November 17, 2011
Setting the Line: Final Results
Last spring in this space I introduced a contest entitled “Setting The Line,” wherein I selected two key players from each American League and National League team, set a benchmark for what their 2011 season might produce in a given metric, and invited participants to select whether each player would score Over or Under that line. Now that the season is over and we are into awards season, it’s time to announce a winner. By a landslide, the most prescient prognosticator this year was Matthew Kenerly, who ran down Rex Babiera in the home stretch by choosing the correct side of the line on 39 of 50 players. No one else had more than 37 correct, so Matthew showed himself to be head-and-shoulders above the crowd and has our permission to proclaim himself the wisest of all BP readers, a title I’m sure will earn him due deference during comments section discussions throughout the coming year. Less importantly, Matthew has won himself a free copy of Baseball Prospectus 2012 with as many author signatures as I can manage to round up this spring. Well done, Matthew.
As is often the case, the Wisdom of Crowds also performed admirably, with the majority of entries making the correct choice 36 times. Pitchers and hitters were equally difficult to predict, with the groupthink entry finding the right answer on 60 percent of both groups. Details unfold below:
Vernon Wells did manage to hit slightly more than one homer per million dollars earned, though the more pertinent question for the Angels might have been whether he would walk more than once per million (no, he didn’t). Trevor Cahill was well ahead of his line at midseason, having posted a 3.28 FRA at that point, but he collapsed in the second half. Brandon Webb never made it to the mound in Arlington, but it turned out the Rangers didn’t need him.
Our readers collectively pegged nine of the ten lines in the AL Central, succumbing only to irrational exuberance in the case of former top prospect Delmon Young, who continues to be more of a free-swinger than Bob Crane. No one took me up on the crazy proposition that Scott Baker would earn more VORP than Zack Greinke, and they were right not to—but not necessarily for the reasons you’d expect. Baker outperformed Greinke in ERA (3.14 to 3.83), FRA (3.55 to 3.58), and matched him in Opponent TAv (.246) despite pitching in the DH league, though Greinke lapped Baker in FIP (2.95 to 3.48). Mostly, though, Greinke’s 37 extra innings pitched made the difference in VORP. Greinke is still the better pitcher, of course, but it’s closer than most people think.
Joey Bats proved he’s for real, Matt “Don’t Call Me A Bust” Wieters again underperformed at the plate (it’s hard to see progress lurking behind his .235/.291/.371 line against right-handers), and Manny was being Manny outside the lines this year. However, the two most interesting cases here were Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson and MVP candidate Curtis Granderson. Hellickson’s 2.95 ERA won him his rookie hardware, though his 4.47 FIP and .223 BABIP don’t bode well for his continued success. Granderson’s parents were public school teachers (or selfish union thugs, depending on which news channel you prefer) who taught him that education is a life-long pursuit, so perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised that he made a liar out of me by finally learning how to hit lefties.
Our readers correctly forecasted Upton’s breakout, CarGo’s improved patience, and Sandoval’s bounceback—a term that seems appropriately descriptive for the Pillsbury-esque third sacker. On the other side of the ledger, our readers didn’t expect Maybin to provide so much value, an opinion they apparently shared with the Marlins front office. Similarly, Kenny Williams converted young ace Dan Hudson into Jason Frasor and Zach Stewart via a collection of moves as regrettable as the Safety Dance, something the South Side faithful are sure to remind him of.
The NL Central was the most difficult group to predict, with only five of 12 outcomes matching conventional wisdom. If Matthew hadn’t won by such a sizable margin, the winner may well have been decided during Carlos Marmol’s final appearance on September 27th, when the Cubs closer worked the ninth inning of a meaningless 6-2 ballgame. In true Marmol fashion, he issued two walks and allowed a weak groundout to second base but struck out Andy Parrino and Jason Bartlett to end the game and close out his season with a line-matching 99 punchouts. And you thought there wasn’t any drama in a matchup of also-rans.
There are a lot of storylines in this chart, from Heyward’s sophomore slump to Kimbrel’s award-winning whiffleball act to LoMo’s twitter-iffic demotion to the well-timed reappearance of Jose Reyes. The headline, however, remains the dominant Philadelphia rotation, which fell just short of 60 combined wins, mostly due to Roy Oswalt’s balky back. It’s always risky to bet on a whole stable of pitchers remaining healthy and effective.
Many thanks to those who took the time to send in their picks. I enjoyed this, and I hope to be able to do it again next year.
Ken Funck is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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