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January 9, 2013

Out of Left Field

Jumping the Gun on 2013 Predictions

by Matthew Kory

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Great thing about the internet: lowered barriers to entry for writers everywhere. This is good for people like me and at least debatable for people like you. But there’s a far less important side effect to all of this. It makes being the first to an idea next to impossible.

An example: some time ago I thought up a piece about the Worst Baseball Game of the Year. Proud of myself, I emailed my editor, who kindly informed me that 1) it was a wonderful idea, and 2) he had written it himself. Last year. Whoops.

So in the interest of not getting scooped again, we’re going to do some gun-jumping here at Out Of Left Field. It’s time to make some predictions for the 2013 season! Of course they’ll all be wrong, but if I wait until the end of Spring Training they’ll all be wrong anyway. So why wait? Why get scooped? Let’s get right to the (wrong) predictions!

1. Four of the six division winners will not repeat.
Going back to 2009, which is far enough back to make the point, each successive season has featured at least four new division winners. In 2009, the division winners were the Yankees, Twins, Angels, Phillies, Cardinals, and Dodgers. In 2010 only the Twins and Phillies repeated. The Rangers, Rays, Reds, and Giants joined them. In 2011, only the Rangers and Phillies held on to their divisions while the Yankees, Tigers, Brewers, and Diamondbacks won as well. 

This past season, thanks to the Rangers folding on the last day of the season, only the Yankees repeated. In 2013 maybe the Royals will step forward. Or the Pirates. Or the Padres. Sure it sounds ridiculous right now, but last year, heck, six months ago, saying the Orioles would be a game out of first as of late-September would have got you laughed out of a room full of Orioles fans. Point is, with six divisions and now 10 playoff teams, parity, or at least some form of it, has arrived. Maybe we should cease being so surprised by it.

2. Daisuke Matsuzaka will sign with the Cardinals and become the best groundball/control pitcher in baseball.
If Joel Pineiro and Kyle Lohse can do it…

OK, maybe not.

3. The Dodgers will fire Ned Colletti. His replacement will be Ned Colletti.
Colletti has been in charge of the Dodgers since November of 2005, a long track record in the world of general managers. His gambit of signing every mediocre player he could find to a multi-year deal before the 2012 season is emblematic of his reputation before August of this past season. But now, with the Dodgers’ new ownership, we can toss that track record in the garbage for all the good it’ll do us. According to our own Cot’s Contracts, the Dodgers have $209.5 million committed to 22 players for this year, not including the roughly $26 million posting fee for Ryu Hyun-Jin. In 2012, their payroll started out at around $97 million. The final math is yet to be done, but it’s a huge jump in payroll no matter what and, not surprisingly, it’s also the largest payroll increase in terms of straight dollars in baseball history.

Colletti is in charge of the same franchise, but all of a sudden his resources, goals and implementation process are all as different as can be. Is he better at picking top-end talent than he was at locking up mediocre relievers to three-year deals? He didn’t give Josh Hamilton $300 million, so that’s a start.

4. At least one of next Season’s MVPs Didn’t Receive Any Votes This Season.
The easiest prediction in the world to make is projecting last season’s first place teams to repeat next season. MVP winners are the same. After all, they just won the MVP. They’re the best player in their league (presumably). Makes sense they’d repeat. However, over the last 10 seasons only two players won consecutive MVP awards; Barry Bonds did it in 2003 and 2004 and Albert Pujols won in 2008 and 2009. So repeating is very hard to do. In fact, over that same time period, five American League MVPs and two of their National League counterparts did not receive any MVP votes the previous season. If the last 10 seasons are any indicator, it’s more likely that someone who didn’t receive any MVP votes this year will win the award than either Posey or Cabrera.

5. The Dodgers might win the World Series but only if they change their name to the Yankees.
I was hoping to make a point about how spending big hasn’t helped teams win the World Series so I looked up the largest payrolls over the last 13 seasons. This, it turns out, is almost the same thing as looking up the New York Yankees payroll over the last 13 seasons. Just two blemishes occur on the Yankees’ otherwise spotless (and expensive) record during that time. The Red Sox outspent them in 2001 by $800,000 (probably a rounding error), and the Dodgers will outspend this in 2013.

Instead I looked up the payrolls of the World Series winners during that same time period. Considering the above information, it won’t shock you that the Yankees’ two World Series wins were the only instances of the team with the highest payroll winning it all. Boston’s two Series victories both came when it finished second in payroll, but beyond that, none of the remaining nine World Series winning teams had a top-five payroll. It’s not like the rankings are evenly distributed though. Only one team with a payroll in the bottom half got to hold a parade, the 2003 Marlins. So it helps to spend, but once you reach a certain point, the quality of the spending matters more than the quantity. Of course, this all assumes that the playoffs are more than just dumb luck.

6. A bad team will start quickly. I will totally buy it.
On July 1 of last season the Pittsburgh Pirates were a game behind the Reds for first place in the NL Central. That day I tweeted,

The Pirates went 37-47 the rest of the way and finished 18 games back. A year and a month before that, the Marlins were two games behind the Phillies in the NL East. Me:

(I’m a big fan of the triple exclamation point.) They went 41-67 after that. When will I ever learn? This year? Maybe, but then probably not.

What? The time stamps are all wrong on those tweets and you think I made this all up just to make a silly point about hot starts from middling teams? Oh look! My last prediction!

7. Yu Darvish will unveil his 18th and newest pitch.
And here it is…

Be afraid, American League. Be very, very afraid.

Matthew Kory is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Matthew's other articles. You can contact Matthew by clicking here

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