Friday, October 13, 2006

Reflections on Pre-Season Predictions

The first number is my exact win-loss prediction for each team. The second puts my prediction in a range of 5 wins (because nobody's good enough to get it right on the dot). Under the actual prediction, the number in parentheses is how many wins I missed by (-2 means I underestimated by 2 wins, +5 means I overstimated by 5, and 0 means I'm a genius).
* -- indicates Wild Card

In the AL East, I predicted this:
  1. New York: 95-67 (93-97 win range)
  2. Boston*: 94-68 (92-96 win range)
  3. Toronto: 86-76 (84-88 win range)
  4. Baltimore: 76-86 (74-78 win range)
  5. Tampa Bay: 70-92 (68-72 win range)

And this is how they actually finished:

  1. New York: 97-65 (-2)
  2. Toronto: 87-75 (-1)
  3. Boston: 86-76 (+8)
  4. Baltimore: 70-92 (+6)
  5. Tampa Bay: 61-101 (+9)

What I said then:
"I think the Yankees will be the best team in the East, simply because of their powerhouse offense. Their defense still sucks, yes. But I think their pitching will be a bit better than it was last year" . . . "The Red Sox are, as I've said before, a volatile team" . . . "The Orioles will be better than they were last year, as will the Devil Rays."
Well, two out of three ain't bad. I at least recognized the potential for failure by the Sox and was indeed right about the Yankee pitching staff. I was dead wrong, however about Baltimore and Tampa Bay.
As far as the win and losses go, I came really close on some and missed big on others. The Yankees actually won 97 games, although their Pythagorean total is 95 wins, meaning I got them almost exactly right. The Blue Jays won 87 games, so I was good there, except that I picked them to finish third.
The team that did finish third, Boston, managed just 86 wins, a full 8 off of my prediction. What did I get wrong? I overstimated the offense, namely Mark Loretta, Coco Crisp, and Jason Varitek. But I also overestimated the pitching staff. Although I did exercise caution, even I didn't expect to see the train wreck that was their rotation. Although Curt Schilling and Jon Papelbon could be considered pleasant surprises, most everything else was a bust. The Red Sox obviously didn't win the Wild Card, and they were gone from the running by September.
The Orioles finished the season at 70-92. You know, I keep predicting that the Orioles will take a step forward one of these years, if only by accident. But again, I was too optimistic, missing their win total by 6. I was equally optimistic with Tampa Bay, but then so were many other analysts. I thought their offense would improve (it didn't) and that their pitching staff, led by Scott Kazmir, would be at least somewhat better (it wasn't, really). This is bad news for the D-Rays, as they again sit at 100+ losses (61-101) with a long way uphill.

I predicted:

  1. Cleveland: 95-67 (93-97 win range)
  2. Chicago: 90-72 (88-92 win range)
  3. Minnesota: 88-74 (86-90 win range)
  4. Detroit: 78-84 (76-80 win range)
  5. Kansas City: 65-97 (63-67 win range)

And this is how they actually finished:

  1. Minnesota: 96-66 (-8)
  2. Detroit*: 95-67 (-17)
  3. Chicago: 90-72 (0!)
  4. Cleveland: 78-84 (+17)
  5. Kansas City: 62-100 (+3)

What I said then:
"The Indians are a bit better than I may have foreseen. But I have them in 1st because I realized how much I'd overrated the White Sox" . . . "I think the Twins are easily contenders, although I don't have as much faith in their offense" . . . "I knew the Tigers were a step better than last year, but I don't think I gave them enough credit."
Well, I was sure as hell right about not giving the Tigers enough credit.
I was really close in some predictions and way off in others. The Indians were my biggest miss, a whopping 17 wins off the mark. It's some consolation that their Pythagorean record was an amazing 89-73, but then they had a great pWin total last year, and it's starting to look like more than just bad luck.
I got the White Sox exactly right! While I do my victory dance, I will unfortunately admit that I had the White Sox finishing ahead of the two teams that ended up in 1st and 2nd place. I wasn't too far off on the Twins, but I just didn't give them the credit that other announcers did. I should have allowed for Francisco Liriano, yes, but did anyone see Michael Cuddyer coming or expect Torii Hunter to set a career high in home runs? Didn't think so.
The Tigers are the exact mirror image of the Indians: I predicted exactly right the win-loss records, I just pinned them on the wrong teams. Los Tigres outperformed my expectations by 17 wins. I just really can't explain it, other than to say that I wasn't betting on Kenny Rogers and Nate Robertson coming in, but they proved me wrong. I did make some mention of Verlander and Zumaya in my pre-season post, but even then I had no idea. I still maintain that their offense wasn't as good as it looks, but they did at least have Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen healthy.
I did for the Royals what I did for the Devil Rays; I thought that surely no team loses 100 games three years in a row. If only by sheer accident, they will improve a bit. Well, I was half right. No team loses 100 games in a row. The 1970's Blue Jays did it, and the last non-expansion team to do it was the Pirates of the 1950's. And they were bad.

