2022 Prognostication

It’s time for me to make my predictions for the 2022 playoffs. And, since there’s a new playoff format–12 teams instead of 10, with an additional Wild Card team with no tiebreaker games–I’m going to tweak my approach.

My picks are, as in previous years, primarily based on Run Differential, modified by record and prejudice. This year, however, I’m going to throw out the record and just go with the traditional “personal prejudice” metric.

With no further ado, our American League playoff teams.

The East winner will be the Yankees (spit) with a +4 RD.

In the Central, it’s the IndiansNoNamesGuardians with a staggering +23 RD through their first six games.

The West will be won by the Athletics (spit) at +12.

And our Wild Card teams are going to be the White Sox (+10), Houston (+10), and Texas (+3). For seeding purposes, MLB would award the top Wild Card spot to Houston, based on their 3-1 record against teams in their own division. Since I’m only predicting teams, not their relative ranking, I won’t argue MLB’s methodology.

Turning our attention to the National League, the picture is even simpler.

In the East, nobody is even close to the Mets’ +15.

The Cubs have a firm grip on the Central with a +9 RD.

And the West winner can only be the Dodgers (spit) thanks to their +14 record.

Which means that all three Wild Card teams are coming out of the West: the Giants (+11), Padres (+10), and Rockies (+6).

One has to pity the Diamondbacks; the only NL West team sitting out of the playoffs this year.

Just as a side-note, the two teams trailing their respective leagues–and guaranteed to miss the playoffs with identical -17 RDs–are the Royals and Nationals. Sorry, Kansas City; but a big Simpsonsesque “Ha-Ha” to Washington.

SAST 18

[Administrative Note: The last SAST post was 19. The one before that was 17. Oops. Consider this a modest nod in the direction of numerical consistency.]

I was pondering the fact that the two stories everyone knows about George Washington both involve wood. That is, of course, that he chopped down a cherry tree and that he wore wooden dentures.

The first, obviously, is a myth. But I wondered if the infamous dentures were made of cherry wood. That would be at least an amusing coincidence–because the tree-chopping legend surely doesn’t predate the real dental appliance–and possibly even a source of the legend.

So, a bit of research ensued. And, annoyingly, it turns out that the wooden dentures story is totally fictional as well.

Okay, not totally. George did wear dentures. Just not wooden ones.

Still, it does leave room for some creative fictionalizing. Anyone want to help spread the story that President Washington’s wooden dentures were made from the very same tree he chopped down as a nipper (sorry)?

Moving on.

Gotta love the rumor mill.

There was a rumor making the rounds that Apple was going to release a new Mac Mini this year. Perfectly logical: the entry level Mini now has an M1 chip, but the high end Mini still has an Intel processor. Gotta have a high-end M1 Mini, right?

Then Apple introduced the Mac Studio. Which is, to all intents and purposes, an ultra-high-end Mini.

So now, of course, the rumor is that Apple is not going to come out with a new Mini this year. It will be next year.

Personally, I don’t see why we even need a high-end Mini. The original Mini was unveiled as a “bring your own peripherals” deal that would let Apple sell you on their hardware and software at a significantly lower price than the rest of their line. It’s still a great idea, and the M1 Mini fits the niche admirably.

Leave it at that, Apple. Keep the Mini low-end and low-rent and let the people who need power go with the Studio.

Moving on again.

Thanks to Eric for pointing me at this article in Politico.

There isn’t much in it that will be new to anyone paying attention to the Oakland As efforts to convince the city to give them a dream platter of goodies–though I’m somewhat amused by the author’s characterization of the Mets as the antithesis of the As.

What struck me while I was reading it, though, was the thought that perhaps we’ve been misreading the situation. The team’s ownership keeps presenting it as “give us what we want or we’re moving to Vegas.”

Totally standard sports team tactics. Except that the Athletics keep moving the fences back. Every time it starts to seem that they’re going to get what they’re asking for, they add something to their demands.

