ACTA Sports has begun taking orders for The Bill James Handbook 2010, which customarily will include James' projections for every major league player. (Full disclosure: ACTA occasionally sends me a review copy of one of their books, and I am totally in the bag for them.)
James' proprietary performance projections, while perhaps less obsessed-over than PECOTA or even CHONE, are among the most credible ones publicly available. More to the point, ACTA has released the projections on a few key Indians right now, so let's put our greedy little eyes on them and get an early start on the expectation-setting.
First, the pitchers:
Key Indians Pitchers (by ERA) Player IP W L K SV ERA Kerry Wood 56 4 3 62 27 3.54 Justin Masterson 171 10 9 151 0 4.00 Jeremy Sowers 150 7 9 81 0 4.44
WOOD: I don't know how James is projecting the Save stat, and I certainly don't care. James' system sees Wood as a pitcher who can still rack up the strikeouts and who generally, therefore, will prevent runs from scoring. This doesn't look like a $10 million closer, but it looks more than serviceable.
MASTERSON: Probably the best news in the press release is James' divination of Masterson as a solid number-two starter in 2010. I'm not even sure what to say about it, but I like it.
SOWERS: Less surprising but still heartening is the prediction that Sowers can settle in as a solid #3-#4 guy (don't argue), and damn it, that's all we've really asked of the guy, and it didn't seem like that unreasonable of a demand.
Of course, these projections are probably purely statistical, utilizing little if any subjective information, but they do suggest that there isn't too much urgency to the idea of adding a fungible fourth-starter type on the cheap this offseason.
Now the hitters:
Key Indians Hitters (by OPS) Player At-bats R HR RBI SB Avg. OPS Grady Sizemore 574 101 25 78 21 .272 .853 Shin-Soo Choo 583 95 19 86 20 .293 .850 Matt LaPorta 451 70 20 68 3 .266 .802 Kelly Shoppach 381 57 19 61 0 .249 .798 Asdrubal Cabrera 582 96 9 74 19 .294 .779
SIZEMORE: James has Grady more or less returning to form; while his 30-30 has become a 25-21, note that this is based on 574 AB. Prior to 2009, Sizemore averaged 639 AB per season; obviously, health plays a role here.
CHOO: The numbers say that Shin-Soo Choo really is as good as we think he is.
LAPORTA: That 802 OPS no doubt is less than Indians fans want to see, not to mention the 20 HR over 451 AB. My guess is that James' system is making note of LaPorta's 2009 playing time trends but doesn't know that, barring an extreme circumstance, LaPorta actually will get 600+ AB on the big leagues in 2010. It probably also isn't entirely impressed with his 917 OPS in Columbus this year, given he was already 24. Unlike the typical LGTer, James' system is unlikely to blame any faults in his rookie production on Eric Wedge. Whether its ignorance of these factors is a strength or a shortcoming is up for debate.
SHOPPACH: Surprise! James' system thinks Shoppach is a good hitter who just had a bad year, with some real power counterbalancing his mediocre contact hitting. (In 2009, a 798 OPS was a 105 OPS+.) These projections have Kelly hitting about 90 percent as well as he did in his breakout 2008 campaign. One assumes that James' system didn't actually have to watch Shoppach striking out in every-other at bat all season, and again, one can debate whether that's a plus or a minus for the system.
CABRERA: The most disappointing projection here has Cabrera hitting almost as well as in 2009 rather than taking a step forward. In this case as well, the system is not really differentiating between Cabrera's performance through injuries and his production while healthy, and arguably, we can't, either. Asdrubal had an 877 OPS in April, and he seemed to be starting the big breakout year many had predicted for him. He went 785 the rest of the season to finish at 799 — a fine full season given his all-around game, but not quite what we'd like to see from him.