Wednesday, March 31, 2021

2021 MLB Season Predictions

 Major League Baseball begins its 2021 season on time this year, and will attempt to play as close to 162 as they possibly can. A full season, or something close to it, will be welcome with the impending labor doom on the horizon. Half of the Majors are intent to do as little as possible in fielding a team this year, about one third are legitimately going for it, and the others are stuck in the malaise of a CBA that is clearly outdated and is in desperate need of an overhaul. What does that mean for the season to come? It feels fairly easy to predict, even though we know that doesn't mean the eventual outcomes will be predictable.

NL East:

1. Atlanta

2. NY Mets

3. Washington

4. Philadelphia

5. Miami

The NL East is the only division where all five teams are conceivably going for it, or at least attempting to. Any of these teams could win the division or win a Wild Card spot, though some are more likely than others. The Braves have annual playoff heartbreak, but that means they get there, and they should have enough to win the division this year. The Mets are now spending like a New York team, but they still have the traditional Mets front office dysfunction and bullpen woes which will likely keep them from winning the pennant, but the playoffs are more than possible. Washington is not the team that won the 2019 World Series, but with the high end talent in Soto/Scherzer et al, they will be competitive all year. Philly's bullpen last year was so bad that it legitimately cost them a playoff spot, and while it'll be better this year, will it be good enough to not cost them a chance? It was fun to watch the Marlins take advantage of the shortened season last year, but that seems like a fluke of the pandemic more than anything else.

AL East:

1. NY Yankees

2. Toronto

3. Tampa Bay

4. Boston

5. Baltimore

Last year's shortened season cost the Yankees a chance at the division because their recent injury woes never relented. This year's team is deeper, and therefore should outlast the somewhat lesser opposition behind them to win the AL East again. It's nice to see the Blue Jays, who still can't play in Canada, spending on players like George Springer as they build back up to contending status again after their relatively surprising playoff appearance last year. They're young and fun and growing all the time. Tampa once again traded away its best player for prospects as only they can do after throwing away a World Series that was very winnable, but they have their system and process down to a tee. It will keep them competitive. The Red Sox are at the very least not tearing everything down to the studs anymore, and the O's... well that 0% playoff prediction on Fangraphs doesn't lie.

NL Central:

1. St. Louis

2. Milwaukee

3. Chicago Cubs

4. Cincinnati

5. Pittsburgh

Nolan Arenado is now a Cardinal because his old team is cheap and doesn't know how to rebuild (or build) properly. His presence buoys an already solid team to the top of a division in transition. Milwaukee struggled in the shortened season, but if Christian Yelich finds his 2018 form again, the Brewers should challenge for this division. The Cubs are also in the process of going cheaper now minus Yu Darvish among other 2016 heroes, and so their 2020 short season division win feels relatively hollow. The Reds no longer have their former ace Trevor Bauer, and a team that tried to go for it doesn't feel like it wants to do that anymore, as there's a drive into deep left field from Castellanos. As for the Pirates... PNC Park is nice!

AL Central:

1. Chicago White Sox

2. Minnesota

3. Cleveland

4. Kansas City 

5. Detroit

Hiring Tony La Russa in 2021 baseball was and still is extremely weird. He doesn't mesh well with a young and fun group of players like the sadly injured Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Tim Anderson among others. But there is a school of thought that suggests talent can overcome coaching deficiencies in some circumstances, and in spite of the Jimenez injury, it seems like the White Sox should have enough to win this division. The Twins will continue to bash home runs for fun and try to outslug everyone else to make the postseason, which if they get there, will crash down to earth as it always does for the Twins in the postseason. It's a shame the Indians had to trade Francisco Lindor because it's impossible to spend money in baseball now, but they still have the pitching to stay competitive. That World Series winning Royals team is firmly a distant memory now, but Whit Merrifield is fun and could be a major piece at the trade deadline. The Tigers rebuild is ongoing, and some of those players will play for AJ Hinch this year, but that's about all there is in Detroit.

NL West:

1. LA Dodgers

2. San Diego

3. San Francisco 

4. Arizona

5. Colorado

There's a real chance the Dodgers just steamroll everyone this year after finally winning the World Series. They're even deeper than they were with Trevor Bauer, and have multiple legit starters coming out of the bullpen. But this year, unlike recent years, will have actual competition in the division in the form of the amazingly fun and amazingly going for it San Diego Padres. There will be a real and fascinating rivalry between these two teams this season. Adding Blake Snell and Yu Darvish to a group with Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado and a number of exciting prospects is legitimately rare in today's baseball, and it's so much fun to see. The Giants rebuild is humming along smoothly, and while they won't be competitive this year, there's a chance they flex their muscle soon with prospects maturing and money to spend. Arizona's attempt to go for it last year with Madison Bumgarner failed spectacularly, and so they're now stuck in neutral, and the Rockies can't even put on a proper fire sale.

