Wow! It’s the last day of the regular season! With one game to go, the playoff picture has finally been set in stone. That means we can look back on our preseason predictions, and determine precisely how foolish they look now that reality has had its way. (We also predicted the winners of the various playoff series, but you’ll have to wait a bit longer before mocking our inaccuracies on that front.) So how did we do?
Using our keen powers of insight, we correctly identified that the Dodgers were going to be a very good team. (Please, hold your applause.) Twenty of our twenty-two poll takers picked them to win the NL West, a margin that appropriately reflects the dominance that they displayed this year. The two dissenters weren’t too off-base, either, as they picked the Rockies to take it. On the one hand, the Rockies trail the Dodgers by a double-digit number of games; on the other hand, they did take a Wild Card slot. We also were very confident that the Astros would win the AL West for the first time in their history, again with twenty of twenty-two giving Houston the nod, and that Cleveland would take the AL Central, with unanimous agreement on their victory.
All twenty-two of us also correctly predicted that the Cubs would win the NL Central. “This seems like pretty low-hanging fruit,” you might be saying. “The Cubs are defending World Series champions, and they didn’t win the Central with ease. Maybe it’s not that impressive that you all picked them to win.” You might be right! You could level the same criticism at the 21/22 picking the Red Sox to win the AL East; technically correct, but not really an accurate representation of their season, given that Boston only clinched on game number 161. But as you’ll see, we’ve got to take the victories where we can find them, so both of these are going in the win column.
The not as good
Once you move past the winners, our picks for second through fifth in each division look pretty ugly. In the NL East, for example, 16 of 22 thought the Mets would take the number two slot, and the six who didn’t put them in first! In one of the divisions where equivocation on the frontrunner’s chances was totally unnecessary — the Nationals are currently 20 games up on the second-place team in the NL East — we displayed way too much uncertainty. And we picked the wrong team to challenge the Nats; the Mets didn’t put up a fight all year long.
We also didn’t peg the Brewers as a playoff contender. They were finally eliminated from the NL Wild Card yesterday after a valiant fight, one in which they contended for both the WC slot and the NL East itself. One poll-taker had the foresight to put them in second, but the majority stuck them down in fourth (and the second-highest total was for fifth).
Similarly, we didn’t give nearly enough respect to a team that actually made the NL Wild Card: the Arizona Diamondbacks. Our vote totals for them were very similar to those for the Brewers, with 15 voters slotting the DBacks in for fourth in the West. Who was the beneficiary of that unwarranted pessimism? Why, none other than the 63–98 Giants, who 15 of us put down for second place (with another six giving them third). My sense is that this wasn’t a unique mistake, at least; I think a lot of people didn’t give the Brewers and DBacks enough credit, and gave too much to the Giants. We certainly didn’t buck the trend, however.
Those are definitely not the only whiffs we had. We put the A’s in last place nearly unanimously, and they ended up putting together a decent second half of the season. We thought the Angels would be only a bit better, and didn’t anticipate their Wild Card push. (They have Mike Trout! How did none of us think they could possibly be decent?) We thought the Rays would be worse than they were, we thought the Phillies would be better than they were, and we were a little too down on the Pirates. But those all are relatively minor; there are plenty of bigger whiffs to focus on. The lesson? Don’t listen to us!
Now, be sure tune in later this week to read our playoff predictions; you won’t want to miss out on our expertise.
Henry Druschel is the co-Managing Editor of Beyond the Box Score. You can find him on Twitter at @henrydruschel.