FanGraphs 2014 Staff Predictions: American League

The 2014 Major League Baseball season kicks off for real on Monday — no, random days where the Dodgers play someone and it’s the only game of the day don’t count — and so, as a baseball site, we are compelled to offer our staff’s predictions for the upcoming season. We are compelled because you like to read our staff predictions, even though they are terrible. And boy are they terrible.

Among last year’s gems were things like Aaron Hicks, American League Rookie of the Year. Aaron Hicks did not get a single vote by any one voter on a Rookie of the Year ballot last year. We also had the Angels and Blue Jays making the playoffs. Predicting baseball is silly. Everyone is terrible at it, including us. But as long as you know that going in, it’s still kind of a fun exercise.

Okay, so, on to the picks. AL first, and then we’ll do the NL this afternoon.

Division Winners

West: Oakland (19), Anaheim (8), Texas (4), Seattle (0), Houston (0)
Central: Detroit (21), Cleveland (8), Kansas City (2), Minnesota (0), Chicago (0)
East: Boston (16), Tampa Bay (12), Baltimore (2), New York (1), Toronto (0)

The staff basically just goes with the status quo, with all three division winners from last year expected to repeat again in 2014. More than the consensus pick, though, I find the spread of the selections interesting. The A’s are considered nearly as strong a favorite as the Tigers, at least by the number of people selecting them as AL West champions, even though the forecasts on our site call that race a toss-up. The East was the only division where four teams got votes, but interestingly, the Blue Jays were not one of those four teams; apparently one bad season has convinced everyone on staff that we were truly and utterly wrong about them last year.

Wild Card Winners

Note: Consensus division winners are excluded, and the non-consensus winners have had their division title selections added to their Wild Card selections, so for the teams listed below, their placement is based upon their combined number of total predicted playoff appearances, either through WC or Divisional victory.

Tampa Bay (12 WC, 12 DIV)
Anaheim (4 WC, 8 DIV)
Cleveland (3 WC, 8 DIV)
Texas (4 WC, 4 DIV)
New York (7 WC, 1 DIV)
Kansas City (4 WC, 2 DIV)
Baltimore (2 WC, 2 DIV)
Seattle (1 WC, 0 DIV)

Total Predicted Playoff Appearances

This is the number of all authors who voted for each team to make the postseason, either through the division or the wild card.

Boston: 29
Oakland: 26
Detroit: 26
Tampa Bay: 24
Anaheim: 12
Cleveland: 11
Texas: 8
New York: 8
Kansas City: 6
Baltimore: 4
Seattle: 1
Toronto: 0
Minnesota: 0
Chicago: 0
Houston: 0

There’s pretty clearly a “big four”, in terms of the staff’s expectations of reaching the postseason. The Rays are easily seen as the best of the non-division winners, with the Angels, Indians, Rangers, and Yankees providing most of the competition for the second wild card spot. The Royals, Orioles, and Mariners aren’t considered hopeless, but are definitely not the favorites.

MVP

Mike Trout: 23
Miguel Cabrera: 2
Prince Fielder: 2
Evan Longoria: 2
Jason Kipnis: 2

Raise your hand if you expected Jason Kipnis to get two MVP votes from our staff. Me either. I like Kipnis, but I’ll take the under on him landing two first place votes in the final tally.

Cy Young

Yu Darvish: 9
Felix Hernandez: 6
Justin Verlander: 5
Chris Sale: 4
David Price: 4
Alex Cobb: 2
Max Scherzer: 1

The variety of pitchers you would expect, and Alex Cobb.

Rookie of the Year

Masahiro Tanaka: 12
Jose Abreu: 10
Xander Bogaerts: 7
Yordano Ventura: 2

We were very wrong about last year’s AL ROY, but I’ll be pretty surprised if one of these four doesn’t win the award. This seems like a very strong group of favorites.

For those interested, and for future mocking purposes, here is a table with each author’s selections.

