Monday, October 03, 2005

Pre-season predictions

Here I'd like to look back upon the predictions I made before the 2005 season started. posted a poll for every MLB team, asking questions about how the team would fare. I answered them for each team and then recorded them. Now, I'll look back and see what I really got right, what I really got wrong, and what I (nor anyone) saw coming.

I predicted this:
  1. Atlanta Braves (91-95 wins)
  2. Philadelphia Phillies (89-93 wins)
  3. Florida Marlins (82-86 wins)
  4. New York Mets (81-85 wins)
  5. Washington Nationals (76-80 wins)

Hooray for me! I got the finishing order exactly right (although the Marlins and Mets technically tied for 3rd). I missed the Braves by just 1 win (they won 90), the same margin I missed the Phillies by (they won 88). The Marlins and Mets finished within my prediction, and the Nationals finished just 1 game above (81 wins). The NL East was probably my best-predicted division, as I got every team within 1 win of my 5-game Win Range.


I predicted this:

  1. St. Louis Cardinals (97-101 wins)
  2. Chicago Cubs (87-91 wins)
  3. Houston Astros (84-88 wins)
  4. Cincinnati Reds (77-81 wins)
  5. Milwaukee Brewers (74-78 wins)
  6. Pittsburgh Pirates (69-73 wins)

I got the Cubs wrong, big-time. I also put the Reds too high and the Brewers too low. But I didn't do too bad. The Cardinals fell within my Win Range, although the Cubs missed big (79 wins, 8 off my guess). I just missed the Astros (they won 89) but again missed the Reds by a notch (they won 73, 4 off my Range). And I underestimated the Brewers, who outperformed my guess by 3 (81 wins). I overestimated the Pirates, who fell short of my guess by 4 (65 wins).

I predicted this:

  1. San Francisco (89-93 wins)
  2. Los Angeles (87-91 wins)
  3. San Diego (87-91 wins)
  4. Colorado (67-71 wins)
  5. Arizona (62-66 wins)

This would be my most embarassing division. Although in my defense, it was right in line with the predictions everyone else was making before the season started. The Giants and Dodgers were colossal disappointments, and the Giants only contended because the rest of the division fell with them. And although you may not believe me, I changed my guess to the Padres (just on a hunch) when I got around to writing my preseason report. So if the Phillies had clinched the Wild Card, I would have correctly predicted all 4 NL postseason teams.

So San Francisco missed my mark by 14 games (they won 75), and the Dodgers missed by 16 (71 wins, my worst prediction of the preseason). San Diego didn't miss by much (they won 82, 5 off my guess), but Arizona did (77 wins, 11 off my guess), although I must say that the Pythagorean standings show Arizona as an extremely lucky team. Colorado fell right in line with 67 wins.


I predicted this:

  1. New York Yankees (104-108 wins)
  2. Boston Red Sox (100-104 wins)
  3. Baltimore Orioles (82-86 wins)
  4. Toronto Blue Jays (78-82 wins)
  5. Tampa Bay Devil Rays (66-70 wins)

Now on a realistic level, I knew that the Yankees and Red Sox weren't that good. But those were the numbers my Win Shares analysis brought back, and I was unable to find a major fault with them. So I missed New York by 9 (95 real wins), and Boston by 5 (95 as well). Baltimore won 74, which was a big 8 off my guess. The Blue Jays, however, are the only team I predicted exactly. Their actual wins (80) falls right in the middle of my range. And I just barely missed hitting a bullseye with the Devil Rays (they won 67).


I predicted this:

  1. Minnesota Twins (96-100 wins)
  2. Chicago White Sox (85-89 wins)
  3. Cleveland Indians (81-85 wins)
  4. Detroit Tigers (74-78 wins)
  5. Kansas City Royals (66-70 wins)

I was off on the Twins, but at least I didn't think they were going to win the World Series (unlike many high-placed commentators). It's amazing how people say that pitching and defense wins championships, and then when teams like the Twins come along, they don't even notice the contradiction. The only pitching and defense team anyone remembers is the '88 Dodgers, who won the World Series, and all the similar teams who didn't win the World Series or even get there are conveniently forgotten.

But pitching does win in the postseason. Just look at the Braves . . .

Back to the point, though, I didn't foresee the complete shutdown of the Minnesota offense. And although I was more generous to the Indians and especially the White Sox than some commentators, they both exceeded even my expectations, with guys like Jon Garland and Grady Sizemore unexpectedly becoming stars. So I missed Minnesota by 13 games (they won 83), and shortchanged Chicago by 14 (99 wins) and Cleveland by 12 (93). I came close with the Tigers (they won 71), and actually overestimated the Royals (won finished 10 games worse than I expected at 56-106).


I predicted this:

  1. Texas Rangers (91-95 wins)
  2. Los Angeles Angels (89-93 wins)
  3. Oakland Athletics (88-92 wins)
  4. Seattle Mariners (78-82 wins)

Boy, that Rangers guess doesn't make me look too smart. Again, I was clever enough to change my guess to Los Angeles (on a hunch) while preparing my preseason report. But I still predicted 90 wins for Texas. Although looking back on my numbers, I don't know what the hell I was smoking to think their pitching staff (or their outfield) was anywhere near that good. So I missed them by 12 (79 wins). I narrowly missed the Angels (who won 95) and got the A's in my sights (they won 88). I overestimated Adrian Beltre, which almost single-handedly shot up my prediction for the Mariners. I also gave their starters too much credit. Yes, the Mariners pitchers actually did worse than I originally predicted. So they fall 9 wins off my mark (69 wins).

