Projection systems are great, but they do have their limitations. Like I mentioned a couple weeks ago, projection systems offer a 50-percentile projection of what is likely to happen, meaning that even if a player is projects for a .350 Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA), there's still a chance (albeit slight) that they could put up either a .300 or .400 wOBA. Odds are they'll put up a wOBA close to .350, but there are always outlier seasons.
For example, let's look at some recent history. Going into the 2009 season, what were the odds that Ben Zobrist would hit 27 home runs and lead the league in WAR? Every year, some out-landing things happen in baseball - things that no projection system can see coming. Jason Bartlett hits more home runs in a season than he had in his entire career. Andy Sonnanstine totally implodes and posts a 6+ ERA. Pat Burrell sees a .110 drop in his Isolated Power (ISO). The Rays win 97 games in 2008. Carlos Pena hits 46 home runs in 2007. Outlier seasons, every one of them.
And so, since projection systems are all but worthless in predicting outlier seasons, I figured it'd be fun to have a contest to see if anyone can predict what zany, improbable events are going to happen this season. Will this be the year James Shields wins a Cy Young? Will Jason Bartlett improve upon his power numbers from last season by hitting 15 home runs? Will the Rays win more than 100 games? Win less than 81? You tell me!
So here are the rules. Any prediction is fair game - whether it be positive or negative - just so long as the odds of it occurring are slim to minuscule. In other words, picking Evan Longoria to hit 40 home runs isn't quite incredulous; if you were to predict him to hit more than 45, though, I'd give you that. Predicting Grant Balfour to finish the season with an ERA above 5? No. Above 5.50? Yes. This is entirely a subjective thing and I declare myself the final judge, jury, and executioner in this contest, although please feel free to torch other people's predictions if you think they're not quite there.
Every person is allowed two predictions about this upcoming season and if any of them come to pass, you'll get a one-of-a-kind prize: the first ever set of DRaysBay staff baseball cards. That is, assuming I can put them together and make something passable by the end of the season, but that's the goal; if I can't, you'll probably get a bag of chips. And if you're extra lucky, you might even get an R.J. Anderson rookie card...
Also, I'm open to suggestions about what should be on the back of each of our cards. Go wild.