Friday, October 03, 2008

Time for the American League portion of seeing how bad my predictions were.

First, to show what an idiot Jon Heyman is (why I still even bother to ever look at one of his columns amazes me), he picks a closer who wasn't even among the top three in his league as his AL MVP. Scary. I'm not sure why I need constant reminders of how little this guy knows about baseball, despite his profession, but the fact that he is from Long Island and worked for a long time for my hometown paper Newsday deeply embarasses me. You should lose your MVP vote for voting for K-Rod. Simple as that. Forget the fact that he's a closer who never pitched more than an inning in an outing and threw 68.3 total. Simply look at the fact that in every category except saves - not even looking at any complicated stats, simply ERA and WHIP, he is bested by Joakim Soria, Mariano Rivera, and Joe Nathan, and I'd put money down that Jonathan Papelbon had a better season than him too. It galls me that people like this have jobs at national publications.

Let's move into the AL I suppose.

AL East:

Tampa Bay Rays - final record: 97-65 / predicted record: 79-83
Number of games off: +18
Why I was wrong: Well, I knew they'd be better, and I think I was hesitant to predict too much improvement in one year, though I thought they'd break out in 2009. However, there are some specific reasons. I knew their best pitchers would be good, specifically James Shields and Scott Kazmir, but was not expected league average performances out of Edwin Jackson and Andy Sonnastine. The bullpen also turned from worst to impressive, on the backs of almost an entirely new bullpen - Dan Wheeler and Grant Balfour were there, but played far less of a role, and were a lot worse, while JP Howell shined as well. The offensive production actually went down a slight bit from 2007 - it was the pitching that turned the team around.

Boston Red Sox - final record: 95-67 / predicted record: 97-65
Number of games off: -2
Why I was wrong: I wasn't really - two is pretty damn close, just was wrong in picking them to finish first. That said, this was pretty much (maybe along with the Angels) the safest and easiest pick. This is just the most all around solid and good team in the American League. Jon Lester emerged as the team's new ace, while Beckett underperformed last year's near Cy Young season. Still all their pitchers were solid outside of Paul Byrd, and, well, he's Paul Byrd. Not much surprising here so I'll give a shout out to the incredible and what may well end up being MVP and not unjustifiably season of Dustin Pedroia.

New York Yankees - final record: 89-73 / predicted record: 94-68
Number of games off: -5
Why I was wrong: I was more wrong in that I thought they'd make the playoffs than in my record, but the five games I was off is one of the biggest differences of five games in record (that makes sense right? I mean right in the area where five games is the difference between playoffs and no playoffs). A few big factors here were the injury to Chien-Ming Wang and the lack of anticipated production from Philip Hughes, both of which were offset a bit by Mike Mussina's unexpected comeback season. The Yankees hitting was hurt by going from a Jorge Posada career season to 268 at bats from a punchless Jose Molina, along with the even possibly worse fill ins of Pudge (yes, he's not good anymore) and Chad Moeller, along with Robinson Cano's struggles. It's almost a testament to the strength of the other guys in the lineup that they had all these struggles plus had to start Sidney Ponson for 15 games and still won 89 games.

Toronto Blue Jays - final record: 86-76 / predicted record: 82-80
Number of games off: +4
Why I was wrong: Pretty close here as well - we all knew Toronto has great pitching but I did not expect a full year out of AJ Burnett, and although it was not an outstanding full year, it was likely better than whoever would have replaced him. They amazingly won 86 games and played 7 games below their Pythagorean record. Their offense is dreadful, but they allowed 61 less runs than any other American League team, also helped by the astounding performances of nearly everyone in their bullpen led by Scott Downs, Jesse Carlson and BJ Ryan.

Baltimore Orioles - final record: 68-93 / predicted record: 63-99
Number of games off: +5
Why I was wrong: It's kind of a challenge to guess exactly how bad a bad team is going to be. I anticipated the mega year by their best player Nick Markakis, but not the one by Aubrey Huff, who gave one of the great overlooked performances of the year. Honestly, aside from that, it's really hard to measure how bad is bad - they got a nice performance out of new acquisition Luke Scott, and Jeremy Guthrie proved he was not a one year wonder. Not much else to say. A couple parts here, but still ugly.

AL Central:

Chicago White Sox - final record: 89-74 / predicted record: 72-90
Number of games off: +16.5
Why I was wrong: This is going to be by far the ugliest division for me as I get records wrong left and right. There are so many reasons I was wrong about this. The first is Carlos Quentin who lived up to his potential after disappointing big time for Arizona. A true steal for Kenny Williams. Alexei Ramirez had a stellar rookie year at 2nd (though not as good as Evan Longroia, and there shouldn't be a debate about that). John Danks and Gavin Floyd had huge years unlike anything they had done in the majors so far (To be fair, they were both young and reasonable prospects). Nick Swisher disappointed big time, and Paul Konerko turned in an off year, but those four changes above were pretty huge, along with big years from Jim Thome and Jermaine Dye.

Minnesota Twins - final record: 88-75 / predicted record: 75-87
Number of games off: +12.5
Why I was wrong: Okay, you take a team with no real hitting prospects. You get rid of their best pitcher, who is the best pitcher in baseball, Johan Santana, and one of their better hitters and center fielder, Torii Hunter, and I'm supposed to expect the team will improve? Let's be reasonable. Just from a quick glance at the players, and even their seasons, you'd never guess the team was third in runs per game. Joe Mauer and Justin Mourneau are legit stars, but there are only two other batters in their lineup with OPS+s over 100, new sensation Denard Span and Jason Kubel. They simply did it by everyone, Carlos Gomez, aside being at least decent, while their pitching was so-so and just did enough - pleasant surprises from Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey.

