Projecting the offense

math-formulaOn the nights that Mrs. MLBastian wants to go on an “American Idol” or “Biggest Loser” marathon, I’m typically left to retreat upstairs to my office. Since I already breezed through four seasons of “Breaking Bad,” last night I got out the ol’ notepad and tried to come up with a decent projection process for the Indians’ 2013 lineup.

What, you don’t turn your notepad into a Matrix-esque string of baseball numbers when you get bored? I thought everyone did.

No formula for projecting a player’s performance is without its flaws. After all, we can’t see into the future to predict injuries or other scenarios that would influence on-field production. What we can do is look at trends and do our best to create a certain level of expectation.

Along those lines, I decided I’d take a player’s last three seasons of production and, whether their average games per season fell below or surpassed this figure, I’d project their numbers over an 145-game sample. If a player didn’t have three big league seasons, then I’d go by their career numbers.

Once those numbers were in hand, I’d average them against that player’s most recent season. If the player appeared in fewer than 100 games — Lonnie Chisenhall played 43 games in 2012, for example — I’d again project the most recent season over an 145-game sample.

Why 145 games? That seemed like a good number in terms of expected games for a relatively healthy player over a full season. That equates to 1,305 games played for the nine “regulars” in a lineup. Sure enough, when I looked at last year’s Indians team, the “regulars: (1B: Casey Kotchman, 2B: Jason Kipnis, SS: Asdrubal Cabrera, 3B: Jack Hannahan/Lonnie Chisenhall, C: Carlos Santana, LF: Shelley Duncan/Johnny Damon, CF: Michael Brantley, RF: Shin-Soo Choo, DH: Travis Hafner/Jose Lopez) appeared in 1,309 combined games.

Still with me? Thanks to those who are hanging in there. I will get to the point — eventually.

I tested this projection approach against a few actual seasons to see if my figures fell within the ballpark range of a player’s real-world output. Two players I tested the formula against were Asdrubal Cabrera, whose 2011 showing was far above his career level, and Nick Swisher, who has maintained a pretty solid level of consistency over his career.

Here are my projections versus what Cabrera and Swisher actually did in 2012:

Cabrera proj. 2012: .280/.336/.442, 19 HR, 34 2B, 83 RBI, 83 R, 16 SB, 44 BB, 111 K
Cabrera actual 2012: .270/.338/.423, 16 HR, 35 2B, 68 RBI, 70 R, 9 SB, 52 BB, 99 K

Swisher proj. 2012: ..264/.371/.468, 25 HR, 31 2B, 84 RBI, 82 R, 2 SB, 88 BB, 126 K
Swisher actual 2012: .272/.364/.473, 24 HR, 36 2B, 93 RBI, 75 R, 2 SB, 77 BB, 141 K

Hardly an exact science, but I definitely landed in the ballpark of realistic expectations.

Satisfied with my method, I plowed ahead last night and did my best to project expected statistical showings for each of Cleveland’s nine “regulars” for 2013. There is still no clear-cut DH, so I used super sub Mike Aviles as the ninth member of the lineup. Even if the Indians add a DH before the season, Aviles will see plenty of action bouncing between second, short, third, DH and possibly limited outfield.

Enough explanation. Let’s move on to the projections. I will also include Bill James’ 2013 projections (found on fangraphs.com) for each player as a comparison to what I came up on my own.

2013 Offensive Projections

FIRST BASE: Mark Reynolds

Bastian: .217/.331/.440, 27 HR, 25 2B, 1 3B, 75 RBI, 71 R, 3 SB, 75 BB, 174 K
James: .231/.336/.463, 32 HR, 28 2B, 1 3B, 90 RBI, 85 R, 5 SB, 80 BB, 201 K

SECOND BASE: Jason Kipnis

Bastian: .259/.335/.391, 15 HR, 24 2B, 4 3B, 77 RBI, 86 R, 30 SB, 64 BB, 110 K
James: .274/.351/.429, 18 HR, 28 2B, 5 3B, 83 RBI, 100 R, 28 SB, 67 BB, 107 K

SHORTSTOP: Asdrubal Cabrera

Bastian: .272/.336/.421, 17 HR, 33 2B, 2 3B, 69 RBI, 72 R, 11 SB, 49 BB, 102 K
James: .277/.341/.430, 16 HR, 37 2B, 2 3B, 73 RBI, 82 R, 12 SB, 52 BB, 106 K

THIRD BASE: Lonnie Chisenhall

Bastian: .264/.303/.426, 17 HR, 24 2B, 2 3B, 53 RBI, 57 R, 6 SB, 24 BB, 97 K
James: .262/.310/.433, 18 HR, 31 2B, 2 3B, 74 RBI, 75 R, 3 SB, 35 BB, 94 K

