40 Un-Bold Predictions for 2016

April 3, 2016
For the last couple years I’ve posted bold predictions about the coming baseball season. I totally started the trend: no one else in the blogosphere was doing anything like that before I came along. Everywhere you’d look, you’d read nothing but calm and sensible projections about the coming baseball season. You’d get stuff like: "Why the Dodgers can win 76 games this year" and "Prince Fielder’s Goal: a Sensible .270 Batting Average." The early days of internet sports writing was muy boring, until I came along with the entirely new and unique idea of making a bunch of wildly speculative guesses about the sporting, on the slim chance that I’d get one-in-ten guesses right. So you can all thank me for that.
But innovation is always trailed by imitation, and I am no longer the prime peddler of provocative prognostications. There are now at least a dozen of websites whose authors make their scratch by tossing out ambitious and unlikely projections for the coming year. 
And this proliferation of aggressive speculations isn’t reserved to the sports pages: it has  infecting all spheres of our once-genial discourse. I have lately learned, for instance, that some writers are suggesting that Donald Trump will be a nominee for President. This, friends, is absurdity taken too far: it is lunacy taken past all sensible restraint. We have taken our folly beyond its proper borders. We must seek, now, the true path to wisdom.  
To that goal, I am offering something different this year. Instead of presenting a list of outlandish and entertaining predictions about the coming baseball season, I’ll be offering a list of forty things that almost certainly will happen in 2016. Readers of the BJOL, I present my list of forty un-bold predictions for the games to come. 
For your sanity and mine.
*             *             *
1.       Mike Trout will have an MVP year, and not win the MVP. We’re starting with an easy one: Mike Trout will put up yet another banner season for the Angels, and the voters will vote for someone else. Always the bridesmaid, Trout.
2.       Bryce Harper will be less good than he was last year, but the Nationals will be much better. Count me as the rare saber-type who gives some credit to intangibles like chemistry: I think the Nats had a miserable clubhouse last year, and I think they’ll have a better one this year, if only because Dusty Baker’s non-thinking about bullpen usage patterns is a slight improvement over Matt Williams’ fixed-in-concrete plans for his relievers. And I love Bryce Harper, but it’s tough to replicate a 10.0 WAR season.
3.       The Red Sox will also be better. Another un-bold prediction here: the Red Sox will win more games with David Price and Craig Kimbrel than they managed to win without them.
4.       Baltimore eschews the chop, and hits a cray number of dingers. I meant to write ‘crazy’, but the z-key stuck, and I decided to go with it. Just trying to keep up with the legions of millennials who read the BJOL on their smart watches.
5.       The Phillies will be terrible. Though not without their joys. Maikel Franco might pace the NL in homers, if Giancarlo misses time. Speaking of Giancarlo…
6.       Giancarlo Stanton will hit the DL this year. The Marlins slugger will end up on the shelf, after sustaining a muscle strain during one of the 93 intentional walks he’ll receive this year. And just to prove I’m not picking on Stanton…
7.       Troy Tulowitzski will also get injured. I love Tulo, but the man is overdue.
8.       The Cubs will be really good. I don’t know if you noticed this, but the Cubs won 97 games last year, and then added Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist, and John Lackey to their roster during the off-season. Those are some wicked smaht moves, Theo.
9.       That new Angels shortstop will make at least one play at shortstop that we’ve never seen before. Andrelton Simmons is spectacular, isn’t he?
10.   Freddie Freeman will mistakenly address a teammate by the wrong name during a clubhouse interaction, resulting in an awkward moment for everyone. Have you looked at the Braves roster this year? Who are these guys?
11.   Wade Davis will give up an earned run. I mean, a 0.00 ERA is pretty unlikely, right? On a semi-related note…
12.   Aroldis Chapman will strike out the side. Has Chapman ever done that before? I bet it happens at least once in 2016.
13.   Some team that the pundits and prognosticators don’t like will end up making the playoffs. Here’s a hint: it’s going to be the Royals. Again.
14.   Some team that the pundits and prognosticators like will have a disappointing season. Could be the Dodgers. Could be the Jays. Gonna be the Mets.
15.   Salvador Perez will catch more games than any other catcher this year. That man is tough. Sal for President!
