Sunday, March 09, 2008

CRAP: Outfielders

Yesterday, we looked at the infield, seeing what various projections say about our fair-to-mediocre team.

We'll continue along, using the same stats and the same sources. See that post for an explanation, if you missed it.

  • Austin Kearns
             HR  RBI  AVE  OBP  SLG
    BJ 22 88 272 368 457
    CHONE 19 71 255 351 423
    Marcel 18 76 264 356 438
    ZIPS 16 64 262 351 425
    CRAP 24 85 270 365 470

    I'll admit to being a bit biased here. A few factors for why I think he's doing to break out: 1) He's 28. 2) He's due for a better season, now that he re-tinkered his swing. 3) He's out of RFK.

    Those numbers are within range of what he did in '06 and it's only a modest power bump over his career numbers. The other systems don't see the adjustments he made, and they don't see how hard he works at his game. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt -- yet without going wacky and expecting 40 homers and 120 RBI.

  • Lastings Milledge
             HR  RBI  AVE  OBP  SLG
    BJ 18 78 286 350 463
    CHONE 12 55 275 342 413
    Marcel 9 42 275 344 436
    ZIPS 15 55 276 360 462
    CRAP 17 60 275 355 470

    Call me a fanboy again. The CHONE and Marcel projections just seem toooo low to me. Milledge is someone who's already established that he can handle MLB pitching at age 22, having hit .272/ .341/ .446 in nearly 200 ABs last year. Maybe that itself would be a reasonable prediction, but the guy oozes potential, and with a manager and team that nutures his abilities instead of dwelling on his toughness or what kind of 'punk' he is, he can focus his energies on honing his talent, not ticking off the next cranky old white guy.

  • Wily Mo Pena
             HR  RBI  AVE  OBP  SLG
    BJ 23 69 277 335 495
    CHONE 16 44 257 323 458
    Marcel 15 52 275 334 467
    ZIPS 15 40 269 332 476
    CRAP 25 65 255 320 500

    Pena's a bit of a wild card, though all the projections are similar -- the big difference is in their playing time estimate. What you see is what you get... low average, high power, lots of strikeouts, and an inability to hit the curve.

    I'll side with the "consistent playing time" camp for why he hasn't put it together, but that's definitely a fanboy defense. Still, at age 26, there's no reason he can't hit his career numbers (.259 .316 .472) or beyond.

  • Elijah Dukes
             HR  RBI  AVE  OBP  SLG
    BJ 11 36 253 351 459
    CHONE 10 36 254 350 428
    Marcel 11 35 243 340 419
    ZIPS 11 36 231 334 425
    CRAP 13 50 255 350 470

    How the hell do you project him? We can figure he's going to get at least 300 ABs splitting around the infield, filling in on injuries and such. But he could get more if one of the others struggles or breaks down. Or he could get a lot less if he reverts to psychotic form. How do you account for that?

    That out of the way, I'm going to assume he can live up to his ungodly on-field potential. Take a look at what he did in the minors. He hit for power and got on base everywhere he went (while being a circus on and off the field between ABs). Then look at his age. He was beating up on every level of the minors while being one of the younger players at each of those levels. He's a scary good All-Star-type bat. But there are some HUGE Ifs in there!

    Last year's .191 average in TB looks scary, but look at those isolated numbers, the spread between his batting average and on-base and slugging percentages. They're huge. If he gets a few more singles to drop in, and gets that average up to the .260ish range, and his isolated patience and power (which are in range of what he was doing in the minors) stay roughly the same, he'll have a great season. A few extra singles and last year's a .260/ .380/ .450 season. Not bad.

    With the off-field, hometown distractions gone, a manager and organization focused on milking his potential, and a fresh start, he has a damn good chance of living up to that potential. So my projection might be high -- if I was in Vegas, I'd bet the under -- but it's also damn possible that he blows past it too.

    As with everything we the kid, we just don't damn know.

