Way back on March 24, I published the 2014 pre-season predictions contest (link), the fourth iteration of the annual reminder of what terrible prognosticators we are. Only a funny thing happened this time. Whether the questions were easier, the season was more predictable, or we got smarter is for you to decide (it was the first option), but as a whole we did much better this season than in any of the last three.
First, let me congratulate the winners.
First prize is a choice between the Busch stadium print that the folks over at Ballpark Blueprints were kind enough to donate and a pair of baseball cards from Bob Gibson and Stan Musial's final seasons. The second prize is whatever the first place winner does not choose.
And of course there will be a prize for last place, which I will reveal at the bottom of one of my regular posts after the
poor sucker winner has received it.
Someone who goes by "vivid13" won the contest with 9 of 11 questions correct. Vivid missed only question 2 and 5. Congratulations, vivid13. E-mail me with your address and choice of prize within a week!
Second place went to WyoCardsFan, which is especially impressive in light of the fact that he won second place in 2012 as well. Wyo got 8 correct, missing questions 3, 6, and 10, and he was off on the first tiebreaker about Matt Carpenter's season hit total by only 10.
Third place, who will move up to second in the event that I don't hear from vivid13, went to PugetSoundCardsAddict. He also got 8 correct, missing questions 5, 10. and 11, and missed on the tiebreaker by just 13 hits. Those 3 hits were the difference.
There were a couple of other readers who got 8 right with worse tiebreakers, and many who got 7 correct.
Last place goes to Sir Sci, who got just a single question right, and had a better tiebreaker than the other two readers who had just 1 correct. All three only answered question #1 correctly. Sir Sci, I'll need your address as well. Prepare yourself.
All three of you, please contact me at the email address in my profile by Monday morning the 27th to claim your prize.
Special thanks to the ever helpful Robth for the assistance in auto-grading the 239 submissions I received this year.
Let's break down the answers and see how we did as a community.
Can we be overwhelmingly right by the skin of our teeth? I think that's what happened. 98% of us got this right, but given how the year played out, there probably should have been more skeptics. On the other hand, the Cardinals won the NL central despite some unexpectedly rough seasons from Craig and Molina, and a major injury to Michael Wacha. They ended up having the margin of error needed to win anyway, which is reflected in the confidence we had back in March.
Once again, our contestants did well here. Nearly half got this one right, though it's worth noting had the Cardinals won just two fewer games, this would be a nearly universal miss. But once again, they reached 90 wins despite some unexpected maladies, so the bottom of the range we pegged them for makes a lot of sense.
This time, the most popular answer narrowly missed. The pair ended up with 29 steals in 36 attempts. They were successful and assertive on the bases, but a lack of as much playing time as we likely expected sunk their efforts. Had Wong not spent time in AAA and on the DL, and had Bourjos received as many starts as we thought he would back after spring training, the 45% who guessed 30-39 would have likely missed low.
The group nailed this one. Matt Adams edged out Matt Holliday .457 to .441 while Allen Craig (.315) and Yadi (.386) were far behind.
This was the question I was most interested in after I made the contest. Allen Craig hit well over .300 in all situations each of his three full seasons prior to 2014, so only around 36% of respondents thought he'd hit significantly over that mark. Of course, the answer to the question I was really asking (does Allen Craig have a real skill in situational hitting) was rendered meaningless this year as all of his hitting fell off the edge of the world. He hit .215 on the year and .216 with RISP, so, uh, there. We did not do well.
Lance Lynn won with 8.00 K/9. Michael Wacha would have been next with 7.91, but failed to reach the IP requirement with just 107. Adam Wainwright had 7.10, and Shelby Miller was last with 6.25. The most popular choice was correct again, and only those who picked Shelby look way off here at the end of the season. Our projections for Shelby next year will be interesting to see in March.
I was one of the more bullish members of VEB from the day the Cardinals offered Pat Neshek a non-guaranteed contract last February, but even after Neshek's promising spring I would not have dreamed of 67 stellar innings from him. He dwarfed Randy Choate's 36 IP and Jason Motte's 25 on his way to 1.8fWAR out of the pen in one of 2014's most pleasant surprises.
If we knew in advance that Michael Wacha and Joe Kelly would both miss significant time and that Jaime Garcia would make only a brief appearance in the rotation, we probably would have missed this. We didn't know those things, and we still ended up looking good here. Good BABIP, VEB. Now what will you answer next year?
Oscar stepped to the plate 248 times in 2014, making this easily true. Though many of us are disappointed Taveras didn't manage even more plate appearances this year, it's worth remembering that 41% of us thought he wouldn't get anywhere near that amount. Where should I put the over-under next season?
VEB correctly predicted that Trevor would not establish himself in the ranks of Chapman and Kimbrel this year. He ended 2014's regular season with a 3.20 ERA, well off last year's 2.63, and his FIP swelled from 1.91 to 2.99.
The final numbers read: Jon Jay 2.5, Kolten Wong 2.0, and Peter Bourjos 1.6, though each player's WAR reflects more about their playing time than their skills. Peter Bourjos appeared in 119 games, but often as a late innings defensive replacement or pinch runner, and he managed just 284 PA. Kolten Wong missed time due to his manager's whimsies and a shoulder injury, but made a healthy 433 PA in his 113 games. Jon Jay appeared in 140 games, sometimes as a defensive replacement, and saw 468 PA. All three players did well and are tightly grouped in terms of fWAR relative to playing time, though due to Bourjos' unusual use, it's tough to contrast them directly. The rookie looks likely to win this contest next season whether or not Bourjos remains with the team, but Bourjos had another stellar year with the glove (+20 UZR/150) and Jon Jay had a .372 OBP. What's not to like?
We predicted Matt Carpenter to have 183.9 hits and 43.6 doubles. He ended up with 162 and 33, respectively.
Congrats again to this year's winners. Thanks for playing, and look for another contest in March!
We'll be taking a look at the community projections for individual players as well as the editors' roundtable predictions in the coming weeks as we examine what we expected and what surprised us in 2014.