The 2017 season is in the books. Baseball fans were given a very entertaining regular and post-season. Although many favored teams heading into the season performed well, there were enough surprises, both good and bad, that kept things interesting.
It is now time to take stock of how I did projecting team wins and which teams would make the playoffs. Below are my predictions on the left and the actual results on the right for each team. The number of wins (above or below my prediction are in parentheses).
AL EAST Prediction AL EAST Results
Boston 91 Boston 93 (+2)
Toronto 86 NY Yankees 91 (+9)
Baltimore 86 Tampa Bay 80 (0)
NY Yankees 82 Toronto 76 (-10)
Tampa Bay 80 Baltimore 75 (-11)
Looking back at the pre-season projection – I was right about Boston but they did not have the season I envisioned. The pitching never got on track and the loss of Ortiz clearly affected the lineup, especially in the power department. The Yankees arrived a year earlier than many (including me) expected and Judge’s production more than made up for the loss of offense that Greg Bird’s injury appeared ready to inflict upon the offense. Gregorius had a tremendous season, especially in the power department and the pitching, even with starters going out with injury and Chapman and Betances both struggling at times, held things down well enough to challenge the Sox for the A.L. East crown all the way to the end of the regular season. I was more bullish on the Orioles than I probably should have been. I know many projections didn’t like their chances to challenge for a playoff spot but the same projection systems tend to under-rate them year after year. This was the year the projection systems got things right. Toronto dug themselves an early season hole and although they played better at times, the damage was done and the 2017 season was lost. Tampa Bay played as I expected and even a little better than I expected during parts of 2017. My pre-season projection had them as a last place 80 win team. The reality was that those 80 wins made them a third place finisher in the division.
AL CENTRAL Prediction AL CENTRAL Results
Cleveland 93 Cleveland 102 (+9)
Kansas City 82 Minnesota 85 (+15)
Detroit 81 Kansas City 80 (-2)
Chicago W.S. 70 Chicago W.S. 67 (-3)
Minnesota 70 Detroit 64 (-17)
Cleveland cruised along and then hit the gas blowing away the competition as they headed into the post season. Making the post season surprised no one but their exit and the hands of the Yankees sure did. The Twins were a great A.L. Central story. They had a surprisingly good 2015 (83 wins), went backwards in 2016 (59 wins), and many thought their struggles would continue in 2017. They started out hot and played good enough ball down the stretch to hold onto the wild card and proved just about every baseball fan living outside of Minnesota wrong. The 2017 season was not very exciting for the three other AL Central teams. Detroit bottomed out, the White Sox traded every player being paid over ten bucks, and the Royals treaded water in what may have been their last attempt at a run at the post season for a while (due to the impending free agencies of many of their best/most productive players).
AL WEST Prediction AL WEST Results
Houston 90 Houston 101 (+11)
Seattle 86 L.A. Angels 80 (+2)
Texas 85 Seattle 78 (-8)
L.A. Angels 78 Texas 78 (-7)
Oakland 71 Oakland 75 (+4)
The Astros started out cold in 2016 which ultimately sunk their season. I didn’t think that this would happen again and the team played as I expected them to throughout 2017. The Astros looked good from beginning to end and were a first place team in the A.L. West the whole year. The Angels pitchers couldn’t stay healthy which crippled their chances all season long. The Halos were in the wild card hunt for a while and stayed relevant even when Trout went on the disabled list. Once Trout returned, there was optimism that the team would make a final push and catch the Twins for the final wild card. Trout did not perform in his typical superhuman fashion and neither did the team (even with the Justin Upton addition to the outfield). The Angels ultimately finished 5 games back of the Twins for the last wild card spot. I thought the 2017 Mariners had an aging core and a suspect pitching staff. Jerry Dipoto made a number of moves in an attempt to bolster an aging team and keep the Mariners in the playoff discussion. Although James Paxton took a big leap forward in his development, not much else broke right for the Mariners and they ended 2017 in typical fashion, watching playoff baseball on TV. The Rangers were a team that vastly outperformed their underlying metrics by many games in 2016. This may have given fans a false hope for 2017. Not me. The team struggled early on (especially the bullpen) and the Rangers were left on the outside looking in at the post season. Oakland was expected to finish poorly… and they did….again.
NL EAST Prediction NL EAST Results
Washington 91 Washington 97 (+6)
NY Mets 87 Miami 77 (+2)
Atlanta 76 Atlanta 72 (-4)
Miami 75 NY Mets 70 (-17)
Philadelphia 73 Philadelphia 66 (-7)
I predicted the Nationals and the Mets would beat up on the rest of their N.L. East rivals and I was 50% right. The Nationals seemed to never break a sweat. Even with the loss of Adam Eaton (for almost the entire season) and Trea Turner (for a sizable chunk of time), the team just kept abusing the other four teams in the East and ran away with the division. I expected the Mets to continue their winning ways. The pitching staff looked to be maturing and developing into a dominating machine that could feasibly have more quality starters than they would know what to do with. Everything broke wrong for the team, especially health. If not for the Giants in the N.L. West, the Mets would have been the biggest disappointment of 2017. The Marlins are a strange team. The pitching staff seemed quite suspect heading into the season. Conversely, the Stanton, Ozuna, Yelich outfield may be the best overall trio of starting outfielders in the game. Most baseball fans will tell you that this team sucked in 2017 yet they still managed to finish second in the division. That tells you all you need to know about the N.L. East in 2017. The Braves were expected to have a re-building year. They started off looking OK but quickly fell to Earth as Freeman was injured and Swanson struggled all year. I was not hopeful about the Phillies chances in 2017 as they remained in perpetual rebuild mode. It looked like a completely lost year for the team until a few of their in-season call ups caught fire and saved the team the embarrassment of losing 100 or more games in the season (however they kept their streak of 90 plus loss seasons going – it is now at 3 years).
