Mike Podhorzer’s 2018 Bold Predictions – A Recap

I can’t believe it’s already that time of year again, playoffs and recap season! As usual, I have a ton of reviews to share in the coming months. We’ll start things off with my 2018 bold predictions. I believe four correct is my best showing. Let’s try to beat that. You may also remember that I have a disturbing knack for making bold predictions about players who end up missing a significant portion of the season to injury. Let’s hope that trend has ended.

Greg Bird posts an AB/HR rate of 14

I purposely made this prediction a ratio one to reflect Bird’s foot injury at the time and penchant for every other injury known to man. It didn’t matter. While he did reach 300 plate appearances for the first time, he stunk up the joint. His AB/HR rate was a disappointing 24.7, as his HR/FB rate slipped to below the league average. With Luke Voit becoming an overnight star upon joining the Yankees, Bird suddenly has an uphill battle for playing time next season. I hate to give up on Bird already, but the Yankees’ patience may be running out.

0 for 1

Marwin Gonzalez is worthless in 12-team mixed leagues

Marwin was one of 2017’s biggest surprises, transitioning from utility man and mixed league injury replacement to all-around contributor in even shallow leagues. But I found a host of red flags and he looked like an obvious bust candidate this year. I was right — his wOBA, BABIP, and HR/FB rates all fell back to about his career average as if last year never happened. That’s how it goes more often than not. He still managed to record a career high number of plate appearances, though, which I didn’t expect.

Overall, our auction calculator (which because I ran it last night means it’s missing yesterday’s two games) valued Gonzalez’s stats as being worth a whole $1.10. That seems pretty worthless to me even if technically it’s ever so slightly positive. I’m taking a win, darnnit!

1 for 2

Bradley Zimmer outearns Byron Buxton

Well this turned out be hilarious. I laughed at the Buxton hype and thought Zimmer could perform just as well, if not better. Unfortunately, my injury curse strikes again, as Zimmer struck out a ton en route to just a .270 wOBA before going down with a shoulder injury that required surgery, limiting him to just 114 plate appearances. Similarly, Buxton was God-awful over 94 plate appearances before fracturing his toe. He would never return.

Final dollar value tally:
Zimmer — -$20
Buxton — not included among the top 210 outfielders, the lowest of which was valued at -$24.20, so worse than that

This is the worst win ever.

2 for 3

Joey Gallo hits .240 with 45 homers

The .240 batting average was certainly the bolder portion of this prediction, but ultimately neither of them turned out to be correct. Gallo batted just .206, just barely worse than his already horrible .209 average in 2017, and he also hit one less homer to finish with exactly 40. He’ll likely remain undervalued in OBP leagues as fantasy owners find it difficult to mentally adjust his value away from that terrible average.

2 for 4

Brandon Belt outearns Matt Olson

Shocker, injuries wreak havoc on my bold predictions again. Belt was yet another victim, as injuries limited him to just 456 plate appearances. Though it’s not like he was great when on the field, as his wOBA plummeted to its lowest mark since he debuted in 2011, and his ISO fell to the second lowest mark of his career. I look forward to the day Belt gets out of San Francisco as I’ll be buying all his shares.

I didn’t believe in Olson’s monstrous third of a season last year and figured he’d lost at-bats to southpaws. I was completely wrong about the playing time, as he recorded 660 plate appearances, and even performed acceptably against lefties, posting a .311 wOBA. I was right about his power though, as his HR/FB plunged to less than half of his absurd 2017 mark.

Final dollar value tally:
Belt — -$3.50
Olson — $12.30

2 for 5

Rhys Hoskins finishes as a top 10 overall hitter

See, I don’t automatically assume dramatic regression for the previous season’s surprise stars. Hoskins endured a roller coaster of a season, opening the year like gangbusters with a .423 wOBA, just to follow that up with a meager .247 mark, then get hot again en route to a .450 mark. After, his wOBA remained more stable, fluctuating around the mid-to-high .300 range. I expected both his BABIP and strikeout rate to improve, but I was only right on one of those. Because his HR/FB rate fell more than I figured, his batting average actually declined. I like him very much again for 2019.

Ignoring the games from yesterday, Hoskins finished as the 34th most valuable hitter. Not a bad loss and he probably earned his cost.