16.   An ace pitcher’s season will end with an appointment for Tommy John surgery. Is there a place to find a list of all the pitchers who have already had this surgery, so that I can predict which ones are due? TJ is as common for pitchers as an appendectomy is for McMurdo Station researchers.
17.   Some closers will be ineffective, and will lose their closing job. This will probably happen three times for the Tigers.
18.   At least one failed starter will convert to the bullpen and be tremendously successful. Hope springs eternal, Rick Porcello.
19.   Billy Hamilton will continue to provide surprising value for a guy with an OPS under .600. He posted a 1.9 WAR last year in 114 games. If I could make one management decision in baseball, I’d have the Reds let Hamilton hit exclusively as a right-hander. It’s his natural side, and they’re ruining him by forcing this experiment in switch hitting. This drives me cray.
20.   The Golden State Warriors will win the NBA championship. My un-boldness isn’t limited to baseball, and Steph Curry is a goddamn wonder.
21.   Dan Shaughnessy will use his Cooperstown speech to stump for the guy on our masthead, urging the Hall to recognize the important contributions Bill James has made to the sport. Subsequent to that, a first snowflake will be spotted in hell.
22.   A Y-named outfielder (Yasiel, Yoenis) will make a wild throw from the outfield that completely misses the intended target, and it will be awesome. I don’t care if it’s a stupid play…is there anything better in baseball than a strong-armed outfielder winding up to gun down a runner? More crazy throws, please!
23.   For the 67th straight season, the best broadcaster in baseball will be in the Dodgers booth. Enjoy him while you can, folks. No one calls a game better than Vin.
24.   Clayton Kershaw will nab at least one of the categories for the pitcher’s Triple Crown. There is a good chance, of course, that he’ll win all three of them.
25.   Francisco Liriano will out-pitch Adam Wainwright, winning the first game of the season. Okay, so I’m a little late in posting these. Forgive me.
26.   Evan Longoria will continue being the first hitter you think about when you think about the Rays lineup. If you asked me to name anyone else in that lineup, I don’t think I’d get anyone else except Kiermaier. Is James Loney still on that team?  I have no idea. Why did anyone think baseball in Tampa Bay would be a good idea?
27.   I will continue mixing up Brian Dozier and Trevor Plouffe. I know that one of them plays second base, and one plays third, but I can’t tell you which one plays where. Are they both white guys? I assume they are. I bet they both have facial hair, too…beards. Everyone in Minnesota has a beard, I think, but I’m rambling now. Anyway, they had identical .307 on-base averages last year.
28.   The Milwaukee Brewers will not win the NL Central. Lots of teams are vying for the middle division in the senior circuit. The Brewers are not one of them.
29.   I will get annoyed by instant replay by mid-April, and will pen an article about how stupid it is by June or July. Or August…I’m crap with deadlines right now.
30.   There will be at least one GIF-worthy play involving Bartolo Colon this year. It will probably happen when he’s at bat. I loveEl Barto.
31.   At some point, a fight will occur when one player exhibits too much joy about something, and another player takes umbrage about it. Here’s hoping that this year’s old-school versus new-school fight doesn’t take place in the National’s dugout.
32.   Daniel Murphy will not hit 45 homers for the Nationals this year. Murphy had a hot postseason, but there’s no Bautista-esque leap forward coming for the second sacker.
33.   Seattle will continue to exist as a fine American city, and their baseball team will continue not winning the World Series. I’ve never been to Seattle, but I’m sure it’s great.
34.   San Diego: same, same. I have been to San Diego, and it’s a lovely city. Just terrific. Everyone should go visit.
35.   Adrian Beltre will be the most valuable player on the Rangers this year. I think he’s their best player every year, right? Few players are easier to root for than Adrian Beltre.
36.   The Rockies will lead the NL in runs scored, and probably finish last in the West. At least there are some fun players coming up for the Rox.
37.   Adam LaRoche is going to play baseball this year. I mean, he’s under contract, right? (Wait…what happened?)
38.   Jose Altuve will also play baseball, and will collect 200 hits. I lovelovelove Jose Altuve. What a fun player he is. Baseball is fun. It’s Opening Day!
39.   The great David Ortiz will reach the playoffs once more, capping off a brilliant career. It’s been a joy having David Ortiz as one of ours, and I sure hope the Red Sox get one more October for Papi.  
40.    I’ll fail to mention at least one team in this prediction article. And that team, so scorned, will make a surprise run to the playoffs.
Dave Fleming is a writer living in New Zealand. He welcomes comments, suggestions, and questions here and at dfleming1986@yahoo.com 

COMMENTS (21 Comments, most recent shown first)

You know, when I first moved to Wellington, I looked up how far, geographically, it was from Boston. I was curious if it was as far geographically as I could move from home without leaving orbit. It's pretty damned close. That wasn't intentional, of course...I like Boston a lot.

I think (I don't know, but I've heard) that McMurdo researchers have to have appendectomies if they're going to winter over, because there's no way to evacuate for emergency surgery in the winter. Werner Herzog did a doco about those guys, which is alright if you like Werner (as I do) or Antarctica (ditto), but not a film I'd recommend to general audiences.

A lot of the Antarctic teams leave out of NZ....either Chch or one of the really far southern towns, and I have a few friends who have made it down there. One of my absolute dreams/ambitions/goals is to get down there to see it someday.
1:40 AM Apr 9th
The Cubs and Pirates are 0-3. I think the Brewers are mathematically eliminated according to CNN exit polls.
6:35 AM Apr 8th
And thanks to gegerz for his wonderfully bold predictions for this year. My bold prediction is that Papelbon will be cut from the Nats and Trump will hire him as additional muscle for his security detail.
11:46 AM Apr 7th

Thanks for a fun article. I looked up McMurdo Station, which I had never heard of. It's in Antarctica, but I don't get the connection to appendectomies.

Fun fact: It's 2,540 miles from McMurdo Station to Wellington, NZ, and 9,129 miles from Boston to Wellington. In other words, Dave could go from his present home to McMurdo Station and back in 5,080 miles. This is 4,000 miles less than it takes him to get from his current home in Wellington to his original home in Boston.

11:44 AM Apr 7th
I assume that a player can switch sides between at-bats....just not DURING an at-bat (unless the pitcher is changed mid-AB). There's no unwritten rule about it, and I don't think there's a written rule about it, either. At least I couldn't find one.
1:30 AM Apr 7th
I'd add to the Harper prediction that he will be perceived as having a better year because some of his ancillary stats are bound to improve.

How the heck do you hit .330 with 42 HR and a .649 SLG and end up with 99 RBI? If he hits .320 with 40 HR and 115 RBI the media in general will think he had a better year.
3:40 PM Apr 6th
Is there an unwritten rule in MLB that a player cannot hit from two different sides of the plate against the same pitcher in the game? Would Hamilton benefit seeing the pitcher from the opposite side in his first AB, getting a better eye on the delivery, and then going to his stronger side (RH) in second AB. I am not certain, but think a player cannot switch sides within an AB in MLB.

Perhaps part of what Hamilton is learning from Switch hitting would be getting a better view of a pitcher that he will be seeing again. How do you value that beyond the actual numbers? Why is it ok for KC to suffer the pains of poor performance of youngsters for years, but not Cincy with Hamilton? If you are Cincy and you have control of Hamilton for years (2020), why not develop his ability?

1:53 PM Apr 6th
Already one down in the Bold Predictions. Tough game.

8:42 AM Apr 5th
I also love Bartolo. Have you noticed that he looks exactly like a Dominican Shrek?
12:34 AM Apr 5th
In re no. 26:

Writing my book (due out in a year) I have just finished a section on the AL East, 2008-2013. The Rays did about as well as the Yankees and Red Sox for one reason. Although they never had as many stars, they also NEVER had a terrible player in the lineup over the course of a season. Both Boston and NY often did--usually an aged free agent. The Rays used a lot of young players, most of whom were average, a few of whom were better. And they spent 1/3 of the money annually. It's a remarkable achievement that more people should be paying attention to.

David Kaiser
8:00 PM Apr 4th
I think VB has it right: while the major league platoon splits suggest that Hamilton is about as feckless from each side, the problem is that he's had to put most of his effort towards improving that weak side, and thus hasn't put as much energy into his natural side as he otherwise would have.

We can imagine effort on a 100-point scale. Hamilton has to put the majority of his effort....let's say 70 points...into trying to hit left-handed. It might be 60, might be 80...doesn't matter. That leaves him with 30 points to put to other tasks: learning how to play center, how to hit right-handed, how to steal bases (read the pitcher, break, slide, etc.)

If Hamilton, instead of putting those 70 points to learning a completely new skill, had been allowed to apply that effort to an existing skill, it's likely that he would have improved his natural-side batting. But he doesn't have enough effort points to allocate to it, so the skill isn't developing.

One thing that's interesting is how much Hamilton HAS learned new skills on the fly. He was a shortstop coming up, and sort of got dropped into CF because the Reds had Cozart. He's developed, even with the other pressures on him, into a brilliant defensive OF. He's gotten much better on the bases...he used to be a 'fast' baserunner...now he's 'fast' and 'good.' He picks things up extremely quickly, but the wrong-side hitting is a bridge too far past his abilities. The Reds should have realized this a long time ago, and adjusted accordingly.
5:21 PM Apr 4th
Oddly, Hamilton had almost no platoon split in 2014 (.246/.291/.350 vs RHP in 2014;; .264/.297/.371 vs. LHP), but had a huge split in 2015 (,220/.276/.257 vs. RHP, .240/.270/.371 vs. LHP), with the real decline being a 93 point drop in his SA vs. RHP--28 extra-bas-hits against RHP in 2013, 8 (!) in 2014, in about 2/3 as many PA. It would be nice if we had those splits for his minor-league data...the switch-hitting thing started in 2013, right?
1:20 PM Apr 4th
Quite the striking un-bold predictions, and I see your point about Bold predictions not being so great. So, I would like to make Bold predictions Great Again. So, using only your 40 Un-Bold predictions as sources, here is one Big Bold Prediction:

Adam LaRoche decides he would like to continue playing baseball, so he plows under his hunting field creating a baseball field and naming it the “Field of Seams.” Adam declares it a safe place for injured MLB players to come and rehab and hang out in the locker room with he and Drake.

During a freak play in May at Minute Maid, Altuve hits a fly ball that hits off the flag pole on Tal’s Hill, creating a collision at 3B between he and Beltre. Both players are taken off the field and after the game it is disclosed it wasn’t because they couldn’t stop laughing at the flagpole being in the field of play. The Rangers do a 3-Way trade and receive Evan Longoria ,who then becomes the Rangers MVP. They send Mazara to the Twins who want him so that they may have the best outfield prospects in baseball, the Twins send Plouffe to the Rays to reduce the confusion of sports writers along with sending the Rays Secrets of how to manipulate a dome field to win playoff games. The Twins figure those secrets aren’t usable for them anymore.

During Rehab, Beltre and Altuve play baseball at the Field of Seams with the LaRoche’s and are heard remarking that they feel it is the best clubhouse they have ever been a part of in baseball. Adam serves the players freshly smoked Venison nightly, taken from his ‘meatlocker’ stocked from what he had shot on his hunting field.

Bartolo Colon will be arrested in NYC for assaulting a fan while he is eating lunch in Flushing Chinatown prior to a game. The Mets fan creates the incident when interrupts Colon’s lunch mistakenly thinking he and his ‘lettuce’ are Dallas Braden dressed in an inflatable Sumo suit, trying out Flushing food before an ESPN game. The fan wanted to give Braden a true Queens welcome, and well, Bartolo wasn’t gonna put up with that. The fan has moved on to another sport, maybe Hockey. Upon receiving the MLB suspension, Bartolo will decide he is not ready to retire so he goes to the Field of Seams to pitch convincing Salvy Perez to stop by and catch his games every 5th day in between playing every day for the Royals. Colon sends his private Jet to pick up Salvy between games. If you include these games, Salvy will set a modern day record for number of games caught in a season. The White Sox petition the League to deny this record.

The East-Bay Warriors win the NBA championship, but lose an exhibition to the NC Tar Heels. The Field of Seams team then challenges the Tar Heels to an exhibition game but it is canceled when the Tar Heels try to recruit Drake to come to NC and manage their clubhouse. Adam is heard saying, “if NC won’t take both of us, it’s no deal. “

During the All-Star game in San Diego, after Giancarlo hits a double off of Wade Davis, 2Low is seen casually throwing away his bubble gum at short and accidentally hits Stanton’s trademark ‘G” helmet with the gum resulting in a bench clearing skirmish and both Stanton and 2Low being injured. 2Low doesn’t mind the time off because he missed the free time, and well Wrigley a$k$ him to Tweet about his brand of gum, meanwhile Stanton in$tagram$ about the product he used to remove the gum from his ‘Gelmet’ (trademarked.) Both players decide to rehab from their injuries at Field of Seams, and enjoy their time in clubhouse.
Am I good or what!!? I am Good. I just made ‘BOLD’ Great Again!!! You should vote for this prediction as the Best Bold prediction of the year and then You will be Great Again, too.

12:45 PM Apr 4th
I think the hope is that everything gets better when he stops wasting 2/3rds of his reps on a side of the plate he isn't good at. His right handed ops should go up because he would no longer be spending batting practice, drills, batting tee time, and coaching time (don't forget skull sweat and stress) on batting lefty. To see the potential, go back and look at what Hamilton did in the minors before he started switch hitting. He was putting up .400+ onbase percentages.
12:28 PM Apr 4th
Re: Hamilton... his career OPS is .654 vs lefties, .605 vs righties, in about 1000 AB's. I'm not too sure he would be hitting a lot better against righties if he didn't switch-hit, as that seems like a pretty normal (maybe better than normal?) split.
12:10 PM Apr 4th
I think Duncan is an apt match, though maybe on the wishful thinking side given his success. What happened with Duncan, at least initially, was that he struggled against same siders, but he destroyed lefties. My intuition tells me that this is a reasonable hope for Hamilton - that, given consistent atbats from the right side he might struggle against righties, who he hasn't seen from that box in a while, but lock in a consistent swing that enhances his command against lefties.

One this is for sure: what he's doing now ain't working.
11:43 AM Apr 4th
Marianno Duncan redux.
10:14 AM Apr 4th
GIF?? :dunno:

About switching back from switching to not switching: How sure are you that the way he'd hit righty if he went righty all the way would be more like how he used to hit righty than how he's been hitting righty?
(Phrased in this fun way on purpose, since you had so much fun with the article, which BTW is a delight.)

Is there any research on how that usually goes? Is there a large enough sample of guys who've done it for there to be any research? Has there been even 1 guy who ever did it? I don't know any of these answers.

BTW I do think he'd be better righty than he's been, but in view of how mediocre he's been with the stick altogether, I don't know how confident we can be that he'd be better enough that it's a better idea to put him back to that, than to see if his switch-hitting can develop into something better. Letting him stay where he is might be the best game in town, and maybe they think it's the only, if they think he wasn't a good enough righty hitter to play at a championship level and so let's try this.

Speaking of which, is there any research on whether a guy who starts switch hitting and does lousy for a year or two, including being worse on his natural side, usually gets a lot better at it after getting more experience as a switch hitter?

Another prediction for this year: Somebody who knows nothing about sabermetrics will nevertheless do a few posts under the BJOL articles.
5:03 AM Apr 4th
Brock Hanke
Don't know if this will help or hurt your mental state, but did you know that the same thing happened to Cool Papa Bell, when he switched from pitcher to CF? Back in the Negro Leagues, some manager decided that Bell should switch-hit to take advantage of his speed. Before that, Bell was a better hitter in every way, including power. Lefty, he wasn't as good at getting on base, and lost all his power. Sometimes, progress is slow in baseball.
2:29 AM Apr 4th
The Hamilton thing drives me crazy....it really does. Every four months or so, some report comes out of Cinncy about how uncomfortable Hamilton feels about hitting left-handed. In interviews, he'll talk the team line, but you can tell that he just isn't happy about it. He gives these canned 'we' answers, but you can tell he isn't buying it.

I've sort of given up following his career out of sheer frustration. Hamilton could have been a foundational player...someone who put speed back on the map as an offensive weapon for this era...and the Reds have absolutely kicked it on his career. They keep kicking it: the Reds keep trying to make something work that any fool can see isn't working, and isn't ever going to work. They've wrecked Hamilton's confidence, to the point that I doubt it's coming back, and then they do silly, punitive things like drop him to the 9-spot in the order because he ain't hittin' enough.

And we sportswriters aren't any better. Every month I read some article bitching about how Hamilton should just learn how to slap the ball, learn to hit grounders. I hate those article, because they lay the fault at his feet. On top of learning how to hit left-handed, he should learn how to hit grounders left-handed. And he should learn to juggle, too.

Those of us who have never played baseball have no idea how hard it is to be a pro ballplayer. I'm counting myself there...I have no idea how tough it is. But I assume it's insanely difficult to just play YOUR game...but every month I come across an article saying that Hamilton's supposed to a) continue hitting left-handed, and b) do it in a certain way. As if that's an easy thing to learn as a twenty-four-year old. On top of all the other stuff he has to learn...like centerfield.

At his best, Hamilton was a sensational player, absolutely one of the most fun players I've seen in my life. I missed the heyday of the big burners, but watching Hamilton on his good days was a powerful demonstration of how entertaining speed can be, and how disruptive a weapon it is.

Hamilton seems like a really nice guy, and I root for him more than any other player in baseball. But time is running out: burners seem to burn out quicker than other players, and he's been trying the switch-hitting thing for so long that I worry ALL his hitting is messed up. I'm pulling for him, but my optimism is wavering.
1:27 AM Apr 4th
Nicely done as always, Dave. I think we had the Hamilton discussion a couple of years ago, about how he stopped hitting roughly ten seconds after some genius decided that he should bat from the left side to take advantage of his speed.
11:37 PM Apr 3rd
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