Monday, January 30, 2012

Thanks again, Cliff Lee!

 With all of the starpower on its way to the American League for the upcoming season, I think it's time to once again thank Cliff Lee for shunning the Yankees' offer of more money to go to Philadelphia last offseason.  With Albert Pujols heading to Anaheim, Prince Fielder going to Detroit, and Roy Oswalt talking to the Rangers, I'm happier than ever that Lee opted for the National League.

Thankfully, neither Pujols nor Fielder are in our division, so we'll be facing the Angels just six times and the Tigers ten times during the regular season (in contrast, we'll play the Yankees, Rays, and other divisional rivals eighteen times each).

Of course, it was especially sweet to finally see a high caliber player rejecting New York, just because their endless money tends to see them getting every player they want, but one year later there's a different perspective - not having to face Lee and his Phils could be the difference between a playoff berth and a third straight year at home in October.

Given the pedigree of hitter now in the AL (and the fact that the DH rule means one more good hitter in the lineup of every non-interleague game), I'm sure Lee is even more content with his decision than he was a year ago.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Yankees' 1990s Core 4 now 50% retired

Unless you're living under a rock (and I won't judge you if you are), you've probably heard that New York Yankees' catcher Jorge Posada retired today. Posada was drafted out of Puerto Rico in 1990 - I was less than six months old - and debuted five years later on September 4, 1995.  Needless to say I cannot remember a Yankees team without Posada behind the plate.

He'll end his career with a .273 BA, .374 OBP, .474 SLG, 275 HR, and 1065 RBI - extremely solid numbers for someone who squatted behind the plate an average of 93 games per season (when you take out his first two seasons and his last, that average jumps to 112).

With Pettitte now gone for an entire season, and Posada bowing out, the only remnants of the dream teams of the late 1990's are Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera (who we all know is some sort of android and will never get old).  Even as a Red Sox fan, I came of age hearing these names and seeing these faces in magazines and newspapers and on television - and it certainly feels strange to know that I won't be seeing them anymore.

In a way, Pettitte's retirement was less jarring, as he spent three years in Houston just as I was getting old enough to stay up until the end of baseball games - he wasn't a Yankee lifer like Posada and the others.  Even as it will be strange to see the Yankees without Posada, he is making the best choice for himself and his team.  All too often in baseball, we see players trying to hold on just a few years too long, claiming that they'll regain their stroke with the right offseason diet plan or workout.  As painful as it is to see your heroes retire, it is so much worse to watch them struggle on in denial.

Posada had a taste of that struggle last season, batting just .235 with 14 homers and 44 RBI, and managed just one game behind the plate.  His retirement, though emotional for Yankees' players and fans, is the right decision.

But just for fun, let's look at what Bill James projected for Posada, had he participated in the 2012 season: 110 games, .246 BA, .343 OBP, .416 SLG, 12 HR, and 47 RBI.  Apparently James foresaw Posada sliding slowly into mediocrity - but Posada had other plans, and made his final, tearful farewell this morning in the Bronx.

Monday, January 16, 2012

2012 Bill James Projections - Red Sox Outfielders

[A continuation of this post which I began with the Bill James projections for infielders.]

Left field, Carl Crawford:
2011 projection: 149 games, .300 BA, .350 OBP, .453 SLG, 14 HR, 93 RBI
2011: 130 games, .255 BA, .289 OBP, .405 SLG, 11 HR, 56 RBI
2012 projection: 155 games, .286 BA, .332 OBP, .436 SLG, 15 HR, 73 RBI

It's no secret that Crawford performed rather less well than we had hoped he would last season, and James' expectations seem to have been lowered in keeping with 2011.  The good news is that though Crawford only managed to steal 18 bases last year, James thinks he'll steal 34 next season.

Center field, Jacoby Ellsbury:
2011 projection: 157 games, .300 BA, .355 OBP, .409 SLG, 8 HR, 58 RBI
2011: 158 games, .321 BA, .376 OBP, .552 SLG, 32 HR, 105 RBI
2012 projection: 158 games, .304 BA, .362 OBP, .476 SLG, 19 HR, 72 RBI

I think it's safe to say that Ellsbury proved himself last year, but apparently James is expecting a backslide. Here's hoping Goldenboy proves him wrong.

