Reviewing Mike Podhorzer’s 10 2013 Bold Predictions

Phew! The season has officially ended! Well…almost. For many owners, tonight’s one-game tiebreaker will not count toward the standings. For others, it’s one last night of nail biting as you hope your lead holds up. Even though the regular season technically hasn’t ended just yet, I’ll be starting the recapping efforts. As usual, I provided 10 bold predictions in late March. Let’s see how I did.

1. Justin Ruggiano surprises everyone, except for myself and FanGraphs readers, by going 25/25

My favorite offensive sleeper this preseason finished the year with 18 home runs and 15 steals over 468 plate appearances. Although he eventually did wrangle the starting center field job away from Chris Coghlan early in the season, he was cursed by a low BABIP and gave way to prospects Jake Marisnick and Marcell Ozuna later. Extrapolating his numbers over a full season of 600 plate appearances would have still yielded results that fell a bit short of this bold prediction, but he did prove that his surprising 2012 wasn’t a complete fluke. 0 for 1

2. Andrew Cashner outearns all starters on both the Braves and Mets pitching staffs

It was only natural to follow the bold prediction of my favorite offensive sleeper with one from my favorite starting pitcher sleeper. Cashner fans, including myself, were up in arms when it was announced he would open the season in the bullpen. However, he still finished with 175 innings, so that move had no effect on his eventual fantasy value. With a 3.09 ERA and 1.13 WHIP, Cashner did his best to avoid making me look silly.

Unfortunately, run support was a problem, which isn’t too surprising given the team he plays for. What was surprising, however, was his strikeout rate, which was quite disappointing at just 18.1%. That really cut into his fantasy value and heading into Sunday’s games, led to his ranking as just the 49th most valuable starter this year. Since I compared him to both the Braves and Mets staff, he had absolutely zero chance of making this prediction right. Even with Matt Harvey‘s season getting cut short, he was a top 10 starter, while Mike Minor, Julio Teheran and Kris Medlen all outearned him as well. 0 for 2

3. Josh Rutledge is demoted to Triple-A by the end of May

On May 22, Josh Rutledge was indeed sent down to Triple-A. He was sporting just a .242/.298/.357 batting line at the time, but improved his strikeout and walk rates from 2012. He was hampered by a low BABIP on the season and still possesses a nice combination of power and speed. My original argument centered around Rutledge having never seen a pitch at the Triple-A level. While I have no issue with a starting pitcher skipping Triple-A, I am always concerned when a hitter jumps a level. If he gets another shot to work as the Rockies starting second baseman, he’ll once again be an attractive target. 1 for 3

4. Dan Haren and Tim Lincecum both return to their glory days and post sub-3.50 ERAs

Oh brother. Could I have picked a more disappointing pair of starting pitchers? Haren posted a 4.67 ERA, easily a career worst if you exclude his 2003 rookie season. Lincecum did rebound somewhat from his ghastly 5.18 ERA in 2012, but the rebound wasn’t enough, as he still posted a 4.37 mark this year. If it means anything, Haren’s SIERA was a much more impressive 3.60 and he posted a 3.52 ERA in the second half. Lincecum’s SIERA was also much better than his ERA at 3.75, but his skills actually took a tumble in the second half. I’m not giving up on either of these two in mixed leagues just yet. 1 for 4

5. Josh Hamilton‘s fantasy value falls outside the top 20 at the outfield position

Heading into Sunday’s games, Hamilton was the 46th most valuable outfielder. I was worried about the change in home ballpark, as well as his deteriorating ability to make contact. Well, his power was down most of the season, with only two months that his ISO exceeded .200. In 2012, his ISO exceeded .200 in five of the six months. His average batted ball distance was also down significantly to just 274 feet. That was easily the lowest distance of his career and a big drop from his 2012 season of 300 feet. The spike in strikeout rate he posted in 2012 also stuck this season, which hampered his batting average. Hamilton always seems to be dealing with various ailments, so who knows if health was a major factor in his disappointing season. 2 for 5

