Johnson made 31 starts this season, which is his highest total since 2009. The league leader made 34 starts and was not named Johan Santana, though if you anagram the letters in “Bruce Chen”… you get Bee Crunch, which isn’t going to help my cause here. Santana, as it turns out, made just 21 starts and succomed to lower back inflammation that ended his season. His shoulder is fine, which has to be a relief to the Mets, but it does me no good.
Verdict: Swing and a Miss
2. Bryan LaHair will hit 25 or more Home Runs
Oh this one looked good for many months, as LaHair had 13 home runs on July 1, but he was done in by Anthony Rizzo’s call up that cost him playing time. Well, ok, Rizzo’s call up and the fact that LaHair hit .194/.275/.242 in July and a robust .202/.269/.303 in the second half. Even though Wrigley is supposed to play more as a hitter’s park in the summer, LaHair managed just three home runs after July 1. He also stole three bases, and while having him steal the same number of bases as home runs hit would have been great in the second half, it’s really just galling at this point.
Verdict: A high fly ball, it’s going back…and is caught by the left fielder about 5 steps short of the warning track.
3. Michael Cuddyer will set a career high in OPS
I thought this one was going to be a gimmie. Cuddyer was coming off a solid year in Minnesota, and was moving from one of the more suppressive parks in baseball to one of the most hitter friendly parks. While his OPS did improve from his 2011 mark of .805, I thought I’d get a little more bang for my buck than .806. Cuddyer’s 2009 season was largely overshadowed by Joe Mauer’s MVP campaign and his 2006 season — his actual career best year with an .867 OPS — was behind another excellent year from Mauer and an “MVP-caliber” year from Justin Morneau, but both seasons were better than this one. His right oblique failed him, necessitating two separate DL stints and ending his season in mid-August, just like Santana. The former Twins on this list did me no favors.
Verdict: Cuddyer’s OPS was high, but it wasn’t “Rocky Mountain High”
4. J.J. Hardy will hit more than 30 HR
Maybe the hippies were right: Don’t trust anyone over 30. Yes, this is Hardy’s age-29 season, but he turned 30 in August so it counts. Hardy hit 30 last season even though he only played in 129 games, so it seemed perfectly reasonable to me to assume a) that he’d play more games than that this season and b) that he’d hit home runs at a similar enough pace to get to 30 or 31 in the extra games he would play. The first assumption was correct, Hardy played in an extra 29 games this season, and his HR/FB rate stayed high enough to give him a good shot at 30, but his flyball rate dropped under 40 percent and that gave him no shot at the 30 home run mark.
Verdict: Better than LaHair, still not good
5. Denard Span will hit at least .280 and steal at least 15 bases
In what seems likely to be his last season as a Twin, Span still battled some injuries, but stayed healthy enough to steal 17 bases, while hitting a sparkling… .283, good enough for my first correct prediction! Span’s solid, if unspectacular, production from the leadoff spot makes him an underutilized fantasy option, but he draws a goodly portion of his value from his defense and incredibly team-friendly contract. Going forward he’s more likely to be a player you want on the team you root for and not so much on your fantasy team
Verdict: Little room to spare, but correct
6. Yu Darvish will have a strong year — sub 4.00 ERA, sub 1.25 WHIP — but see a huge home/road split
So, the spirit of this prediction was to say that Darvish would be good, but not really Cy Young-good the way people were talking about him being at the time. Many of the comments were rather pointed in that this was a total freebie and pathetically obvious. Well, we were all wrong. Darvish barely beat the ERA mark with a 3.90 and in fact missed the WHIP barrier at 1.28. He was worse at home, but only by about 60 points of opponents’ OPS and actually had a higher ERA on the road. So it is, on the balance, a miss.
Verdict: Right in spirit, wrong in actuality.
7. Bryce Harper will hit at least 10 home runs in the majors this year
The concern here was never Harper’s power, that’s been well attested by myriad sources, but was really a question of when the Nationals would call him up. As it happened, Harper missed a 20-20 season by just a pair of stolen bases, which is impressive for a kid in his age-19 season. Next season’s bold predictions for Harper will be sky high, but beware a sophomore slump.
Verdict: When Harper came up before midseason, this one was a given
8. Alfonso Soriano Will be traded before August 1
I’m still surprised this one didn’t happen to be frank. The Cubs are rebuilding, Soriano had a season that actually made him look like an asset worth acquiring, and I thought a deal would get done at some point. As it is, Soriano remains a Cub and the longer that stays the case, the more I think he’ll end up playing out his whole deal on the North Side. Which, of course, means he’ll be gone before Christmas.
Verdict: No hemming or hawing here, Soriano still plays where the ivy grows.
9. The Pittsburgh Pirates won’t break .500 this season
They looked good last season and then faded. They were tied for the lead in the NL Central as late as July 18 and were only 2.5 games behind the Reds on August 9. By September 19, the Pittsburgh was standing eye-to-eye with the .500 mark before the Pirates were dragged down to Davy Jones’ locker. There’s reason to be optimistic about the future in Pittsburgh, but this season was nothing short of a brutal tease followed by a punch to the gut.
Verdict: After the way things started, I take no joy in ending up correct on this one
10. The new, extra Wild Card will bring excitement to the end of the season
There’s a lot I dislike about the new wild card and the 2-3 division series format, but this season was about as good an advertisement as Bud Selig could have hoped for. Teams that otherwise would have been done early were still in the hunt in late September, many series were meaningful up to the very last game of the season, and every team that made it in had a legitimate claim on being in the postseason. There’s a lot to talk about going forward, but it’s tough for anyone to claim that the extra spot and the extra races didn’t make things more exciting.
Verdict: You win this round, Commissioner!