Author West Central East Wild Card Wild Card MVP Young Rookie
Alan Harrison Oakland Detroit Baltimore Boston Texas Cabrera Verlander Bogaerts
Bill Petti Oakland Detroit Boston Tampa Bay Anaheim Trout Darvish Tanaka
Blake Murphy Oakland Detroit Tampa Bay Boston Cleveland Trout Sale Ventura
Brad Johnson Anaheim Kansas City Boston Oakland Detroit Trout Price Abreu
Brett Talley Oakland Detroit Tampa Bay Boston Cleveland Trout Sale Abreu
Carson Cistulli Anaheim Detroit Boston Tampa Bay Cleveland Trout Cobb Bogaerts
Chris Cwik Oakland Detroit Tampa Bay Boston Anaheim Trout Darvish Abreu
Colin Zarzycki Texas Detroit Boston Tampa Bay New York Trout Verlander Tanaka
Dave Cameron Anaheim Detroit Boston Tampa Bay New York Trout Hernandez Tanaka
David G Temple Oakland Detroit Tampa Bay Boston Anaheim Longoria Price Bogaerts
David Laurila Oakland Detroit Tampa Bay Kansas City Baltimore Trout Verlander Bogaerts
David Wiers Oakland Detroit Boston Tampa Bay Texas Trout Hernandez Abreu
Eno Sarris Oakland Cleveland Tampa Bay Boston Kansas City Kipnis Price Abreu
Howard Bender Texas Cleveland New York Boston Kansas City Trout Darvish Abreu
Jason Collette Anaheim Detroit Tampa Bay Boston Oakland Trout Cobb Abreu
Jeff Sullivan Anaheim Detroit Boston Tampa Bay Oakland Trout Darvish Tanaka
Jeff Zimmerman Anaheim Detroit Boston Oakland Kansas City Cabrera Verlander Abreu
Jeremy Blachman Oakland Cleveland Tampa Bay Boston Anaheim Trout Sale Tanaka
John Paschal Texas Detroit Tampa Bay Boston Oakland Fielder Darvish Tanaka
Karl de Vries Oakland Cleveland Tampa Bay Boston New York Longoria Darvish Bogaerts
Marc Hulet Oakland Cleveland Boston New York Detroit Trout Scherzer Tanaka
Matt Klaassen Oakland Detroit Boston Tampa Bay New York Fielder Hernandez Tanaka
Matt Yaspan Texas Cleveland Baltimore Tampa Bay Oakland Kipnis Price Tanaka
Max Weinstein Oakland Kansas City Boston Tampa Bay Detroit Trout Darvish Abreu
Michael Barr Oakland Detroit Boston Tampa Bay Seattle Trout Verlander Tanaka
Mike Bates Anaheim Detroit Boston Tampa Bay Baltimore Trout Sale Tanaka
Mike Petriello Oakland Detroit Tampa Bay Boston Texas Trout Darvish Abreu
Patrick Dubuque Anaheim Detroit Tampa Bay Boston Oakland Trout Hernandez Bogaerts
Paul Swydan Oakland Cleveland Boston Texas Detroit Trout Hernandez Bogaerts
Wendy Thurm Oakland Cleveland Boston New York Detroit Trout Hernandez Ventura
Zach Sanders Oakland Detroit Boston Tampa Bay New York Trout Darvish Tanaka

We hoped you liked reading FanGraphs 2014 Staff Predictions: American League by Dave Cameron!

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Timeghoul
Guest
Timeghoul

8 people picked the Indians to win? That’s downright insane to me, third-order wins had them as basically 500 last year and they’ve only gotten worse from losing Kazmir/Jimenez and inexplicably installing Santana as their starting 3B.

Professor Ross Eforp
Member
Professor Ross Eforp

Santana only needs to post a WAR of 0.4 to improve upon Indians 3B production last year and is being replaced by Gomes who is (at a minimum) his polar opposite in terms of defense. I’m not sure how that makes it into your reasoning for why they won’t win the division.