6. Alex Cobb earns the most fantasy value among Rays starters not named David Price

By any metric you could possibly look at, Cobb pitched better than Matt Moore, the “not named David Price” Rays starter that had the best chance of being this bold prediction’s enemy. In fact, if you believe SIERA, Cobb was actually the Rays’ best starting pitcher. Heading into Sunday’s games, Moore was ranked 38th and Cobb 42nd in fantasy value. Moore’s performance yesterday was so-so with an ERA and WHIP for the game that increased his season ratios. But, he did add a win and another four strikeouts, so it’s likely that he will remain slightly ahead in the end of season rankings. Both pitchers missed time due to injury, but if Moore didn’t have such ridiculous win luck, I would likely be counting this as a win. 2 for 6

7. Mike Napoli is the most valuable fantasy catcher

This one is oh so close and should have been enough to convince me to wait until the final rankings were available before deciding this one. According to CBS’ rankings, Yadier Molina was the top catcher and 78th overall fantasy player. Napoli was nipping at his heels, ranking 81st overall. But yesterday, Napoli went 2-5 with an RBI. Was that enough for him to overtake Molina for the top spot? Doubtful, but I’m not 100% sure. Offsetting a career worst strikeout rate, Napoli BABIPed the highest mark of his career, while a career high at-bat total and spot in the middle of a potent Red Sox lineup boosted his counting stats. 2 for 7

Edit: With Sunday’s games now factored into the end of season rankings, Napoli has indeed overtaken Molina, ranking 78th overall versus 80th for the latter.
3 for 7

8. Jordan Zimmermann posts an ERA above 4.00

Zimmermann’s skills have lagged behind his ERA in each of his first two full seasons in the Nationals rotation. So the thinking here was what luck giveth, luck taketh away. His ERA jumping towards his SIERA and then a bit of some bad fortune thrown in, and voila, you’ve got yourself a 4.00 ERA. Zimmermann’s skills were essentially the same as they always were this year, but he again posted a below league average BABIP to outperform his SIERA. He did post a 4.33 ERA in the second half, but unfortunately, this bold prediction was for the full season mark. 3 for 8

9. Mike Moustakas hits 30 home runs

12. Moustakas hit 12 home runs this year and posted a pathetic 6.9% HR/FB ratio. This is the same guy who hit 36 homers in the minors in 2010 and hit for above average or elite power everywhere he’s been. His batted ball distance was just 271 feet. That’s actually a drop from last year’s nearly as unimpressive 279 feet. If there was ever anyone who needed to retool his swing, Moustakas is the man. Too many fly balls with not enough power and far too many pop-ups. I fear that as soon as I give up on him, he explodes for that 30 home run season, but there is literally nothing aside from his minor league history that suggests the explosion is coming anytime soon. 3 for 9

10. Jered Weaver does not finish the season earning top 20 starting pitcher value

Heading into Sunday, Weaver was just the 55th most valuable starting pitcher, so it’s safe to say that even with yesterday’s games factored in, he fell outside the top 20. He missed nearly two months after suffering a fractured elbow, which limited him to just 154.1 innings. Obviously, the missed time cemented this bold prediction win, but he posted his highest ERA and WHIP since 2009 and his SIERA has now jumped for three straight seasons. Declining skills makes him a risky proposition in 2014. 4 for 10

Normally, 3 out of 10 correct bold predictions is actually pretty good for my level of boldness, but there were also 2 (Cobb and Napoli) more that were extremely close. If those convinced you to go the extra buck or bump up their rankings to ensure you grabbed them in your snake draft before your competitors, then those predictions served their purpose.

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Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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To be fair, I think Cobb was indeed the most valuable Rays pitcher-his emergence stabled the staff when Price was struggling and hurt. You could make a case for your assumption/prediction here.

As for Napoli’s value? Doesn’t he still have “position flexibility?” That counts a lot in fantasy baseball terms, as for top catcher over Yadier? I don’t know about that.

otherwise…3 out of 10 predictions right isn’t so bad, that’s a .300 BA in baseball.