50 Fearless Forecasts, Reconsidered

October 20, 2014
It’s that time again. It’s time to look back on the fifty prediction I made way back in March, and see just how underqualified I am for this job. Really, a monkey slapping a typewriter could’ve done a better job of forecasting this season than I did. And monkeys make great spreadsheets.
Let’s get into it.
1.      Mike Trout makes a run at .400.
Nope: Trout hit just .287 in 2014, in a disappointing season that will net him his first MVP award. 0-for-1.
2.      Miguel Cabrera makes a run at the RBI record…for a #3 hitter. 
Again, no. Thought like the guy above, a ‘disappointing’ year for Miguel Cabera is a career year for almost anyone else.0-for-2.
3.      The Padres make the playoffs.
Though the Padres played good baseball during the second-half of the season (36-31), their terrible first half left them too far back to compete for the Wild Card. We’re off to a fine start. 0-for-3.
4.      Ryan Braun is the most valuable fantasy player in the NL this year….
This one is costing me a six-pack to my brother, who picked Giancarlo Stanton as the better NL slugger. 0-for-4.
5.      …And the Brewers win the NL Central. 
For a long time, this was looking really good. The Brewers got off to a torrid start in 2014, and let the division after the All-Star break. It took a late surge from the Pirates and Cardinals to knock them down to third, so I can’t count this one. So close. 0-for-5. 
6.      George Springer will be the first 20-20 player to post a sub-.200 batting average.
Another ‘almost.’ Springer did manage to knock 20 homers in just a half-season of playing, but he stole only six bases and managed to keep his batting average above .200. 0-for-6.
7.      J.J. Hardy leads the Orioles hitters in home runs.
J.J. Hardy, the most reliable source of shortstop homers over the last three seasons, didn’t hit his first homer in 2014 until June 21st. Though it probably doesn’t need saying, he didn’t lead the Orioles in homers this year. 0-for-7.
8.      Brandon Belt has a better season than Eric Hosmer.
Trying to decide who had a better season between Hosmer and Belt is like trying to decide if the A’s or the Pirates had a better post-season. Still, we’re giving this one a ‘yes’. A hand injury and a concussion limited the Baby Giraffe to just 61 games played to Hosmer’s 131 games. Despite this, Belt managed to out-homer Hosmer (12 to 9) and almost tied him in stolen bases (3 to 4). As Belt tallied a higher bWAR (0.7 to 0.3) in significantly less playing time, this is our first yes. 1-for-8.
9.      Yasiel Puig plays fewer than 100 games this year.
Is 148 less than 100? No? Damn. 1-for-9.
10. Tim Lincecum gets back to Cy Young form.
Is a 4.74 ERA in a pitcher’s park a Cy Young performance? No? Damn. 1-for-10.  
11. Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion combine for 80+ HR.
The Canadian Bash Brothers made it really close, tallying 35 and 34 homers respectively. If Edwin had been healthy all year I might’ve gotten this one. 1-for-11.  
12. Jason Heyward leads NL in runs scored.
This wasn’t close. Anthony Rendon led the NL in runs scored with 111. Heyward scored just 74 runs for the bizarrely anemic Atlanta offense. He still played terrific defense. 1-for-12.
13. Freddie Freeman hits fewer than 20 HR. Evan Gattis hits more than 30.
Freddie Freeman his just 18 homes. Evan Gattis hit 22 homers in just 108 games….if the Braves had played him in leftfield more often, and if he hadn’t had a late-season injury (was it kidney stones?) this could’ve been another ‘yes.’ I hate the close ones. 1-for-13.  
14. Ike Davis will lead the Mets in homeruns, with more than 30.
On the positive side, I was right that one of the two Mets in the first-base platoon of Ike Davis and Lucas Duda would hit 30 homers. I just picked the wrong guy in the platoon. 1-for-14.
15. At least one foul ball will be thrown back into the field of play during the first game of the season.
This happened during batting practice: a security guard yelled at a couple kids to throw the baseballs back when some homers landed in the bleachers. One kid tossed a ball back to a Diamondbacks outfielder, who immediately threw it back into the stands. But it wasn’t during the game, so I can’t count it. 1-for-15.  
16. a. Billy Hamilton steals 100 bases, and b. Billy Hamilton posts an on-base percentage better than .360.
