You don’t care about this part! You care about the predictions.
I originally wrote my bold predictions for 2018 here; they arrived late and incomplete, but they arrived in some capacity, and that’s all we can ask for at this point.
I make bold predictions not for the sake of being bold but, rather, (1) using earnest judgments of player abilities and market inefficiencies and (2) to create teachable moments. My better bold predictions include prescient forecasts for Jose Ramirez and Austin Barnes; my worse ones have typically revolved around Giancarlo Stanton and Chris Davis in some capacity.
Let’s see how everything’s going so far.
1) Garrett Cooper is a top-20 first baseman.
This prediction was dead on arrival. Cooper played in four games before hitting the disabled list and missing half the season. I stand by my original sentiments:
- Cooper showed a flash of brilliance at Triple-A in 2017, suggesting he might have finally turned the corner as a too-old has-been prospect
- The Marlins outfield would be mostly lifeless (they’re 5th-worst by wRC+)
- Justin Bour’s clock as a Miami mainstay would be ticking (TBD)
I still like the idea of Cooper simply being a top-20 first baseman in the long run, so I’ll revise the prediction in spirit: Garrett Cooper is a top-20 first baseman from July 6 onward. It doesn’t count if it hits, obviously, but I’ll give myself a nice pat on the back if it does. I think there’s an outside shot he hits .280 with 12 home runs after the All-Star Break.
2) Matt Chapman becomes the Matt to own in Oakland and out-earns Matt Olson.
I still like Chapman a lot; the base skills have generally improved, with higher rates of pulled batted balls (Pull%), hard hits (Hard%), line drives (LD%), and walks (BB%) and lower rates of swinging strikes (SwStr%) and strikeouts (K%) than last year. Unfortunately, his fly ball rate (FB%) has fallen significantly, and he pops up at an unsightly rate — a development not yet detrimental to his batting average, but could be. He’s well-above average on both sides of the bat, producing roughly 5.5 WAR in his first 162 games. The injury set him back about two weeks in terms of counting stats, but it probably won’t matter; he likely won’t catch Olson.
I had compared Olson to Cody Bellinger this preseason as a (1) bona fide power source (3) with somewhat risky base skills (3) who would inevitably regress. All came to fruition. The Bellinger comparison is apt:
cody bellinger's first 162 games of his career: 43 bombs, 135 wRC+
to be clear this is still a matt olson hype post not the other way around https://t.co/mekQACJVwz
— Alex Chamberlain (@DolphHauldhagen) July 11, 2018
The Matts at roughly the same number of career games and plate appearances, and Olson has nearly lapped Chapman in home runs (43 to 24). As it stands, Olson has the power edge. But Chapman’s base skills are better, and I don’t think his power is so much farther behind that Olson is the clear-cut winner long-term. I still like the spirit of this prediction (a lot of spirit talk, Alex, maybe tone it down a bit), but it’s hard to imagine Chapman pulls ahead this year without a Olson injury or deep slump.
3) Derek Fisher out-earns Domingo Santana.
I mean, this could hit, but the whole thing has deviated completely from the spirit (oh, god, no, not more spirit) of the prediction, which was: Santana would continue to rake, and Fisher, with a remarkably similar overall profile, would perform similarly. Perform similarly, they would, but not in the way any of us hoped. It’s not entirely surprising Santana slumped so colossally this year. He was an incredibly risky hitter from the start — more than anyone was willing to admit or acknowledge — relying on line drives and an elevated home run-to-fly ball ratio (HR/FB) to offset large deficits in his fly ball rate and contact skills. If any part of his profile lagged, it would virtually incapacitate him. His HR/FB, which hovered at an astronomical almost 30% for his first 1,000+ plate appearances, fell almost two-thirds through the first 10 weeks of 2018. It did him in. I wouldn’t quit on Santana in the long-term. It’s hard to believe prodigious power vanished overnight from the bat of a 25-year-old. But now Santana owners understand the territory that comes with his outlier skill set.
Fisher, well… in all fairness to him, we didn’t see nearly enough of him to make a proper judgment (the outcomes skew more negatively than they should). Like clockwork (and like Santana), he showed massive power and a low-launch-angle Swiss-cheese swing. He’s not a true-talent 45%-strikeout guy; he actually has pretty good plate discipline, although mostly because he might be too passive. All told, 2018 won’t be his year, but maybe 2019 will.
Whoever’s back up first and for longer will take this one, probably.
4) Madison Bumgarner, once he returns from the disabled list, is not a top-20 starter on a per-start basis.
I’ve got a longer post discussing Bumgarner coming soon. Until then, I leave you with this Tweet:
in case you were wondering if falling off a dirtbike might have broken madison bumgarner…
4/4/16 – 4/19/17 (pre-injury): 10.4%
7/15/17 – today (post-injury): 5.7%
2018 alone: 4.2%
since returning from injury: 4.18
— Alex Chamberlain (@DolphHauldhagen) July 13, 2018
I warned in Bumgarner’s player page caption this year this might happen. The problem with this analysis now is a second injury both punctuated his 2018 season and potentially obscured the effects of the dirtbike accident last year. I don’t buy the broken finger as significantly contributing to his legitimately awful peripherals through his first eight starts this year; I’m still sold on the shoulder as the culprit. Bumgarner is a ticking time bomb whose fuse may be just long enough to guide him safely through your fantasy playoffs — anyone can outperform their peripherals for a half a season — but it’s a risky proposition. Sell high.
5) Miles Mikolas out-earns Luke Weaver.
There’s no need to rehash too much of this. This Tweet inspired the prediction and, peripherally, this post, and this unrelated post inspired this other post. I pegged Mikolas for something like 22% strikeouts, 6% walks, and 48% ground balls; I had Weaver closer to 21% strikeouts, 7% walks, 42% grounders. I pretty much nailed the Weaver projection, trusting that his lackluster whiff rate was a leading indicator of a significantly lower strikeout rate.
I whiffed pretty hard on Mikolas, though. Fact of the matter is everything was a little more conservative, a little tighter, than I expected: fewer strikeouts, but also fewer walks, and absolutely stupid-good command. Among 80 qualified starters, he ranks 15th in chased pitches (O-Swing%) and 20th in stolen strikes (in-zone pitches not swung at, something in which Aaron Nola and Kyle Hendricks have dominated for the last three years), resulting in hitters being incredibly off-balance against him.
There’s reason to suspect regression looming for his 2.79 ERA, especially in light of his 4.00 SIERA. He has above-average everything right now, from his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) to his strand rate (LOB%) and HR/FB rate. It’s possible, though, that Mikolas’ can suppress all the potentially damaging luck-based factors of the game. He limits hits to the pull side (Pull%), and he induces an admirable amount of soft contact (Soft%). A lot is happening in conjunction to suggest he could maintain a lower BABIP and higher strand rate, two things for which SIERA does not account. He’s outstripping his SIERA, sure, but perhaps by not quite as big a margin as it seems.