Friday, October 21, 2005
World Series Predictions
NFL "Expert" Picks
A Glimmer of Hope
Good morning! If you're solely here to see the Football Panel's picks, click here. On the site, it has been another busy week with the Kevin Slowey Q&A, Drew Boatman's Why Baseball article and Roger's Minor League Pitching Rankings. If you missed any of those articles, be sure to check them out now!
But first things first today, I need to make a statement to all Twins fans out there who will listen! These two World Series teams should give the Twins and their fans a lot of enthusiasm and a renewed excitement about the 2006 season.
So many people seem to think that the Twins need some drastic overhaul of their roster, and although I am not against it and in many ways would support it in a small scale, I don't think that it is at all an absolute necessity. Why? Well, let's just look at the two World Series teams and how they performed during the 2005 season and compare it to the Twins:
I will look at a number of statistics and show where the Twins, White Sox and Astros ranked in the Major Leagues:
Wins - White Sox (2nd), Astros (8th), Twins (T-11th)
WHIP - Twins (T-2nd), Astros (T-2nd), White Sox (T-4th)
K/BB - Twins (1st), Astros (2nd), White Sox (6th)
BAA - Astros (2nd), White Sox (4th), Twins (12th)
OPS - Astros (3rd), White Sox (4th), Twins (7th)
ERA - Astros (2nd), White Sox (T-3rd), Twins (7th)
If we compare the Twins pitchers to those of the White Sox and Astros, we find that they are very comparable. All three pitching staffs are among the best in baseball. Johan Santana is an Ace, much like Roger Clemens or Roy Oswalt or the way that Jose Contreras is pitching now. Brad Radke is a great #2 starter, much like Mark Buehrle and Andy Pettitte. Carlos Silva matches up with Jon Garland or Freddy Garcia. If you think about it, Kyle Lohse would be comparable to Brandon Backe. And the Twins numbers are brought down by Joe Mays. Next year, Lohse and Mays should be replaced by Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano who will immediately be better. In other words, as well as the Twins pitched relative to the rest of baseball in 2005, they should be even better next year.
Now, the Twins were also one of the worst offensive teams in all of baseball. Here is the proof:
Runs Scored - White Sox (13th), Astros (24th), Twins (25th)
Doubles - Astros (23rd), Twins (27th), White Sox (30th)
Home Runs - White Sox (5th), Astros (16th), Twins (24th)
Total Bases - White Sox (11th), Astros (23rd), Twins (25th)
Batting Average - White Sox (18th), Twins (23rd), Astros (26th)
On-Base Percentage - Twins (21st), White Sox (T-23rd), Astros (T-23rd)
Slugging Percentage - White Sox (11th), Astros (20th), Twins (29th)
OPS - White Sox (16th), Astros (22nd), Twins (T-27th)
So, clearly the Twins offense does not even keep up with these two teams. However, neither of these teams are exactly offensive juggernauts (although you can also see clearly that the White Sox are not a 'small ball' team!). Clearly the Twins need to improve themselves offensively. But how much of that will come from (hopefully) natural progression of Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Jason Bartlett and Michael Cuddyer. How much can we assume that Shannon Stewart will be better in 2006 than he was in 2005? How much can we assume that Jason Kubel (or a Kubel/Ford platoon) would be more productive that Jacque Jones? If Torii Hunter is traded, I would have to assume that offensively it will improve the team. A decent right-handed power bat will be good, and maybe a decent but professional hitter in the lineup will help.
Just those improvements should move the Twins up to middle-of-the-pack offensively. Again, with this pitching staff, middle-of-the-pack could mean a trip to the playoffs.
Summary - So many people want to whine and complain that the Twins, specifically Terry Ryan, only build to win their division. Some fans believe that they should build a team to compete for a World Series title. Well, I have to answer that question right now. Terry Ryan did build a team that has the ability to win a World Series. As we have noticed in the past few years (with the exception of 2004), strong pitching is what wins the World Series championships. Terry Ryan has built one of the better pitching staffs in all of baseball.
