Sunday, July 21, 2013

No Second Chance at a Preseason Prediction

Baseball's All-Star break (for the record, my view is that a little break is good from the grind, though four days long is one too many, and it should be earlier in the season by about three weeks) prompts a whole round of self-second-guessing: Sports Illustrated's "Baseball 2013 (Re) Preview" being just the most egregious.

I can see the point of a mid-year review of the differences of how things have played out so far vs. what the preseason expectations were, but allowing the so-called prognosticators to revise their predictions (which SI and my current local paper, the Chicago Tribune, did) is weak and unfair to those of us who are willing to be judged on their preseason forecasts (mine were recorded here on 4/19 in a comment following on to a pre-season post, so a little after the season started, and I'll get to those in a moment).  There is a world of difference between trying to predict before the season has started, or at least established any patterns, and doing so 60% of the way through the regular season. This is a time for self-praise, or mea culpas, not revisionism. 

I will, however, stipulate the "right" of self-proclaimed pundits (like me) to put down new predictions for the postseason in that narrow window between the end of the regular season and the beginning of the wild card playoffs: There is often a knife-edge of difference between teams in the homestretch getting in or not, full-fledged playoff entries or one-game play-ins, and home-field advantage (whatever that's worth), and it's hard enough trying to anticipate those short-series outcomes when the matchups are clearly in view. 

So.  Of the six ML divisions, I have the All-Star break leaders in just two (Atlanta and Detroit), but I like my chances in three more (Dodgers, Cincinnati, and Tampa Bay); only the pick of the Angels seems improbable or impossible.  The Reds are in third but seem likely to make the playoffs, at least, and a lot of the experts look at the dynamics and the schedules and conclude they still have a real good shot at first.  My picks for the WC's are less prescient:  the picks of the Giants and Nats both look unlikely at this point--I will give myself some credit for not picking these popular favorites for division titles, but didn't fully (dis)credit them for the weaknesses that have been exposed.  As for the AL, I picked the A's and Rangers for the spots, which wasn't too bad:  one will win the division and the other is likely to get a Wild Card spot.  

The teams that seem--by popular revisionist thought and their current position in the standings-- to be playoff-bound that I didn't identify are (first, two that few if any spotted) the Red Sox (not certain, but likely) the Pirates (I'm still skeptical), and the Cardinals, a decision which is less forgivable.  I saw a pattern of early injuries with St. Louis and the Yankees and discounted their chances. The Yanks started strong but have been fading as their overpriced, overrated stars (and also Curtis Granderson) have failed to return successfully, but the Cards overcame their issues early and their depth has allowed them to bring forward a host of new rising stars (Matt Carpenter, Matt Adams, Trevor Rosenthal, Edward Mujica) who have filled the gaps nicely.  They have the best record in the majors and are clearly a threat to go all the way, in spite of my hostile, jealous, emotion-driven forecasting blind spot.  

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