Saturday, April 10, 2010

Explaining Myself

Rather than repeat the same observations regarding the last couple of wins that most all the other major blogs (wait, did I just imply I was "major"? Well, you know what I mean...) let me take occasion here to explain at more length a comment I've made a few places.

That comment being, of course, my assertion that on paper, this is a team which might be expected to finish at or near .500 this year. Of course, that claim stands in stark contrast to the gloomy predictions of 60-something wins.

I admit on the face of it that I'm no statistician or sabermatician. The basis for my claim is simply a look at the runs scored and allowed last year, and how one might reasonably expect the offense and pitching to preform this year in terms of improving upon those totals (or not).

You might remember that the 2009 squad scored more runs than it allowed, for a pythag record of 84-78 (an expectation which they under-preformed by nine wins, by the way, as the Jays are wont to do). That team scored 798 runs, and allowed 771. So how does the new roster shape up in comparison to that one? Let's take a closer look. I'll be using OPS+ and ERA for this "quick and dirty" comparison.

Catcher:

2009 - Barajas (73), Chavez (67)
2010 - Buck (103 in '09; career 84); Molina (51; 60)

Jays catchers combined for averages of .230/.259/.374/.633

Despite the obvious absence of offense from Molina, there's no reason to expect the combined output from these two to be less than the team total last year, and might conceivably me marginally higher.

First Base:

2009 - Overbay (122)

Jays first basemen combined for a line of .263/.363/.447/.810

Overbay has a career 111 OPS+, weighed down by a couple of years which were hampered by a hand injury. But the "standard issue" Overbay is pretty much what we saw last year and, other than a marginal downgrade for age, there's no reason to not assume this position will account for that level of production again. Let's not forget that Ruiz, on the rare occasion he gets to play, should exceed what we got from Millar last year.

Second Base:

2009 - Hill (117)

Jays second basemen combined for a line of .289/.335/.504/.839

It pays to remember here that while everyone expects Hills' HR power to slack off this year, he saw a significant drop in his doubles last year and those homers that he (theoretically) would lose in 2010 turn back into doubles. In 2007 Hill doubled once every 12.9 at bats, and homered once every 35.8 at bats. If we applied those rates to 2009, when he got far more appearances, then he'd have had 53 doubles and 19 homers. So if he simply reverted back to 2007, with a 2009 total of at bats, his OPS+ would be in the 110-112 range. And that's assuming all other factors are equal.
I'm willing to suggest that there's no reason to assume other than a marginal decrease in Hill's production at the plate.

Shortstop:

2009 - Scutaro (111)
2010 - Gonzalez (64, 79)

Jays' shortstops - .280/.367/.407/.774

While one can only concede there's a big offensive drop off here, it's also worth noting that in2007, prior to an injury that cost him a full season, Gonzo posted a 99 OPS, albeit in Cincinnati's bandbox. Then, during his comeback season in 2009, he struggled early in the year for the Reds but after being dealt to Boston is OPS+ was 95. Point being, it's not a given that Gonzalez won't meet or exceed his career figure, even though he's now 33. So we'll assume a drop here of approximately 30 points.

Third base:

2009 - Rolen (as a Jay 124) Encarnacion (as a Jay, 97)
2010 - Encarnacion (92, 101)

Jays' third basemen - .285/.349/.439/.788

EE's best year so far was 108, he struggled last year to an overall 92, so that's the range we are looking at. Split the difference and he's at around 100, same as his career mark. Let's give him the benefit of a small doubt and also note that Rolen missed a lot of days that EE probably won't and conclude a 20 point drop at this position.

Left Field:

2009 - Travis Snider - (98, 101)

Jays' left fielders: .270/.349/.461/.810

2010 should see Snider's figure go up, if for no other reason than increased playing time. He might yet have some stumbles at his young age, but it's not wildly unlikely that his totals would match the production from Jays' LF last year, with the possible exception of fewer walks. There's enough here to call LF a wash, at worst.

Center field:

2009 Vernon Wells (88, 108)

Jays' CF in 2009: .258/.312/.396/.709

Alright, seriously, does anyone think Vernon is going to be THAT bad again? Even close? Coming into 2007 Wells had a 112 OPS+, and his figure for 2006 was 129. In 2008 it was 122. The odds are, even though he's older, that he'll more likely exceed his career figure, but I'll be modest and suggest perhaps 115? I think there's enough improvement here to offset the 30 points we lost on the shortstops.

Right field:

2009 - Rios (96 as a Jay)
201- Bautista (101, 91)

Jays right fielders: .253/.323/.442/.765

Thing is, as much as I think JB will be overexposed as a full timer, Rios under-preformed so greatly last year that there's not really an obvious drop off between his number and Bautista's demonstrated abilities. I have my beef with Bautista as a full time player, let alone lead off hitter, but Rios set the bar really low last year.

DH:

2009 - Lind (144, 119)

Jays' DH in 2009 - .275/.343/.506/.849

I'm going to suggest the team gains some ground here. Not because I'm saying Lind will be better (though he might be) but because of the at bats the team gave to Kevin Millar last year. True, not all of them were at DH, but the slash totals above show you the kind of impact DH's-other-than-Lind had on the total...at bats that will go to Lind this year one assumes.

