The Baseball Fan and 2012 predictions

By Archdeacon Howard Stringfellow

The Baseball Fan observes with great devotion the days of the Baseball Season, and it became the custom to prepare for Opening Day by a season of reflection and prediction.  This season provided a time for converts and seasoned Fans alike to share with each other their allegiances and analyses so that conversations, whether appointed or joyously unexpected, could begin with mutual understanding and awareness.

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Game we love, to the observance of a truly great Season by self-examination and objectivity; by reflection, contemplation, and self-awareness; by differentiation from past rivalries and present and obligatory pay-backs; and by reading and studying The Sporting News' Baseball Annual, the sports pages, baseball blogs, and websites, and, perhaps, conversing (at arm's length) with baseball handicappers of renown (one of whom in The Great Gatsby sports cuff-links made of human molars).

Those of you whose predictions achieve a high congruence with the Season's outcomes may fully expect an appropriate acknowledgment after the last pitched ball.  To be considered for this prize, I shall need to have your predictions by Midnight of Tuesday, March 27, the day before (actually, six hours and ten minutes before), the first pitched ball of the 2012 Season in Tokyo, when the (Ancient) Mariners of Seattle visit the (White) Elephants of Oakland.  Opening Day in America will be April 4 when the Champion Cardinals open the Miami Marlins' new ballpark.

Your predictions this year should include two Wild Card picks per league.  A new playoff format, as I understand it, calls for a one-game playoff between wild card winners in what amounts to a play-in game for each league.  Whether this format will begin this Season or next is unknown at the moment.  A final decision is required by the Collective Bargaining Agreement by March 1.  I do not know if two Wild Cards can come from the same division.  MLB press releases have not addressed the new format.  If the new format is delayed, Wild Card 1 (not 2) will stand as your Wild Card pick.  For the purposes of tallying results, predicting correct playoff spots (Wild Cards or Division Champions) garner 3 points, League Champions 5 points, and World's Champion 10 points.

And, to make a right beginning to the Season, let us now kneel in silence to determine the results of our studies and our hopes for the Teams, and to set forth those results below:

2012 Baseball Season Predictions
Winners of Divisions and Wild Cards, League Champions, and World's Champion

AL East:
AL Central:
AL West:
AL Wild Card 1:
AL Wild Card 2:
AL Champion:

NL East:
NL Central:
NL West:
NL Wild Card 1:
NL Wild Card 2:
NL Champion:

World's Champion:

Play Ball!


Kitch and Strickland Top Baseball Prognosticators

by Archdeacon Howard Stringfellow
9 December 2011

With Baseball’s Winter Meetings concluded yesterday, it seems an auspicious time to announce the winners of the 2011 Baseball Prognostication.

The Rev. Canon Anne E. Kitch and Mr. William Strickland tied as Best Prognosticator while die-hard Yankees’, Phillies’, and Red Sox’ fans, predicting more with their heart than with their head, trailed distantly. 

No one predicted the St Louis Cardinals to be World’s Champions though among DioBeth’s participants Scott Allen, Andrew Gerns, and Jonathan Mayo, may be said to have achieved Honorable Mentions for predicting the Cardinals’ advance to the playoffs.  Another Honorable Mention goes to another prognosticator outside our fold.

“Preacher” Kitch and “The Stick” Strickland rode their way to excellence by tapping the Texas Rangers to repeat as American League Champions.  They alone of all prognosticators predicted the repeat championship.  Three points are awarded for each correct playoff berth (wild cards and division leaders interchangeable); five points are awarded for each league champion; and ten points are awarded for the World’s Champion.

“Preacher” is the Canon for Formation in the Christian Faith in the Diocese of Bethlehem, and “The Stick” is Senior Warden of St Gabriel’s Church in Douglassville.

The 2012 Baseball Prognostication will be announced on February 22, and predictions will be due by Noon of Opening Day, April 4, the day the Cardinals begin defense of their title on the road, opening a new baseball park, against the Miami Marlins.  If you want to participate, just send me an email note to that effect.


Magic Numbers

By Howard Stringfellow
newSpin sportsWriter

At this time of year every year as the fall and seasonable rains begin, my thoughts turn to Baseball's Magic Number, that integer indicating the number of wins a first-place team needs as well as the number of losses a first-place team needs from the second-place team in order for the first-place team to win the Division.