[Possible] Right fielder, Ryan Sweeney:
2011: 108 games, .265 BA, .346 OBP, .341 SLG, 1 HR, 25 RBI
2012 projection: 105 games, .285 BA, .353 OBP, .392 SLG, 4 HR, 36 RBI

Both last years numbers and the projections were for Oakland - and Sweeney's playing time is up in the air.  These numbers are solid enough for a fourth outfielder, but I'd like to see more power out of a permanent corner guy.

[Possible] Right fielder, Darnell McDonald:
2011: 79 games, .236 BA, .303 OBP, .401 SLG, 6 HR, 24 RBI

2012 projection: 113 games, .268 BA, .325 OBP, .320 SLG, 9 HR, 40 RBI

McDonald has been more than serviceable in the last few years - the right fielder job is still up in the air, and it stands to reason he'll get a shot at it.

Other possibilities for the outfield include Ryan Kalish and Che-Hsuan Lin, both of whom spent last year in the minors, so they don't have projections in the 2012 Handbook.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012 Bill James Projections - Red Sox Infielders

I'm doing this a little differently from last year.  Since there is a new manager who will have his own new ideas about the makeup of the lineup, I won't even try to guess what it will be for 2012.  So there will be four projections posts: this one for infielders (and DH), one for outfielders, one for starting pitchers, and one for relief pitchers.

1st base, Adrian Gonzalez:
2011 projection: 161 games, .285 BA, .378 OBP, .512 SLG, 33 HR, 102 RBI
2011: 159 games, .338 BA, .410 OBP, .548 SLG, 27 HR, 117 RBI
2012 projection: 160 games, .301 BA, 387 OBP, .517 SLG, 30 HR, 105 RBI

 Last year's projections were calculated by James and his team with the assumption that Gonzalez would be playing in San Diego's cavernous Petco Park for 81 games, so it only makes sense that he surpassed those numbers in the friendly confines of Fenway Park.  James predicts a precipitous drop off from last year to this one - but I don't think it will be quite so steep.

2nd base, Dustin Pedroia:
2011 projection: 158 games, .297 BA, .372 OBP, .462 SLG, 17 HR, 77 RBI
2011: 159 games, .307 BA, .387 OBP, .474 SLG, 21 HR, 91 RBI
2012 projection: 143 games, .299 BA, .378 OBP, .469 SLG, 17 HR, 73 RBI

James consistently underestimates Pedey.  I guess it was understandable for last year, since no one was sure how he would bounce back from his foot injury in 2010, but I think we know what to expect from Pedroia at this point.  If he's not doing well, or if the team isn't, Pedroia WILLS himself to do better. I don't put much stock in "intangibles," but if they exist, the Sox second baseman has them.

3rd base, Kevin Youkilis:
2011 projection: 151 games, .294 BA, .398 OBP, .507 SLG, 25 HR, 95 RBI
2011: 120 games, .258 BA, .373 OBP, .459 SLG, 17 HR, 80 RBI
2012 projection: 135 games, .281 BA, .389 OBP, .489 SLG, 21 HR, 86 RBI

It's no secret that Youk had a rough 2011.  In fact, given his sports hernia and bursitis in his hip (requiring surgery), it's impressive that he managed to play in 120 games.  Given his injuries and the Red Sox collapse, it's easy to forget the fantastic first half that Youkilis had, even being named to the AL All-Star Team.  Assuming all went well this offseason, expect a rebound season for Youkilis.

Shortstop, Marco Scutaro:
2011 projection: 153 games, .266 BA, .339 OBP, .374 SLG, 10 HR, 60 RBI
2011: 113 games, .299 BA, .358 OBP, .423 SLG, 7 HR, 54 RBI
2012 projection: 143 games, .271 BA, .341 OBP, .378 SLG, 9 HR, 59 RBI

Though somewhat short of spectacular, Scutaro has been one of the better Red Sox shortstops in recent memory (not injury-riddled like the now-departed Jed Lowrie, nor error-prone as the abominable Julio Lugo).  He's been quite steady, both in the field and at the plate, and he'll likely continue that pattern.

