Looking Back: Over/Under 2009 AL Baseball Predictions

Well it’s hard to believe but the 2009 Major League Baseball regular season has come and gone.  If you are a regular LuckyLester reader you will remember that prior to the season I laid down 28 bold predictions to help you in your deliberations on draft day.  As this was the first time I had attempted an article of this sort, I limited myself to the American League and decided to choose one pitcher and one position player from each team and then tell you what I thought you could expect in terms of production.  To do this, I threw out a statline and then stated whether I thought that player would exceed or fall short of those expectations.  Now that the season has run it’s course, it’s time for me to take credit for the ones I knocked out of the park and own up to those predictions that were swung on and missed.

Over/Under 25 HR 115 RBI and 15 SB for Nick Markakis: Over – The Greek god of production, Markakis does it all. With Brian Roberts and an improving Adam Jones setting the table, this is a guy you want on your team.

Actual Statline: 18 HR, 101 RBI, 6 SB … Markakis fell under my prediction for all three categories.  Those that drafted him were rewarded with decent all-around production, but Markakis still hasn’t put together that Top-5 season that many have anticipated.  Flyball to the warning track (0-1)

Over/Under 10 wins and 120 Ks for Jeremy Guthrie: Under – The Baltimore ace by default, Guthrie has movement on all his pitches and pounds the strikezone, but in a brutal division he will struggle to match last year’s production.

Actual Statline: 10 wins and 110 Ks … Guthrie finished up 10-17 with a 5.04 ERA and 1.42 WHIP.  He made all of his starts and notched 200 IP for the Orioles, but true to my prediction a killer division took it’s toll.  Hopefully you took my advice and avoided him on draft day.  Groundball single up the middle (1-2)

Over/Under 60 SB and 105 R for Jacoby Ellsbury: Over – If you’re fishing for batting average and power you will be disappointed, but Ellsbury can fly and a (mostly) healthy David Ortiz helps everybody in this lineup.

Actual Statline: 70 SB and 94 R … Wow what a season for the speedster from Oregon State.  Ellsbury exceeded expectations with a .301 BA and swiped enough bases to make up for a shortage of runs scored early in the year.  Bunt basehit down the third baseline (2-3)

Over/Under 200 IP and 15 wins for Josh Beckett: Over – As always, if he pitches his production will be there. I think Beckett has something to prove this year and there there is no nastier pitcher when he has a chip on his shoulder.

Actual Statline: 212.1 IP and 17 wins … A healthy season resulted in good things for the hard throwing righty with the nasty streak.  Beckett not only made 32 starts, he also posted a respectable 3.86 ERA and 1.19 WHIP to go along with 199 Ks.  Line drive double in the gap (3-4)

Over/Under .325 BA and 20 HR for Robinson Cano: Over – It seems like Cano has been around forever though he is only 26.  I think this is the year he puts it all together and becomes a force in the middle of that Yankee lineup.

Actual Statline: .320 BA and 25 HR … Owner that took the chance on Cano were rewarded with a top 2nd baseman in the Utley-Kinsler-Pedroia conversation.  In addition, Cano’s production was extremely consistent, helping those in weekly matchup leagues as well.  Line drive through the 4-hole (4-5)

Over/Under 175 IP and 12 wins for AJ Burnett: Under – When he’s on he’s filthy, but career highs in starts, innings, strikeouts and wins last season have me concerned.  A hot start to the season wouldn’t surprise me … 30 starts would.

Actual Statline: 207 IP and 13 wins … Good for Burnett, he stayed healthy for the full season and put up another strong year complete with 195 Ks.  A higher walk rate resulted in a 1.40 WHIP and 4.04 ERA, but I was wrong to sell AJ short because of his career year in 2008.  Groundout to the third baseman (4-6)

Over/Under 15 HR and 50 SB for Carl Crawford: Over – How quickly we forget … a season removed from All-Star production, the unquestioned leader of the Rays is due for a major bounce-back season in 2009.

