I love pre-season projections. There's just something delightful about computers spitting out streams of information about the upcoming season. It's like the baseball version of a terrified, fat groundhog being manhandled in front of thousands of onlookers in the middle of a small Pennsylvania town. Spring is almost here, spring is almost here, spring is almost here, so here are some projections.
Every year, Baseball Prospectus releases its PECOTA projections, and it's kind of a phonebook moment for me every year. They're out now. And if you don't subscribe, you're a silly person. Even if you limited your consumption to authors named "Miller," the subscription would pay for itself in a week. And the projections are so fascinating. If only the news were uniformly good. First, the offense:
Especially encouraging projections for hitters
Well, this is off to a rollicking start. PECOTA doesn't have a single hells-yeah projection down for any of the Giants. Now, part of this is that it's a pretty conservative projection system, so it isn't going to get too outlandish with anyone's projection. But you usually want to see at least one really, really encouraging projection from a prospect of young hitter, just to take the edge off.
Reasonable projections for hitters
Average, power, and reasonable patience for the top two, with a repeat season for the bottom two. Neither Posey or Sandoval come especially close to their best seasons, but they're the only Giants expected to slug over .450, which is a start, and they're supposed to have good seasons, at least. They're the only two Giants expected to have a really good year.
Kind of depressing projections for hitters
PECOTA expects Pagan to lose a little power and average, Pence to have a repeat season, and Belt's OBP to go down to the .340 range, which puts him at 1.5 WARP. Gross. (I'll take the over.)
Really depressing projections for hitters
Well, I'll be. Turns out that the projection system doesn't think much of an 80-year-old second baseman coming off a batting-average-inflated season, projecting him at .260/.322/.332. Considering the different second basemen who switched teams by way of trade or free agency, I still think the move was reasonable, dammit. He gives the Giants the best chance of winning in 2013, and I'll ignore any and all logical rebuttals to that point.
He's a pretty good candidate to get the full Aubrey treatment if he hits like that, though. Which is terrifying to think about.
Ahhhhh. That's better. Now on to the pitchers.
Especially encouraging projections for pitchers
He's back, dammit. The walk rate goes below 4.0 per nine innings, and the strikeouts stay over 9.0. He's projected to have the lowest ERA of any starter on the team, at 3.04, a hundredth of a point ahead of Matt Cain. The only reason he doesn't have the highest projected WARP on the staff is that he's supposed to pitch fewer than 200 innings. I still think we'd all sell a relative into intergalactic slavery for that projection, but I don't want to speak out of turn. I'd sell you -- the person reading this -- into it, that's for sure.
Reasonable projections for pitchers
More of the same, more of the same. Which, considering how good they were last year, is pretty okay with me.
Depressing projections for pitchers
Yeah, this almost falls on the Scutaro side of things. Vogelsong is old, and his success is something of a historical outlier when you compare his current success with his past performance. But I think we're all expecting something more than an ERA of 4.00 and a win above a replacement pitcher, defined by BP as Shane Loux. Which is to say, BP says that if the Giants were 90-72 with Vogelsong in the rotation, they'd be 89-73 with Loux instead. Yeah, well, THEY DON'T PLAY THE GAME ON PAPER, NERDS.
Whew. It feels kind of good to do that, actually. YEAH, YOU KNOW IT'S LIKE THAT SONG: WAR WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR. Say, that feels pretty good, too. I'm starting to see the attraction.
Dammit, Zito, I'm eating here
I'll have a separate post about the hilarious and fitting comparable players that PECOTA spits out, but until then, I'll just note that Zito's three comps are Mark Redman, Bruce Chen, and Kaz Ishii, which is delightfully perfect until you realize how depressing it is. His ERA is close to four-and-a-half in these projections, which would be quite fitting for Zito's last season with the Giants (probably).
Better. Did I mention that I think Zito's rediscovered curve was the reason for his late-season improvements? Only 12 times? I can do better than that. Because it's my belief that Barry Zito's improved curveball is the reason he looked like an acceptable pitcher in the last part of the season. We don't know if it will show up again, of course, but I'm cautiously unpessimistic about Zito, to make a term up.
Now, I can't post all the exact numbers because then you won't buy a BP subscription. But the short version of the above: The 2013 Giants are supposed to be like the 2011 Giants, but with a healthy Buster Posey and a substantially worse Ryan Vogelsong.
/watches Scutaro GIF for another hour