I predicted this:

  1. Oakland: 97-65 (95-99 win range)
  2. Los Angeles: 90-72 (88-92 win range)
  3. Texas: 79-83 (77-81 win range)
  4. Seattle: 76-86 (74-78 win range)

And this is how they really finished:

  1. Oakland: 93-69 (+4)
  2. Los Angeles: 89-73 (+1)
  3. Texas: 80-82 (-1)
  4. Seattle: 78-84 (-2)

Ladies and gentlemen, an entire division that fell within my win range! And all in the proper order! Thank God, because I needed some redemption after that Detroit/Cleveland switcheroo.
What I said then:
"[Oakland has] probably the best pitching staff in the AL, an excellent defese [sic], and an adequate offense with plenty of depth." . . . "The Rangers are pretty sad nowadays. They're just not significantly better or worse than they were last year." . . .
Most of what I said was essentially valid, except for my analysis of the Wilkerson-Soriano trade, which I've owned up to before. Oakland certainly needed all that depth, what with the injuries and general sucktitude that afflicted their entire infield. Dan Johnson and Mark Ellis sucked, Bobby Crosby sucked when he wasn't injured, and injuries sapped Eric Chavez's talents until he started to suck. A's fans were correct to thank God for Frank Thomas.
The "sad" state of the Rangers is likely what cost Showalter his job. I mentioned in April that if their young hitters made the majors and started producing, the Angels would beat out my prediction. They didn't, and they didn't.

Here's what I predicted:

  1. New York: 92-70 (90-94 win range)
  2. Atlanta*: 89-73 (87-91 win range)
  3. Philadelphia: 86-76 (84-88 win range)
  4. Washington: 77-85 (75-79 win range)
  5. Florida: 67-95 (65-69 win range)

Here's how they really finished:

  1. New York: 97-65 (-5)
  2. Philadelphia: 85-77 (+1)
  3. Atlanta: 79-83 (+10)
  4. Florida: 78-84 (-11)
  5. Washington: 71-91 (+6)

Here's what I said in April:

"I had questions about [the Mets'] pitching staff, but I should have remembered that the Mets finished 3rd in the NL in ERA last year with the same bunch of questionable guys. Their pitching isn't as bad as I thought it was, and they're a good bet to dethrone the Braves." . . . "The [Atlanta] bullpen is a fair mess, as many have noted, but I'm not too sure about the rotation either." . . . "[The Phillies'] pitching staff is suffering, although GM Pat Gillick has convinced himself (for some godforsaken reason) that his pitchers are going to be okay. Yes, if okay means 80-some wins and another near-miss in the Wild Card race." . . . "The Marlins will be bad, but not as bad as people think. They may not even be the worst team in the NL. That's a relative victory."

Okay, I cherry-picked the lines that made me look good, so I threw in that Florida quote just to balance things out. The Mets were better even than I had anticipated, thanks to a healthy Carlos Beltran and the pitching staff I so wisely noted. The Braves' fall was long and hard. But while I was absolutely right about their pitching (Smoltz was the only one worth a damn), I guess I just thought that they would "find a way," like the always did. Well, as time has shown, Danys Baez was not "the way." In my defense, however, the Braves' Pythagorean Win-Loss record (hereafter referred to as pWins, or pW-pL) was 85-77, much closer to my prediction. This doesn't change the fact that I was wrong, but at least it's good news for next year.
I really should have seen that the Nats were a big step below the rest of the crowd, but I (along with every other sports fan) was shocked to death by the Marlins. I kept thinking to myself that I'd predicted them for 70 or 72 wins, but that was just rationalization, and my April blog is proof of it. I guess I can't beat myself up too bad for making the same mistake everyone else did.

