Due For Some Mean Regression: Part 3


And now you get the other half of the team, the position players (obviously).  We kind of expect going in – before really looking deep into this – that the Tigers will be the ones who overachieved and will be likely to mean-regress.  After all, the Tigers had supremely good seasons from unlikely players in Alex Avila and Jhonny Peralta while the Twins and Indians got mediocre half seasons from Mauer & Morneau and Choo & Sizemore respectively.

I’ll start you off with the Tigers raw numbers – the format is the same as in part 2, ‘m’ refers to pre-2011 Marcel projections while ‘b’ refers to Bill James projections for 2012.

Jhonny Peralta did significantly beat his projection, as did Miguel Cabrera & Victor Martinez, but Alex Avila really blew past his and went on for a mile.  The nice thing is – if you take a look at the numbers, next season’s projections are quite a bit closer to what those four actually did in 2011 than what they were expected to do.  It wasn’t all rosy for the Tigers hitters in 2011, though.  Of the 9 opening day starters (and here I’m counting Brennan Boesch as a reserve), only those four beat their projections while the remaining five failed to meet them – with Inge, Ordonez and Rhymes trailing by almost as much as Avila beat his.  For the most part, the Tigers lineup was healthy – with the exception of Magglio Ordonez, Brennan Boesch and Carlos Guillen – but many of the players the Tigers were counting on spent much of 2011 mired in some of the deepest slumps of their careers.  Forecasts predict rebounds for the Tigers who slumped – at least for those who will be on the roster in 2011 – and a relatively modest regression from those who excelled – so there doesn’t seem to be any reason to expect a serious regression from the Tigers offense overall in 2011.

Next we get the Cleveland Indians:

And here we get to a plausible case for a rebound – particularly from Shin-Soo Choo, but also from Grady Sizemore (if healthy) and assuming a full season from Carlos Santana – who was about as good as advertised when he played. It’s difficult to say who, exactly, will fill out the Indians roster come April – the team is by no means done with it’s Hot Stove activity. Many of the players who played for them part time last year won’t be returning (like Adam Everett and Orlando Cabrera) so we can’t say that so-and-so is likely to rebound, etc… but it’s worth remembering that some of these guys (who won’t be factors in 2011) played badly overall and badly relative to expectations. New acquisitions Felix Pie & Jose Lopez might be no better, but that sort of thing is not really within the scope of this analysis. The only relevant Indians hitters who exceeded expectations in 2011 and are likely to experience at least a slight regression are Asdrubal Cabrera and Jack Hannahan.

And last – the Twinks:

Clearly, the Twins underachieved in 2011 relative to expectations. We have all heard about Mauer and Morneau, but the Twins also saw performances at the plate from Denard Span, Delmon Young, Danny Valencia, Ben Revere, Drew Butera, Luke Hughes, Jason Repko & Matt Tolbert much worse than their preseason projections. The only players who met or exceeded expectations were Michael Cuddyer, Jim Thome & Jason Kubel – all among the Twins better hitters, but all of whom will likely be playing elsewhere in 2012.  Alexi Casilla beat expectations as well, but those expectations were so low it hardly mattered.  Tsuyoshi Nishioka had no projections – that’s part of how you can tell a guy is ‘high risk’ – but he was awful when healthy and isn’t projected to be much better next year.

The Twins are banking heavily on rebounds from Mauer & Morneau and also lower profile players like Valencia, Revere & Span – but while Morneau’s projected wOBA is close to his career norms he’s only projected to get about 300 plate appearances.  That, unfortunately, probably doesn’t represent a likelihood of missing some time but a 50% likelihood that he will play.  I personally think a full recovery from Mauer is very likely, though I’m not sure he’ll hit quite as well as before (the Jason Kendall comp keeps coming up) but a lot of the other guys the Twins should be expecting rebounds from aren’t really that good in the first place – and certainly not good enough to replace what they lost in Orlando Hudson, J.J. Hardy, Jim Thome, Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer over the past year and change.  In short, the Twins were obviously unlucky last year but their chances for a full reversal of fortune are far from perfect.  If their luck does change, there is also the real problem that the Twins top-to-bottom roster talent looks thinner on offense as in the bullpen right now than it has in quite some time.