It's that time of the year again, where we pretend like we know what is going to happen in baseball. We just lived through first issue of the Matt Duffy comic book, and we still think we know what's going to happen. It's so cute.
This series of annual projections will have two parts:
- A review of the projections from last year, where applicable. We don't have one for Denard Span (another team), Matt Duffy (not projected to be a starter), and Matt Cain (forgot), but there are still plenty of projections to look at from last year.
- The new projection for 2016.
And because I'm bad at the Internet and selling general ideas, we'll start with the worst projection from last year, first. This is also the most depressing projection. There is no good reason to start with this projection. Let's explore what Angel Pagan will do in 2016.
Here is last year's projection. It included the following words:
He probably won't be in the lineup as much as everyone wants
Oh, cursed monkey paw. I should probably get rid of you. But you do make things more interesting. It turns out that Pagan was in the lineup just about every day for the first four months. Every single day, regardless of what his body was telling him, or what his performance dictated. It was truly odd, and it became even stranger when he looked so rejuvenated after a DL trip.
The projection from last year:
Angel Pagan, 2015 projected
And here's what he did:
Angel Pagan, 2015 actual
Not too far off, I suppose, but there's a gap between perception and reality. Pagan had to rally like all heck to get to those final numbers. He had to go on the disabled list for something obscure, like "injuries that affected his ability to play baseball at a high level," and when he came back, he had a delightful spring in his step. His OPS on September 1 was .597, so a retro-Pagan month (.274/.346/.416) seemed like a revelation.
Like always, there's a Gregor Blanco contingency plan, and it's a fine enough plan. There are also outfielders in the upper minors with a teensy bit of promise, and both of them are projected by ZiPS to be more valuable than Pagan in 2016. The Giants are still counting on more retro-Pagan months. He'll get the starts, all of the starts, until the Giants have to wheel him out on a dolly and dump him in left field.
Should we expect retro Pagan, though?
Probably not. He'll be 35, and he's coming off the worst season of his career. That's an absolutely devastating sentence. There aren't a lot of yeah-buts that can follow "he'll be 35, and he's coming off the worst season of his career." I get that he looked extra bouncy after coming back from the DL, but calling it the worst season of his career isn't doing it justice. It was one of the worst seasons from any position player in San Francisco Giants history.
If you're looking for positives other than the September competence, there's the fact that this is a contract year, and Pagan presumably likes money. I like money. I can understand the motivation. It would also follow that Pagan playing left field won't be as mentally or physically taxing. I have no support for that claim, but do you remember that series last year where Pagan turned three singles into triples within, like, 28 hours? That couldn't have been good for his ego. There should be less of that now.
And, of course, he'll be healthy, perhaps. It's not so much that he lost his ability to play baseball last year, it was that his ability to excel was stripped from him by an uncooperative body. There's a reason he hit more home runs in September than he had in the previous calendar year. His back and knee weren't allowing him to drive the ball. Once they were better, he was better.
On the other hand, he'll be 35, and he's coming off the worst season of his career.
That's ... kind of the only story you need. It's not a fact you can come back from. Anything else is just reviewing the movie that was shown before the plane fell from the sky.
Well, the meals on airplanes just keep getting better, so
You could talk about airplane food, too! But the plane fell out of the sky. So ...
Still, when I see something like this, it makes me a little curious. Here are Pagan's years by OPS+ since joining the Giants:
It's like he fast-forwarded six years. It was a nice, clean progression! And then there was misery. It wouldn't be out of the question, though, for him to go back to slightly below average, which with his speed and (hopefully) solid defense in left, would make him an average player.
I just wouldn't want to project it. In 25 years, we'll remember Pagan for the outstanding player who helped the 2012 Giants win a World Series they had no business winning. In six months, we'll remember Pagan as the starting left fielder out of spring training who slowly lost his job.
Very slowly. Very, very slowly. I love Bruce Bochy, but you know how this is going to turn out.
Angel Pagan, 2016 projection
Hair: Still fabulous
There will be optimism later in this series. For now ... we have this. And I hope upon hopes that I'm very, very wrong. But Angel Pagan will be 35, and he's coming off the worst season of his career. Not sure if you caught that part.