Looking Back At Some Division Predictions
Thursday, October 27 2022 @ 04:36 PM EDT
Contributed by: Eephus
Sometimes even the best thought-out ideas, the plans with the strongest of foundations... crumble completely and spectacularly.
Then of course, you have what I did... whatever that was.
With one last off-day before the World Series, which of course features the Houston Astros (not a surprise) and the Philadeliphia Phillies (definitely more of a surprise)... I thought this a good time and ideal excuse to actually look back at some of my team predictions I made back in March. Not only just the W-L records and standings of each division, but also look at what I said about some of these teams and see if I had the right sense of what was going to happen. Or in the case of the teams with clearly no interest in winning, whether a season in the toilet at least provided anything beyond draft slotting.
I haven't revisited any of my articles before writing this, so this could be a fun bundle of surprises and face palms at my expense. Lets begin!
National League West
LA - 103-59
SF - 87-75
SD - 85-87
COL - 66-96
ARI - 62-100
LA - 111-51
SD - 89-73
SF - 81-81
ARI - 74-88
COL - 68-94
I don't think I did too badly here. Definitely over-estimated the Giants, as they weren't ever really in the wildcard chase (they seemed to bob just a bit under .500 most of the season). Arizona is my most glaring oversight, as I had them losing 100 games for a second straight season (they lost 110 in 2021!) but it seems just enough young players stepped up to have average-ish seasons to make the 2022 squad a bad team instead of a putrid one.
At the time I thought picking any team to win over 100 games was asking a lot, and I honestly wondered if with the Dodgers I'd gone too high. Clearly not the case whatsoever. Despite an all time great regular season, LA's year has to be considered a failure, no? This is a World Series or Bust type of team, their superstar shortstop is a free agent and you lost in the playoffs to a long time division rival that relished your defeat. Ah. I'm sure they'll be fine.
National League Central
MIL - 91-71
StL - 88-74
CHC - 77-85
CIN - 69-93
PIT - 64-98
StL - 93-69
MIL - 86-76
CHC - 74-88
CIN - 62-100
PIT - 62-100
Those pesky Cardinals, eh. They always find a way... and certainly Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt (until September) having MVP caliber seasons helped a bit too. Also... Albert Pujols' spectacular farewell tour. Going into the break, Pujols was batting .215/.301/.376. After that, The Machine turned it on one last time... belting a .323/.388/.715 line with 18 home runs and joining the 700 homer club of course. What a player. What a career.
My concerns about the Brew Crew's ability to score runs ended up not being the problem (6th in the NL in runs scored), instead it was a drop in preventing them (3rd in 2021 to 7th in 2022) that dropped them out of the playoff picture (they battled with the Phillies for the last wildcard until almost the end, but were just a bit too far on the outside looking in there).
Gotta say, even my most pessimistic predictions for Cincinnati didn't have them losing 100 games and being tied with the freaking Pirates, a team with no interest in winning games likely until sometime after the United States elects a new president. The Reds 3-22 start certainly doomed any hope they had of being respectable, but even removing that... this was still a 59-78 team (that's .430 ball, or a 69 win pace... see I was right!). Considering the obvious direction the team is taking, it seems certain Cincinnati will be wrestling with Pittsburgh for the NL Central cellar for the next few years to come. Free Joey Votto.
National League East
ATL - 96-66
PHI - 89-73
MIA - 80-82
NYM - 78-84
WSH - 60-102
ATL - 101-61
NYM - 101-61
PHI - 87-75
MIA - 69-93
WSH - 55-107
Yeah... that Marlins prediction doesn't look too good, does it? And while I also picked the Mets to pull a Mets and disappoint... the particular form of that disappointment is not exactly what I had in mind.
What went wrong in Miami? Simple: they couldn't score. To jump into the brain of Earlier This Year Me, my reasoning must've been that the additions of Jorge Soler, Joey Wendle, Jacob Stallings and Avisail Garcia (all of whom have been successful MLB hitters in the past) would raise the floor of the team's offense to something closer to league average. This did not happen: all of the new guys were below a 100 OPS+ and in the case of Garcia and Stallings disastrously so (65 and 67 dis-respectively). The Marlins finished dead last in the NL at scoring runs... and well it's hard to win more than you lose when you do that.
American League West
HOU - 93-69
LAA - 85-77
SEA - 84-76
TEX - 71-91
OAK - 57-105
HOU - 106-56
SEA - 90-72
LAA - 73-89
TEX - 68-94
OAK - 60-102
I am done picking the Angels to be good. For real. Seems like I do it every darn year.... "this time it will all come together!" and it never does. It never will. I'm out. They're a bad team, and if not for Ohtani (and Trout when available) they'd probably lose over 100 games. They're in a real bad spot.
Houston, meanwhile, continues a run of excellence that (with the pitch stealing scandal further in the rear view) clearly deserves some respect. Despite losing superstars like Gerrit Cole, George Springer and Carlos Correa to free agency in consecutive off-seasons, the organization keeps churning out replacement stars (especially on the pitching side) to fill the gaps. We're well past the "here's another high draft pick who took a while from when we were tanking bad" (Kyle Tucker was the last one)... this is just a smart franchise especially astute at identifying and maximizing useful MLB talent. Now watch there be some kind of bizarre scandal about the club using illegal radioactive chemicals to make all these pitchers suddenly throw harder once they arrive (sure would explain it). Why is Justin Verlander coming into this season with a third arm growing out of his shoulder?