NL CENTRAL Prediction NL CENTRAL Results
Chicago C. 100 Chicago C. 92 (-8)
St. Louis 84 Milwaukee 86 (+13)
Pittsburg 82 St. Louis 83 (-1)
Milwaukee 73 Pittsburg 75 (-7)
Cincinnati 65 Cincinnati 68 (+3)
Entering 2017, I thought the Cubs would be firing on all cylinders and have no World Series hangover. I was wrong. The team took a long time to finally get going and didn’t take over first place for what felt like forever. Even when they took over the division lead, they never “caught fire”. Although 92 wins is nothing to cry about, this team underachieved. The Brewers on the other hand overachieved. What was supposed to be a rebuilding year turned into one of the best story lines. Like most baseball fans and writers, I sorely underestimated this team. Although they were not able to hold off the Cubs for the division or the Rockies for the last wild card spot (ultimately 1 victory less than the Rockies), their season has to be seen as major success. It will be interesting to see if their success was a one season wonder or if the front office has a knack for putting together a competitive team much more quickly than many expected. The Cardinals are always a solid organization and even in a down year, they managed to hang around the playoff race. Injuries and down years from guys like Piscotty, Diaz, and Grichuk hurt their chances. The Pirates were another team that I thought could break either way in 2017. I knew which direction they were going once Marte earned a PED suspension. I didn’t expect much from the Reds heading into the season. The team began hot, cooled off quickly, and was irrelevant after the first month or two. This is a shame because Joey Votto had a terrific season that was largely ignored by most of the baseball world (although he is a MVP finalist).
NL WEST Prediction NL WEST Results
L.A. Dodgers 100 L.A. Dodgers 104 (+4)
San Francisco 87 Arizona 93 (+23)
Colorado 73 Colorado 87 (+14)
Arizona 70 San Diego 71 (+8)
San Diego 63 San Francisco 64 (-23)
Although the N.L. Central was supposed to be the powerhouse division in the National League, the West was where the best teams resided. The Dodgers were expected to win a ton of games and during their hot streak it seemed like had a chance to set the all time mark for wins in a season. However, an equally extreme cold streak brought their win total back in line with many pre-season estimates (although some systems had them projected for around 110 wins). Arizona completely changed their front office personnel and the payoff was immediate (69 wins in 2016 to 93 in 2017). Great pitching performances and excellent offense carried this team to a level of success that I was not anticipating. Colorado was another team I underestimated. All season long I expected their pitching to finally give out and although closing games became a slight issue as Holland struggled towards the end of the season, the team hung on to the final wild card. The Padres were expected to continue their never ending re-build. Many of their higher rated prospects started the season with the big league team. I had them pegged for an extremely poor season and although their season won’t be remembered for generations to come, it wasn’t a complete dumpster fire either. The Giants’ season on the other hand was a complete dumpster fire. Bumgarner had an off the field injury that limited him to only 17 starts. Outside of Bumgarner, no Giants starter with more than 9 starts had an ERA+ over 100. The team also lost their big free agent acquisition, closer Mark Melancon for most of the year and the bullpen, even when Melancon was closing, was shaky at best. The team’s decision not to upgrade the outfield hampered the offense as did losing Belt (he played just over 100 games) and a down year from Crawford. In a nutshell, 2017 SUCKED for the Giants. I completely missed on this projection as I had them making the playoffs when in reality they ended the season with the worst record in baseball.
Based on my win total prediction, here were the playoff teams with my picks for the World Series and eventual champion as compared to how things played out:
AL Playoff Representatives Prediction: Cleveland, Houston, Boston, Seattle, Toronto
Actual AL Playoff Representatives: Cleveland, Houston, Boston, N.Y. Yankees, Minnesota
(The 3 division winners were predicted correctly. The two wild card predictions were incorrect.)
NL Playoff Representatives Prediction: Dodgers, Cubs, Nationals, Mets, Giants
Actual NL Playoff Representatives: Dodgers, Cubs, Nationals, D-Backs, Rockies
(The 3 division winners were predicted correctly. The two wild card predictions were incorrect.)
World Series: Cubs vs. Cleveland (Zero for two in predicting the World Series representatives from each league).
Champion: Cubs (Nope!)
Entering the 2017 Playoffs, I felt good about my Cleveland pre-season pick. The only other AL team that I thought had a legitimate chance to knock them out was Houston. It turned out that the Yankees did the Astros’ dirty work for them.
In the National League I felt less confident with my Cubs pre-season pick as the post season began. The Cubs never really caught fire at any time during the season. Some analysts believed that the Cubs played just enough solid baseball to get to the post-season and once there, last year’s juggernaut would reappear. That did not happen and the Cubs went home courtesy of the Dodgers in the NLCS.
Unlike the 2017 Cubs, the Dodgers did catch fire. However, their hot streak occurred after the All-Star break and the momentum they had built evaporated in the final few weeks. Although a win total that would rival the all-time great teams was not in the cards for them, the Dodgers looked primed for a deep playoff run. If given a chance to change my pre-season prediction, I would have dumped the Cubs and jumped on the L.A. bandwagon.
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