10 Extra Bold Predictions for 2022

April 6, 2022
  
 
"Let’s go ahead and predict that Shohei Ohtani breaks our collective minds by combining 120 innings of solid pitching with a breakout season at the plate."
 
That’s exactly what happened, of course: Ohtani broke out as an elite hitter, and he gave us 130 great innings as a starting pitcher.
 
I didn’t really thinkthat would happen, of course: when I made that prediction, I was mostly trying to figure out what a Shohei Ohtani MVP season could look like. What would be the parameters of a breakout campaign? What could we reasonably expect to see, if he somehow pulled off this wild experiment of pitching and hitting?
 
He did pull it off, and it was something to see. So to honor of Shohei’s breakout performance, I’m going to provide BJOL readers with ten extra bold predictions for the 2022 season. No half-measures this year.
 
 
1.       Rafael Devers wins the Triple Crown.
 
The biggest challenge is the batting average: Devers is a .279 career hitter. The second obstacle is the stacked league where he plays: Devers has to out-homer and out-RBI Vlad Guerrero Jr., Salvador Perez, Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout, and Aaron Judge.
 
But Devers is a left-handed hitter in Fenway Park, which is a terrific foundation for sneaking a batting title. And the Boston lineup looks decently stacked, which means that RBI opportunities should be there for the young slugger. He’s having a terrific spring: let’s guess that this is the year he joins the upper echelon of the game’s very best hitters.
 
 
2.       Robbie Ray repeats as Cy Young.
 
Ordinarily, projecting the guy who won a fancy award last year to repeat their effort wouldn’t qualify as bold, but everyone seems very pessimistic about Robbie Ray’s leap last year.
 
That’s understandable: prior to 2021, Ray’s capacity to miss bats went hand-in-hand with his tendency to give free passes to baserunners. He improved massively on his walks last year, but there’s a long enough track record of wildness to make fans nervous.
 
I’m not: I think he’s turned a corner. He’ll be elite again in 2022.
 
Partially, this is a bet on park effects. Toronto played their home games in two minor league parks and then the Rodger’s Centre, three strong hitters’ parks. Moving to Seattle means that Ray is going to make half his starts in a very pitcher-friendly stadium. And getting out of the AL East, where he made thirteen of his starts against the Red Sox (4), Yankees (3) and Rays (6).
 
And this is also a bet on just how much Robbie Ray’s career has seemed to mirror the career of Randy Johnson. Consider the stats for each pitcher through their Age-28 seasons:
 
Thru Age 28:
W-L
IP
K
BB
ERA
ERA+
Randy Johnson
49-48
818
818
517
3.95
101
Robbie Ray
49-51
842.1
1042
409
4.26
103
 
Through Age-28, both men were hard-throwing lefthanders who walked too many batters to get away with occasionally missing their spots.
 
And then, a turn-around: 
 
Age-29
W-L
IP
K
BB
ERA
ERA+
Awards
Randy Johnson
19-8
255.1
308
99
3.24
135
CYA-2
Robbie Ray
13-7
193.1
248
52
2.84
154
CYA-1
 
Ray’s walk rate went from 4.3/9 IP to 2.4 last year. Randy Johnson took his 5.7 rate and lowered it to 3.5 in 1993. Johnson didn’t fall back to old habits: he improved further on that success. Here’s a bet that Robbie Ray can follow suit.
 
The last NL’er to win consecutive CY Awards was Jacob deGrom. Can you name the last AL’er?
 
 
3.       The Padres having a losing record.
 
FanGraphs projects the Padres as a 89-73 team, which is comfortably above .500. I think they’ll do worse. I think the Padres will play losing baseball in 2022.
 
Even absent Tatis Jr., this is a team rich in talent. But if there is a team that has felt ready to underachieve, it is the Padres.
 
Many teams slumped down the stretch last season, but the Padres quit. After entering the All-Star break with a record of 53-40, they collapsed to a 26-43 record down the stretch, culminating in a September that saw them lose three out of four games they played (7-21).
 
The Padres and Blue Jays are two young teams, two teams where the core of the club are the young players. You can tell this every time you watch them: they’re enthusiastic and excited and sometimes silly. But it’s always felt like the Blue Jays, as a team, are taking this seriously. Have fun, wear a homer jacket, but win. The Padres – this is just me editorializing – don’t seem to have that chip on their shoulder.
 
