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November 5, 2004

Prospectus Matchups

How Did He Do?

by Jim Baker

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This is the accountability portion of my program, in which I lay bare my soul and discuss my preseason predictions in an atmosphere of openness and understanding. By doing this, I am exposing myself to charges of incompetence, praise for integrity or a mixture of both.

There are certain--how shall I say it?--advantages to making one's preseason picks while writing for one website and then reviewing them at the end of the season while writing for a different one. It gives one the temptation to, for lack of a better word, "fudge" the original picks so that one appears clairvoyant. I will not be taking advantage of that situation when I look back on what I wrote in early April. No, I will be taking the high road and presenting my picks just as they appeared then.

First of all, I want to mention my best pick right up front: going with the Red Sox to win it all. On the cosmic end of things, it was a helluva long shot. On the reality side, though, they had to be one of the five favorites given their talent and payroll, so I shouldn't get too self-congratulatory. What follows is the team, the number of wins I picked for them, the number they actually won and how far off I was.


Philadelphia: 92 (won 86, -6)
I wrote: "I picked the Phillies last year, too, and regretted it. I started sounding off about how nobody should count out the Braves until they actually do not come in first place." So what did I do? The same stupid thing again and got burned. Curse me.

Atlanta: 86 (won 96, -10)
I would feel a whole lot sillier if everybody else and their brother's cousin hadn't also picked the same outcome.

Florida, 84 (won 83, -1)
I qualified this pick by writing, "I think I may have undervalued both the Mets and Marlins." No, I overvalued the Marlins by a game and the Mets by two.

Montreal, 75 (won 67, -8)
This seemed like a reasonable fall-off at the time from their 2003 total of 83. I certainly wasn't counting on Orlando Cabrera to play like the worst shortstop in the league (-1.5 VORP, lowest among N.L. regulars). Perhaps I was counting on Nick Johnson and Carl Everett too much. Who knows what I was thinking back then? That was a long time ago, folks.

NY Mets, 73 (won 71, -2)
Here's a tip for you young bettors out there: Never let your heart get in the way of your pocketbook. I slagged my favorite team to finish 16 games below .500 in spite of personnel who should have taken them to .500 if they had stayed healthy. This pick looks pretty good, but most people had the Mets right around this range, so I'll save the self-praise.


Chicago Cubs, 94 (won 89, -5)
It wasn't that the Cubs underperformed by all that much, it was that the Cardinals blew the doors off everybody. Seriously, if your ballot had average misses of just five games per team, you'd be the king or queen of the universe, depending on your gender and the universe in which you live. Does that sound outrageous? It isn't. A total miss number of 150 (five games for 30 teams) would be outstanding.

Houston, 93 wildcard (won 92, -1)
Again, a pretty standard pick, but then, so was the Phillies winning the division, so you have to take your successes where they come. I wrote: "I have the 'stros going to the World Series which means I am going against logic and saying the Cubs will win the division but not get through the playoffs in spite of having the best rotation in the game." I missed that one by a mere game.

St. Louis, 85 (won 105, -20)
What can one say about surprises? It's one thing to consider them, it's another to commit to them when rotations with Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Greg Maddux, Carlos Zambrano, Roger Clemens, Roy Oswalt and Andy Pettitte are standing in the way.

Milwaukee, 70 (won 67, -3)
In spite of the plexiglass principle, some teams really do repeat what they did the season before and that's what the Brewers managed to do, finishing a half-game behind their 2003 record. It's hard to pick a team to repeat the same record since variation is the norm from year to year.

Cincinnati, 69 (won 76, -7)
When predicting team wins, it is only fair to stick to the actual number of total wins that will take place in a season: 2,430. Because I do this, I usually find myself in a position where I have to undervalue a team that I would like to give more wins, just to make the big picture add up correctly. I think that's why I had the Reds so low. It was either that or the injury-prone nature of their best players and their lack of a decent starting rotation.

Pittsburgh, 61 (won 72, -11)
I'd like to offer up the same excuse for Pittsburgh--that I was just trying to make the math work--but it's not true. I thought they were this bad.


Arizona, 88 (won 51, -37)
Did I mention that I picked the Red Sox to go all the way?

San Francisco, 87 (won 91, -4)
Did anyone see all those runs coming? If you had told me the Giants were going to win 91 games, I would have thought for sure they would win the division.

