Hello. In my 2016 MLB predictions, I feigned arrogance and pretended that my predictions would be completely accurate. This was a lie. It was a lie made to fool my editors, in part, but it was also made to massage my ego. Do you know what it's like to spend 50 to 60 hours of every week thinking about a specific topic and realize you don't know anything? It's unsettling, at best. Completely deflating on my darker days. Everything I think I know is a lie, and I will be exposed as a fraud, every single year.
It's the goes-naked-to-school dream, except it actually happens to me, and I can't stop it.
So let's really try to predict 2016. Take all of the dumb things we couldn't predict last year, and see if there are lessons to learn. What are the secrets to predicting baseball?
You can't just pick an up-and-coming team. You can't just pick a team with a few questions that isn't getting a lot of love in the preseason predictions. You have to pick a team that's supposed to be awful.
A team you think is awful -- unimpeachably, objectively awful -- will make the postseason in 2016.
Hey, a third of the league makes the postseason every year now, so maybe we shouldn't be surprised. Except we will be surprised. By August, we'll be used to them. And then, when the postseason rolls around, we'll have to pretend like nothing is weird.
Here's why (team that should have been completely awful) has a chance to advance to the (NLCS/ALCS).
So which teams should be awful? Take a stab at it.
The A's are a tough omission, but I'm curiously optimistic. I wouldn't deduct prognostication points if you chose them as your surprise winner, though. They're certainly on the fringes.
Now pick one of those teams. The Reds have a starting pitcher who is 14 years old and 5' tall (probably). The Brewers are starting Paul Molitor's brother, Raul Molitor, in center field, even though he's 60 (probably). The Phillies might be the worst big-market team we've seen in decades (almost certainly). You can poke a million holes in every single one, and you'll be right almost every time.
But one of these teams is going to make you look dumb.
That means I'll guarantee that the San Diego Padres will win the National League West this year. Heck, they have a front three that you don't even have to squint to appreciate. Tyson Ross gets some down-ballot Cy Young love, James Shields is as good as he's been in the past and Andrew Cashner pitches well enough to get a begrudging nine-figure contract from someone this offseason. The rest of the team will catch the ball just well enough to contend, and we'll get used to the idea after a couple short months.
"Well, of course Wil Myers can hit 30 home runs! That's why he used to be a top prospect!"
- Me, in about five months
Except the Padres won't win the NL West, which is why I didn't make that my actual prediction. This is all so confusing.
They don't have to lose 100 games, though that's always a possibility. Check Sam Miller's look into the extremes of PECOTA projections. Baseball Prospectus simulated the season a million times, and one of them had the Cubs losing 121 games.
Same with the Dodgers! The Mets have a simulated season with 123 losses. Can you imagine? You cannot. The hot takes would amuse you for a while, and then the stench would make you close your windows on a warm summer night.
It will happen to someone, in some capacity. The Tigers were easy picks to win the AL Central until they weren't. The Nationals were a flawless team until the flaws.
This year, the ...
oh come on don't make me pick one
The Houston Astros will finish below .500. I don't believe that. Why did I just type those words? They have Carlos Correa, who wouldn't let that happen. The Houston Astros will absolutely finish above .500, except there has to be a sacrifice thrown into the baseball god's volcano.
Sorry about that, Astros.
Before today (Monday, March 28, 2016), I had never heard the name "Yandy Diaz." It sounds like something that Riley Breckenridge made up in one of his most inspired moments. Diaz defected from Cuba in 2013 and the Indians signed him in a deal that made exactly zero headlines. He was 23 in Double-A last year and barely cracked the Indians' top 10 prospects this year.
He will win American League Rookie of the Year this season.
Why? No good reason. He has an excellent eye, it seems, and the reports are positive about his defense. He plays a position (third) that could have an opening in Cleveland at some point this year. If everything clicks, he'll hit .300/.390/.410 with a squillion dWAR, and he'll be a surprise Rookie of the Year candidate that you should have seen coming.
Except you shouldn't have seen him coming. That's ridiculous.
So congratulations to Yandy Diaz, the 2016 AL Rookie of the Year. Look, if you picked Matt Duffy to win the Rookie of the Year last year, you would have looked like a genius, even when he finished second. This is almost cheating compared to that.
It's so very easy to forget about star players who struggle in their 30s, even if they're literally some of the greatest players of all time. Alex Rodriguez, even if you think of him as half-horse/half-steroids, is one of the greatest baseball talents the world has ever seen. Then he slowed down and got suspended, and it was easy to dismiss him. He was done.
Then it was so obvious. Smack yourself upside the head, because of course Alex Rodriguez helped the Yankees almost make the postseason last year. He's really good at baseball! We forgot.
That means that Joe Mauer will hit .344 this year and help the Twins to a Central title. It was your fault. You shoveled dirt on him way too early. Didn't you realize that was Joe Mauer, former MVP? He's really good, you know. He's the reason the Twins won the pennant and faced the Padres in the World Series.
Take the typical pitcher in Double-A. Bless him with the command of a professional dart thrower, someone who nails that triple-20 more than seems humanly possible. That pitcher is now an All-Star, especially if he throws harder than 90 mph. Congratulations, pitcher with suddenly perfect command. You're a star.
Now, that doesn't happen in real life, but it comes close enough to mention. Dallas Keuchel was a non-prospect, and then he was a solid contributor. Then he honed his control, turning it from an asset to an illegal weapon, and he won the Cy Young. Corey Kluber did it the year before that. It will happen to a pitcher on the fringes this year.
So, oh, look at that! Wade Miley wins the AL Cy Young because he can throw the ball wherever he wants now. Jerry Dipoto is a genius, even if he's looking around right now, wondering how someone gets paid to predict a Cy Young for Miley.
Miley is supposed to be okay, just fine, a little better than acceptable, possibly even above-average.
But, nope. He's taken the above-average stuff that made him a major leaguer in the first place, and now he's a story. Congratulations!
Really, we can keep going. Jesus Montero shouldn't help the Blue Jays this year, but wouldn't he be 47 times more likely to help a team this year than Chris Colabello was last year? David Peralta was playing for the Rio Grande Valley WhiteWings when he was 23 (with Jesse Orosco's cruelly right-handed son), older than the best prospects in baseball, and starting over in a way that's hard to contemplate. Matt Duffy hit exactly zero home runs with a metal bat in college. Zero home runs in college. He's hit some since, thank you very much.
The Astros were upset in the postseason last year. No one cared that they were upsets to make the postseason, but it still made sense to be upset that they didn't move on.
The Royals won the World Series in 2015, for another little-known example.
Your predictions are useless. My predictions are useless. Let's all worship the graven idol of predictions without irony and pretend that we know what's going to happen.
Your predictions are awful. My predictions will be proven wrong, and you will see the flames of my career from miles away. It has to be this way. I'm so, so sorry. Baseball is a hideous crab monster.