Changes in MLB come too fast for long-term predictions

What does the future hold for the Dodgers? I’d almost suggest you not even try to answer.

ESPN.com is running a three-day series called “Future Power Rankings,” which attempts “to measure how well each team is set up for sustained success over the next five years.” With respect, a closer look at the ratings underscores the folly of the effort.

The Dodgers have come in at No. 19, too low for an organization that had the 13th-best record in MLB last year and is poised to put years of front-office nonsense in the past. No one needs to detail to me the Dodgers’ current weaknesses, but the fact is that the franchise arguably has the best position player and the best pitcher in the National League, a farm system full of pitching potential, few contract commitments beyond 2013 and a volcano of TV money about to pour in — money that can be used to improve not only the on-field talent but the folks wearing the suits and sport coats.

The 2012 season, though not a lost cause, isn’t one to be optimistic about as a Dodger fan. But after that, do you really think there are going to be 18 other teams better positioned than the Dodgers for success?

ESPN’s biggest misgivings are in the category of “management” — defined as “value and stability of ownership, front office and coaching staff” — in which the Dodgers were given six points, the fewest of any team except for the Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles. But it’s sort of absurd to look at the Dodger management of February 2012 and extrapolate that it will tread such shallow water over the next five years. Though there are no guarantees, to say that there can be a quick turnaround in this category is an understatement.

Similarly, rankings of talent at both the major-league and minor-league level fluctuate like crazy year-to-year.  If you want any evidence, consider how highly the Dodgers would have ranked three years ago, at the midpoint between back-to-back National League Championship Series appearances.

In terms of the Dodgers’ NL rivals, ESPN ranks the Padres 20th, Giants 17th, Rockies 15th and Diamondbacks in the top 10. There’s a methodology to it, but I think that methodology is the product of a glorified guessing game.

The Future Rankings are definitely a conversation starter — they got me started this morning — but that’s about as far as I would take them.

  • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

    Reminder from the Dodgers official twitter feed, about one of my faves as a little kid: 
    RT @Dodgers: Happy 64th birthday to the Penguin, Ron Cey!

    • Anonymous

      The Penguin is 64 wow! Happy B Day :)

      • http://www.linkmeister.com/wordpress/ Linkmeister

         Good grief. He’s only two-plus years older than I am!

        • Anonymous

           I first saw Ron play in Tacoma when he was 14, and we laughed as he approached the plate. We didn’t laugh when he hit a rocket over our left fielder’s head. The second time around, we moved the left fielder back 50 feet, but he did it again.

  • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

    Regarding your post, yeah, of all teams, the Dodgers’ future has to be one of the hardest to predict. We will have a new owner within a few months, and very, very likely a new GM soon after that. And who knows what else it will bring. Odds are it will be both increased payroll (that one’s a given basically) and increased scouting and international signings (not a given, but my hope). I am optimistic, but especially confident that any ranking given now will be out of date within a year.

  • Anonymous

    I’m pretty indifferent to something like this as it relates to the Dodgers.  There will be so many changes (good and bad I suppose) in the near future that it is impossible to see how it will affect anything past April 1.  If it is Joe Torre’s group I would look for them to value stability and act more conservatively, but if it is someone like Cohen or Magic Johnson, I would expect them to be much more aggressive.  Just too many unknowns…

  • Anonymous

    Jack Dawkins, Aussie John,

    England are amazingly on the verge of winning their second ODI (one-day international cricket match) vs. Pakistan, having lost the Test matches 4-0. As I write, Pakistan have just lost their 8th wicket for 22, behind England’s 250, with only 2 overs left.

    Quite a turnaround. England are nt known for ODIs. Some of it is just down to Cook’s magnificent batting here as one-day captain, dealing with the spin bowling as no one did in the Tests. And partly down to the bowling from newcomers Finn and Patel though the bowling in the Tests was pretty good too.

    • Anonymous

       And now 222-9. Pakistan may not make it through 50 overs.

    • Anonymous

      And now 230 all out still in the 49th over. England win by 20 runs. Hoohah!

    • Jack Dawkins

      England bats were totally exposed in the Test series.  Much like Kemp with that slider down and away, they simply could not handle what appeared to be average spin.  One wonders if they will ever win in Asia with the current lineup.

  • Andrew Faris

    The “Future Rankings” really shouldn’t even be a conversation starter. Sure, it’s fun to predict what will happen in any sport in the next year, but it’s also really, really difficult. People have actually done academic studies on this sort of thing (there was a great Freakonomics podcast episode about it) and have empirically proven that those who feel most confident in their ability to predict the future (of anything- sports, politics, etc.) are way, way overconfident. The concept of an “expert’s pick” for this sort of thing is frankly silly.

    I saw that 2017 prediction thing on ESPN, and I just didn’t bother because of how dumb it was.

    Here’s an easy way to debunk the whole thing in one sentence: raise your hand if you had Pujols and Wilson both to the Angels this off-season.

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

      Exactly. 

      While money doesn’t buy championships, is there any factor more important than money in trying to predict future MLB performance? So even to the extent you might take this seriously, why would you give finances less weight than minor-league talent? How many times has the Baseball America #1 organization in minor-league talent gone on to win a World Series lately?

      • Anonymous

        Indeed…Raise your hands if three months ago you had the Giants winning the Super Bowl or if you had the Knicks as the hottest sports topic 10 days ago.  Everything in sports is just too fluid to make any predictions like this.  Fun to talk about and speculate, but almost no real value whatsoever.  Literally nothing is a given past April 30 for the Dodgers including getting someone in who is actually worse than McCourt. 

