Baseball’s Opening Day (with bonus MLB predictions)

by Steve

Food and drink at the baseballTonight, the 2010 baseball season begins, with the returning World Series champions facing their perennial rivals, the Boston Red Sox. Much like a new year, a new season offers all sort of promise, expectation and uncertainty. Will it be a good one or a disappointing one? Will the surprises inevitably thrown up be welcome or unwanted?

Either way, the slate is cleaned. For one day only, every team is equal in the standings. And, theoretically at least, every team has the same chance of glory. Obviously, that is not entirely the case, but baseball is certainly one of the most competitive, and so unpredictable sports. Even the best teams will lose over a third of their games, and there are countless examples of lesser teams outperforming their salary structure as other big-spending teams bomb out.

So, a lot to look forward to – as should be the case at the beginning of any sporting season. But what’s going to happen? You’re sitting there, reading this (mainly) sporting blog, and no doubt expecting some insight. Hmm. That could prove problematic. Even the best pundits get plenty wrong, and I’m by no means a good pundit. Maths scholars work out complicated formulae to predict how a season pans out, and they’re often wrong too. But, hey, why should that stop an ill-informed schmuck like me having a go? That’s what the internet is for!

Generally, it’s hard to see too many differences from last year, as the same sides look strong, but I’ll stick my neck out and suggest the Texas Rangers, Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago White Sox might outperform expectations. I also have a hunch that the St Louis Cardinals won’t do as well as many are expecting, in a pretty tough division.

As for my team, the Mets, I’m trying to completely play down any chance they might have for a successful season. Last year was poor, this year the injuries have continued and I think it is far easier to expect little, and then be nicely surprised if they surpass my limited expectations. I’ll just sit back and enjoy whatever comes.

I put together some (vaguely) more coherent thoughts for the BaseballGB site’s MLB predictions post, but you lucky readers, I thought I’d give you the full version of my ramblings here. Think of it like a DVD extra. Nice to look at once, probably a bit rushed, and easily forgotten:

I think it’s hard to look beyond 2009’s divisional winners when making predictions for 2010, but that’s no fun, and so as a gambling man I thought I’d tip the ‘value’ teams, who have perhaps been undervalued by bookies and pundits alike.

National League

NL East – Braves

While the all-conquering Phillies should be there or thereabouts, the Braves are a strong side with the added narrative of Bobby Cox’s last year in charge. I think they could sneak the division, as I doubt the Marlins or the Mets will be able to sustain a challenge.

NL Central -Brewers

While the Cardinals are the clear favourites, I think it would be wrong the write off the Brewers. I think the Reds aren’t a bad outsider option either. This could be a far more competitive division that some are giving it credit for, once you add the Cubs into the mix too.

NL West – Rockies

The Dodgers reign of supremacy comes to an end. If the Rockies pick up where they left off in 2009 they should win the division. I wouldn’t rule out a strong year for the Diamondbacks, either.

NL Wild Card – Phillies

I think the Phillies will rack up enough wins to take this, with the Diamondbacks, then perhaps the Cardinals missing out. I reckon the Braves will have the strongest record in the division, complicating the play-offs a little, but perhaps playing out like this…

Division Series

Braves vs Brewers

Could be a close one, but I’d have the Braves winning this one.

Phillies vs Rockies

The Phillies have been so strong in the post-season, I think they’ll sweep aside the Rockies.

League Championship Series

Braves vs Phillies

The Braves win in seven, to give Bobby Cox a final shot at the World Series.

American League

AL East – Red Sox

This is an incredibly tough division to predict, with the Yankees the obvious choice, and the Rays a reasonable outside chance. Saying that, I’m going to go with the Red Sox, who I think are a fairly safe bet to be in the mix.

AL Central – White Sox

Much like the Cardinals in the NL, I think the Twins might be a little over-rated in the AL Central. The White Sox could be good enough to pip them, if the planets align.

AL West – Rangers

Another super-competitive division, but I think the Angels could be usurped and the Mariners are over-rated, with their eye-catching acquisitions clouding judgement. The Rangers had a strong 2009, and I can see them building on it this year.

AL Wild Card – Yankees

The easy option here is to plump with the AL East runner-up, so either the Yankees or Rays. I’ll play it safe this time. Again, I’ve made things awkward, as I think the Red Sox will have the best record, so the play-offs will be as follows…

Divisional Series

Red Sox vs White Sox

A few pitchers duels in store here, I reckon, before the Red Sox win out.

Rangers vs Yankees

Determined as I am to see the Yankees fail, I’m going to predict a Rangers win here.

League Championship Series

Red Sox vs Rangers

What the hell, why not have the Rangers win this one too?

World Series

Braves vs Rangers

And for the World Series, the Rangers out-shoot the Braves, and ruin the fairytale ending for Bobby Cox in five or six games. It’ll never happen, my head tells me one of Red Sox/Yankees/Phillies again, but I’m not tipping those sides. That would just encourage them

Photo from Michael via Flickr