At this point, they’re promising to put $12 billion dollars into constructing their megafacility–if. Given the typical lack of correspondence between construction estimates and actual costs, the bill is likely to be closer to $25 billion than the twelve the team is promising.

What if the As ownership doesn’t want to get handed their dream package? If the city coughs up the land, the tax district, and whatever add-on gets added to the demands next, then ownership is on the hook for those big bucks.

I’m starting to think they want the deal to be rejected. They’re just looking for an excuse to head for Nevada, where they can rejoice in actually being a small market team, rather than having to fake it enough to get those subsidies from the teams in larger markets.

At this point, I’m almost ready to hope Oakland does give the As’ ownership everything they’ve asked for, just so I can see what kind of verbal gymnastics they go through in denying they’d ever promised to build a ballpark…

And, finally, on another baseball related note:

Commissioner Manfred (spit) is trying to butter up the players. He’s gifted every player on a big league roster with a pair of $200 Beats headphones.

Let us not forget that, under the just-signed collective bargaining agreement, every one of those guys is making at least $700,000 this year. I think they can probably afford their own headphones–and probably already have a set or six.

Hey, Rob! Instead of making nice on the players–who aren’t going to believe for an instant that you’re on their side, or even that you like them–why don’t you try making nice on the fans? You know, the folks who contribute the money that lets owners pay those players, not to mention the salary that you used to buy all those headphones.

We could really use a no-local-blackouts, no social-media-exclusives broadcast package.

While We’re Waiting

No baseball.

Yes, I know. We’ve got college ball. We’ll have minor league baseball shortly. Odds are, if MLB doesn’t give us any signs of progress, we’ll get Korean and Japanese baseball on TV.

But for many of us, that’s all methadone. We want the full-on MLB experience.

Maybe not every little bit of it. I, for one, could do without the outrageously expensive tickets, the TV blackouts, or the looming threat of robot umpires. Which probably gives you some idea of which side of the labor strife I’m on.

Not that I think the players are blameless either. But I’m sympathetic to their desire to make the most of their skills.

I had a dream. No, not literally. That was last week.

But I dreamt that Congress found something to unite behind: revoking MLB’s anti-trust exemption. With that and a few other changes, a rival league could rise up. Maybe one of the independent leagues could catch major attention with a retro approach, rolling back all of the oddball experiments MLB has inflicted on us. Or go the other way, trying a bunch of experiments to see what really works–like the original XFL, but with a dose of sanity.

Of course, none of that would work without access to players. So the other half of the dream is to free up the players, which would require additional legislation. The goal would be to break the bonds that tie players to a single team from Day One. So, block the draft and require that MLB contracts be subject to “At Will” requirements.

A software engineer at Google can over to Apple–or go independent with her own startup–without Apple having to send Google two QA Analysts to be named later. So why can’t a ballplayer with, say, the Phillies, send a note to the Orioles–or the Austin Weirdos*–“Hey, I hear you’re looking for a second baseman. I’m having a breakout year; what’s 6 WAR worth to you?”

* Currently in the Pecos independent league. But in a new regulatory regime, who knows?

Obviously, there’d need to be some limitations. But any league could set their own rules: no player hired after such-and-such a date can play in the playoffs, for example. Or in our hypothetical XBL, maybe players hired in the last month of the season or during the playoffs have to wear flat shoes instead of cleats.

None of the above is ever going to happen, of course. MLB is too good at defending its turf. But our current freedom from MLB means we’ve got some freedom to make our own 2022 season.

Closing the Loop

And here we are again. Another season has ended with the sodden thump of a rain-soaked newspaper splatting on the doorstep.

I mean, really? Atlanta and Houston–a pair of Rule One teams–in the World Series?

But anyway, before we move into the dark part of the liturgical calendar, let’s close out 2021 with a look at my predictions for the season and the playoffs.

Back in April, I picked Miami, Cincinnati, LA, San Diego, and Milwaukee to make the playoffs on the NL side. Instead, we got Atlanta, Milwaukee, San Francisco, St. Louis, and LA. Two of five.

