Judging the Royals

Don’t get caught up in preseason baseball predictions

Kansas City Royals Mike Moustakas follows through on a single during Friday's spring training game against the Cleveland Indians on March 6, 2015 in Goodyear, Ariz.
Kansas City Royals Mike Moustakas follows through on a single during Friday's spring training game against the Cleveland Indians on March 6, 2015 in Goodyear, Ariz. The Kansas City Star

I was recently asked about a preseason prediction that had the Royals winning 79 games and finishing third in the American League Central in 2015. I said that before I took anyone’s 2015 predictions seriously, I’d like to know what they predicted for 2014. We often hear experts predict the future, but rarely ask how accurate their predictions have been in the past — so I went back and looked.

Here’s what a few websites predicted for the 2014 Kansas City Royals.

ESPN’s 2014 preseason predictions

The sports network had 44 experts predict who would play in the 2014 World Series. The experts also predicted which team would win the series.

Not one of the experts correctly identified the American League champion. Not one of the experts correctly identified the National League champion. So it should go without saying — but I’m gonna say it anyway — not one of the experts correctly identified the eventual winner of the 2014 World Series.

So maybe it was just a bad year.

But go back and look at what ESPN’s experts predicted before the 2013 season and you’ll find that once again not one of the experts correctly identified the American League champion Boston Red Sox and not one of the experts correctly identified the National League champion St. Louis Cardinals. And that of course means that not one of the experts correctly identified the winner of the 2013 World Series.

So they’ve at least been consistent.

Grantland’s 2014 preseason predictions

Grantland is a wonderful website and I check it out on a regular basis. But when it came to predicting the 2014 Royals future, they didn’t have much luck. Grantland posted the Vegas line on the Royals and Vegas apparently thought the Royals would win 81 and a half games, which is a neat trick if you can figure out how to do it. The Royals actually won 89 games and let’s hope that didn’t cause some bookmaker in Vegas to wind up with a broken leg or a shallow grave out in the Mojave desert.

Grantland also predicted that Nori Aoki, Omar Infante, Danny Valencia and Jason Vargas would be key additions in 2014. Aoki and Vargas would probably qualify, but Valencia was a non-factor and only played in 39 games for the Royals before going to the Toronto Blue Jays. Grantland said Infante wasn’t a star player, but would still be a huge upgrade at second base—he wasn’t. In reality Omar spent a fair amount of time being hurt and hit .252, well under his lifetime average. Grantland also said Mike Moustakas looked sharp in spring training (he did) and then made a “bold” prediction that Moose would hit 30 home runs (he didn’t).

Bleacher Report’s 2014 preseason predictions

Before spring training began Bleacher Report predicted the Royals would win 84 games in 2014, missing the correct number by five. They then updated their prediction and said they thought the Royals would win 87 games and finish first in the division.

Bleacher Report got more optimistic about the Royals because of Mike Moustakas and said, “Moustakas looked like a completely different player this spring” and then added, “2014 will be the year that the 25-year-old finally begins to live up to the considerable hype that surrounded him when he made his major league debut in 2011.”

In reality Mike hit .212, had an on-base percentage of .271 and a slugging percentage of .361.

To give Bleacher Report some credit they also said: “An improved lineup, a solid rotation and excellent defense makes Kansas City a dangerous team, and it’ll end a nearly 30-year playoff drought” but were wrong about how that drought would end; Bleacher Report thought the Royals win the division.

In conclusion; don’t reach one

As you can see my research was far from exhaustive, I just checked out a few websites and used what I found to make a point: preseason predictions are often inaccurate and baseball fans shouldn’t take them too seriously. If anyone could really predict the future they ought to mortgage their house and make a bet. In reality I have a hard enough time understanding what has happened; what will happen is completely beyond me.

After being asked about that 78-win prediction I pointed out that I had followed the Royals for decades, seen pretty much every inning of every game for five straight seasons and still didn’t think the Royals would find themselves in the 2014 World Series. I thought they’d probably be a winning team, had a chance of making the playoffs, but didn’t know if they would get hot and go deep into October.

The person I said that to emailed back and wrote: “No one could have predicted the magical run of the Royals last year. It is impossible to account for injuries, team chemistry, or luck.”

My point exactly.

Until someone can figure out who will get hurt, who will slump at the wrong time or get hot at the right time, don’t get caught up in preseason predictions.

To reach Lee Judge, call 816-234-4482 or send email to ljudge@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @leejudge8.

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