Hahahaha…no. I should’ve said a) Hamilton will hit at least five homers out of the park, and b) Hamilton will be an elite defensive centerfielder. 1-for-16.  
17. The Reds don’t make the playoffs.
I got this one. The Reds are sort of the anti-Orioles. A lot went wrong with Baltimore: Wieters and Machado missed most of the year, Crash Davis crashed and was then suspended, Hardy couldn’t hit homers, and the bullpen was rocky early, but the Orioles managed to win the AL East.
The opposite happened in Cinncy: a lot of their players had terrific seasons in 2014. Cueto was brilliant all year, Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier turned in monster seasons at the plate, Aroldis Chapman struck out every batter he faced, and Billy Hamilton turned out to be pretty good…and they managed a paltry 76 wins.
The Orioles are Team-Great, Individually-Awful. The Reds were Individually-Great, but Team-Awful. 2-for-17.
18. Joe Mauer, moved to first base, hits under.300.
Mauer hit just .277 this year, so that’s two in a row. I won’t go into this one too much, except that it came on the heel of the Most Interesting Thing I Learned About Baseball this year. 3-for-18.
19. Yu Darvish strikes out 300 batters.
Darvish faced just 605 batters this year, so 300 strikeouts would’ve been tough. He got to 184, which is still a lot. 3-for-19.
20. All five Pirates starters will be better than average.
This was close….going by ERA+, we’d rate Volquez (117), Liriano (105), and Vance Worley (125) as above average. Unfortunately Charlie Morton (96), Gerrit Cole (98), and Jeff Locke (91) were a few ticks below average. 3-for-20.
21. Either Mike Moustakas or Will Middlebrooks (or both!) will hit 30 homeruns this year.
Moustakas hit 15 homers, which is halfway there, but Will Middlebrooks hit just two dingers in 2014. Maybe Moose’s torrid postseason will carry into the World Series, and I can count this one. 3-for-21.   
22. The Kansas City Royals will play in the World Series.
I wish I had written that. I did not. Still 3-for-21.  
22. Jason Castro will be one of the three most valuable catchers in the AL this year.
This is yet another thing that did not happen. I should’ve said ‘Yan Gomes’.  3-for-21.
23. Jose Abreu will lead AL 1B in homeruns, and win the Rookie-of-the-Year.
This did/will happen. Chris Carter managed to hit one more homer than Abreu (37 to 36), but Carter was mostly a DH in Houston. And Abreu should win the AL ROY by a comfortable margin. Not bad for a two-part prediction! 4-for-23.
24. The Yankees infield (1B, 2B, 3B, SS) will have a lower combined WAR than Robinson Cano.
Cano notched a 6.4 bWAR, while the Yankees infield of Brian Roberts (1.5), Mark Teixeira (1.0) Yangervis Solarte (1.0) and Derek Jeter (0.2) tallied a bWAR of 3.7. We could add Brian McCann (1.8) and they’d still be behind Robinson Cano. This one’s a resounding yes. 5-for-24.
25. The Yankees pitching, adjusted for park effects, will be the best in the AL.
I expected this to be an obvious ‘no,’ and was surprised to see that Yankees pitchers tallied a combined fWAR of 20.8, the best mark in the AL, and second only to the Washington Nationals at 22.8. The Yankees pitchers were a hair ahead of Detroit (20.2) and Cleveland (20.1). Their team xFIP (Expected Fielding Independent Pitching) was 3.43, just behind the Dodgers (3.33) and Cleveland (3.36). Though it’s certainly not definitive, a lot of metrics support this one, so we’ll count it. 6-for-25.   
26. Both Michael Pineda and Jesus Montero will have bounce-back seasons, rejuvenating hopes for their careers.
I’ll note, first, that this prediction included the specific caveat that the bounce back might not happen at the major league level.
Michael Pineda, in between injuries and a bizarre suspension for being none-too-discrete about his pine tar, absolutely dominated opposing teams this year, posting a 1.89 ERA and an insane 8.43 strikeout-to-walk ratio in thirteen starts.
While Jesus Montero didn’t see playing time in the majors, he managed a .286/.350.489 batting line in Triple-A (before being benched for Ice-Cream Gate). At the very least, Montero proved he’d have value against left-handed starters, posting an excellent .319/.380/.625 slash line against Triple-A southpaws this year. We’re counting this one. 7-for-26.