  • Anonymous

    Even a short-term future is hard to predict.  How many people were correctly predicting the World Series winner at the start of the season in 2011, or in 2010?  Virtually no one.  The odds in both cases were probably around the 19th highest for those teams, too.  I’m not saying the Dodgers are going to win the World Series this year – not that there’s anything wrong with that :) - but these predictions often turn out to be way off the mark.

    • Anonymous

      or in July of last year

    • http://twitter.com/davealden53 David Alden

      Exactly.  Change comes both more quickly than we expect (who predicted the Dbacks division title last year or the Padres abrupt rise before that?) and more slowly than we expect (why is Frank McCourt still the Dodger owner?).

      • Anonymous

        Three members of Paul Shaffer’s band just raised their hand.

  • Gareth Perry

    I found it odd that just because Kansas City has a great farm system they are ranked 11th overall. Yes they are turning things around but it still hasn’t gotten them into the playoffs for a very, very long time. The Dodgers have the funds and payroll flexibility to jump over them next year and more afterwards. Too much stock is put into team strengths due to their farm system.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    Fox moves more MLB games to primetime bit.ly/AzvtAE

  • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

    Bill Shaikin @BillShaikin: 
    Fox regional/national TV appearances: Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Giants 9 each, #Angels 8, #Dodgers 4.

    How do the Giants have five more Fox games than the Dodgers?  Not that we really want to suffer with too many Fox games anyway, especially since it feels llke Dodgers haven’t had great success in those lately.

    • Anonymous

      Fox games suck, gimme Vin 

      • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

        Yah! Except Vin is blacked out on Saturdays, no? Or at least I can’t watch many Dodger Saturday games live (on MLBTV) here due to Fox blackout rules.  I’m definitely doing MLBTV again this year though, it makes life so much better if you’re not in LA. Otherwise the Dodgers’ lack of national broadcast games would be more frustrating to me.

        • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

           Teams will need to move night games to day games during that time if they’re not on Fox but want to be broadcast.

          • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

            I thought it was the other way around? Fox Saturday games have a blackout window around them until 6, I think?  Or are these going to be nighttime Saturday games on Fox?

          • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

            That’s the point of the new story I linked to, Craig – eight weeks of Saturday night games on Fox.

          • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

            D’oh, sorry. Or as Dee Gordon might tweet, “SMH”. Hadn’t even seen your linked story before continuing to ramble on about it. Now all clear. Anyway, Fox baseball sucks. :)

          • Anonymous

             I’m wondering if the motivation was the other way around: teams wanting
            to be able to sell tickets and broadcast games on Saturday afternoons
            (like Sunday) rather than nights – so switching Fox exclusivity to
            nighttime. Is Saturday evening really Prime Time like other evenings? It
            certainly doesn’t apply to most TV shows, where Saturday evening is death,
            because people are out and about, not sitting at home watching TV.

            The article indicated that the switch was at Fox’s request. Is that certain?

      • Anonymous

        For some reason your “gimme Vin” comment reminded me of Gilda Radner’s old SNL routine where she’s a drugged out rockstar (Candy Slice?) and sang the song “Gimme me Mick”

    • Anonymous

      The Giants have a higher “future power ranking”.

  • Phil Gurnee

    exileinBerkeley

    Good to hear from you, judging from your new name, you are living in enemy country. To bad, love to take you to a Clipper game this year:)

  • http://twitter.com/Derek_TC Derek TC

    I thought it awesome that Olney said putting the Dodgers at 19 was a “leap of faith” lol.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    RT @mlbdepthcharts: Recent minor league signings: #Giants sign RHP Ramon Ortiz …

    • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

      I’d laugh at that more, but he’ll probably end up resurrecting his career and being great, a la G Mota.  Er, on other hand, Ramon Ortiz is, what, Ron Cey’s age?

    • Anonymous

       The Gnats are holding back the news of Russ Ortiz’s signing to be able to make an even bigger splash.

  • http://twitter.com/terryraustin terry austin

    These ratings will be ruined when the rich, smart, handsome and ethical new owner of the Dodgers steals Derrick Hall back from the Diamondbacks.

    • Anonymous

      Hall for President and Ng for VP/GM…mmmmm…my front office wish come true.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    McCourt Memorial Award for Tone-Deafness

    “How Janice Min Overcame LA’s Limited Journalist Talent Pool” bit.ly/yHMtI7

    “We increased staff at the Reporter by 35-45 percent, but
    hiring out here is hard. There is not a bench out here at all. You
    struggle to find enough working journalists out here to staff your
    publication and to even interview. We’ve been very lucky. We’ve had a
    lot of people from New York move out …”

    • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

      That headline was probably just written by one of those journalists limited in talent. 

  • Anonymous

    Jon, yesterday I posted “A post I wrote is being delayed because I edited it- to fix a typo; that’s a strange policy.”
    You replied “Do you think I have a policy against editing?” Not for an instance. The message said it was a Disqus policy. Do you think I would be so foolish to think you would have a policy against editing?

  • Anonymous

    same thing happened again; received this message:
    Your comment must be approved by a moderator.Moderators of this website chose to explicitly approve all edits made by a comment’s author

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

       That doesn’t seem to be happening with anyone else.  I don’t have that setting activated.  I’ll ask Ken if he knows what’s going on, but in the meantime, I suggest you stop trying to edit your own comments.

      • http://ken.arneson.name/ Ken Arneson

        Disqus has been dumping that comment into spam, not sure why (a) it did that, and (b) neither Jon nor I noticed.  I think I fixed it so it won’t happen again, but I’m not sure.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been trying to post a link to this story of a white college b-ball player at an historically black college in Durham, NC. The story has sub-plots.
    http://www.thepostgame.com/features/201202/white-star-black-school-landon-clement-face-upstart-north-carolina-central

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    NPUT