Happy Holidays, Place to Be Nation!
As our parting gift of the 2016 Major League Baseball season, now that all of the games have been played and the seemingly endless line of trophies and awards have been handed out, it’s time to look back one final time.
Back in March, our Sports Evolution crew of Scott, Dr. G., Cowboy Sr., and myself took a shot at pre-season predictions. Well, there is nothing more impossible than baseball predictions. With the game being so intricate and luck-based, the game of prognostication is a humbling one, for sure.
National League West
Actual winner: Los Angeles Dodgers 91-71
Scott: San Francisco Giants (ended up 87-75)
Cowboy Sr.: Ditto.
Dr. G.: Same.
Analysis: Well, while no one had the Dodgers figured for pushovers, the G-Men had a rotten second half, which sunk our presumptive division favorites. However, they still made the playoffs, and may have knocked off the Cubbies in the NLDS if Bruce Bochy hadn’t over-managed his bullpen to death in Game 4.
National League Central
Actual winner: Chicago Cubs 103-58
Cowboy Sr.: Cubbies.
Dr. G.: Cubbies.
Analysis: So far, so dull. Yep, we ran the table with Chicago here too, but so did every sane analyst on the planet.
National League East
Actual winner: Washington Nationals 95-67
Scott: New York Mets (ended up 87-75)
Cowboy Sr.: Mets
Dr. G.: Mets
Analysis: Overestimation of the Mets’ pitching staff, plus underestimation of just how good Washington would be (or perhaps, overlooking the Nats due to a bad 2015) led us to unanimously pick the Metropolitans here. As often happens with pre-season picking, injuries are near-impossible to predict, and we frequently make picks with rose-tinted glasses on. C’est la vie.
National League Wild Cards
Actual winners: San Francisco Giants and New York Mets
Scott: St. Louis Cardinals (86-76) & Pittsburgh Pirates (78-83)
Cowboy Sr.: Dodgers & Cardinals
Dr. G.: Pirates & Nationals
JB: Pirates & Nationals
Analysis: Despite a few misses here, the panel was still close, as the Cardinals and Pirates were both in the playoff picture well into September. Heck, the Cards finished just one game out. Overall, the National League was a lot neater than the American, which was like trying to predict the future. Or something.
American League West:
Actual winner: Texas Rangers 95-67
Cowboy Sr.: Houston Astros (84-78)
Dr. G.: Astros
Analysis: If not for a wretched April (7-17), Houston probably gets a wild card berth or better and shakes things up a bit. As it was, with all of the injuries to the Rangers, it was a wonder they won out, but combining Houston’s poor start, a torrid June (20-8), and a crazy-good 36-11 record in one-run games, it was a recipe for Texas to win the division in a walk.
American League Central:
Actual winner: Cleveland Indians 94-67
Scott: Kansas City Royals (81-81)
Cowboy Sr.: Royals
Dr. G.: Royals
JB: Detroit Tigers (86-75)
Analysis: I took my home-state team and ended up in better shape, but the agony of being unable to topple Cleveland at all was a crusher for the Tigers. And, yes, my preseason call that the Indians would be the “best fourth-place team in baseball” still hurts. But, the others all rode the coattails of the defending World Champs and paid the price.
American League West:
Actual winner: Boston Red Sox 93-69
Scott: Toronto Blue Jays (89-73)
Cowboy Sr.: Blue Jays
Dr.G.: New York Yankees (84-78)
JB: Blue Jays
Analysis: Maybe the toughest divisional call out there. I know we all wrestled with this one, and at some point during our discussion, it’s quite possible we chose different winners. However these were our final choices. Three of us loved the Jays’ offense and pitching enough — and were skittish about Boston’s pitching — to crown Toronto, while Dr. G. made a homer pick that didn’t quite pan out.
American League Wild Card
Actual winners: Baltimore Orioles & Toronto Blue Jays, both 89-73
Scott: Astros & Indians (94-67)
Cowboy Sr.: Indians & Red Sox (93-69)
Dr. G.: Rangers & Blue Jays
JB: Astros & Royals
Analysis: Of the six different teams we selected, five of them were in the playoff hunt deep into September, so overall these picks were pretty solid. While our faith in the Jays was pretty good, either as a division winner of wild card, no one gave love to Baltimore, largely on the presence of a super-shaky starting pitching staff. A gut feeling that bore fruit, as the O’s starters put up a 4.72 ERA, good for 13th in the league! The O’s best-in-the-league 3.40 bullpen ERA softened that blow considerably, and helped the O’s make us look silly.
