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HH’s Year in Review: Looking through the Predictions

Milwaukee Brewers v Houston Astros Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

This is a piece that I’ll completely understand if you guys skip. The other day I realized I had been writing for CrawfishBoxes for over a year and saw that I had 170+ articles (of course not all of them had predictions) during that time. I thought it would be a fun exercise to go back through my predictions and see how they looked and then look at the methodology to see if I can find improvements to make better predictions in the future. I figured some of you may enjoy seeing some of my terrible predictions and be able to provide insight into different ways of looking into it and give your recommendations for improvement. I decided to start with last year’s off-season as my beginning point.

Milwaukee Brewers v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Sonny Gray - At the time of writing, Gray was a 4.90 ERA pitcher that many assumed were washed up. Looking at his pitches there was no notable drop in performance related to velocity/spin rate/etc but a good combination of bad luck and the Yankees using him incorrectly.

Prediction: I do believe that Gray has a strong potential to regress back towards his career numbers based on these numbers.

2019 Season: 11-8, 2.87 ERA, 3.65 xFIP, 3.97 SIERA

Career Avg : 13-11, 3.53 ERA, 3.70 xFIP, 3.90 SIERA

Conclusion: Gray turned around and had arguably the best season of his career. Overall, I feel really good about the results as they aligned with some good luck but truthfully fell in line with the expectation. The strike-outs per 9 jumped significantly (8.31 for Career 10.52 for 2019) seemingly due to a large change in the way he used his arsenal.

Miami Marlins v New York Mets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Wilson Ramos - Last season we were looking at potential FA Catcher acquisitions as everyone toyed with the thought of Realmuto as our primary backstop. Ramos looked to be a solid acquisition for a low dollar value.

Prediction: While The Buffalo has health risks, and some age concerns, he would provide a solid above average, potential All-Star behind the plate for a minimal cost.

2019: .288/.351/.416, 14 HR, 52 RBI, 1.4 WAR in 141 Games:

Conclusion: I’ll actually call this one a miss. Ramos produced a tick above average offensively as a catcher but admittedly I would have expected more in a 141 game season from a WAR perspective.

Arizona Diamondbacks v San Diego Padres Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

Garrett Richards: This one is still too early to tell, though I think the Astros would love to have Richards potential for the 2020 season at a minimal rate with the cost spread across 2 seasons to limit the Competitive Balance Threshold impact.

San Diego Padres v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Drew Pomeranz - If you look at Pomeranz season, it’s easy to dismiss based on his overall numbers, but I’ll focus on the bullpen side since my article mainly spoke to an interest in him in that role.

Prediction: The other item of note is that Pomeranz has had experience, and actually great success in the bullpen. His career ERA from the bullpen is exactly 3.00. For the same price as Tony Sipp costed us per year, with less years to gamble on, he seems like he could fill a different hole in the worst case scenario with a potentially really large upside given his pitch usage. Converting him back into a reliever, should provide an uptick to his velocity and potentially return him to the form he was if he is unable to do so as a starter.

2019: 28.2 IP, 1.88 ERA, 15.70 K/9, 2.51 BB/9, 1.92 xFIP

Conclusion: I’m actually leaning towards this one being a pretty big miss. I am happy that I identified that he could have a successful transition to the bullpen, but the numbers above (while a small sample size) don’t scream of luck and are elite bullpen type numbers. He actually began throwing his fastball at the highest velocity in his career. What makes this more impressive is that 34 of his season was as a starter. After he was converted to a reliever he continued to gain velocity getting all the way up to a 95.1 mph fastball on average in September. (This coming from a guy who was under 90 mph total in 2018). He also had the highest spin rates of his career. I know it won’t be Astros related but I definitely want to dig in more to see what changed. It was nice to see them working to eliminate the Sinker as a primary pitch in his arsenal as recommended though.

Atlanta Braves v New York Mets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Marcus Stroman - I was proud of this article overall, and actually re-visited the topic at the trade deadline.

Prediction: I would love to have Stroman on the team, I think he would outperform the projections that Depth Chart has listed with pitching under the tutelage of Brent Strom and the Astros defense supporting him. From a cursory glance, his spin rates and ground ball tendencies seem to fit well, though his K/9 may limit his upside comparatively.

Depth Charts: 12-11, 4.14 ERA, 196 IP, 2.7 WAR

2019: 10-13, 3.22 ERA, 3.99 xFIP, 4.41 SIERA, 7.76 K/9, 184 IP, 3.9 WAR

Conclusion: I could argue that he did out-perform the Depth Charts prediction but honestly, I think his 2019 season was more fools gold than a true change. With that said, Stroman’s arsenal was not changed and I still truly believe with his spin rates and the right pitching coach Stroman could surprise quite a few people. I’d still put him high on a targeted list if we were able to acquire him.

