Which MLB Pundit Makes The Worst Predictions? Grading ESPN And Sports Illustrated

Republished with permission from PunditTracker.com, which just launched its fancy new site.

We have tracked the predictions of 14 MLB pundits from ESPN and Sports Illustrated—each of whom made preseason picks in the 2009, 2010, and 2011 seasons—across nine categories: six division winners, two pennants, and the World Series.

Here is how they ranked based on our $1 bet yield metric, which calibrates predictions for boldness by measuring the average payout (using Vegas odds) had you placed $1 bets on each of the pundit's selections. We have included the 2012 World Series prediction for each of the pundits.

$1 Bet Yield for MLB Pundits (2009-2011 Preseason Predictions)

Pundit200920102011Cumulative2012 WS Pick
Jim Caple (ESPN)$.056$4.43$0.15$1.71LA Angels
Jayson Stark (ESPN)$2.01$0.45$0.76$1.07Detroit
Peter Pascarelli (ESPN)$1.89$0.55$0.61$1.02Detroit
Pedro Gomez (ESPN)$1.35$1.34$0.15$0.95LA Angels
Buster Olney (ESPN)$2.01$0.45$0.27$.091Tampa Bay
Joe Lemire (SI)$1.62$0.45$0.42$0.83Texas
Ted Keith (SI)$1.22$0.82$0.42$0.82Yankees
Favorites$1.65$0.17$0.40$0.74Philadelphia
Ben Reiter (SI)$0.82$0.78$0.51$0.70Texas
Albert Chen (SI)$0.00$1.39$0.58$0.66Texas
Eric Karabell (ESPN)$1.51$0.17$0.15$0.61Philadelphia
Tom Verducci (ESPN)$1.04$0.45$0.15$0.55LA Angels
Keith Law (ESPN)$0.27$0.78$0.42$0.49Texas
Orel Hershiser (ESPN)$0.82$0.17$0.42$0.47Tampa Bay
Jerry Crasnick (ESPN)$0.82$0.17$0.15$0.38Texas
Pundit Average$1.14$0.89$0.37$0.80

The pundits' collective yield over the three-year period was $0.80, meaning that betting equally on all their picks would have resulted in a 20% loss. Only three of the fourteen pundits generated positive payouts. Jim Caple of ESPN topped the list, thanks almost entirely to his correct 2010 prediction that the San Francisco Giants would win the World Series (close to 20-to-1 odds). Caple's overall hit rate was in line with the pundit average (roughly 30%).

The group posted a solid 2009, with several correctly picking the Phillies to win the NL pennant. Aside from Caple, the performance in 2010 was mediocre, with only two other pundits yielding a positive payout. But that was nothing compared to the across-the-board abysmal numbers the following year. All of the pundits posted a sub-$1 yield in 2011.

Interestingly, despite the frequent discussion about payroll disparity in baseball, it has proven to be the toughest sport to predict over the past few years. Picking the favorites in MLB (as deemed by Vegas) generated only a $0.74 cumulative yield over the past three years, well shy of the $1.05 for NFL and $1.24 for NBA.

PunditTracker's mission is to bring accountability to the prediction industry by cataloging and scoring the predictions of pundits.

Image by Jim Cooke