Actual Statline: 15 HR and 60 SB … What a year for the All Star MVP.  Crawford stayed healthy and posted a .305 BA and 68 RBI to go along with his huge stolen base numbers and a return to form in the power department.  I took a shot on Crawford and it really paid off.  407 ft. homerun to right-center (5-7)

Over/Under 20 starts for David Price: Over – This is becoming a yearly occurance for the Rays.  Look for them to bring Price along sometime soon ala Evan Longoria last season.  10 wins is not out of the question for the young lefty.

Actual Statline: 23 starts (and 10 wins) … Price’s season unfolded exactly as I predicted it would.  The Rays brought him along in late May and the big lefty was able to take the ball every fifth day the rest of the way.  He finished 10-7 despite a higher ERA (4.42) than I expected.  Line drive over the shortstop’s head (6-8)

Over/Under 20 HR and 80 RBI for Travis Snider: Over – With a depleted pitching staff, the Jays will need to outscore teams with their talented young lineup.  This 21-year-old phenom is one of the few brights spots in Toronto.

Actual Statline: 9 HR and 29 RBI … Ouch, no way to sugar-coat this one.  Snider struggled out of the gates, got sent down, and struggled with is contact rate when he rejoined the big club late in the year.  The power numbers project out, but Snider needs to find more consistency.  Stuck out looking (6-9)

Over/Under 10 wins and 125 Ks for David Purcey: Under – There are a lot of believers in the big lefty in the middle of the Blue Jay rotation.  I am not one of them.  A shaky bullpen situation only hurts Purcey’s value in 2009 … avoid.

Actual Statline: 1 win and 39 Ks … Gross.  I hope you were able to take my advice and steer clear of Purcey on draft day.  The big lefty was ineffective early in the year and was sent down to work on his command.  He finished the season with a 6.19 ERA and 1.75 WHIP.  Triple into the right field corner (7-10)

Over/Under 25 HR and 90 RBI for Alexei Ramirez: Under – The Cuban-born Ramirez won’t sneak up on big league pitchers this season.  That isn’t to say he won’t be a productive player, but temper your expectations.

Actual Statline: 15 HR and 68 RBI … Again I was right on the money with Ramirez.  The 28-year-old second baseman was a trendy sleeper pick coming into 2009 but a strong second half last season didn’t translate into elite production this year as many thought it would.  Line drive up the middle (8-11)

Over/Under 15 wins and a 3.50 ERA for John Danks: Over – The 23-year-old lefty improved his command in his sophomore season.  If the ChiSox can get him some run support the wins will follow, even if his ERA creeps up a bit.

Actual Statline: 13 wins and 3.77 ERA … The young lefty didn’t miss my prediction by much and had several leads blown by a bullpen that was inconsistent at times.  He posted a respectable 13-11 record with a 2-1 K:BB ratio and 1.28 WHIP.  Backhand stab by the shortstop and a great throw for the putout (8-12)

Over/Under 20 HR and 100 RBI for Victor Martinez: Over – Look for the outlier in Martinez’s past five seasons then consider that he is only 30 years old.  Don’t be scared off by his injury-plagued 2008, he will rebound in a big way.

Actual Statline: 23 HR and 108 RBI … Martinez is the type of player that wins fantasy leagues.  An injury-plagued 2008 dropped him off the radar but he rebounded huge in 2009 and contributed a .303 BA to go along with the power numbers.  He also walked more than he struck out.  Opposite field homerun (9-13)

Over/Under 12 wins and 185 IP for Fausto Carmona: Under – Speaking of outliers, Carmona had his in 2007 with his 3.06 ERA.  He simply walks too many batters to be a reliable fantasy pitcher, especially with his lack of strikeouts.

Actual Statline: 5 wins and 125.1 IP … Inflated ERA, awful WHIP, 5-12 record.  All you really need to know about Carmona is that he struck out 79 batters in 2009 and walked 70.  If I was looking for positives, his August and September were slightly better (42 Ks and 25 BBs).  Single through the 6-hole (10-14)

Over/Under 20 HR and 20 SB for Curtis Granderson: Over – The perfect table-setter for this Tiger lineup, look for Granderson to get off to a hot start.  Jimmy Leyland wants Granderson to run more this season as well.