Milwaukee Brewers v Colorado Rockies Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Gio Gonzalez - He’s a really interesting case study, and I really feel like there’s more than what was released from a news perspective. Last year, Gonzalez was unable to secure a Major League deal ending up signing a minor league contract then ultimately a $2 Million dollar contract for the Brewers.

Prediction: Gonzalez is not an ace, nor does he need to be for our rotation. His days 3.22 ERA that he achieved from 2010-2014 are over, looking more like a high 3’s pitcher to me. That’s not an exciting signing to a lot of people, but I believe provides a similar value to what Dallas Keuchel provided for us last year, and a point of interest is that there were only 38 pitchers who pitched the qualified number of innings (162 IP) with an ERA under 4.

2019: 3-2, 3.50 ERA, 4.45 xFIP, 4.88 SIERA, 1.4 WAR

Conclusion: I do believe there was some indication of an injury in the off-season that I did not see reported. For him to garner no interest in an MLB deal and go on the DL only a few weeks after his signing with the Brewers makes me suspect that. I can go back and look to see if there were indications/reports that I missed but I’m okay if it’s a miss due to an injury. What was really surprising was the approach that Gonzalez took. His least used pitch in his career (Change up) became his most used pitch in 2019. His velocity continued to decline, and his performance in 2019 looks largely luck driven from a very high level precursory glance.

World Series - Washington Nationals v Houston Astros - Game Seven Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Yuli Gurriel - I did a whole article digging in deeper to Yuli’s 2019 resurgence but here is a quick summary:

Prediction: .295/.340/.490 for 2+ WAR in 2019.

2019: .298/.343/.541 3.2 WAR

Conclusion: I felt good about the predictions and believed the hamate injury had sapped his power. I was pretty dead on for the predictions other than his power skyrocketed due to an otherworldly July. Looking at the xwOBA, I feel really good about my overall prediction on a player that many were down on coming into the 2019 season.

2019 World Series Game 7 - Washington Nationals v. Houston Astros Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Ryan Pressly - After an absurd end to 2019, I wrote an article to see if we thought he’d repeat in 2019.

Prediction: It’s easy to stop and think that it was only 23 innings. Pressly has been a mediocre pitcher his whole career. He outperformed nearly every elite reliever in baseball and has never even sniffed an All-Star game.

But then you look at the advanced stats, and everything indicates that his results were not luck driven. He showed improvement prior to his arrival in Houston, and putting his spin rate (2nd best in baseball at 3,225 behind Garrett Richards) with his velocity into Strom’s mold has consistently spelled success.

I know the Astros are not avid believers in the “Closer” role, but I think there’s a legitimate argument for him to take the role over Roberto Osuna.

My personal opinion, based on the stats I see is that Ryan Pressly will be one of the most dominant relievers in the game of baseball in 2019.

2019: 2.32 ERA, 2.21 xFIP, 2.55 SIERA in 54.1 IP with a 11.93 K/9, 1.99 BB/9

Conclusion: Pressly absolutely crushed the first half of the season, breaking records on scoreless innings. He did have a knee injury that de-railed his overall numbers slightly but even still ended up well into the elite category.

World Series - Washington Nationals v Houston Astros - Game Six Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Josh Reddick - After a down 2018, I took a look if a bounce back was likely in 2019.

Prediction: I’m generally optimistic, and fully admit I went into writing this article hoping for a positive perspective and that his 2018 was an unlucky season and predicting a bounceback in 2019. Unfortunately, I don’t see it. This is not to say that Reddick is a terrible player, but leads me to believe that 2018 was the norm that I would expect to continue more than an anomaly.

My gut-feel prediction is Reddick will come in around .250/.300/.380 unless he is used more in a platoon scenario with the added depth in our outfield. He will have a slight uptick to his batting average as his BABIP luck evens out, but is unlikely to repeat his HR stroke with the batted ball profile he put up in 2018. He will produce slightly below league average offensively, and will still hold down right field with solid defense and the spiderman-esque plays we’ve grown accustomed to.

2019: .275/.319/.409

Conclusion: Reddick came into the season as an extremely hot hitter, which caused us to analyze if it was the right time to trade him. Unfortunately as expected, Reddick came crashing back down to earth. My predictions were slightly short missing the mark by .025/.019/.029. We did look at him again during his hot stretch where he started the season by mashing an incredible .375/.442/.528.