Still, the bump here would be marginal I'm sure. Maybe something quite similar to Hill's margial decrease.

Sum total here is this is an offense that is down about 20 points in OPS+ among all starters - that being the lost ground at 3B. How many net runs is that worth? and how many runs do we lose on the defensive drop at 3B? Well, according to Fangraphs, the difference in Rolen and Encarnacion for all of 2009 was about 29 runs above replacement last year. So that makes this team, on paper, a roughly 770 run team.

Ah, but you say, the difference is the pitching! Doc is gone and that's huge!

Well, yeah, it is and it isn't. But let's pause here so you can grab a cup of Earl Grey (hot!) before we go on with this tome.

Got it?

Ok.

The pitching is harder to break down year to year as i did with the hitters above, so let me break the starting rotation down like this:

2009 Romero = 2010 Romero

29 starts at 4.30 ERA last year to maybe as many as 32 this year. Natural progression would assume a slightly better outcome but we won't be gready here. his ERA+ last year was 101 and I'll give it a marginal increase to 105.

2009 Doc = 2010 Marcum.

Doc's 2009 was 32 starts at an ERA of 2.79, over 239 innings.
Marcum's last year, 2008, was 25 starts, and a 3.39 ERA over 151 IP.

Doc averaged 7.47 IP per start, while Marcum averaged 6.04 so a surface comparison is difficult. But I'll start by applying Marcum's average innings to 32 starts and that gets us over 193 IP so giving him a bit of credit that his average tics up just a bit - say 1/3 of an inning (203 IP) .I'll credit 36 of Doc's innings to the bullpen. That would work out to Marcum surrendering about 76 runs this year - assuming a performance consistent with he most recent year) which is 2 runs more than Doc gave up.
The bullpen last year had a collective ERA of 4.o8. that implies that we give up about 16 more runs in those 36 innings Doc kept out of the pen (if the pen were neither better or worse).

So we are down 18 runs.

Now, here's where things get interesting:
The following pitchers got starts for the Jays last year, beyond Doc and Romero:

Tallet - 25 starts, 5.41 ERA as a starter
Richmond - 24, 5.59
Cecil - 17, 5.34
Zep - 11, 3.67
Purcey - 9, 6.19
Janssen - 5, 6.23
Ray - 4, 4.44
Litsch - 2, 9.00
Mills - 2, 14.09
Burres - 2, 14.21

That's 101 starts (three full time starters) and a combined ERA of 5.54, which presents the question thusly: will the collection of pitchers likely to fill those three slots in 2010 be able to meet or exceed that benchmark?

The candidates are Brandon Morrow (Career ERA as starter = 4.70), Tallet, Dana Eveland (4.34 ERA in 29 starts in 2008), Cecil and Zep (like Tallet, represented above), possibly McGowan or even Litsch in the second half, and potentially Mills, Drabek or other less obvious choices.

I don't think it's a stretch AT ALL to suggest that the last three spots in the rotation will, collectively, be AT LEAST as good as last year, if not marginally better.

Turning to the bullpen, returning pitchers include Frasor, Downs, Camp, and soon, Carlson. Will they be as good collectively as last year? I think so. the righties will likely regress a bit, and both lefties should do better.
Beyond the core returnees, there's Janssen , Accardo (for now), Gregg and Valdez. Gregg steps into Brandon League's old job, and should be able to match or closely simulate League's 4.58 ERA and number of innings. If we are asking Valdez to give us what Dirk Hayhurst did last year, that's reasonable. Janssen should be better than last year, in terms of ERA (5.14 as a reliever) and Accardo somewhat worse (as measured by ERA). So far I think we have a wash.

Going into call ups, will Roenicke be at least as good as his 7+ last year? Sure, likely better. Will Purcey the reliever do better than Ran did last year? almost certainly. We're now 10 men deep into the relief core. and it's still pretty unlikely this group is worse.

So if we lost 18 runs prevented by losing Doc, then we stand to allow roughly 790 runs in 2010.


That's giving up about 20 runs more than you score, or a pythag of 79-83.

Am I making a ton of assumptions? Sure. EVERY projection for this year's final record does. Health is assumed, of course. Regression towards the mean in several cases, the natural progression of youth . . . none of which is assured. but you have to make SOME assumptions and it's no more valid to assume Snider stumbles his way back to AAA than it is to assume he becomes somewhat better than he's been to this point. Ditto for a number of other points here.

Besides, doesn't this team have a little karma in the bank after the number of times in recent years they have under-preformed their expected record? It's definitely not a GOOD team, as currently constructed, but it's not as bad as many suggest either.

1 comment:

Rhys said...

http://theviewjaysedition.blogspot.com/

I think that the Jays are better offensively (no major losses, and a healthy V-Dub makes up for Scutaro gone, and to be honest Barajas = Buck). Pitching wise the Jays lost some guy to Philly, can't remember who, but all in all I expect the rotation to fare about the same. Yes, Doc is gone, but Romero and Marcum will be solid, and so I think the same (or close) amount of wins will be spread among more people. The bullpen, as hard as Frasor is trying to prove me wrong, is good, and will be the same.

Consequentially, you have a .500 team. After seeing the Orioles in action, I've rethought my "What is a successful 2010" question and decided that 4th place leaves something to be lost, and everything to be gained.

Of course I am assuming lots as well.