More Predictions That Will Be Wrong

Last year, I wrote a post titled “Predictions That Will Be Wrong”. Given the volatility of events that can happen over a six month period, trying to pick things like MVP winners or WAR leaders is essentially a fool’s errand – there’s just no way to know who is going to stay healthy or who has put in the requisite amount of work this winter to take an unexpected step forward. By their nature, predictions are essentially just guesses, and even educated guesses are generally incorrect.

While some have noted that I “called” Josh Hamilton as last year’s MVP winner, I also “called” James Shields as the AL Cy Young winner. If I’m a genius for the first, I’m an idiot for the latter. I don’t think I’m a genius and I hope I’m not an idiot, so perhaps the best conclusion is that sometimes guesses turn out and sometimes they don’t. Either way, they’re still kind of fun, right?

So, let’s do it again. My 2011 Predictions That Will Be Wrong.

Playoff Teams (AL): Boston-Chicago-Texas-New York
Playoff Teams (NL): Atlanta-Cincinnati-Colorado-Philadelphia

World Series: Boston over Atlanta

AL MVP: Adrian Gonzalez
NL MVP: Troy Tulowitzki

AL Position Player WAR Leader: Joe Mauer
NL Position Player WAR Leader: Troy Tulowitzki

AL Cy Young: Jon Lester
NL Cy Young: Roy Halladay

AL Pitcher WAR Leader: Felix Hernandez
NL Pitcher WAR Leader: Josh Johnson

AL Rookie Of The Year: Jeremy Hellickson
NL Rookie Of The Year: Brandon Belt

AL Rookie WAR Leader: Tsuyoshi Nishioka
NL Rookie WAR Leader: Freddie Freeman

Five Random Guesses About 2011:

1. Despite all the kvetching over the Yankees rotation, their starting pitchers will finish the year in the top three in the American League in FIP.

2. Carl Crawford will post a higher WAR than Adrian Gonzalez, even though his teammate will win the MVP.

3. The Rangers will win the American League West by 10+ games.

4. The Cardinals pitching will be fine, even without Adam Wainwright. Their defense, however, will be what keeps them out of the playoffs.

5. Ryan Howard will have a significantly better season than in 2010, but the Phillies offense will still struggle. Bonus prediction – Chase Utley will play fewer than 100 games.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

62 Responses to “More Predictions That Will Be Wrong”

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  1. Grant says:

    I don’t see how Boston wins the division if New York’s starters are top 3 in FIP. Their pitching would no doubt be vastly superior and the offense is at least comparable, I don’t see any big advantage there for either side.

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    • Lucky Goon says:

      Two things. The F part of FIP will hurt NY, especially with the to biggest weak spots next to each other on the left side of the infield. And Boston’s offense is vastly superior to NY’s if Gonzalez wins the MVP as (at least) the 2nd highest WAR on the team. I’d bet Youkilis will have a higher WAR than Gonzo too.

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      • The Ancient Mariner says:

        I think you mean (at most) rather than (at least) . . .

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      • Grant says:

        I can’t see how adding Crawford and Gonzalez (10.4 oWAR) while losing Martinez and Beltre (9.3 oWAR) helps Boston add the 100 runs or so you would need to call them vastly superior. Everyone looks at these shiny new additions and completely ignores the fact that Boston didn’t really add much offense.

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      • Reuben says:

        Full seasons from Pedroia, Ellsbury, and Youkilis will make the difference. AGon will produce better in Boston than San Diego. Lowrie might help improve SS as well.

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      • Jason B says:

        “Full seasons from Pedroia, Ellsbury, and Youkilis will make the difference.”

        It’s fairly rare to expect full seasons from all a team’s key players with no significant time lost to injury. (The BoSox or anyone else for that matter.) They may have better luck than last year in that regard, but there are some DL stints in this team’s future… (stunning revelation, I know)

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      • Bip says:

        Two Red Sox have a higher WAR than the MVP favorite Gonzo, but you guessed the wrong two.

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  2. B N says:

    Nothing that looks super out of the ordinary here. Might be a bit optimistic on Troy beating out Pujols, but it’s likely to be one of the two.

    I do have to say though, I’m shocked to be reminded that Shields was the educated guess for last year. While it was admittedly a diffuse field, the guy has always been decidedly unflashy- moderate K’s, moderately above average ERAs. Even if he had repeated his best season, I don’t think that would have been enough to win Cy Young.

