Alex Chamberlain’s 2017 Bold Predictions – A Review

I talked a big game about my bold predictions this year spawning from research. Like, instead of just being gut instinct types of things, or just being bold for the sake of being bold. Truth of it is I didn’t do as much research as I would’ve liked. My rotisserie-league drafts were not particularly strong, and while I hit the trifecta (1st, 2nd, 3rd) in my three home leagues (I live modestly), I could simply feel my drafts, as well as my bold predictions, were inferior relative to what I hoped they’d be.

You probably don’t care, though, so this is all filler text, for all intents and purposes. You want to cut to the chase. I don’t blame you! Let me drag this out a bit longer. I’ll review each prediction from March with their corresponding midseason “probabilities” of being correct from July before finally reaching a verdict. I don’t remember half the predictions and I honestly have no idea how I’ll do until I reach the end.

1) Alex Dickerson is a top-30 outfielder. (Midseason odds: 0%)


Injured all year, so we’ll have to wait another year to see if the contact gains are legitimate. If so, I maintain he’s a 20/10/.270 threat — although that’s a fringe starting outfielder in standard leagues these days.

Verdict: Wrong (0 for 1)

2) Mike Montgomery is a top-50 starting pitcher. (Midseason odds: 1%)

He ended the season 56th on ESPN’s Player Rater among starting pitcher-eligible pitcherseligible, because Raisel Iglesias and Chad Green qualify as starting pitchers, too, but didn’t start a single game. That makes Montgomery the 54th-best starting pitcher of 2017, which is, frankly, stunning. Or maybe there’s more to this than I’m giving Montgomery credit for.

His strikeout-to-walk ratio (K/BB) of 2.42 in 2016, while respectable but nothing to wring home about, slipped to a very weak 1.82 K/BB this year. Yet his varied and deep arsenal of ground-ball pitches might be the key to his excellent results despite subpar plate discipline outcomes. Three-hundred-and-twenty-plus innings into his career, his ERA leads his xFIP and FIP by 69 and 70 points, respectively, thanks almost exclusively to a .269 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). His average exit velocity (EV), per Statcast/Baseball Savant, ranked 41st of 228 pitchers (82nd percentile) with at least 190 batted ball events (BBE). His average EV lagged on ground balls, but that’s harmless; his grounder-inducing ways helped his average EV on fly balls and line drives rank 22nd of 228, just inside the top 10% of pitchers. No surprise this correlates with a top-13 rate of barrels per BBE and per plate appearance.

Like an inverse, less-good Matt Cain (RIP from MLB), Montgomery’s batted ball profile might be enough to survive a new order that measures success by the stuff (namely, baserunner supprsesion) he lacks. He’s not as good as I thought, and he’s better than I thought.

Verdict: Wrong (0 for 2)

3) Tyler Saladino is a top-15 second baseman. (Midseason odds: 1%)

No.

Verdict: Wrong (0 for 3)

4) David Phelps is a top-60 starting pitcher. (Midseason odds: 0%)

Not a single game started, and a 3.40 ERA is incredibly subpar for a middle reliever these days. The Marlins held true to their word, so I don’t expect to see Phelps stretch out anytime soon.

Verdict: Wrong (0 for 4)

5) Michael Conforto is a top-40 outfielder. (Midseason odds: 95%)

Ninety-five percent. I gave this one 95%.

Forty-ninth. Conforto came 49th.

The shoulder. My god, the shoulder. He might not even be ready for Opening Day.

Conforto was Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger and Rhys Hoskins and Matt Olson because they were all Judge and Bellinger and Hoskins and Olson. (Well, only kind of before Judge. Maybe not at all. I don’t know. Never mind.) He is very good at baseball. The shoulder is a legitimate concern, but it’s hard not to see him as a value if/when he goes after guys with similar profiles such as Domingo Santana. We’ll see. He might not be healthy for Opening Day, so a discount may be warranted regardless.

Verdict: Wrong (0 for 5)

6) Tony Zych saves 10 games. (Midseason odds: 1%)

No. And an incredibly uninspiring 40-plus innings has made me forget all about the 32 innings from 2015-16 that made me dream. Lesson learned, ya big idiot: don’t dream on such small sample sizes.

One save, though.

Verdict: Wrong (0 for 6)

7) Chris Davis (significantly) out-earns Giancarlo Stanton. (Midseason odds: 1%)

Just take me out back and put me out of my misery.

Although, hold on — let me get on my soapbox here for half a minute. Guys who touted Stanton for his potential had no idea the kind of mechanical change he’d make to his swing that would unlock his true power potential. We can talk about “upside” all day, but his upside, given the hitter he was prior to 2017, was effectively capped. Almost 850 games into his career, we all wished he would turn into the hitter he was in 2017, but dreaming on it in the state in which previously existed was more foolish than wise.

