practically their entire defense to injury last year, a defense that was extremely solid when put together. Matt Ryan also had a historically good season and is never really given his due. The Falcons will be back in the postseason this year.

Cam Newton is a beat up man, and while when healthy he is fantastic, he's just not healthy all that much anymore. They're still light in depth on offense, and that defense just isn't what it once was. They're not bad, but the NFC is too crowded for a team like them to make the postseason. Bruce Arians will try to revive Jameis Winston's career, and he's got a good chance of doing that with his offensive know-how. But their defense is awful, and no offense can outpace that bad a defense for long.

AFC West:
1. Kansas City: 13-3
2. Los Angeles Chargers: 11-5
3. Oakland: 5-11
4. Denver: 4-12

Kansas City has the league's MVP, some of its most explosive offensive weapons, and a thoroughly revitalized and improved defense. What's not to like? They're going to be one of the fastest teams in the league, and speed kills, especially with Pat Mahomes in control. There are some concerns at running back, but adding LeSean McCoy might just address those issues. How defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo holds up might be the difference between winning the Super Bowl and coming up short again.

Once again, the Chargers are solid all around, even without Melvin Gordon, Derwin James and Russell Okung. It's a testament to how well built that roster is. However, that game against the Patriots in the playoffs showed last year that they may have bumped up against the glass ceiling and have no further up to go. They're a no doubt playoff team, but they're not quite championship material. Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock have tried to drastically revamp the Raiders, and it feels like this is a pause year before moving into taxpayer paradise near Paradise, Nevada next year. They added big names, but the roster, particularly on defense, is shallow. The Broncos still think Joe Flacco is the same QB that beat them in the playoffs seven years ago, which isn't true. They have an OK defense, but this is a team primed for the bottom to really fault out. If not for some upper management issues, would John Elway still be running football ops?

NFC West:
1. Los Angeles Rams: 11-5
2. Seattle: 9-7
3. San Francisco: 7-9
4. Arizona: 5-11

Sean McVay himself still knows what he's doing, and even with a banged up Todd Gurley, they're still the team to beat in the NFC West. The Rams are not quite as deep as they once were, particularly on defense, but they have more than enough to win the division for a third straight year. Seattle has Russell Wilson, which makes them more than good enough to compete so long as he stays upright, and now they have a fearsome pass rusher in Jadaveon Clowney, but they may not have enough wholesale like some of their NFC playoff competitors now.

If Jimmy Garoppolo stays healthy, the 49ers have a chance to make the playoffs, especially considering how decent some of the backups looked last year. But they have too many other teams to pass to get there. Kyler Murray will be fun to watch this season when he has his moments of magic, but there are too many concerns about the rest of that roster, and the coaching staff, to get them beyond the basement.

AFC Playoff Order:
1. Kansas City
2. New England
3. Pittsburgh
4. Houston
5. LA Chargers
6. Cleveland

NFC Playoff Order:
1. New Orleans
2. Philadelphia
3. LA Rams
4. Green Bay
5. Atlanta
6. Minnesota

AFC Playoff Predictions:

3. Pittsburgh over 6. Cleveland
5. LA Chargers over 4. Houston

1. Kansas City over 5. LA Chargers
2. New England over 3. Pittsburgh

1. Kansas City over 2. New England

NFC Playoff Predictions:

3. LA Rams over 6. Minnesota
5. Atlanta over 4. Green Bay

1. New Orleans over 5. Atlanta
2. Philadelphia over 3. LA Rams

2. Philadelphia over 1. New Orleans

Super Bowl LIV: Kansas City over Philadelphia 34-27

The Andy Reid Bowl would pit two well constructed teams against one another, and two teams with so many connections from the front office down to the field. It would be a triumph of roster building, planning and coaching. Kansas City has just enough to squeak by and end their 50 year championship drought.

Award Predictions:
MVP: Patrick Mahomes (KC)
OPOY: Julio Jones (ATL)
DPOY: Aaron Donald (LAR)
OROY: Miles Sanders (PHI)
DROY: Josh Allen (JAX)
Comeback: Jimmy Garoppolo (SF)
Coach: Freddie Kitchens (CLE)

Sorry to everyone in Philadelphia and Kansas City in advance for these predictions, since it will inevitably jinx them. Enjoy the new season!