You can’t predict baseball – and neither can we

Like we did last year, it’s time to look back at the predictions Chris and I made entering the 2013 season. We made a few significant predictions entering the season, and unfortunately, just about all of them flopped. We could easily hide behind our predictions that are months old, but it’s better to be accountable.

I made the first prediction of the 2013 season, and boy was it a dud:

Kevin Youkilis may not be the model of health in recent years, nor adept defensively at the hot corner. You might even point to his mediocre offensive 2012 and claim he’s already entered steep decline. Sure, his wRC+ has plummeted from 159 in 2010, to 126 in 2011, and to 102 in 2012. However, I predict Youkilis’ return to at least his performance level in 2011.

Youkilis played in just 28 games for the Yankees, posting a poor 78 wRC+. He did get off to a nice start, but he couldn’t stay healthy and eventually had back surgery. Although I did mention his injury woes in the post, my prediction shows that I still disregarded that red flag too much.

Verdict: Incorrect

The next forecast came from Chris:

I boldly predict that he’ll [Alex Rodriguez] come back healthy from hip surgery and hit at least 13 homeruns this season. 13 homeruns is a very important number for the Yankees. It would put Alex at 660 for his career which would trigger one of the $6 million milestone bonuses in his contract. It would much behoove the Yankees if that were paid out this year rather than in 2014 when they plan to get under the $189 million limit…

…If everything goes well with his rehab, Rodriguez will return to the Yankees after the All-Star Break. The Yankees have 66 games from that point on and Alex will certainly need days off during that stretch. 250 plate appearances is probably an optimistic yet plausible scenario. So 13 bombs over that time would mean A-Rod hits one out in 5.2% of plate appearances. Is that unreasonable?

A-Rod actually played pretty well when he first returned in August, but wound up hitting 7 home runs in 181 plate appearances (3.9%). His legs wore down, and even if he stayed healthy, he probably didn’t have enough time to reach 13 after the hold up of his return. Now, the Yankees’ await the fate of his bonus potentially triggering next year, pending suspension.

Verdict: Incorrect

Here’s another bad one from me:

I think Phil Hughes is poised for a very good 2013. I like Hughes’ ERA to fall between 3.50 and 3.75, which would easily be a career best as a starter. Additionally, we could see his strikeouts enter the 8 per 9 range, also a high other than 2009 when he primarily was a reliever. The home runs will always be a bugaboo because of his straight fastball, but increased whiffs from the slider will make it more difficult for batters to work the count until the heater comes. In terms of value, I don’t think 3 WAR is out of the question.

Yuck. Hughes posted an ERA above five, and barely cracked one win above replacement per Fangraphs. Much of my prediction was based on Hughes’ strong finish in 2012, much in thanks to what appeared to be a reimplemented slider. It didn’t carry over into 2013.

Verdict: Incorrect

In this article, Chris envisioned that Russell Martin would hit the disabled list in 2013:

Maybe I’m squinting a little too hard to justify a questionable move, but I am trusting the Yankees organization on this one. Heading into the offseason, they knew Martin better than anyone and chose not to bring him back. It certainly doesn’t seem like this had anything to do with the team’s internal options (or lack thereof). So the best explanation is that the team sees him as a substantial injury risk. I guess time will tell whether or not the Pirates bought a lemon this offseason.

According to Baseball Prospectus, Martin dealt with some minor nicks and bruises, but never experienced anything significant. Chris pointed to some evidence about the recurrence rate of hip injuries, which provided support to the prediction. Fortunately for Martin, his hip and general health held up, making the Yankees look bad if a significant part of letting him go was injury worries.

Verdict: Incorrect

Finally, Chris and I’s estimations for the final standings in the division were far off. Specifically, I got sucked into the Blue Jays fanfare, while Chris underestimated the Red Sox.

To restore some faith, time for some good predictions:

Based on some batted ball data, I  that Robinson Cano would bounce back again southpaws after struggling against them in 2012:

…just about all signs point to Cano mashing left handers once again. If the batted ball data is to be trusted, which I believe it to be, there is really not much to worry about.

Cano wound up posting a 114 wRC+ agains lefties, slightly better than his career 110 mark.

Verdict: Correct

Chris has been steadfast about Ivan Nova‘s ability pretty much since we started this website, and reaffirmed his confidence in him in January:

After a very successful 2011 rookie campaign, Ivan Nova took a major step back in 2012. His ERA ballooned from 3.70 to 5.02 which was mostly a result of opposing hitters belting homers off of him. Nova was especially bad late in the year and was subsequently passed over for his last start of the season and left off the playoff roster. On August 3rd, I pointed out that Nova had been getting unlucky and would emerge as a solid pitcher. Unfortunately, he proceeded to post a 6.45 ERA for the remainder of the season. Nonetheless, I still believe in Nova. His dismal 2012 certainly left a bad taste in people’s mouths, but there’s much reason to believe he’ll right the ship in 2013.

Earlier this week, Chris recapped Nova’s strong 2013. It looks like this bet from mid-2012 is looking pretty good going forward.

Verdict: Correct

Baseball is a quirky game, but after reviewing my preseason predictions, I’m struggling to understand the logic I had at the time. Oh well. I think what this mostly shows is that we either trusted small sample sizes too much (Hughes), discounted large samples (Youkilis), or simply took on longshots out of hope for the organization’s benefit (A-Rod). When Chris and I used larger samples in our analyses in a logical manner (Cano, Nova), we came out correct.

As a new year dawns, we’ll be back with predictions for 2014 that are (hopefully) better conceived.

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One Response to You can’t predict baseball – and neither can we

  1. Doug says:

    I think the injuries the Yanks had this year made predicting anything impossible. The pitching in baseball is almost always hard to read, with only a handful of players having 5 good years in a row. Since pitching can be up to 75% of game, it makes it outlier. Add to that the playoff system and rarely does the best team during the season win the world series.

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