    So what is it about a guy like Shields that everybody likes so much? He’s never posted an ERA under 3.5, he’s never posted a K/9 over 8, and I can’t say I watch him live and start having flashbacks to a young Pedro. Can somebody clue me in about what I’m missing? Why have smart people consistently been acting as if Shields was a 5 WAR player, rather than a 4 WAR player?

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    • B N says:

      (Correction, he posted a K/9 over 8 last year- but I was meaning before the 2010 season, when the guess was made. Though for the record, it didn’t look like the increase in K’s helped all that much…)

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  3. Kevin M says:

    Going out on a limb with the Utley prediction, huh Dave?

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  4. Geoff says:

    I think Phil Hughes will be the breakout player of the year. Just a hunch.

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  5. dbssaber says:

    Fewer, not less in your last fact

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  6. If I’m a genius for the first, I’m an idiot for the latter.

    I don’t think you have the pundit thing down. Like a closer, or shooter, you need a short memory.

    Will the first prediction of your #5 outweigh the second prediction? Vegas had Philly’s o/u at 97 and that seems pretty hard to reach.

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  7. striker says:

    I think you need to put in rules that omit certain players from getting rubber stamped as guesses each year. For example, you can’t guess anyone that has won that award in the past.

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  8. Temo says:

    The Yankees starters will have to improve their FIP about a half a run from last year (from ~4.50 to 4.00) to be in the top 3 AL this year. And they’ll have to do it losing their 2nd best pitcher (Andy Pettite, 3.85 FIP).

    True, they’re losing Javier Vazquez’s 26 starts with a 5.72 FIP, and they’re replacing him with Freddy Garcia, who is projected for a 4.42 FIP. And AJ Burnett might improve from last year’s 4.82 FIP, but to what degree? Marcel says 4.30 FIP. Meanwhile Pettite’s being replaced by Ivan Nova, who is projected for a 4.08 FIP by Marcel, and 4.30 by James/Fans. And is Phil Hughes really going to improve that much this year?

    Frankly, top 3 AL FIP for that staff seems like a huge reach.

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    • Hank says:

      Well if you believe the change from Javy’s 5.72 ro Garcia’s 4.42 that’s 1.3right there which would average out to ~.25 for the staff right there.

      I think it is not unreasonable for the combination of Hughes and Burnett to make up the rest of the 0.25 runs, which for 40% of the staff would mean they’d need to improve by .55 combined (.4 for Burnett and .15 for Hughes?). The question will be Nova and how much of a drop off from Pettitte that will be (which would mean Burnett/Hughes would need to improve further or Sabathia would need to)

      It’s a gamble on Burnett, but I don’t see this as a huge reach if one thinks he’ll bounce back.

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      • phoenix2042 says:
        FanGraphs Supporting Member

        don’t forget that pettitte was injured for almost half the year, meaning that nova and dustin mosely contributed almost as much of that roster spot’s innings as he did. and does this “staff” include the bullpen? because I think that the bullpen got better by taking out mitre and adding soriano. jury is out on colon, but he can’t be much worse than vasquez’s stint as the long reliever.

        basically, improvement by burnett, hughes, nova and the bullpen can make up for losing pettitte and trim down their FIP.

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      • Temo says:

        Pettite to Nova is the key there, and that is a huuuugge drop-off. Pettite was their 2nd best pitcher last year.

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    • John R. says:

      If they trade for an elite starter, that could do it. Not sure if that’s what save meant, though.

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  9. Bronnt says:

    I wonder about #2. Carl Crawford is going to draw a significant portion of his WAR from his UZR rating, and I’m curious how that’s going to play with the LF dimensions there. If his UZR is an 8 instead of a 15, that’s 0.7 WAR. Gonzalez might post a monster wOBA and crush his teammate.

    I find everything else perfectly reasonable, except possibly for Josh Johnson leading NL pitchers for WAR. Then again, picking pitchers is a crapshoot anyway.

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  10. Colin says:

    Lots of Boston Red Sox love going on in these predictions. Some of it is probably justified simply because they are likely to have the best team in the AL. That said, I think their improvement is coming from the assumed health of their club this year because as someone pointed out, adding AGon and Crawford while losing Beltre (of last season) and VMart does not change their WAR all that much.

    That said, it is not like WAR can be counted on to have a great correlation to actual wins.

