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Five Dumb Predictions for the 2019 MLB season

Put your helmets on, there’s some dumb about to fly your way.

MLB: Kansas City Royals-Media Day Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Predictions are dumb, at least when you take them as things that will happen. These particular predictions aren’t going to happen, that much I can assure you, for if I could assure you, I’d be making enough bank off of them to not be wasting my time hammering them into a keyboard for you to read.

That isn’t to say that predictions aren’t some semi-logical collision between should and could. That’s exactly what they are, almost-assertions that have both nothing riding on them and just enough of a boozy backing to be interesting enough to maybe remember down the line. And, of course, these are dumb predictions, the misanthropic younger sibling of educated guesses, something right up the alley of our specific baseball bloghole world.

Here we go, MLB style...

The NL MVP again comes from the Milwaukee Brewers, it just won’t be the obvious choice

Fresh off his trade from the black hole that is the Miami Marlins, Christian Yelich exploded onto the baseball scene with a 7.6 fWAR season that led the National League. That earned him a well-deserved NL MVP award, something that Cincinnati Reds pitching helped aid in a big, big way. Flanking him in the Beers’ outfield was another excellent first-year Brewer in Lorenzo Cain, whose 5.7 fWAR ranked as the third best in the NL last year among players who spent the entire season in the senior circuit.

Two Brewers, two legit stars, and I’m banking on someone else to be the breakout star in Milwaukee in 2019 - Travis Shaw.

Shaw, 29 in two weeks, is certainly far from an unknown, as he’s belted 30+ dingers in each of the last two seasons and was valued at 4.1 bWAR and 3.6 fWAR last season. Still, he’s never made an All Star team or received a down-ballot MVP vote, so I’m going to categorize this as dumbly bold.

My premise here is this - Shaw is pretty well a natural defensive 3B, one whose metrics largely support my eye-test (that thinks he’s excellent there), and he’s sliding back to the hot corner for 2019 after getting reps at 2B in a crowded, talented Milwaukee infield in 2018. His 2018 season featured a brutal .242 BABIP that I firmly expect to rise back in-line with his .286 career mark (or even the .312 mark from his 2017 season), and he also saw his walk rate rise (to an impressive 13.3%) while cutting way down on his K-rate (18.4% against a career 22.1%).

A player who’s already been a 4-win guy getting a bump in both offensive and defensive value while hitting in the middle of a lethal Milwaukee order that should absolutely be challenging for a playoff spot? That’s as bold and dumb as I can get for my darkhorse NL MVP pick.

Michael Conforto leads the NL in home runs

Considering the bandbox where the New York Yankees play their home games, the stacked power lineup they feature, and the fact that each of Mike Trout, Joey Gallo, and Khris Davis all play in the American League, leading the National League in a power stat could be construed as a bit like being a #1 seed in the NIT.

I don’t care. You want dumb, you get dumb.

Conforto, like Shaw, is hardly an unknown, but he’s a player who saw his excellent breakout during the 2017 season derailed a bit by a major shoulder injury. He hit 27 dingers in just 440 PA in 2017, but after surgery it took him a long, long time to get things going in 2018. He homered in his 2018 debut on April 5th, to be sure, but then went 23 games without another, hitting a putrid .181/.341/.222 in that span. Through June 12th, even, he was hitting just .212/.333/.353 with 7 homers, but that’s pretty much when things completely came back to the former 1st round pick out of Oregon State.

From that point forward, he clubbed 21 dingers in the final 99 games of his season, looked fully healthy, and seems to me, at least, to be the most likely player in the NL to see a massive power breakout in 2019. Heck, he wouldn’t really even need to breakout any more than he has to date, he’ll just need to log a full, healthy season to get there.

I see a 40 dinger season from him, which might have a few eyes take notice in the New York media market.

The Baltimore Orioles set the MLB record for most single-season losses

The 1962 New York Mets had no Michael Conforto, mind you, and breezed to a 40-120 record that set the MLB mark for the most losses by any team in any single season. The 2018 Baltimore Orioles just lost 115 games, and did that level of non-winning while still enjoying the services of Manny Machado (for most of the year), Jonathan Schoop (for most of the year), and Adam Jones (for all of the year).

The extent of Baltimore’s international scouting department has been a beer can with googly-eyes stuck on it for the better part of forever. Their farm system is a completely barren wasteland. They let Buck Showalter go, canned their entire front office, have the single least-valuable player in the game from 2018 (Chris Davis), and the biggest move they made all winter was to sign pitcher Nate Karns to a 1-year deal.

Oh, right...they also play in the AL East, which looks to be an absolute juggernaut this season. Baltimore, I’m so sorry, but the writing here is in big block letters.

No National League pitcher tops 200 IP in 2019

If it weren’t for the existence of Max Scherzer, I would personally feel much, much more confident in this particular dumb prediction. The Washington ace has topped 200 innings for six consecutive years, including all four years since he signed with the Nationals (in which time he’s never not finished in the Top 5 of his league’s Cy Young Award voting). He’s the one pitcher who I could see just blowing right through this mark, though he’s 34 this season and who the heck knows when that run will end.

That said, a total of 7 NL pitchers cleared 200 innings last year (with 13 pitchers MLB-wide topping that mark). Still, as the move towards expanded bullpens increases, as managers increasingly look to specific matchups late in games, and as hitters continue to put higher pitch counts on starters’ arms earlier, the days of getting 7-8 innings out of starters more than 30 times per year continually seem to be vanishing.

It’s inevitable that we’ll see this become less of a bold, dumb claim as the game continues to evolve - especially in the NL where pitchers still are tasked with stepping to the plate. I think this year, in particular, we see starters continue to take a modified, less quantity-driven role.

Homer Bailey throws 150 innings of ~4.00 ERA ball for Kansas City

I don’t even know what to add here. He made their rotation, that pitcher friendly park...

[insert text]

[insert actual text, dumbass]

I really don’t. I just...have one of those feelings in my gut when I think about it, though there’s a very real chance that’s just the breakfast burrito I had earlier. But if ever there was a dumb prediction to top all dumb predictions, it just might be this dumb prediction.

So, here it is, predicted dumbly, for your perusal.

Check back tomorrow for Five Dumb Predictions for the 2019 Cincinnati Reds. I assure you, they’ll be dumb.