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My Baseball Predictions: A Look Back

Now that the final pitch of the 2013 World Series has been thrown (and congratulations to the Red Sox), it’s time to revisit the predictions I made for the season way back in March.  As to be expected, I got some things quite right, and some other predictions very much wrong.

Let’s start with the good news, or, at any rate, those predictions that I got right.  It gives me no pleasure to tell you that I picked the Mets to win 74 games this year, which is exactly how many games they ended up winning.  I had predicted them to finish in 4th place behind what I thought would be a 3rd place Phillies team.  But somehow, the Mets edged the Phillies for 3rd place.

I predicted that Matt Harvey could have a very big year, and he did, up until he suffered his season-ending injury.

I predicted that Rangers pitcher Scott Harrison, who won 18 games in 2012 while posting a 3.29 ERA, would be a bust in 2013.  Harrison got hurt early on, and pitched just 10 highly ineffective innings all year.  I didn’t predict the injury, but I still think he was on his way to a poor season anyway.

This is what I wrote about the Braves off-season acquisition of outfielder B.J. Upton:

Cue Pink Floyd’s “Run Like Hell” because Upton does like to run, but also because it’s what you should do when his name comes up in your Draft… his plate discipline has all but disappeared, and that he is one of baseball’s most prolific out-machines.  Last year, he batted .246 with a pathetic .298 on-base percentage.  In fact, he hasn’t batted above .250 in any of the past four years.  Upton might get off to a quick start, but at some point during the season, his lack of plate discipline will catch up to him.

B.J. Upton finished the year with a triple slash line of .184 /.268/.289.  Ouch.

I stated that the Yankees acquisition of Kevin Youkilis would be a non-factor in 2013 because he’d probably spend about half the season on the D.L.  Youkilis ended up playing just 28 games for the Yankees.

I predicted that the Cubs starting pitcher, Edwin Jackson, was the best bet to be baseball’s next 20-game loser.  Jackson led the N.L. with 18 losses.  Oh, so close.

As for Kyle Lohse, I wrote:

Lohse led the N.L. in win-loss percentage last season (.842) by losing just three of 33 starts.  You want to bet the farm that this veteran pitcher can do that again?  His relatively low K rate, his fly ball tendencies, his low BABIP and his career history point to a correction in the offing.  Don’t be the last man standing when the music stops on this song.

While Lohse didn’t have a terrible year, he finished with a record of 11-10, with a 3.35 ERA.  Compared to 16-3, 2.86, a correction certainly did take place.

On the Nationals’ pitcher, Jordan Zimmerman, I wrote:

Zimmerman averaged over 3 1/2 K’s per walk last year, and is entering his age 27 season.  Likely to receive plenty of run support, while probably reaching the 200 inning pitched level for the first time in his career, Zimmerman could be primed for a very impressive season.  He won 12 games last year, but could win half a dozen more this time around.

Zimmerman posted a record of 19-9, leading the N.L. in wins, and posted a 3.25 ERA in 213 innings.

Of a potential breakout season for Arizona Diamondbacks First Baseman, Paul Goldschmidt, I wrote:

The 25-year old Goldshmidt started slowly last season, but hit 18 homers over the last four months of the season, including five homers in a seven-game span.  The right-handed batting first-baseman actually led the Majors in line-drive rate last year.  If just a few of his 43 doubles turn into home runs this year, Goldschmidt could be on his way to 30+ homers, along with about a .280 batting average.

A fly ball hitter (Goldschmidt led the league in Sac. Flies last year) who plays his home games in one of the best hitter’s parks in the league, is off to a fine start in spring training posting a .429 average to date.  Also, he’s not merely a slugger, but an athlete who stole 18 bases in 21 attempts last year.  Goldschmidt is one of this generation’s most promising young baseball talents.  He could become a right-handed swinging Jim Thome.

Goldschmidt should finish in the top five in N.L. MVP voting later this off-season.  His final stat line for 2013:

He led the league in both 36 homers, and RBI, 125, while batting .302.  He also led the league with an OPS+ of 160, in total bases with 332, and in slugging percentage at .551.  Truly a fantastic breakout season.

