A Look Back at My “Amazing” Predictions

tywhite

So I’m going to do something fun here. I’m going to take a look at the preseason predictions I made in April, and see which ones made me look like a genius, and which ones made me look drunker and crazier than Pete Rose on tonight’s postgame show. Before the season, I predicted the standings and the winners of each major award. Here they are, with the actual winners (or, for the awards, the probable winners) and a brief disclaimer after each describing what went horribly wrong.

American League East

Paul’s Projected Standings Actual 2016 Standings
1. Toronto Blue Jays 1. Boston
2. Tampa Bay Rays 2. Toronto
3. Boston Red Sox 3. Baltimore
4. New York Yankees 4. New York
5. Baltimore Orioles 5. Tampa Bay

My strange fixation on the Rays bit me in the rear. I thought Tampa’s excellent team defense would lead them to the playoffs, but their pitchers suddenly decided to start giving up home runs in bunches, and the best defense in the world won’t help a lick if every fly ball hit is going into the tenth row. That plus the expected lackluster offense torpedoed their season.

I was also way off on the Orioles. They did have all kinds of issues with their starting rotation, as I surmised, but their beer-league softball offense (they hit 253 home runs with just a .317 team OBP) and an amazing season from closer Zach Britton was enough to help them clinch a playoff spot.

I questioned Boston’s pitching staff, but Rick Porcello had a career year, David Price was his usual self after the All-Star Break, and that was enough for their ridiculous offense, which tore a swath through the American League. Toronto couldn’t quite bring the momentum of their red-hot 2015 second half into the regular season this year, but of course as we speak they’re still alive and looking to make their first World Series since 1993. The Yankees faded just like I expected and started the inevitable post-Jeter/Rivera rebuild midway through the season, which exposed the world to Gary Sanchez. He should be one of the most interesting stories of 2017.

American League Central

Paul’s Projected Standings Actual 2016 Standings
1. Cleveland Indians 1. Cleveland
2. Kansas City Royals 2. Detroit
3. Detroit Tigers 3. Kansas City
4. Minnesota Twins 4. Chicago
5 Chicago White Sox 5. Minnesota

The Indians are my best and proudest preseason prediction, and it’ll look even better if they make the World Series. Their starting pitching was just as good as expected and their offense was surprisingly potent. I had a feeling in March that this would be their year and so far, so good.

The Royals never recovered from the early-season loss of Mike Moustakas to injury and faded to .500. I predicted that Justin Verlander would need to bounce back for the Tigers for them to do anything. He was great, but it wasn’t quite enough and they missed the postseason by a hair. The Sox went 17-8 in April, but soon devolved into the same disjointed mess that we’re used to. The Twins’ pitching was (somehow) even worse than expected and they were the worst team in baseball, wasting an MVP-caliber season from Brian Dozier.

American League West

Paul’s Projected Standings Actual 2016 Standings
1. Houston Astros 1. Texas
2. Seattle Mariners 2.Seattle
3. Texas Rangers 3. Houston
4. Los Angeles Angels 4. Los Angeles
5. Oakland 5. Oakland

I expected the Rangers to finish third and instead they won the division rather easily, but was I really so off? Here are the AL West standings going by Pythagorean record:

  1. Seattle Mariners 87-75
  2. Houston Astros 83-79
  3. Texas Rangers 82-80
  4. Los Angeles Angels 80-82
  5. Oakland A’s 70-92

So going by how these teams probably should have done based on how many runs they scored versus how many they allowed, I was probably kinda right. That’s no knock on the Rangers’ season, but if I’m in their front office, I’m taking a good, long look at that near-.500 Pythagorean record and asking some serious questions about the team in front of me. Upgrading the rotation behind Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish would be a good place to start.

National League East

Paul’s Projected Standings Actual 2016 Standings
1. Washington Nationals 1. Washington
2. New York Mets 2. New York
3. Miami Marlins 3. Miami
4. Philadelphia Phillies 4. Philadelphia
5. Atlanta Braves 5. Atlanta

Nailed it! Honestly, this division was pretty easy. You knew the Braves and Phillies were going to stink and it was pretty clear the Nationals had the most talent. I guess the only question was whether or not they’d combust with all their conflicting egos and loud personalities. They didn’t, and give Dusty Baker credit for making sure of that.

