How was your season? Ours was pretty good—a Draft Champions win, some in-the-money finishes, and our proudest achievement: 7th overall (and first in our 15-team league and among Fangraphs scribes after a bitter struggle for preeminence with Shelly Verougstraete) in The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational, where the elite meet to tweet and compete.
Our Bold Predictions, however, weren’t so great. That’s how it is when you confine yourself, as we do and did, to players who will cost no more than a dollar. We wonder, as we always do, how our results would compare to anyone else’s ten-cheap-player picks. We like to think we’d be competitive, but who knows? Let’s do the post-mortem:
Really Bad Predictions
—Blake Swihart. Our thesis was that Swihart proved last year that he can hit major-league pitching, or at least the right-handed variant thereof, and needed only a full and fair opportunity to do so. That opportunity came shortly after the start of the season, when the Red Sox, who didn’t need him, DFA’d him and then traded him to the Diamondbacks, who planned to use him in a utility role. We were thrilled. Over the next month, however, the D’backs gave him about 70 plate appearances, to which he responded with a .136/.186/.273 slash line. Then he hurt his oblique, vanished for six weeks, and was banished to Albuquerque, where he was just as bad: a .683 OPS, among the worst in the PCL. Swihart passed through waivers unclaimed, so the D’backs still have him. It’s just possible that his season was so thoroughly compromised by injuries that they’ll give him another shot, but we’re not going to.
—Touki Toussaint. It was clear in the pre-season that the Braves had a bunch of good young starting pitchers. We thought Toussaint was one of them. So, apparently, did the Braves, until they gave him a start and he gave them 7 earned runs in less than two innings. After that, he spent some time in the majors as a long reliever, where he wasn’t horrible, and some time in the minors as a starter, where he was. We don’t know what happened, and neither, apparently, does anyone else.
—Tanner Anderson. This one, at least, we were tentative about. Smitten by Anderson’s pitch assortment and his fine spring training, we speculated that the A’s would plug him into their rotation before long and be glad they did. The A’s had the same notion, of which they were disabused after five starts and a 6.04 ERA. Then he went back to the minors and—we are starting to detect a pattern here—was even worse.
Bad But Not Catastrophic Predictions
—CC Sabathia. We thought he had something left, and he did. Through the first half of the season, this one was looking spot-on—some innings, some wins, some K’s, and a decent ERA and WHIP. Then he got (re)injured and really showed his age.
—Pablo Lopez. How you feel about Lopez’s 2019 depends largely on whether you had him on your active roster on May 10th. Let’s relive that nightmare: The Marlins are facing the Mets at Citi Field. Eight batters into the game, Lopez has given up seven runs, and the only out he’s gotten is Jeff McNeil’s failed attempt to go from first to third on a single. People are starting to get the idea that he might not have his best stuff today. Don Mattingly nonetheless leaves him in the game for another 2 2/3 innings, during which he gives up 3 more runs. Other than that game, Lopez’s first half wasn’t bad, and he showed signs of getting untracked, but then hurt his shoulder in mid-June. He came back two months later and was intermittently effective—in other words, largely ineffective–in seven starts. Hmmm…so maybe this was a catastrophic prediction too. Still, we’ll probably give him another chance next season.
—Austin Hays. We want partial credit for this one. Hays can really hit, and is probably a better outfielder than anyone else currently on the Orioles’ roster. We opined that the Orioles would quickly discover that Cedric Mullins, the incumbent center fielder back in April, can’t hit, and so it proved. But we thought they’d call up Hays to remedy the situation. For one reason and another, they didn’t get around to doing so until September, whereupon he did even better than we thought he’d do (.309/.373/.574). Hope you picked him up for the stretch run; we didn’t, but we’re all over him for 2020.
So-So Prediction (You Got Your Money Back)
—Chad Pinder. We thought he’d take a step up from his not-bad 2018. In fact, he took a half-step backward. He was still an acceptable fill-in at three different positions.
—Ji-Man Choi. What happened with Choi was, for a change, what we thought would happen: Two weeks into the season, he qualified as a first baseman in most leagues, thereby unclogging your UT position, and proceeded to do pretty much what he did in 2018 (.261/.363/.459), except in about 500 plate appearances (we envisioned 400) rather than 200. For a $1 corner infielder, nothing to complain about.
—Avisail Garcia. As we pointed out in the preseason, the market’s distaste for him puzzled us, since his 2017 was spectacular and his 2018 was compromised by injuries. He wound up posting numbers that were almost exactly midway between the spectacular and the compromised, and certainly enough to make you glad you got him for a buck, if you did.
—Brian McCann. This one looks kind of humdrum until you remember that (1) we play in, and make predictions for, two-catcher leagues and (2) even in two-catcher leagues, McCann wasn’t being drafted much. We viewed his struggles in 2018 as largely attributable to injury, and envisioned he’d get 275 plate appearances with 10 home runs, 30 runs and RBIs, and a .250 average. What he in fact got was 316/12/28/45/.249. Too bad we can’t do that every time.
Looking back over our non-Bold (but still Cheap) Predictions, we see we made some really good ones (Hunter Dozier, Tom Murphy), some pretty good ones (Victor Reyes, Chris Bassitt), and some mortifying ones (Dylan Covey, Justin Bour). Better than anyone else’s? We don’t know, and we’d like to. See you in January, if not before.
The Birchwood Brothers are two guys with the improbable surname of Smirlock. Michael, the younger brother, brings his skills as a former Professor of Economics to bear on baseball statistics. Dan, the older brother, brings his skills as a former college English professor and recently-retired lawyer to bear on his brother's delphic mutterings. They seek to delight and instruct. They tweet when the spirit moves them @birchwoodbroth2.