27. Felix Hernandez has a bad year.
What’s your definition of ‘bad’, exactly? 7-for-27.
28. The 2014 World Cup will be won by a South American country that isn’t Brazil.
While Argentina did make the finals, they got crushed by Germany. 7-for-28.
29. The best fantasy player on the Cubs will be Justin Ruggiano.
I was really optimistic about this one. Optimism is stupid. 7-for-29.  
30. Grady Sizemore will hit 15+ homeruns, and play 110 games for the Red Sox.
Sizemore played 112 games in 2014, though only 52 were in Boston. He hit 5 homers. 7-for-30.
31. Jose Fernandez will have an ERA under 2.00.
Jose Fernandez posted a 2.44 ERA before getting the now-requisite Tommy John surgery. The most depressing injury of the year. 7-for-31.
32. Madison Bumgarner wins the NL Cy Young.
Bumgarner had a terrific year: 18-10 record, 2.98 ERA, 219 strikeouts. Name me another left-hander in the NL West who had a year like that. MadBum’s going to win the trophy for sure. 7-for-32.   
33. Josh Donaldson will continue to be an excellent player, posting a WAR over 6.0.
Fangraphs: 6.4. Baseball-Reference: 7.4. Josh Donaldson is good at this baseball thing. 8-for-33.
34. Oakland will lead the majors in homeruns.
Not even close. Oakland hit 146 homers, just a tick above the AL average of 144. 8-for-34.
35. Jed Lowrie will better Jedd Gyorko and Brett Lawrie in four out of five traditional fantasy stats.
Jed Lowrie: 59-6-50-0-.249
Jedd Gyrko: 37-10-51-3-.210
Brett Lawrie: 27-12-38-0-.247
Nope. Disappointing seasons by all three players. 8-for-35.
36.  Paul Goldschmidt has his arm bitten off by a salt water crocodile in Australia; fails to hit 30 homeruns or have a WAR better than 4.0.
While Goldschmidt didn’t hit 30 homers this year, his season-ending injury came after he managed to tally a WAR of 4.4 (Fangraphs) or 4.5 (Baseball-Reference). 8-for-36.
37. Chris Davis turns into Pedro Alvarez.
This did happenChris Davis’s BABIP plummeted in 2014, leading to a strikeout rate above 30% and a batting average just below the Mendoza line. Even better, Chris Davis managed to play a few Alvarez-esque games at third base. And both players spent the stretch-run watching their teams from the sidelines. 9-for-37.
38. Chris Carter turns into Chris Davis
This happened, too! While Carter’s 37 was only good enough to tie for second in the majors (behind the improbable Nelson Cruz), he broke into ranks of sluggardly sluggers who aren’t afraid of the strikeout in 2014. 10-for-38.  
39. Domonic Brown remains Domonic Brown, goes 30-15.
While Domonic Brown did, in fact, remain Domonic Brown, he failed to hit thirty homeruns or steal fifteen bases. He also failed to hit fifteen homers and steal thirty bases. So this is a bust. 10-for-39.
40. Jason Kipnis is the best middle infielder in fantasy baseball in 2014.
Ugh. Drafting Kipnis killed me this year. (Just kidding….I won all my leagues. Which was one league. Give me my Shiva!). 10-for-40.  
41. Corey Kluber is one of the 10 best starting pitchers in the AL.
Or…. best. Corey Kluber will be the best starting pitcher in the AL. Boo-yah. 11-for-41.  
42. Bryce Harper goes all Ducky Medwick on us, becoming baseball’s great villain en route to winning the Triple Crown.
This did not happen. But it will. Just be patient. 11-for-42.
43. The Nationals win 100+ games.
Though the Nationals did lead the NL in wins, they fell four short of 100. Or, if you count the postseason, the Nationals fell three short of 100. Not enough ‘Natitude. Also: what’s with all the empty seats with the Lexus logo? Is their stadium a giant luxury car? I don’t understand this baseball team. 11-for-43.  
44. Matt Adams will be the breakout star in St. Louis this year.
I don’t know if we can count his regular season performance as a ‘breakout’, but that three-run bomb off Kershaw was pretty impressive. 11-for-44.
