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    Thursday, March 28, 2024

    2024 Opening Day Astros Predictions

    It’s Opening Day, so I once again contributed to The Crawfish Boxes’ annual Astros Prediction piece! Things seemed pretty rough at times in 2023, but I think Houston is poised to see something of a bounce-back this season; go check it out if you want to see why, as well as everyone else’s thoughts!

    Also, one tidbit I wanted to note: I went back and looked at my prior predictions. I’m generally fairly close on record, but I’m not sure how important that is (I guess it’s slightly notable that I keep saying “the Astros will be good”, and then they are, but that’s more about not getting too pessimistic and predicting doom). The more interesting thing was the “bold predictions” section, a recurring category where we have to get specific about some aspect of the Astros’ upcoming year. I actually have a pretty decent track record there, which shocked me a little.

    In 2019: “[T]his is the year that the Astros score 900 runs, becoming the first team to do so since the 2009 Yankees.”

    The 2019 Astros did indeed reach 900 runs scored as a team! They technically didn’t lead the league, because there was an offensive uptick league wide that made things a little easier, but by just about any stat that adjusts for park and era, the 2019 team was historic (for example, they had the highest team wRC+ in post-integration MLB history at 124, a mark which the Braves topped last year).

    In 2020: “The Astros won’t miss Gerrit Cole.”

    I mean, you’d always rather have more good players, but the 2020 rotation didn’t miss a beat without him (outside of the whole Pandemic), finishing tied for third in rotation WAR according to Fangraphs. We had to do two extra bold predictions this year, and my results with those were more mixed; Carlos Correa did not lead a continued offensive onslaught, but the division was much closer and Houston didn’t clinch a playoff spot until the third-to-last day of the season.

    2021 didn’t really have a bold prediction section, just to discuss your X-Factors and concerns. I said I was concerned about age and health. Both of those factors turned out fine in the end, but I didn’t give anything specific and measurable, so I don’t know that I can count this one.

    In 2022: “Justin Verlander basically picks up where he left off back in 2019, with an All-Star-level campaign that even draws a few Cy Young votes.”

    Verlander would return from Tommy John surgery and in fact win his third Cy Young Award, not just draw some votes.

    In 2023: “Kyle Tucker takes another step forward and ends up getting the most MVP votes of anyone on the team.”

    Tucker had probably his best season yet last year, finishing a homer shy of 30-30 and landing fifth in MVP voting (behind Shohei Ohtani, Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, and Julio Rodriguez). Yeah, Jose Altuve or Yordan Alvarez probably would have finished higher if they were healthy, but that’s how it goes sometimes.

    If you’re curious to see what I predicted this year, you can once again check out my full 2024 piece here! And if you want to see everyone else’s predictions, here are the other entries: Part One, Part Two, Part Three

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      Monday, March 11, 2024

      Predicting Today's Future Hall of Fame Pitchers, 2024 Edition

      Following the Future Hall of Fame Hitters article from last time, we return with the second entry in this year’s Future Hall of Fame Series, looking at Starting Pitchers!

      Pitching, and starting pitching especially, has been in a constant state of evolution across the history of the game. This goes back to even the earliest days of professional baseball, where there were frequent adjustments to fundamental rules, like the number of balls and strikes that could be counted or the distance of the mound to the plate or even throwing underhand versus overhand. There have definitely been times where I’ve been looking at 1800s pitching stats and noticed a big year-to-year change, only to look up the history and realize it coincided with, say, a year where there were seven balls in a walk, or a decision to move the mound back from 45 feet away from the plate.

      Things have stabilized relative to those wild early days, but they’ve never really stopped moving; we’ve seen the introduction of rotations, equipment changes from the deadball to the liveball, the gradual increase in the number of pitchers in said rotations, medical developments that could revive dead careers, the emergence and growing prominence of bullpens and all the strategy switches that entailed, new philosophies and pitches constantly being developed and taught, the effects of growing understanding on the delineation between pitching and defense (plus tons of evolution in defense alongside all this, which is at least related), continued tinkering on things like mound height and distance… you could just go on and on listing these factors. Hitting has changed too, of course, but nowhere near to the extent that the pitching side of the game has.

      And all of that represents a major problem when it comes to the Hall of Fame, a historical institution that is entirely subjective and thus, more or less defined by its own precedent. What does it mean to be a Hall of Fame starting pitcher? Pitching today on the whole looks little like it did sixty years ago, let alone way back at the turn of the twentieth century. It would probably stand to reason that if our idea of a pitcher had changed that much, then surely our idea of a Hall of Fame pitcher must have similarly evolved with it.

      Except… it largely hasn’t. In fact, not only has the idea of what makes a “Hall of Fame starting pitcher” not evolved at the rate the game has changed, it’s arguably stagnated in such a way that it’s now somehow harder to elect traditionally-deserving candidates; the number of pitchers in Cooperstown has been dropping for a while. By just about any measure, things have gotten worse as of late, and look to get even more dire in the near future. I might be going more in-depth on this matter in an upcoming piece, but just to put some basic numbers to the issue: historically, the Hall has inducted hitters and pitchers at a two-to-one rate, or one pitcher inducted for every two position players.* Keep that in mind as a baseline.