(Final Four - my smart bracket had the Duke/WVA matchup before the tournament - and both my smart and fun bracket had Duke going to the finals, so I'll stick with Duke. I didn't have a bracket with either Butler or Michigan St anywhere near the final four - I'll take Butler. I like either Duke or West Virginia to beat either Butler or Michigan St. - so I won't need to do an additional pick before Monday; there's not really any value play looking at the Vegas number. However, there was an article in Slate before the tournament suggesting you pick Duke to win the whole thing if you were predicting the tournament like a hedge fund manager, as while Kansas had the best season, and therefore, the best chance to win the tournament - they weren't as strong as the overwhelming way the public, me included, picked them to win. Conversely, Duke had an excellent season, as good a candidate as any to be called the second best season when you look at the advanced metrics - which is why I picked them to go to the finals - but, and here's the key, they were not valued that way by the public; I talk about this sort of thing all the time whenever I suggest investing - where can you find value - and the value in a bracket contest was taking Duke, which had the second best chance to win the whole thing but wasn't seen that way by the public.)
Projected win totals are in parentheses, where there's a real discrepancy between this and the Vegas win total, I'll note it. For shorthand and because I spend a little bit of every week putting star ratings on wrestling matches, I've got every player rated on a scale of 1-5 based on a 2010 projection. Time won't permit me to put it in an uploadable form, but I'll make comments where applicable and note the 5 star players. Some players get more than 5 stars; I create rules and then I break them. I have the power supreme.
1. Philadelphia (90)
-Halladay's a five star player, Utley's a six star player; Rollins and Werth are both 4 stars. Bullpen's the only weakness. Jamie Moyer will turn 48 at the end of the 2010 season. He was on the '86 Cubs with Davey Lopes. Davey Lopes was on the '72 Dodgers with Hoyt Wilhelm. Wilhelm was on the '57 Indians with Early Wynn. Wynn was on the '41 Senators with Buddy Myer. Myer was on the '24 Senators with Walter Johnson. Johnson was on the '07 Senators with Lave Cross. Lave Cross was born in 1866.
There are 6 steps between the 2010 Philadelphia Phillies and the Civil War. You're welcome.
2. Atlanta (86 WC)
-McCann's the only five star player, but Escobar, Chipper, and Jurrjens are 4 star guys; it's Bobby Cox's last season. Billy Wagner is closing for the Braves - if he can stay healthy for a few years he's going to be a HOF candidate.
3. Florida (81)
-Ramirez is a six star player; they don't have even another 4 star player - Johnson's fatigue factor pushes him down to 3 1/2.
4. NYM (77) (under 81) - your first value opportunity; the Mets were thought of as a contender the past few years and they underperformed - that 81 win total is reflecting some value from past years that isn't there anymore when you look at the pitching staff. Santana's still a 4 star pitcher (Reyes and Beltran are 4 star players both starting the year on the DL; Wright's a six star player) but they don't have another arm on the entire staff above 2 1/2.
5. Washington (74) - Zimmerman's a 4 1/2 star player; Livan Hernandez is in this rotation.
Here's what Livan Hernandez did in the 2002 World Series, pitching for my Giants.
0 wins. 2 losses. ERA of 14.29. 5.2 IP 9 walks, 9 hits. 9 earned runs. Thanks, Livan.
1. St. Louis (87) - Albert Pujols is a 7 on a five star scale. Hey, look - Brad Penny.
2. Milwaukee (80) - Braun and Fielder are both 6 star guys. Trevor Hoffman's going to the HOF - Jim Edmonds, one of the more underrated players of recent vintage is backing up in the OF.
3. Chicago (79) (under 83.5) - Same value bet as the Mets; the Cubs have been an underperforming favorite in the past couple of years; but their stars are all in decline - Soriano - decline, Zambrano - decline, DLee - decline. They do not have even a 3 1/2 star player and I do not see a scenario where they win 84 games.
4. Cincinnati (78) - Phillips and Votto are 3 1/2 star players; there's some mainstream dark horse talk about the Reds; they could finish as high as second (with the caveat that the Cards are entirely dependent on Pujols's health) but aren't a WC contender.