In the AL, I called Boston, Minnesota, Houston, Cleveland, and Chicago. A much better assortment that who actually made the playoffs: Tampa Bay, Chicago, Houston, Boston, and New York? Three out of five.

So, once again I wound up with the moral equivalent of a 81 win season. I should do an experiment: see if I can get better results by picking the winners at random. Maybe next year.

As for my playoff predictions, well…

I take some solace in the fact that I predicted the Astros to make it to the World Series and lose. But I also said the series would only go five games, and I certainly didn’t expect the Braves to make it to the Series, much less win it. Even if I’d picked them to face Houston, their respective run differentials should have meant a quick exit for Atlanta: +205 versus +134 shouldn’t even have been a contest. (For what it’s worth, Atlanta outscored Houston 25 to 20.)

Ah, well. Next year.

And now, onward to the Winter Meetings and the WabbitDuckFree Agent Season.

It’s That Time of Year Again

The regular season is over. I’m (over)due for my semi-annual haircut. And so it’s time for me to (a) make my predictions for the results of the playoffs–based, as usual, on a mix of run differential and personal prejudice–and (b) help those of you who aren’t affiliated with a playoff team choose someone to root for.

I’ll score my predictions, both for the regular season and for the playoffs in November.

And, because I’m perverse that way, I’ll make the prediction first, then tell you why you shouldn’t root for the inevitable winner.

Let’s start with the American League. Alphabetical order, don’cha know.

It’s going to be close. Tampa Bay has a +206 run differential, and Houston came in at +205. That’s basically a rounding error (or would be if you could earn fractional runs in baseball.) Nobody else is even close. I’m calling it for Houston, though, based on consistently good playoff results.

Over in the NL, there’s no ambiguity whatsoever. LA smoked all of baseball with a +269 run differential.

And, all prejudices aside, I don’t see the Astros overcoming a +64 run-scoring lead. Heck, not counting the Dodgers themselves, only eight teams in all of baseball had a run differential above +64.

So, look for the Dodgers to stroll through the playoffs, and take the World Series in five games.

Now, who should you be rooting for?

For a full recap of the rules for choosing a rooting interest, check out the 2019 Playoff post.

In brief, though, you can’t root for a team that claims to be everyone’s team. You shouldn’t root for a team that’s in the other league or in your usual team’s division (assuming you have a usual team who didn’t make the playoffs). And teams with a record of futility get bonus points.

Again, starting with the AL:

You do not, repeat not root for the Yankees or Red Sox. Houston, tainted as they are by the recent cheating scandal should probably not get your consideration either. So that only leaves two options for American League fans.

If you normally root for a team in the AL East or AL West, you should be pulling for the Chicago White Sox. If you regularly follow an AL Central team, pin your playoff hopes and dreams on the Tampa Bay Rays.

Over in the NL, it’s a little more complicated. Rule One eliminates the Dodgers and Braves, but that still leaves the Giants, Brewers, and Cardinals as worthy candidates for your attention. NL East orphans can pick any of the three. NL Central fans can, naturally, pull for the Giants. And those of you who usually follow the Padres, Rockies, or Diamondbacks can either flip a coin between the Milwaukee and St. Louis or you can consider yourselves as normally unaffiliated.

As for those of you who don’t have a regular-season team and you NL West orphans, consider this: of the five teams you could root for, only one–the San Francisco Giants–didn’t make the playoffs last year. Granted, last year was the expanded playoffs after the COVID-19-shortened season, but it still counts in the record books.

Much as I hate to recommend breaking Rule Two, I don’t see any choice. Root for the Giants–this year’s Cinderella team (they won the NL West by one game over LA)–to go all the way and slap the Damn Dodgers’ other cheek.

Note: there won’t be a Wednesday post this week; I’m posting early, both to beat the playoffs starting Tuesday, and to give you a chance to order team merchandise for your playoff favorites. Remember, Amazon does have same- and next-day shipping to most of the country if you need an appropriate cap, pennant, or foam finger.

Saw That Coming

I’m just surprised it took this long.

