Just before Opening Day each year, in a feature called "The Nicks' Picks," me and my former blogging partner Nick Mosvick lay out our predictions for the upcoming season. It's always amusing -- and often embarrassing -- to go back and review those predictions at season's end. For instance, I had the Red Sox and Cardinals squaring off in the World Series, and of course neither made the playoffs.
For the first time this year, we introduced a series of Twins-specific predictions, both because it was a logical thing to do on a Twins blog and because fellow blogger Josh Johnson campaigned to make April 2nd the universal "Twins Prediction Day" for all writers covering the team. Today, I'll take a look back at my Twins predictions and see how they panned out, while reviewing the thought process that led to these prognostications:
Twins MVP: Joe Mauer
Certainly not a tough call after Mauer took home league MVP honors in 2009. While his season certainly didn't live up to the lofty standards set last year, Mauer was an extremely valuable contributor who was named team MVP in Seth Stohs' polling of local bloggers and personalities at season's end.
Twins Top Pitcher: Francisco Liriano
Some would argue that Carl Pavano ended up being the team's best pitcher, and there's certainly a fair case to be made there, but for my money Liriano was the most impressive starter on the team. He ranked among the league leaders in strikeouts and ground ball rate while earning a nod as the Twins' No. 1 starter in the postseason.
Twins Best Rookie: Anthony Slama
Well this was a big whiff. Slama got only a brief taste of the bigs and failed during that brief stint to carry over his dominant minor-league numbers, allowing four hits and five walks over 4 2/3 innings for a 7.71 ERA. Of course, few could have anticipated that Danny Valencia would have as large of an impact as he did. I suspect we'll see more of Slama next year, with several current relievers set to depart via free agency.
Twins Most Improved Player: Liriano
Liriano's transcendent performance in winter ball, coupled with the fact that he truly did not pitch as badly last year as his numbers indicated, made this an easy pick for me. Sure enough, Liriano won AL Comeback Player of the Year with a huge bounce-back campaign. Those who pegged Delmon Young in this category can also be feeling pretty good about their pick.
Bold Predictions: Jesse Crain will lead team in saves; Nick Blackburn will post 5+ ERA; J.J. Hardy will win first Gold Glove
Only the Blackburn prediction came true, but I definitely feel like I was on the right track with both of the others. Crain never got a shot at taking over closer duties, likely because of his lack of experience in that role, but he was undeniably the team's best reliever for most of the season. Meanwhile, Hardy won't be among the Gold Glove winners announced today and tomorrow since injuries limited his playing time this season, but defensive metrics do peg him as one of the American League's finest defensive shortstops in 2010, with an outstanding 8.1 UZR in 100 games at the position.
A.L. Central Prediction (Standings): Twins, White Sox, Tigers, Indians, Royals
Three Keys to Success for the Twins: Slowey and Liriano stepping up, bullpen staying healthy, success at Target Field.
It's obviously debatable how much each of these things factored into the team's success, but certainly Liriano's emergence and a tremendous home record were elemental in their division title. The bullpen had a few injury issues, but most of the key players stayed strong all year and allowed the unit withstand the absence of Joe Nathan. Slowey never really pulled it together
What about you? What were your predictions before the season started? Which events did you foresee and which ones took you by surprise?