I predicted that the Tampa Bay Rays would win the A.L. East with about 95 victories.  The Rays won 92 games and ended up winning one of the two  Wild Card slots.  Not too far off.

I predicted that the Yanks would miss the playoffs, and were, at best, an 85-win team.  The Yanks finished tied with Baltimore for 3rd in their division with 85 victories.

I said that the Royals would finally finish over .500 this season, if only by a couple of games.  The Royals did a little better than I expected, posting a record of 86-76.

I stated that the Dodgers would win 95 games and the N.L. West title.  They won 92 games and the N.L. West title.

I predicted the Rockies would finish last in the N.L. West with 71 wins.  They finished last with 74 wins.

Moderately close to being correct, I predicted the Reds would win the N.L. East with 92 victories.  They did win 90 games, but that was good for just 3rd place, and one of the two Wild Card slots.

Now, how about all of my misses!

I predicted the Red Sox to finish in last place again in 2013.  Oops.

I stated that Mets first baseman, Ike Davis, would have a productive season, with around 30 homers, 80-90 RBI, and a .260-.270 batting average.  Davis, as every Mets fan knows, was a huge bust, posting a triple slash line of .205/.326/.334.  He hit just 9 homers, and drove in just 33 runs.  Unbelievably, it looks like there’s a chance the Mets might bring him back again in 2014.  Apparently, there is no bottom line at Citi Field.

I thought the Giants would win one of the two N.L. Wild card slots with around 87 wins.  They won just 76 games, tied for 4th in their division.

I predicted that the Nats would win between 95-100 games, and easily top the Braves in the N.L. East.  The Nats underachieved all year, and somehow won just 86 games, a full ten games behind the Braves.

I said the Pirates would finish under .500 again.  They finished with the 3rd best overall record in the entire N.L. with 94 victories, and a post-season appearance.  I’m glad I was wrong about this one.

I picked the Angels to win the A.L. West, and to represent the A.L. in the World Series.  They won just 78 games.  (Is Albert Pujols really finished?)

I suppose I’ll have another go at it next March for the 2014 baseball season.  Hopefully, I’ll get at least a few things right.

Eight Break-Out Players to Watch in 2013

If you play fantasy baseball, or even if you just like to read about which ball-players are likely to come through big in the upcoming baseball season, this is the time of year when most baseball fans begin to research the players and teams that interest them.

My goal, then, for this post is to alert you to eight players who aren’t necessarily household names, but who I believe will enjoy significantly productive seasons.  There are, of course, many other players that I could have chosen to write about, but these are the ones who’ve caught my attention thus far.

1)  Jordan Zimmerman:  Nationals – The forgotten man in a rotation that includes, Strasburg, Gonzalez and Haren, Zimmerman produced the fifth best ERA+ (134) in 195 innings last season.  He averaged over 3 1/2 K’s per walk, and is entering his age 27 season.  Likely to receive plenty of run support, while probably reaching the 200 inning pitched level for the first time in his career, Zimmerman could be primed for a very impressive season.  He won 12 games last year, but could win half a dozen more this time around.

English: Ike Davis

English: Ike Davis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2)  Ike Davis:  Mets – Among all first basemen, Davis is one of the likeliest to be overlooked going into the 2013 season.  His low .227 batting average and equally poor .308 on-base percentage tarnish his otherwise impressive power numbers (32 homers and 90 RBI.)  But given his track record, Davis is likely to increase his batting average by around 25 points, and has stated that his goal is to draw a hundred walks.

Even if he draws around 80 walks, coupled with a .260 batting average, his natural power should allow him to at least match, and perhaps exceed, last season’s power numbers.  In an era where 35 homers once again represents a significant total, Davis, now just entering his age-26 season, will be a player that should not be ignored.

3)  Michael Morse:  Mariners –  After a big 2011 season, Morse played just 102 games last year for the Nationals, swatting 18 homers with 62 RBI.  He has since moved on to the Mariners, where under normal conditions, it is often wise to allow someone in his situation to fall completely off your radar screen.  But Morse, still in his power-prime years (he turns 31 later this month), slugged 31 homers, drove in 95 runs, and batted .303 just a couple of years ago.