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  11. Scout Finch says:

    The Rockies sure have gotten a lot of love amongst prognosticators.

    The Giants are better at the starting gate this year with Posey & Bumgarner. The “2011 ROY” will have an impact as early as May.

    Most importantly, the Rockies were something like 31-50 away from Coors. I don’t see how they can win the West without figuring out how to win on the road. Will the ‘humidor police’ have an impact on those magical come from behind wins at home ?

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    • reillocity says:

      The Rockies are a smart bet, since the lay fan is overvaluing the Giants’ postseason success when deciding where they’ll finish in 2011 – I’d wager that the Rockies would be the favorites if the Giants had lost in the NLDS (and all subsequent roster moves were made all the same). It’s also highly unlikely that lightning will twice strike the bats of Andres Torres, Aubrey Huff, Cody Ross, Pat Burrell, Freddy Sanchez, etc. Your criticism of the Rockies road performance is certainly valid as that’s always been the problem with that climatically-challenged franchise – how can their players adjust between playing half their games near sea level and half at a mile higher?

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  12. brendan says:

    I think TEX will win the AL west to, but not by 10 games. I just don’t think their pitching is that good. Lewis an Wilson are solid, but after that…

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    • ira says:

      Texas will win the west by 10 games or more. I expect big things from Derek Holland (even if I can’t spell his first name). his FIP last year was around 4, and that was being hurt. he’s been godlike in the minors, but everyone points to that 6+ ERA in 2009 and dismisses him. Don’t be fooled.

      And without Morales, the Angels don’t have enough offense, and they don’t have any defense. The A’s have some defense, and their pitching is good (though very defense dependent). But they are missing an element. They have no offense to speak of.

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  13. Mark says:

    I’m moderately surprised that Dave picks Brandon Belt for NL ROY, yet picks the Rockies for the division title. I would think that if Belt puts up a ROY-worthy campaign, the Giants would be considered the favorites. He must think the Rox are substantially better.

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  14. Mark K. says:

    Agreed with Scout Finch and other Mark. Full seasons from Posey, Ross, and Torres, – along with the possible re-emergence of Pablo Sandoval – outweigh the Rockies, and exceed possible regressions from Huff, etc.

    This is before your (Dave Cameron) ROY choice, Brandon Belt, makes an appearance.

    My pick is the Giants for the NL West.

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    • doug K says:

      The Yanks FIP might well increase as predicted but their RA will be terrible due to the worst IF defense among contenders in the AL.

      Otherwise, this is a very smart analysis IMHO well done.

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      • John R. says:

        NY’s infield defense is poor, but I wouldn’t call it awful. Rodriguez should be adequate if his hip really is fully recovered, Cano is about average, and Texiera is excellent, UZR be damned. And NY’s outfield defense is superb, so on the whole I’d say defense isn’t a serious weakness.

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      • Chip says:

        Yes, they don’t have the best left side of the infield in the majors but Jeter at least makes the plays he can get to (aka those hit within 5 feet of him), A-Rod slimmed down and still has a cannon for a right arm and the right side of their infield is spectacular. Add to that an outfield with an average overall fielder in Swisher, and above-averageish centerfielder in Granderson and an elite defender in the spacious left field with Gardner and I don’t see their FIP and ERA being all that far apart.

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    • It’s funny you used the word “outweigh” in reference to Kung Fu Panda playing better this season.

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    • LD303 says:

      Ah, classic “everything that went right last year will go right again, plus more stuff will go right!” thinking. Everyone on that team not named Posey, Sandoval, or Lincecum is a candidate for regression. There’s absolutely no way the rotation is that good again- injuries (Cain) or an inability to repeat a breakout year (Sanchez) are going to get them and Bumgarner’s presence isn’t going to outweigh it. The pen will probably regress a little bit too as Casilla, Romo and Ramirez all pitched over their heads for a ton of extra innings last year. Meanwhile Huff is far from the only regression candidate in the lineup. Which is more likely to happen: Torres will repeat an amazing breakout 4+ WAR year, or be the replacement player he was until 2010? Neither is going to happen, but I know which end of the spectrum he’s probably going to end up closer to. “Full season of Cody Ross” is also not an idea to hitch a wagon to, nor would it be a good bet to think Burrell will be that good again. The 2010 Giants were basically the 2009 Rockies with a worse lineup and a better rotation, plus the fact that they delivered during the playoffs. The Rockies came into 2010 saying “oh, with a full season from Carlos Gonzalez, plus all the same (unsustainable) performances we got from everyone else in 2009, we’ll win the division for sure.:” And as is the case with so many good-but-not-great teams that had a great year one year, the next year injuries and regression from guys like Seth Smith took their toll. I’d be shocked if the Giants won 90 games again. Pencil them in for something in the mid-80s. I don’t know if it’ll be the Rockies, but at least one other team in the division will easily top that. Congrats to the Giants for last year. Hold onto those memories, but don’t expect them to repeat themselves. There’s no way you get 134 starts from Lincecum/Cain/Sanchez/Zito at the same quality they gave last year and there’s also no way you get repeat seasons from Huff, Torres, and Burrell.

