Fun With Projections: Batting Order 2011

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So… there are our 2011 Tigers. Some things jump out at me immediately: the first, since he’s at the top of the list and the top of the lineup, is that CAIRO is bearish on Austin Jackson. BJ and Marcel (and probably to a lesser extent RotoChamp) are putting a lot of stock in AJax’s one year in the bigs, CAIRO is deconstructing his BABIP based on mean regression in the batted ball breakdowns and the results are grim. A .308 wOBA is very plausible for him next year, all it would imply is that his BABIP dropped down to the .330’s (which is still high) without big improvements in K’s, BB’s or power. That’s the same wOBA Ian Desmond gave the Nationals last year – with a line of .269/.308/.392. Given his defense in center he would still probably we worth keeping in the lineup at that level (at least compared to available alternatives) but I would hope that someone else could lead off. Given how long it took Leyland to stop leading Grandy off against lefties, maybe that’s too much to hope for.

The second thing that jumps out at me, slightly less “immediately”, is that Miguel Cabrera is due for a regression. None of these projections expect him to duplicate his .429 wOBA from last year. He’ll still be good, 90th percentile at the least, but we can’t expect the Tigers offense to be able to lean on him so heavily. Maggs probably isn’t – only Marcel thinks we’ll see a significant drop from Ordonez relative to the numbers he put up in half a season last year. RotoChamp even expects him to improve, though at his age I can’t see why.

Next, Marcel the Monkey is admittedly crude – other more sophisticated systems should be able to make better predictions in special cases even if they are usually no better. So, Marcel is not ‘smart’ but the ‘smart money’ is on a rebound by Carlos Guillen. Let me qualify that: no one would bet on Carlos Guillen staying healthy, but he may hit well when he is in the lineup. Guillen’s career high was a .391 wOBA, he won’t approach that but he isn’t a bad bet to duplicate his career average of .346. wOBA’s in the .340 range aren’t astronomically high, but they are above average. In addition to being a switch-hitter, he’ll probably hit a sight better than Scott Sizemore – who was awful last year, and predicted to be varying degrees of awful by RotoChamp and CAIRO. If it looks like Marcel likes him, that’s just mean regression. Few are really as bad as Sizemore looked last year. Bill James scores Sizemore high, but don’t forget that Bill James projections are notoriously optimistic for younger players. Even through rose-colored glasses, Sizemore and Guillen are at best a wash. And how do those rose-colored glasses see the third second-base contender???

Bill James Hates Will Rhymes! Well, probably not Bill James personally, but the Bill James projection for Mr. Rhymes is awfully low. The Bill James projection for Ramon Santiago is also low, but that is somewhat beside the point. Those projections are notorious for inflating expectations of guys like Rhymes, who did well in a short stint the year before. Marcel and RotoChamp like him, but they seem to put a little too much emphasis on last year’s numbers for my taste. Since CAIRO didn’t project him, I’ll go with Bill James and avoid drafting Rhymes in our fantasy league this year.

A few other things to note: CAIRO hates Boesch every bit as much as it hates AJax. Bill James and Marcel like him, RotoChamp at least figures he’ll do what he did last year… what does CAIRO know that they don’t??? If I’m not mistaken, that .299 wOBA is roughly in line with what he was projected to do last year based on his minor league stats, so that could be all there is to it. Also, everybody loves Alex Avila. I’m sure part of it is mean reversion, but he’s being projected to be a league-average catcher in 2011 and (amazingly) not the worst hitter in the Tigers lineup. Even on days when Don Kelly is on the bench.