I do a good bit of forecasting in my real job as a tax accountant. I get that sometimes you can have a plethora of information, take everything into account, and the projection you come up with still varies greatly from the actual results. There is a science to predicting future results, but it is an inexact science. Believe me, I have had more than my fair share of misfires when it comes it comes to projections. I get it that predictions and projections are just that and they almost always differ from reality. If any of us could predict anything with 100% accuracy, then well, we would. Of course, none of that is going to stop me from pointing out the many baseball pundits who were wrong – in some cases way wrong – in their 2012 preseason predictions for the Baltimore Orioles. I fully admit to taking a little bit of pleasure every time the O’s leave a national writer’s preseason predictions in the dust. I won’t even attempt to justify this pleasure, beyond making this one point – just because forecasting is rarely 100% accurate it does not mean that people should be immune from criticism and questioning when the predictions do not pan out. In the accounting world, you will often hear the acronym “SALY” – which stands for “Same As Last Year”. You will see “SALY” written on work papers whenever the accountant wants to indicate that he or she simply used the same number or logic as was used in the prior year. The problem is that often times that number or logic is no longer relevant. SALY is frowned upon for that reason – simply relying on what was done last year without digging further can lead to missing new important information.
Often times, I feel like baseball analysts rely on a SALY approach when making predictions and projections. A 29 year-old player hit .280/.350/.450 last year and has career averages of .278/.345/.455 so we would expect him to hit right around his prior season and career average numbers next season. SALY. A team posts a losing record for 10 straight seasons without showing much improvement in the win column from season to season, so we assume that team will do the same. SALY. The only problem is that we can point to a boatload of players every years that under or over perform their prior results. Many times if we looked a little deeper, there is a chance that we might have seen that improvement or decline coming. Every year a handful or more teams greatly out or underperform what they did last season and if we looked, we could have possibly saw it coming.
That’s my issue with some of the preseason predictions – some analysts take a SALY approach and then act surprised when the actual results aren’t the same as last season. I am not suggesting that anyone could have reasonably predicted that the Orioles would be outscored by 45 runs, have a mediocre offense, below average starting pitching, and somehow be 69-57 on August 27th after winning 69 games all of last season. What I am suggesting is that the 2012 club was improved from prior year clubs and that fact went largely ignored by the baseball analysts when they made their predictions. So forgive me if I don’t feel too bad about taking a few minutes to gloat about some of the wrong predictions made about the 2012 Orioles in March and April of this year. I’ll update each time the O’s speed past another preseason prediction.
- Jeff Passan – 64-98 WRONG on 8/18/2012
- Steve Henson – 58-104 WRONG on 8/7/2012
- Tim Brown – 70-92 WRONG on 8/28/2012
- 63-99 WRONG on 8/15/2012
- Ken Rosenthal: “. . . headed for its 15th straight losing season.” WRONG on 9/13/2012
- Ken Rosenthal: “The decision on center fielder Adam Jones will be the latest test of this sorry franchise . . . The Orioles need either to sign him long-term or trade him. If history is any indicator, they will do nothing.” WRONG on 5/26/2012
- Eight Columnists (including John Heyman) – 5th Place, AL East WRONG on 9/16/2012
- “The worst part of the hopelessness of the Orioles is the answer to this question: Who from the current roster could you envision as part of a hypothetical 2015 contender? Catcher Matt Wieters is a keeper, and Zach Britton is on his way, but otherwise? The best thing this franchise could do is take its 100 lumps, trade some marketable players such as Adam Jones, and start over.” WRONG (On too many points and dates to list)