Revisiting My Bold Predictions for the 2015 Dodgers

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Dodgers ‘manager’ Jimmy Rollins approaches the mound to remove Clayton Kershaw from the game. Sunday, October 4.

Back in April, as the Major League Baseball season was just about to begin, we here at Baseball Essential wrote a series of “Bold Predictions” for most of the MLB teams. I had the privilege of penning the piece about the Los Angeles Dodgers, and now that the regular season has ended, I thought it would be fun (and humbling) to revisit those predictions and see how I did.

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First prediction: “Dodger fans will finally get off Don Mattingly‘s back.”

“If Mattingly can really put aside the pride and ego that come with being one of the best baseball players of his generation and listen to the nerds who never played the game, as he seems to be doing, we will see a manager who makes more statistically sound in-game decisions. There will always be boo-birds, but the smartest fans will appreciate a Don Mattingly who is willing to learn.”

Did it happen?

br-don-mattinglyProbably not. Despite the fact that Mattingly just became the first manager in the history of the franchise to lead the team to three straight postseasons — yes, something that was never done by Wilbert Robinson or Casey Stengel or Leo Durocher or Walter Alston or Tommy Lasorda or Joe Torre — there are still rumors that Mattingly is on the hot seat if the Dodgers don’t win it all this postseason. There are even rumors that he could be replaced by Dusty Baker, but those rumors must be coming from people who have no concept for what the Geek Squad upstairs has in mind for this Dodgers team.

In the end, Mattingly has done a great job handling the high-priced personalities in the clubhouse and dealt well with the adversity of injuries and poor performance that saw Adrian Gonzalez as the lone offensive member of the Opening Day starting lineup to remain healthy and perform at a level near his expectations. His in-game management rarely made headlines, which is the goal, and the Dodgers won the National League West with a healthy margin.

In the end, the problem with this prediction was probably a miscalculation on the percentage of boo-birds in the overall fanbase. Some people are never happy.
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Second prediction: “Joc Pederson will win the Rookie of the Year Award in a rout.”

“Pederson has power and speed and plays excellent defense in center field. He strikes out a lot, but he has also shown a fairly consistent ability to hit left-handed pitching, a skill the Dodgers haven’t seen in a lefty in quite some time. Pederson will hit 25 home runs, steal 25 bases, and stabilize a Dodgers outfield that has been in flux. When the season is over, he will be a no-brainer selection as Rookie of the Year, the 17th Dodger to win the award.”

Did it happen?

br-joc-pedersonNo, Pederson is not going to win the Rookie of the Year Award. This prediction was looking pretty smart early in the season, but then the wheels fell off, offensively.

On June 3, Pederson homered for the fifth straight game, giving him 17 on the season and a batting line of .267/.393/.606 for a .998 OPS through 53 games. From that point on, though, he batted .177/.319/.303 with just nine home runs in his final 98 games. He briefly lost his starting position in center field to Kiké Hernandez, although he got it back when Kiké was injured.

Pederson’s overall line of .210/.346/.417 was good for a 112 OPS+, and his 26 homers and 92 walks made for a season that wasn’t nearly as bad as his .210 batting average would suggest. But between the early-season expectations, the total lack of speed on the bases (4-for-11 on stolen base attempts), and the 170 strikeouts (which tied 2010 Matt Kemp for a Dodgers franchise record), the season was mostly a disappointment.

On the defensive side of the ball, though, Pederson excelled. The defensive metrics we have available indicate that he was roughly an average defensive center fielder, but defensive metrics are still a work in progress, especially on a small sample size of one season. Those of us who watched him play every day saw a player with good range, a strong arm, and highlight-reel ability. I would be very surprised if, over time, the defensive metrics don’t come to love him as much as Dodger fans do.

[/next[/nextpage]p>[nextp[nextpage title=”Third Prediction:” desc=”Kershaw will get his perfect game” img=”57064"]h2>Third prediction: “Clayton Kershaw will get his perfect game.”

“The 2015 version of the Dodgers don’t have any defensive liabilities like the 2014 team did, with a vastly improved defense up the middle. Kershaw’s strikeout rate and groundball rate, combined with improved defense and his overall dominance, make a Kershaw perfect game such a foregone conclusion that maybe, in retrospect, it has no business calling itself a ‘bold’ prediction.”