  • Willie Harris
             HR  RBI  AVE  OBP  SLG
    BJ 2 17 257 339 353
    CHONE 4 35 244 328 343
    Marcel 5 35 263 338 384
    ZIPS 3 30 254 332 375
    CRAP 2 15 240 320 340

    Harris, I suspect, made his deal with the devil before last season. He rode a hot two months into a full-season role, and hitting .214/ .294/ .354 in the second half. Other than those hot first months, he was basically the same lousy player he was before.

    That being said, he's not a bad 25th man on the roster. He's got speed. He can presumably handle the bat. He's versatile, playing infield and outfield. With Dmitri and Dukes ready to be top PHers off the bench, his bat isn't needed. Good thing, too. I just don't think he can OPS Dmitri's weight.

  • Rob Mackowiak
             HR  RBI  AVE  OBP  SLG
    BJ 7 36 279 353 419
    CHONE 7 38 254 332 373
    Marcel 8 43 270 341 398
    ZIPS 5 30 256 332 354
    CRAP 5 35 255 340 390

    He's another good NL bench player. He doesn't have the speed of Harris, but he's a better hitter. You don't want him as the first option off your bench, but if he's back there for a double switch, you're ok. He's played 2B before, but it's been a few seasons, and he'll mostly stick to 3B and the corners of the outfield.

  • There are a few other guys back there like Langerhans and the Rule 5 kids, but I just don't see the room for them starting out. I don't think the Nats really have the room to carry all the guys I've listed so far, as it is.

    As I've tinkered with the numbers further, it looks like the outfield is ~50 runs better than last year's, owing mostly to the ungodly number of ABs not being given to Logan, Fick and Langerhans this season. Dukes is basically replacing all three, and even if he flames out, he's not going to be worse than their contributions.

    I'll have more on that later, as I try to piece all the numbers together to figure out how many runs this team's going to score.
  • 22 Comments:

    • Chris,
      I'm not a stats geek but I appreciate all your work for those of us who are stymied by how to figure out an ERA. But when you get to the catchers, note this: Kid Flores is going to be a hard cut. He's batting .357 this spring -- yeah, yeah, I know it's spring training -- but Estrada and PLoD are still limping and can't throw. Screw the $5 million, play Flores. For the life of me, I have no earthly idea of how demoting the kid to triple-A -- or worse, double-A -- is going to help his development. I thought most of last year he was a better catcher -- offense and defense -- than Schneid, who's begun the back nine of a mediocre career. Anyway, be kind to the kid when you come upon his projections, which I can hardly understand for a 22-year-old with a huge upside. The game is more than numbers on a stat sheet, in my opinion.

      By Anonymous Friend of STAN, at 3/09/2008 3:11 PM  

    • While I should be commenting on the outfield, I really think Guz's two-homer game needs to be addressed. WTF? is going on with Guz this spring. I know it's training and all but the man is hitting like he's possessed. Given that you know way more about his back-story than I do, is there any was possible that Guz is playing back to form, or is this simply a statistical anomaly?

      By Blogger Michael, at 3/09/2008 3:13 PM  

    • How do you figure that WMP is going to hit 25 HR, bat .255 and slug .500, but only manage to drive in 65 runs? Especially with you projecting the other guys ahead of him in the order doing so well? He won't be leading off and hitting solo HRs like Soriano did. You really don't think he'll drive in more than 40 runners other than himself?

      By Blogger An Briosca Mor, at 3/09/2008 4:24 PM  

    • stan -- my gut says heavy slugging, lower obp for Flores.

      michael -- we'll find out. Brian Schneider (I think?) hit like a madman last spring.

      abm -- I shouldn't bother projecting RBI, since they're so lineup and PT dependent. I'm using them as a proxy for PT, I guess. That being said, look at his 04 season: 26 HR/66 RBI

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 3/09/2008 4:33 PM  

    • Chris, you're right. Schneider hit .371 last spring.

      Stan, Flores played even better last Spring. He hit .484! This kid will be good, but I wouldn't look too much into Spring Training stats. Despite that, I agree with you. The best experience Flores can get is Major League experience. Why should we give time to Estrada and PLoD, when we could be developing a guy who could put up similar numbers?