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  15. Matthias says:

    Texas over Seattle!?!? Where’s the homer in you, Dave ;-)

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  16. Anthony says:

    I have some. The Giants SP will have a better ERA than the Phillies. The Red Sox will miss the playoffs (didn’t add much, got older, can’t count on old players to have “full” seasons). The Phillies won’t make the playoff either because 1 of the old three will get hurt (Lee or Halladay) and another will just plain suck (Oswalt). Their offense will be bottom 5 in runs scored and they will have a bad bullpen.

    This will be the first year the Yanks and Sox miss the playoffs, however, bud Selig will order a playoff expansion for one year only to accomodate the Yanks into the playoffs.

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    • phoenix2042 says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      haha nice. and the mariners will surprise everyone by ichiro recording 300 hits, chone figgins hitting .320 and stealing 70 bases, miguel olivo hitting 30 homers and justin smoak cranking out 60 big flies. oh and king felix will be the first pitcher to start 50 games, all of them at least 8 innings, and not allow a single run. dustin ackley will make an appearence, hitting 35 home runs in 50 games. in a move that surprises no one, the Ms fleece the angles in a trade of david aardsma and a player to be named later for jered weaver, dan haren and a fully healthy kendrys morales. the steriod ban is lifted, allowing barry bonds to make a comeback as the Ms DH where he is the first player to hit triple digit home runs in one season. oh and now that the Ms are without a closer (losing aardsma) they get joakim soria for cash considerations from the royals. sound about right?

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  17. Keith_Allen says:

    I wonder why everyone keeps picking Adrian Gonzalez for MVP.
    He’s coming off of shoulder surgery, has had limited AB’s this Spring, but most all he has never hit for a high batting average.
    The last 2 MVP’s have hit over .350.
    Josh Hamilton .359
    Joe Mauer .365

    How is AGone going to win MVP when he’s probably not 100% and only hits .280? He is a career .284 hitter after all.

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    • joe says:

      Not to mention his defense is pretty much average if you trust UZR #’s for first baseman (his career UZR/150 is somewhere around 1), yet people seem to think he’s above average at first. (while defense doesn’t generally get factored in all that much, it will effect the SABR voice)

      He’ll definitely put up some power #’s and his wOBA should be up thanks to Fenway and his swing, but he’s either going to have to post a decent batting average (Fenway should help some) or really post some serious HR/RBI #’s (yes RBI’s are useless but he’ll need them for the MVP voters if he doesn’t have a .310+ batting average). The other issue is that there will be others on that team who will likely post good #’s (Youk, Pedroia, Crawford?) so there will be some voters wondering about that especially if there is a single standout player on another playoff team.

      I think the sleeper (if you can call it that) may be ARod, especially if the Yankees win the AL East (as most are expecting Boston to take it). He’ll have similar issues if Cano or Tex posts a big year though. I’d still say Hamilton hitting in Texas and Mauer (if he plays enough games between C and DH) are favorites and if Miguel Cabrera hits and stays out of trouble he’ll have the redemption story going by end of year.

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    • RC says:

      “How is AGone going to win MVP when he’s probably not 100% and only hits .280? He is a career .284 hitter after all.”

      He’s a .284 hitter in the most pitcher friendly park in baseball. He’s going to one of the better parks in baseball for a LH power hitter. If you don’t think that will affect his BA, I don’t know what to tell you.

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    • Shane says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      He’s a .300+ hitter away from PETCO. Shouldn’t be that hard for him.

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      • rev starr says:

        ….uh, hello Sox fans…A Gone is new to the AL EAST! Petco or not he’s coming from AAAA. If healthy, he’s a slightly better Ortiz.

