Just before the start of this historic 2019 Dodgers’ season, I chimed in with some bold predictions. Five, to be exact. Now that the regular season is over — and that was all I predicted — let’s take a look back and see how I did. Spoiler alert: Not well.
1. Kiké Hernández will hit at least 30 home runs and make the All-Star team
This was probably the most bold/out-there prediction, and it missed pretty badly.
After a strong 2018 season, it seemed Hernández was primed to break out in a big way. And he was given ample opportunity to do so. He started 24 of the Dodgers’ first 32 games at second base. He homered twice in the first game of the season. Though he cooled off a bit by the end of April, he still carried a .256/.342/.505 batting line — all of which would have been career-bests over the course of a full season. He also played a very capable second base, so despite his versatility, there was reason to keep Hernández at the keystone. Max Muncy was playing a lot of first base and Chris Taylor got off to a terrible start.
Hernández’s next two months, however, were bad. From May 1 through June 30, Hernández hit just .190/.254/.345 with seven home runs in 185 plate appearances. It cost him any remote chance of making the National League All-Star team (and who’s to say he would have made it if he replicated his April production anyway?). He hit six home runs in 115 plate appearances through April 30, so the drop-off was real. He lost his grip of the starting second base job and went back to being a super utility player.
From that point, Hernández played decently, though, still not up to last year’s standard. He hit .275/.335/.423 over his final 164 plate appearances in what could be classified as a slightly disappointing season for the now-28-year-old.
2. Clayton Kershaw will have an ERA north of 3.50
This one wasn’t really close to happening, either. If I had said FIP (3.86) instead of ERA, I would have nailed it. Kershaw finished with a 3.03 ERA. It was his worst ERA since his rookie season. His highest end-of-game ERA during the season was 3.40, which came on May 14 after allowing three earned runs over seven innings against the Padres.
One thing that really helped Kershaw this season was he rediscovered his strikeouts. While he had just two double-digit strikeout efforts in 2019, on the whole, his strikeout rate jumped nearly three points from last season. Despite his homers also jumping (as did many pitchers in baseball), he was still plenty effective and did a good job preventing runs. The rumors of Kershaw demise were greatly exaggerated.
3. Tony Gonsolin will pitch 50 or more innings in the majors in 2019
This was a bit on the bolder side and, surprisingly, the closest I came to being right. Gonsolin began the season in Triple-A — as expected — and quickly found himself on the injured list after straining his oblique after his second start of the season for Oklahoma City.
He bounced between Los Angeles and OKC a couple times before finally settling in LA in mid-August. By that time, he had logged 41 1⁄3 innings for OKC and 14 innings for LA. He finished the season by throwing 26 innings for the Dodgers — four starts and four relief appearances — for a total of 40 innings at the MLB level. He fell 10 innings short of my prediction. Because of that, his rookie status is still in tact for the 2020 season. You know, that’s what really matters.
4. Kenta Maeda will lead the team in pitching WAR
Honestly, I’m not sure what I was thinking on this one. It was bold, but it was probably a bit of a reach. He logged 153 2⁄3 innings — the most since his rookie season — so the opportunity was there for him to accumulate a good amount of WAR.
His April was marred by two bad outings. He had a 4.41 ERA at the end of that first month. His May was a lot better. It included a 12-strikeout game on May 15 against the Padres. Through the end of August, he had 2.4 WAR. He wasn’t going to get near Walker Buehler’s team-leading 5.0 WAR, but another month in the rotation could have resulted in a 3-plus win season. But, as has become tradition, Maeda was moved to the bullpen for the month of September and accumulated just 0.1 WAR in that time.
5. Kenley Jansen will return to form in 2019
This was the most vague prediction, but Jansen was nowhere near close to what I was expecting (or, hoping?).
Jansen was perfectly solid as a reliever — a closer, even — but he wasn’t his pre-2018 self. But if there’s any reason for optimism, it’s the fact that he was significantly better in 2019 than he was last season.
After posting a 0.3 WAR and 4.03 FIP in ‘18, Jansen rebounded to post 1.2 WAR and a 3.48 FIP. His ERA was up by nearly three-quarters of a point, but he improved in almost every other category.
I think the “return to form” prediction was more wishful thinking than based in fact or reality. But the only thing that really matters is how he performs this month. If he’s even above-average in October, that could mean good things for the Dodgers.
[All WAR cited in this article are from Fangraphs.com -Ed.]