Four Calls for the 2010 Season That You Heard Here First
Over the next five weeks or so the average baseball fan is going to come across numerous predictions via TV, sports talk radio, newspapers, magazines and the web. Letâ€™s face it, the majority of experts are going to play it safe and you are going to hear and read the same things ad nauseam â€“ the Phillies are going to win the NL, Adrian Beltre will wear a cup, the Yankees or Red Sox will win the World Series, with possibly a team of Somali Pirates being just as competitive, the Pittsburgh ones will continue their streak of consecutive seasons below .500, blah-blah-blah and so it goes. I am going to step out of the comfort zone that many who follow the game are fairly sure of and make four calls for the 2010 season that will probably be in stark contrast to what you will hear between now and Opening Day.
Roy Halladay Will Not Win 20 Games for the Phillies
He is actually going to win 30. I am not smoking the artificial grass in writing this, but I think he has a shot. Dig your cleats into this â€“ the last four years he has averaged roughly 32 starts a year and in 2003 when he won 22 games he made 36, so he has durability. Halladay is 17-8 with a 3.02 ERA lifetime in inter-league play in 31 starts with the Blue Jays and will now be heading to the National League where he will enjoy facing a pitcher batting ninth in place of a DH and where the majority of the players have either not seen him at all or have minimal at bats against him. Take those ingredients and add to the mix that Doc now has the added bonus of pitching for a team where his offense will be the “Broad Street Lumber Company.” Still not buying? Allow me to continue.
With that offense behind him he should have games where he can toss say six or seven innings and then leave with a comfortable lead and a reasonable pitch count because he will be pitching to contact and not having to work deep counts like you would in a close affair. Just put the ball over and let them hit it which will allow him to save those innings for when he needs them which will be outlined below.
Doc should also be able to steal a few wins given that he is a workhorse and the Phillies have the ability to put up runs in bunches. This will mean additional chances to earn a W if he can stay well into the eight or ninth innings of games that are either tied or he is losing. Halladay is now pitching for a team that had 43 comeback wins last year and there is no need to call down to the bullpen as soon as the sixth rolls around and the Phils are down, just keep it close. Sticking around for that extra inning or two could mean an extra two wins or more.
What is it going to take? Like any season a player has for the ages, a whole lot. When Denny McLain won 31 in 1968 he had the benefit of 41 starts, but with the five-man rotation here to stay, Halladay will need to at least match his career high of 36 starts. Give him a bullpen like the Phils had in 2008 where they were untouchable and not blow any wins for him, a few games where he may not have his best stuff but gets away with say a 7-5 win, sprinkle in some games discussed above where he hangs around long enough to benefit from a late-inning rally and be able to take full advantage of an NL East with a Mets team riddled with question marks, a young free swinging Marlins team, a Braves team that is not close to what it once was and a Nationals team that is wellâ€¦the Nats. Thirty wins is a stretch but try to name one pitcher who is seasoned enough and has the tools that Halladay does to do this right now.
The Wild Card Will Not Come From the AL East
The Wild Card has been around for fifteen years now and the AL East has sent a representative in eleven of them, and ten times it has been either the Yankees or Red Sox. One of them will be home watching the post season because the Texas Rangers are going to take it this year.
Last year they won 87 games with Kevin Millwood in their rotation and Josh Hamilton missing extensive time due to injuries. Millwood has been replaced by the oft-injured, yet promising, Rich Harden plus righties Scott Feldman who has been talked about as a possible ace, the electric Neftali Feliz who is going to be huge as either a starter or reliever, and some combination of Colby Lewis, Brandon McCarthy, and if they want a lefthander Derek Holland or Matt Harrison to round out the rotation. For the first time in quite awhile the Rangers have both quality and depth in their pitching arsenal.
Offensively they are stacked and are referred to as the “Power Rangers” for a reason. Texas sports the best second baseman in the AL in Ian Kinsler; Michael Young, Josh Hamilton and now Vlad Guerrero, who will be playing half his games in an Arlington ballpark where he has a career average of .394 and an OPS of 1.175 in 221 plate appearances. If rookie slugger Justin Smoak can emerge and contribute he will be my Rookie of the Year pick and make this dangerous team even more of a handful to deal with.
I foresee the Rays not getting it going again like in 2008, and either the Red Sox offense letting them down or the Yankees missing Damon and Matsui more than they thought, which will open the door for only one of these Titans to make the post season.
The Phillies Will Not Make It Out Of the NLDS
How can the easy pick to represent the National League in the World Series not even make it out of the first round? The Phils will have the best record in the NL and draw the Wild Card-winning San Francisco Giants in the NLDS. With the first round being only a five-game series it becomes real dangerous when facing a team stacked with pitching like the Giants because if they can steal one game it changes the complexion of the series. My crystal baseball says Tim Lincecum will edge Roy Halladay in a Game 1 classic, Game 2 will be a day game where Cole Hamels will channel his inner Edward Cullen (Twilight reference for the ladies) and implode once again while pitching in the daylight which he is apt to do. Joe Blanton will beat Barry Zito in Game 3 and Halladay will come back and beat my NL Rookie of the Year pick Madison Bumgarner in Game 4. “The Freak” will return in Game 5 and beat Hamels. Granted the Giants have no punch offensively whatsoever but they hung around the Wild Card for most of last year and will turn the corner in 2010 led by their pitching.
This is the one team the Phillies do not want to face in a short series because they may have the best starting pitching in the NL when it comes to their two top starters, plus add in Barry Zito who began to get his act together after the All-Star break (5-4, 2.83 ERA vs. 5-9 5.01 in the first half) and 20-year-old stud Bumgarner, who got a little taste of big league life at the end of last year. Philadelphia GM Ruben Amaro will be seen wandering the streets of Philadelphia mumbling the name, â€œCliff Lee.â€
This Will Be the Lowest Rated World Series in History
After the Colorado Rockies beat the emotionally spent Giants in the NLCS and the Minnesota Twins take care of the Seattle Mariners in the ALCS, baseball is going to get a final series that will be a Nielsen nightmare. Picture Colorado and Minnesota in their brand new Target Field outdoors in late October or early November at night, temperatures hovering around the freezing mark and a threat of snow each day. Remember back to last yearâ€™s NLDS when the Rockies and Phillies were pushed back a day due to the cold and snow in Colorado, and that was only in the first week of October. In 2010 it will be two franchises with not much of a fan base outside of their immediate area and games moved or plagued by uncertainty due to extreme weather conditions which will lead to a quality of ball leaving much to be desired.
Interest will fade fast for the casual fan for this series under this set of circumstances and it will be a shame because the country wonâ€™t see an under appreciated team with good young players like the Rockies and a Twins team that just finds a way to win led by Justin Morneau and hometown hero Joe Mauer. Though not as famous as the M&M boys of Mantle and Maris of the â€™61 Yankees, Mauer and Morneau are out to make a name for themselves on the national scene and the championship they are going to win in 2010 will be the start.
At a minimum we will see Bud Selig shrug and give his â€œwhat do I do nowâ€ face a dozen times (you know the one where he looks like a kid who just wet his pants) when they ask the Commissioner what will be done so this does not happen again. This will be where the greed that has provided fans all World Series night games, late starts where adults let alone kids struggle to stay up, and a playoff format with an absurd number of off-days built in will come back to haunt Mr. Selig, the owners and all their minions.
Just remember that each year anything is possible in the spring.
Matt Aber is a baseball enthusiast posing as a business professional in day to day life. He is an advocate of the national organization called The Miracle League which allows special needs children to play baseball. He encourages you to support this worthy cause and learn more at www.miracleleague.com