Projections ain't so tough. You take a guy's career numbers, adjust for age and ballpark, tell a little story about him, and OH MY GOD WHO IS THAT
The most feared natural enemy of preseason predictions found in the wild. Ryan Vogelsong. To recount his story:
- Vogelsong was a prospect for the Giants before being traded to the Pirates with Roger Samuels for Ken Oberkfell in 1989
- He refused to play for the Pirates at first, reaching into his right arm and pulling out his own UCL, Temple of Doom-style, and throwing it on the floor as it was still pulsing
- He later reconsidered, and he pitched three seasons with his left arm before leaving the Pirates and walking the Earth, like Caine in Kung Fu. He walked from place to place, met people, got in adventures …
- When an assistant manager at Starbucks accidentally typed "right-handed pitcher for the San Francisco Giants" instead of "barista" in a Craigslist job posting, Vogelsong performed his own Tommy John surgery, using a ligament from a cadaver whose origin is still shrouded in mystery, and showed up at 24 Willie Mays Plaza on April 18, 2011
- He convinced the Giants to let him start the game using a Powerpoint presentation he put together in the elevator ride up to the Giants' executive offices
- Vogelsong finished fourth in the National League with a 2.71 ERA in 2011
Why not? It's not like the real story is any less ridiculous. You've already read the real story 100 times. It still doesn't make sense. There's no point in putting yourself through that again. Remember, Vogelsong was a Giants prospect when the team played at Candlestick. He was on a short list of the worst pitchers to ever throw more than 300 career innings. Then something something something whatever poof something, he was an All-Star.
Which is great for the narrative. But horrible for the predictifying that is so, so important to our lives. Without the backstory, Vogelsong isn't such a mystery. He was a pitcher who commanded the ball well on both sides of the plate and garnered his share of swing-throughs. He probably isn't really a sub-3.00 ERA kind of guy, but the pitcher from last year was certainly a quality pitcher. His FIP was 3.67, which is exceptional for a team's fourth starter. His season wasn't a CGI invention of hard-hit outs.
But then think about the backstory. It was Ryan Vogelsong. C'mon. The story wouldn't have been nearly as effective if it were another long-forgotten prospect from a different organization. It's not like it was Dennys Reyes or Ryan Rupe coming back with a different organization. It was Vogelsong doing it for the Giants. It's that part that makes it seem most fake. Well, that and all of the other stuff.
The thing that sticks with me about the way he was effective last year -- the way he set up hitters and got them out -- was that he did it with command. He had a league-average walk rate of 3.1 walks per nine innings, but more than that, his whole strategy was based on nipping the corners of the strike zone. It was impressive to watch.
It was completely out of character, though. His career walk rate in the majors was 4.4 before that. Okay, whatever, guys can learn to throw strikes. It's not that crazy. But he walked plenty of hitters in Japan -- a league in which hitters like to swing -- and in 2010, while the Giants were winning the World Series1, Vogelsong was walking almost six batters for every nine innings he pitched. Even Jonathan Sanchez makes a scrunchy, disgusted face when he sees numbers like that. Vogelsong's control was a disaster in 2010.
Then he posted the fourth-best ERA in the NL.
Oh, and he's hurt. His back is tricky right now, and the Giants are hoping he'll be ready for Opening Day, but they don't want to rush him. So just when you were finished banging your head against the wall, thinking of all the different ways his season could turn out, remember that he's already hurt. But it isn't a shoulder or elbow pain -- it's something nebulous and indefinite. It's a lower-back strain that Vogelsong says is feeling better every day. Until it doesn't because backs are jerks.
So this is the toughest prediction of the lot, I'd wager. While it doesn't take much time to pick between a 90- or 100-RBI projection for Brett Pill, this one requires some blind-ass guessing. No one knows what Vogelsong is going to do, but there's no harm in looking like an idiot and trying to guess. Except for the looking like an idiot part.