AL West:

1. Houston

2. Oakland

3. Anaheim

4. Seattle

5. Texas

Somehow, the Astros after their cheating scandals and poor form from stars made it to Game 7 of the ALCS after being down 3-0 in that series. Most of that group returns, sans George Springer, and it feels like this may be a last chance for this group to push at the top of the American League. At some point, will the A's run out of the magic they always have as they compete at a decently high level while spending little to no money on players? Don't count them out. Until the Angels prove they can be what they should be with Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani and Anthony Rendon, most should be inclined to not buy it from them. Outside of Jarred Kelenic, the most entertaining 2021 Seattle Mariners thing is this extended look at their history courtesy of Secret Base, and it's amazing. As for the Rangers, even though the pandemic is still ongoing, their new ballpark will be allowed to open at full capacity to watch a team tearing it down to the studs.

NL Playoff Teams:

1. LA Dodgers

2. Atlanta

3. St. Louis

4. San Diego

5. NY Mets

AL Playoff Teams:

1. NY Yankees

2. Houston

3. Chicago White Sox

4. Minnesota

5. Toronto

NL Postseason:

NL Wild Card: Padres over Mets

NLDS: Dodgers over Padres in 5 & Braves over Cardinals in 4

NLCS: Dodgers over Braves in 6

AL Postseason:

AL Wild Card: Blue Jays over Twins

ALDS: Yankees over Blue Jays in 4 & Astros over White Sox in 5

ALCS: Yankees over Astros in 5

2021 World Series:

Dodgers over Yankees in 7 (it's boring but it seems most likely).

Awards:

NL MVP: Fernando Tatis Jr. (SD)

AL MVP: Mike Trout (ANA)

NL Cy Young: Jacob DeGrom (NYM)

AL Cy Young: Gerrit Cole (NYY)

NL ROY: Ke'Bryan Hayes (PIT)

AL ROY: Randy Arozarena (TB)

NL Manager: Jayce Tingeler (SD)

AL Manager: Charlie Montoyo (TOR)

Apologies to everyone in advance for the jinxes they have all received. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

2020-21 NHL Season Predictions

 After the Stanley Cup was awarded in a hermetically sealed bubble in Edmonton in September, all eyes turned immediately to what the 2020-21 season for the NHL would look like. For a not insignificant period of time, it looked like there may be no season at all, and if some owners had their way, there wouldn't be one. But the league will trudge through their billion dollar losses (and the still raging global pandemic that caused them) to play a 56 game season with teams only playing inside their own division. It's unlike any NHL season before, and for a league that's always a bit unpredictable, this season may be a new level of unpredictable. That means, these predictions may be uniquely bad. 

East:

1. Philadelphia

2. Boston

3. Washington

4. NY Islanders

5. Pittsburgh

6. NY Rangers

7. Buffalo

8. New Jersey

This division is very reminiscent of recent Big Ten basketball seasons: many good teams that will beat each other up, but no great team to separate themselves from the pack. For that reason, the team with the fewest obvious problems and the best goaltender will win the division, and that's Philly. Most notably, I have the Penguins missing out on the playoffs this year, largely because someone has to, but also because they feel the shakiest of the good batch of teams in their division, and doubting the Islanders has not been profitable for me recently.

North:

1. Toronto

2. Calgary

3. Montreal

4. Vancouver

5. Edmonton

6. Winnipeg

7. Ottawa

Toronto will finally win a playoff series this year because their division is so lopsided in favor of them. Every other team has a marked flaw that makes it difficult for them to compete on the Leafs' level. Calgary underachieved relative to their talent last year, and made a much necessary upgrade in net which should see them just ahead of Montreal, who now may have the talent to back up their wonderful style of play and underlying numbers. Vancouver gets in over Edmonton because of better goaltending and more depth outweighing McDavid and Draisaitl's brilliance.

Central:

1. Tampa Bay

2. Carolina

3. Dallas

4. Columbus

5. Florida

6. Nashville

7. Chicago

8. Detroit

Even without Nikita Kucherov, the Lightning will coast to a division title this season. Their biggest challenge will be Carolina, who are beloved by the analytics community and rightly so, since their style of play now has the great talent to back it up, but their weak links in net and in some depth areas keep them from winning the division. Dallas will be inconsistent to start the season thanks to their COVID and injury issues, but they're too talented to miss the postseason. Columbus gets in to the final playoff spot over Florida and Nashville thanks to the Islanders principle, but any one of those three could have a reasonable argument to get in. 

West:

1. Colorado

2. Vegas

3. St. Louis

4. Minnesota

5. Anaheim

6. San Jose

7. Arizona

8. Los Angeles

The gap between the three best teams in the division is wider than any gap in any division this year. All three are legitimate Cup contenders, the rest will scrap for fourth and none would have any chance in any other division to get into the playoffs. Minnesota is the least flawed out of all of them, therefore they sneak in ahead of Anaheim, who with their young talent and underappreciated goalie could be the surprise team of the season. San Jose could also have one last gallant ride at success after their annus horribilis last year.

