Saturday was the annual Padres FanFest. Originally, I was going to write a recap of my day. But I was so bored there I didn’t even bother taking any notes and only took a couple of photos. I’ll let Ryan sum up the rest of my feelings on the last few FanFests:

Now that we have that (not unexpected) disappointment out of the way, I ended up going to Bub’s at the Ballpark with your good friend and mine, Nathan Zack. The plan was to meet Dave and Laura Perek there, which has become sort of an annual tradition for Nathan whenever he’s in town. I had never met Dave or Laura before, even though we’ve followed each other on Twitter for years, so I was excited to finally get to do that.

Over the course of the two hours we spent at Bub’s, I was introduced to a little game the three of them play amongst themselves where they make predictions about the upcoming season. I was intrigued, to say the least, so I joined them for this year’s edition.

What follows is all of our selections for this game. We don’t know how it’s going to end yet, but I’m pretty sure I nailed every category. I’ve put my selections in bold.

There are no stakes. There is no prize. It’s all for fun.

So, relax, let’s have some fun out here! This game’s fun, OK?

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After covering the position players a few weeks back, we’re back today with some crazy pitcher predictions. Let’s get right to it . . . after this standard disclaimer:

Predictions are for the player’s full season, regardless of whether or not they are traded, but only count major-league performance (unless otherwise noted).

The Starters

James Shields

You can look at Shields’ 2015 season in two ways.

  1. He stunk. He allowed a league-leading 33 home runs in pitcher-friendly Petco, and he posted a below average ERA once accounting for ballparks. He also pitched “just” 202 1/3 innings, his lowest total since his rookie campaign, while also notching a career-worst 3.6 walks per 9.
  2. He was sneaky good. Shields’ 25.1 percent strikeout rate was the highest mark of his career, up nearly six percentage points from 2014—even though his velocity was down 1.5 miles per hour. His HR/FB was an unsustainably high 17.6 percent, and it’s bound to regress significantly going forward.

Huh, strange year. The glass half full outlook says Shields can keep his strikeout rate up while cutting down his walk rate and home run issues. That version of Shields would put him back on the fringes of the Cy Young race, but he’s 34 now—we won’t go quite that far.

The Prediction: 3.37 ERA, 22 percent strikeout rate, 24 home runs allowed

Tyson Ross

Ross feels like the type of pitcher ready to breakout as a true staff ace at any moment, and he’s come tantalizingly close already. He has his warts—trouble holding runners, higher than desired walk rates, injury risk due to heavy slider usage—but he also excels at just about everything you want from a pitcher. His 25.8 strikeout rate in 2015 marked a new career high, and that figure has been on the rise every year for Ross. His groundball rate has trended in the same direction, and last year it also reached a new peak at 61.5 percent. With sustained health and improved control, there’s no reason why Ross can’t take another jump forward in 2016.

The Prediction: 18 days on the DL (blister)

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Here’s some stuff I read this week that you might enjoy:

  • Baseball teams use in-depth data to win (Democrat and Chronicle) – Sean Lahman, of Lahman’s Baseball Database fame, pens a thoughtful piece on the current state of analytics in MLB and where it is headed next. As Houston Astros front-office staffer Sig Mejdal notes, “Sabermetrics used to give teams a competitive advantage. Now it’s just table stakes.” Of particular interest is how the Pittsburgh Pirates have used statistical analysis to inform their defensive positioning, pitch selection, and more. This is a fascinating read, as Travis Sawchik’s Big Data Baseball–referenced in the article and due out in May–also promises to be.
  • Pre-Season Predictions (Baseball Prospectus) – The Washington Nationals are the overwhelming favorites to win the World Series, though Jeff Long casts a vote for the Padres. Justin Upton and Matt Kemp receive minimal MVP support, while James Shields gets one third-place tally for the Cy Young award. FanGraphs has predictions as well, which you should also read.
  • Most Extreme Ballparks In The Minors (Baseball America) – Two California League locales make Matt Eddy’s list. The first is High Desert, home of professional baseball’s most extreme environment. I once asked a guy who had played in the league (he posted a sub-600 OPS over parts of two seasons) what his favorite ballpark was. He said this one, because he could hit a pop fly to shortstop and it would leave the yard. The other to make Eddy’s list is Sam Lynn Ballpark in Bakersfield, which serves as an excellent example of how not to build a stadium.
  • Ho-Hum, Another Preller Blockbuster (Padres Public) – Dustin gives his take on the last-minute deal that brought stud closer Craig Kimbrel to San Diego. As Dustin notes, A.J. Preller loves hard-throwing right-handed relievers. Kimbrel fits the bill and might be the best in baseball. The downside is Melvin “Kimbrel Tax” Upton Jr., who hit .198/.279/.314 over the last two seasons and is owed $46.35 million over the next three. Dustin also slings this sobering thought: “The future payroll commitments are getting a bit scary — $75 million is already locked up in the 2017 payroll, and almost all of it goes to three over-30 players and a flame-throwing closer.” Jeff Sullivan at FanGraphs also weighs in on the deal, as do Baseball Prospectus ($) and Baseball America. Oh, and now the Padres have another pair of brothers.
  • Matt Vasgersian talks MLB Network, Padres, and chili fries with GLB (Gaslamp Ball) – I miss Matty V.: “2004 was fun because it was the first year at Petco, but 2006 was a blast. Having veterans like Mike Piazza, Boomer Wells and Woody Williams made the team feel legit… Chris Young had an amazing year, Mike Cameron was amazing to watch, that team was a lot of fun.”