Bill James Projections Out

Home Plate umpire Mark Wegner watches as Colorado Rockies catcher Miguel Olivo tags out Milwaukee Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks attempting to steal home base during the fifth inning at Coors Field on August 15, 2010 in Denver.   UPI/Gary C. Caskey Photo via Newscom

A lot of people look forward to the hot stove talk in the offseason, and while that’s fun, it’s not my favorite part.  I’m a geek.  I love projections.

I love being able to look at them, see who people expect to improve or regress, and try to figure out why.  The annual Bill James projections are out, and while they’re included in the Bill James handbook, you can see them for free on every player’s FanGraphs profile.

I won’t copy and paste them all, but here are the more interesting notes.

- Rickie Weeks is expected to regress.  After hitting .269/.366/.464 and putting up a 6.1 fWAR in 2010, James has Weeks taking a step back: .257/.358/.444.  The good news?  He has Weeks’ BB% improving from 10.1% to 11.4%, and his K% dropping from 28.3% to 27.4%.  Important to realize that the James projection only has Weeks playing 133 games.

- Ryan Braun is bouncing back.  I think a lot of people consider Ryan Braun’s 2010 a disappointing season, and considering he still hit .304/.365/.501, that’s pretty awesome.  James, ever the optimist when it comes to his batting projections, has Braun hitting .310/.372/.551 in 2011.  When you compare the 2011 James projections to Braun’s 2009 — arguably the best “full” season of his career — the similarities are eerie (and again, pretty awesome).  I’m especially loving the .398 woBA.

- Casey McGehee is actually expected to stay consistent.  This might be a bit of a surprise considering how many projection systems had McGehee crashing back down to earth in 2010, but with more data to work with, it looks like James is at least confident McGehee won’t regress.  Of course, that could also be interpreted as “McGehee is at his peak, he can’t be expected to do much better than last season.”  The similarities between last season’s numbers and the 2011 projections are almost freakishly similar.  Last year’s triple slash?  .285/.337/.464.  The projection?  .282/.339/.451.  McGehee’s projected wOBA is .346 — the exact number he finished 2010 with.  If you want to “sell high” on someone…

- Corey Hart goes back to career norms.  After putting up career-year type numbers — .283/.340/.525 — Hart is being projected at .272/.332/.484.  Those are pretty much his career averages.  Not horrible, but obviously not all that close to the power numbers he put up last year.  And that’s fine, considering how many “just enough” home runs he hit in 2010.  If you’re an anti-strikeout kind of guy/gal, you’ll probably be happy to see James projecting Hart to cut his K% from 25.1% to 22.9%, but you have to wonder if cutting down the strikeouts will hurt that power production.

- Even though James’ numbers tend to be on the high end, Carlos Gomez is still projected to suck.  After Gomez spent all year saying all he has to do is hit .260 and he’ll be fine, James almost gave it to him — .258/.311/.363.  And hey, that BB% is projected up over 6%.  Just shoot me now.

As for pitchers…

- James has Yovani Gallardo at 190 IP, 9.81 K/9, 3.84 BB/9, and a 3.34 FIP.  That’s a modest 5 IP increase over last year and a slight bump in K/9, but the BB/9 and FIP are slightly worse.  Nothing really wrong with those numbers, but I don’t know if they’ll be “ace-y” enough for some people.

- As for the other two “guaranteed” members of the rotation?  Narv Dog — 180 IP, 7.45 K/9, 3.70 BB/9, 4.49 FIP.  Wolf — 229 IP, 6.80 K/9, 3.26 BB/9, 4.43 FIP.  You could do worse, but it’d be nice to get a guy or two to slot between them and Gallardo. 

- John Axford.  11.32 K/9.  2.75 FIP.  A step back from last year’s numbers, but he’d still be a lot of fun to watch close out games with those numbers.

Overall, the James projections are supposed to be a bit on the sunny side.  With that in mind, I’m not sure what to make of most of his Brewers projections either pointing to the Brewers staying consistent with last year’s numbers or slightly regressing.  Considering how the 2010 season played out, I’m not sure that’s a good sign.

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