The As are threatening to relocate out of Oakland if the city doesn’t roll over and a give the okay for them to build a new ballpark downtown. And, naturally, they have the full support of MLB for a possible move.

This, of course, is only the first step. Once the stadium location is approved, that same threat will be deployed again and again.

Remember, the Athletics currently own half of the Coliseum site and they’re negotiating with the city to buy the other half. Their plan is, apparently, to redevelop the site into housing and shopping–it’s right across the street from a BART station, so (assuming BART recovers from the COVID-19 transit slump) access is easy from anywhere in the Bay Area. There’s a lot of money to be made off that space.

Don’t be surprised if the As threaten to leave town if Oakland doesn’t sell to them (or a third party they’re confident they can work with). After all, they’re going to need that income to pay for the new ballpark.

Naturally, they’d never threaten to leave town if Oakland doesn’t kick in substantial money toward stadium construction. Significantly more than the ballclub is likely to pay for the Coliseum site.

The threat is as inevitable as it is depressing. We’ve seen it over and over again, every time a team in any sport wants a new home.

But to be fair, what other leverage does a sports team have? Fans will come out to see a losing team almost as readily as they will a winner, so threatening to tank (unofficially, of course, as saying it in so many words would get the team sanctioned by their league) wouldn’t accomplish anything. “Help pay for the new stadium or we’ll stay in the old one,” is no threat at all.

And it’s certainly a stronger threat for Oakland than it was in most of the occasions it’s been trotted out since the Sixties. After all, the Raiders are in Vegas now, and the Warriors are in San Francisco. If Oakland lost the As too, that’s one heck of a lot of tax money vanishing from the civic coffers.

So get ready to hear “we’re exploring our options” over and over and over for the next few years.

2021 Prognostication

Here we are, a week and a half into the MLB season. Time for me to try my hand at picking this season’s winners and losers.

In addition to the traditional rainouts, this year we once again face the prospect of covidouts. Makes looking six months out a bit tricky, but hey, as the saying goes, if it was easy, everyone would do it. Okay, so maybe everyone does do it. Never mind, I’m forging ahead.

I’m going back to my original practice of picking the playoff teams without weighing in on the playoff results. I’ll leave that prediction for the end of the season.

As usual, my picks are based primarily on run differential, with ties broken by a combination of won/loss record, run ratio, and personal prejudice. In other words, much the same approach every prognosticator uses.

Data is as of the end of the day yesterday, April 13th.

Starting with the National League, it appears our East Division winner will be Miami, thanks to their stellar accomplishment in scoring exactly as many runs as they’ve given up.

Cincinnati claims the Central Division on a +22 run differential.

Impressive, but it’s not even close to the stunning +30 LA put up to claim the West. Darn it.

As for the Wild Card, San Diego strolls in with a +16, distantly followed by Milwaukee’s +7.

Not much controversy there. And, disappointingly little opportunity for me to exercise my prejudices. I will note that it warms my heart to see the Nationals, owners of the MLB-worst 2-6 record are also holders of the NL-worst run differential at -18. There are, of course, many games left this year (we hope!), but it’s not unreasonable to count Washington out.

Moving on to the AL, the outcome looks just as clear. (Amazing what a difference it makes when you use data from ten to twelve games instead of one or two.)

Our Eastern winner is obviously going to be Boston. Despite a slow start, they’ve still managed to put up a +17 to dominate the division.

Minnesota is going to take the Central Division; their +19 handily beats out Cleveland and Chicago.

To nobody’s surprise, Houston is dominating the AL West: not only do they have a solid +13 record, but only one other team–LAofA–is even in positive numbers, at +1.

I’ve already mentioned the Wild Card winners. The WhateverTheirNameIs gang are well out in front of the rest of the league at +16 and the White Sox narrowly squeezed past the Blue Jays, +10 to +9.

No controversy there, but more heartwarming data: the owners of MLB’s worst run differential are the Oakland Athletics. They’re clearly out of the playoff hunt at -26. Even the fact that they’re somehow at 5-7, better than half a dozen other teams invalidates my prediction.

