Time to toot my own horn.
I did pretty well picking the NL East this season. I’m not proud of picking the Mets over the Phillies as Wild Card contenders, but I’m very proud of going against the grain and picking the Marlins fourth.
Here’s how they finished:
1. Braves (90-72, .556)
2. Phillies (88-74, .543)
3. Mets (83-79, .512)
3. Marlins (83-79, .512)
5. Nationals (81-81, .500)
Beer Leaguer predictions
2. Mets (WC)
After the Fish signed Carlos Delgado, they were the chic pick to win the pennant. Very few pundits were able to see what I saw – a thin back-end rotation and bullpen. I didn’t like the dexterity of so-called "ace" pitchers Josh Beckett and A.J. Burnett, either, and it came as no surprise that by September, they were fried.
No one, however, could have predicted Florida's clubhouse collapse and Jack McKeon fallout. I was also dead wrong with my prediction of Dontrelle Willis. I thought hitters had figured out the unorthodox southpaw. Apparently not. I'd vote D-Train for NL Cy Young actually. The Marlins also lucked out with grizzled closer Todd Jones after the Guillermo Mota experiment failed, as predicted.
The Mets didn’t get the breakout season from Kaz Matsui I wrote about, but Cliff Floyd proved he still had a little gas left in his tank. Somehow, they made it through OK with that motley crew in the bullpen. Pedro was obviously the man, but they got good ending ERAs from Tom Glavine, Jae Seo, Kris Benson and even Victor Zambrano. Who knew? David Wright had a breakout season, but a lot of people thought that. I didn’t buy the Carlos Beltran hype as much as most people, so his belly-up NY debut wasn't a huge surprise.
Here’s an interesting line:
Beltran: .266 BA, 16 HR, 17 SB, .744 OPS
Utley: .291 BA, 28 HR, 16 SB, .915 OPS
As for the Braves, only a fool would pick against them. This was yet another pennant decided in mid-season, this time by Andruw Jones and the rookies who turned it on when the rotation got dinged.
My pick wasn’t scientific, going on history alone, and you know what? I’ll probably pick the Braves again next season.
Washington's hot start - moving to a town with actual fans - wasn't a surprise, but neither was their second-half collapse. The Nationals had a weak offense that couldn't score runs playing in a pitcher’s park. At one point, I looked at their lineup and saw Carlos Baerga batting cleanup, and said "They’re finished," and soon after, they were.
Each team finished .500 or better. No surprise to anyone, really. They scratched and clawed as predicted, each team staying in contention through September. Even the prediction that the Wild Card winner would have fewer than 90 wins game true. Houston had 89.
Here's what I said in April: "Deepest division in the National League, yet it’s the easiest pick for division winner. History, talent and best GM in baseball on Braves side as they look to break through to the NLCS. Mets are uncommon choice for postseason, but free agent gems Martinez and Beltran, along with a handful of players destined to improve, are too good to ignore. Phillies enter 2005 as a darkhorse instead of favorite. That’s a better place for them, and a good climate for new manager Charlie Manuel to ease back into baseball. Marlins have a text-book offense, but back of rotation and bullpen could be a disaster. Expos improve as Nationals, but merely competitive cellar-dwellers in tough division."
NL Award Predictions
I’m equally proud of picking Andruw Jones as my preseason pick for NL MVP. He changed his batting stance in spring training to add more pop, plus, he was reaching an age when he was likely to peak. I didn’t see anyone else pick Andruw. Albert Pujols probably deserves the MVP, but Andruw will get a fair number of votes.
John Smoltz won’t win the Cy Young, but I’m still happy with making this "statement" pick. As for Andy Marte, my pick for National League Rookie of the Year, I don’t believe he stuck around the majors for more than a few weeks this season .
What I really meant to say was "Ryan Howard."