Playoffs:

East:

1. PHI over NYI in 7

2. BOS over WSH in 6

1. PHI over 2. BOS in 7

North:

1. TOR over 4. VAN in 5

3. MTL over 2. CGY in 7

1. TOR over 3. MTL in 6

Central:

1. TB over 4. CBJ in 6

2. CAR over 3. DAL in 7

1. TB over 2. CAR in 6

West:

1. COL over 4. MIN in 5

2. VGK over 3. STL in 6

1. COL over 2. VGK in 7

Final 4:

Colorado over Philadelphia in 6 (1 vs. 4)

Tampa Bay over Toronto in 6 (2 vs. 3)

Colorado over Tampa Bay in 6

Awards:

Hart: Nathan MacKinnon (COL)

Art Ross: Connor McDavid (EDM)

Calder: Tim Stueztle (OTT)

Norris: Cale Makar (COL)

Rocket Richard: Auston Matthews (TOR)

Selke: Mark Stone (VGK)

Vezina: Carter Hart (PHI)

Jack Adams: Jared Bednar (COL)

Apologies in advance for the jinxes I have caused. Happy hockey season!


Friday, January 8, 2021

2020 NFL Season Predictions in Review + Postseason Predictions

 Well that was a mess. Games on Wednesday afternoons because of the Rockefeller Center tree lighting ceremony, a game featuring a team with no rostered QB's and an overall sense of uneasiness defined the 2020 NFL season. Somehow, thanks to COVID-19 taking Sunday off like only God could have asked for, the NFL completed a 256 game regular season and moves onto a postseason in which already, a team won't have its head coach thanks to him testing positive for COVID-19. But nothing will stop the Shield, and nothing will stop me from filling this husk of a blog with the dying embers of content known as: looking back on terrible preseason predictions!

AFC Playoff teams (correct order):

1. KC 12-4 (KC 14-2)

2. BAL 12-4 (BUF 13-3)

3. IND 11-5 (PIT 12-4)

4. NE10-6 (TEN 11-5)

5. PIT 10-6 (BAL 11-5)

6. BUF 9-7 (CLE 11-5)

7. TEN 9-7 (IND 11-5)

Getting six out of seven AFC teams right in the postseason is not a bad return, though I didn't get them in the right order. Thinking the Patriots had one last kick at the can was a mistake many made, and not buying the Browns was another. Personal held skepticism of the Bills and Titans are most certainly gone now.

NFC Playoff teams (correct order);

1. NO 12-4 (GB 13-3)

2. DAL 11-5 (NO 12-4)

3. SF 11-5 (SEA 12-4)

4. MIN 10-6 (WSH 7-9)

5. TB 10-6 (TB 11-5)

6. GB 9-7 (LAR 10-6)

7. SEA 9-7 (CHI 8-8)

Now the NFC on the other hand was a bit of a disaster. San Francisco, Dallas and Minnesota all completely fell apart due to injuries, incompetence or a combination of both, and I wasn't buying into the Packers and Seahawks in the preseason but I probably should have, since they may be the two favorites to make the NFC Title game once again. 

Awards:

MVP: Patrick Mahomes

He could be MVP every year, but Aaron Rodgers will win it this year, seemingly turning back time once again.

OPOY: Lamar Jackson

He took some unfair criticism at times this year, though he wasn't quite what he was a year ago. This will end up being the MVP runner up award, and this year, that likely goes to Derrick Henry for being the bulldozer he always is. Stefon Diggs and Davante Adams are other worthy contenders.

DPOY: Aaron Donald

Picking him for this award is pretty easy as he is one of the best players in the league year in and year out. He has stiff competition from TJ Watt, and if the Rams missed the playoffs, it might be easy to slide in Watt for this award. Either could win, but this prediction wasn't off base.

OROY: Joe Burrow

If he stayed healthy all season, he probably would have won, but even then he would have had major competition. Justin Herbert was way better than anyone could have ever imagined and will be the favorite for this award as he is a QB, but Justin Jefferson should also get the love he deserves. One man who deserves way more credit it than he got: James Robinson, the UDFA for Jacksonville who was the entire offense for the worst team in the league and was a revelation. 

DROY: Chase Young

Dominant beyond dominant. There's almost no other contender for this award.

Coach: Mike McCarthy

Whoops. Kevin Stefanski probably gets it for ending the longest active playoff drought in the NFL, but Sean McDermott should get love for turning the Bills into a juggernaut. I also think Matt LaFleur should get credit for reviving what seemed to be a flagging Packers team before he arrived and giving a jolt to that team.

Comeback: Cam Newton

Nope. Alex Smith wins this without any debate.

Here are my 2020 NFL Playoff Predictions:

AFC:

Wild Card Round:

Bills over Colts

Titans over Ravens

Steelers over Browns

Divisional Round:

Chiefs over Titans

Bills over Steelers

AFC Title Game:

Chiefs over Bills

NFC:

Wild Card Round:

Saints over Bears

Seahawks over Rams

Bucs over Washington

Divisional Round:

Packers over Bucs

Seahawks over Saints

NFC Title Game:

Packers over Seahawks

Super Bowl 55:

Chiefs over Packers

Yes, I changed from my preseason prediction of KC/NO. That prediction was made seven years ago, or so it feels like. Enjoy the playoffs.