Robert Hombre
Member
Member
Robert Hombre

BP had their 3rd-order Record as 86.6-75.4. That’s not ‘basically .500,’ any more than the Cardinals, because they lost the WS, ‘basically didn’t make the playoffs.’

David Laurila
Member
Member

I’m not among those who have the Indians in the playoffs this year, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they are. Their roster includes key players likely to improve on their 2013 performances.

While I admittedly made some clunker predictions a year ago, I did write an article saying the Indians could easily finish with a record comparable to that of the Reds. I liked their talent, and most of it returns.

Cory
Guest
Cory

Their roster also includes superhuman performances from Raburn/Gomes that have little to no chance of being repeated. There’s just as much chance for regression in a negative way on that team as regression in a positive way.

Robert Hombre
Member
Member
Robert Hombre

… as well as Asdrubal Cabrera’s worst season in the majors, Swisher/Bourn’s worst seasons since 2008 (the former largely due to a .270 BABIP), sub-replacement-level play from Mark Reynolds over 380 PAs, the collapsing bullpen stage in Chris Perez and Vinnie Pestano, Kluber’s ERA underperforming his xFIP by .75, and the abysmal BABIP numbers posted by Lonnie Chisenhall.

Gomes broke out and is a virtual lock for regression. Raburn’s walk rate was the only thing he hadn’t replicated previously in his career – unusual circumstances, certainly.

Cory
Guest
Cory

Good Call, Raburn will definitely OPS near 1.000 again.

Bourn just isn’t a very good hitter and is a speed guy over 30. Swisher will probably improve a little but not much. Cabrera simply isn’t that good either though he will certainly get better.

Oh yeah, they lost Smith, Kazmir, and Jimenez. And their team last year over-performed by about five games. They’re going to need absolutely everything to go right to match their team from last year.

Robert Hombre
Member
Member
Robert Hombre

Obviously I’m not projecting Raburn to OPS 1.000. That would be insane. Worth noting: there are exactly 0 players in the majors ZiPS projects to OPS 1.000. So you budget regression for him as you do all players. But his biggest improvement was his walk rate – it’s not obvious one should regress that as aggressively one should HR/FB rate.

The meme that Bourn will age faster because his game is speed-based was discussed here: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-slow-decline-of-speedy-outfielders/

Swisher had a 23% LD rate in contrast to a .288 BABIP – not exactly a stable equilibrium. Moreover, to say ‘Cabrera isn’t simply that good’ isn’t really borne out by anything other than 2013 results.

They lost Jimenez and Kazmir. I’m not sure who you’re talking to that’s under the impression that this in some way is a non-issue, but it’s certainly not me. But with Salazar assuming a full-time role in the rotation, that leaves only one hole to fill in the full-time rotation, in Carrasco – whom Eno et al. are high on.

Mike
Guest
Mike

I guess none of the other players in the Central are going to regress? People want to criticize Bourn because he’s a speed OF getting older, or say Raburn and Gomes won’t repeat last year….sure, I wouldn’t disagree with any of that.

But what about the competition? The Twins and White Sox are complete duds in the Central and would both be lucky to win within 20 games of the division winner, much less compete for it.

The Royals are constantly overrated on a year to year basis because they always have a hot prospect coming up or players developing.

The Tigers lost Fister, Peralta, and Fielder. Their bullpen wasn’t great last year, and got worse in some ways, losing Drew Smyly to the rotation and Rondon to injury. Nathan and Hunter are approaching 40. If you’re looking for a regression, maybe look at Max Scherzer? Verlander’s fastball velocity has decreased in 4 straight seasons. Cabrera is another year older and probably another 10-15 lbs heavier – how will he hit with Martinez protecting him instead of Fielder? And they essentially have nothing in LF and SS, with a complete unknown at 3B.

