Revisiting My Pre-Season MLB Predictions

It’s that time of the year where writers revisit their “bold predictions” from the spring, and eat their well-deserved slice of humble pie. The time has come for me to partake in this tradition. I expect (and welcome!) your snark in the comments on Twitter (@StelliniTweets, for the curious).

My MLB predictions for the year were spread across three different pieces, which you can read here, here, and here. The first is my very first piece for LWOS, and gives five predictions for the league as a whole. The second and third are predictions for the NL and AL, respectively. Those last two are rather extensive, so for those two I’ll only look at my most surprising hits and largest misses.

First, for the “bold” predictions.

Jarred Cosart (HOU) is a top 20 pitcher.
Not even close. By fWAR, Cosart was the 51st most valuable qualified starter. Despite being very good at limiting the long ball (only 6% of his flyballs left the yard!), Cosart simply wasn’t very good at striking batters out. If we sort by SIERA (Skill Indicative ERA), Cosart was actually the 7th worst starter in baseball. A move to the pitcher-friendly confines of Miami should help him going forward, but my pick for an ace may end up only being a solid innings-eater for the Marlins. Cosart won’t be this bad going forward, though, and age and experience will soon be on his side.

Billy Hamilton (CIN) crashes and burns, and is off the 25-man roster by the All-Star break.
Yeah, that didn’t go too well either. All Hamilton did was finish second in Rookie of the Year voting to Jacob deGrom. My flameout concerns were based on severe questions about Hamilton’s ability to get on base and utilize his primary calling card, his speed. I was actually somewhat right in that regard, as Hamilton only managed a .292 OBP, which is pretty darn bad. And even when he did get on base, he was caught stealing an ugly 23 times. What I didn’t see coming was Hamilton’s great defense in center field. With maturity Hamilton should learn proper stealing protocol, and his defensive value will help balance out his woeful on-base tendencies.

Kole Calhoun (LAA) is the second-most valuable hitter on the Angels, behind Mike Trout.
I’m going to give myself a win here. Calhoun was technically third on the Angels in wRC+, just a notch behind a surprisingly good season from Chris Ianetta. However, Calhoun missed some time with an injury, which ate into his counting stats. Pretty much nobody saw Ianetta’s offensive burst coming, and had he been his normal self (the barometer I partially used in making my prediction), Calhoun would have been the man behind Trout. Call it a moral victory.

The Boston Red Sox will miss the playoffs…
Nailed it. Injuries played a big role in the downfall of the defending champs, along with regression from key contributors and the loss of Jacoby Ellsbury. A big part of my argument also consisted of the rest of the division outpacing them, which was true in the cases of the Orioles and Blue Jays.

…Because the Kansas City Royals will win the AL Central.
I guess I’ll award myself partial credit here. The Royals didn’t win the Central, but they were 90 feet away from a World Series title. My scenario was that the Royals’ theoretical division title would push the Tigers into the first Wild Card spot, with the second coming from within the East. Oakland ended up grabbing that Wild Card, though, so that particular cause-and-effect didn’t come to fruition. However, this prediction was also about the rise of the Royals, which most certainly happened.

Here are some choice bits from my league-centric predictions.

NL Rookie of the Year – Mike Olt

This was so bad that I’m nearly proud of it. A sizable part of my motivation in picking Olt was my non-belief in Hamilton, and wanting to be a bit out of the box. Olt was in the midst of a fantastic Spring Training, and his eyesight problems were purported to finally be solved. Olt’s big league slash this year? .162/.248/.356 over 258 plate appearances. He did display some of that power that I liked with his 12 homers, but alas.

Most Disappointing Team (NL) – Cincinnati Reds

This one was spot-on. I tabbed injuries, an ineffective Hamilton, and lack of depth as glaring issues for the Reds, and all of those things reared their ugly heads. Things were actually worse than I anticipated, though. Jay Bruce seemed utterly lost at the plate, and Joey Votto missed a sizable amount of time. Despite breakouts by Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco, this is a season that Cincinnati would like to forget about.

AL WAR Leader not named Mike Trout – Robinson Cano

Well nobody saw the meteoric rise of Michael Brantley coming, who was the player that actually laid claim to this title. But Cano actually finished 13th in the rankings, largely due to a sudden loss of home runs. Cano only swatted 14 long balls this year. That can partially be chalked up to his move to Safeco Field, but it’s still shocking to see his total that low. Cano also got a surprisingly low -3.8 UZR rating, which runs contrary to his reputation as a fine defender. Perhaps his age is starting to show?

World Series Bound – Tampa Bay Rays

Things certainly took a turn for the worst. I was far from the only pundit to tag the Rays as World Series contenders, but their stupendously bad first half performance was mystifying. Injuries were certainly part of the problem (losing Wil Myers, for instance), but the team simply played poorly. And now here we are, with Joe Maddon on the Cubs, David Price a Tiger, and Andrew Friedman running the Dodgers. My how things have changed.

Well there you have it. I’m proud of some of my picks, while some are rather laughable. That’s the nature of these articles. They serve primarily as a good bit of fun, and fun “what-if” scenarios. As a wise man once said, “You just can’t predict baseball, Suzyn.”

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