      By Anonymous Will, at 3/09/2008 4:50 PM  

    • Because if you let him do his on-the-job training in the minors, especially if he's working with the pitchers he'll eventually be catching in the majors, when he makes it to the majors, the team will be getting more prime years from him, and at a cheaper cost.

      (that's not a LERNERS IS CHEEEP! argument, just a baseball as business argument)

      Why pay him to learn and watch him walk away as a FA earlier than you need to?

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 3/09/2008 4:53 PM  

    • Chris-
      I'm not too familiar with the rules regarding options and free agency. Could you please elaborate on what you mean by getting more prime years from Flores??
      (I thought a player simply had X amount of years with his original team before FA-eligible)

      By Blogger Rob B, at 3/09/2008 5:19 PM  

    • to be a FA, he has to have end a season with at least 6 years of MLB service time. They add up individual days to account for partial seasons.

      In Flores' case, he'd be entering the FA market after his age 27 season, still in his prime (if he stayed up with the Nats the whole time).

      If the first few years of that are spent learning the job, and how to be a MLB hitter, the Nats aren't getting much value. Would you rather have a year of him at age 23 where he's learning on the job? Or at age 28, when he's a fully developed player?

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 3/09/2008 5:24 PM  

    • Not only that, but there's a real risk that if Flores is overmatched against major league hitting, he'll regress or won't develop his skills fully enough.

      I think they want him to get more experience at an easier level rather than trying to tinker with his offense against really good pitchers. At the major league level, there are too many variables (like being up against really good pitchers) to do the kind of tinkering I think they want to do with Flores offensively--they'd have no way of telling whether or not he's made an improvement or just played against pitchers having a bad day.

      Yeah, he hit better than Schneider last year already, but that says more about Schneider's epic suckage with a bat than it does about Flores' hitting ability. Really, I just get the feeling that the Nats figure "Why not give him extra minors seasoning?" since they've already totally written this season off. Acta may be talking big about .500, but I get the feeling that the front office will be satisfied so long as the team comes somewhere close to last year. They probably see their new drafted pitching as two years away being effective major league pitchers (figure most get a year or part of a year of major league experience in 2009), want to cough up their skulls when they look at the middle infield, and look for a year or two of development in the outfield.

      If I had to lay money on it, I would almost certainly bet that the competitive Nats envisioned in THE PLAN we see in 2010 won't have Belliard, Young, Johnson, Kearns, Patterson, Lopez or one of either Rauch or Cordero (Cordero's ability to defeat the big fly this year will probably determine which one stays or goes, but I'm betting they stick with Cordero's youth unless Rivera or Colome step it up.). Instead, when the Nats are actually competitive, we're probably going to see Flores at C, Marrero at 1b, King at 2b, someone we don't have yet at SS, Zim at 3b, LMilz in CF, Pena in LF, Dukes in RF, Burgess/Smolinski as the 4th OF, with a rotation of your 2007 draft class pitchers. The bullpen will probably turn over completely between now and 2010 too.

      By Blogger Michael, at 3/09/2008 5:33 PM  

    • I think you're a little optimistic with some of your prospects. (I'd like to see King hit .200 first!) ;)


      The overall point is probably right, though.

      On Flores/Schneider... take a look at their platoon splits. If Flores played full time, he'd be exposed. He was pretty bad against RHP last year. That's something he'll need to work on, and that's something that comes with exposure -- something he'll not really be able to get facing Smoltz and Hudson and Pedro and Maine and Myers and... you get the point!

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 3/09/2008 5:39 PM  

    • If that's the case I guess it would be better to put him at AA. That way he'd be playing against fellow legitimate prospects instead of the have-been and never-were stiffs in AAA. It's not like we're anything close to contending yet.
      You've convinced me there's no point in Flores working with our current starting pitching; they're going to be awful. They suck ass. The only reason it was halfway decent last year was the RFK/Randy St.Claire factor. We're gonna lose a lot of 8-3 games this year.

      By Blogger Rob B, at 3/09/2008 5:42 PM  

    • As much as we love St. Claire, it's two years now with TERRIBLE SP. It's not his fault, but the reason they won last year wasn't bc the SP was surprisingly good; it's because Manny Acta took the SP out early EVERY SINGLE GAME.

