Mike Podhorzer’s 2015 Bold Predictions – A Review

The 2016 regular season is officially in the books and that means that for the next couple of months, it’s review time! I published a boatload of predictions and player lists in the preseason and I plan to recap every single one of them. First, I’ll start with perhaps the most enjoyable one, the bold predictions. Refresh your memory with the full explanations behind my predictions. Typically, I consider getting just three of the 10 correct to be a job well done. Let’s see how I did.

1. Starling Marte hits 20 homers

Ohhhhh soooooooooo close! After hitting six homers in April and then another four in May, Marte had another four months to merely double his total to hit my bold prediction. But instead, he hit one fewer the rest of the way than he did over those first two months. Sad face. Once again, his batted ball distance was superb, settling in at nearly 306 feet, good for 12th in baseball.

This was clearly a “spirit of the prediction” win though, even if I won’t officially count it as a win. His HR/FB rate did actually surge, jumping by 50% from his first two full seasons, which is precisely what I was banking on happening. Unfortunately, he got grounder happy and his fly ball rate sunk to a career low. It’s hard to clear the 20-homer barrier when just about 23% of your balls in play are hit in the air.

0 for 1

2. Allen Webster strikes out 160 batters

The fun thing about recapping these bold predictions is seeing how hilarious some of them have turned out. Webster didn’t even face 160 batters (he faced 142) in the Majors this year, let alone strike out that many. And he was terrible in his 31 innings, punching out just 12% of the batters he faced. His fastball velocity has tumbled and he obviously no longer has the bright future I thought he did.

0 for 2

3. Khris Davis bats .290

Based on his strong batted ball profile, my xBABIP equation (2015 FG+) suggested that Davis possesses serious upside this year. Unfortunately, he hit a lower rate of line drives while popping up more often, and his BABIP barely moved. Furthermore, his strikeout rate jumped, which made it even more difficult for him to come anywhere close to my .290 target.

0 for 3

4. Drew Hutchison posts a sub-3.50 ERA

Oy vey. I wasn’t the only one who was optimistic about Hutchison this year and we were all mistaken. Of course, no one could have predicted that he would finish with a .342 BABIP, the highest mark among starters with at least 100 innings pitched, or a suppressed LOB% that ranked third lowest among that same group of pitchers. I can’t say it was totally bad fortune though as he did allow an inflated 24.2% LD%, which was ninth highest. His strikeout rate also dipped, as his once exciting slider just didn’t induce the swings and misses it had. I’d still be happy to draft him in the reserve round of 12-team mixed leagues next year and think he will have strong profit potential in AL-Only leagues as he should come quite cheaply and still has solid upside.

0 for 4

5. Brandon Moss swats 35 homers

This is not going well. I thought the move to left-handed power friendly Progressive Field would help Moss hop over the 30 home run plateau, but even with the Indians he wasn’t quite on the pace needed. And then the trade to the Cardinals resulted in reduced playing time and he no longer had any chance. Now at age 32, I’m not sure he’ll even have a starting job next year.

0 for 5

6. Julio Teheran finishes outside the top 40 starting pitchers in dollar value

While predictions that involve rankings are sometimes difficult to evaluate given that every source calculates slightly different results, Teheran entered yesterday’s games as the 56th ranked starting pitcher on my CBS Sports league’s site. It’s enough of a cushion to be confident that he did indeed fall outside the top 40. Figures that my first correct prediction is a negative one. Teheran’s control was off most of the year, while his strikeout rate was down during the first half. The blame could be levied on his inability to get lefties out. They posted a crazy .386 wOBA against him (versus a .257 mark by righties), after a more reasonable .301 mark in 2014. Given how much he outperformed his SIERA in 2014, I’m not all that excited about his rebound and profit potential next year.

1 for 6

7. Justin Smoak belts 25 home runs and bats .260

Here’s one that in spirit was half right, so it may have been slightly beneficial, or perhaps not. I loved Smoak’s move from playing half his games at Safeco Field to a top power park in Toronto, along with an exciting upward trend in his batted ball distance. And in a better park, I expected his BABIP to jump. I was right about his power, as his HR/FB rate actually nearly tripled. Unfortunately, he received just under 300 at-bats, so he simply had no chance to pop 25 homers, even though he gave it his best shot.

However, I was wrong about his BABIP, as it finished right around his league average at just .255. It’s surprising given that his line drive rate topped 20% for the first time since his debut in 2010 and his pop-up rate was just about league average, so wasn’t a real detriment. Perhaps his 48% Pull% is dragging things down, but it still feels like his BABIP should be higher. I don’t know anymore.

1 for 7

8. CC Sabathia reminds us of his glory days and earns top 40 starting pitcher value

If by glory days, I meant his days in 2013 and 2014, then yes indeed, Sabathia reminded us of those days. His knee clearly affected his performance this year, which was likely behind the decline in his strikeout rate. But does a bum knee explain the large discrepancy between his ERA and SIERA? I’m sure the porous Yankees defense had something to do with the .317 BABIP, but he also posted an inflated 16.6% HR/FB rate. My fantasy teams might be better off if he just called it a career, or I’ll be too tempted to bet $1 on him next season in AL Tout Wars.

1 for 8

9. Travis Snider launches 25 long balls that eventually land over the fence

Gosh, this is getting sad. Snider proved that 2014 was actually the fluke and reverted back to his “wait, I used to be a power hitting prospect?” days. He played his way off the Orioles, got picked up by the Pirates in mid-August and proceeded to receive just 28 plate appearances the rest of the way. He hit four homers for the year. Awesome.

1 for 9

10. Josh Donaldson finishes outside the top 5 third basemen in dollar value

Aaaaaand the zinger to end the misery. Heading into yesterday, Donaldson was the fourth most valuable player in fantasy this year. Not fourth most valuable third baseman, fourth most valuable of every single baseball player. Oops, woops, sorry. When I whiff, I tend to whiff spectacularly it seems.

Sure, we all figured his HR/FB rate would increase upon his move to Toronto, similar to my thinking for Smoak. But his mark jumped by about 50%! That’s not all park effects, Donaldson just got better.

I also noted that in 2014, his counting stats were inflated thanks to 695 plate appearances, which wouldn’t happen again. I was right, it didn’t. He actually recorded more plate appearances, totaling 708! That tied for the most in baseball. Russell Martin’s early season slump that dropped him in the order bumped Donaldson up and helped boost that PA total. He somehow managed to lead the American League in runs batted in, despite getting the majority of his plate appearances out of the two-hole. Last, I also thought his 2014 home run increase was aided by an unsustainable FB% surge. His fly ball rate did drop back below 40%, but it remained above his 2013 season.

So I was wildly wrong about Donaldson this year, of course, but there was some real logic behind my opinion, as crazy as it seems now with perfect hindsight!

1 for 10, marking a pathetic year on the bold prediction front

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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Chris Torres
Chris Torres

No worries, all that matters is that you won the Devout Followers of Paul league! Congrats!