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April 12, 2002

6-4-3

Noises from the Feedbag, Part Two

by Gary Huckabay

As I explained last week, we asked the attendees at each Pizza Feed to predict the results of the divisional races this year, along with the World Series winner, major award winners, managerial firings, etc. This week, we'll take a look at the American League divisional races. For each division, the average rank of each team is listed, along with the standard deviation for each team, which is a measure of how much variability there was for each team. The lower the deviation, the more agreement there is about that team's place in the standings.

Let's check out what the collective wisdom says about the AL.

AL East


Team                    Average    Std. Dev.

New York Yankees 1.11 0.31 Boston Red Sox 2.25 0.64 Toronto Blue Jays 2.75 0.67 Tampa Bay Devil Rays 4.41 0.60 Baltimore Orioles 4.48 0.57

That's about as suspenseful as an episode of Trapper John, M.D. A grand total of four people predicted a win for anyone but the Yankees, and of those four, three admitted to being "congenital" or "habitual" Red Sox fans. Clearly, the suspense in this division is the mammoth struggle for fourth, with the Paul Wilson-led Devil Rays taking on the established, proven Orioles squad, led by Jeff Conine.

There was a kind of grim unanimity that the only prayer the Red Sox have of winning the division depends on Roger Clemens collapsing, Pedro Martinez having a healthy enough shoulder to pitch 250 innings, Derek Lowe becoming a dominant starter, Manny Ramirez having healthy hamstrings, Nomar Garciaparra showing no ill effects from his injury, Trot Nixon hitting lefties, and Tony Clark finally taking the step forward that the Tigers were looking for four years ago. People are optimistic about Nick Johnson, Derek Jeter, Brandon Lyon, Joe Kennedy, Dewon Brazelton, and Gabe Gross, some more vociferously than others.

Some yelled-out ideas about what's going to decide the division:

  • "Can I get some more Diet Pepsi over here?"
  • "Is there a new iron triangle of front office talent moving between Pittsburgh and Tampa?"
  • "Doesn't a triangle have three points?"
  • "Can we talk about the Royals now?"
  • "If Toronto can flip two outfielders into two pitchers, they've got a chance."
  • "The Yankees by 15 games, and that's with them coasting through September."

AL Central


Team                    Average    Std. Dev.

Chicago White Sox 1.18 0.58 Minnesota Twins 2.36 0.62 Cleveland Indians 2.55 0.66 Detroit Tigers 4.13 0.54 Kansas City Royals 4.79 0.46

This was the winner of the "This division could have a winner under .500" award. Several people were curious about why the White Sox rotation was held in such high esteem. "Jon Garland, Gary Glover, Mark Buerhle, Jim Parque, Jon Rauch, Todd Ritchie, Danny Wright...why do people think this is a great young rotation? There's no one reliable here. Some have injury problems, some don't strike anyone out, and the bullpen's got more use for a physical therapist than a coach." People raved about and love to watch the Twins defense. "Cleveland's finally starting a rebuilding program, but I think they're rebuilding the Detroit Tigers."

One attendee shared by optimism about Danys Baez, so he gets some electrons today: "Baez will be a legitimate Cy Young candidate immediately. He was successful in Cuba, and his stuff is unhittable when he's on." "Do you think the entire Minnesota front office was praying for Rick Reed to choose free agency?" There's not a lot of optimism about the bottom tier of the division, but there is a surprising amount of compassion. "We'll pay for the site if you guys will provide anti-depressants for Rany."

OK, but Rob Neyer and John Sickels are on their own. Rany could, however, write them the scrip.

Some yelled-out ideas about what's going to decide the division:

  • "David Ortiz's health and Torii Hunter's glove."
  • "Denny Baez."
  • "Frank Thomas and Mark Buerhle."
  • "Whoever ends up playing right field for Minnesota."
  • "Whether or not Terry Ryan can open up the wallet and pick up Shannon Stewart or another outfielder that can hit."
  • "The Cleveland bullpen can lose it, the Cleveland #4 and #5 starters can win it."
  • "A resurgent Kenny Lofton."

AL West


Team                    Average    Std. Dev.