5. Houston (77) - Berkman (on the DL) and Pence are 4 star players; this is probably the top end of Houston's possible projection. Pedro Feliz is here now; he has a career OPS+ of 83 (means he's 17% below the bat of an average major leaguer). His career OBP is .293. Look - I know he can glove - but a third baseman with 4,000 plate appearances of a career sub .300 OBP is a terrible baseball player.
6. Pittsburgh (70) - McCutcheon's the only 3 star player here. I just feel badly for Pirate fans.
1. Colorado (85) - Tulowitzki's a five star player; this division could really come out any of 4 ways, but there's less obvious weakness with the Rox than the other contenders in the West.
2. Los Angeles (84) - Kemp and Ethier are both 5 star players, who would have thought that HOF bound Manny Ramirez would be the 3rd best OF on his team in 2010. The pitching staff doesn't have a lot behind Kershaw/Billingsley/Broxton. I'm looking forward to the knuckleballer Haeger.
3. Arizona (83) - I've got a Dan Haren man crush; he got my Cy Young vote last year, even above my guy, Lincecum - and he's on both my NL and Mixed fantasy team this year (perhaps the phrase mixed fantasy team so proximate to the phrase man crush is a poor choice). Arizona's got a ton of guys - Upton/Reynolds/Young/Drew/Montero - who, if they perform at the top of their projection, would mean a division title for the Snakes.
4. SFG (81) Your 2010 San Francisco Giants:
CF Rowand - 2 star
SS Renteria - 1 1/2 star
3B Sandoval - 4 star (thank you Panda.)
1B Huff - 1 star (Aubrey Huff is our cleanup hitter - can we not ask "why not pick the Giants to win" please)
LF DeRosa - 2 stars
C Molina - 2 stars (Buster Posey is ready now, we could have taken Huff's money and Molina's money and bought a better bat - but Sabean loves him some low OBP guys whose names he's heard of)
2B Uribe - 1 star (Sanchez will presumably be returning from the DL to claim the spot, he's 1 star also - we not only traded Tim Alderson to get him, but then we re-signed him. We could have taken Sanchez's money, Huff's money, and Molina's money and bought a much better bat. This is not second guessing, this was readily identifiable at the time. Much like signing Renteria was clearly a mistake at the time. Much like paying what we paid for Rowand was clearly a mistake at the time. The most progressive, forward thinking city in the US has one of the dumbest, most backwoods baseball organizations. We not only make bad decisions we are philosophically behind the times. That's the frustrating part of being a Giants fan - we are not a smart organization.)
RF Schierholtz - 1 star
Bench (Whiteside, Ishikawa, Downs, Velez, Torres)
1. Lincecum - 5 stars (the best pitcher in baseball)
2. Cain - 4 stars
3. Sanchez - 2.5 stars
4. Zito - 2 stars
5. Wellemeyer - 1 star
Closer - Wilson
Set Up - Romo, Affeldt
Middle - Mota, Medders, Runzler
Long - Pucetas
The staff is really strong; good pen, good bottom end of the rotation (Zito is obviously the most overpaid pitcher in baseball, but as a 4th starter he's fine; Wellemeyer won the job in the spring over Bumgardner, who looked like a potential ace when he was 18, but his velocity is slipping - you just never know how a pitching prospect will develop. Sanchez is an uncertainty; he may be a 3 star pitcher and we need him to be a legitimate 2nd/3rd starter if we're going to contend this year; I'm a Cain fan - he has some dangerous peripheral numbers that show regression, but the guy I see is the best number two starter in the NL - better than Hamels, better than Billingsley, better than Hanson or Oswalt or Nolasco.
5. San Diego (73) - Gonzalez is a six star player; if they move him at the deadline to one of those teams in the AL East it changes the race. Former Giant Kevin Correia does a nice job as a 2 star mid rotation guy. Part of the projection is the idea that they might move guys at the deadline - if they don't, they might win 78 games.
The Phillies look solidly like the best team. The Cards have the biggest distance between them and second place, so they're the best bet to make the postseason. I wouldn't pick anyone else to go to the Series; if you had to, it would be Atlanta.
1. Boston (95) - Pedroia's their only 5 star player - but both Beckett and Lester are 4 stars and they have a half dozen 3-3 1/2 star guys. A deal for Gonzalez makes a ton of sense if Ortiz is done by the deadline.