Let's face reality, Billy Beane was absolutely right when, in Moneyball, he said that the playoffs is about luck. A team has to be built to win their division over a 162 game schedule. Once team's get to the playoffs, it isn't about the best team. It is about:
what team is getting the best pitching.
what team happens to be on a roll.
which team is healthy!
All a GM can do is put together a team to get to the playoffs. At that point, the only thing that you can even somehow control is your pitching staff.
So, in that way, I commend Terry Ryan for understanding how important pitching is. He has it at the major league level, and he has depth at every level of the organization. Will all of those minor leaguers make it? Of course not, certainly not all with the Twins, but if the organization can continue to develop pitchers as they have with Francisco Liriano and Scott Baker, they will continue to be among the league's best pitching teams. That means that they always have a chance. There job at hand for Mr. Ryan, as we all know way too well, is to find a way to bring the hitters up to middle-of-the pack or better. I have already mentioned ways that can happen without adding players. Now they need to add a couple of professional hitters to help the offense be more consistent.
Any thoughts? Feel free to e-mail me.
And finally, enjoy your weekend! If you have any thoughts, comments, or ideas for future postings, please let me know. E-mail me.
Alright, my comments for each category will be a little bit longer than they have been for the previous rounds of the playoffs. I mean, it is the World Series, right? Since I don't have any special tie to either team, my only real hope is that it is a good, close series that will last more than five or six games!
If you have any specific thoughts on any of the World Series that you'd like to share, please e-mail me.
NL WC Houston Astros vs AL #1 Chicago White Sox
Starting pitching - Advantage PUSH (it is really hard to not pick the White Sox after what their starting rotation of Contreras, Buehrle, Garcia and Garland did in the ALCS, but I believe that the Astros starters are better. I mean, how do you go against Clemens, Pettitte and Oswalt? Fourth starter advantage to the White Sox versus Backe, but I would give the advantage to the Astros on at least two of the other three.)
Relief pitching - Advantage Astros (Gallo, Wheeler and Qualls were better all year than the White Sox guys, who haven't pitched in forever it seems.)
Closer - Advantage Astros (this one isn't even close. Lidge is as good as it gets. Jenks, well, we'll see which one shows up!)
Offense - Advantage White Sox (Podsednik needs to get on and Dye, Konerko and Everett need to drive in runs, but any lineup with Juan Uribe hitting 9th can't be bad. The Astros need to play Taveras, and Biggio and Berkman need to be solid. A lot of question marks after that, and how will they play with the DH?)
Defense - Advantage White Sox (the Sox defense is actually pretty good, particularly in the infield. The Astros, aside from Taveras and Everett just aren't very good.)
Manager - Advantage PUSH (Garner has been at it for longer, but Guillen is simply getting the job done this postseason, and really, most of the season)
FINAL THOUGHTS - I don't want the White Sox to win. I just can't cheer for them, even if they represent the American League and specifically the AL Central. I predicted that they would lose to the Red Sox before I predicted them to lose to the Angels. This series, I actually think that they have a chance, so should I predict them to win using some reverse psychology thing?
Starting pitching is the most important thing in the playoffs. I don't think there is much argument about that. Neither of these teams was great at scoring runs throughout the season. It will be vital for the White Sox to get ahead early and for their starting pitchers not to throw too many pitches so that they can go late in the game. If it becomes a game of the bullpens, the advantage definitely jumps toward the Astros. I just happen to think that the White Sox have more offense at this point.
Of course, the beauty (or frustration) of the World Series, or any playoff series, is that it is just too small a sample. It is about who is hot at the right time, players, pitchers or teams. In at least two of the games, the stars for one of the teams will take charge. In at least two of the games, a relative unknown will do things to make their team win. Will the time off cool off the White Sox or make them more ready to go?
