Albert Pujols will hit at least 35 home runs this year.
He has averaged 41 home runs a year in his nine-year career. In fact, he has fewer than 35 only twice and is coming off a season when he hit 47. Predicting that Pujols will hit at least 35 home runs this year is sound, valid and a completely legitimate expectation.
It's also boring and, frankly, not very useful.
Before I was with ESPN, I had my own site called TalentedMrRoto.com. On that site, we called our player projections "REPs." REP stood for Reasonable Expected Performance. I've always been of the belief that accurate player projections are both impossible and, more importantly, not necessary (see my 50 facts column), so we never claimed to nail them. We just claimed what was reasonable.
And my reasonably expected performance for Pujols this year is .331, 42 home runs, 121 RBIs. He might do a little more, he might do a little less, but that's a very reasonable expectation for what his final numbers will look like. That is Pujols' "REP." It also sounds like his reputation as a guy who can get those numbers. Get it? His REP? Reputation? We thought we were very clever around TMR HQ for that one. What can I say? We were an easily amused group.
Predictions basically fall into one of two categories:
1) "No duh!" That's your "Pujols will hit 35 home runs" variety.
2) "No way!" That's your "Pujols will hit .250 with fewer than 20 home runs" variety.
Everything else you will read in this fantasy section, from me and from my fellow analysts, falls into Category 1. All of our projections, columns and analysis are based in fact. Researched, studied, thought out, steeped in "much more likely to happen than not." They might not be "no duh," but they are, including all of my work, very, very "Reasonable."
This is my bold predictions piece. These are things that are not reasonable to expect. There is some basis in fact behind them, but frankly, not a lot. If there were a lot of factual basis behind them, of course, they wouldn't be bold.
This is me, out on a limb, alone on an island, holding tight to my ill-fated belief that this is the year Francisco Liriano won't crush my will to live. These are gut calls wrapped in faith and hope, sprinkled with statistical backing and baked at 180 in the Oven of Dreams.
I bake a lot in the Oven of Dreams. Can't tell you how many pictures of Joanna Krupa I've burned. Anyway, for those of you new to the rodeo, the idea is that we have conversations like this:
TMR: I say the White Sox win at least 90 games and the AL Central.
You: What?!? In that division, with the Twins and Tigers? Are you serious?
TMR: You heard me!
I love the White Sox this year. And I love doing this column. Always one of the more fun ones to write. And hopefully read. Although, let's be honest. I've already got your click. Any enjoyment you get past this point is purely gravy.
If you decide to keep reading, here's my suggestion on how to get use out of this, other than printing it out and using it to make yourself feel better about your own crappy predictions at the end of the year.
Understand that just because something is unlikely to happen doesn't mean it can't. It was unlikely that Ben Zobrist would hit 27 home runs last year. The unlikely part wasn't the power, he had shown glimpses of that the year before, but rather that he would get the 500 at-bats to hit them in, when he had yet to get more than 200 in any previous season. So I'm looking for things that are considered unlikely to happen but still could.
The point is not so much to nail impossible predictions but rather to illuminate some players I have strong feelings about one way or the other. For example, last year in this column I predicted a bounce-back year for Paul Konerko, claiming he would hit 30 home runs. I got it wrong. He hit 28.
But considering his average draft position last year was in the 17th round, that's amazing value. If you drafted him based on this article last year, I doubt you are upset that I overestimated by two home runs.
Of course, I also predicted that Liriano would win the AL Cy Young Award. They're not all winners, kids. This is high-risk, high-reward territory we're about to enter.
Is that enough CYA caveats yet? Doesn't matter. I'm going for it. If I've said it once, I've said it a million times. Go big or go home. No guts, no glory. No clichés, no word count. You can call it bold, you can call it outrageous, you can not call it anything at all because talking out loud to a column is weird.
But no matter how you slice it, this is what I think will happen this year.
Brian Matusz gets 175 strikeouts, which would have been top 10 in the American League last season.
Adrian Beltre hits 30 home runs.
CC Sabathia has an ERA of 4.00 and fewer than 15 wins.
I go to a Yankees game this year at Yankee Stadium and actually have a good time. Fans are respectful, fun and kind. Look, I told you some of these were bold.
Marc Rzepczynski gets 150 strikeouts, a sub-4.00 ERA and double-digit wins. You heard me.
Juan Pierre leads the majors in stolen bases with 70. It would be his career high.
Chris Perez gets 35 saves. Or 10 more than the entire Indians squad had last season.
Johnny Damon's number of home runs and steals, combined, is 25 or fewer.
I print at least three more "crazy chick" dating stories. Soon after, I get engaged to a non-crazy chick. You heard me.
Billy Butler hits 35 home runs and 120 RBIs and bats .310.
Francisco Liriano finishes second in AL Cy Young voting. What the hell.
The Angels have six players hit at least 25 home runs.
Erik Bedard: 15 wins, 175 strikeouts.
There is a "Tiger Woods" type scandal involving a Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback.
15 wins and a sub-3.50 ERA for Tim Hudson.
Syracuse wins the NCAA tournament. You heard me. Shut it down!
Roy Halladay wins 25 games.
Matt Capps saves more than 30 games. Ten of which are started by Stephen Strasburg.
Randy Wells turns out not to be a fluke but rather finishes higher on our Player Rater than he did last season (No. 120 with a 5.03 rating).
"Hot Tub Time Machine" makes $100 million. At least $10 of which comes from me.
Jay Bruce: .285/30/90. Yes, .285. You heard me.
And Lance Berkman has the same numbers.
You've heard of beer goggles. Welcome to Brew goggles. Corey Hart gets back to 20/20.
None of them gets traded.
I was at an auction Tuesday where I said "Brad Penny, $1." I was told "You can have that dog. He's terrible. A dog. Bleah." No one else bid, but let me tell you, when I am not baking in the Oven of Dreams, I am cleansing myself in the Fountain of Dave Duncan. I say Brad gets at least 12 wins with an ERA under 3.75.
I came close to a Colby Rasmus prediction here, too, but I'm doing just one per team. Let me just say I like him this year.
Kourtney Kardashian starts dating a baseball player. His team wins the World Series.
Just for fun, I'll say it's Joe Mauer.
Or Scott Kazmir.
Or Takashi Saito.
Edwin Jackson has an ERA over 4 and a WHIP over 1.40 and does not get double-digit wins.
I manage to convince the powers that be to let me do a "TMR Babe of the Day" on the Matthew Berry page, where there's way too much of me and not enough of the attractive young people the kids like to look at.
Matt Kemp goes 30/30 this year. He is the only player in the majors to do so.
Howard Stern does not retire at the end of his contract this year but rather signs a new five-year deal.
Kyle Blanks hits 30 home runs, 90 RBIs and .275. I will continue my streak of writing about Blanks in every single piece I do from here until mid-April. I am all-in on Kyle Blanks.
Jonathan Sanchez leads the NL in strikeouts and has a 3.75 ERA and a you-can-live-with-it 1.30 WHIP.
I buck the odds and somehow manage to not get myself suspended, censured, admonished, rebuked, chastised, lectured, made an example of, or written up to the list This prediction may be in direct conflict with the one about the three crazy-chick stories, but what the heck. I'll either get them both right or both wrong, and hang the middle ground.
Matthew Berry -- The TMR -- predicts that at least one of these will already be wrong thanks to injury within a week of this being published. He is the creator of RotoPass.com, a Web site that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his Cyberfriend