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Looking Back at 2013

I spend a lot of time analyzing baseball, but sometimes you need to take a step back and analyze yourself. With New Year’s Eve coming up fast, now is just one of those times.

Between January 1, 2013 and the end of the regular season, I offered a lot of advice in my articles here on RotoGraphs, and thought I’d take a look back at each measurable piece of advice and grade myself.

When I say “measurable,” it means I am staying away from things that are future facing (for example, I suggested you target Ryan Braun when his year was done, but until the 2014 season is in the books, it will be hard to judge that) and strategy-based (telling you how to evaluate your chances for a title in the middle of the season isn’t something I can say worked or didn’t – although I bet it did).

Instead, I focused on the 49 cases in which I said you should buy or sell a player, in which I projected the rest of the year for a player, or I otherwise suggested you take some specific step towards winning in 2013.

And all in all, I did pretty well. I rated 30 of the 49 pieces of advice as wins, with four ties and 15 losses. I am not going to go through all 49 now, but let’s take a look at a few.

Raul Ibanez got me twice. First, in April, I looked at batted ball distance and told you he was “done with a capital D”. Then, after a power binge put him among the league leaders, I told you he wouldn’t keep up the pace but would end the year in the mid-30’s in HRs. He ended up with 29. So what did I do wrong? First, I put way too much weight on a tiny sample (although I acknowledged I was doing that). Then I ignored what I knew to be true earlier and overstated the changes I had seen. Not good, in either direction. In April, I should have said that Ibanez wasn’t showing signs of a late-career resurgence. In July, I should have said I was wrong, but that he was still old and highly unlikely to play well for much longer.

My most embarrassing piece of advice though was to consider Paul Goldschmidt a second- or third-tier starter (around 9th) 1B in ottoneu leagues. In this case, my mistake was shared by many others (he was 5th in the consensus rankings that focus on 5×5 stats), but was exacerbated by my desire to point out the difference between traditional 5×5 leagues and most ottoneu leagues. Goldschmidt is the rare 1B who provides all of the traditional 1B power stats and adds double-digit steals. In 5×5 this makes him an extremely rare and valuable bird, but in 4×4 or ottoneu Points leagues, those steals either disappear or lose value. But that doesn’t make him any less of a stud.

One that I am particularly proud of is a trade decision I touted in June. I was considering a push to acquire Matt Harvey or two offers on the table – one to acquire Anthony Rizzo the other for Justin Verlander. I cautioned against Verlander, preferring the younger, cheaper options, and then explained that while Harvey was otherworldly and Rizzo was not, that I considered them relatively equal targets if only because of the uncertainty around the production and health of any young pitcher. I won’t go so far as to say that I predicted Harvey’s injury, but making the decision to acquire Rizzo was definitely the right one – that team won the championship and having Rizzo next year while Harvey doesn’t pitch will be a nice bonus.

Finally, I want to rattle off four specific statistical predictions, three of which went very wrong. I told you to target Edinson Volquez to keep your HR/9 down – he ended up at exactly 1.00. Not good. I told you to target Brandon Crawford as a decent MI option (which was a nice suggestion) but also told you double digit HR were out of the question and that “upside” was 5-6 – he ended up at 9. I told you to target Justin Maxwell as a lefty killer and yet he somehow (BABIP?) ended up much, much better against righties this year.

And, last but not least, I told you that Lackey’s return was legit (and it was) but that his K/9 would settle in close to 7.5, rather than the gaudy numbers he was sporting at the time. His final tally? 7.65 K/9.

In all four of these cases, I basically relied on a player’s career stats to predict what was to come, and in three out of four cases I was wrong, wrong, wrong. The lesson here is that this advice stuff is rough. And considering that, I think a just-over-60% success rate sounds pretty good.

Of course the end of the year is a time for not just reflection but also resolutions – and my resolution is that I will improve my advice rate next year. I don’t want to cut back on my willingness to put advice out there (in fact, I will aim to give more specific, measurable, actionable advice next year), but I want to do my best to keep giving you high quality recommendations.

Enjoy your New Year’s Eve and I’ll see you in 2014!