About Those Predictions …

Way back in early April, I made a whole slew of predictions for the 2004 season, taking a stab at the standings for each division, all six playoff teams, the World Series participants and winner, the recipients of the major individual awards, and 75 random things that I just felt strongly about. In looking back over the predictions, it’s tough to say exactly how well I did, although I think it’s fairly safe to say I wasn’t great. You can, as always, judge for yourself.

AMERICAN LEAGUE
 
   WEST                CENTRAL             EAST                  AWARDS
1) Oakland          1) Minnesota        1) New York         MVP: Alex Rodriguez
2) Anaheim          2) Kansas City      2) Boston (WC)      CYA: Johan Santana
3) Seattle          3) Chicago          3) Toronto          ROY: Bobby Crosby
4) Texas            4) Cleveland        4) Baltimore        MOY: Ron Gardenhire
                    5) Detroit          5) Tampa Bay

Well, the good news is that I nailed two out of the three American League division winners and three out of the four playoff teams, and was within one game of getting 100% right in both instances. I also correctly predicted the Cy Young award winner, Johan Santana, and the Rookie of the Year, Bobby Crosby. The bad news is that I was completely wrong about Texas, Kansas City, Seattle and Toronto, and my MVP pick, Alex Rodriguez, finished 15th in the actual balloting, getting just two eighth-place votes and one ninth-place vote.

NATIONAL LEAGUE
 
   WEST                CENTRAL             EAST                  AWARDS
1) San Diego        1) Chicago          1) Philadelphia     MVP: Barry Bonds
2) San Francisco    2) Houston (WC)     2) Atlanta          CYA: Randy Johnson
3) Los Angeles      3) St. Louis        3) Florida          ROY: Ryan Wagner
4) Arizona          4) Cincinnati       4) New York         MOY: Bruce Bochy
5) Colorado         5) Pittsburgh       5) Montreal
                    6) Milwaukee

Over in the National League, I got just one of the four playoff teams right and went 0-for-3 on division winners. I was right about the Padres being significantly improved, as they won 23 more games than in 2003, but I didn’t think the Dodgers and Giants would be better. Like nearly everyone in the entire universe, I didn’t see the Cardinals coming, predicting they’d finish third in the NL Central. I also botched the NL East for at least the fifth straight year, continuing to ride the “Atlanta has to lose at some point” bandwagon right into a tree. I did nail the MVP, Barry Bonds, and the Cy Young, Randy Johnson, although the voters screwed up the latter to make my prediction technically “incorrect.” After talking up Jason Bay to anyone who would listen coming into the season, I went with Ryan Wagner as my Rookie of the Year pick. (Note to self: nice one.)

POSTSEASON
 
AMERICAN LEAGUE               NATIONAL LEAGUE               WORLD SERIES
New York over Minnesota       Philadelphia over Houston     Boston over Chicago
Boston over Oakland           Chicago over San Diego
Boston over New York          Chicago over Philadelphia

I nailed the winners of all three AL playoffs series, but went 0-for-3 in the NL. In my defense, however, I did correctly predict that the Boston Red Sox would win their first World Series since 1918, which has to count for something, right? (How about at least enough to make you forget that I had them beating the Cubs?)

Here’s how I did on my “75 Random Predictions for 2004,” some of which can’t be answered as definitely as who won a division or a playoff series (so I gave myself the benefit of the doubt on close ones) …

1) Joe Mauer will have a higher on-base percentage than A.J. Pierzynski.

Correct: Mauer’s OBP was .369; Pierzynski’s OBP was .319.

2) Despite moving to first base, Darin Erstad will hit no better than he has in center field.

Correct: Erstad batted .296/.346/.400; he is a career .274/.328/.372 hitter as a centerfielder. (This would be one of those benefit-of-the-doubt cases.)

3) Bobby Crosby’s OPS will be within 10% of Miguel Tejada‘s.

Incorrect: Crosby’s OPS was .744; Tejada’s OPS was .894 — a difference of 20.2%.

