This season, the Chicago Cubs (97-64) finished atop the NL Central, winning more games than any other NL club. They led the majors in RS/RA differential with a plus-184 mark. The Cubs have scored more runs—855—than any other team in the majors. Their hit totals, OBP and SLG percentages are all in the top five in MLB. The Los Angeles Dodgers (84- 78) took the NL West, beating out the Arizona Diamondbacks by four games. The Dodgers won the West with just 84 wins—the fewest of any division champ. The bad news is they scored just 700 runs and had a RS/RA differential of plus-52. Both are the lowest in the majors. The good news is that they also possess the lowest runs allowed total—648. That bodes well for the playoffs where good pitching tends to rise above fine hitting.
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Time once again to look at what NCAA 09 on my PlayStation 2 has to say about three of this week’s more interesting games. If last week was any indication, you might want to do exactly the opposite of what it says – the machine was an ugly 0-3 ATS. We’ll see if it can do better before we give up on it entirely. As with last time the machine will do all of the work, and I have updated the rosters accordingly. Without further ado:
Auburn (-4) at Vanderbilt – This one didn’t entirely mirror an Auburn game – there was actually scoring. It also wasn’t entirely typical because Auburn’s offense was more effective through the air than on the ground. QB Chris Todd had a ruthlessly efficient game, ending up with three TDs and a gaudy QB rating. Chris Nickson wasn’t nearly that effective, but that fits with reality – he is not a passing machine. In the end, Auburn came from behind to win 28-21 and cover the spread.
Oregon (+16.5) at USC – USC needed to bounce back in a big way from a terrible effort last week. Though it wasn’t pretty, they pretty much did. The final score was 20-0, so their fearsome defense was actually fearsome again. Oregon was truly terrible, managing just 75 yards in total offense. Their quarterback problems finally caught up to them. Mark Sanchez only completed 55 percent of his passes, and had just one TD, but at least he eliminated the mistakes that were so costly against the other team from Oregon.
Ohio State (-1) at Wisconsin – The Badgers shouldn’t have lost to Michigan last week, and they played like they were still too ombarrassed by that to focus. They got behind early to the Buckeyes, and though they fought hard they just couldn’t come back to win. Ohio State ended up winning 24-17. They did it mostly on the ground. Beanie Wells had a solid game, complete with a touchdown. The star, once again, was Terrelle Pryor. He threw for a touchdown, and scampered 75 yards for another one.
The Philadelphia Phillies (92-70) enter the playoffs as the NL East Division champs, beating out the NY Mets for the title in the final days of the season. The Phillies plus-119 RS/RA differential is second only to the Chicago Cubs’. This is the second straight season that the team has taken their division. The Milwaukee Brewers (90-72) won the wild card by one game over the New York Mets. The club’s RS/RA differential stands at plus-61; it is almost half of that of the Phillies.
The Tampa Bay Rays (97-65) matured this year, utilizing their talent to win the AL East. The Rays have been around since 1998 and have never been to the playoffs. Although most experts thought it would take the Rays one more year to be competitive, they proved everyone wrong, beating out the two perennial top teams—the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. Meanwhile, the Central Division Chicago White Sox (89-74) won 88 regular season games but so too did the Minnesota Twins. In a one-game playoff to determine who would go to the post-season, the White Sox beat the Twins 1-0 on a Jim Thome homerun.
We’ll delay our PS2 simulations for a day because there are just too many interesting stories bouncing around out there that need to be looked at:
1. Lane Kiffin – I can’t believe what a bizarre mess this has become, and given that it was the Raiders I expected it to get ridiculous. By leaving Kiffin twisting so long, Davis seriously damaged any progress his team could ake this year. BY getting rid of him in the ridiculous way he did – refusing to pay him what he is owed and then unleashing in a bizarre, barely coherent press conference – he has alienated any players that were still loyal to Kiffin, and has ensured a split in the locker room. It’s almost as if Davis doesn’t want to exist. I certainly won’t be touching this team in their next game, but my guess is that they are going to come out flat. I just don’t know how they can play well through this circus.