A Conversation About Grading Pre-Season Predictions
Back in February we exchanged some predictions about the 2019 Cubs. With the season almost a third of the way over, I think we can revisit those predictions and make some early judgments on our accuracy. I propose we each grade the other’s predictions.
Upon review I made six predictions; how do you think I did?
- Kris Bryant bounces back
- Javy Báez regresses
- Kyle Schwarber breaks out
- Jon Lester: 175 IP 4.00 ERA
- Cole Hamels: 180 IP 3.30 ERA
- Adbert Alzolay gets called up in June
I’m going to break this up between the hitting and pitching predictions. As for your first prediction, I think everyone can agree Bryant is back with a vengeance. He has already surpassed his home run total from his injury-plagued 2018 season and he’s ahead of the pace set in his 2016 MVP season. Some online were quick to cry danger after his slow start, but I think it’s safe to say that through this point of the season, you get an A on this one.
Javy has also gotten off to a monster start, with no signs of a power decline. His strikeout rate is up, but so is his walk rate and his batting average has been more impressive than 2018. His OPS of .923 his much higher than the .880 mark during his near MVP season. You were far from the only person to predict regression, but I’ll have to give you a D on this one so far.
Schwarber is a very interesting case. The traditional numbers aren’t great and his OPS is at .778, lower than the .823 last year. On the other hand, he is walking a ton and providing a lot of slugging. He also has been a solid presence in the leadoff spot. I think he is on the right track for a breakout, but I’m not ready to pronounce it yet so I’ll give this prediction a C.
I appreciate you noting that Schwarber is trending in the right direction, maybe I will get that grade up to a B by mid-season. And I am so happy to be wrong about Javy.
So you had seven predictions in our previous discussion:
- Willson Contreras has great season
- Ian Happ breakout season
- Age catches up to Ben Zobrist
- Yu Darvish pitches the full season, has 3.50 ERA
- Jose Quintana has best season as Cub
- Luke Hagerty gets call up
- Five Cubs record saves
Like you, I will divide these up and address the hitting predictions first. You nailed WillCo’s resurgence, A+ on that prediction. His slash line is .296/.402/.568 and he managed to rediscover his power stroke from 2017 without giving up his contact and on-base skills from 2018. I did not see that coming, kudos to you.
Unfortunately, you did far worse with your second prediction. Happ not only failed to break out, he failed to break camp. He could still solve his problems in AAA and return to dominate in the second half, but signing Carlos González rather than promote Happ to bolster the outfield. I was going to give you an F, then Evan Altman documented Happ’s recent resurgence in Triple-A, so I’m upgrading this to a D.
As for Zobrist, I think we are going to have to agree this is a push (to use betting parlance). Age did not catch up to him, marital problems did. I will not further dig into his private life beyond that.
Okay, so how did I do on my pitching predictions?
Your two big pitching predictions have kind of switched in accuracy as the season has developed. First, your prediction of a mediocre season for Lester looked bad the first month or so. Big Jon was excellent, with an ERA of 1.16, but the regression monster has reared its ugly head of late. He currently has a 3.56 ERA and is on pace for 152 innings after a hamstring injury. You are very close so far on this prediction, I’m going to give you a B.
As for Colbert Michael Hamels, it appears to be an exact reversal of the situation. He was terrific early on and your guess of a 3.30 ERA and 180 innings actually seemed too conservative. Then the wheels came off in May as he pitched to a 5.19 ERA. He is still on pace to log 180 innings and had a good start in St. Louis to lower his overall ERA to 3.62, so I will give this prediction a B.
The final prediction that Alzolay would be up in June looked as if it was never going to get off the ground. An arm injury delayed his debut this season, but he returned about three weeks ago. After a rusty first outing he has looked very good his last two outings. However I think his late start means a call-up likely happens later than June. So I’ll give it a C, but I’ll bump that up if he goes to the majors at some point in 2019.
You pegged Darvish for a full season (so far so good) and a 3.50 ERA (oops!). Darvish has been trending in the right direction and I have been quite impressed by his past three starts, but he still has an ERA north of 5 with 61 innings already on the books. He would need to pitch much better through the rest of the season to lower his ERA by 1.5 points. That is possible…but unlikely. I’ll give you a C and hope I am proven wrong.
Your Quintana prediction looked really strong early, much like Lester and Hamels. Quintana’s improved changeup was playing well and he had a great three-game stretch in April that lowered his ERA to 3.21. Since then, though, he has not gone 7 innings in a start and the ERA has risen steadily. I think the change is for real and Quintana will lower his ERA by season’s end, so I’m giving this one a B with a high probability of rising to an A.
Hagerty blew out his elbow shortly after our initial piece, so that prediction is an F. Pitching injuries are part and parcel of the game, particularly for an older pitcher with injury history and high velocity. Luckily, this was a low-stakes flyer.
Your final prediction was that five Cubs would record saves. Given that statically most teams have five players record at least one save, I’m going to interpret the plural version of the word “saves” to require that each of the five get two or more. Right now, that prediction is spot on. Pedro Strop has four saves, Steve Cishek has five, Tyler Chatwood and Allen Webster each have one, and Brandon Morrow should earn some if he returns. So B+ on this one. More concerning is that four pitchers have multiple blown saves.
So, do you want to add any new predictions?
I don’t think I’ll add any predictions at the moment, just stick with my preseason work. I thought we could provide a little defense or admission of our errors on each of our own prognostications, though.
I definitely missed dramatically on Happ and Darvish. I was hoping better recognition of the zone would fix the holes in Happ’s swing, but that hasn’t happened yet. Darvish has made every start so far as I hoped he would, but I did not foresee his complete lack of fastball command. Hagerty was just a long-shot prediction that immediately fizzled out. Zobrist was off to a slow start before his personal issues, but I agree that the circumstances merit a push.
I felt very strongly that Contreras was a victim of overuse and perhaps some flawed coaching and I’m very happy that he has been raking so far in 2019. I still feel very good about Quintana, who has limited damage even when he has had an off start. And his stretch in late April and early May was definitely his best as a Cub, so I think I would give myself a solid C overall. How do you feel about your guesses?
I have long known that I have poor predictive powers, hence my focus on financial topics. Still, you were harsher than I expected on my Alzolay prediction, given his recent dominance at Triple-A and the Cubs’ obvious bullpen needs. Since he’s already on the 40-man roster, it is quite plausible that he gets the call by month’s end. Given the specificity of my prediction, that plausibility alone is impressive.
In fact, if the Cubs do not sign Craig Kimbrel this week, I would even double down on the Alzolay prediction. The Cubs may want to know if the young righty is a potential solution in the ‘pen before they start trading for help. That means calling him up well before the trade deadline.
This was a fun discussion, I look forward to our next one soon.