PITTSBURGH - JUNE 13: Michael McKenry #55 of the Pittsburgh Pirates high fives teammates before walking into the dugout before the game against the New York Mets on June 13, 2011 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. McKenry was added to the Pirates roster last night. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Baseball is a game an awful lot of people like to try to predict. They really shouldn't, because it can make them look stupid.
Back in March, Ken Rosenthal wrote up an article centered around his predictions for the 2011 Major League Baseball season. There aren't a lot of things that stand out, but there is one section that most certainly does. Rosenthal's words:
People ask, "Who will be this year’s surprise team?" The truth is, only a handful of clubs appear unable to compete — probably the Pirates, Astros, Diamondbacks in the NL, the Royals, Indians and Mariners in the AL. The parity in baseball is that good, no matter what the alarmists and NFL propagandists might say.
Rosenthal was correct in saying that baseball features excellent parity, with few exceptions. But the exceptions he named couldn't look much worse today.
It was sensible to choose the six teams he did. A year ago, those six teams averaged 96 losses, losing 59% of their games. They didn't look great coming in. But what do we see now? The Pirates, impossibly, are in the thick of it. The Diamondbacks are in the thick of it. The Indians are in the thick of it. And the Mariners are in the thick of it. None of those four teams currently occupy a playoff spot, but they're all rather close. They are not, as Rosenthal wrote, "unable to compete."
I don't bring this up because I think Ken Rosenthal is stupid. I do not think Ken Rosenthal is stupid, even if he picked the wrong scrubs in an article titled "Best bet? Expect the unexpected." But Ken Rosenthal was made to look stupid by his own words, and that's because baseball is a wildly unpredictable game.
On a day-by-day basis, baseball barely makes any sense at all. Look what just happened to Zack Greinke on Thursday. On Thursday, Nick Blackburn shut out the White Sox. The Oakland A's offense potted eight runs. I remember back in college I tried to bet on baseball games, and I lost $75 in two days, back when $75 meant the world.
But even over full seasons spanning 162 games, surprises abound. The only thing that's predictable about the surprises is that there are going to be surprises, but you're never sure who they're going to be. I mean, the Pirates are 35-33. This is an organization with a streak of sub-.500 seasons old enough to have sex with. This is a team with nobody on the roster the average baseball fan could name. But this is a team that's hanging tight with the Brewers and the Cardinals in the NL Central.
Not that baseball's unpredictability deters people from making predictions. Googling "MLB predictions" yields more than 300,000 results. People love to make predictions, about everything, for reasons unclear. But even though people are always going to make predictions, they ought to be aware of how stupid those predictions can make them look. Baseball is not an electron. It does not follow the path of least energy. Baseball does whatever the hell it wants, whenever the hell it wants.
Predictions can be fun. I get it. They're enjoyable to read, enjoyable to think about, and enjoyable to discuss. But if you're going to make some of your own, and if you're going to make them known to a broader audience, be sure that you know what you're getting into. Some months later, you may be washing egg off your face.