World Series Picks:
Actual winners: Chicago Cubs, topped Cleveland Indians, 4 games to 3
Scott: Mets over Royals
Cowboy Sr.: Royals over Cubs
Dr. G.: Royals over Cubs
JB: Mets over Blue Jays
Analysis: Oh, man. Ouch. At least two of us had the Cubbies making the Series. That’s something. And we each had at least one playoff team in our respective pairings, too. For what it’s worth*, I was the only one to get two legit playoff teams in my Fall Classic.
*Nothing. It’s worth nothing. I’m just a sad, jobless, hobgoblin trying to make himself feel better.
This, of course, covers only the Baseball Writers’ Association awards, not the 8,000 others floating around out there. You know, Esurance, Best DH, Cleanest House, Best Smile, Sharpest Dresser. That sort of crap…
National League MVP:
Actual winner: Kris Bryant, Cubs
Cowboy Sr.: Anthony Rizzo, Cubs
Dr. G.: Bryce Harper, Nationals
Analysis: Scott nailed this one, as the sophomore Cubbie became the fourth player to pick up an MVP the year after winning Rookie of the Year. He picked up 29 of 30 first-place votes, while blowing away second-place finisher Daniel Murphy in total points, 415 to 245. Rizzo had a strong season for the Cubs too, giving them perhaps the best infield corners in all of baseball. He ended up fourth in the voting, garnering 202 total points. Harper, who won the award in 2015, struggled most of the year to get into a rhythm. Whether it was injuries or just the mental bugaboo of getting pitched around a bunch (leading the league with 20 intentional walks), Bryce hit a solid .243/.373/.441 with 24 homers. Good, but not other-worldly like 2015.
National League Cy Young:
Actual winner: Max Scherzer, Nationals
Scott: Jacob deGrom, Mets
Cowboy Sr.: Jake Arrieta, Cubs
Dr. G.: Noah Syndergaard, Mets
Analysis: Unlike the AL Cy picks below, all four of us had strong choices here. Scherzer led the league in bWAR for pitchers (6.2), wins (20), WHIP (0.968), innings (228.1), and strikeouts (284). Arrieta, last year’s winner, ended up with a solid 3.10 ERA, 18 wins, a 1.084 WHIP, and 190 strikeouts in 197.1 innings.
For the Mets, Thor was in the conversation most of the year, posting final totals of 218 strikeouts, a 2.60 ERA, and 5.3 bWAR. deGrom had a solid season, but only made 24 starts due to injury. His overall numbers were pretty decent (7-8, 3.04 ERA, 143 K in 148.0 innings) but hardly award-worthy.
American League MVP:
Actual winner: Mike Trout, Angels
Cowboy Sr.: Carlos Correa, Astros
Dr. G.: Trout
JB: Jose Bautista
Analysis: The Millville Meteor proved to be the best player in the league again this year and took home the hardware to prove it. While his team stunk, it really didn’t matter, as Trout was other-worldly. He played a sparkling center field, led the AL in runs (123), walks (116), on-base percentage (.441), and OPS+ (174), all while mashing 29 homers and swiping 30 bases.
Correa put up a great sophomore season for Cowboy, Sr., slashing .274/.361/.451 with 20 homers, 36 doubles, and 96 RBIs in 153 games. Meanwhile, the misguided thought that Joey Bats would be on fire with free agency looming doomed the poor sap that picked him. Oh, wait…
American League Cy Young:
Actual winner: Rick Porcello, Red Sox
Scott: Sonny Gray, A’s
Cowboy Sr.: Chris Sale, White Sox
Dr. G.: Dallas Keuchel, Astros
JB: Chris Archer, Rays
Analysis: What the hell were we thinking? Other than Cowboy, Sr., we blew this one big time! Gray went 5-11 with a 5.69 ERA in just 22 starts, while Keuchel followed up his 2015 Cy with a 9-12 record, a 4.55 ERA and just 26 starts. Archer led the majors with 19 losses, but his 4.02 ERA with 233 strikeouts in 201.1 innings was downright excellent next to Kuechel and Gray.
Still, none of that trio came close to Sale, the Chicago southpaw who went 17-10 with 233 punchouts in 226.2 innings.
In the end, the award went to Boston’s Rick Porcello, who bounced back from a rough 2015 (9-15, 4.92) to run up a 22-4, 3.15 season where he posted career bests in nearly every positive category.
For those of you scoring at home, stop it. No one should score a column about nine-month-old predictions.
And so the 2016 baseball season in tucked quietly away. It saw remarkable wins and losses, drama after drama, and history was made. As we prepare for the dawn of 2017, with all of the shakiness and uncertainty in our world today, let us rejoice in the fact that baseball is wonderful and comforting and fantastic.
With Spring Training just a few months away.