Also, the Mariners have brought in the outfield fences this year, especially in the power-alley in left-center field (favorable to right-handed batters sluggers like Morse.)  Hitting in the middle of what could turn out to be the most productive Mariners’ offense in several years, Morse should provide a nice boost to any fantasy squad this season, even if he doesn’t quite reach a .300 batting average again.

4)  Brett Anderson:  A’s – Just a couple of years ago, Brett Anderson was considered the future of the A’s rotation.  Then he blew his arm out.  But the big 6’4″, 235 pound lefty out of Midland, TX looked good upon his late-season return to the A’s rotation last year.  In six starts, covering 35 innings, he struck out 25 batters while walking just seven, good for a 1.029 WHIP.  His ERA+ was a very impressive 156.

Then, in his one post-season start, he shutout the Tigers through six innings, fanning six, while surrendering just two hits and no walks for his first post-season win.  Anderson, still just 25-years old, is not only capable, but likely to recover the form that made him a huge prospect a few years ago.  Pitching for an A’s team that won their division last year, Anderson is likely to conclude the year as one of the top young starting pitchers in the A.L.

Peter Bourjos

Peter Bourjos (Photo credit: Keith Allison)

5)  Peter Bourjos:  Angels – A couple of years ago, the speedy Bourjos, in his first full season as an Angels’ outfielder, led the A.L. in triples, displayed reasonable power (12 homers) and posted an OPS+ of 116 while playing excellent defense.  Last year, the Angels played the remains of Bobby Abreu, along with Torii Hunter and eventually Mike Trout leaving Bourjos as the odd-man out.  As a result, Bourjos ended up scuffling through 192 uninspiring plate appearances.

He appears to have a starting gig again this season, and on a super-loaded Angel’s offense, he should be expected to score lots of runs, steal bases, and hit the occasional homer, regardless of where he hits in the lineup.  His glove alone should keep him in the field.  Entering his age-26 season, there is a lot of potential here now that his opportunity to play seems to be secure.

6)  Eric Hosmer:  Royals – There’s just no other way to say it, but first baseman Eric Hosmer sucked last season.  Suffering through a terrible sophomore slump, Hosmer batted just .232, 61 points lower than in his rookie season.  His power numbers suffered as well; he hit five fewer homers (14 total) in 12 more at bats.  But Hosmer, now just 23-years old, batted over .400 in his final one-hundred Triple-A at bats, and, though it’s a small sample size, he’s looked great this spring with eight hits — four for extra bases — and seven RBI in his first 20 at bats.  Hosmer should be one of the young Royals hitters that will impress people this season.  Also useful on the basepaths, Hosmer swiped 16 bags in 17 attempts last year.

Jay Bruce before his MLB Debut in May of 2008

Jay Bruce before his MLB Debut in May of 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

7)  Jay Bruce:  Reds – After five seasons in the Majors, outfielder Jay Bruce of the Cincinnati Reds seems to have settled in as a 30 homer, 90 RBI guy who will hit around .260 with 150 strikeouts.  A good player, but not a great one.

That could change this season.  Bruce, who will turn 26-years old in April, has increased his homer production for five straight seasons: 21, 22, 25, 32, 34.  Similarly, his doubles have also generally increased as well: 17, 15, 23, 27, 35.  Though his OPS+ held steady at 118 for the second consecutive year, he did set career highs in runs scored (89), RBI (99) and slugging percentage (.514.)

Now just fully entering his power prime, and with no significant injury history to speak of, the addition of high on-base player Shin-Soo Choo at the top of the Reds lineup will provide Bruce with the opportunity to become one of the top run-producers in the Majors this year.  A 40 homer, 120 RBI season with a hundred runs scored is not out of the question.

8)  Paul Goldschmidt:  Diamondbacks – The 25-year old Goldshmidt started slowly last season, but hit 18 homers over the last four months of the season, including five homers in a seven-game span.  The right-handed batting first-baseman actually led the Majors in line-drive rate last year.  If just a few of his 43 doubles turn into home runs this year, Goldschmidt could be on his way to 30+ homers, along with about a .280 batting average.