My father's formula was unnecessarily complex, a bit showy, and he used a slide rule to compute it.  He had a real routine unlike me.  I offer this fully accurate simplification:

Magic Number = 163 - W1 - L2, where W1 equals the number of wins of the first-place team and where L2 equals the number of losses of the second-place team.  Allow me to demonstrate this with the most-watched Division in Baseball, the American League East.

The Yankees' Magic Number = 163 - 92 [Yankee wins] - 66 [Red Sox losses]

The Yankees' Magic Number = 5

Phillies' fans need not to know how to do this: they've already won their Division.  They won it so early that they never gave a moment's thought to the Magic Number.  They don't teach it anyway in the Montgomery County schools anymore.

On another day with more time, I'd like to discuss the transmogrification and transmutation of the Magic Number into Major League Baseball's "Elimination Number."  Something for another day when I am not round-tripping to the Northern Kingdom.  Perhaps when the Phillies' are actually counting and living hand-to-mouth.


Baseball.The Archdeacon's Predictions and Opening Day at Yankee Stadium

By Howard Stringfellow
newSpin's head sportSwriter

20 March 2011
Eleven Days before Opening Day
The American League
Preparing predictions this spring has been agonizing, particularly in the American League with the aging, underperforming, and losing Yankees.

In the Grapefruit League, only Florida has a poorer record than the Yankees' 9-12 posting after today's win over the Phillies, 8-1.  And in the American League, only Chicago has a worse record in spring training.  In the regular season they will probably better their present percentage of .428, but it's a stretch to think that they will make the playoffs though I will be first to cheer them and a most happy man if they play truly significant games in late September.  They could struggle to stay above .500.

In the Bronx, off the field decisions are conflicted, as was indicated by Brian Cashman's absence from the Rafael Soriano press conference.  On the field, the best player is Robinson Cano, who is a fine player, but Jeter, Rodriguez, and Posada are candidates to succeed Methuselah, who, Sportin' Life sings, lived 900 years.  Who are the outfielders?  The rotation thins real fast.  John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman spoke today seriously about Bartolo Colon being in the rotation.  Additionally, the improvement of Baltimore, the steadiness of Toronto, and the winning ways of Tampa will make the AL East tighter with more teams in the hunt than usual.  In the East, the teams will knock each other out, but one will win.

And so as difficult as it is, I have to leave the Yankees out of the playoffs for the first time since 1995.  Facing this prospect has been grim.  More than Postum has been required to steady my hand and to write:

AL East:  Boston
AL Central:  Detroit
AL West:  Los Angeles
AL Wild Card:  Minnesota
AL Champion:  Minnesota

Thank you for your predictions.  Those of you who haven't sent them in, I know, are working on them, and I look forward to receiving them before the deadline of Noon on March 31, Opening Day, that promises to be especially bracing in the Bronx.

On a broadcast recently, I heard it said that however long spring training is, it's a week too long.  It seems that way to me this year especially.  We're down to it now.  Rosters are being trimmed; cuts are being made; careers are ending, and dreams are being fulfilled.  Soon, very soon, real meaning will be carried by the shouting of

Play Ball!

Best,
Howard

*************************************

27 March 2011
Four Days before Opening Day
The National League
The World Series

The word came to me and said, "What do you see?"  And I said, "I see a branch of an almond tree."

"Not that.  Look beyond that, and what do you see?"  "I see men running on dirt in the shape of a square, surrounded by green grass, and they are running furiously, like maniacs.  Their uniforms are black and orange, and there seems to be no end of them."

"Ah, that's it!  Now the scales have fallen from your eyes.  You shall see greater things than these.  In fifteen days, you will see those same men wearing black and orange receiving their World Series' rings before envious Cardinals' eyes, for the Phillies do not come to town until August 4."

And so I think it will be in 2011 in the Senior Circuit, the Manager's Dream and the Fan's Delight.  The Giants will continue where they left off and win the World Series again.  They have pitching. They have hitting.  They have a blend of new and veteran players.  Though they had a hiccough on the field as Spring Training waned, they have returned to their winning ways with victories yesterday against Cincinnati and Cleveland.  The field manager and general manager are superb colleagues.  And they have an energized fan base following the team around and setting attendance records in the Cactus League.  The Giants are not in town one day, and the attendance is 3500.  The Giants are in town the next day, and the attendance is 10,000.  Their season tickets are sold out in San Francisco, and they are taking reservations for 2012 with a five hundred dollar deposit per seat.

