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Friday, July 15, 2011
Time to make some revised predictions


I will not hide. In fact, I write this post knowing Phillies fans will gladly take the opportunity to throw cheesesteaks at me.

Yes, I'm revisiting my preseason predictions.

AL playoff teams

Original prediction: Red Sox, White Sox, Rangers, A's (wild card)

New prediction: Red Sox, White Sox, Rangers, Yankees (wild card)

What the heck was I thinking in picking the A's? Hey, that was one of those predictions where you look smart if it happens and ... well, less smart when it doesn't. Run prevention hasn't been a problem for the A's, as they're third-best in the AL in runs allowed, and that's in spite of the injuries to Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden, Brandon McCarthy and Andrew Bailey. Run scoring has been the issue. Only Josh Willingham has an OPS+ above league average. Hideki Matsui's OPS is down 203 points from 2010, David DeJesus' is down 184 points, Daric Barton's 206 (with no home runs!), Mark Ellis' 195 before he got traded. Just a total offensive implosion. In retrospect, who could have predicted such huge declines from ALL of those guys?

The AL Central is wide open. The White Sox are over .500 since a 10-18 April, so I'll stick with them, especially since the Tigers are struggling for rotation consistency behind Justin Verlander.

NL playoff teams

Original prediction: Braves, Reds, Rockies, Giants (wild card)

New prediction: Phillies, Brewers, Giants, Braves (wild card)

I figured the Phillies would win about 90 games and miss the playoffs by a win or two. Instead, they're on pace for 101 wins. They're about six wins better than expected at this point, so where did I go wrong? Let us count the ways:

--The offense has been fairly mediocre as predicted, although Jimmy Rollins and Raul Ibanez have been a little better than I thought. +1 win.
--Chase Utley returned sooner than expected. Preseason reports were that he'd return around the All-Star break. +2 wins.
--Cole Hamels has taken his game to a new level (ERA more than a run better than his career ERA). +1.5 wins.
--The bullpen has been very good, with Ryan Madson (2.03 ERA) and Antonio Bastardo (0.82) in particular dominating at the back end. +1.5 wins.

I have no idea which team to pick in the NL Central. The Brewers have the best rotation on paper, so I'll give them the edge, although I wouldn't be surprised to see a four-way tie.

World Series

Original prediction: Red Sox over Braves.

New prediction: Phillies over Red Sox.

Predicting the playoffs is a crapshoot, but right now I wouldn't want to bet against Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Hamels.

AL MVP

Original prediction: Adrian Gonzalez.

New prediction: Adrian Gonzalez.

This is shaping up as a very interesting race between Gonzalez and Jose Bautista. As Dan Szymborski wrote on ESPN Insider earlier this week, Bautista is having a historic season. But will voters be able to look past Gonzalez's gaudy RBI totals and likely postseason berth while the Jays struggle to finish over .500?

NL MVP

Original prediction: Troy Tulowitzki.

New prediction: Prince Fielder.

Jose Reyes, Matt Kemp and Andrew McCutchen have probably been the best all-around players in the NL, but none will likely make the playoffs, hurting their MVP chances. That makes for a wide-open MVP race. Fielder and Brewers teammate Ryan Braun both have sterling credentials, but could end up stealing votes from each other, leaving the door open for somebody like Joey Votto or Lance Berkman. This will come down to who has a big September in the heat of the pennant race.

AL Cy Young

Original prediction: Jon Lester.

New prediction: Justin Verlander.

Although Jered Weaver will give him a good run for the award.

NL Cy Young

Original prediction: Roy Halladay.

New prediction: Roy Halladay.

No change needed here.

AL Rookie of the Year

Original prediction: Jeremy Hellickson.

New prediction: Michael Pineda.

Hellickson has been as good as advertised (8-7, 3.21 ERA, 1.15 WHIP), but Pineda has been a little more explosive (8-6, 3.03 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, league-leading 9.0 K's per nine). Should be a close race, with Angels closer Jordan Walden also in the discussion.

NL Rookie of the Year

Original prediction: Brandon Belt.

New prediction: Craig Kimbrel.

Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa has been terrific, but voters will find it hard to ignore Kimbrel if he racks up 40-plus saves.

Follow David Schoenfield on Twitter @dschoenfield.