To my credit, I didn't write off Seattle's insane one-run luck in 2021 and predict them to just be bad again (good lord I so wish they had been though).
American League Central
CWS - 90-72
DET - 88-74
MIN - 77-85
CLE - 76-86
KC - 71-91
CLE - 92-70
CWS - 81-81
MIN - 78-84
DET - 66-96
KC - 65-97
Wow. I didn't just take a bath on this one... I pretty much dove under a waterfall. Aside from the Royals finishing last and the Twins being a slightly sub-.500 team... I was nowhere close. This is mostly due to the mediocrity of the White Sox (turns out Tony LaRussa is difficult and stuck in his ways... who knew?) and the absolutely disastrous year the Tigers had... and my expectations for the Motor City are by far the worst pre-season prediction I made.
Detroit really looked like a team on the rise: they finished 2021 playing decent ball, made some solid additions (E. Rodriguez, Meadows) and had a bunch of exciting young players (Torkelson, Greene) ready to take big league jobs and run with them, plus a young pitching foundation (Mize, Manning, Skubal) already in place. Instead, the team just completely and utterly failed to score any runs. Spencer Torkelson was so bad he was sent down, and among players to receive everyday ABs only Eric Hasse was above league average by OPS+. Progression isn't always linear, which I hope makes you appreciate the quick ascent of the Blue Jays young stars all the more.
I seriously underrated Cleveland also, but they've always been a blind spot for me. Seems I always forget they have an ability to produce excellent young starting pitching (seems pretty important), they play in a consistently dumpster division and have Terry Francona running the squad.
American League East
I didn't actually make any AL East prediction beyond this: the Rays don't finish 1st, the Blue Jays end up higher than 4th, the Red
Sox are no higher than 3rd, the Yankees are more bark than bite, and
that the Orioles will continue to exist (despite reports to the
contrary).Sounds like a puzzle! So lets try:
(seems like what I was going for)
NYY - 99-63
TOR - 92-70
TB - 86-76
BAL - 83-79
BOS - 78-84
Baltimore emerging from its half-decade slumber of terrible baseball nightmares into a young team that legitimately challenged for a wildcard until the final weeks... undoubtedly the biggest surprise of the division. The Red Sox's drunken stumble into the basement was delightful of course, even considering how when you remove their record against the Blue Jays they're suddenly a 75-68 team (.524 ball). There are some big questions in Boston this off-season, Xander Bogaerts looming as the biggest of course.
It was a tale of two teams this summer in the Bronx, with the Yankees entering the all-star break at 64-28 and an enormous lead in the division. The second half wasn't quite so kind (35-35) as almost the entire team aside from Aaron Judge (speaking of looming off-season questions) just completely stopped hitting. Crazy to think that losing Matt freaking Carpenter seriously helped throw this offense into the tank. I've always really really liked Carpenter (despite his Cardinals-ness) but until 2022 he hadn't been remotely good since 2018, or even playable since 2019. So of course upon becoming a Yankee (at age 36!) he posts a 1.138 OPS in 47 games (including a 1.605 at Yankee Stadium with 9 homers in 63 PA)... and yet Aaron Boone wants to complain about ballpark factors? That is some mighty entitled stuff.
Injuries seem to be what knocked Tampa Bay down this time. Wander Franco never quite got going and missed half the year, Glasnow missed basically the entire season, and catcher was a complete black hole for them (even Zunino when he was healthy). Can't say I'm looking forward to Shane McClanahan, Glasnow and Rasmussen headlining the 2023 Rays. Bah, odds are they'll end up trading one of them for prospects anyway.
We talk about the Blue Jays to death and back in these parts (on a Toronto baseball blog? No way) but looking back at what I wrote in March... it seems like a lot of my predictions came true on both the positive and negative side. There's even proof!
Kikuchi becoming a reliever? Ryu's decline coming more sharply than hoped? (the Tommy John couldn't have been exactly forseen, of course). Bullpen costing them some big games? (sucks it happened to be the biggest
they'd play). Admiral Kirk getting a chance to run the Enterprise? Danny Jansen finally running into some good luck? (definitely a good something) Springer playing 130+ games? There clearly was a lot more good than bad, and yet all of this happening... the previous season feels caught in some weird limbo between failure and success. Hard to really say.
Looking back on those articles, I didn't really make any precise playoff predictions. For the National League I did choose the six postseason teams as Los Angeles, Atlanta, Milwaukee (oops), Philadelphia, St. Louis and San Francisco (oops again). So what do I know. At least the two teams in the World Series are both teams I picked to make the playoffs? Bronze medal for that?
As for that actual series... I could see Astros in 5 or, if the Phillies steal one in Houston... Philadelphia in 7. I feel like the former is more likely, but the latter would be more fun. I'll stick with Houston in five games though. Here's hoping it's a fun one to watch regardless.