Six Months Down, One to Go
The staff of the Baseball Analysts made predictions before the season began and, as it turns out, did very well. Our consensus picked five of the eight teams that qualified for the postseason, missing only on Tampa Bay in the American League and Cincinnati and San Francisco in the National League.
The Giants befuddled us the most as no one placed the NL West champions higher than third in the division. We narrowly missed on the Rays with three staffers choosing Boston as the AL Wild Card entry and two going with Tampa Bay. The Rays, of course, won the AL East, edging the Yankees by one game. Four of five analysts tabbed the Reds to finish second in the NL Central with all five of us incorrectly projecting St. Louis to take the division.
All eight postseason teams had run differentials of +100 or more. No other club in the majors had a differential that high. The Yankees led in runs scored (859) and in run differential (166). The San Diego Padres allowed the fewest runs (581).
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST TEAM W L PCT GB Rays 96 66 .593 - Yankees 95 67 .586 1 Red Sox 89 73 .549 7 Blue Jays 85 77 .525 11 Orioles 66 96 .407 30
Toronto was clearly the biggest positive surprise in the AL East, if not the entire league, in manager Cito Gaston's final season. Forget the fact that the Blue Jays finished in fourth place. Winning 85 games in a tough division and finishing much closer to first than last place made for a highly successful season for MLB's lone club north of the border. Led by Jose Bautista's major league-leading 54 HR, Toronto tied the 1996 Baltimore Orioles with 257 homers, the third-most in the history of baseball.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL TEAM W L PCT GB Twins 94 68 .580 - White Sox 88 74 .543 6 Tigers 81 81 .500 13 Indians 69 93 .426 25 Royals 67 95 .414 27
The AL Central played pretty much to form with Minnesota winning its second consecutive division title. The Twins have now won six of the last nine division crowns. Unfortunately, Minnesota has been bumped in four straight League Division Series, never winning more than one game in any of these match-ups.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST TEAM W L PCT GB Rangers 90 72 .556 - A's 81 81 .500 9 Angels 80 82 .494 10 Mariners 61 101 .377 29
Texas finished atop the AL West for the first time this century. The Rangers have increased their win total from 75 in Ron Washington's first season in 2007 to 79 in 2008 to 87 in 2009 and 90 in 2010. Pitching and defense have been the key with Texas allowing 280 fewer runs this year vs. two seasons ago. Meanwhile, the Seattle Mariners may have been the most disappointing team in baseball, losing more games than any team not named the Pittsburgh Pirates.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST TEAM W L PCT GB Phillies 97 65 .599 - Braves 91 71 .562 6 Marlins 80 82 .494 17 Mets 79 83 .488 18 Nationals 69 93 .426 28
Philadelphia captured its fourth consecutive NL East title, winning the most games in the majors. The 2008 World Series champions have increased the number of regular season wins in each of the past four campaigns. Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels, perhaps the most formidable Big Three in the postseason, will be seeking to take the Phillies to the World Series for the third straight October.
In his final season at the helm, Bobby Cox is leading Atlanta into the postseason for the 15th time in the past 20 years but the first since 2005. However, it has been nine years since the Braves won a postseason series. The Hall of Fame-bound manager will be looking to win his second World Series and the first since 1995. He is 1-4 in his previous five attempts.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL TEAM W L PCT GB Reds 91 71 .562 - Cardinals 86 76 .531 5 Brewers 77 85 .475 14 Astros 76 86 .469 15 Cubs 75 87 .463 16 Pirates 57 105 .352 34
Joey Votto, the favorite to win the NL MVP, and Jay Bruce (.388/.474/.925 with 12 HR in his final 22 games) combined to lead Cincinnati into the postseason for the first time since 1995. A healthy Edinson Volquez (27.2-17-6-6-8-31, 1.95 ERA in September) will be the key to a pitching staff that lacks a proven stopper.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST TEAM W L PCT GB Giants 92 70 .568 - Padres 90 72 .556 2 Rockies 83 79 .512 9 Dodgers 80 82 .494 12 Diamondbacks 65 97 .401 27
If you knew Pablo Sandoval was going to hit .268 with 13 HR, would you have believed that San Francisco would have won the NL West? Instead, rookie Buster Posey (.305/.357/.505) and newcomers Aubrey Huff (.290/.385/.506) and Pat Burrell (.266/.364/.509) combined with a stellar starting rotation and bullpen to beat back San Diego on the final day of the season.