CATCHER: Carlos Santana

Bastian: .250/.364/.432, 20 HR, 30 2B, 2 3B, 75 RBI, 74 R, 4 SB, 93 BB, 106 K
James: .261/.383/.476, 25 HR, 35 2B, 2 3B, 91 RBI, 86 R, 4 SB, 103 BB, 103 K

OUTFIELD: Michael Brantley

Bastian: .280/.337/.390, 6 HR, 34 2B, 5 3B, 58 RBI, 67 R, 14 SB, 50 BB, 67 K
James: .279/.344/.379, 7 HR, 29 2B, 3 3B, 55 RBI, 78 R, 19 SB, 54 BB, 60 K

OUTFIELD: Drew Stubbs

Bastian: .226/.294/.357, 16 HR, 16 2B, 3 3B, 47 RBI, 80 R, 31 SB, 47 BB, 171 K
James: .246/.319/.386, 16 HR, 21 2B, 3 3B, 53 RBI, 85 R, 33 SB, 54 BB, 161 K

OUTFIELD: Nick Swisher

Bastian: .273/.365/.476, 24 HR, 34 2B, 1 3B, 90 RBI, 78 R, 2 SB, 76 BB, 136 K
James: .256/.362/.458, 25 HR, 33 2B, 1 3B, 86 RBI, 82 R, 2 SB, 86 BB, 143 K

DESIGNATED HITTER: Mike Aviles

Bastian: .260/.292/.390, 13 HR, 27 2B, 2 3B, 59 RBI, 61 R, 16 SB, 24 BB, 76 K
James: .267/.300/.409, 13 HR, 27 2B, 2 3B, 56 RBI, 60 R, 13 SB, 22 BB, 64 K

What does it all mean? Or, more to the point, how does this group of potential “regulars” stack up against the “regulars” featured by the Indians last season? For that 2012 group, I used the names listed earlier in this post. Let’s take a look:

2013 “regulars” projection:

.256/.329/.414, 155 HR, 247 2B, 22 3B, 603 RBI, 646 R, 117 SB, 502 BB, 1,039 K

2012 “regulars” production:

.259/.331/.395, 122 HR, 233 2B, 18 3B, 559 RBI, 557 R, 86 SB, 482 BB, 822 K

What the Indians should expect is more power, more ability to take extra bases and better run production, even with an increase in strikeouts.

The “regulars” do not make up the entire offense, though. There were 959 at-bats for players not among the “regulars” last season for the Indians. For the sake of this experiment, I added in last season’s bench production to the projections for Cleveland’s nine “regulars” for a glance at what the team’s overall offense might look like in 2013.

I’ve included where each figure would’ve ranked in the American League in 2012.

2013 offense projection

.251 average (8)
.325 on-base (5)
.404 slugging (10)
169 homers (10)
280 doubles (4)
28 triples (8)
679 RBI (8)
756 runs (4)
141 stolen bases (1)
575 walks (1)
1,304 strikeouts (11)

For comparison, the 2012 offense hit .251/.324/.381 overall with 136 homers, 266 doubles, 24 triples, 635 RBIs, 667 runs scored, 110 stolen bases, 555 walks and 1,087 strikeouts.

The gap between runs and RBIs in the projection seems like a stretch, but much of that has to do with Stubbs’ career track record (285 runs/178 RBI). What this shows at the very least is that this Indians team should offer an entertaining brand of offense. They might not outslug teams, but they have the potential to draw walks, swipe bases, go first-to-third and create runs. If the team can do that successfully, the strikeouts will be a moot point.

It will be the starting pitching that needs to hold up its end of the bargain for the Indians to surprise people this year.

–JB

8 Comments

fascinating JB. you are more productive on those “free” nights than I by far! LOL

my only bone might be that your method does not allow for expected growth of young talent. (unless I missed something in the explanation).

Example would be Kipnis. Starting second full season, if things go as expected for a player of his caliber, he should project higher than his career stats to date. But your method can only project him based on career stats.

We can hope your numbers are right PLUS a boost for Kipnis and maybe Chisenhall… even Brantley if we are lucky

or am I just a dreamer?

Nice read. Now can you do a work up on their defensive numbers? The defense (apart from Kotch and Hannahan) was nothing to write home about. We have groundball pitchers. No defense, and their (GB pitchers) numbers are going to still be terrible. That was the big difference between this year and last for Masterson. Good defense, his era was incredible. Bad defense, his era left much to be desired.

At the mercy of your defense I always say.

Why such low numbers though for Santana and Kipnis? Neither one is projected to hit 25 HRs? Carlos hit 27 HRs just two years ago, and Kipnis batting average is a bit low too. I think he can hit between .270-.280, but we will see. Otherwise a big improvement compared to last season, for sure. I’m ready for the season to start, now.

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