2. Tampa (92 WC) (over 89) - I guess the 89 win total is a reflection of how difficult the division is - but the Rays are loaded - Longoria's 5 stars, Zobrist is 4 - Crawford, Upton, Shields, Garza are all 3 1/2. They've got front end talent, depth and more prospects. I'd like to see the Rays make the Gonzalez deal - maybe geting Heath Bell too - and win the whole thing.
3. New York (92) - if the Yankees won a hundred games and back to back titles that wouldn't surprise me either; these are the 3 best teams, without question, in the American League. Tex is 5 stars; ARod's 4 1/2 stars still, as is Sabathia; I'm picking them to miss the playoffs because there's a greater chance that things don't work than with the Sox or Rays - Posada's old (and has no glove at all), there's age on Jeter and ARod and Pettitte and Rivera - Gardner is now a full time starting OF and that might be too big for him; Nick Johnson will get hurt, he gets hurt every year. The range of possibilities could take them to "only" 90 wins and I'll say they get left behind in the musical chairs.
4. Baltimore (77) (over 74.5) - The Orioles have some bats; they're gonna thump the ball a little bit, but the division's too tough and even 77 might be optimistic.
5. Toronto (72) - The Jays aren't terrible; Hill's a 4 star player and they have some talent in the rotation - but it's not nearly enough in this division where they're gonna lose every night.
1. Minnesota (82) - I don't know who is gonna win this division now that Nathan's gone for the season; Mauer's a six star player; they've got 5 3+ star guys.
2. Detroit (80) - Cabrera's a 4 1/2 star guy; Verlander's 4 stars - I have Scherzer on both my AL and my Mixed teams; the Damon signing was super smart for the money and I like Detroit a little this year.
3. CWS (78) (under 84) - If everything breaks right for the Sox they hit that 84 projection - but that's what it would take - a rebound for Peavy and Jenks; Pierre and Konerko to hold their value; Ramirez and Beckham to grow at the top of their curve. Just seems like too much to me; they might go .500 and snake the division, but I don't see them as an 85 win team, and that's what it takes to beat you if you invest in the under.
4. Cleveland (77) - Sizemore should rebound to be a 5 star player again; Choo and Cabrera are 3 star guys; if Brantley and LaPorta hit they could win a couple more than this - the guy who is coming is Victor Martinez 2.0, Carlos Santana - who they stole for Blake from the Dodgers; by 2011 he's thumping in the midde of the lineup. There's not enough pitching here to win the division.
5. KCity (74) - Greinke's 5 stars; Soria's 4; DeJesus is 3 - there's nothing else here. Look away.
1. Texas (84) - 4 stars for Kinsler; the storyline going into the season for the entire league really are stolen bases - the White Sox and Rangers are just going to run other teams to death - batteries which struggle with the run game may cost their teams a couple of wins this year.
2. Seattle (82) - Cliff Lee's health situation might be the difference between 84 wins and a division title and 80 wins and finishing below the A's. King Felix is a 4 1/2 star arm, and a healthy Lee is 4 stars making this the best 1-2 in the AL. I even like Bedard once he comes off the DL, and have stashed him on my AL fantasy roster. Guttierrez is 3 1/2 stars; 3 stars each for Figgins and Ichiro. There's a lot of uncertainty right now with Lee.
3. Oakland (81) - The A's are gonna run all the time too - with Davis and Crisp batting 1-2 - it's a little bit of madness this 2010 season. I love the rotation - all five guys are gonna give the A's a chance to win every day. If you took the A's organizational philosophy with the Giants payroll over the past decade or so we would have won a title.
4. LAA (79) (under 84) And 79 wins might be optimistic - it assumes bouncebacks from Santana and Saunders; this is not a good baseball team - only Napoli (on both my AL and Mixed teams) and Weaver/Kazmir are 3 star guys. Like my thoughts about the Mets and Cubs - you're getting 2009 prices for the 2010 versions of these teams - you should consider investing.
Let's say Red Sox/Phillies in the Series. If it was Rays or Yanks instead that shouldn't surprise you; I don't see a scenario where anyone else makes it from the AL.