Oracle of Delphi

And now, the HardballTalk staff predictions

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Our Springtime Storyline previews are the Official Previews of HardballTalk. But despite our little paragraphs entitled “So, how are they going to do?” their real value is in talking about the issues facing each team, not in providing predictions.

And, it should be noted, they are a collective product. For example, Aaron wrote up the AL Central and he and I may differ on the order in which the teams will finish. I wrote up the NL West and D.J. and Drew may think I’m full of beans.  Such is the nature of collaboration. And as such, I thought it would fun for each of us to provide a quick and dirty rundown of how we think things will end up come October.

For what it’s worth, there is nothing terribly radical here. My pick of the Cubs is unique. Drew’s prediction of the Yankees missing the playoffs is somewhat unconventional. D.J. feels more optimistic about the Athletics’ chances than any of us.

Anyway, as Casey Stengel said: “Never make predictions. Especially about the future.” So, you know, take this all with a grain of salt.

CRAIG CALCATERRA

AL East: Red Sox, Yankees (WC), Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles
AL Central: White Sox, Twins, Tigers, Indians, Royals
AL West: Rangers, Athletics, Angels, Mariners
NL East: Phillies, Braves (WC), Marlins, Mets, Nationals
NL Central: Cubs, Reds, Cardinals, Brewers, Astros, Pirates
NL West: Giants, Rockies, Dodgers, Padres, Diamondbacks

ALDS: Red Sox over White Sox and Yankees over Rangers
NLDS: Phillies over Cubs, Braves over Giants
ALCS: Red Sox over Yankees
NLCS: Phillies over Braves
World Series: Red Sox over Phillies

AARON GLEEMAN

AL East: Red Sox, Yankees (WC), Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles
AL Central: Twins, White Sox, Tigers, Indians, Royals
AL West: Rangers, Athletics, Angels, Mariners
NL East: Phillies, Braves (WC), Mets, Marlins, Nationals
NL Central: Reds, Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs, Pirates, Astros
NL West: Giants, Rockies, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Padres

ALDS: Red Sox over Twins and Yankees over Rangers
NLDS: Phillies over Giants, Braves over Reds
ALCS: Red Sox over Yankees
NLCS: Phillies over Braves
World Series: Phillies over Red Sox

D.J. SHORT

AL East: Red Sox, Yankees (WC), Rays, Orioles, Blue Jays
AL Central: White Sox, Twins, Tigers, Indians, Royals
AL West: Athletics, Rangers, Angels, Mariners
NL East: Phillies, Braves (WC), Marlins, Mets, Nationals
NL Central: Brewers, Reds, Cubs, Cardinals, Astros, Pirates
NL West: Rockies, Giants, Dodgers, Padres, Diamondbacks

ALDS: Red Sox over Athletics and Yankees over White Sox
NLDS: Rockies over Phillies, Braves over Brewers
ALCS: Red Sox over Yankees
NLCS: Rockies over Braves
World Series: Red Sox over Rockies

DREW SILVA

AL East: Red Sox, Rays (WC), Yankees, Blue Jays, Orioles
AL Central: White Sox, Tigers, Twins, Indians, Royals
AL West: Rangers, Athletics, Angels, Mariners
NL East: Phillies, Braves (WC), Marlins, Mets, Nationals
NL Central: Brewers, Cardinals, Reds, Cubs, Astros, Pirates
NL West: Rockies, Dodgers, Giants, Padres, Diamondbacks

ALDS: Red Sox over Rangers, Rays over White Sox
NLDS: Phillies over Brewers, Braves over Rockies
ALCS: Red Sox over Rays
NLCS: Braves over Phillies
World Series: Red Sox over Braves

BOB HARKINS

AL East: Red Sox, Yankees (WC), Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles
AL Central: White Sox, Twins, Tigers, Indians, Royals
AL West: Rangers, Angels, Athletics, Mariners
NL East: Phillies, Braves, Marlins, Mets, Nationals
NL Central: Brewers, Reds, Cubs, Cardinals, Astros, Pirates
NL West: Rockies, Giants (WC), Dodgers, Padres, Diamondbacks

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
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Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.

The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?

Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.

The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.

I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.

Report: MLB approves new rule allowing a dugout signal for an intentional walk

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 29:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred laughs during a ceremony naming the 2016 winners of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award before Game Four of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images
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ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.

MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.

Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.

Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: