50 Fearless Forecasts

March 31, 2013
For Opening Day, we’re presenting fifty fearless forecasts for the 2013 baseball season. Last year I went a robust 9-for-45 in my prognosticating, a surprising 20% success rate. With any luck, I’ll sneak back under the Mendoza line this year. Let’s see which way the wind blows for 2013.
1. Giancarlo Stanton will out-homer his teammates. That is if he stays on the Marlins for the entire 2013 season. As a bonus prediction, I think that Stanton will hit the most homeruns during Pope Francis’s reign. I don’t know that he’ll top Pujols’ total for Benedict XVI (312 HR’s), but he should manage to pass Jim Rice’s tally for John Paul I (13) in May.
2. Justin Upton will be the least valuable player in the Atlanta outfield. Here are four players….see if you can find the outlier:
Player A
Player B
Player C
Player D
Actually, it’s two players: BJ and Justin Upton. Player A & B are BJ’s home/road splits, which are about as even as home/road splits could be.  Player C & D are Justin Upton’s home/road splits, which are not even. They’re extraordinarily comparable players, except one is everyone’s candidate to win the NL MVP. I bet BJ has the better season.
3. Brett Gardner will lead all Yankees players in WAR in 2012. I made a similarly positive prediction about Gardner last year….so I’m doubling down.
4. Boston wins the AL East. This is the first time in my years of writing for this site where Boston counts as a ‘surprise’ in the division. You think I’m gonna just let the opportunity slip by?
5. Paul Goldschmidt, 30/20. That’s steals and homers. Goldy has an 88% success rate at stealing bases in the majors over his career.
6. The Blue Jays will lead the league in homeruns, but their cumulative runs scored will be about average for the AL. The Blue Jays had twenty-one batters come to the plate in 2012…here’s a list of how many of those twenty-one batters posted an on-base percentage higher than .325:
Edwin Encarnacion (.384)
Jose Bautista (.358)
Their offense has a lot of power, but they make a lot of outs. If the 2012 version of Melky Cabrera and the 2011 version of Jose Reyes show up, the offense should be one of the most effective in the AL, but I’m anticipating some regression on the part of Encarnacion and Melky.
7. The Dodgers will be worse than you think. Speaking of teams with high expectations….I ain’t buying the Dodgers as a particularly good team. They have two objectively great players in Kershaw and Kemp, and they’ve surround them with five players who have been great: Greinke, Han-Ram, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Andre Ethier. The problem is all of those players are on the wrong side of the aging curve. The Giants have four players - Sandoval, Posey, Bumgarner, and Belt – who potentially have their best years ahead of them. The Dodgers are heavily invested in past performance. I would not be surprised if the Dodgers finish under .500 in 2013.
8. Anthony Rizzo will break the single-season record for most homeruns by a guy with a double-z in his name. This is a bold prediction, as the current record holder is current BJOL-HOF’er and awkward memoirist Mike Piazza. Rizzo needs to hit 41 homers to break Piazza’s mark. 
9. Desmond Jennings will score at least 100 runs in 2013. I’m thinking he’ll break out. He was 31-for-33 in stolen base attempts last year.
10. Adam Dunn’s cumulative WAR will be the lowest among White Sox regulars. Talk about a team I am not optimistic about…the White Sox were pretty good last year, mostly because Alex Rios was suddenly competent, and Chris Sale had a huge season. On the other hand…
11. Paul Konerko will bounce back and have a Paul Konerko-esque season. I expect Konerko to rebound from his concussion-related decline, which should give Hawk Harrelson something to look forward to in 2013. “You can put it on the board…YES!”
12. Roy Halladay will not bounce back. He’s a Hall-of-Famer right now, but I’m not optimistic about his decline in velocity in 2013.
13. The Nationals will not win the NL East. The Nationals, predicted by PECOTA to go 161-1 this year, will be something of a disappointment, losing the division to the Braves. Or maybe the Phillies. Or the Mets.
14. Chase Utley will be healthy and HOFer-y. Utley’s missed a lot of time over the last three seasons, but I’m think he plays a near-full season in 2013, putting together a WAR of about 5.0. He will also steal 18 bases and get caught steals -3 times, notching an impressive 117% success rate.