Los Angeles, 82 (won 92, -10)
A couple months before making this pick, I wrote an article about how the Dodgers could score a lot more runs if things broke right for them. For the most part, I felt duty-bound to incorporate predictions like that into my picks but failed to do so in this case and it cost me.

San Diego, 79 (won 87, -8)
I over-valued the Padres every year for the previous three years and vowed I wouldn't do it again, in spite of many indicators that they were, finally, the better team they seemed to be in the past. Fool!

Colorado, 69 (won 68, -1)
This one seemed like a lock. I think if you polled 100 baseball fans, 95 would have slotted them in at 68 to 72 victories.


NY Yankees, 102 (won 101, -1)
I wrote: "Counter to what many were saying, the Yankees had brought in more talent than they lost. In order not to be hypocritical, I therefore had to assign them more wins than they had last year." There were some who thought the departure of Clemens, Pettitte and David Wells was going to cost the team at least five games. I thought the additions of Kevin Brown and Javier Vazquez would more than compensate for that. It shows that one can make a great pick for all the wrong reasons.

Boston, 97 wildcard (won 98, -1)
Did I mention I picked the Red Sox to go all the way?

Toronto, 90 (won 67, -23)
I wrote: "I may have overvalued the Blue Jays a bit." Now there's an understatement. Really, though, who knew? Carlos Delgado and Vernon Wells having their EQAs drop a combined 50-plus points? Roy Halladay limited to 21 starts? Eric Hinske getting even worse? None of that seemed probable in March.

Baltimore, 75 (won 78, -3)
There was some popular belief that the O's were going to ride their big free agents to at least a .500 record. I wrote, "I am still not sold on the Orioles revival..." So, I'll take this one as a victory.

Tampa Bay, 65 (won 70, -5)
I thought the rise to 70 wins was at least a year away and, if it weren't for the month of June, I would have been right.


Kansas City, 86 (won 58, -28)
Did I mention the thing about the World Series? Here's what I wrote about this now very insane-looking pick: "Because the Royals were outscored last year, my natural instinct would be to predict them for a worse record this year. However, for the most part, my playoff team predictions are predictable, for lack of a better word, so I had to get creative somewhere. I chose to do so in the AL Central, a division that could just as easily see a runaway train of a race as the tight close I have envisaged...." Bad place to get creative. I must have been having visions of the ghost of Juan Gonzalez rising from the grave to do damage.

Chicago, 85 (won 83, -2)
Close enough for government work. (Not our government, but a less efficient one in some other part of the world.)

Minnesota, 84 (won 92, -8)
Why did I write this: "I have Minnesota at 84 wins but they could just as easily spit the bit and win this thing with a total in the low 90s," and then turn around and make the off-kilter predictions seen here? Obviously, I should have made that my prediction, but no, I had to be different.

Cleveland, 73 (won 80, -7)
This was another team that suffered when I tried to find wins for good teams. It would have been much more avant garde to pick the Indians to win the division than the Royals.

Detroit, 57 (won 72, -15)
This sure made sense at the time. Here was my thinking: "My Tigers pick is based on the fact that they played about four games worse than their runs for/runs against indicated last year and I thought they had improved by about ten games with their moves in the offseason. That makes for a 14 or 15 game upswing, hence the 57-win prediction. They could just as easily move up by 20 wins." Or 29, as it turned out.


Oakland, 92 (won 91, -1)
To me, the A's are pretty predictable. It's the rest of the division that lanced me.

Seattle, 90 (won 63, -27)
Now this is a sorry, sorry pick. While some pundits saw them falling off to a .500 level, I don't know if very many folks had them dropping to this depth of depravity. I'll kick myself for nine of the 27 I was off. The rest I'll chalk up to shock value.

Anaheim, 84 (won 92, -8)
This is prejudice, pure and simple. I didn't like the way the Angels were assembling another team of batting average types and let it cloud my thinking. On the other hand, if you had told me that Bartolo Colon was going to be a batting practice pitcher for the first half, I would have thought 84 was too high. At the time of the picks I wrote: "I haven't bought the Angels hype, as you can see. They are improved and could finish a lot closer than I have them, though. Another five wins wouldn't shock me."

Texas, 63 (won 89, -26)
By now, we've established that I picked the World Series winner, right? Just wanted to make sure. Nobody saw this coming, so I don't feel bad. Well, I feel terrible, but it's not because of any baseball picks. You don't want to get me started on that, though.

In conclusion, predicting is a land of many contrasts.

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