Houston Astros v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Colin McHugh - Probably my biggest miss of the 2019 season, although these were meant to be “bold” predictions. I know it was injury de-railed but Colin seemed to have lost his ability to control his fastball, which I did not anticipate.

Prediction: Colin McHugh - I think he dominates in 2019 to the tune of a 15-6, sub-3.50 ERA across 150+ innings for 3+ WAR.

2019: 4-5, 4.70 ERA, 4.34 xFIP, 4.23 SIERA, 0.5 WAR

Conclusion: I still believe McHugh has been one of the most underrated pitchers on the Astros. McHugh came out to an unbelievable start to the season but then fell apart being relegated to the bullpen then ultimately spending a good chunk of the season in the bullpen.

World Series 2019 Game 7 - Houston Astros at Washington Nationals Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Robinson Chirinos - On the opposite end, Chirinos was a nice surprise from my bold predictions.

Prediction: Robinson Chirinos - Shocks people with his offensive performance. .240+/.350+/.500+ with 20+ home runs for a wRC of 120+

2019: .238/.347/.443. 17 HR, 113 wRC+

Conclusion: Overall, I was really happy with this prediction. It was meant to be a bold one so generally a bit higher than where logic states. I think Chirinos surprised a LOT of people this past year and set himself up nicely for a good payday this off-season.

World Series - Houston Astros v Washington Nationals - Game Four Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Will Harris - We took a look at his previous seasons

Prediction: The article asks if Will Harris is one of the best relievers in baseball

2019: 4-1, 1.50 ERA, 3.04 xFIP, 3.18 SIERA, 1.1 WAR

Conclusion: Harris was outright dominant for a large portion of the season although some of the advanced stats point to a bit of luck aiding his stats. Prior to the season basically every metric pointed to Harris as one of the top relievers in baseball and 2019 reinforced that notion and gained a lot of traction as far as name recognition late in the season and the play offs.

World Series - Houston Astros v Washington Nationals - Game Five Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Gerrit Cole - I wrote an article comparing the starts of the season for Cole and Verlander stating that Cole had actually out-pitched Verlander in the start of the year (much to the dismay of many commenters). I’d actually argue he had a better season than Verlander despite the Cy Young going to JV.

Los Angeles Dodgers v New York Mets Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Zack Wheeler - At the time of writing, Wheeler was carrying a 4.87 ERA due to some of the worst luck in baseball, and I predicted he’d be more.

Prediction: For those who are firm believers in traditional stats, I’m sure nothing in this article has made an impact and will have a quick response of “No”, and admittedly I wasn’t over the moon with Wheeler as a trade candidate when I started the article. But he truthfully fits the Astros model of “Strom Magic” and would be an ideal turn-around candidate.

His current contract status easily fits within the Astros payroll restrictions, and he would provide another layer of security with a potential third ace for the play-offs if I am correct in regards to the changes in his arsenal. Ideally, the Astros would work to negotiate a short-term extension with him prior to Strom working his magic. I’m not sure on how realistic that is, as Wheeler may still believe he can get a nice Free Agent deal due to his past flashes of success.

2019: 11-8, 3.96 ERA, 4.06 xFIP, 4.20 SIERA, 4.7 WAR in 195 IP

Conclusion: Wheeler was an easier prediction from a regression standpoint, pitching to a 2.83 ERA for the remainder of the season. I still think there’s a ton of potential if Strom had a chance to bring him under his tutelage as his arsenal aligns extremely well. I do feel like Wheeler could be Cole-light if he signed with the Astros going forward.

Conclusion: Overall, I am fairly proud of my predictions and I gained a substantial amount of knowledge as to newer advanced stats that were more predictive than previous methods of analysis. I also gained a much deeper knowledge of the “Strom Magic Method”, both from an understanding of selection as well as the “process” of transforming players.

To me the biggest difference is getting to know the expected stats. I’m a big fan of xwOBA as I do believe it gives the best insight into how a player truly performed.

Of course, we also found out about the “Cohn Curse” as MHatter happily declared it. It seemed like every time I wrote about someone they’d get blown up, injured, etc. Then of course Hatter pointed out that I also wrote articles about Taubman, Goldstein, and the cheating scandal before they became top search engine hits. Oh well, maybe I’ll have to write more about players opposing the Astros lol

But I want to do better - so tell me about how you evaluate. How do you make your predictions? What new stats have you found a lot of value in and why.

Regardless, thank you guys for indulging me for a year. It’s truly been a blast and I’m still happy to call CrawfishBoxes home!