After a short amount of research over a small sample size I have the answer to how long it takes a writer to regret at least part of their pre-season projections: six weeks.
It took me six weeks to realize that I completely botched my AL West predictions that placed the Houston Astros in 4th place. The worst part is I remember penciling everything in in that division and thinking to myself 'you know what, the Astros could actually be pretty good' before assuring myself 'but it won't be this year' and somehow ranking the Athletics ahead of them.
Laugh it up. I deserve it. The fact is, this is my first year actually being somewhat accountable for my predictions so I really wanted to get them right. I'm still fairly pleased with them -- I took mostly 'safe bets' -- but if I could go back, there's no question I would change my treatment of the Astros, who I now firmly believe in. So, less than two months into the season I started wondering if I was the only one on the staff with regrets. I wasn't alone, so let's see how our other staffers view their own pre-season predictions (which you can read about here) which are still younger than eight weeks old.
I got ten responses in total from everyone around the office. The first question I asked was a pretty loaded one: On a scale of 1-10 how confident are you in your pre-season predictions? Our writers scored themselves skeptically, with an average score of 4.5/10. Murphy Powell, Henry Druschel and Steven Martano represented the uber-skeptics on the staff, grading themselves a '3' while Michael Bradburn (yours truly) has the extremely dubious honour of scoring himself the highest with an '8.'
The next question was which American League team has surprised you the most? This was left somewhat intentionally ambiguous. 'Surprising' could mean 'surprisingly good' or 'surprisingly bad' and the writers had an array of responses. All I wanted was the team whose performance had most surprised us. Five of our staff, somewhat unsurprisingly, chose the Houston Astros. The runners-up included the Kansas City Royals with two votes and one vote each for the Oakland Athletics, Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox. The Astros and the Twins have certainly been Cinderalla stories up until now, while the Royals have exceeded many expectations (despite, you know, making it to the World Series last year). That leaves the Athletics and Red Sox as the huge disappointments.
The National League team that has surprised us the most? A four-way tie! The Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs, Miami Marlins and New York Mets have all surprised two of us each. The Braves, Cubs and Mets have been surprisingly decent over the opening stretch while the Marlins have been even worse than expected (and there wasn't a whole lot of optimism to begin with). The unfathomably bad Milwaukee Brewers drew a single vote (and probably should have drawn more attention) as did the inexplicably good odd-season San Francisco Giants.
The next question was "of the teams our writers picked to finish last in their division, which one do you think could make the playoffs after watching their first two months?" That narrowed the selection to a pretty abysmal group of teams that included the Yankees, Twins, Rangers, Phillies, Reds and Rockies. Despite having the best record on the board, the Minnesota Twins only received one vote (kudos to Matt Goldman). The remaining nine all went to the Yankees. I think this was my second favourite result of the entire poll because I'm honestly not sure what to make of it. Did Goldman not choose the Yankees out of spite? Did nine of us choose the Yankees just because the AL East is a complete dumpster fire right now? Or do we actually believe in Michael Pineda and Alex Rodriguez? Who knows.
As for teams that were picked to finish either third or fourth in our poll, eight of us believe the Royals could place win the ALCS and seven of us think the Cubs could win the NLCS. The Astros and Rays grabbed a vote each for the AL while the Mets got two and the little-loved San Diego Padres had the remaining vote for the NL (credit Bryan Cole with the sympathy vote).
Of the teams that didn't get a single first-place vote in our original poll, the team we expect to finish first now are the Kansas City Royals. I think this says more about us for not issuing one first-place vote for the Royals before the season started than anything else. We had 14 people fill out the original prediction poll and all of us picked the Tigers, Indians or the White Sox to finish first in the division. The Royals were our consensus fourth-place team! For shame. The Astros also got two votes while the Giants and Yankees earned one each.
As for first-place teams we think aren't for real, the Tampa Bay Rays reign supreme with five votes (Bradburn, Lindholm, Lampe, Powell and Jackson). And, as much as we seemed to like the Astros and Royals in previous questions, we still seem to be pretty split on the topic. Jose Altuve's team was labeled 'over-performers' by three of us (Cole, Ruprecht and Martano) while the reigning American League champions' performance is dismissed by two of us (Druschel and Goldman).
Which team do we regret our ranking of the most though? This was a completely mixed-bag with eight teams being named by the ten of us (with one abstain). The Boston Red Sox would have been ranked lower by two of us, the Astros, Cubs, Mets, Yankees and Cardinals each got one vote suggesting that they should have been ranked higher. The Orioles and Indians got a vote each suggesting they should have been rated lower. I'm a bit surprised we didn't agree on this a bit more (the Indians and Red Sox in retrospect strike me as a team I should regret), but I guess we all value things differently, and I really believe the Astros are the real deal.
My favourite part of this whole exercise though was a two-part question at the end: Has your World Series matchup changed? If so, how? Five of us chose to keep our answer the same while five of us decided to swallow our pride and change it. Let's take a look at the changes we made:
|Pre-season WS matchup||Revised|
|Steven Martano||Red Sox||Nationals||Royals||Nationals|
|Matt Jackson||Red Sox||Nationals||Royals||Nationals|
All five of the changes were to add the Kansas City Royals to the World Series. ALL FIVE! I'm not sure whether to say sorry that we didn't include them before, or apologize that we've definitely jynxed it now. Either way, we plead forgiveness.
. . .
Many thanks to Bryan Cole for conducting the original pre-season poll and to all staff who participated.
Michael Bradburn is a Featured Writer for Beyond the Box Score. He would like to make it abundantly clear that 'jynxing' does not exist. You can follow him on Twitter at @mwbii. You can also reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org