4) Francisco Rodriguez will lead American League relievers in strikeouts.

Correct: Rodriguez had 123 strikeouts to lead AL relievers. (Just barely though — B.J. Ryan had 122 strikeouts.)

5) Richie Sexson will lead the National League in home runs.

Incorrect: Sexson hit nine home runs, ranking tied for 104th in the NL.

6) Randy Johnson will win at least 17 games and lead the NL in strikeouts.

Incorrect: Though he would have won more than 17 games pitching for a team with a major-league caliber offense, Johnson won just 16; he did lead the NL with 290 strikeouts.

7) John Kruk will make the ears of a baseball-watching nation bleed profusely.

Correct: What did you say? I can’t hear you because my ears are bleeding profusely.

8) Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling will win more games than any other pair of teammates.

Incorrect: Martinez and Schilling combined to win 37 games, second to Roger Clemens and Roy Oswalt, who won 38.

9) Bill Mueller will once again hit .300.

Incorrect: Mueller hit .283.

10) Derrek Lee will be among the top 10 in the NL in home runs and RBIs.

Incorrect: Lee ranked tied for 15th in the NL in home runs and 19th in RBIs.

11) Esteban Loaiza will be closer to the 2003 version than the 1995-2002 version.

Incorrect: Loaiza had a 5.70 ERA, far closer to his ERA from 1995-2002 (4.88) than his ERA from 2003 (2.90).

12) D’Angelo Jimenez will be one the top five second basemen in the National League.

Correct: Jimenez ranked tied for second among NL second basemen in Win Shares.

13) Ken Griffey Jr. will not stay healthy.

Correct: Griffey played just 83 games.

14) Adam Dunn will hit 40+ home runs.

Correct: Dunn hit 46 home runs.

15) Brandon Larson will be one of the top 10 offensive third basemen in baseball.

Incorrect: Larson ranked 52nd among third basemen in VORP to make this, by far, my most ridiculous-looking prediction.

16) Danny Graves will lose his closer job by mid-season.

Incorrect: Graves saved 41 games and kept his job all year, despite nine blown saves and a 3.95 ERA (mostly because my Rookie of the Year pick, Wagner, stunk for most of the season).

17) The media will make a big deal out of one or two players not being selected for the All-Star game and no one will care three days later.

Correct: Trust me, this happened. And the fact that you can’t remember which players got snubbed just proves my point.

18) Travis Hafner will be one of the top 10 offensive first basemen/designated hitters in the American League.

Correct: Hafner ranked first among AL first basemen/designated hitters in VORP.

19) Victor Martinez will be among the top five offensive catchers in the American League.

Correct: Martinez ranked fourth among AL catchers in VORP.

20) Cliff Lee will be Cleveland’s best starting pitcher.

Incorrect: Lee led Cleveland starters in games started and tied for the lead in wins, but did not rank first in innings pitched, ERA or Win Shares.

21) Aaron Miles will hit .300 for the Rockies.

Incorrect: Miles hit .293.

22) Joe Morgan will acknowledge the true author of MoneyballPaul DePodesta.

Inconclusive: As far as I know, Joe is now denying books exist. Not just Moneyball, all books. (Incidentally, in his first season away from Billy Beane, DePodesta won his division and Beane did not.)

23) Jason Kendall will be traded to a contender.

Incorrect: Kendall remained with the fifth-place Pirates all year.

24) Hee Seop Choi will be among the top five in the NL in walks.

Incorrect: Choi ranked 32nd in the NL in walks. (This prediction was looking good until Choi was traded to Los Angeles and vanished off the face of the earth.)

25) Josh Beckett will strikeout 200+ batters.

Incorrect: Beckett had just 152 strikeouts. (Mostly because he managed to throw just 156.2 innings.)

26) Armando Benitez will save 35+ games.

Correct: Benitez saved 47 games.

27) Jeff Kent will drive in 120+ runs.

Incorrect: Kent drove in just 107 runs.

28) Ichiro! will win the AL batting title.

Correct: Ichiro! batted .372 to lead the AL.