The Mets somehow made the postseason despite injuries to, like, everybody. The Marlins started strong but faded in the second half and of course had to deal with the emotional stomach punch of Jose Fernandez’s tragic passing at season’s end. The Braves were a joke for five months but actually looked really good in September. They might actually be on to something for 2017.

National League Central

Paul’s Projected Standings Actual 2016 Standings
1. Chicago Cubs 1. Chicago
2. Pittsburgh Pirates 2. St. Louis
3. St. Louis Cardinals 3. Pittsburgh
4. Milwaukee Brewers 4. Milwaukee
5. Cincinnati Reds 5. Cincinnati

I figured the Cubs would be good, but maybe not this good. They surpassed my lofty expectations and ran rampant over the league, winning 103 games (and it probably could have been more if they hadn’t clinched early and started resting some of their guys). They’re alive and well and trying to fight off the goat as we speak.

The Pirates were the big disappointment. Injuries, bad pitching, and a down year from Andrew McCutchen totally derailed them. I was spot on with the Cardinals…they missed the playoffs by a game. They’ll be back in the picture next year because they always are. The rebuilding Brewers and Reds went through the motions, and they’ve got their work cut out for them trying to make it back to contention in a division that figures to be dominated by the Cubs for at least the next half-decade.

National League West

Paul’s Projected Standings Actual 2016 Standings
1. San Francisco Giants 1. Los Angeles
2. Los Angeles Dodgers 2. San Francisco
3. Arizona Diamondbacks 3. Colorado
4. San Diego Padres 4. Arizona
5. Colorado Rockies 5. San Diego

Welp, my fanboy Giants prediction looked swell at the All-Star Break. That didn’t work out, and I’m just sitting here watching the Dodgers in the NLCS. The other three teams in the division continued to bumble as per usual, but it’s worth pointing out that the Diamondbacks in particular were a complete disgrace. Famously called out by ESPN’s Keith Law in August (Insider-only), the team finally cleaned out a front office that, among other things, traded the number one pick in the draft for Shelby Miller (who finished 2016 with a 6.15 ERA). They hired a new GM today, so their days of being the laughingstock of baseball may be over.

Awards

Paul’s 2016 Preseason Award Picks Probable 2016 Winner
NL MVP: Bryce Harper Kris Bryant
AL MVP: Carlos Correa Mookie Betts, maybe Trout or Altuve
NL Cy Young: Gerrit Cole Max Scherzer
AL Cy Young: Chris Archer Zach Britton, maybe Kluber or Porcello
NL ROTY: Corey Seager Seager
AL ROTY: Tyler White Michael Fulmer

Harper seemed like a safe bet before the season, but he didn’t come close to matching his epic 2015 season. Correa had a season that would be great for any 21-year-old shortstop, but with the way he burst on the scene last year, I think he was seen by many as somewhat of a disappointment. Not that I think that is fair.

Cole probably has a Cy in his future, but he missed half of this season with injuries. The field in both leagues is open for the Cy Young. Kershaw would have won it again, but he missed time to injury, opening it up for Scherzer, who looks like the odds-on favorite to win his second of these awards (his first in the NL). In the American League, it’s also anyone’s guess. Kluber was probably the AL’s best pitcher, but Britton had one of the best reliever seasons ever, and the writers love them some good narrative like that, so I’d bet he wins it.

It definitely won’t be Archer, who lost 19 games. Archer wasn’t awful, but he, like most of his Rays rotation-mates, started giving up home runs in bushels suddenly. He settled down and was much better in the season’s second half, and I still expect him to have a Cy Young year before all is said and done.

Hey, with Seager I got one right! Seager will run away with the NL award and he even has an outside shot at the MVP. So I guess I’ll pat myself on the back for that one, though it was really kinda obvious. And that brings us to…

Tyler White. Yeah, no. White hit five home runs in the season’s first week, then slumped badly and the Astros gave up on him. White has always kinda projected as a poor man’s Billy Butler, so with A.J. Reed breathing down his neck, he had to hit and keep hitting to stick around. He didn’t and he was jettisoned to AAA in June. This prediction was all part of this strange Tyler White fetish I held all season (I picked him up in a fantasy league, too) and let’s just forget this all ever happened.

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