Well, another regular season is over, folks. The only thing that's not known yet is how our division winner, St Louis, will fare in the playoffs.
Here's how it ends for 2009:
1. St Louis Cardinals (91-71)
- These Cardinals have shown why they're the division's deepest team. Shockingly, my prediction actually came true, but the Cards' success is no surprise. Albert Pujols just keeps on going, as he finishes with a .327 average and a .658 slugging percentage. They got mid-season offensive help from Matt Holliday. But what's really held them up this year has been the pitching. They got effective seasons from three key starters, and who would have guessed that one of them has been Joel Piniero?
He went 15-12. The fourth starter, Todd Wellemeyer, didn't exactly do as expected, as he went 7-10 with a 5.89 ERA. And Ryan Franklin has been nothing short of sensational as the closer. St Louis is ready for the playoffs. The question now is: will they overcome the Dodgers?
2. Chicago Cubs (83-78)
- The North Siders couldn't prevent the injury bug and Lou Piniella has resorted to different lineups for much of the season. It didn't help that OF Milton Bradley was not producing offense, but rather, was producing distractions for the team. Now, there's a chance he may not be back next season. They did manage to get a productive year from Derrek Lee (.306 BA, 35 HR, 111 RBI). Outside of that, not much from the offense. Their pitching couldn't avoid shortened seasons, either, as we saw from Carlos Zambrano (who was reportedly considering retiring after the 2010 season) and Ryan Dempster, and got another good effort from Ted Lilly (tied for the club lead with just 12 wins). So, no World Series again (for those of you keeping track, it's now one hundred one
consecutive seasons without a championship
) and, for the first time in three years, no postseason appearance. A lot of questions going into 2010.
3. Milwaukee Brewers (80-82)
- So, where did it all go wrong here?
The Brewers were hitting and hitting often, but not getting much from the mound. Even though Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan were out with injuries, they got good years from Braden Looper (despite high ERA), Yovani Gallardo, and Manny Parra (another high ERA). Trevor Hoffman proved to be a great acquisition this season out of the pen. But you can't wrong with a lineup that includes Prince Fielder, Felipe Lopez, Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks, and Craig Counsell, and all of them did very well this year. But there is talk in Brewer camp about possible wholesale changes for next season. Stay tuned.
4. Cincinnati Reds (78-84)
- The Reds made things very interesting in the early-going when the division seemed up for grabs. But they couldn't escape injuries, either. Jay Bruce and Joey Votto missed considerable amounts of time from the lineup. Speaking of which, the lineup just wasn't good at all offensively, but former UT Longhorn Drew Stubbs is emerging as a bright prospect in the Reds' outfield.
And Francisco Cordero was great out of the bullpen this season, and the bullpen has been the club's bright spot.
5. Houston Astros (74-88)
- It was inevitable that the Astros would face total rebuilding, but that's exactly what needs to happen in H-Town. Thanks to two good drafts the last two seasons, it's a matter of waiting now for those prospects to emerge and, hopefully, breathe some new life into this franchise, now four years removed from their only World Series.
Roy Oswalt and Wandy Rodriguez (14-12) are still the anchors of the rotation. Bud Norris showed flourishes as a rookie, so he provides some hope. Offensively, Miguel Tejada did well for average, but his homer totals were surprisingly down while playing in a hitter-friendly park. And Michael Bourn was the Astros' most improved player, batting .285 and stealing 61 bases, which led the NL.
They also got good years from Lance Berkman and Hunter Pence. The 'Stros will also be searching for a new manager for next season. I'll keep you posted.
6. Pittsburgh Pirates (62-99)
- We knew this
team wasn't for real. A season that began with numerous surprises and a shocking win over the Cards on Opening Day has gone south. They do have good, young prospects going into next year. Still, it was tough for fans seeing some favorites like Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson slipping away in trades. Heck, at mid-season, it seemed like they traded away the gold watch, the Cadillac, and
They got good seasons from starters Zach Duke and youngster Ross Ohlendorf, and Duke is certainly better than the 16 losses would suggest. Garrett Jones and Andrew McCutcheon are stars in the making and will become names you will hear about in the future. Nonetheless, it was the 17th consecutive losing season for Pittsburgh.
And there you are. Enjoy the divisional and league championship games and the World Series. We'll talk some more along the way!