The season ends October 3–at least, that’s the plan–and I’ll check on the results and give you my playoff guessespredictions before the Wild Card games on the fifth.

A Mixed Bag

Winter again, baseballically speaking.

And, with the election well-launched into its best-of-seven series–that’s a guess: this post was written prior to election night, so at this point I have no actual idea how many state results are going to be referred to the Supreme Court for a fiat decision–it’s time to take a look at my predictions.

As always, my goal is 70% accuracy in picking the playoff teams. Last year, I was a pitiful 40%. This year, in a season marked by weirdness, well…

In the NL, I correctly picked LA, San Diego, St. Louis, Chicago, Florida, Atlanta, and Cincinnati. My only miss was in picking Colorado instead of Milwaukee. Good start.

Over on the junior circuit, I was right with Tampa Bay, Oakland, Minnesota, Cleveland, Houston, and Toronto. Failed on LA and Kansas City; should have gone with New York and Chicago.

Overall, that’s thirteen out of sixteen: 81.25%! I believe that’s my best record yet. Amazing how much of a difference there is between a marathon and a sprint.

That said, I rather fell on my face in picking the actual winners.

I’d anointed Cleveland and San Diego as the World Series teams with the Padres winning in six games.

One team didn’t make the playoffs; the other got swept in the Division Series.

sigh

I take some small consolation in having correctly called the number of games in the Series.

And, as proof that I’m a man ahead of my times, I’ll note that I picked the Dodgers to win it all last year. I’m really going to feel weird if San Diego becomes the 2021 champion.

Assuming, of course, that there is a 2021 season. There’s a lot riding on the U.S. Series between the Donkeys and the Elephants. Don’t forget to watch Game Two of the series in the Supreme Court tomorrow!

Continuing a Theme

And, speaking of balls in the air in a somewhat less metaphorical sense…

Yes, today is Opening Day in what will–for however long it lasts–be the strangest season in MLB’s modern history.

I have to say I feel sorry for the poor folks tasked with putting together the schedule. One would have thought the best way to kick the season off with a bang would be to have everyone playing–especially given the need to squeeze 60 games into 66 calendar days. But, no. Somebody decided the way to go was with a major East Coast match and a major West Coast game.

Giants/Dodgers makes sense. A long, storied rivalry involving both ends of California. Okay, so it’s the disease center of the US right now, but what can you do?

But over at the far end of the country, the schedulers had a major dilemma. They didn’t have much choice about including the Nationals. They won the World Series last year (though, to be honest, that feels so long ago, I had to double-check to be sure I was remembering correctly). But who to pair them with?

The best choice from a rivalry perspective would be the Orioles, but nobody’s going to schedule a team that lost 108 games last year for a “big bang” opener.

Rematch of the World Series? Sorry, nope. Houston is in the AL West; the only way they’ll play against Washington this year is if they meet in the World Series again.

How about Atlanta? There are plenty of reasons to dislike them, dating back at least as far as Ted Turner’s heyday. Even if you can’t get behind rooting for the Nationals, you can root against the Braves. But given the current socio-political climate and the team’s adamant refusal to even consider a name change, that must have been too much hate for MLB’s liking in an Opening Day matchup.

So the schedule makers went with the default choice. If you don’t root for the Yankees, you passionately detest them. Unlike Atlanta’s case, though, it’s just because they’re the Yankees. It’s sanctioned hate. There’s no real rivalry, but it’ll work for MLB’s needs. And if New York is currently the national virus runner-up, well…the game is in Washington. Good enough.

Rivalries or no, virus or no, we’re finally getting what MLB insists we call “meaningful baseball”. As though games that don’t count in the standings–or, worse yet, where the players don’t get paid–are meaningless. But I digress.

It’ll be a strange season, no matter what happens. But it is a touch of the familiar, and perhaps more importantly, something we can use to set one day apart from the day before and the day after.

See you next week, when I’ll share my usual predictions for the post-season.