Oh, April. When freak snow storms kill the earliest blooming flowers, when something on Devin Mesoraco inevitably breaks or tears, and when starting the season with three straight wins in a clear rebuild had some Cincinnati Reds fans decidedly over-amped. April also means the dawn of predictions season, a time when idiots like me pool all available resources and spend too much time hammering away on keyboards as if we can see into the future.
It's handicapping, if you will. But as the grizzled racing handicappers from my beloved home state will tell you, handicapping isn't defined as picking winners. Rather, it's doing enough research to have a long-winded reason why the horse you picked - that most likely lost - should have won.
I cobbled together Five Dumb Predictions about the Reds back in April, and recently waded back through those in almost completely defeated fashion. Not to be outdone, I also ventured into the full slate of the MLB season to make Five Dumb Predictions about how it should have played out, and while I'd initially decided to wait until the end of the postseason to dig back through those, that's no longer necessary...for reasons you'll see quite clearly below.
To the dumbness:
1) The New York Mets will miss the playoffs altogether
There's a very vocal, semi-literate faction of Reds fans who yell on Facebook that the 2013 season wasn't a success and that the one-game Wild Card Game isn't "really the playoffs." If you're one of those, I'm both sorry that you're always so angry and thankful that you may think I got this one right.
Otherwise, I'm 0 for 1, since the 87-75 Mets won the opportunity to lose to Madison Bumgarner in a shortlived 2016 playoff run.
In handicappy fashion, I wasn't too far off on some of the concerns I had about them back in April, however. Yoenis Cespedes wasn't able to repeat his 6 WAR season in large part due to falling off the defensive cliff I mentioned, and the team's overall -8.5 defensive runs saved was certainly a weakness. However, both Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker turned in solid all-around performances, and it was good enough for a team I still thought would be good - not great - to sneak into one playoff game before becoming golfers for a few months.
Close, but no cigar. 0 for 1.
2) Manny Machado continues on his freakishly good career arc, wins AL MVP
Manny Machado continued on his freakishly good career arc. Simply stating that a young superstar will continue to get better is neither dumb nor very predictive, however, so I went on to claim he'll win the AL MVP, which he won't.
He'll finish in the top 5, perhaps even the top 3, but that doesn't reprieve me from being dumb.
Machado raised his total number of dingers, doubles, ribbies, runs scored, and extra base hits, raised his ISO, and was credited with more defensive runs saved (15.9) in 2016 than in 2015 (11.2), all of which had this prediction on a very solid track. He even made the leap vs. LHP I called for, mashing them to the tune of a .919 OPS that bettered his .862 mark against RHP.
He also completely stopped stealing bases, though, which was something I did not expect to see. After swiping 20 bags as part of a 30/20 season in 2015, I was banking on that aspect of his game pairing with the marginal improvements listed to turn a 7 WAR campaign into an 8 WAR campaign; instead, he stole exactly zero bases for a Baltimore Orioles team that consciously eliminated all running from their mantra, and that paired with a slight dip in his walk rate kept him as just a near 7 WAR player this year.
Close again, no cigar again. 0 for 2.
3) The Los Angeles Dodgers miss the postseason, too
Seriously...how are the Dodgers still alive, anyway? A year and a half ago, their OF featured a logjam of Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, and Yasiel Puig, and on September 1st of this very year not a single one was on the team's active roster. Also not active on the Dodgers' roster on September 1st: Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and about a billion other important pieces from the team's recent run of success.
Yet somehow, they not only made the postseason, they sit tied with the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS. Props to you, Dave Robert, and your stupidly creative and brilliant front office.
A breakout from Corey Seager, offensive explosions from Justin Turner and Yasmani Grandal, and a successful patchwork debut from teenage phenom Julio Urias later, and the Dodgers turned what could've been an injury-plauged 2nd half disaster into an NL West title. And yeah, the San Francisco Giants collapse certainly helped.
This one was not close. 0 for 3.
4) The Texas Rangers will represent the AL in the World Series
The Texas Rangers had the best record in the entire American League. I can stop there, right?
No. No, I cannot. Despite their 95 win regular season, the smoke and mirrors act they'd perpetuated flamed out in the ALDS against the Toronto Blue Jays, and it was far from surprising after watching how the season played out.
They won 95 games despite scoring only 8 more runs than their opponents, and they set an all-time mark for the best win percentage in 1-run games in a single season. The Cubs, for comparison's sake, were actually under .500 in 1-run games, but they scored an astonishing 252 more runs than their opponents. One suggests being clearly better than the opposition, while the other suggests this Dumb Prediction was bound to fail.
Yes, Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish were dynamite atop the rotation, but both fell apart in the ALDS. Yes, Rougned Odor belted 33 dingers and 70 extra base hits, but no, his paltry walk rate didn't propel him to superstardom just yet. At least I hated this prediction immediately, for what it's worth:
I already hate this prediction. If I now predict that it'll be wrong, will that make it half-right in hindsight?
Boo me. 0 for 4.
5) The Washington Nationals will win the World Series in 2016
Without looking it up, I'm going to venture a guess that Bryce Harper took home the 2016 Chris Davis Award, the prize for seeing the single largest year-over-year drop in WAR of any full-time player in baseball. Davis, of course, backed up his 53 dinger, 7.0 fWAR 2013 season by hitting .196 in a 0.8 fWAR 2014, and I'll be damned if this here writer slash fantasy baseball player will ever forget it. Harper, for what it's worth, shed 6 full fWAR and a staggering 8.3 bWAR off his lofty 2015 totals, and here I am yelling about that instead of the Nats not winning the World Series.
Harper's full-season slump didn't exactly help things, though he did post a stellar .458 OBP in the 2016 NLDS against the Dodgers. Alas, the Nats and manager Dusty Baker watched as a 2-1 series lead and a home contest in Game 5 passed them by, and a franchise that hasn't so much as sniffed a World Series apperance in its history (much less actually won one) again saw a solid regular season end in disappointment. Losing Stephen Strasburg late in the year certainly didn't help, but it's hard to pinpoint that as the sole reason - especially since their NLDS loss came against a Dodgers squad that dealt with a cavalcade of critical injuries all season.
Washington won 95 regular season games, and that tied them with the Rangers for the 2nd most in all of baseball behind the Cubs. That netted them an NL East crown, but that did not translate into postseason success.
On a limb I stepped, and that limb gave way. 0 for 5.