In April, I posted an article with my picks for the playoff teams and predictions for the major awards. In the interest of transparency I figure it is worth reviewing my effort. I am learning more and more with my dive into writing about baseball that I am going to be wrong quite often because, well, baseball involves a lot of random variation. That is not intended as an excuse, it is just the way it is. You can’t predict baseball.
Enough preamble, let’s get to the review.
Here is what I predicted to happen in April:
Here is what actually happened:
Out of the 10 playoff teams I was correct about 5. Well, sort of correct. I had the Athletics as a division winner and they ended up grabbing the second wild card, so saying I was correct on that selection is playing it a little fast and loose. But I need something to be proud of here. Neither of my World Series picks made the series, as the Nationals lost in the Division Series, and the Rays did not even make the playoffs!
Along with the Rays, my Red Sox, Rangers and Reds picks were really off. All of these teams were in the bottom third of the standings and none of them had more than 77 wins. Ugly.
Now, all was not terrible with my preseason team predictions. One team for which I seemed to actually have some insight was the Blue Jays. The Jays received a fair amount of preseason attention as a potential playoff team, but I was not as confident. I was tasked with writing the Beyond the Box Score team preview for the Jays, here is the conclusion from that piece:
The Jays went 83-79 and finished third in the American League East. The middling season bit was not entirely right. The Jays had more of a tale of two halves season. They looked really good in the first half, but then played poorly in the second half, ultimately missing the playoffs again. The salt in the wound is that with the Royals making the playoffs this year, the Jays now hold the longest playoff drought among teams in the four major North American sports leagues. For a graphical representation of the Jays’ season, here is the track of their playoff odds (from FanGraphs):
The winners of the awards have yet to be revealed, and won’t be until well into November. However, that does not matter much for evaluating my selections. I missed on every pick, except (probably) for AL MVP, which was the easiest one to predict.
Let’s walk through each of my picks and look at the most likely winners given the benefit of the season being complete. Hopefully I don’t also get the likely winners part wrong.
My pick: Mike Trout (OF, Angels)
Likely winner: Mike Trout (OF, Angels)
He should have won each of the last two years (10.0 fWAR and 10.4 fWAR). His 7.8 fWAR lead the big leagues again this season. He is the best all around player in the game and the voters seem to be finally recognizing it. That, or they were just not distracted by a meaningless Triple Crown race this year.
My pick: Bryce Harper (OF, Nationals)
Likely winner: Clayton Kershaw (SP, Dodgers) or Andrew McCutchen (OF, Pirates)
Harper’s season was derailed by injuries that kept him out of the lineup (only 100 games) or limited his production when he was on the field (.273/.344/.423; 338 wOBA). His slashline is still above average but there is little doubt he can be better. Projections for next season have his line as: .277/.362/.488, .370 wOBA. He is only 22 years old, so he has a lot of major league baseball ahead of him. Finally healthy, he performed very well this postseason, flashing his incredible power.
In any case, the NL MVP award will go to Kershaw if voters are fine with giving a pitcher both the Cy Young and the MVP. His performance this year was incredible: 1.77 ERA, 1.81 FIP, 27.8 K-BB%, 7.2 fWAR. If not, ‘Cutch should get it: .314/.410/.542; .412 wOBA and 6.8 fWAR.
AL Cy Young
My pick: David Price (SP, Rays)
Likely winner: Felix Hernandez (SP, Mariners) or Corey Kluber (SP, Cleveland)
I was close on this one. David Price was absolutely a top-5 pitcher in the AL this season: 3.26 ERA, 2.78 FIP, 23.1 K-BB%, 6.1 fWAR. He was just not as good as King Felix or Corey Kluber. About a month ago at Beyond the Box Score I made the case for Kluber, and really not much has changed in my thinking about this award. I think Kluber should get the award to recognize that he had the best season, but I suspect voters will lean toward what they know and pick Felix.
NL Cy Young
My pick: Jose Fernandez (SP, Marlins)
Likely winner: Clayton Kershaw (SP, Dodgers)
Fernandez made 8 starts before his elbow exploded, adding him to the list of pitchers needing Tommy-John surgery. He was great in those 8 starts: 2.44 ERA, 2.18 FIP, 27.8 K-BB%, 1.6 fWAR, but 8 starts is obviously not enough to be considered for the Cy Young award. Kershaw has a chance to win both the Cy Young and MVP. He threw one of the most dominant no-hitters of all time, had an incredible scoreless innings streak, and generally made opposing hitters look silly all year. I will be surprised if he is not the unanimous winner.
AL Rookie of the Year
My pick: Xander Bogaerts (SS, Red Sox)
Likely winner: Jose Abreu (1B, White Sox)
I was way off here. Bogaerts struggled a bit this year, to the point that the Red Sox were seemingly unsure of what they had at shortstop. Abreu on the other hand came over from Cuba and mashed major league pitching to the tune of: .317/.383/.581, .411 wOBA and 5.3 fWAR. He hit 36 home runs, leading to his .264 ISO, which is actually higher than the batting average of 60 qualified hitters this season! If the Yankee’s Masahiro Tanaka did not miss time with injury he would have been in this race, but he did, so he is not.
NL Rookie of the Year
My pick: Oscar Taveras (OF, Cardinals)
Likely winner: Billy Hamilton (OF, Reds) or Jacob DeGrom (SP, Mets)
2014 was a rough season for Taveras. There are numerous reports that he is in the doghouse of his manager and teammates for a lack of work ethic and attitude. I cannot comment on any of that. I can comment on his onfield performance, which was not great. He had a 67 wRC+, was a below average baserunner and below average outfielder; not the makings of an award winning season. Billy Hamilton was a great defender, below average bat and had lots of stolen bases (56). But he got caught stealing a lot (23) and did not get on base enough (.292 OBP), so his contributions were limited. Jacob DeGrom had a breakout year, posting a 2.69 ERA, 2.67 FIP, 17.9 K-BB% and 3.0 fWAR.
Managers of the Year
Here is what I said in April:
This is a silly award. It usually goes to the manager whose team played at a surprising level, bounced back from a difficult season, or exceled in its first year under new management. I am going with my expected World Series representatives: Joe Maddon (Rays) in the AL and rookie manager Matt Williams (Nationals) in the NL.
I suspect I was right in picking Matt Williams, although Bruce Bochy might get considered for the fact that the Giants cobbled together a playoff appearance. Over in the American League there is no doubt this award will go to Buck Showalter of the Orioles. Nobody picked them to win the division this year and they did so easily. This failure to pick the Orioles by pundits will get explained away by lauding how great a job Showalter did this year. I don’t mean to suggest that he did not do a good job, his team won and that is great. I am just not sure how much of that can accurately be attributed to his role as manager.
To wrap this up, I suppose the glass half full analysis of my picks and predictions for this year is that it is good I did not wager any gummy bears on my selections.