With that said, Stanton is every bit the monster we wished he’d be.

With that said, there’s no one primed for more regression than Stanton. His percentage of batted balls of 95 mph or greater from 2015 to 2017, chronologically: 52.9%, 48.7%, 45.5%. Average EV: 95.9 mph, 93.9 mph, 91.9 mph. History tells us he’ll regress. Based on the metrics, I don’t trust his barrel frequency either.

Verdict: Wrong (0 for 7)

8) Matt Shoemaker (significantly) out-earns Danny Duffy. (Midseason odds: 50%)

Shoemaker didn’t pitch again after June 14. Duffy was a bit better on a per-start basis, primarily because he allowed half as many home runs per fly ball. But the K’s, the walks, the ground balls — it was all generally the same, and I wouldn’t hesitate a second to pass on Duffy to grab Shoemaker later. Not that Shoemaker is a high-quality starter. I guess I mean more that I would pass on Duffy at probably any average draft position (ADP) for a different starting pitcher.

Verdict: Wrong (0 for 8)

9) Austin Barnes is a top-15 catcher. (Midseason odds: 80%)

NOOOOOOOOO. SIXTEENTH. NOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooooooooooooooo

Let’s be real: top-15 was pretty bold. And all he needed to do was crack top-30 for me to be vindicated. Top-30 essentially means he’s worth starting in an NL-only league despite being a backup catcher. Top-15? He’s a starter in almost any format.

Sixteenth. So close.

Barnes is a lot like J.T. Realmuto; honestly, he might be better. And, like clockwork, Realmuto and his five-category production nestled himself comfortably into the position’s #4 spot.

#FreeAustinBarnes

Verdict: Wrong (0 for 9)

10) Aaron Nola is a top-10 starting pitcher. (Midseason odds: 1%)

Once Nola went down with an injury, this prediction became a long-shot. As of July 15, a week after my midseason review of my predictions, Nola was a top-40 starter, meaning he was a bit lower prior to that. Finishing 26th is pretty good given how much ground he lost. It doesn’t matter what indicator you use, but I’ll name them all anyway: among qualified starters, he ranked 10th in wins above replacement (WAR) per start (and 12th in WAR overall despite barely qualifying for the ERA title). His FIP and xFIP ranked 9th and 12th, respectively. A deserved run average (DRA) disciple will tell you he was only half as good as we think (11% better than average instead of 22% better by xFIP). But by that measure, he was still better than Zack Godley, Jose Quintana, and Marcus Stroman, to name a few.

Verdict: Wrong (0 for 10)

* * *

Sigh. Zero for 10. Three almosts, but almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

Welcome to the offseason.

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Currently investigating the relationship between pitcher effectiveness and beard density. Biased toward a nicely rolled baseball pant. Reigning FSWA Baseball Writer of the Year and 5-time award finalist. Featured in Lindy's Sports' Fantasy Baseball magazine (2018, 2019). Now a Tout Wars competitor.

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With that said, there’s no one primed for more regression than Stanton. His percentage of batted balls of 95 mph or greater from 2015 to 2017, chronologically: 52.9%, 48.7%, 45.5%. Average EV: 95.9 mph, 93.9 mph, 91.9 mph. History tells us he’ll regress. Based on the metrics, I don’t trust his barrel frequency either.
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Don’t know that I agree with that. Fact is, there isn’t much history on EV at all and it isn’t clear that higher is always better since it often comes at the expense of more K’s. Yes the top 10 leaderboard included Judge and Nelson Cruz and they were both fantastic, but it also includes Joey Gallo and Miguel Sano and Khris Davis. While those guys are good hitters, they are not elite hitters.

Meanwhile, most of the elite hitters check in quite a bit further down the EV list – Trout, Votto, Freeman, Blackmon, Turner. I’ve always assumed that is partly because those guys can cut down and get the ball in play when needed (thus lower EV), but also know when to feast on good pitches and crank it up on those. So they still have very good EV, but not elite EV. But because they aren’t piling up large numbers of K’s, their overall productivity is elite.

A significant part of Stanton’s gains this year came by cutting down his K’s from upper 20s% to 23.6% while maintaining a strong BB% and posting a strong .281/.376/.631 line. Obviously a .350 ISO is a huge boost, but his BABIP was .288 which isn’t much different than the last 2 years. Just by avoiding K’s, he was able to boost BA (and thus OBP and SLG) by about 40 points over the last couple years even before you account for the huge ISO boost.