15. Mariano Rivera will get some Cy Young votes. I don’t know if you’ve heard of this guy, but he’s pretty talented. Also: “A man, a plan, a canal: Panama” is a palindrome.
16. This whole Aroldis Chapman story isn’t finished. You know how the Reds decided to move Chapman into the rotation, because he’s supremely talented. And then Dusty Baker was like, “Whoa, I like Chapman in the bullpen, where he can protect three-run leads. And then the GM was like, “But you have Broxton now. And Sean Marshall. And Arredondo.” And Chapman was like, “But I like closing. And I like driving my car at speeds approximate to the speed of my fastball.” And the GM was all: “Could you please stop doing that? The mug shots are embarrassing.” And then  they all decided that the conversation about whether to convert Chapman to a starter would be tabled for a few months, until Johnny Cueto goes down with a shoulder strain.
17. Starlin Castro: breakout superstar. Castro’s walk rate and strikeout rate, during the first and second-halves of 2012:
First Half
Second Half
I love seeing an uptick in walk rate and a drop in strikeout rate, even if the sample size is a tad too small to have much faith in it. He turned twenty-three last week.
18. Ry-Braun gets suspended. Remember: Major League Baseball fired the arbitrator who sided with Ryan Braun in the arbitration hearing last year: they will not let this go. I half-suspect that Bud Selig calls up known steroid clinics in his spare time and pretends to be Ryan Braun, just so Braun’s name will appear on pieces of random pieces of paper.
19. Nick Markakis will get AL MVP votes. I still believe in Czar Nicholas. I don’t care what anyone says.
20. The Indians will have average pitching this year. In 2012, Cleveland finished dead-last in the AL in ERA and ERA+. Zack McAllister had a 4.24 ERA…he led the starters, by a significant margin. The only other starter under 5.00 was Masterson (4.93). This year the Indians are relying on Dice-K and Scott Kazmir to somehow improve on that. Against all odds, it will work.
21. Mike Moustakas will replace Chili Davis as the answer to a trivia question. Specifically: who was the last Royal to hit 30 homeruns?Moustakas might also pass Steve Balboni’s Royal’s record for single-season HR’s as a Royal. Unrelated: all of these players have names that sound like food.
22. The Astros will lose fewer than 100 games. Their collective payroll is less than what the Yankees are paying Alex Rodriguez, which is pretty fun.
23. The Tigers will not win the AL Central division. In the annual poll of every baseball fan everywhere, the Tigers were picked to win the Central by a staggering 99% of the population. They will disappoint that 99%, and make the 1% who bet against them really rich.
24. Felix Hernandez will have a bad season. Felix’s ERA in 2009-2010: 2.38. Felix’s ERA in 2011-2012: 3.27. Notice a trend? Here’s a partial list of Felix’s comparables: Larry Dierker, Dennis Eckersley, Frank Tanana, Bret Saberhagen, Joe Coleman, Ken Holtzman, Milt Pappas, Mike Witt. Of course, the other two are Greg Maddux and Catfish Hunter, so it’s not impossible that Felix goes on to pitch effectively in his mid-thirties. But…I’m pessimistic. On the other hand…
25. The Mariners will contend for the AL West. As in, they’ll be in the hunt late in the year, along with the Angels, Rangers, and A’s. And while we’re on the subject of Seattle…
26. Either Justin Smoak or Jesus Montero will make the ‘leap’ in 2013. Smoak has had an excellent spring following an excellent September, but Jesus Montero hit very well in the 56 games he played as a catcher last year (.310 BA, .841 OPS). The Mariners are planning to let him catch near full-time in 2013.
27. The Twins will play a season of baseball in a very nice ballpark, in a beautiful city. I know….bold. I’ll add a really bold prediction: Joe Mauer will hit 20 homers.
28. Alexi Ogando will be a top-20 starter in the American League, at least by metrics that adjust for park effects. That stadium doesn’t do anyone favors, but Ogando is a terrific pitcher.
29. All five Tigers starters will have an ERA+ of 110 or better. As more and more teams invest in stocking up on deep bullpens, the depth of the Tigers rotation seems to stand out in sharper contrast. Leaving aside the big-three of Verlander and Scherzer and Sanchez, the Tigers have talented pitchers in Fister, Porcello, and Smyly. I don’t fully believe that Porcello has turned a corner, but with Smyly waiting in the wings, it doesn’t really matter.
