I’ll go division by division starting with National League East.
Please note: all the quotes I use come from the article we ran last spring and represent our predictions.
National League East
“This division will be dominated by the Nationals. Adding Max Scherzer to 2014’s best pitching staff will prove devastating to a division weak on offense.”
We’ll start off with one of the biggest surprises (there were a lot of surprises this season) and that’s the Nationals—everybody’s favorite pick for the World Series—fall from the top of their division and sitting out in October.
While the Nationals did lead the East for a large part of the first half of the season, they were never truly able to dominate the NL East even with probable NL MVP Bryce Harper.
The Mets stayed with them, and eventually surpassed them after drastically improving their roster at the trade deadline, by adding some power to their roster in the form of wx-Detroit Tiger Yoenis Cespedes.
With their strong, young pitching and their new-look offense, the Mets captured their first division title since 2006.
“The only surprise out of this division will be if the Phillies finally trade stars such as Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon and Chase Utley.”
None of those players play for Philadelphia now.
National League Central
Our best prediction without a doubt came from the NL Central.
“The NL Central is again one of, if not the most, stacked divisions in the Major Leagues. Likely headed by perennial championship contenders the Saint Louis Cardinals, the division is the strongest from top to bottom.”
That is one of the biggest understatements of the century. The NL Central not only boasts the team with the best record in baseball—the Cardinals—but the second and third best as well—Pirates and Cubs respectively.
In fact, if these three teams were all in separate divisions in the National League they would have each clinched a division title. But instead they are all still fighting for position in the division.
“Look for the Central to send two teams to the postseason, the division winner and a wild-card team.”
So it will be three teams instead of just two, but we were pretty close on this prediction—the Cubs were just a lot better this year than expected.
National League West
“Tickle me surprised if the Dodgers don’t more or less run away with this division come October.”
There really were no surprises from this division, except maybe that the Dodgers struggled as much as they did in one of the weakest division in baseball. I’m writing this with one week left in the season and they still haven’t officially clinched a spot (it’s Sunday).
That was pretty much the extent of our prediction—well that and the Giants would return to the postseason in 2016 to keep their every-even-year streak alive.
Fun fact: the Dodgers have one of the largest payrolls in baseball, and a lot of that is paid to players who either aren’t on the team or never start.
American League East
We were a lot worse at predicting the American League, which turned out to be the weaker league this season (mostly because of the strength of the NL Central), at least in the regular season.
Starting with the East, which has turned out a lot different than we thought:
“The AL East holds the winner of free agency this past season, the Boston Red Sox. They have the most dominant lineup in the MLB after acquiring Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez.”
This turned out to be completely wrong. The Red Sox are the worst team in their division this season, and will not come close to making the playoffs.
While we did predict that the Blue Jays would make a push for second in the division—which exceeded thanks to great trades for Troy Tulowitzki and David Price in July—we were wrong in our prediction for the Yankees.
“The Rays and Yankees bring up the bottom of the division. It may be a rough year for the Evils Empire.”
American League Central
“At the end of the year, I like the White Sox to be the surprising Chicago team to make the playoffs.”
Everything about that prediction was wrong. The South Side will not be hosting any playoff games this year, but the North Side will.
We assumed after the Royals miraculous run in the postseason last year—where they went from wildcard to one game from winning the World Series—they would stumble this year, and just remain competitive.
Instead they have one of the top two records in the American League and have won the American League Central for the first time in their team’s history.
American League West
Finally we come to the worst of our predictions. While it was one of the more competitive divisions in league—with only four games separating the top three teams—we were wrong again about who would be on top.
“The Rangers have been plagued by injuries yet again and it will show in their record. The Astros will not compete by any means, but will improve as their young roster continues to develop…I think the Angels and Mariners will make the playoffs in a tough division.”
The Rangers currently lead the division, the Astros surprised everybody and remain in playoff contention after leading the West for a good part of the season and the Angels and Mariners are currently out of the postseason.
So what did we learn in all of this? First, we aren’t the greatest at making predictions.
But second, and perhaps more telling, is something I said in another article I wrote last year about baseball: “the length of the season and the nature of the sport allow a type of suspense and strategy that no other sports can offer.”
In the realm of sports, and especially baseball, what all the facts point to happening doesn’t always end up happening.