Because I believe in accountability, and/or because on the whole I think they worked out surprisingly well, here’s a look at how some random predictions I made just before opening day turned out:
- Justin Upton will emerge as one of the top players in the National League. I’m thinking something like CHONE’s rather optimistic projection, but with many more homers (maybe 35?). Well, not off to a great start. Upton took a huge step back this year, to .273/.356/.442 with about half as many HR as I called for above. He’ll play most of 2011 as a 23 year old, though, so maybe 2011 is his year.
- Those punchless, defense-first Red Sox will finish in the top three in the AL in runs. Ding ding! There isn’t a player on Boston’s roster who didn’t miss at least 190 games this year due to injury — true story — and yet that team that everyone said wasn’t going to score enough runs with Theo’s crazy “run prevention” theory scored the second most runs in the AL — well behind the Yankees, but comfortably ahead of the Rays. The Sox’ only real non-injury-related problem was that they still haven’t figured out how to defend the walk; Sox pitchers issued 580 free passes, most in the AL.
- There will be at least one 90-game winner in every division except the AL West (someone in the much-maligned AL Central will win at least 92 — you can probably guess which one I’d bet on). No team will win 100. This was a good one. There was a 90-game winner in the West — the Rangers got exactly that — but there was at least one in every other division too, and they topped out at the Phillies’ 97. The Twins, who people generally had pegged for 80-85 wins, ended up with 94, pretty close to my expected 92. I’m not a terribly optimistic fan by nature, so I’m pretty proud of that one.
- Adrian Gonzalez will be in a new uniform by July 15. But it won’t be the Red Sox or Yankees’. Oops! On April 2, I, like most everyone else, didn’t see the Padres doing anything remotely like what they ended up doing (I did hop on board just a month later)
- Joe Mauer will be the best player in the American League for the fourth year in the last five, but will fail to win his second MVP because his HR total will be roughly half of 2009’s 28. Chase Utley will be in the NL’s best three but finish out of the top 8 (and well behind his vastly inferior teammate Ryan Howard), like always. That’s more bitterness than a prediction, isn’t it? Anyway, it was wrong. Both Mauer and Utley were phenomenal, but (a) there were more competing standout performances in the AL this year than there have been in most of the past several, and (b) Utley missed almost 50 games (but still put up over 5 WAR). I haven’t looked yet, but I’m betting I’d still put both of them in my top ten.
- Speaking of Howard, he’ll fall short of 40 homers (say, 38 or 39) for the first time since 2005. Right about that one! It hasn’t been mentioned much since the Phillies have been tearing it up, but Howard hit just 31 HR and had perhaps his worst year both offensively and defensively in 2010, managing just 1.9 WAR per FanGraphs (through yesterday). The good news is that the Phillies have him for 37 more years and eighty-two billion dollars.
- Adam Dunn will be a DH someplace by the trade deadline, thereby restoring order to the universe. Cristian Guzman will be a starting 2B someplace else. I still don’t get why Dunn isn’t a DH, and I think it’ll happen this offseason, but this one was obviously wrong. Dunn (who may have missed 200 strikeouts only because he was pinch run for in the late innings on Sunday) has had some of the worst defensive years in history in the previous couple, and it’s hard to believe he’s suddenly transformed himself into only kind of bad. He’s just got to be more valuable to an AL team. Guzman, of course, did get traded, but his play this year didn’t warrant a starting job anywhere.
- The Twins will eventually panic and make a trade for a Proven Closer. I won’t be happy. I was right on all counts here, except that I don’t know if you would call it “panic.” I definitely wasn’t happy, though the early returns were good.
- Ricky Nolasco will post a lower ERA than Johan Santana. Nolasco outpitched Santana (again) according to FIP and xFIP, but the ERA just wasn’t even close (again).
- Tim Hudson will pitch more innings than Jake Peavy; Rich Harden will pitch more innings than Ben Sheets or Brandon Webb. With 229 innings, Hudson pitched more than Peavy, Sheets and Webb combined (226). But Sheets (119) did outlast Harden (92). So I’ll call that one about two-thirds of a win.
- David Wright, David Ortiz and Adrian Beltre will each outhomer Jason Bay.Wright, 29; Ortiz, 32; Beltre, 28; Bay, 6. Hell, the three all hit more home runs than Bay did home runs plus doubles (26). Obviously I didn’t foresee the complete disappearance of Bay’s power with the Mets, but the other three’s performance does validate the point I was trying to make — those three maligned (former?) power hitters each did about the most one could fairly have expected Bay to have done for the Red Sox.
So there it is. Really, I got only about half of them right, but I’m kind of proud of some of the ones I did get right, especially 2, 8, the first part of 10 and 11. I’m sure I made many other predictions through the course of the year that were just comically wrong, but that’s not the point right now…