I think that this has the potential to be a great series, one that could go back and forth and possibly reach seven games. If it does go seven games, Roy Oswalt should be the starter in that game, so I have to take the Astros.
Seth's prediction is Houston Astros in 7 games.
OK, so, do the Vikings have the worst team in the league? Is it Houston? San Francisco? Maybe it is Green Bay? This week I will be consistent with my prediction here as I will be with my pick below though.
I am interested in a few things going into this game:
How will the team be introduced? Do they dare go back to introducing the offensive players? If so, how loudly will Daunte Culpepper be booed? My guess... like the Patriots in the Super Bowl a couple of years ago, I bet that they are announced as a team. Probably for the best.
How short is the leash on Culpepper this week? This one is hard to answer since it is inexplicable why he wasn't taken out of the game the last couple of games when he was playing so poorly. I think that Tice is ready, and if Culpepper gets off to another bad start on Sunday, I wouldn't be surprised if Brad Johnson is in the game by midway through the second quarter. I must reiterate that I do not believe that Johnson then becomes the starter. I would keep Daunte as the starter at least one more week after the benching.
Will Nate Burleson's return impact the Vikings offense at all? I hope so! I remember saying before the season that Burleson would be an All-Pro this year. That seems pretty unlikely at this point, huh? That is obviously unimportant, but now Burleson must prove a couple of things. First, he must prove to be healthy. That is important. Second, he needs to prove that he really dos have the ability to be a #1 wide receiver in the NFL. Not every quality second receiver can be a #1. Look no further than Peerless Price.
How much, if any, will new guard Toniu Fonoti will play? I mean, the Vikings just got him for a 6th round draft pick even though he was a Pro Bowler just last season! A line that includes him, Mike Rosenthal and Bryant McKinnie should be pretty good! It will also allow Marcus Johnson more time to develop while fully understanding the areas in which he needs to improve.
How will Darren Sharper play against his former teammates?
Will Fred Smoot have to make as many tackles this week as he did last week? He did not play well!
Which Kevin Williams will show up?
How many risks will Brett Favre take, and how many of those times will the Vikings be able to come up with a big play on defense?
Who will be the Packers' running back? Ahman Green missed their last game but I would suspect he'll at least start. Tony Fisher will probably get the majority of the carries though, I bet.
This is really a battle of two horrible teams. Both are bad. Both team's have one win. Both got said win against an even worse New Orleans/Houston/Baton Rouge Saints team. It really doesn't seem as fun heading into a Packers/Vikings week!
And finally, the answer to this question could be interesting, and disturbing!
So, I have to actually pick a winner, huh? Maybe I should just say that it'll end in a 6-6 tie or something. No, the Vikings at home, and hopefully they can take some solace in that and come out ready to play. Fact is, if they win, they could still possibly be in first place in the NFC North division.
Seth's Prediction - Vikings 22, Packers 19
Any thoughts on the Vikings, the Packers, this game or anything NFL, just e-mail me.
Based on how 'we' picked this week, there appear to be a lot of agmes that are tough to call. So, here is what we picked... but first.
Just a quick update on Grant Balfour. He had surgery three weeks ago and says he is already feeling much better. He is able to do a few more things with it as it is more mobile now. He will have to wear a sling for another week, and two weeks at night. He will continue to rehab in Florida and wait until the end of January when he can begin to throw again.
Also, Kevin Slowey was at Twins Instructional camp which was supposed to go until this weekend. However, with Hurricane Wilma expected to hit the west coast of Florida by Sunday, the team pulled the players out of Fort Myers. Slowey is likely in transit home after spending the last month in Fort Myers. If you had seen it already, I posted a Q&A with Kevin Slowey on Tuesday this week. Hopefully he will be able to get us his picks tomorrow, but if he can't, we certainly understand. I do feel very confident that he would pick his hometown Steelers though!