45. Albert Pujols will have another disappointing season.
Coming to the Angels in 2012, Pujols brought a career OPS of 1.037, with way more walks than strikeouts. He had a respectable first year for the Angels, and then suffered through an injury-plagued 2013 season that saw him post the first sub-.900 OPS of his career.
People have generally viewed Pujols’ 2014 season as a bounce-back, mostly because he reached shiny numbers like 28 homers and 105 RBI’s. It wasn’t a bounce-back: Pujols posted a career-worst .324 on-base percentage this year. He’s also striking out more than ever, and walking less than ever…he had only 37 (thirty-seven!) non-intentional walks in 2014. His defensive numbers were low, and he’s slower than he used to be. He has nice counting numbers because he played a lot of games (43) at DH, and because Mike Trout was hitting in the #2 spot.
A disappointing Albert Pujols still has more value than almost every player on the planet, but a .324 on-base percentage isn’t what the Angels expected to be getting in Year Three of their big contract. This was another declining year for the big bopper. 12-for 45.
46. Jacoby Ellsbury will have a lower WAR than Brett Gardner.
Baseball-Reference: Brett Gardner 4.0, Jacoby Ellsbury 3.3. FanGraphs: Ellsbury 3.6, Gardner 3.3.
Hmm….added together, Gardner gets 7.3 b+f WAR, while Ellsbury gets a 6.9 b+fWAR.  We’re giving the nod to Gardner, and counting this as a win. 13-for-46.
47. Yordano Ventura will have a better K/9 than any other AL starting pitcher.
Nope. Still fun to watch. 13-for-47.  
48. Matt Harvey will play in a major league game in 2014.
Maybe the Mets will trade him to Kansas City and we can still count this one. 13-for-48.  
49. A player in the Hall of Fame will admit to having used steroids.
It’s time to unburden your soul, Ozzie Smith. 13-for-49.  
50. Matt Kemp will be the Dodgers outfielder traded mid-season.
Nope. Matt Kemp is still a Dodger. Maybe he’ll move in the off-season. 13-for-50.
So that’s it…thirteen-for-fifty, for a respectable .260 BAOBP (Batting Average on Bold Predictions). I’ll take it.  
Five Completely UnFearless Bonus Predictions
Oh, right. These. Can we skip these?
1.      Shin-Soo Choo will go 20-20.
Or 13-3. 0-for-1.  
2.      Joey Votto will lead the NL in on-base percentage.
Nope. Votto’s partial season on-base percentage of .390 wasn’t enough to beat out Andrew McCutchen’s .410 mark for the Bucs.  0-for-2.
3.      Matt Holliday will hit around .300, with 20 HR and 100 runs scored/RBI.
While Holliday continued to be steadily good, he hit just .272 and didn’t cross the century mark in RBI’s or runs scored.0-for-3.
4.      Clayton Kershaw will be excellent.
He was excellent, wasn’t he? Until the seventh innings of the playoffs. We should coin a term for Leaving-Your-Ace-Pitcher-In-Way-Too-Long-During-an-Important-Playoff-Game. Let’s call it "Little-ing." Don Mattingly totally Little-ed Kershaw this year.  
Also: I still hate you, Grady Little. 1-for-5.
5.        Derek Jeter will retire at the end of the season.
Has he retired? I’m not convinced. 2-for-5.
David Fleming is a writer living in Wellington, New Zealand. He welcomes comments, questions, and suggestions here and at dfleming1986@yahoo.com. 

COMMENTS (6 Comments, most recent shown first)

Hey, at least Bumgarner is pitching like a Cy Young Award winner. Maybe you were just a year early.​
7:32 PM Oct 27th
How can number 24 be called "fearless?" My grandmother could have made that prediction and she died in 1984.
4:05 PM Oct 23rd
This was fun. You aren't worth much as a prognosticator, Dave, but you're a terrific writer. Thanks.​
3:50 PM Oct 21st
Great article Dave, I'm confused by number 18 though. What's The Most Interesting Thing I've learned in Baseball this Year?
2:09 PM Oct 21st
Great read, Dave.

It occurs to me now you could have tipped the score in your favor a little bit by just throwing a foul ball onto the field yourself. Now that I've typed it out, I'm convinced it was your plan all along and you didn't get that Sunday hop you were counting on.
7:50 AM Oct 21st
The season isn't officially over until Dave posts his recap. Thanks as always for a hilarious and awesome article.
7:10 AM Oct 21st
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