Maybe it’s the weather. I’ve always thought that it’s tougher to put effort in when every day is bright and sunny and mild. But I think there’s a deeper problem, a lack of a rudder for the ship or too many guys who got too rich too young to buy into the collective mindset required to play winning baseball. Faced with the challenge of the Dodgers and Giants both playing brilliant baseball, the Padres folded like a house of cards. I don’t think they’ll come back into contention this year.
 
 
4.       Juan Soto cracks a .500 on-base percentage.
 
Five major league players have managed whole seasons where they reached base more often than not: Barry Bonds (2001-2004), Ted Williams (1941, 1954, 1957), Mickey Mantle (1957), Babe Ruth (1920, 1921, 1923, 1924, 1926), and Rogers Hornsby (1924).
 
Juan Soto will be the sixth. Pretty good company.
 
 
5.       Anthony Rendon collects 150 RBI.
 
If Raffy Devers doesn’t win the Triple Crown, he’ll be denied because Anthony Rendon gets too many RBI’s. Rendon has been a terrific hitter with runners on base (.303/.390/.534 with runners in scoring position over his career): slated to bat behind Ohtani, a healthy Trout, and Jared Walsh, Rendon is in a good position to again pace his league in ribbies.
 
 
6.       Cody Bellinger hits 40 homeruns.
 
There is bad, there is really bad, and then there is the spring training that Cody Bellinger had.
 
Coming off a postseason that gave everyone a little hope that the 2019 NL MVP might be figuring things out, Bellinger has run out the worst spring stat line I have ever seen:
 
PA
AB
H
2B
3B
HR
BB
SO
34
33
4
0
0
0
1
18
 
That’s four singles, one walk, and eighteen strikeouts. Even Adam Dunn would be embarrassed to have a K% over 50% against spring training pitching. It’s so bad that the Baltimore Orioles are going to offer him a long-term contract.
 
Bellinger is looking absolutely lost. He’s Dante-stumbling-in-the-dark-woods lost.
 
And I think he’ll turn it around.
 
I’m going to give this one a separate article, though. So we’ll hold off on that discussion for a moment, and continue with the predictions.
 
 
7.       Alek Manoah wins twenty games.
 
If you didn’t watch this kid last year, you should check him out this year. He was unphased by the bright lights and big cities of major league baseball. Consider:
 
-          First career start, against the Bombers in the Bronx: 6 IP, 2 hits, 7 strikeouts, 0 runs.
 
-          Fourth start, in Fenway: 6 IP, 4 hits, 5 strikeouts, one run.
 
-          Seventh start, Tampa Bay: 7 IP, 3 hits, 10 strikeouts, 0 runs. Win
 
Those were his first three starts against competitive teams, and Manoah controlled the games like a veteran ace. He played a lot of tough baseball teams last year, and he stepped up against the best teams.
 
Manoah was as confident a first-year starter as I can remember seeing, and he was incredibly fun to watch. If you want to pick a young pitcher to have a breakout this year, Alek Manoah is your guy.
 
 
8.       Adelberto Mondesi leads the majors in triples and stolen bases.
 
I am absolutely pessimistic about Mondesi this year, so that means he’s going to finally put all of his weird skillsets together to have a banner season.
 
The stolen bases are the easy part: even a half-time Mondesi can threaten 40-50 steals, which certainly keeps him in the newspapers (do they still have newspapers that print the league leaders every day, or is that something I hallucinated during my childhood?). The triples are harder, but Mondesi led in 2019, and the Royals ballpark is a good place to get triples.
 
I hope he breaks through: he’s a fun player, and he has scads of talent.
 
 
9.       The two 30-30 players in baseball this year will be Trevor Story and Fernando Tatis, Jr.
 
I feel like there are enough qualifiers to make this suitably bold: Story has to steal 30 bases on a team that seldom runs, and Tatis has to do his work starting in June or July, when he comes back from a broken wrist. And no one else can pull a 30-30 season…not Trea Turner or Mondesi or Shohei. Just those two.
 
I’m particularly enthusiastic about Story: if you look at his batting numbers last year, you might feel slightly panicked that he’s entering a decline. But most of that decline was July, when Story had a .188/.260/.388 batting line. That’s a lousy month…but I’d hazard that a lot of that lousiness was Trevor Story wondering, day after day, when Rockies were going to trade him, and where he’d have to move to. When they didn’t trade him, he rebounded nicely over the last months. Securely ensconced in Beantown, I think Story is going to have a great season. 
 
 
10.    Shohei Ohtani will finish in the top-5 for the American League Cy Young Award.
 
Did you think I wouldn’t come back to him?
 
There were two halves to Ohtani’s pitching season last year, and a clear line of demarcation between them.
 
