First-half predictions: Predictably bad

It's not pretty for this column, though not as ugly as for those who picked the Mariners.

Topics: Baseball,

We’ve made it past the day that several baseball-loving people I know call the worst day of the year, the day after the All-Star Game. There are no games, nothing much else going on, though this year we had a little Kirk Radomski-Roger Clemens flare-up.

I think Wednesday’s great compared with Monday. No heroic measures are necessary to avoid hearing Chris Berman yell “Backbackback” a thousand times.

It’s also the traditional time to assess the first half of the season, and that often means reviewing the dumb predictions that were made in March and replacing them with a new batch of dumb predictions. Did I say Andruw Jones for MVP? Ha! You must have misheard my eccentric pronunciation of the name Lance Berkman. But I’ll tell you who’s really going to get hot in the second half: Andruw Jones!

And so on.

Blogger Geoff Decker of whereistand.com reviews the predictions of no fewer than 42 typists, chatterers and people I’ve never heard of in something he calls the Sports Media Accuracy Power Rankings, which is a fancy way of saying: Let’s see how bad all these bozos’ preseason predictions were.

He and his minions collected the predictions of 42 experts about which teams would win the six divisions and, using a mathematical formula that I’m sure would be too complicated for me to understand even if it were explained, assessed the accuracy of their prognostications through July 1.

An expert gets 12 points if the team he or she picked to win a division is in first place, fewer points the farther away it is from the top. For example, while the Florida Marlins and Oakland A’s were both in second place on July 1, the Marlins were closer to first, so a Marlins pick was worth 11 points, a pick of the A’s only eight. Got that?

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Me neither. Anyway, with the caveat that these experts were making predictions about who would be in first place on Oct. 1, not July 1, the leader on the backstretch here is a tie between Sean McAdam of ESPN — as with this column’s Panel o’ Experts, the four-letter is well represented — and Jason McIntyre of the Big Lead with 64 points. Their picks were identical: Red Sox, Tigers, Angels, Phillies, Cubs, Diamondbacks.

At the bottom of the list is a three-way tie: Mike Greenberg and Buster Olney of ESPN and Bill Madden of the New York Daily News, all with 33 points. All three picked the Seattle Mariners to win the A.L. West. In fact, the bottom 10 and 15 of the bottom 21 in the list picked Seattle to win the West. Only one expert above 22nd place, Scott Miller of CBSSportsLine, picked the Mariners.

Seattle was already 17 and a half games out on July 1 and couldn’t see third place if it stood on a box, so a Mariners pick was worth zero points, which can really drag a score down.

Let that be a lesson to you, prognosticators. Pythagoras will get you. The Mariners won 88 games last year, which if you didn’t look too close made it seem like they were right on the doorstep. That’s why they traded for Erik Bedard. But their pythagorean winning percentage — a measure of how many games a team should have won given its run differential — said they were really a 79-win team that had a run of luck in ’07 and was a long way from contending in ’08.

You pick a team like that at your peril, the peril of looking silly in something like the Sports Media Accuracy Power Rankings.

This column doesn’t look silly because it was ignored, which it considers an act of mercy. Here are my picks, presented with the number of points they’ve earned in the SMAPR:

New York Yankees: 5
Cleveland Indians: 1
Los Angeles Angels: 12
Atlanta Braves: 7
Milwaukee Brewers: 8
Arizona Diamondbacks: 12

Those picks would have given me 45 points, which would have put me in 32nd place, just ahead of Kirk Herbstreit of ESPN and behind the tied Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune, Steve Phillips of ESPN and Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated, not to mention the magazine itself, whose picks look suspiciously like Verducci’s.

I’d like to point out once again that the predictions were about who would win the divisions, not who’d be in first place on July 1. But that wouldn’t do anything but buy me some time. I’ve got an awful lot invested in the Indians, who have brought me one more point than a pick of the Mariners would have.

Wait a minute. Cleveland Indians? You must have misheard my eccentric pronunciation of the name Chicago White Sox.

King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon. You can e-mail him at king at salon dot com. Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

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