Wednesday, March 27, 2019

2019 Predictions

This is a blog intended for sabermetrically-inclined readers. I shouldn’t have to spell out a list of caveats about the for entertainment purposes only content that follows, and I won’t.

AL EAST

1. New York
2. Boston (wildcard)
3. Tampa Bay
4. Toronto
5. Baltimore

I usually don’t actually show the numbers that come out of my “system” such as it is - it is not as robust a system as PECOTA or Fangraphs’ or Clay Davenport’s predictions, simplifying where the others are more rigorous and fed by other people’s player projections, because why bother reinventing that wheel when others have already done it so well? But in the case of the 2019 AL I think the estimates for the top four teams are illustrative of my failure to commit to any of this:

NYA 822/653, 100
HOU 814/653, 99
BOS 850/683, 99
CLE 783/634, 98

That’s (R/RA, Wins) in case it wasn’t obvious. So I can make bland statements like “the Red Sox appear to have a little better offense but worst defense than the Yankees”, but beyond that there’s not much to say other than it should be another entertaining season. It does appear to me that the Yankees and Astros have more surplus arms sitting around than the other contenders, and that’s certainly not a bad thing and something that the crude projection approach I take ignores. I’d expect Tampa Bay to take a step back from 2018 with a subpar offense. The Blue Jays are interesting as a sleeper, especially if the prospects show up and play more to their potential than their 2019 baseline expectation. Baltimore has two things going for them - I have Miami as worse on paper, and at least they’re trying a new approach. Actually three, because Camden Yards is awesome.

AL CENTRAL

1. Cleveland
2. Minnesota
3. Detroit
4. Kansas City
5. Chicago

The Indians are still the easy divisional favorite, to an extent that surprised me when I actually put the numbers to it. They are closer to the big three in the AL (in fact, right behind by my reckoning) than they are to the Twins. It’s easy to look at the negatives – a borderline embarrassing outfield, an unsettled bullpen with little attempt to add high upside depth, a clustering of the team’s excellence in starting pitching which is more prone to uncertainty. But it’s worth keeping in mind that Cleveland underplayed their peripherals last year (although less their PW% than their EW%) - they have some room to decline while still projecting to win 90 as they did last year. Names like Sano and Buxton both make the Twins offense look better than it actually figures to be while also giving it more upside than a typical team, but they look like a slightly above average offense and slightly below average defense. You can throw a blanket over the three teams at the bottom - the order I’ve picked them for 2019 is the reverse order of the optimism I’d hold for 2020 as a fan of those teams.

AL WEST

1. Houston
2. Los Angeles (wildcard)
3. Oakland
4. Seattle
5. Texas

Houston is an outstanding team once again, a World Series contender with room for misfortune. The Angels are my tepid choice for second wildcard - the Rays are in a tough division, the Twins could feast on the Central underlings but look like about as .500 of a team on paper as you can get, while the A’s can expect some regression on both offense and the bullpen. The Angels have huge rotation question marks, but all of these teams are flawed. The Mariners and Rangers both strike me as teams that could easily outplay projections; alas, it would take a surfeit of that to get into the race.

NL EAST

1. Philadelphia
2. Washington (wildcard)
3. New York
4. Atlanta
5. Miami

This should be interesting. It’s easy to overrate the Phillies given that they were in the race last year when they really shouldn’t have been as close. It would be easy to overrate the Braves, who arrived early. It would be easy to underrate the Nationals, losing their franchise icon while bringing in another ace and graduating another potential outfield star. It would be easy to underrate the Mets, who are generally a disaster but still have talent. The only thing that wouldn’t be easy to do is trick yourself into thinking the Marlins are going to win.

NL CENTRAL

1. Chicago
2. Milwaukee (wildcard)
3. St. Louis
4. Cincinnati
5. Pittsburgh

I have this about dead even on paper, but I give a slight edge to the Cubs with a bounce back from Kris Bryant and a more settled (if aging) rotation. The Brewers are legit, and their rotation should benefit from some arms that were used as swingmen last year getting a shot at starting. But the bullpen will likely be worse and some offensive regression shouldn’t come as a surprise. The Cardinals and Reds are a bit further back on paper, but close enough that it wouldn’t be that surprising if they played themselves into the mix. As a semi-Reds fan I’m a little skeptical about the chances of the quick transitional rebuild actually paying off. The Pirates look easily like the best team that I’ve picked last; the start of 2018 is a good reminder that teams like this can find themselves in the race.

NL WEST

1. Los Angeles
2. Colorado
3. Arizona
4. San Diego
5. San Francisco

The Dodgers run in the NL West is underappreciated due to their failure to win the World Series and people inclined to write it off because of their payroll. I like their divisional chances better in 2019 as only the Rockies are real challengers. I’d put Colorado in the second tier of NL contenders with Cincinnati, St. Louis, New York, and Atlanta. If you can figure out if Arizona is starting a rebuild or trying to do one of those on-the-fly retools, let me know. Maybe let Mike Hazen know too. The Padres are interesting in that the prospects that have shown up so far haven’t lived up to expectations yet, but there are more and LOOK MANNY MACHADO. The Giants with Machado or Harper would have been the opposite of the Padres, more or less, which is considerably less interesting.

WORLD SERIES

Houston over Los Angeles

Or Houston or Boston. They’re basically interchangeable.

AL MVP: CF Mike Trout, LAA
AL Cy Young: Trevor Bauer, CLE
AL Rookie of the Year: LF Eloy Jimenez, CHA
NL MVP: 3B Nolan Arenado, COL
NL Cy Young: Aaron Nola, PHI
NL Rookie of the Year: CF Victor Robles, WAS

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