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Looking back on preseason superlative predictions

You’ll never believe it, but we didn’t make perfect predictions.

Championship Series - Boston Red Sox v Houston Astros - Game Six Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

The Red Sox entered the 2021 season expected to be marginal wildcard contenders at best, and ended it two wins away from the World Series. There was a whole lot that went right for this team, both expected and unexpected, and today we’re going to go back in time to March to see how well we (both the staff here at OTM and the community as a whole) predicted the team’s superlatives. Of course, the ultimate winner for these superlatives are subjective in my mind, so you have my permission (not that you need it) to yell at me in the comments for the ones I get wrong.

Team MVP

Community Prediction: Xander Bogaerts

My pick: Rafael Devers

I think there are a few different arguments you can make here for who the team MVP was, but I kept coming back to Devers. If you want to go by fWAR, he’d be third on that list behind both Bogaerts and Nathan Eovaldi, and both of those guys have arguments. Bogaerts was only slightly worse offensively than Devers (130 vs. 134 by wRC+) and played a more valuable position. Eovaldi was the rock in a rotation that was otherwise all over the plae. But I’ll always lean towards the everyday player if it’s close, and the impact his power makes was enough to just barely put him over the top for me. Jake and both Mikes on staff correctly predicted this one.

Best Pitcher

Community Prediction: Eduardo Rodriguez

My Pick: Nathan Eovaldi

This one is not even a competition. Eovaldi was arguably the best overall player on the roster, and was undoubtedly the best pitcher. In hindsight it’s kind of jarring to see that no one on staff predicted Eovaldi, though it makes sense even just given the idea that it required buying into his health. He had never been able to stay healthy before this past year, but he did and was good enough in the process that he’ll get Cy Young votes as well.

Defensive Wizard

Community Prediction: Enrique Hernández

My Pick: Enrique Hernández

Here’s a win for the community, as well as Jake and Brady from the staff. Before the season it was not even entirely clear what Hernández’s role was going to be for the defense, with the expectation that most of his time would be spent at second base. Instead, his glove was needed more in center field, and while he was not quite Jackie Bradley Jr., he was still outstanding. For a team that was lacking defense at most positions, having Hernández providing that steady presence in center field was very valuable.

Biggest Surprise (Positive)

Community Prediction: Bobby Dalbec

My Pick: Garrett Whitlock

Dalbec would have been a good pick in most years, especially if we’re giving bonus points for surprising in the second half. But for as impressive the year was for Dalbec, Whitlock was an easy call here. Before the season I do think many saw the potential for Whitlock to be more than your typical Rule 5 draftee, but no one could have reasonably expected this. That includes the Red Sox, to be clear. That he emerged as the best reliever on a team that made it to Game Six of the ALCS, and never really slowed down, was a shocker and perhaps the most important development for the team this year. More evidence that he was a big surprise is that no one on staff chose him either.

Biggest Disappointment

Community Prediction: J.D. Martinez

My Pick: Christian Vázquez

Here’s where some personal bias comes in, because there were two very clear options here for me. Vázquez is my pick, in part because I was relatively high on him coming into the year. After a couple of seasons showing progress at the plate, he went back to well below-average in 2021, and his defense was less consistent as well. Garrett Richards would be another viable option, but him pitching himself out of the rotation was not a surprise to me. In fact, I chose him for my biggest disappointment in this preseason exercise. Reasonable minds can disagree as to who you want to put in the “top” spot here.

Unsung Hero

Community Pick: Garrett Whitlock

My Pick: Josh Taylor

This is always the most subjective, but I think most would agree the community was ultimately too right with this prediction. Whitlock was so good that he was very much sung, and deservedly so. I went with Taylor because I didn’t really notice how good he was, but he was a big part of this bullpen while staying a bit under the radar. He tossed 47 23 innings and finished the year with a 3.40 ERA and a 2.83 FIP.