Back before the season began, our staff boldly predicted who would win the 2021 World Series. Okay, we weren’t that bold. We mostly went with the projected favorites, but even then, we were way off. Atlanta will hold a parade this week despite PECOTA projecting them to finish with 82 wins and a fourth-place finish in the NL East. The Hammers didn’t exactly blow past their projections, but they looked dominant down the stretch and into the postseason despite losing Mike Soroka and Ronald Acuña Jr.
Even if we can be forgiven for not picking Atlanta, we must answer for our sins of being wrong. Well, I’ll answer for our sins. Randy Holt is busy with grad school, Brian Menéndez is off to greener pastures (Baseball Prospectus), and Steven Martano is at work or something.
Randy Holt: Padres
The Padres emphatically won the offseason, but the wins dried up around August 11 or so. I documented the Padres’ failings back in September and they were two-fold. San Diego experienced extremely bad luck with injuries to the pitching side, and the offense revealed itself to be surprisingly shallow.
San Diego ultimately finished with a losing record at 79-83, but anyone who predicted that happening was just trolling. If Adrian Morejón and Chris Paddack both made 20 starts, the Dads still would have been in contention for the Wild Card. At the very least, they wouldn’t have had to give four starts to Jake Arrieta.
With Tommy Pham headed to free agency, the offense became that much shallower. Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado, and Jake Cronenworth don’t need a ton of support, and it’s not outrageous to be bullish on Adam Frazier or Ha-Seong Kim. Still, the Dodgers aren’t going anywhere, and the Giants have money to burn. The Padres aren’t going anywhere sitting on their hands and hoping for better luck.
Kevin Kelly, Yankees
Wow, this idiot said, “The only other teams that can stop the Yankees from winning the pennant are the Twins and the Astros” and “To the degree that a team can, the Yankees can coast into the World Series.” He actually thought the Twins were going to be good this year, and they finished last in the AL Central. Not only did the Yankees fail to coast to the World Series, they didn’t even make it past the Wild Card game. Who is this guy? He’s fired.
The Yankees certainly had the pitching to make it to the World Series, but the offense let them down all year. The Bronx Bombers averaged just 4.39 runs per game which was 19th in the majors. Of the eight batters to get 300 plate appearances in pinstripes, only two of them posted a wRC+ greater than 100. Those were Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge.
For the Yankees to regain my, I mean Kevin’s, trust, they’ll have to add a few bats over the offseason, and they should be in the market for Carlos Correa or Trevor Story. Another outfielder who can swing the bat wouldn’t hurt either.
Steven Martano, Dodgers
This pick was the least wrong of the four. All it did was fail to consider that 106-win teams can look flat and lifeless for a week, and that’s all the daylight a postseason opponent needs. The Dodgers had their share of injury luck with Clayton Kershaw and Max Muncy both missing the playoffs entirely. Los Angeles’s short staff ran out of steam after two weeks of high-stress games, so maybe a healthy Kershaw was all they needed to keep Walker Buehler, Max Scherzer, and Julio Urías fresh.
The Dodgers barely got anything out of their bench this year, and if Chris Taylor signs elsewhere, they’ll be that much less flexible. Scherzer and Kershaw are free agents, too, and with Tony Gonsolin’s struggles in 2021 and Dustin May recovering from Tommy John, there’s a lot of work to be done on rebuilding the rotation.
The Dodgers are still prohibitive 2022 World Series favorites before anything happens this winter, but as this season showed, anything can happen.
This was another case of a great team looking mortal for a few games. UItimately, the Rays were about a Charlie Morton short of a second-straight AL Pennant. Tampa Bay turned to Shanes McLanahan and Baz with their season on the line, but the talented youngsters faltered.
The Rays’ window isn’t all that close to shutting, so they should make another postseason run in 2022. Wander Franco has more than met the hype, and Tampa Bay still has Randy Arozarena and Brandon Lowe under team control. Even without Tyler Glasnow, Baz and McClanahan give them a great start on a starting rotation.
Of course, the Rays aren’t as blunt as the other three above teams. They’ll tinker and make savvy additions, but they’re not going to throw a lot of money at an impact free agent. The Rays’ future is bright, but it could be brighter if they didn’t pinch their pennies.
Kenny Kelly is the managing editor of Beyond the Box Score.