Cleveland Indians - final record: 81-81 / predicted record: 93-69
Number of games off: -12
Why I was wrong: Again made a number of assumptions that simply did not happen (Yes, I made an ass out of you (I'm not writing u) and me). A healthy and productive Victor Martinez, which did not happen, though it was partially offset but an crazily productive Kelly Shoppach backing up job. I knew Travis Hafner was likely on the downfall, but not that he'd fall off a ledge and be injured all season. I didn't expect Fausto Carmona to repeat his 2007 season, but at least to come somewhat close, though again this was tempered by Cliff Lee's insane emergence. Trading CC probably also cost them a few wins, though it was still a smart movie, it hurt my prediction. Oh, and a pretty lousy bullpen - what happened Rafael Betancourt?

Kansas City Royals - final record: 75-87 / predicted record: 74-88
Number of games off: +1
Why I was wrong: A-ha! In the middle of a division where I totally blew four teams, at least I get the fifth nearly exactly right. Kansas City's a bad team, but not as bad as, say the Nationals - they've got some players. Very few of those players are good, but there's a couple - Zach Grienke has really emerged as a stud pitcher, and Alex Gordon, while posting not a great season, showed real improvement from his rookie campaign. Joakim Soria had his second straight phenomenal season as closer. David DeJesus rebounded from an off year to become again a solid contributor and three year AAA vet Mark Aviles came in to rescue shortstop from historically bad offensively Tony Pena Jr.

Detroit Tigers - final record: 74-88 / predicted record: 94-68
Number of games off: -20
Why I was wrong: I cringe every time I look at this prediction. What kills me, is that, yes the Tigers should have been better, but what made me think that Tigers pitching was actually good. Sure, I thought Verlander would continue his emergence into an ace, picking him as Cy Young (oops - though my MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera isn't going to win it, and shouldn't, but at least had a damn fine year, really picking up in the second half). The hitting really wasn't bad - Curtis Granderson had another excellent year as did Magglio (not as good as last but that was an easy decline to predict), though they were hurt by Gary Sheffield giving them nothing. Their pitching was truly wretched though, aside from the surprise rookie performance of the Little Cat, Armando Galarraga. The Gambler, Kenny Rogers, was terrible, Nate Roberson was terrible, and Jeremy Bonderman was hurt. They just have to be at least a little better next year one would think.

AL West:

Los Angels Angels of Anaheim - final record: 100-62 / predicted record: 94-68
Number of games off: +6
Why I was wrong: I'm not going to kick myself too much over this one - the Angels outplayed their Pythagorean record by a ridiculous 12 games (which still would have easily taken the West). The main reason is they can't hit, but got ridiculously lucky, and won a very high percentage of their one-run games, helping K-Rod to the single season save record, one of the dumbest records in sports - more about opportunity than anything else as K-Rod, while a fine closer, was no better than fourth best in his league this year (I know I mentioned this earlier with the Heyman article, but it infuriates me that much). Anyway, Mark Teixeira helps a lot, but they still win on their pitching, and they're still not as good a team as the Red Sox, though they may win yet.

Texas Rangers - final record: 79-83 / predicted record: 75-87
Number of games off: +4
Why I was wrong: Again, I wasn't really. Four games is not bad. This team is the Blue Jays opposite - they can hit a ton, but can't pitch a lick. Josh Hamilton was the story with a great year, but overlooked is Milton Bradley who had an even better year, although in fewer at-bats. Chris Davis and David Murphy had solid rookie campaigns, while Ian Kinsler, before he got hurt, make his claim for best AL second baseman (though Dustin Pedroia surely has something to say about that). Hard to ever pick a team with pitching this bad to go over .500 though - their only starters with over a 100 ERA+ were Sir Sidney Ponson, who was released (for being crazy) and Brandon McCarthy who started 5 games (AJ Murray also does who started 2 games). It's ugly out there.

Oakland Athletics - final record: 75-86 / predicted record: 69-93
Number of games off: +6
Why I was wrong: Did not anticipate the performances of some of Oakland's new corp of young pitchers (Someone may have made this reference before, and if they did, I apologize, but it's like Menudo out there (you can choose Logan's Run if you want) - you really get shipped out of town once you reach 27 or so for sure) - Justin Duchscherer was one of the stories of the first half of the season and Greg Smith and Dana Eveland gave decent first time efforts. That's pretty much it - the offense surprised me in no way. Also, I'd like to give a shout out to the great job of Brad Ziegler in relief.

Seattle Mariners - final record: 61-101 / predicted record: 84-78
Number of games off: -23
Why I was wrong: This was a stupid one. I knew they were not a playoff team - they overplayed their hand in 2007, and were doomed to come down. But this bad? I didn't think so - I don't think I realized the extent to which they overplayed their numbers, and I thought the addition of Erik Bedard would at least make them a .500 team, which it did not - it was largely a bust, so far. The thing is, aside from no Bedard, no one did a lot worse then you'd expect - Putz was a little disappointing, and Jarred Washburn underplayed a bit his average average but the people who you expected to be good did their parts - King Felix was solid, Raul Ibanez was solid, and Ichiro did what he does (which is overvalued, but useful). I think stupidly, I saw that people were predicting them to be a playoff team, and used that as a starting point for my analysis, deducting wins from there, rather than starting with a little below .500 team which is what they should have been in 2007.

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