My full National League predictions are:

NL East:  Atlanta
NL Central:  Chicago
NL West:  Giants
NL Wild Card:  Philadelphia

NL Champion:  Giants

World's Champion:  Giants

Thank you to all those who have sent your predictions that are welcome from all comers.  Some of you have incomplete predictions and need to fill those in by Noon, March 31, Opening Day.

We're getting really close now to hear the cry that stirs our hearts: "Play ball!"

Best,
Howard

**********************

31 March 2011
Opening Day

Dear Croutons,
Today the shout "Play Ball!" was followed by the cracks of bats against pitched balls in stadiums throughout the land.  Solemn assemblies gathered to see the New Season begin, and those beginnings were marked with traditional symbolic acts, such as the throwing out of the first ball and the introductions of the teams.  To me, excitement, adventure, risk, and competition are back.  I love baseball, the trusted doorway open to me that leads to all these things and more.

Nowhere was the occasion more solemnly marked than in the Bronx at Yankee Stadium, "the Stadium" according to The New York Times and "Chan Ho 'Assault and Battery' Park" according to Steve Somers, just alongside the plot of land that lies beneath "The House that Ruth Built."  In Yankee Stadium, the assembly could not have been solemner.  Great occasions trigger great emotions.

The public address announcer intoned before the start of the game, "...Batting seventh...the Designated Hitter...Number Twenty...(hear Steve Carell but think Bob Sheppard)...Jorge...Posada...the Designated Hitter...Number Twenty...Jorge...Posada..."

At this announcement serious Yankee fans were abashed though they knew it was coming.  They remember the old days.  They know the difference.  They marked this transition, from Jorge as Catcher to Jorge as Designated Hitter, this movement into a scary future, this turning of the wheel of the life cycle if not of Fortune's Wheel, by grieving and by leaving their seats, these serious Yankee fans, and standing beyond the right-center field wall at that sacred place known as the Bawling Basin, they sang mournfully as the Basin caught their tears:

Ah, holy Jorge, how hast thou offended,
that fans to judge thee hath in hate pretended?
By throws upended, by thy team rejected,
     O most afflicted.

Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon thee?
Alas, my reason, Jorge, hath undone thee.
No longer can I thine errant throws not see:
     I demoted thee.

Designated hitter for us you're named;
thine age hath gained, and Jorge hath suffered
for our victory, we nothing else pondered--
     we have surrendered.

For me, kind Jorge, are thy degradation,
thy mortal sorrow, and thy star's combustion,
thy move toward anguish, and thy obfuscation,
     As consolation.

Therefore, kind Jorge, since I cannot claim thee,
I do resign thee, and will ever pray thee,
think on my pity, and my love conserving,
     not thy declining.

[Words: Johann Heermann; tr. Robert Seymour Bridges (1844-1930), alt. (Prince) Hal Steinbrenner (b. 1959)

Tune: Herzliebster Jorge, Johann Cruger (1598-1662)
11 11. 11 5

Ed. Note: Discovered recently in Jorge Posada's old corner locker, cleaned of all baseballs, uniforms, mitts, bats, helmets, caps, shaving supplies, toiletries, Tylenol, pommade, and hair brushes, at the New York Yankees' spring training facility at George M. Streinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida, was a single folio MS. in yellow legal foolscap, ruled, folded in halves until reduced in size to 1.35" by 1.79", written in a fine German blackletter hand with a stylus known as Sharpie, with the text indicated.  The textual apparatus will be published by Charles Scribbler's Sons in a separate volume that includes a complete transcription replete with its textual apparatus, all scribal errors, corrections, and emendations.  Look for it wherever books are sold.  Mel (Allen) Inkhorn, Editor.]

When they finished singing, these serious fans, relieved and refreshed, returned expectantly to their seats for the throwing out of the first ball and the first pitch of the new season.