29) Juan Gonzalez will drive in 100+ runs.

Incorrect: Gonzalez drove in just 17 runs.

30) Carlos Beltran will finish in the top five for AL MVP and will not be traded.

Incorrect: Beltran did not get mentioned on a single AL MVP ballot (though he was on five in the NL) and was traded to Houston at midseason.

31) Jeremy Affeldt will lead the Royals in wins.

Incorrect: Affeldt ranked tied for sixth on the Royals in wins (though he did lead them in saves).

32) Derek Jeter will finish among the top five AL MVP vote-getters.

Incorrect: Jeter finished 13th in the AL MVP balloting. (And only three misguided souls thought he was one of the 10 most valuable players in the league.)

33) Jeff Weaver will shave at least 30% off his 2003 ERA.

Correct: Weaver’s 4.01 ERA was 33.1% lower than in 2003.

34) Eric Gagne will blow a save.

Correct: He blew two, in fact.

35) The Dodgers will score at least 100 more runs than they did last season.

Correct: The Dodgers scored 761 runs, 187 more than they scored in 2003.

36) Neither Cristian Guzman or Luis Rivas will post an OBP above league-average.

Correct: Guzman’s OBP was .309; Rivas’ OBP was .283; the AL’s OBP was .340.

37) Johan Santana will lead all American League, non-Boston pitchers in strikeouts.

Correct: Santana’s 265 strikeouts led the AL. (Amazingly, I actually underestimated Johan here.)

38) Nick Johnson will finish among the top 10 in the NL in walks and on-base percentage.

Incorrect: Johnson ranked tied for 79th in the NL in walks and did not play enough to qualify in OBP.

39) Tony Batista will hit more home runs than he has walks and the sum of his OBP plus his RBIs will not equal 400.

Correct: Batista had 32 home runs and just 26 walks, and the sum of his OBP (.272) plus his RBIs (110) equaled just 382.

40) Mike Cameron will be one of the top five offensive centerfielders in baseball and will win a Gold Glove.

Incorrect: Cameron ranked just 17th among centerfielders in VORP and did not win a Gold Glove (though he probably should have).

41) Mike Piazza will drive in 100+ runs.

Incorrect: Piazza drove in just 54 runs.

42) Jason Giambi will be one of the top 10 offensive players in baseball.

Incorrect: Giambi ranked just 328th in VORP.

43) Hideki Matsui‘s OPS will rise at least 20% from 2003.

Incorrect: Matsui’s OPS was .912, up just 15.7% from 2003. (Not quite close enough to get the benefit of the doubt, but nonetheless a good prediction.)

44) Derek Jeter will lead the AL in runs scored.

Incorrect: Jeter scored 111 runs, ranking tied for sixth in the AL.

45) Jose Contreras will win 15+ games.

Incorrect: Contreras won just 13 games.

46) Arthur Rhodes will save 35+ games.

Incorrect: Rhodes saved just nine games.

47) Bobby Kielty will have an OBP of at least .370.

Incorrect: Kielty’s OBP was just .321.

48) Jermaine Dye will nearly double his OPS from 2003.

Correct: Dye’s .793 OPS was up 54.3% from 2003.

49) Erubiel Durazo will add 100 points to his slugging percentage from 2003.

Incorrect: Durazo’s .523 SLG was up just 93 points from 2003. (Another good call that came up just short.)

50) Kaz Matsui will not win NL Rookie of the Year.

Correct: Bay won the award.

51) Pat Burrell‘s OPS will rise by at least 30%.

Incorrect: Burrell’s OPS was .821, up just 15.1% from 2003.

52) Eric Milton will not make 30 starts and will be out-pitched by Carlos Silva.

Incorrect: Milton made 34 starts, although Silva did out-pitch him (more innings, lower ERA, more Win Shares).

53) Jason Bay will be one of the three best offensive rookies in baseball.

Correct: Bay ranked second among rookie hitters in VORP.

54) The Padres will improve their win total by more than any other team in baseball.