A fly-ball hitter (Goldschmidt led the league in Sac. Flies last year) who plays his home games in one of the best hitter’s parks in the league, is off to a fine start in spring training posting a .429 average to date.  Also, he’s not merely a slugger, but an athlete who stole 18 bases in 21 attempts last year.  Goldschmidt is one of this generation’s most promising young baseball talents.  He could become a right-handed swinging Jim Thome.

Others to follow closely:  Jason Kipnis of the Indians; Matt Harvey of the Mets, Adam Eaton of the Diamondbacks, Brandon Morrow of Toronto (yes, him again), Matt Adams of the Cardinals, Salvador Perez of the Royals (there will be many All-Star Game appearances in his future), and Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs.

Six months from now, I hope you are celebrating a championship season, and that at least one of the players on this list was a key contributor to your team’s success.

Fantasy Baseball Sleepers, 2012: The Pitchers

Here are ten pitchers you should consider putting on your radar for Draft Day, if you haven’t already.

By “sleeper,” I am referring to those pitchers whom I believe will significantly outperform their draft rank / dollar cost on Draft Day.  This does not mean that these pitchers will all have huge seasons, just that they should each produce more bang for your buck than your competitors might expect.

Also, some of these pitchers have already enjoyed very successful seasons, but are perceived to have had a “down” year last year (some of whom actually did.)  There is no reason to believe, however, that any of these pitchers won’t improve at least modestly, if not significantly, in 2012.

In no particular order, then, here they are:

English: Beachy, ready to pounce

Image via Wikipedia

1)  Brandon Beachy:  By this time next year, Beachy could realistically be the #2 starter in the Braves rotation.  Beachy struck out 169 batters in just 141 innings last season, while walking just 46.  He will probably be pushed up around 190 innings, resulting in a little over 200 K’s, an ERA probably in the 3.50 range, a nice WHIP, and double-digit wins.  A solid mid-round pick.

2)  Madison Bumgarner:  A terrible April resulted in Bumgarner being dropped in several fantasy leagues last year, but those who scooped him up in May enjoyed a fine final five months from this young stud.  Still just 22-years old, he gives the Giants three young aces that rival the Phillies rotation.

Bumgarner’s ERA, K’s and WHIP might not trend further down in 2012, but his relatively low win total (13) last year and the deep pool of pitchers available could cause Bumgarmer to be overlooked in some leagues.  Oh, and those 13 wins? Consider that number to be his floor, not his ceiling.

3)  Jordan Zimmerman:  Rotation mate Stephen Strasburg will garner all the attention in 2012 (which is why he is does not appear on this list of sleepers), but Zimmerman’s performance will be key to the National’s overall improvement as a team this year.  And there is little reason to expect to be disappointed by what Zimmerman has to offer.

Just 25-years old, Zimmerman posted an impressive ERA of 3.18 last season, with a WHIP of just 1.15, in 161 innings last season, which was his first full season following Tommy John surgery.  It often takes about two years for a pitcher to completely come back from this surgery, so look for Zimmerman’s strikeout rate to improve a bit this year as well;  he averaged a K per inning in 2009.  Also, he should make around 30 starts or so, which means he should just about double his win total (8) from last season.

English: Derek Holland

Image via Wikipedia

4)  Derek Holland:  After a mediocre first half in which he posted an ERA over 4.00 and a WHIP over 1.40, Holland really matured in the second half last year, posting a 3.21 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP after the All-Star break.  Holland will be no lower than the Rangers’ second best starter this year, and may become their de facto ace.

While his win total (16) might not improve significantly, his strikeout totals should rise while his peripherals should look more like the second-half of last season than the first half.

5)  Jonathon Niese:  Depending on if you utilize an N.L. only or a mixed-league format, this 25-year old Met’s pitcher might not even be drafted on Draft Day in your league.  His high ERA (4.40), and WHIP (1.41) and, of course, the team he pitches for will scare off many potential bidders.

But Niese averaged nearly 8 K’s per nine innings, and three K’s per walk.  Even with the fences being moved in over at Citi Field, Niese’s peripherals point to a declining ERA and WHIP in ’12, and perhaps, with luck, a few more wins.

