Ben Pernick’s 2018 Bold Predictions In Review
Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire
In March, I made my 2018 Bold Predictions. While it could’ve been bolder, in the majority of predictions I was wrong, in some cases laughably wrong. However, you’ll see I did redeem myself with a few solid predictions at the end. But let’s examine what went wrong and how we can learn from it. And let this reaffirm that even if you think bold predictions are “too safe”, nothing is truly safe in a sport where anything can happen and a 28-year-old scrub named Max Muncy can lead the Dodgers in Slugging.
1. Justin Smoak posts a higher wOBA than Eric Hosmer.
Technically, this is a win, because despite being over 50 picks behind Hosmer on most draft boards, Smoak did indeed post a higher wOBA (349) than Hosmer (.309). Still I expected Smoak to do better than hit .242/.350/.457 with 25 HR, although the drop-off wasn’t nearly as bad in OBP formats. But Hosmer’s dropoff was worse, hitting a career-low .253/.322/.398 line with 18 HR. This may have been a Pyrrhic victory, but my point all along was that Hosmer was overrated for reasons that aren’t fantasy-relevant, and that point stands. For 2019, ignore the “intangibles” and contract money and beware the unusually high BABIP.
CORRECT – 1 for 1
2. Christian Yelich fails to surpass 20 Home Runs in 2018
Not only was I totally wrong, it wasn’t even fun to be wrong, since I hate rooting against a player, and losing hurts like shorting a stock before it moons. Although Yelich was great all year, he wasn’t far from a 20 HR pace until he went gangbusters over the last few months and finished 2nd in homers with 36. In fact, he surpassed 20 dingers (21) in just August and September alone, which is insane. At the end of the day, there was never a strong argument for betting against him other than a high GB rate and thinking that his ADP overrated the park switch, although I ignored many numbers trending positively. If I’m going to bet against a player next time, I need to have a LOT more faith in the process than just “going against the grain” like I did here.
WRONG – 1 for 2
3. Texas fails to find a closer, and not one Texas reliever earns double-digit saves
Not only did Texas succeed in finding a closer, they succeeded in finding two. Keone Kela quickly emerged as a viable saves option and had a clear hold on the job with 24 saves before he was traded. After that happened, it didn’t take long afterwards for Jose Leclerc to grab the reins and be one of the most dominant relievers in the second half. It was true that they didn’t have one closer all season, but the situation was far from as messy as I predicted and in fact one of the best sleeper sources for saves. If I’m to bet against a bullpen, it’s going to be due to really hating their relievers’ skills.
WRONG – 1 for 3
4. Ian Kinsler will be a top-10 2nd baseman
This isn’t the first time I’ve bet on a resurgence from an aging player, and not once yet has it panned out for me. Kinsler started the season a total mess and did regain his form in the second half prior to his Red Sox trade, but even in Fenway’s more hitter-friendly confines he just couldn’t hit for enough power, with his HR declining sharply for the third straight year. A season line of .240/301/.380 with 14 Home Runs, 66 R, 48 RBI and 16 SB, while it might not sound awful, ranked as 28th among 2nd baseman on the ESPN player rater. I fell for the Victor Martinez trap of falling in love with a low K rate, but it doesn’t put bread on the table without hard contact, and his Hard% dipped from 37.0% last year to just 29.3% this year. He may be able to play out the string a couple more years, but it may be as a backup.
WRONG – 1 for 4
5. Taijuan Walker is a Top 30 starter
It did turn out that an Arizona pitcher may have gotten a benefit, but it was Corbin, not Walker, who reaped the rewards. Walker got hurt basically right out of the gate, going 0-0 with a 3.58 ERA, 1.538 WHIP and 9 Ks in 13 innings before that forearm soreness that led to Tommy John. I’m definitely going to be more wary of making any bets on injury-prone pitchers, though when it comes to pitchers, everyone is an injury risk. Maybe he would’ve been good, who knows, but either way I take the L here.