Did it happen?

br-clayton-kershawNope. Kershaw was at least as dominant as he has ever been, but he did not get his perfect game, or even another no-hitter. But he did have nine games with a game score of 84 or higher (roughly 11 percent of all such games in MLB this year), and three games of 90+ (about ten percent of the league total). His one-hit shutout of the San Francisco Giants to clinch the NL West title had a game score of 97, tying Max Scherzer‘s first no-hitter for the eighth-best game score in a season that had seven no-hitters.

Predicting a no-hitter of any sort is a losing game, and a perfect game prediction is almost sure to fail. Considering the number of outstanding pitchers who never threw a perfect game — almost all of them — this prediction was a loser from the start. But Kershaw did his best to make it happen, and it probably will before he hangs it up.

[/nextpa[/nextpage][nextpag[nextpage title=”Fourth Prediction:” desc=”Grandal/Ellis will be the best-hitting catching duo in baseball” img=”57063"]>Fourth prediction: “The Yasmani Grandal/A.J. Ellis platoon will be the best-hitting catching duo in baseball.”

“Ellis will benefit greatly from getting most of his at-bats against lefties, and the switch-hitting Grandal is better from the left side. The two will combine to hit about .270 with an OBP pushing .400 and 20 home runs, a level of production that tops every other team’s starter/backup catching duo.”

Did it happen?

br-aj-ellis br-yasmani-grandalYes and no, but mostly no. The duo only batter .235, thanks in large part to a huge injury-related slump for Grandal that saw his average drop from .295 to .234 in his final 31 games of the season (in which he went 6-for-94). But the two combined for 23 home runs and 97 walks, leaving them with nearly identical batting lines:

[table cap[table caption=”Yasmani Grandal and A.J. Ellis”]Avg.,OBP,SLG,OPS,OPS+
Yasmani Grandal,.234,.353,.403,.756,111
A.J. Ellis,.238,.355,.403,.758,112
[/table][/table]thout Grandal’s huge slump at the end of the season, this prediction probably would have been a winner. As it is, the Dodgers got 2.9 rWAR from their two primary catchers, which is nothing to sneeze at. Ellis’s improvement wasn’t quite enough to make up for Grandal’s struggles, but it was still a fine year behind the plate for Los Angeles.

[/nextpage[/nextpage]extpage [nextpage title=”Fifth Prediction:” desc=”Puig will be the best outfielder in Southern California” img=”57062"]ifth prediction: “Yasiel Puig will be the best outfielder in Southern California.”

“In 2015, the paths will cross as Puig develops the stamina to stay strong for an entire 162-game schedule. Trout’s 7.5-WAR season will be typically great — maybe even enough to win his fourth second consecutive MVP — but Puig’s 8.0 will top it. And perhaps even more amazingly, when you remove the slumps from Puig’s game, the narrative will change and Puig will suddenly be playing ‘the right way.’ It’s amazing what success will do!”

Did it happen?

br-yasiel-puigNo. Trout stepped his game back up a notch, putting up a 9.4 rWAR that will earn him his fourth consecutive top-two finish in the American League MVP voting. And Puig battled injury and inconsistency all season, hitting .255/.322/.436 in just 311 plate appearances for a 1.1 rWAR. I still believe that the fundamental talent level is in place for Puig to eventually be a Trout-type player, but it hasn’t happened yet, and instead of taking a step in that direction this season, he took a bit of a step backward.

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Well, I was pretty close to 0-for-5 on my predictions. And yet, the Dodgers won 92 games and have home-field advantage in the National League Division Series against the New York Mets. As it turns out, for every bold prediction that doesn’t work out, there’s another prediction that no one was bold enough to make. Like Zack Greinke going 19-3 with a 1.66 ERA. Or Clayton Kershaw becoming the first pitcher with 300 strikeouts in a season since 2002. Or the Dodgers leading the National League in home runs for the first time since 1983, including eight different players with 11 or more.

In the end, it all balanced out for the Dodgers. Will Kershaw and Greinke be enough to put them over the top for their first World Series title since 1988? Time will tell, but that’s one prediction I am not bold enough to make.

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