Friday, September 13, 2013
Reviewing my 10 bold predictions
By Jim Bowden
The Yankees find themselves in the wild-card race, not the AL East basement.
Every year at some point during spring training, I offer my 10 bold predictions for the season. Instead of offering the obvious, I try to go out on a limb and prognosticate what most people wouldn’t expect. The tough part of that equation is at the end of the season when my editors ask me to go back and review those 10 predictions and assess how I did.
Thanks a lot, guys.
In retrospect, I think I fared reasonably well, but one way or another it’s time for me to man up and take responsibility for my predictions. Just remember, I was told to go out on that limb ... I didn't walk out there by choice.
This prediction came with a caveat: “All five teams in the AL East have a chance to finish anywhere from first to last place.” That included the Yankees. Instead, the Yankees find themselves smack in the middle of an AL wild-card chase. More than the Yankees overachieving, it was the Blue Jays’ rotation that underachieved. The rotation was plagued by injuries or underperformance. R.A. Dickey looked nothing like the 2011 NL Cy Young Award winner; Josh Johnson and Brandon Morrow combined for four wins and ERAs around 6.00; Ricky Romero made two starts with an ERA north of 12.00 and J.A. Happ also had an ERA north of 5.00.
Understand that this bold prediction was based on how well Teheran had pitched in winter ball before the 2013 season. His fastball command and secondary pitches were all hitting their spots at a much better ratio than ever. By spring training, it was clear he had carried over that progress; he was maturing and figuring out how to pitch. We all knew he had the stuff; it was simply a matter of execution. I just felt like this was the year he’d break out. So far he has 11 wins. For Halladay, Lincecum and Romero, I was concerned about injury, decline and age, and I just felt like Teheran had a better chance for success.
The Tigers' front office plan of giving the closer’s role to rookie Bruce Rondon didn’t make sense to me. Despite his overpowering velocity, I worried about his command and control and whether if he was mentally ready to be a closer, especially for a team fresh off a World Series appearance. After Rondon failed, manager Jim Leyland tried Phil Coke, Joaquin Benoit and re-signed Jose Valverde. I kept thinking they would trade for a closer and that Street or Cishek would be affordable targets. However, before the July 31 trade deadline, they gave Benoit one more chance and he took full advantage of it and became an impact closer. Suddenly there was no need for Street or Cishek.
The Cardinals and Tigers are two of the best teams in baseball, and yet they both entered spring training needing to upgrade at shortstop. I felt Peralta could be moved to second base at some point if they could acquire a shortstop with more range. I just didn’t think Pete Kozma or Daniel Descalso would hit enough and a better offensive shortstop would help them. With two of the game’s most aggressive and best general managers in Dave Dombrowski and John Mozeliak, I really felt a deal would get done. The Tigers did end up making a move, however. They acquired Jose Iglesias in a three-way deal from the Red Sox, which upgraded that position a great deal defensively. The Cards, however, still have yet to find the right deal to upgrade their shortstop situation. However, I still believe the Cards will trade for Asdrubal Cabrera before Dec. 31. The Indians are loaded with top shortstop prospects, and Cabrera is a free agent after 2014. The Cardinals are loaded with pitching prospects and an offseason match still is a possibility.
Prediction: Yasiel Puig comes up as an injury replacement and “Yasielmania” ensues.
I was right that Puig would get his chance from an injury, but his rise would be termed “Puigmania” instead. I wrote: “Puig’s at-bats will be must-see events and he will electrify Dodger Stadium, bringing back memories of ‘Fernandomania’ when Fernando Valenzuela routinely sold out Chavez Ravine during his starts.” Puig has gone on and done exactly that.
Though it sounded crazy back in March, Pujols’ injuries and a ridiculous slump by Hamilton contributed to this prediction nearly coming to fruition. Trout still is the best and most complete player in baseball. However, Trumbo’s belted 31 home runs so far this season compared to 23 for Trout, 19 for Hamilton and 17 for Pujols. Trumbo’s raw power is off the charts, and I see 40 home runs for him in 2014.
I felt that this team had enough pitching, defense and young players coming into their own that it had a legitimate shot at ending 21 seasons of futility. I also thought at the time that Gerrit Cole and/or Jameson Taillon would impact this team in the second half. Cole did, and Taillon isn’t far behind. I correctly thought that Russell Martin would make a difference behind the plate, just as Pedro Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen would elevate themselves to another level of stardom. However, Francisco Liriano’s success came as a surprise, and he should be the front-runner for Comeback Player of the Year, as well as an NL Cy Young candidate.
I thought Ryan should have won the Gold Glove at shortstop in 2012 and felt the reason he didn’t win it might have been because his batting average was below .200. However, he hit just .192 and lost his job to rookie Brad Miller.
In spring training I didn’t believe the Phillies were good enough to contend in the NL East with the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals, so I figured they would end up trading Young to a contending team at some point during the summer. Though I thought it might have been the Baltimore Orioles or Tampa Bay Rays, Young ended up going to the Dodgers, thanks in part to his ability to steer where he could land. Young led the AL in hits just two years ago and is such a clutch, winning player, I still can see him getting a postseason start against a right-handed pitcher with whom he matches up well. With the way Juan Uribe is hitting, he might get that chance.
Prediction: Cliff Lee will be traded to the Angels or back to the Rangers at the July 31 trade deadline. Outcome: Wrong
I blame Phillies GM Ruben Amaro for this one. He should have traded Lee back to the Rangers at the trade deadline. They were willing to hand over a strong package of prospects who would have helped create a fast way for the Phillies to rebuild. This is especially true when you consider the depth of the Rangers’ farm system and the package they ended up giving to the Cubs for Matt Garza. A few upgrades from that package and the Phillies would have been on their way to rebuilding.