My best predictions

Here are some examples from the surveys of questions I answered (as it turned out) correctly:

If Andy Pettite is healthy, where does the Houston rotation rank? Better or worse than average?

My answer: "Better then average." Well, I think that would be correct. The Astros had the best 1-2-3 combination in baseball, with Clemens, Pettitte, and Oswalt all having excellent years. The back end of the rotation was predictably weak (with Brandon Backe and some guy named Rodriguez not setting the world on fire), but it still ranks overall as "better than average."

Between Victor Zambrano and Kris Benson, will one or both be effective for the Mets?

My answer: "Only Benson will be effective." This was basically true, as Zambrano's non-production (70:99 BB:K ratio) got him sent to the bullpen. Benson was effective (4.09 ERA in 160.2 IP), although he admittedly wasn't that effective (45:92 BB:K ratio, 23 HR allowed in Shea Stadium).

Who will win the NL West?

My answer: "The Padres." As I said, my predicted Win Shares indicated that, even without Bonds, the Giants were the favorites to win the West. But this is where my B.S.-check locked in. The Giants just aren't that good at hitting (Alou being the only truly above-average guy, except maybe Durham), and their pitching was even worse (even when we thought Schmidt was going to be good). I didn't think much of Brett Tomko or Kirk Rueter, so I went with my hunch that the Padres would win. I saw that they essentially had a good offense (although Khalil Greene and Mark Loretta spent most of the year on the sidelines), and I thought Brian Giles had another good year left in him. I knew Jake Peavy was an ace, but I was concerned about the rest of the rotation (rightfully so, as it turned out). I just thought the Padres had fewer problems than anyone else, and it turned out to be true.

Who will be the Giants' most effective starter after Schmidt?

My answer: "Noah Lowry." Although it wasn't "after" Schmidt ...

If last year's St. Louis middle infield was 5 stars, then what about this year's?

My answer: "3 stars." And that turned out to be true. Eckstein was one of the better all-around shortstops in the league, and Grudzielanek filled in quite nicely for Womack (who became a laughingstock in the Bronx). But I must say that suggesting that the Renteria-Womack infield was "5-star" is beyond ludicrous; it's hysterically insane. I don't know where everyone got the idea that Edgar Renteria was a 5-star player ... well, actually I do. He had a career year in 2003 (398/480/330), and everyone's forgotten that his career line is actually 345/399/276, and his defense is amazingly overrated. And Tony Womack in 2004 had what we call a "career year." It's a fairly routine occurence in baseball, and yet it has the hypnotic effect of making everyday baseball announcers sound like blithering idiots; and anyone who uses the words "Renteria, Womack and 5-star" in the same sentence could be described as a blithering idiot.

Will Alan Trammell last the season as Tiger manager?

My answer: "Yes." And I was right by one day ...

What do you expect from Joe Mauer?

My answer: "He'll stay healthy and be one of the best catchers in the A.L." Correct, and yet for some bizarre reason, no one talks about him ...

What do you expect from Richie Sexson?

My answer: "At least 30 HR but not among the league's elite." He hit 37 HR and actually came close to approaching the elite. Did everyone forget that Richie Sexson is still a good hitter?

My worst predictions

Which team has the best 1-2 punch?

My answer: "The Cubs: Prior and Wood." Combine that with another question, where I predicted that Prior and Wood would combine for at least 50 starts. I wish I could tell you what the hell I was inhaling that day.

Is Andruw Jones primed for a career year?

My answer: "No." Oops.

Who will be Cincinnati's most effective starter?

My answer: "Eric Milton." Ouchie. Milton was actually the Reds' worst starter . . . IN TEAM HISTORY. But then, really, who on that staff looked better at the time?

How many games for J.D. Drew?

My answer: "130-140." Try half that -- 72. Although it was mainly due (at least as far as I know) to being hit in the hand by a pitch. But I still gave him the benefit of the doubt.

How will Oliver Perez fare?

My answer: "Better than 2004." Well, in 2004 Perez had a 2.98 ERA and 239 K in 196 IP. This year he had a 5.85 ERA with 97 K in 103 IP (and 70 BB). So that would be wrong.

Which Orioles starter will have the best season?

My answer: "Rodrigo Lopez." But I don't think "Bruce Chen" was even an option.

Which SS will have a better year: Renteria, Cabrera, or Nomar?

My answer: "Renteria." Not a bad choice at the time, but all 3 have been pretty lousy. I guess Cabrera was the best of the bunch.

What do you expect from Grady Sizemore this year?

My answer: "Enough to stay in the lineup, but no breakout year." If you look up breakout year in the dictionary, you'll see Sizemore's 2005 stats listed next to it. Yikes!

Who has a better rotation: Boston or Minnesota?

My answer: "Boston." What the hell was I thinking?

Who will be the Yankees' best starter after Johnson and Mussina?

My answer: "Kevin Brown." Which was a stupid answer, but how was I supposed to know about Shawn Chacon?

So what does all this tell me? It tells me that I'm not perfect when it comes to predicting baseball games. The good news is, though, that no one else is perfect. And hopefully I can learn from some of these mistakes and do a better job this year. Some of these eventualities were pretty much unpredictable (the White Sox, for example), while I should have seen others coming (the Ranger realities, the Cub hitting problems). So when I make my predictions for next year, maybe I'll get just a bit closer.

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