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    • NWS says:

      Away from Petco during, 2008-2010, Gonzalez has hit .309/.390/.598, with his .411 road wOBA the 4th best in the majors.

      His GP for the last 5 years: 156,161,162,160,160.

      In the Red Sox lineup, he will rack up the RBIs. Combine those with a great slash line, and he’ll look pretty damn good in the eyes of MVP voters.

      A guy like Paul Konerko can sneak a .312/.393/.584 line past voters (5th in MVP voting with that line last year) but he only had 111 RBI (one less than Delmon Young), a mark Gonzalez will destroy if he matches his projected batting line (.316/.407/.569 via ZiPS)

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      • Keith_Allen says:

        These are extremely high expectations for AGone.

        .309 is still miles away from .350. .316 won’t be anywhere near good enough to win an MVP either.

        As great as a hitter as Manny Ramirez was for Boston, he never won any MVP’s.

        AGone has too many question marks for me.
        1) He just had shoulder surgery and missed most of Spring Training.
        2) He’s also use to the warm weather in SD. The cold weather in Boston during these early games in April are likely to hinder his swing.
        3) The Boston Media. Wait and see how he’s treated after he goes 2-20 to start the season, then goes to the DL.
        4) He’s switching leagues. Another reminder: Edgar Renteria.
        5) A Big Contract to live up to. Rumors are floating that he’s going to sign a mega contract before the season starts. Jason Giambi, Carlos Beltran, Alfonzo Soriano, were once sure bets also.

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  18. Anthony says:

    phoenix2024 thinks it’s funny but I honestly think at least one of my ridiculous predictions will be right. Probably Oswalt sucking or Lee/Halladay getting injured. Or Boston and/or Philly missing the playoffs.

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    • phoenix2042 says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      oh yes one of those may happen. But you sounded as if you thought that they were all going to happen and each one built upon another to culminate in the best 3 teams missing the playoffs. if the big 3 starters get injured, the phillies don’t make the playoffs, but asking for 2 of them to either get injured or suck (even less likely) that much isn’t realistic. i think boston is deep enough to make it to the postseason, but losing lester might kill their pitching staff. a guy can hope!

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  19. reillocity says:

    I suppose the boldest of the bold 2011 predictions would be the that Pujols will accept a trade to a contender by the July 31 trade deadline. Any takers?

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  20. Austin says:

    You all should look at SG’s posts simulating the season based on five different projection systems, and depth charts/injury expectations for each team.

    It’s interesting to me that the Giants are widely being predicted to fall off substantially from last season and perhaps lose the division. I have the exact same immediate inclination, but projection systems almost universally have them winning the division, and in fact by the widest margin of any division winner in baseball. I frankly don’t fully understand why they project so well, but it’s very convincing, probably enough to balance any potential bias (for instance, defensive overperformance from many players last year causing starters to outperform their peripherals).

    Projections also disagree with the White Sox being the best NL Central team, but it could be that they aren’t getting enough credit for the health of their players. Furthermore, Philadelphia is more likely to win the NL East than the Braves are, although if you think that Utley will miss most of the season, then it’s actually probably reasonable to flip that as Dave did. However, the projections vindicate Dave’s assessment of Cincinnati being the ultimate NL Central winners, which in my understanding is one of his somewhat controversial picks.

    Other results that mildly surprise me are the moderately robust expectations for the Padres (79 wins), Indians (74 wins), and Pirates (70 wins). Similarly, I would have expected the Blue Jays to be a bit better than 74 wins, and when I work through it, I can’t quite figure out why the Angels should only win 78 games or the Mets only 79.5 – they both look like they should be a little better than that.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      How can you have conviction on something that you know has a low likelihood of being correct?

      Chances are if Dave predicts with conviction there will be just as many complaining that he’s so arrogant in his predictions and “most of them ended up being wrong”. Y’know?

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Above to past @ Jay


      To you … damn that’s cool. Thanks for posting.

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  21. jay says:

    Dave, everyone knows preseason predictions have a minuscule chance of being right. But to preface your predictions like this is just a convenient way to deflect criticism. You’re paid to write about baseball; show some conviction for what you believe.

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  22. Evan says:

    How can anyone suggest the Giants get another ROY performance and not make the playoffs? They’d have to suffer absolutely catastrophic injury or misfortune for that to happen.

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