Back in March, the nine of us here at Toaster got together at the behest of Cub Town's Alex Ciepley to predict the way the 30 major league teams would finish within their divisions and which two teams would take the Wild Cards. Now that we've reached the All-Star Break, the official (if not exactly mathematical) mid-way point of the season, I thought it would be fun to take a look at those predictions with a progress report of sorts.
What I've done is given each of us a score based on the number of games away from our predicted position in the standings each team currently is. For example, I predicted that the Diamondbacks would finish last in the NL West (heh), so I get 10.5 points added to my score because the D-Backs are actually 10.5 games better than the current last-place Rockies. I then get six more points for having the Rockies in fourth because they are six games worse than the current fourth place Giants. For the Wild Cards I used the same system based on the distance between the predicted team and the team currently in the Wild Card lead. The lower the score, the better the predicions (so far). Got it?
Overall, the AL has been far more predictable than the NL. The AL East, as expected, has been the most predictable division even despite the surprising performances of the Orioles and Blue Jays and the struggles of the Red Sox and Yankees. In fact, the AL East standings on Saturday morning exactly matched the predictions of seven of the nine Toasters (Bronx Banters' Alex Belth and myself, the only two to have predicted the Yankees as AL Champs, being the exceptions).
As it stands now, the only division any one was able to get exactly right is the AL West, which Mike Carminati, Scott Long and myself all got right from top to bottom. Of course, the AL West is also the smallest division of the six, tilting the odds in favor of a proper prediction (though Ken Arneson, the one AL West blogger here at Toaster, managed to put all four teams in the wrong spot).
By that logic, the NL Central, with its six teams would appear to be the hardest to call, but looking at the numbers above, it would seem the AL Central was actually the hardest to call. In actuallity, those figures are skewed by White Sox. Not only did no one expect the White Sox to be in first (only Scott Long and myself predicting them to finish as high as second), but the Sox have the largest division lead in baseball (nine games up on second place Minnesota).
The hardest division to call thus far has probably been the NL East. We all agreed that the Blue Jays and Devil Rays would be fourth and fifth in the AL East and were right. We all agreed that the Royals would be last in the AL Central and were right. Everyone but me agreed that the Rockies would be last in the NL Central and were right (my putting the Diamondbacks last is largely responsible for my dreadful score of 32 in that division). Everyone but Jon Wiesman agreed that the Cardinals would be first in the NL Central and were right (similarly, Jon putting the Cardinals fourth and the Pirates last is almost entirely responsible for his singled-division worst total of 40.5 in the NL Central--swap the Cards and Bucs in his prediction and he sheds 33 points from his score).
We also all agreed that the Nationals would be last in the NL East.
Six of us put every team in the NL East in the wrong spot. By comparison, in the other five divisions combined, only twice did someone put every team in the wrong place, Ken in the AL West and myself in the NL West. In fact, I predicted the NL East teams to finish in exact opposite order of their current standings, the only occurence of such and inversion among the 54 division predictions made by the Toaster staff. The NL East remains the tightest division in baseball, with just eight games separating the first-place Nats and last place Mets, so it's not surprising that it was the toughest to call.