30. Julio Teheran and Kris Medlen will have a better combined year than John Smoltz and Tom Glavine in 1991. Glavine and Smoltz won 36 games between them, and threw a ton of innings. Teheran and Medlen will surpass them in WAR.
31. Dom Brown will hit 30 homers, steal 10 bases. I am a believer in the post-hype sleeper for the Phillies.
32. Stephen Strasburg will win Pitching Triple Crown. And the NL Cy Young. But….
33. Yovani Gallardo will win back the Silver Slugger. Strasburg won the Silver Slugger last year, in a close (and controversial) vote. But the Brewers slugger will get it back this year.
34. Micah Owings will play at least one game as an offensive starter this year, and make at least one appearance as a pitcher. The pitcher-turned-hitter will be the rare reliever/pinch-hitter for the Nationals.
35. The most valuable player on the Rockies will be Dexter Fowler. He’ll outperform Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki at Coors this year.
36. Carlos Quentin will hit more homeruns than Ryan Howard in 2013.
37. Yoenis Cespedes will eclipse Bryce Harper in at least four of the five traditional fantasy baseball categories this year. I’m not sure if this qualifies as bold, but I love Yoenis’ second-half uptick last season.
38. Hyun-Jin Ryu will outpitch Greinke. Of the two starters the Dodgers offered gigantic contracts to, the cheaper player will turn out to have a better 2013 season. After a shaky couple of starts, Ryu looked sharp in spring training.
39. The Mets will win more games than the Yankees. The boldness of this prediction makes my head spin.
40. Jackie Bradley Robinson. I’m thinking that the Red Sox outfielder will win the AL Rookie-of-the-Year Award.
41. Carlos Santana will lead American American League players in HR. You probably think that second ‘America’ is a typo, but I wanted some insurance against Jose Bautista hitting 67 HR’s this year. And if we consider that Detroit is geographically surrounded by Canada, I think this one has a chance.
42. Joey Votto will win at least two out of three legs of the NL Triple Crown. I’m thinking RBI’s and batting average, though he chases Stanton on the HR count.
43. Adam Eaton will win the NL ROY. He’s hurt, but there’s plenty of time to come back. I’m expecting 40+ stolen bases.
44. Alex Gordon will lead all AL offensive players in overall WAR. This is only bold if you haven’t been paying attention to just how good Alex Gordon has been these last two seasons.
45. Joe Nathan will lead all closers in saves. Because why not.
46. Ernesto Frieri will have a better K-rate than Aroldis Chapman or Craig Kimbrel. Again….why not? Trying to predict things about closers is a total crapshoot. I hope the Angels let him close this year.
47. Jeff Samardzjia and Jeremy Hellickson will each be top-20 starters in 2013. I’m optimistic about both pitchers, who should make a leap forward in 2013.
48. Cliff Lee will walk less than one batter per nine innings. His middle name is Phifer, incidentally. Clifton Phifer Phrows for the Phillies. 
49. Prince Fielder will hit fewer than 25 homeruns in 2013. This will break his pattern of having monster seasons in odd-numbered years.
50. Mike Trout will hit .400. There are a lot of folks projecting a regression for Mike Trout, who posted a rare 10+ WAR season in 2012. That ain’t happening. A conservatively fearless forecast is that Trout joins the 30/50 club….a fearlessly fearless forecast is that he hits .400 this season. We’re going boldly bold.
Dave Fleming is a writer living in Wellington, New Zealand. He looks forward to getting up at 5:00 to catch the opening games this week.

COMMENTS (6 Comments, most recent shown first)

I have between 8-10 of these being right give or take how generous I am. I don't think that's too bad considering that these really are Bold predictions.
12:35 AM Oct 2nd
Good calls on the Red Sox and Ryan Braun's suspension.

Take Care,
Tom Nahigian
2:01 PM Aug 2nd
they will not let this go. I half-suspect that Bud Selig calls up known steroid clinics in his spare time and pretends to be Ryan Braun, just so Braun’s name will appear on pieces of random pieces of paper.

This made me laugh. well played, sir.
1:04 PM Apr 2nd
Dude ... if you were paying attention at all, you would have bumped Jacke (Bradley) Robinson down two notches so it would have been No. 42.
4:33 PM Mar 31st
Trout hitting .400 ???

that's loony toony

.375 would have been bold enough don't you think?
2:31 PM Mar 31st
Papal home counts... gotta love 'em!
Fun read.
2:22 AM Mar 31st
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