And finally, be sure to not only check out Stick and Ball Guy's site, but also the new site that he is a part of The Four Hoarse Men. Check out his article on why he is more than happy to pay his taxes.
Here are our Week 7 picks. (You can see the up-to-date standings by checking out the NFL "Expert" Picks page here.)
Seth Stohs Stick & Ball Guy Ben Jacobs Aaron Gleeman Grant Balfour Kevin Slowey SethSpeaks.net Stick & Ball Guy Hardball Times Aaron's BB Blog Minnesota Twins Pitcher Twins Pitching Prospect Detroit @ Cleveland Lions Browns Browns Brown Lions Browns Indianapolis @ Houston Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts New Orleans @ St. Louis Rams Rams Rams Rams Rams Saints San Diego @ Philadelphia Chargers Eagles Eagles Eagles Chargers Eagles Green Bay @ Minnesota Vikings Packers Packers Packers Packers Vikings Kansas City @ Miami Chiefs Dolphins Chiefs Chiefs Chiefs Chiefs Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati Bengals Bengals Bengals Steelers Bengals Steelers San Francisco @ Washington Redskins Redskins Redskins Redskins Redskins Redskins Dallas @ Seattle Seahawks Seahawks Seahawks Seahawks Cowboys Seahawks Buffalo @ Oakland Bills Raiders Raiders Raiders Bills Bills Tennessee @ Arizona Titans Cardinals Cardinals Titans Titans Cardinals Baltimore @ Chicago Bears Bears Bears Ravens Ravens Bears Denver @ NY Giants Broncos Broncos Giants Broncos Broncos Broncos NY Jets @ Atlanta Falcons Falcons Falcons Falcons Jets Falcons
Will Young Trevor Born Brent Hanson Cory Hepola Mike Brasel Melissa Lien Will's Twins Weblog Twins Junkie BrentNet KTVH-TV Fantasy FB Guru SethSpeaks.net Detroit @ Cleveland Browns Browns Browns Browns Browns Lions Indianapolis @ Houston Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts New Orleans @ St. Louis Rams Saints Rams Rams Rams Rams San Diego @ Philadelphia Eagles Eagles Eagles Eagles Chargers Chargers Green Bay @ Minnesota Packers Vikings Packers Vikings Vikings Packers Kansas City @ Miami Chiefs Dolphins Chiefs Dolphins Chiefs Chiefs Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati Bengals Bengals Bengals Steelers Bengals Steelers San Francisco @ Washington Redskins Redskins Redskins Redskins Redskins Redskins Dallas @ Seattle Cowboys Seahawks Seahawks Seahawks Seahawks Cowboys Buffalo @ Oakland Bills Bills Bills Bills Raiders Bills Tennessee @ Arizona Cardinals Cardinals Titans Titans Cardinals Titans Baltimore @ Chicago Bears Bears Ravens Ravens Bears Bears Denver @ NY Giants Giants Giants Broncos Giants Broncos Broncos NY Jets @ Atlanta Falcons Falcons Falcons Falcons Falcons Falcons
Looking at the selections of the 12 panelists, here is who the collective "We" think will win each game:
Detroit @ Cleveland - Browns 7-3
Indianapolis @ Houston - Colts 10-0
New Orleans @ St. Louis - Rams 9-1
San Diego @ Philadelphia - Eagles 6-4
Green Bay @ Minnesota - Packers 6-4
Kansas City @ Miami - Chiefs 8-2
Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati - Bengals 7-4
San Francisco @ Washington - Redskins 10-0
Dallas @ Seattle - Seahawks 7-3
Buffalo @ Oakland - Bills 7-3
Tennessee @ Arizona - Titans 6-4
Baltimore @ Chicago - Bears 6-4
Denver @ NY Giants - Broncos 6-4
NY Jets @ Atlanta - Falcons 9-1
That is it for me for today and for this week. I hope that everyone has themselves a great weekend! If you have any questions or comments, or ideas for future postings, please e-mail me.
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