And they weren't disappointed.  Their grief shed, they made their way to their perch and watched eagerly, poised precariously as on a knife's edge at the limen presented by the start of a new campaign, the first pitch from CC Sabathia, who at 6'7" and 290 pounds is not hard to find on the pitcher's mound, a fastball hurtling at 91 miles per hour and called a strike, on the outside corner, to Austin Jackson, the center fielder of the Detroit Tigers, who would strike out swinging on seven pitches as brisk as the 4l-degree temperature.

On the day, Jorge went 0-4 though he hit the ball sharply, and the Yankees won the game, 6-3, as Mariano Rivera garnered his 560th Save.

And, the Season's On.

Best,
Howard


The Proper Liturgy to Prepare for Opening Day

10 March 2011
Twenty-one Days before Opening Day

The Knot Hole Gang
(A Select and Highly Personal Email List, some of whom wish to remain Anonymous)

Dear Knot-Holer:
The Baseball Fan observes with great devotion the days of the Baseball Season, and it became the custom to prepare for Opening Day by a season of reflection and prediction.  This season provided a time for converts and seasoned Fans alike to share with each other their allegiances and analyses so that conversations, whether appointed or joyously unexpected, could begin with mutual understanding and awareness.

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Game we love, to the observance of a truly great Season by self-examination and objectivity; by reflection, contemplation, and self-awareness; by differentiation from past rivalries and present and obligatory pay-backs; and by reading and studying The Sporting News' Baseball Annual, the sports pages, the baseball blogs and websites, and, perhaps, conversing (at arm's length) with baseball handicappers of renown, the ones, of course, at liberty to have such conversations.

Those of you whose predictions achieve a high congruence with the Season's outcomes may fully expect an appropriate acknowledgment after the last pitched ball.  To be considered for this prize, I shall need to have your predictions by Noon on Opening Day, March 31.  Please reply to the email address from whence this came.

And, to make a right beginning to the Season, let us now kneel in silence to prepare to undertake to determine the results of our studies and our hopes for the Teams, and to set forth those results below:

2011 Baseball Season Predictions
Winners of Divisions and Wild Cards, League Champions, and World's Champion

AL East:
AL Central:
AL West:
AL Wild Card:
AL Champion:

NL East:
NL Central:
NL West:
NL Wild Card:
NL Champion:

World's Champion:

And when the Day of Judgment comes, that day dreaded by all whose Team has eliminated itself, the day when one Team alone wins the World's Championship, these Predictions will be put on the scales, and their value found by crediting the accurate prediction of a World's Champion with 10 points, the accurate prediction of a League Champion with 5 points, and the accurate prediction of a playoff berth with 3 points.  For the purpose of this evaluation, regular season Division Winners and the Wild Card Winners are accounted as equals.  If you correctly predict that a team makes the playoffs (whether as a Division Winner or Wild Card Winner), you will be credited with 3 points.  The maximum score is 44 points for correctly predicting the Word's Champion, the League Champions, and the 8 teams to make the playoffs.  In the case of a tie, the Predictions emailed earliest will be the winner.  The decision of the Judges is final though not capricious.

Play Ball!

Very truly yours,
Howard Stringfellow
610-691-5655, x222

[From Bill: On the Third Day of Lent, Commissioner Stringfellow expanded his invitation, as follows.]

The Third Day of Lent, 2011
March 11

The Knot Hole Gang is a group of people who are colleagues, acquaintances, and friends of mine who predict the outcomes of Major League Baseball each season in a mild and private competition.  Some are Christians and some are not; some wish to remain Anonymous.  If you think of the love of baseball extolled in Roger Kahn's classic book The Boys of Summer, you will understand completely the nature of this enterprise.  It's that simple.

This season I am opening up the Knot Hole Gang and inviting you to join. If you you have not been a Knot-Holer and wish to make your predictions and have them impartially evaluated through the season, please drop a note to my email address, and I shall send to you the official note calling for this season's predictions. Opening Day is March 31, so do not delay to begin your springtime reflection. Remember the words of King David, how he sang, as he plucked his favorite lyre, after a long day on a Judean diamond: "The fool has said in his heart: there is no game better than football" (Psalm 14:1, private translation).

Best,

Howard Stringfellow, Member
The New York Baseball Giants Nostalgia Society