Actual Statline: 30 HR and 20 SB … Granderson is a very good baseball player.  If we’re picking nits his .249 BA was well below his career mark and doesn’t post huge RBI numbers hitting at the top of the order.  That said, his power/speed comination is hard to beat.  Opposite field double in the gap (11-15)

Over/Under 200 IP and 17 wins for Armando Galaraga: Over – He isn’t flashy, but this Venezuelan righty knows how to win ballgames.  With the Tiger’s potent lineup, I think 20 wins is within reach as early as this season.

Actual Statline: 143.2 IP and 6 wins … Thud.  I had high hopes for Galarraga and the Tigers this year but both failed to live up to lofty expectations.  Galarraga’s season got off to a rocky start and he never really recovered and proved to be very hittable in 2009.  Struck out swinging (11-16)

Over/Under 20 HR and a .275 BA for Alex Gordon: Over – Gordon has very quietly made improvements in each of his first two seasons.  He’s not a true breakout candidate yet, but look for the positive trend to continue this season.

Actual Statline: 6 HR and a .232 BA … Injuries derailed Gordon’s 2009 season and ruined any chance he had to take the next step in his development.  Fool me once, shame on you … fool me twice, shame on me.  Fool me a third time? … you must be Alex Gordon.  Dribbler back to the pitcher (11-17)

Over/Under 3.45 ERA and 1.20 WHIP for Zack Greinke: Under – If Greinke can continue to improve his ground ball rate, he could see big returns in the win column this season.  The Royals may surprise some people this year.

Actual Statline: 2.16 ERA and 1.07 WHIP … An amazing season by Greinke could have been even better had he not been spinning it in Kansas City.  The fireballer was still able to post a 16-8 record and strike out 242 to go along with only 51 BB.  The kid deserves the Cy Young and I think he’ll get it.  Inside the park homerun (12-18)

Over/Under 10 HR and 30 SB for Denard Span: Over – Delmon Young gets all the pub, but Span is the Twins OF you want to own.  Another season under his belt and we could be looking at a poor man’s Carl Crawford.

Actual Statline: 8 HR and 23 SB … Span falling short of my predictions does nothing to diminish my opinion of him.  He is the sparkplug of a very good lineup and he does all the little things exceptionally well.  Look for him to fly under the radar next season and remain a very good value pick.  Diving catch by the centerfielder (12-19)

Over/Under 3.75 ERA and 35 BB for Kevin Slowey: Under – This kid isn’t overpowering, but he is an assassin with his command.  Limiting free passes means fewer big innings and more talleys in the win column at seasons end.

Actual Statline: 4.86 ERA and 15 BB … 2009 was a real mixed bag for Slowey.  He started the season on fire despite a higher than average ERA and WHIP.  When a wrist injury brought his season to a close just before the All Star break, Slowey was 10-3 and on pace for just over 30 BB on the season.  Flyout to left (12-20)

Over/Under 500 AB and a .325 BA for Howie Kendrick: Over – Once in a while you just have to go out on a limb.  Sadly for this 25-year-old second baseman, staying healthy for a full season hasn’t happened yet … until now.

Actual Statline: 374 AB and a .291 BA … Kendrick rebounded from a horrendous start to salvage a respectable batting average but still missed a lot of time in small chunks throughout the year.  Sorry, folks … Howie has loads of talent but is not to be trusted.  Grounded into 4-6-3 double play (12-21)

Over/Under 50 starts for Kelvim Escobar, John Lackey and Ervin Santana: Under – The Angels may have their work cut out for them if Joe Saunders remains near the top of their rotation.  As these three go, the halo’s season goes.