WRONG – 1 for 5
6. Robinson Chirinos entering his age 34 season, performs like a Top-10 catcher
This was looking like another laughably wrong prediction, but with the way other catchers performed this year, it just may have won a battle of attrition. Just by virtue of being healthy enough to accrue 360 ABs (426 PA), he did set career highs in HR (18), R (48) RBI (68) and even SB (2), but the low .222 average was still hard to stomach (his .338 OBP made him far more useful in OBP), though it turns out that even a healthy Chirinos just can’t compile enough ABs due to being an old guy playing a physically rigorous position. According to ESPN’s player rater, Chirinos ranked 12th among catchers, but he rated 10th on Yahoo, and if sorting catchers by wRC+ (for catchers with 300+ PA) he ranks 9th. I was only right by being less bold than Dave Cherman on Chirinos, and this is far from a clean victory, but it’s close enough for ska.
CORRECT – 2 for 6
7. Jose Martinez will outproduce Avisail Garcia, nearly 100 picks later
This prediction was based both on my bullishness on Martinez and my bearishness on Garcia, and the bears led me to victory. Nobody expected Avisail to repeat his .330 AVG from 2017 fueled by a.392 BABIP, but I bet most didn’t expect him to hit nearly 100 points lower at just .236/.281/.438 in 2018. Whereas Avisail lost time due to injury. Martinez was facing a roster crunch until the managerial switch. But he produced a much healthier .305/..364/.457 with 17 HR in 534 AB, which was excellent even if less than I hoped for on the power front. That being said, I think he still has more in store and I may double down on an even bolder Martinez prediction for 2019.
CORRECT – 3 for 7
8. Rick Porcello posts a sub-4.00 ERA, sub-1.30 WHIP, plus 185 Ks and 15 Wins.
So close! The sub-4 ERA part of this prediction, didn’t actually happen, thanks to his late season crumble job. However, 3 out of 4 ain’t bad. He was an above average fantasy starter as he logged a 4.28 ERA, 1.176 WHIP, a career-best 190 Ks and 17 Wins (7 Losses). You could make the argument that the numbers he posted would be more valuable than a .3.99 ERA with a 1.29 WHIP, 185 and 15 Wins. Still, even though Nick gave me so much grief for taking Porcello in the last round of last year’s mock draft and didn’t include him in his initial Top 100, I’ll take the L because I set the parameters, and he needed to meet every one of them. I won this in my heart, though.
WRONG – 3 for 8
9. Aledmys Diaz outproduces Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis
I could’ve said Diaz would outproduce Tulo and Travis’s seasons COMBINED and still be correct. In April, the ADPs did indicate Tulo (308) and Travis (332) were pretty far ahead of Diaz (567) who wasn’t even guaranteed regular at-bats and often undrafted. It took Diaz a while to hit his groove thanks to injuries and a revolving door, but in the end he churned out a solid season, with .263/.303/.453 with 18 HR, 55 R, 55 RBI and 3 SB over 422 AB. Meanwhile, Tulo never got healthy enough to play, and Travis just seems to have lost the power/speed combo that made him intriguing, with just 11 HR, 3 SB and a .232/.275/.381 line. Even Solarte, with an ADP of 300, despite a hot start, ultimately hit only .226/.277/.378 with 17 HR. Hey, injuries ruined a few of my predictions here, so I’ll allow it to benefit me here.
CORRECT – 4 for 9
10. Lonnie Chisenhall breaks the 20 HR plateau for the first time and hits .280+
Not even my love of Lonnie Chisenhall-based puns could save him from this one. While in the lineup, he was quietly effective, hitting .321/.394/.452 with 1 HR and 1 SB in 84 AB, but he couldn’t maintain last year’s high barrel rate, and then injuries struck. And once they struck, as was the case in 2017 to a lesser degree, Chiz whiz was donion rings. I honestly never knew calf injuries could be so debilitating, or maybe it’s just Chisenhall’s calves that can’t be trusted. Either way, I won’t again believe in a “Lonnie long balls” resurgence until I see it, and I won’t expect it to last.
WRONG – 4 for 10