I predicted:

  1. St. Louis: 90-72 (88-92 win range)
  2. Milwaukee: 84-78 (82-86 win range)
  3. Chicago: 82-80 (80-84 win range)
  4. Houston: 79-83 (77-81 win range)
  5. Cincinnati: 75-87 (73-77 win range)
  6. Pittsburgh: 71-91 (69-73 win range)

This is how the comedy of errors ended:

  1. St. Louis: 83-78 (+7)
  2. Houston: 82-80 (-3)
  3. Cincinnati: 80-82 (+5)
  4. Milwaukee: 75-87 (+9)
  5. Pittsburgh: 67-95 (-4)
  6. Chicago: 66-96 (+16)

Here's what I said then:
"The Cubs had everything go wrong last year (except for Derrek Lee), and they can't have all that happen again this year." . . . "They [St. Louis] won't win near 100 games again, and the back end of their pitching staff will run out of luck sometime soon, but they're still (I think) the best team in the division." . . . "The Brewers could exceed even my numbers." . . . "4 months of Roger Clemens won't make the Astros contenders; not with that offense."
That first statement about the Cubs is funny in retrospect. Of course, the Cubs could have everything (and more) go wrong this year. Last year was a positive paradise compared to the dreadful 2006 "season." There are so many things I should have seen coming, but even then I thought the Cubs would have something positive happen to them this year. I was 16 wins wrong (which is a lot).
I was right about the Cardinals, but only by about an inch or so. Boy, they fell apart and how, but somehow still succeeded in backing into the playoffs. The Brewers also embarassed me, thanks to a lot of injuries and a lot of stagnation, not to mention an uncharateristically shabby trade by GM Doug Melvin (Kevin Mench?!).
The Astros were the team I came the closest to, and I had a good handle on their team dynamic heading into things. It was only because I was so wrong about the rest of the division that the Astros were able to finish second. The Pirates weren't as bad as I expected, but maybe that's because they got to play so many games against the Cubs.

I predicted:

  1. Los Angeles: 84-78 (82-86 win range)
  2. San Francisco: 80-82 (78-82 win range)
  3. San Diego: 78-84 (76-80 win range)
  4. Arizona: 71-91 (69-73 win range)
  5. Colorado: 67-95 (65-69 win range)

Here's what really happened:

  1. San Diego: 88-74 (-10)
  2. Los Angeles*: 88-74 (-4)
  3. San Francisco: 76-85 (-4)
  4. Arizona: 76-86 (-5)
  5. Colorado: 76-86 (-9)

Wow. I understimated the entire division. That takes talent. Or something . . .

My opinion in April:
"The Dodgers aren't any kind of brilliant, but I really think they're the strongest team in the West." . . . "I won't go into my "Barry Bonds is no longer a superstar" rant again, but even with him, the Giants are still a geriatric center." . . . "The Padres aren't bad, but they're simply the 2005 team v.2." . . . "The Rockies are the Rockies and will be until further notice."
Let's begin at the beginning. I was pretty much right about the Dodgers, so there's my one smiley face. I was basically right about the Giants, but wrong about Bonds. Barry wasn't his old self, but he was much better (and healthier) than I expected. The Padres weren't simply last year's team; they had a much better pitching staff, and it got them back to the playoffs. I thought Arizona's luck would catch up to them; if it did, they compensated by better production all around, and now look like one of the division's best teams going forward (a dubious honor though that is).

I guess I got my "notice." I was totally wrong about Colorado. All of the things that they told us to wait for finally occurred -- it was like watching the Armageddon and having Pat Robertson say, "A-ha! I told you so." Yeah, we'd all waited at first, but after a while, we though he was just crying wolf. Not so, as the Rockies found a strong, stable core of young pitching talent. With the young hitting talent they have coming up, to go along with Helton, Holliday, Hawpe, Hardy, Holloway, and Hezekiah, they might actually (gulp) contend! They're still a bit behind L.A. and Arizona in terms of future hopes, but they're close enough to make it interesting, which is a milestone in and of itself out in Colorado.
Would you believe that I picked the A's and Mets in the World Series? I picked the A's beating the Yankees in the ALCS (which should have happened, until those Damn Tigers came along in the ALDS) and the Mets against the Braves in the NLCS in which case the Braves were replaced by the Cardinals, who are quite possibly a worse team.
Well, it doesn't look like the Mets will face the A's in the Series now, unless the A's start calling themselves Idiots and find some way to trade for David Ortiz and Curt Schilling. The Mets may have a tougher road in the NLCS than I thought, but they should get there. I got half of the World Series right -- so sue me.