Actual Statline: 51 starts … The heavy lifters here were obviously Lackey and Santana.  Escobar made only one start and was a non-factor in the Angels success.  Lackey and Santana stayed healthy and although Santana’s season was very average Lackey had a terrific season.  Barehand play by the third baseman (12-22)

Over/Under 30 HR and 120 RBI for Matt Holliday: Over – The power numbers will be there, but the 28 stolen bases are sure to decrease in Oakland.  No matter, Holliday rakes and in an improved A’s lineup he will have a huge year.

Actual Statline: 24 HR and 109 RBI … This is a tough one as Holliday used a mid-season exodus from Oakland to turn around a season that saw him scuffling out of the gates.  His second half in St. Louis was phenomenal but he still didn’t hit my lofty goals for him this season.  Line drive back to the pitcher (12-23)

Over/Under 20 wins between Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill: Over – They aren’t Hudson, Zito or Mulder, but this pair of youngsters will be called upon this year to bolster the Oakland staff.  I think they will answer the bell.

Actual Statline: 21 wins combined … These two diaper dandies really came on strong in the second half (especially Anderson).  I can’t overstate how hard it is to learn your craft at the major league level but these two both made the jump from AA and will give the A’s something to build around.  Basehit over the first baseman (13-24)

Over/Under 30 HR and 100 RBI for Adrian Beltre: Over – The last time Beltre was in a contract year he exploded.  I wouldn’t expect another 48 homeruns but this rock-solid defensive third baseman can handle the stick as well.

Actual Statline: 8 HR and 44 RBI … Yikes, I really dropped the ball on this one.  Beltre is an easy player to love if you watch him play every day (especially in the field) but this was a lost season before the injuries hit.  Beltre is no longer a reliable fantasy 3-sacker.  Dropped third strike, thrown out at first (13-25)

Over/Under 30 saves for Brandon Morrow: Under – Concerns over his arm landed Morrow back in the bullpen, concerns over his ability to throw strikes has me thinking he may not keep this role once Chad Cordero is healthy.

Actual Statline: 6 saves … Morrow did lose his closer job but it went to David Aardsma rather than Cordero.  After several months toiling in the minors Morrow was transitioned back to the starting rotation with mixed results.  He will be hard to trust until he proves he can be consistent in the strike zone.  Double down the line (14-26)

Over/Under 20 HR and 85 RBI for Hank Blalock: Over – With Michael Young shifting over to third base, Blalock will assume the full-time DH role for the Rangers.  If he stays healthy (and I think he can), his numbers will be there.

Actual Statline: 25 HR and 66 RBI … The power was there for Blalock and he stayed healthy for the most part.  His average (.234) left something to be desired and his RBI opportunities were limited hitting lower in the Ranger’s lineup.  Sometimes you have to take the good with the bad.  Popout to the catcher (14-27)

Over/Under 15 wins and 135 Ks for Kevin Millwood: Under – Millwood eats innings, but the durable righty surrenders too many hits to be counted on for big win production.  Double-digit wins should be within reach, but just barely.

Actual Statline: 13 wins and 123 Ks … Millwood put together a very decent season and produced better than I thought he would.  His 3.67 ERA was evidence that Millwood was less hittable in 2009 than in years past and was a big part of the Ranger’s hot start.  Texas leaguer (of course) into right field (15-28)

So there you have it.  I apologize for big misses on Beltre, Gordon, Galarraga, Snider and Kendrick but five busts out of 28 predictions is pretty damn solid.  Overall I hit on 15-28, good for a .536 batting average and a ticket to the hall of fame.  Owners that trusted my advice hit it big on guys like Ellsbury, Crawford, Beckett, Greinke, Granderson, Price, Cahill/Anderson and Victor Martinez.  I was also very close on several of my misses along the way, including Blalock, Lackey/Santana/Escobar, Holliday, Span, Danks and Markakis.  In general I was very pleased with my first attempt at predicting statistical goodness (and badness) over 162 games but don’t let me have the final word.  Please feel free to leave a comment if you agree or disagree with anything I had to say … I am a man of the people after all.  Thanks for reading, enjoy the playoffs, and look for my AL and NL predictions for the upcoming 2010 season sometime in late February or early March.

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