Shortstop, Jose Iglesias:
2011: 10 games, .333 BA, .333 OBP, .333 SLG, 0 HR, 0 RBI
2012 projection: 50 games, .241 BA, .277 OBP, .277 SLG, 0 HR, 10 RBI

Everyone knows that this job is Iglesias' for the taking.  If he hits as James predicts, we'll see more of Scutaro for 2012 - if he exceeds these projections, we'll likely witness the shift away from Scuaro and into the foreseeable future. 

Catcher, Jarrod Saltalamacchia:
2011 projection: 110 games, .249 BA, .323 OBP, .422 SLG, 12 HR, 43 RBI
2011: 103 games, .235 BA, .288 OBP, .450 SLG, 16 HR, 56 RBI
2012 projection: 95 games, .245 BA, .311 OBP, .426 SLG, 13 HR, 45 RBI

Salty's playing time will likely depend on how skillful Kelly Shoppach turns out  to be as a backup.  As one of the only players pulling his own weight in September, I have faith in Saltalamacchia's ability to hold up the mantle of head catcher and game-caller that Jason Varitek held for so long.

Catcher, Kelly Shoppach:
2011: 87 games, .176 BA, .278 OBP, .339 SLG, 11 HR, 22 RBI
2012 projection: 85 games, .227 BA, .318 OBP, .431 SLG, 11 HR, 31 RBI

As you might remember, Shoppach was drafted by the Red Sox originally, before spending time in Cleaveland and Tampa Bay.  He bats righthanded, and hits better against lefties than Salty, but given the power in the Sox lineup, his playing time will probably depend more on how well the pitchers like throwing to him.

Catcher, Ryan Lavarnway:
2011: 17 games, .231 BA, .302 OBP, .436 SLG, 2 HR, 8 RBI
2012 projection: 77 games, .275 BA,.351 OBP, .527 SLG, 13 HR, 41 RBI

Obviously, the Red Sox are not going to be carrying three catchers, and the projections were calculated before the move for Shoppach.  If Shoppach struggles mightily, and Lararnway is tearing it up in Pawtucket, we might see him sooner rather than later.  Otherwise, expect to see the Sox give him some more time to develop.

Utility infielder, Nick Punto:
2011: 63 games, .278 BA, .388 OBP, .421 SLG, 1 HR, 20 RBI
2012 projection: 99 games, .243 BA, .329 OBP, .315 SLG, 1 HR, 23 RBI

I don't know too much about Nick Punto, but it's unlikely that he'll get the 99 games of playing time James predicted when it was assumed he'd be playing for the Cards.  If we can get passable offense and defense from our utility guy, I'll be happy.

Utility infielder, Mike Aviles (thanks to Paul for the reminder!):
2011: 91 games, .255 BA, .289 OBP, .409 SLG, 7 HR, 39 RBI
2012 projection: 101 games, .279 BA, .311 OBP, .423 SLG,  8 HR, 38 RBI

As Paul said in the comments, if Youkilis can't hack it for whatever reason, we'll be seeing quite a bit of Aviles this season.  The numbers are more than satisfactory from a utility man - but James is predicting a lot of playing time for him.

Designated hitter, David Ortiz:
2011 projection: 151 games, .261 BA, .366 OBP, .509 SLG, 33 HR, 112 RBI
2011: 146 games, .309 BA, .398 OBP, .554 SLG, 29 HR, 96 RBI
2012 projection: 150 games, .277 BA, .378 OBP, .517 SLG, 30 HR, 104 RBI

Though the Red Sox struggled mightily in April, Papi escaped his usual struggles last spring, and surpassed most of James' predictions for him - here's hoping he can do that again, even at age 36.

[Final note: players not with the Red Sox at the beginning of 2011 do not have their 2011 projection numbers, because I left the 2011 Bill James Handbook in my dorm room - the Sox projections were recovered from last year's projection post.]