Mark Twain is responsible for popularizing the Sir Charles Wentworth Dilke quote, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” As someone who bases many of his opinions on statistics, I could not agree more. I could take any player, along with any different combination of stats, and come up with two different opinions on that player. Anyone who has ever manipulated statistics to benefit their own argument knows exactly what I am talking about. But what about the other times, when you come to an opinion that has no logical basis other than you just feel it? Deep down inside your gut you have an inkling, an instinct that something will happen. There is no real rhyme or reason behind this belief. Most of the time when you mention these beliefs to friends they call you crazy, or some synonym of loco. The beauty of these types of beliefs is that when they become a reality, when you have used only your gut instinct to defy the laws of statistical analysis, it is a thing of beauty. I can honestly say that there is no better feeling in the world.
When I was 11-years-old, living in Houston, I told anyone who would listen how the Rockets were going to win it all. They defied all odds, coming back from a 2-0 deficit in the first round to defeat the Jazz, then coming back from a 3-1 deficit to eliminate the Suns, and finally sweeping Shaq and the Magic in the Finals to win it all; all while becoming the first team in NBA history to defeat four 50-win teams en route to winning an NBA title. What does this have to do with the 2011 baseball season though? At 11-years-old, I had no idea what statistics could be used for. I knew nothing about backing up an opinion with logical information. I was freaking 11-years-old! But, somewhere deep down inside I knew, I just knew, that my Rockets were not going to lose a playoff series that year. Maybe it was because they had the heart of a champion. Maybe not. Either way, I made a gut call about sports and it miraculously came to fruition.
Long story short, that premise is the central idea for this article. In the upcoming weeks you will find a myriad of articles around the web talking about people’s bold predictions. Most of these predictions have some sort of stat to back them up. Not me. I am here to give you some truly outlandish predictions that have no evidence to support them other than I “feel” like it will happen. This is not about me trying to predict the future correctly. This is about finding that 11-year-old inside of me who just believed. This is about having some fun and enjoying letting my imagination run wild with the endless possibilities of what could happen in a baseball season that has yet to start. So, without further ado, here are my outlandish, completely unwarranted, and instinct-based predictions for the 2011 Major League Baseball season.
1. Manny Ramirez will finish the year with 30 HR’s, 100 RBI, and an average on the right side of .300. To some the glass is half empty. Manny is going on 39, and had problems with the Dodgers and White Sox. For me, the glass is half full. Manny has something to prove. He probably only has one more productive season in his tank. He is now playing for maybe the coolest manager in all of baseball. He has one of the greatest, natural swings anyone in baseball has seen. I might be hoping to catch lightning, but I think Joe Maddon can be the Ben Franklin at the end of the kite string.
2. Mark Melancon will end the season with 20 saves. Most people don’t even know who he is. He was traded to the Astros from the Yankees in the Lance Berkman deal. In 2004, as a freshman at the University of Arizona, I was fortunate enough to play with Mark, who was also a freshman that year. He has filthy stuff, coming from almost straight over the top. He throws a heavy ball that is routinely in the mid 90s. He handled the closer role, as a freshman in the Pac-10, with ease, earning a save in the College World Series that year even after I woke him up at 4 a.m. drunk and unable to get myself into the hotel room. He was touted as a possible closer with the Yanks, the Astros are banking on Brandon Lyon (LMFAO at that one), and I played and partied with the guy. I think he takes over right after the break and never looks back.
3. The New York Mets are unable to pay their players’ salaries after the All-Star break. The impending lawsuit makes it to court, where the Wilpons lose and are offered a choice: they can pay out the $1 billion or hand over complete ownership of the Mets to the plaintiffs. After handing over ownership the new owners embezzle any and all of the second $25 million loan from MLB and leave the country…all without paying any salaries.
4. The Baltimore Orioles finish ahead of the Yankees in the AL East. The new lineup should benefit nicely from the hitter-friendly confines of Camden Yards. Brian Matusz is set for his first of many dominating seasons. I would really love to see the Yankees not make the playoffs after the way that the young Mr. Steinbrenner has handled himself in the media recently. I don’t think the baseball gods will look fondly upon him.
5. The Tampa Bay Rays will win the AL East by at least 10 games. Everybody seems to think that the Red Sox have it in the bag already. As mentioned above, the Yankees won’t be competing. Even with the enormous turnover the Rays went through this off-season, they still have Evan Longoria, Manny, David Price, and many others. Also, they have Joe Maddon. The guy knows how to turn a baseball team into winners. He has them wearing the coolest jackets ever, and they just have a knack for proving people wrong. Also, they will want to prove to the people of St. Petersburg that they are deserving of a new stadium.
6. Tim Lincecum becomes the first pitcher since Jake Peavy to win pitching’s Triple Crown. The dude is stupid good. He creates more energy than any pitcher in the game, so he will be in the top 3 for innings pitched, which will allow him to lead MLB in strikeouts and ERA. (It doesn’t hurt that he has devastatingly nasty stuff that creates swings and misses.) I say he wins 24 games this year because he is pissed about having one horrendous month last year. To celebrate, he will bring a box of finely rolled Swishers and share them with his fans.
7. Major League Baseball decides to do away with revenue sharing in the next CBA. Because of people’s disgust with the Pirates turning a profit despite the 18th losing season in a row, other owners will vote that no team shall be allowed to ride the coat tails of others. It only takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch, and the Pirates are that apple. Seriously, how can they think that there is something good to come from constantly trotting out an obviously inferior product, yet still be allowed to line their pockets with other team’s hard earned cash?
8. The Houston Astros will win 80 games. We all know that I am a devout Astros fan. We all know that when you are counting on Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence to bring home the bacon, things are not going to be good. However, every year the Astros defy the run differential statistic and outperform their projections. Many people have them projected for less than 70 wins. Not me. I think Wandy Rodriguez wins 21 games, Melancon saves 20 games, Pence hits 30 bombs, Brett Myers has a quality start every game he starts, for the entire season, and Bourn figures out how to get on base at a .375 clip-stealing 65 bases and scoring 110 runs in the process. We pull off the miracle of all miracles and make a run at a wild card berth after Drayton sells the team at the break. If the previous predictions are outlandish, this one is straight off the charts crazy.
9. Prince Fielder will hit 45 jacks this year. I must have some sort of soft spot for big ‘ol fat kids. I have the Kung Fu Panda as a great sleeper pick, and now this? Prince rakes, is playing for a new contract, and is playing for a team that can compete for a pennant. To be honest, I am handcuffing myself at 45. I think he has a legitimate shot at 50.
10. The MLB Amateur Draft in June will see a high school player from my home state of New Mexico taken in the top 20 picks, and he will be the first catcher taken off the board…overall. Blake Swihart, Cleveland High School’s senior catcher, rakes. He lead Team USA 18-U in every significant offensive category last summer. He hits from both sides of the plate with true power from each side. The state of New Mexico has not seen a prospect touted like this since Shane Andrews.