For my money, predicting what's going to happen in a baseball season is in many ways a crapshoot. As much as the Yankees, Red Sox, and now the Phillies, and maybe even the White Sox attempt to spend their way into a predictable result, the combined forces of injuries, sudden declines and increases in production, outside factors, and just plain old variance conspire against such efforts....and they win pretty often.
Still, it doesn't make it any less fun/useful/educational to check out
some of the various statistical projection systems out around the web.
Just to kinda give a popular collection, I've put together the Marcel,
ZiPS, and Bill James projections for all the Sox players who figure to
be relevant in 2011. Marcel is the most basic of the projection
systems, taking the last three years of production, weighing the last
season heaviest while factoring in deterioration for age, while Dan
Symborski's ZiPS and Bill James' projections have more tweaks and
elements factored in. Marcel and James projections can be found on player pages on FanGraphs, while ZiPS can be found here.
For the sake of brevity, I've just placed out the
wOBA for all the position players, and the ERA for all the pitchers.
I'm not without any skill for math, but I am lazy, so I used ERA because
it meant I wouldn't have to convert everything to FIP. In the case of
the batting ZiPS, I converted the on-base percentage numbers and
slugging percentage to an approximate wOBA using a rough formula that
Colintj from South Side Sox specifically offered for stupid, lazy
people. It's not the actual exact wOBA that ZiPS projects, and if I had
to guess from glancing at Dunn, Konerko, and Quentin's numbers, I'd say it
over-inflates for power hitters.
Before we jump in, it's important to remember the difference between projections and predictions.
When ZiPS and Bill James both say that Edwin Jackson is going to post
an ERA in the mid 4.50s, it's not saying that you're an idiot for
predicting big things for him after his dominant run through the close of last season, it's just
reflecting that Jackson's statistical history indicates that his dominant
stretch with the Sox is above his traditional performance level, and the law of averages
suggests he should regress. There is no scouting present here, merely a
readout of statistical trends. These numbers should inspire interest,
not panic....well...in most cases.
Quick offensive observations:
Pierre picked the wrong time to have the worst April of his career.
The disastrous start Juan had combined with his advancing age convinced
the computers that he's headlong into deep decline. Now, he certainly
could be, and those numbers are atrocious, but still, at least we know why they look like that.
No one knows what to think of Beckham. He provided two years of drastically different quality and now everyone is just straddling the fence on him.
Dunn will be fine. For all the concerns about his regression and
old-player skills, the projections pretty conclusively show that he should
step in and immediately be the best player on the offense by quite a
Just think if Quentin could stay healthy or play defense! CQ has
been out of favor on the South Side for a couple years now, but the fact
that his offense still grades out so high despite how scattered he's
been is a stark reminder of what kind of ability he has.
Morel could be better than fine. I was under the impression that
if Morel could just hit well enough to stay on the field it'd be a win,
but if he could hit at Alex Rios levels, he might get a statue built of
him. In the meantime...Rios projects bbaaaaaaaaddd.
This is NOT scouting. Alexei Ramirez is viewed as a bat with a
lot of pop that just needs to adjust to the cold, and if Alex Rios could
ever return to pre-2009 levels, they could both hurdle .800 OPS, but
the projections are predisposed to betting against it after multiple years of mediocrity.
Thanks for playing, Vizquel and Lillibridge. The computers say you can't hit replacement level....or really even close.
I repeat, this is NOT scouting: Peavy grades out as the best pitcher thanks to his career track record despite coming off of injury, while Gavin Floyd's inconsistency is punished severely despite the flashes of dominance he showed last summer.
Sale is being projected as a starter: The systems project Sale for the most possible innings he could throw in 2011, which would mean starting. ZiPS doesn't actually think he'd post a 4.40 ERA closing out games. Keep breathing into that paper bag as long as you need, though.
Thornton is being punished for his age: He posted the best FIP of his career in 2010 and has only tossed 400 MLB innings, but now that he's 34, Matt is going to get progressively less love as systems try to project his decline.
Crain and Santos need to keep it in the yard: Both pitchers have kept their ERA down recently with minuscule HR/FB rates. Most times this stat regresses to the mean, and the projections are betting against these guys being special. Then again, it never bets on guys being special.
If these numbers look kind of dull, it's because they're supposed to be. Computers don't provide much insight to when breakout years come about, but provide a solid range of possible performance to keep in mind when creating your expectations. At the very least, it should pretty useful the next time you're refuting the "Adam Dunn is a useless oaf" argument.
Julie DiCaro was a nice enough person to do a radio segment with, so here' a link to the sports blog aggregate site she started, specifically an article on players blocking trades to the White Sox written by their ChiSox blogger, Cheryl Norman.
Jim at South Side Sox has some notes and does the link page thing better than I do.