2 for 6

Taijuan Walker outearns Robbie Ray

LOL and there’s that injury curse rearing its ugly head AGAIN. UGHHHHH. As I expected, Ray’s luck neutralized and finally his ERA almost exactly matched his SIERA. Walker only ended up starting three games before going under the knife for the dreaded Tommy John surgery. I swear, I think I’ve included a pitcher on these bold predictions every single year that needed TJ surgery.

2 for 7

Sean Manaea strikes out 175 and posts a sub-3.80 ERA

Surprise, surprise, another injury! Manaea’s season was cut short due to a shoulder injury that required surgery, though he did manage to start 27 games and throw 160.2 innings. Sadly, his strikeout rate, which I thought had upside this season, plunged to an unacceptable rate. So, he struck out a pathetic 108 batters. He did hit my ERA prediction though! But he needed lots and lots of batted ball luck, as his SIERA was a far more unsightly 4.46.

2 for 8

Sean Newcomb outearns Jose Berrios

Newcomb looked great through June, as he posted a 3.51 ERA with 97 strikeouts. But things fell apart in the second half as his BABIP fortunes changed. For the season, his control did not take a step forward and his strikeout rate actually fell, so while his ERA finished below 4.00, this wasn’t exactly a positive year.

Berrios was maddeningly inconsistent, but did end up proving the optimists a little more correct than the pessimists. His SwStk% spiked, driving a strikeout rate surge, and actually legitimized his sub-4.00 ERA this time.

Final dollar value tally:
Newcomb — $0.30
Berrios — $8.90

2 for 9

Corey Knebel records 25 or fewer saves

I was pessimistic on Knebel simply because his strikeout rate gains were fueled by a mammoth SwStk% from his fastball. That seemed unsustainable. So what happens? He still manages to post a high, but a bit less high, SwStk% on the pitch, and yet he loses his close job anyway. He ended up finishing with 16 saves, even though his SIERA was the lowest of his career. It’s a perfect example of how relievers are judged on the smallest of samples and the luck metrics could gyrate wildly over that span (like his HR/FB rates that have gone 19.5%, 9.1%, 9.5%, and 20.6% since 2015).

3 for 10

***

Three wins is a solid showing, but those wins weren’t very impressive. It’s about as bad a three win performance as it gets!





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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Anon
3 years ago

Belt was crushing it (well, as much as a lefty in SF can be “crushing” it) before his injury. Lots of speculation that he was playing injured when he came back. I share your optimism on what happens if he were to ever get out of SF, but the guy will be 31 next year and has only managed 500 PA 3 times (& 600 only once). He’s signed for another 3 years and has a partial no-trade which makes trading hi difficult. Alas, I suspect he ends up having a “what if” career.

As to Hoskins, one of my observations of these Bold Predictions columns is that there are a lot of them that are a year early. Love Hoskins going into 2019. . . . .

wubbie075
3 years ago
Reply to  Anon

Unfortunately I am keeping Hoskins again. Because of this fact, he will regress further in the 2019 season. After I let him go after the end of next season, he’ll have his true breakout in the 2020 season.

Anon
3 years ago
Reply to  wubbie075

Appreciate the heads up 🙂

stever20member
3 years ago
Reply to  Anon

the injuries to Belt shouldn’t have come as a big shock. He’s in the last 5 years missed at least 25 games in 4 of the 5 years.

Even without a no trade clause- it’d be tough to move him. 31 years old next year and still owed 51 million for 3 years.

Interesting guy on Baseball Reference for similar hitters. Nick Johnson. I don’t think Belt’s quite THAT injury prone- but Belt isn’t THAT different.

Slappytheclown
3 years ago
Reply to  Anon

While I like Belt, age and contract mean it could be a pretty tough road for him from here on out. Based on the 1b market last year, and the ‘breakouts’ of Aguilar, Voit, Cron and others and continuing presence of players like Adams I don’t see a real active trade market for him. Fortunately for him, his best opportunity at ABs consistently is probably in SF given they really don’t have anyone pushing him out so…status quo next year probably.

Nasty Nate
3 years ago
Reply to  Anon

“well, as much as a lefty in SF can be “crushing” it”

Well…. there once was some guy…

Anon
3 years ago
Reply to  Nasty Nate

Fair point. . . . .