      The bullpen is why the team won so many games; they carried the team, pitching more innings than (I think) any other team in MLB history. And they weren't bad!

      As long as they don't blow out their arms, that should be roughly the same... and we should get SOMETHING from Patterson and Perez, right? right? hello? this thing still on?

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 3/09/2008 5:46 PM  

    • Lol Chris. Optimism? From you? Stop drinking Kasten's Kool Aid. Our starting pitching is going to suck and that's just life (Chico got lit up pretty good today against Cleveland's regulars.), but the really depressing thing is that there really isn't any good starting pitching to be had. Yes, there's Lohse, but like I said, there really isn't any good starting pitching to be had in free agency. That of course leads to the natural problem that we don't have anything we can really trade for starting pitching either. We can't trade prospects since that would be dumb, and our veteran ranks are pretty thin (not to mention pretty lacking in talent).

      One intriguing option might be send some vets to the Giants where Brian Sabean seems to be GMing like a bad imitation of Dusty Baker's managing. This is probably video game logic, but I could see Kearns + Boone + maybe one of either Young or Johnson to Sabean for one of the poor kids toiling with zero run support over there. Maybe it's wishful thinking but then again, the Giants were dumb enough to sign Rowand to replace Barry Bonds so it's not like we're dealing with Mensa members over there.

      By Blogger Michael, at 3/09/2008 5:56 PM  

    • Since we're on this whole youth-movement thing, maybe we should go ahead and sign Elijah Dukes kids. There's (at least) a whole starting rotation right there. Do minors need parents approval to sign an MLB contract?
      Someone get me a St. Petersburg phone book!!!!

      By Blogger Rob B, at 3/09/2008 6:08 PM  

    • You might just have something there, Rob!

      After all, with three Boones already on the payroll, what are a few Dukes? Their arms will probably be healthier than what we've got right now, too and we can pay them with baby food and happy meals.

      By Blogger Michael, at 3/09/2008 6:27 PM  

    • After years of watching this franchise try to sell me on terrible (Peter Bergeron terrible) CFs I'm super excited about the OF prospects this year.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/09/2008 9:01 PM  

    • If you're looking for something to serve as a proxy for playing time in these projections, why not just use at bats or plate appearances? Simple and elegant, and it would serve as a reality check once you start extrapolating from these projections into runs scored. You should know if the total projected ABs for all players combined seems reasonable or not, and if it doesn't seem reasonable then the rest of the projections you draw off of it wouldn't be reasonable either.

      By Blogger An Briosca Mor, at 3/09/2008 10:13 PM  

    • I'm a step ahead of you on that...

      I'm working towards that.

      projections and playing time give me runs, and I'll have that sometime this week.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 3/09/2008 10:18 PM  

    • Why so much consternation over a single RBI total, when if you add only 5 RBI to Pena's projection, you get an identical ratio (2.8 RBI/HR) to his career to date?

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/09/2008 11:19 PM  

    • Why the concern over Pena's projected RBI total? I don't know, the number just seemed a little odd to me when I first saw it. So many homers, not so many RBI. Why? The key unstated assumption is the number of at bats. At 300 AB, the projected BA, SLG and HR would mean that all the non-HR hits would be singles, around 50 or so of them. 25 homers and 50 singles yielding 65 RBI? Okay, that might be reasonable. But at 400 AB, there would be around 75 non-HR hits, and for the SLG to work out there would need to be a good few extra base hits in the mix besides the homers. More than 65 RBI would seem likely in that case. So that was my question - what were the assumptions behind the RBI total? Since Chris has now answered that he was using it as a proxy for playing time, I guess that means he's projecting WMP for around 300 AB this year. Okay, but why not just say it that way to start with?

      By Blogger An Briosca Mor, at 3/10/2008 8:12 AM  

    • Because I know if I throw something like that in there, the smartest readers in the Nats blog community are going to find it, pick it apart, and blather about it for hours!

      Everybody wins!

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 3/10/2008 8:44 AM  

    • No love for Escobar?

      By Blogger (j)on, at 3/10/2008 3:21 PM  

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