In the AL, I picked Travis Hafner as MVP. And, if he had stayed healthy, I truly think he would have been the league's MVP. He wouldn't have won the actualy vote, because the voters just don't seem to notice him. Not noticing Travis Hafner is like not noticing a melon-sized goiter; you must either be blind or in denial.
In the NL, I picked David Wright. I didn't really think Wright would deserve the award (I figured that was Pujols), but I thought his scrappy play fo a contender would get him the honor. And sure enough, early in the season, he was the consensus MVP. But then the Mets got boring and Ryan Howard came along, shunting Wright into 9th or 10th place, if he's lucky.
I picked Johan Santana for AL Cy Young. You're shocked, I know. I'm shocked that anyone else would get picked in a pre-season poll. So long as he's got both legs, Santana's your favorite.
In the NL, I went out on a limb and took Jake Peavy. This was partly because the Baseball Prospectus annual made a very convincing case that Peavy was the best pitcher in the NL. And it didn't take much convincing for me to at least somewhat come around to their thinking. Peavy's youth and strikeouts were on my mind, and there's no one like Santana in the NL; no one that dominant. Well, Peavy had injury issues and also some bad luck, but he will be back and competing for future Cy Youngs, don't you doubt it.
For AL Rookie of the Year, I went for Kenji Johjima. I like to pick ROY candidates who are at least assured of a full-time role early in the season. That's why I declined on guys like Liriano. But even I should have seen the convergence of a posse of great young pitchers on the AL. Johjima was good, no question; about as good as I predicted, maybe better. But he ranks, like, 9th on my ballot.
In the NL, I picked Jeremy Hermida. This was my biggest miss by far among any awards. Hermida pretty much sucked and lost his job amongst all the other great rookies in Florida. This was a surprise; I was told that Hermida wasn't just a future star -- but a future superstar. This was backed up by his impeccable minor league credentials, so I took the plunge. And I didn't see anyone sticking out as a major candidate ahead of him. So I was wrong, but find me someone who picked Hanley Ramirez in April.

A few other random bits before bedtime:

  • I know that advertisers are finding new ways to horn in on MLB TV. They're not just buying awards, they're trying to sponsor every segment or every pause. The worst is the WebMD injury report. Now, this doesn't sound that bad at first. It's flagrant ad-placement, yes, but hey, it's nice to explain to a fan just where the ACL is or what the oblique muscle does. It could be useful.
    Instead, WebMD used their CGI 3-d rendering of a human body's musculature to illustrate, for the viewers at home: a sore wrist. I'm not f***ing kidding. How inconceviably DUMB do you have to be to need a TV animation to explain to you what a SORE WRIST is?!
    "Phyllis, I've got an ouch."
    "Where is your ouch, dear."
    "On this part of my body right here (pointing)."
    "Where, dear? I can't see you; I'm in the kitchen."
    "It's not my hand, and it's not my arm. It's where my hand becomes my arm."
    "Oh, your wrist."
    "(Pensively) Wrist."
    "And does it hurt?"
    "It ouches."
    "How does it ouch, Willie?"
    "It's kind of a slow ouch, but all the time."
    "Oh, that means it's sore."
    "(Never heard the word before) Sore?"
    "Here look, dear, on TV. See the sore wrist?"
    "I finally get it now! A wrist -- a sore wrist! That there on TV is a sore wrist!"
    "And how do you know it's sore?"
    "Because they colored it red!"
    "Good, honey. Finish your Spaghetti-Ohs."

    By the way, they later used the same animation to explain Scott Rolen's injury. Rolen's injury? "Shoulder fatigue." I don't even want to imagine what poor Willie had to go through to wrap his provincial brain around that one.
  • Annny-ways, as I mentioned before, the ALCS is all but over. I, along with many commentators, felt that the series was so close that it would go at least six or seven games. Please, when it comes to the postseason, don't listen to me or anyone else when we start predicting. The Tigers are up 3-0 with two more games at home. The bright spot for Oakland is that Dan Haren, their Game 4 starter, is arguably their best starting pitcher. You may ask: "Then why is he starting Game 4?" Good question.
  • In the NLCS, the Cardinals pulled off the improbable by coming back against the Met bullpen at Shea Stadium to win a 9-6 slugfest and even the series 1-1. Normally, when a team splits the first two games of a 7-game series at the opponent's ballpark, you'd say that they had the advantage. But these are the Cardinals, people. I'm still having trouble trying to fathom how they scored 9 runs at all. Yes, the Met starter isn't that great, but their bullpen certainly is. It was 3 9th-inning runs off of ace closer Billy Wagner that sealed the deal. Can a team this mediocre really be succeeding like this? Because if they win the World Series, it's an embarassment. They would be, I feel pretty confident in saying, the worst-ever World Champions. And if you remember the '87 Twins, or any of the Florida Marlin teams, you know that's saying something. Either way, the World Series is starting to look like a cakewalk for the AL team, the Tigers (barring catastrophe). While I think the Mets would at least put up a fight, I simply doubt that the Tiger pitching staff can be stopped. Because every advantage the Mets have over them is the same advantage the Yankees had. Lightning doesn't strike twice in the same place, right? Usually, no, but then the even discussing the Tigers as "AL Champions" seems as logical as a Beckett play.

Keep the faith.

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