What I’m saying is, the division should be easier to win than last year. The top team is worse and the bottom 2 are just as bad as they were.

Mike
Guest
Mike

Or should I say, how much more will Cabrera be walked with Martinez behind him instead of Fielder. I would still expect a .310/30/120 season from Cabrera but I feel like expecting him to do what he’s done the last 4 years well into his 30s with a team around him that is worse than before is a little bullish.

soccrtiger13
Member
soccrtiger13

The Tigers are one more injury away from being in big trouble. If it’s Scherzer, Cabrera or Verlander they would be lucky to finish within 5 games of a wild card spot.
They don’t have a shortstop, they’ve lost their platoon in left, Rondon is out and they are putting a lot of faith in Drew Smyly to replace Doug Fister and a lot of faith in Joba Chamberlain to replace Drew Smyly AND Joaquin Benoit. And a lot of faith in Nick Castellanos to replace Prince Fielder. And a lot of faith in Ian Kinsler’s awesome home/road splits.

I’ll give you that Joe Nathan is better than whatever was closing for them last season.

Cory
Guest
Cory

If the Indians lose Santana, they’re done. If the Rays lose Price, they’re done. If the Rangers lose Beltre, they’re done.

Your comment is unbelievably idiotic. A major injury having a huge impact on a team?! You don’t say!

James
Guest
James

Yeah, but… they’re the Tigers. Cabrera and money and stuff!

On a more serious note, it’s easy to see how some of these holes on the team (LF, SS, bullpen) could go drastically wrong. I just wouldn’t pick someone else to do it right now. But that’s why the preseason’s fun; no one really has much of an idea.

Michael
Guest
Michael

But all those things you said aren’t true. Except maybe Santana, because the Indians aren’t that good in the first place.

canOcorn
Guest
canOcorn

The Indians were 17-2 v the White Sox last year. That won’t happen again. CWS will finish ahead of the Indians this year.

Ken
Guest
Ken

And the Indians were 4-15 against the Tigers last year. Not likely to happen again either. Since the Tigers finished only 1 game better than the Tribe, that means that the Tribe actually way outperformed the Tigers against the rest of baseball. Against every team not named Detroit, the Tribe was 88 – 55 against the rest of baseball vs the Tigers 78-65. That means that the Tribe just plays the Tigers even this year, they can afford to give up lots of games against the rest of the league.

Matthew
Guest
Matthew

I really don’t understand how people aren’t giving Benoit credit for what he did in the closer’s role last year. Look at his performance compared to Nathan last year:

Nathan: 64.2 IP 10.16 K 3.06 BB 0.28 HR/9 .224 BABIP 87.2% LOB 2.26 FIP 3.27 xFIP

Benoit: 67.0 IP 9.81 K 2.96 BB 0.67 HR/9 .256 BABIP 87.3% LOB 2.87 FIP 3.16 xFIP

Not only did Benoit match Nathan nearly pitch for pitch all season long, Nathan’s BABIP and HR/9 are completely unsustainable compared to Benoit’s (even though they both probably will). Plus, Nathan is 39 compared to Benoit at 36, and Nathan is getting paid five million more over the same two years. The save counting stat is literally the only difference. And if you say that Benoit gave up some runs in the playoffs, need I bring up SSS?

LaLoosh
Guest

yeah, if not for perennial whipping boy Dayton Moore, the Royals would be the popular pick this time around. The Royals should overtake the Tribe fairly comfortably this year.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip

Really? Both total WAR and 2014 projected standings have Cleveland and KC being with 1 win of one another. Cleveland has a lot to be excited about in their rotation. I see how someone could prefer one team over another, but not comfortably.

I really don’t see how this has anything to do with Moore. KC’s farm system was hyped to high heaven. One would almost wonder if there was a pro-Royals bias. Now, many of those players have graduated and underperformed expectations a bit. What makes the Royals so much better than the Indians?