You could do worse in the late rounds, and some people will.

6)  Neftali Feliz:  Because he is transitioning into the Ranger’s rotation this year after being their closer the past two seasons, many owners will be skeptical that Feliz will be able to make the transition smoothly.

But Feliz has now pitched a combined 162 innings in the Majors over the past three years, nearly the total of many full-time starters.  Turning just 24-years old this May, Feliz should be young enough and healthy enough to be stretched out to an equivalent amount of innings this year.

While you shouldn’t expect many complete games (if any), you are looking at a pitcher who has averaged just 5.4 hits / 9 innings in his career while averaging a strikeout an inning.

More to the point, there is precedent for a closer transitioning successfully back to the starting rotation. In 2001, Derek Lowe saved 24 games for the Red Sox.  The following season, he posted a 21-8 won-loss record, the best of his career.  In 2004, John Smoltz, in his third year as the Braves’ closer, Smoltz saved 44 games.  Transitioning back to the rotation, he posted a 44-24 record over the next three seasons.

Feliz may actually see a drop in his Draft Day status from a year ago because, no longer a known commodity as an elite closer, the uncertainty some owners will feel about his new role will provide savvy owners like yourself the opportunity to acquire him on the cheap.

Max Scherzer

Image via Wikipedia

7)  Max Scherzer:  Scherzer has the stuff to some day approach 200 K’s in a season.  At age 27, that could happen as early as this year.  Although he posted a reasonable number of wins in 2011 (15), his ERA 4.43 and WHIP (1.35) are higher than one would expect, given his background and potential.

His high strikeout rate ( 8 / 9 innings) and relatively low walk rate (2.6 / 9 innings) point to a pitcher who was somewhat unlucky (despite 15 wins) last year.

Look for his ERA to drop under 4.00 this year, and for his WHIP to drop back under 1.30.  He may not win more than 15 games again this year for the Tigers, but his improvement in his other peripherals should help your team with what some owners will view as a surprisingly successful performance out of Scherzer.

8)  John Danks:  After a dismal 2011: 8-12, 4.33, 1.34, lots of owners will be avoiding John Danks (not to mention many other White Sox players.)  But there is no reason to believe that the soon to be 27-year old Danks won’t bounce back to his performance of the previous two seasons, characterized by an ERA around 3.70, 210 innings pitched, 150-160 K’s, and double-digit wins.

Folks, we’re not looking at a staff ace here, but slotted into the number four or five spot in your rotation, you should do just fine.

9)  Brandon Morrow:  Weren’t we here last year?  Yes, many writers, including yours truly, predicted Morrow would have a breakout year in 2011.  The only thing that got broken, however, by those who owned him last year, though, were many fantasy owners team ERA’s and WHIP’s.

Still, Morrow struck out 203 batters last year in just 179 innings, averaging a league-best 10.2 K’s / 9 innings.  Clearly, the stuff is there for Morrow to take the next step up to being a fantasy baseball stud.  And after last season’s debacle (11 wins, 4.72 ERA), many owners will be spooked away from him.  Let him drop as far as you reasonably can, but don’t be afraid to grab him if it becomes clear the other owners are avoiding him like the plague.

David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays doing first ...

Image via Wikipedia

10)  David Price:  How does David Price make it onto a sleepers list?  Didn’t he finish 2nd in Cy Young voting in 2010?  Yes, and that’s exactly why he earns the number #10 spot on this list.  The 2011 model of David Price finished the year with a dismal 12-13 record (down from 19-6 in ’10) while pitching for a very good team.  His ERA rose from 2.72 to a more pedestrian 3.49.

Now the good news.  Price actually improved his walk ratio last year from 3.4 down to 2.5 / 9 innings, and his K rate rose slightly from 8.1 to 8.7 / 9 innings as well.  Price should finish the year as one of the top ten pitchers in the Majors, but he might not be drafted as such.  Therefore, if you play your cards right, you could land a #1 level pitcher in a round typically associated with #2 starting pitchers.

Next up in this series, Fantasy Baseball Sleepers, 2012:  The Hitters

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