Saturday, November 22, 2008

2008 Preseason Prognostication Revisited

Now that the World Series has faded into recent memory it should be time to start focusing on the 2009 season for the Tampa Bay Rays. We’ll get there some time this off season, but for right now lets do a quick review of this blog’s preseason picks. Luckily, due to my sheer laziness there are only three predictions that we have to review. So without further ado here we go!

Prediction number 1

When it comes down to it they just play in too tough of a division right now to expect the 90 wins necessary to be talked about in the play off hunt.

So I was wrong. I’m not ashamed to admit it. Luckily, I was wrong in a good way. The Rays surpassed everyone’s expectations by winning 97 games in the regular season. They smashed their way past the White Sox in the divisional series and out lasted the Red Sox in the league championship series before getting out played by the Phillies in the World Series.

I had listed a bunch of “what if’s” that could sneak the Rays into the wild card hunt, but oddly enough even though most of those “what if’s” didn’t come true they were still the best team in the American League. It just hammered home the truthfulness of the cliché that pitching and defense wins championships.

This prediction was wrong.

Prediction number 2

Carlos Pena - 37 home runs, .269 average 120 RBI’s

Instead of making bold team predictions I was planning on predicting the numbers of all nine position players and the pitching staff. I made it through 2 players. What can I say I’m lazy and often don’t live up to my ideals. So how did I do with Mr. Pena?

2008 Carlos Pena stats - 31 home runs, .247 average 102 RBI’s

Considering the putrid start he got off to I was amazed to be as close as I was. Through the end of June he had 11 homeruns and was hitting .229. His bat warmed up down the stretch as he hit 20 home runs the rest of the way while hitting above .250 in each of the last three months.

It appeared that he might have been pushing early in the season as he was striving to live up to his large off season deal. Just as his bat was starting to warm up he suffered a broken finger against Boston in June. While the time off might have prevented him from hitting 40 home runs it also kept him from striking out 200 times.

Plus if you add the 3 home runs and 10 RBI’s in the postseason I’m barely off on power numbers so I give myself a partial correct here.

Prediction number 3

Aki Imamura - 12 home runs, .2, 0 average 57 RBI’s

Aki!’s actual 2008 stats - 6 home runs, .274 average and 48 RBI’s

I thought that with a year under his belt Aki! would find his power groove. I was wrong. Even though he had 130 more at bats than 2007 his home run numbers decreased by one. That might speak more to his role at the top of the line up than his ability.

However, it was his defense at second base that provided the most value to the team. In 990 chances he only had 7 errors - most of those coming later in the season. Had he struggled at his new position there might have been the urge to move him back to his natural 3rd base position which might have delayed the development of Evan Longoria. That isn’t a concern now, nor is any other position in the infield. The four players in the infield (Iwamura, Pena, Longoria and Jason Bartlett) should hopefully play together for many seasons to come. Which would be something that can only make the Rays stronger.

So in the end I was wrong on two predictions and partially correct on the 3rd. Not the best success rate, but I have a feeling it was as good as anyone else’s.

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