In the first half, Ohtani was trying to strike out every batter he faced. The result was an elite strikeout rate, but also too many walks. That limited his ability to pitch deep into his starts:
 
Dates
GS
IP
SO
BB
ERA
Apr. 4 - Jun 23
11
59.1
82
31
2.58
 
Then came his disaster start in the Bronx. With all the world watching, Shohei started by walking the bases loaded, couldn’t make it out of the first, and was credited with seven runs allowed. It felt, watching that game, that the jig was up: you can’t play Babe Ruth four days a week, and then pretend to be Nolan Ryan on day five.
 
His next start, against Boston, saw Ohtani take a different approach: he threw a lot softer, and he threw strikes. Of the 89 pitchers he threw, 69 were strikes. Most significantly, he issued no walks.
 
His second half showed a changed pitcher: Ohtani could still dial up a strikeout, but he picked his moments, and stayed out of trouble:
 
Dates
GS
IP
SO
BB
ERA
Apr. 4 - Jun 23
11
59.1
82
31
2.58
Jul.6 - Sep 26
11
70.1
73
8
2.82
  
His walks per start went from three to one, and the reducing in pitches allowed him to stay in the game longer. His ERA during the first half was a mirage; his ERA during the second half was a marker of his ability.
 
Last year I guessed that the best outcome for Shohei Ohtani would be a breakout year at the plate and 120 solid innings as a pitcher. That felt like the limit, but he hit that limit. So what can he do next?
 
How about a like the ones Corbin Burnes and Dylan Cease had last year? 160 IP with an elite strikeout rate, and a walk rate in the neighborhood of 2.0/9 IP. That should get him some consideration for the Cy Young Award.
 
Write your own bold predictions below, and we’ll check back on them in the offseason. Happy Opening Day, BJOL readers!
 
 
David Fleming is a writer living in western Virginia. He welcomes comments, questions, and suggestions here and at dfleming1986@yahoo.com. 
 
 

COMMENTS (8 Comments, most recent shown first)

OwenH
Fun article Dave. I think it's gonna be hard for Rendon to drive in that many runs, since Trout (who does have a stellar OBP) and Ohtani (with a good OBP) hit so many homers; that keeps them off base for the next hitters. Rendon should knock in a few though.
4:48 PM Apr 11th
 
villageelliott
Bob Melvin could be the rudder the Padres need to right the ship.

Then again, Bob Melvin may have unintentional signed on as the next Captain to go with this Ship of Fools.
2:42 AM Apr 9th
 
3for3
A friend of mine made a great (imo) bet on Carlos Correa to win the MVP. The setup is perfect. He is 27. He changed teams. Playing in a weak division, where his team could win with 88 or so games if Chicago falters. Does very well in WAR, which people are starting to consider in the voting. He got 60-1 odds. Sure it is a long shot. If there was a similar market for top 5 or top 10, it would be even better.
2:00 AM Apr 9th
 
evanecurb
No major league team will lose 100 games this year. Given recent history, that seems pretty bold. It also represents an eleven game improvement for the O’s.
3:05 PM Apr 8th
 
DaveNJnews
When people make “extra bold predictions” like this, I always wonder whether it gets back to the subject of the predictions. “Hey Rafael, some guy on the Internet thinks you are going to win the Triple Crown.”

7:29 PM Apr 6th
 
kingferris
Ohtani made the adjustment well before the game in New York; he had a 32:5 strikeout to walk ratio in his previous 4 starts. The Yankee game was just a bad fluke where there were two different long rain delays and he probably just had grip problems or something. Aroldis gave up a grand slam in the 9th. It was a weird night.
4:21 PM Apr 6th
 
Jack
Fun article, appreciate your sticking your neck out.

Two comments:

1. On the Padres - "But I think there’s a deeper problem, a lack of a rudder for the ship or too many guys who got too rich too young to buy into the collective mindset required to play winning baseball." \*cough*mannymachado*cough*\

2. I think you mean "unfazed," not "unphased." ("Unphased" happens to Star Trek characters when the video is run backwards.)
4:18 PM Apr 6th
 
Jack
Fun article, appreciate your sticking your neck out.

Two comments:

1. On the Padres - "But I think there’s a deeper problem, a lack of a rudder for the ship or too many guys who got too rich too young to buy into the collective mindset required to play winning baseball." \*cough*mannymachado*cough*\

2. I think you mean "unfazed," not "unphased." ("Unphased" happens to Star Trek characters when the video is run backwards.)
4:18 PM Apr 6th
 
 
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