We Were Bad at Predicting (Some) Things

Before Opening Day, 40 staff writers and contributors from across our family of blogs made predictions about which teams would make the 2018 playoffs. I compiled the results, which can be found here. Some predictions were bold; others were fantastical. Many exhibited a perhaps unsurprising deference to our preseason projections. Affecting an air of clairvoyance is a rite of spring; realizing we’re a bunch of goofs is fall business. So before the playoffs begin this evening, let’s spend a moment reckoning with the fact that we’re bad at predicting things.

First, though, we should acknowledge the winners. I will not name the loser here; the world has enough cruelty in it. No one got every playoff team right — nor did anyone’s ballot perfectly mirror the order in which the field was eventually seeded — but David Laurila and Neil Weinberg each correctly predicted eight of the 10 playoff teams. David had the Twins in Oakland’s place, while Neil thought Boston would be traveling to Los Angeles for the American League Wild Card, but the rest of their AL ballots were correct. They also predicted four of the five National League teams. They both thought the Nationals would win the NL East, and they weren’t alone: 39 of 40 ballots agreed, with the final vote going to the Mets. We messed that one up, though not as badly as the Nationals did. Our full results are below.

Number of Correctly Predicted Playoff Teams
Correctly Predicted Playoff Teams Number of Writers
8 2
7 11
6 19
5 7
4 1

Jeff Sullivan was the only person to correctly predict all five AL playoff teams. He had New York and Boston swapped for the AL East crown, but rightly thought Oakland would be the second Wild Card Team. Paul Sporer and Ryan Pollack also believed in the A’s, though the remainder of their ballots did less well. The AL results are below.

AL Playoff Teams
Team Number of Votes
Boston 33
Cleveland 37
Houston 37
New York 38
Oakland 3

Number of Correctly Predicted AL Playoff Teams
Correctly Predicted Teams Number of Writers
5 1
4 28
3 9
2 2

The National League stymied us much worse. The Braves not only didn’t appear as a division champion on anyone’s ballot, they weren’t included on anyone’s ballot anywhere. Only four of us believed in the Rockies: Laurila, Sporer, Weinberg, and erstwhile contributor Travis Sawchik.

NL Playoff Teams
Team Number of Ballots
Atlanta 0
Milwaukee 19
Los Angeles 39
Chicago 36
Colorado 4

Number of Correctly Predicted NL Playoff Teams
Correctly Predicted Teams Number of Writers
4 2
3 14
2 24

One could interpret these results as a reminder of our limitations as human beings or perhaps as a testament to how our affection for the things and teams we like best can cloud our judgement. But I prefer to read it a bit differently. I’d hate baseball that was entirely predictable. My pride might wish I had seen Oakland coming and could say so, but my heart? My heart delights in the surprise. Happy playoffs, everyone.

Meg is the managing editor of FanGraphs and the co-host of Effectively Wild. Prior to joining FanGraphs, her work appeared at Baseball Prospectus, Lookout Landing, and Just A Bit Outside. You can follow her on twitter @megrowler.

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Jetsy Extrano
Jetsy Extrano

So in isolation the biggest surprises would be Braves up and Nationals down, but they kind of share. I feel like if we plot wins versus some kind of playoff pick points, Oakland might win.

Early congrats to the one person who picked Yelich for MVP.

Johnny Coconuts
Johnny Coconuts

That was Josh Shepardson! Nice call!