Oakland Athletics 1.61 0.59 Seattle Mariners 1.64 0.72 Texas Rangers 2.95 0.72 Anaheim Angels 3.80 0.44

Before Mariners fans continue with the e-mails accusing me of being nothing more than a far more attractive Katherine Harris, let me break down the precinct voting for you:

Seattle Feed: Mariners 1.26, Athletics 1.91
NorCal Feeds: Athletics 1.30, Mariners 1.91

No one picked Al Gore to win the AL West.

I have a funny feeling that my eight-minute rant on why Ichiro Suzuki is baseball's most overrated player wouldn't have played as well in Seattle, and I'm noted for easy bruising, so it's probably best that the geographic distribution of BP staffers is what it is.

Rangers fans made a compelling and excessively persistent case for their club being underrated. "One of the basic things about analysis is the debunking of the myth that pitching is 75% of the game or whatever. So why won't Texas win? Against right-handers, their weakest hitter on the field could be Gabe Kapler, and they could score 1000 runs!" Pizza Feeders are evenly split on the likely success of Chan Ho Park in Texas. Various flavors of "His splits really aren't a big deal, particularly if you break down his starts" were about as common as "He'll crumble like Texas starters always do."

The Angels were largely ignored, although one Angel fan offered me $22 cash if I could pull some strings and move them into the AL Central. We compromised. I took the $22, and the Angels will instead finish fourth in baseball's toughest division.

The Seattle/Oakland argument seems to turn on three points:

  • Defense (Oakland can't play it)
  • Decline (Seattle's going to suffer across-the-board performance drops)
  • Hitting lefties (Oakland can't)

Some yelled-out ideas about what's going to decide the division:

  • "Seattle's bullpen."
  • "Tom Hicks's wallet and John Hart's ability to deplete the Rangers farm system."
  • "Eric Chavez, Terrence Long, Jeremy Giambi, Carlos Pena, and David Justice against lefties."
  • "Cory Lidle collapsing."
  • "Allard Baird giving his lunch money to Billy Beane AGAIN."
  • "The portrait of Edgar Martinez."
  • "Erubiel Durazo! Free Erubiel Durazo! Las vidas de la revolucion!

    That last guy just kept yelling that no matter what was being talked about.

We asked attendees to weigh in on some other issues as well, including the major awards. Here's the breakdown of their collective opinions:

NL MVP:

1. Gary Sheffield
2. Sammy Sosa
3. Jeff Bagwell
4. Barry Bonds
5. Chipper Jones

AL MVP:

1. Alex Rodriguez
2. Jason Giambi
3. Derek Jeter
4t. Magglio Ordonez
4t. Manny Ramirez

NL Cy Young:

1. Randy Johnson
2. Matt Morris
3. Roy Oswalt
4t. Kevin Brown
4t. Kerry Wood

AL Cy Young:

1. Pedro Martinez
2. Mike Mussina
3. Freddy Garcia
4. Barry Zito
5. Tim Hudson

NL Rookie of the Year:

1. Sean Burroughs
2. Josh Beckett
3. Morgan Ensberg
4. Kazuhisa Ishii
5. Mark Prior

AL Rookie of the Year:

1. Carlos Pena
2. Hank Blalock
3. Nick Johnson
4t. Michael Cuddyer
4t. Eric Hinske

Two things: one, the attendees are on crack. If you pick the Rangers to finish third, and you pick Alex Rodriguez to win the MVP, you're predicting a sudden wave of enlightenment to wash over the voters, and for them to suddenly realize that it's Most Valuable Player, not Most Valuable Player On A Really Successful Team. Second, the Rookie of the Year votes came in well before it was known that Hank Blalock would be in the majors to start the season, so take the Carlos Pena pick with a grain of salt. (Like you're basing your major life decisions on a xeroxed survey.)

And, finally, we asked Pizza Feed Attendees whether or not the 2003 baseball season would start on time:

Yes, the 2003 season will begin on time: 30
No, the 2003 season will not begin on time: 21

Pizza Feed attendees see the glass as about 3/5 full. I can live with that for now.

Gary Huckabay is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by clicking here.

Gary Huckabay is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Gary's other articles. You can contact Gary by clicking here

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