Indeed, I’ve gazed deeply into my crystal ball to present to you yet another set of RotoGraphs bold predictions for 2012. I eagerly anticipate your commentary wrath.
1. Dan Haren wins 20 games. He had pretty rotten run support in 2011 and the Angels did a little something in the off-season that might affect run production. Haren had nine no decisions in which he posted a 2.90 ERA, 0.952 WHIP and an 8.0 K/9. There were 11 games in which the Angels scored two or fewer runs in and Haren won just three of them — but he posted a 2.12 ERA, 0.769 WHIP and a 7.8 K/9. Something’s gotta give, and I say he gets the better end of the wish bone in 2012.
2. Hanley Ramirez will go 30-30. No, that’s not 30 days on the disabled list and 30 days in the managers dog house either. As much as I could have believed he would turn in a .243 batting average and 10 home runs, I’ll believe that he can return to 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases. Why? I get the sense Ramirez has a bit of a chip on his shoulder relative to the position move, I think he’s a bit of an egomaniac who wants to make a statement, and I actually think his new skipper is going to be good for him. None of these things are quantifiable of course, which either makes this prediction bold or just plain foolish. Foolishly bold? Time will tell.
3. Billy Butler will hit 25 home runs or more and drive in over 100 runs. Why? He’s turning just 26 in April, so he’s on the right side of the age arc, he’s seen his ISO as high as .191 in the past, he’s bound to encounter some good fortune that will elevate his HR/FB rate over his modest 9.7% career rate, not to mention he’s best shaper! And really, what self respecting DH won’t have 25 home runs on their resume at some point? This is the year. Do it, Billy.
4. Aramis Ramirez hits fewer than 20 home runs. Now I’m actually an Aramis Ramirez fan, and I defended him last June when things weren’t looking so good for his owners (nor his agent). But Ramirez turns 34 in June, he’s got his “big deal” now and while I’m not claiming causality here – the last time he was a free agent, he went bonkers and hit 38 home runs and drove in 119 runs, re-upped with the Cubs and hit 26 home runs the following season and hasn’t sniffed 30 since. Part of this prediction includes an expectation that he’ll be getting friendly with his new training staff in Milwaukee as well, limiting his overall at-bats. But I’m sadly bearish on him in 2012.
5. Asdrubal Cabrera will hit 15 or fewer home runs and steal 15 or fewer bags. He hit a total of 18 home runs in his first 1600+ plate appearances. His 13.3% HR/FB rate will come down and his ISO will return into the low .140’s. I’m throwing in the steals just for drama.
“Usually guys who are multi-talented feed off of their multi-talents,” said manager Bobby Valentine. “When they’re running, they’re hitting. When they’re hitting, they’re fielding. When they’re fielding, they’re running. They just feed on each other. And a lot of times when you shut one of them down the others follow. And in order to do anything in life, you need to have confidence which is the word that I replace for courage. And the way you build courage is through repetition. And when you build up the reps and you have some success you can go forward. That’s what our Army does. That’s what our Marines do. That’s what our Navy pilots are trained to do.”
7. Mike Morse hits fewer than 20 home runs. I’m pretty sure this is the ugly duckling in this group, but in general I just have a hard time believing his 21.2% HR/FB rate is sustainable and I also think that opposing pitchers will start to be a little more careful with him. He’s no Ryan Langerhans, that’s for sure.
8. Chris Carpenter fails to win 10 games. No, not the remuneration for Theo Epstein – I’m talking about the three-time All-Star and former Cy Young winner. That Chris Carpenter. It has little to do with how good the St. Louis Cardinals are going to be and more my expectation that at age 37, he’s just going to start to wear down. I’d bet on about 24 starts, so perhaps saying he’s only going to win nine of them rather lacks good manners, but these are supposed to be bold after all.
9. Chone Figgins becomes fantasy relevant again. I didn’t say he was going to be good, just relevant. So the Seattle Mariners are trying to showcase him at the top of the order, crossing their respective front office fingers that he plays well in the Spring and comes out of the gates in March well enough to finally dump on another organization. I think it has a decent chance of working, and at the very least, Figgins could revert back to some approximation of the 2010 version, hit for a modest average, and run like heck. His relevancy is probably dependent upon league format – but if he can get back to hitting .275, score 80-85 runs and steal 40+ bases, he should be pretty useful as a plug-and-play type. If he qualifies in the outfield and infield, even more so.
10. Adrian Gonzalez will hit 40+ home runs. He saw more two-seam fastballs and cutters than any time in his career last year, and the fastballs he saw were on average a mile per hour faster than the circuit of seniors gave him. He had a modest little adjustment period in which he slugged .457 with one HR in April, suffering through a 3.2% HR/FB rate — and then he flipped the switch. I say the switch remains on all year and he goes all berzerker or something.
Considering I was going to suggest A.J. Burnett for 195 K’s and 15 wins with Pittsburgh and then he went out and fractured his face, I’m not terribly hopeful that my career as a fortune teller will pay many bills. But we’ll just see how things shake out come October.