Incorrect: San Diego’s 23-game improvement seems pretty good, until you see that the Tigers were 29 games better than they were in 2003.

55) Sean Burroughs will be one of the top five offensive third basemen in baseball.

Incorrect: Burroughs ranked just 27th among third basemen in VORP.

56) Jake Peavy will win 15+ games.

Correct: Peavy won exactly 15 games (and also took home the NL ERA title).

57) So will David Wells.

Incorrect: Wells won just 12 games.

58) Barry Bonds will hit more home runs than he did in 2003.

Incorrect: Bonds hit 45 home runs, the same amount he hit in 2003.

59) Reggie Sanders will drive in 100+ runs.

Incorrect: Sanders drove in just 67 runs.

60) The Yankees will trade for a second baseman who has been an All-Star at least twice.

Incorrect: They started the season with Enrique Wilson and ended it with Miguel Cairo, neither of whom have been All-Stars.

61) Alfonso Soriano will join the 40/40 Club.

Incorrect: Soriano hit just 28 home runs and stole only 18 bases.

62) Mark Teixeira will be among the top 10 in the AL in homers.

Correct: Teixeira hit 38 home runs to rank fifth in the AL.

63) Hank Blalock will be among the top five in the AL in batting average.

Incorrect: Blalock hit just .276, ranking tied for 46th in the AL.

64) Javier Vazquez will lead the AL in wins.

Incorrect: Vazquez won 14 games, ranking tied for eighth in the AL.

65) Brandon Webb will once again be better than Dontrelle Willis.

Correct: Webb had 12 Win Shares; Willis had 10 Win Shares.

66) Johnny Damon will cut his hair and shave.

Correct: Damon cut his hair for charity and technically did shave at some point, although not so much that anyone actually could see his skin.

67) Mark Prior will be the best pitcher in baseball during the second-half of the season.

Incorrect: Prior went 4-2 with a mediocre 4.03 ERA after the All-Star break and struggled all year.

68) Carl Crawford will steal more bases than the Blue Jays and A’s.

Correct: Crawford stole 59 bases to lead the AL; the Blue Jays stole 58 bases and the A’s stole 47.

69) Jeremy Bonderman will be Detroit’s best pitcher.

Incorrect: Bonderman did not lead the team in games started, innings pitched, ERA, wins or Win Shares. (Although he did have a good year, particularly in the second half.)

70) Octavio Dotel will save 35+ games.

Correct: Dotel saved 36 games.

71) Geoff Jenkins will get hurt.

Incorrect: Jenkins played a career-high 157 games, his first season with more than 135 games played in seven years in the majors.

72) Doug Mientkiewicz will have an OBP above .400.

Incorrect: Mientkiewicz’s OBP was just .326, including .340 with Minnesota and .286 with Boston.

73) Shannon Stewart will not get a single vote for AL MVP.

Correct: Stewart did not appear on anyone’s ballot, although he didn’t really give them a chance by playing only 92 games.

74) Eric Chavez will improve significantly against left-handed pitching.

Correct: After hitting .209/.261/.362 against lefties in 2002 and .257/.299/.415 against them in 2003, Chavez had his first good year against southpaws, hitting .306/.412/.481.

75) Alex Rodriguez will have an amazing season, and people will say he doesn’t deserve the MVP because the Yankees are too talented and good.

Incorrect: Rodriguez had a very good season, but people said he didn’t deserve the MVP because he didn’t deserve the MVP.

*****

Best Predictions: Santana’s Cy Young, Boston’s World Series, San Diego’s improvement, Chavez’s handling lefties, comeback seasons by Johnson, Benitez, Dye, and Weaver, and breakout seasons by Hafner, Martinez, Peavy, Bay, Teixeira, and Matsui.

Worst Predictions: Chicago’s trip to the World Series, Philadelphia’s division title, Wagner’s Rookie of the Year, Sexson’s home run title, comeback seasons by Loaiza, Rhodes, Kielty, and Gonzalez, and breakout seasons by Larson, Affeldt, Contreras, Burroughs, and Johnson.

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