SG in ATL, a longtime poster at baseball think factory, has run 100 iterations of the 2006 season via the DiamondMind Baseball simulation program, using ZIPS projections for all players. (scroll down to comment #67 in the thread.) this exercise has been pretty accurate (though not unfailingly so) in each of the last two seasons, and it carries some good news for the cardinals: they averaged 96 wins over the 100 seasons, tied (with oakland) for the best win total in mlb. the cards won the division in 79 of the 100 simulated seasons, and won the wild card in 10 others, for an 89 percent playoff-appearance rate -- second only to the athletics (94 pct). the strongest nl central challenger was chicago (85-win avg, 8 titles, 15 wild cards); surprising pittsburgh also won the division 8 times and averaged 82 wins. the brewers won only 4 titles and averaged just 80 wins; houston won 3 of the 100 titles, cincinnati just 1.
the cardinals' average win total of 96 was 6 games better than any other nl team; new york finished 2d with 90. they and the dodgers emerged as favorites in their respective divisions, with philadelphia a very strong contender -- 89 avg wins (3d best in the league), 38 nl east titles and 22 wild cards. according to this forecasting system, the braves' run of division titles ends this year at 15.
thanks to TOLAXOR for the heads-up.