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September 1, 2006

Prospectus Matchups

Monday Morning Psychic

by Jim Baker

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I'm going to do what I do every year around this time: reexamine earlier predictions. Sadly, in scanning my past columns I realize that I break the cardinal rules of the successful psychic:

Volume: I don't make enough forecasts. I should be doing 10 or 12 a week. That way, I can do what clairvoyants have been doing for centuries: I can point to my successes, however small a percentage they may be, while ignoring the countless misses.

Vagueness: Another problem. My picks are about actual teams and players. I need to be more general like psychics are. I have to say things like, "an East Coast player will see an upsurge in production." Then, when Ryan Howard's home run total improves I'm Johnny-on-the-spot to claim I called it.

Retroguessing: This is the simple task of making up predictions and attributing them to your past self. These are best delivered in an off-handed manner, like this: "Speaking of brownie recipes, I heard a great one back in 1985 around the time I predicted the coming of both Gulf Wars." What I would have to say is, "As I pointed out in March, the Red Sox were destined to fade by Labor Day" even though I never actually said it. Psychics count on their audience not checking. BP readers are too smart to fall for that sort of thing.

This (what you're reading right now): Psychics, never EVER play Monday morning quarterback on their body of work. This is with good reason, too, as there is no such thing as psychic ability. To examine evidence would be to reconfirm what knowledgeable people already understand.

So, for better and worse, here are my picks from past 2006 columns:

March 21
"It's probably more likely that the Santana-Liriano tandem won't crash this list (of great lefty duos) until 2007, but it remains a tantalizing possibility that they could pull it off for Minnesota this year. What we might have on our hands here is the first lefty duo that could both post a VORP of over 70.0 in the same year."

If I were a moral charlatan, I would wait until the season is over and extract the portion of the quote above that best suits my purpose of showing myself to be clairvoyant. If either of two things had happened, Johan Santana and Francisco Liriano would already have muscled their way into the top 10 in combined VORP for lefty teammates. Had Liriano been put in the rotation right out of spring training and had he not been shelved, they'd be on it already. They are currently a combined 112.3 and it takes 122.6 to get on the list, so making it is still a strong possibility, especially if Liriano is back to his old self when he finally returns. A full complement of 33 starts from both would have made the latter portion of the prediction a likelihood, too.

March 24
"They (the Dodgers) are a good bet to push the 20-game improvement extreme this year."

The Dodgers have 32 games left as of this writing and would have to go 20-12 to make this prediction come true. It's certainly not impossible. Going into professional psychic mode now: Reread the statement, though. I said "push" the envelope, not necessarily achieve it. I think 17 games qualifies as pushing, so, all they have to do is go 88-74 and I can count this one as a victory.

March 28
"Because the Rays have not yet addressed their pitching, it's going to be tough to hand them the Florida championship on a silver platter heading into the season."

The discussion here was which Florida team would have the better record. When the Marlins stripped down for moving speed, it seemed liked an obvious choice to assume they would end up with a worse record than the Devil Rays. Boldly, I did not make that obvious choice. With a 13-game gap in the loss column heading into September, I basically got this one right.

Psychic trick employed: specific selection. I left out something else I wrote that day about their head-to-head chances. "…they both appear headed for approximately the same fate: win totals in the 60s." Since the Marlins have already won 65 this one's a dead letter.

March 28
"…the 2006 American League Central race will be a recreation of the 1967 American League pennant race with the White Sox, Twins and Tigers reprising their roles and the Indians standing in for the Boston Red Sox. It could happen."

And it would have if the Indians had just played up to their run differential. It's not technically a three-team race at this point, either, but I'll take credit for including the Tigers in the mix, something not a lot of prognosticators did.

April 1
"…the Snakes may have done enough in the offseason to move from being a lucky 77-win team to an actual 70-something-win team."

For you budding obfuscators out there, there are some important words you need to learn:

May
Could
Might
Should
Probably

Here's a key prepositional phrase that is bloody magic, too: "In all likelihood."

In any event, the Diamondbacks are going to make this one come true. With 64 wins moving into September, even an 8-21 month will be enough to actualize my envisagements.

April 4
"If the Yankees don't improve their clutch hitting soon, they're going to start hearing about it."

Look at what has happened to Alex Rodriguez in the press. I was so dead on about this!

Actually, I wrote it as a joke after New York had clobbered Oakland on Opening Day 15-2 but had left two men on base in six different innings.

April 18
"Realistically, the Yankees should score about 925 runs while allowing about the same number they did last year. That will get them 94 wins. A three-win outperformance of projection--modest by their recent standards--puts them at a win total that will be hard for anybody to overcome."

I was predicting a 925-789 run differential. If things continue to go as they have, they'll end up at 914-778. Holy smokes! They're both 136 runs! Momma, I can see the future! Get me my own 1-900 number, momma!

April 25
"A more likely eventuality is that he betters last year's total but falls short of Omar Moreno's grandeur."

This was written about Jose Reyes' pursuit of the all-time outmaking record. Basically, I was saying he would finish over 530 but under 554. I noted he would have to hit about .240 to make this happen. Instead, he's banging out a .300 batting average and has made 382 outs. He's not going to make it to 500, let alone second-place all-time.

May 9
"The Royals might just be ripe for a sweep at the Indians' expense."

Kansas City had already taken the first game of the series when I wrote this. Still, though, they were 7-23 at the moment, so, when they went on to win the next two games 10-7 and 10-8, let's just say I was the talk of the Psychic's Cotillion.

May 30
"I think the Rox are going to be the first team to blink in the National League West race."
You can look at this two ways and I would admonish you to choose the second:

1.) I was technically wrong since the Rockies weren't the first team to fall below .500.

2.) I was right because the Rockies now have the worst record in the division and the lowest chance (.31%) of winning the division.

June 27
"Like it or not, the Mets clinched their division on Thursday, June 15 with their win over Philadelphia."

As BP is reporting today, the Mets are now . Meanwhile, old school news services still carry their magic number as 15. Magic is right--it would take magic for that to mean anything.

And that's a good place to stop: talking about magic; because if one believes in psychic abilities, then one probably believes in magic as well.

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