Gather 'round, boys and girls. Our robot overlords have bestowed upon us the greatest blessing that any semi-sentient being possibly could: Baseball projections. That's right, Thursday afternoon FanGraphs officially added the 2016 Steamer projections and they are chock full of numbers to make your prepare for the worst when it comes to the Cleveland Indians 2016 chances. Projection systems, especially Steamer, are notoriously modest in their predictions, but wow. They do not like the Indians.
Because it would be too easy for me to just give you the numbers without throwing my words into it this is going to split into a series of posts, starting with the infielders today, the outfielders tomorrow, and the pitchers the next day. Alternatively you could just ignore everything in the text below, read the results for yourself at FanGraphs, and skip right to the comments but c’mon don’t be like that.
The 2014 Silver Slugger certainly did not have a very metallic hitting year in 2015. Most likely (hopefully?) due to an injury that sidelined him for much of the year, Gomes was only worth 0.8 fWAR in 2015, getting on base at a career-low .267 clip and hitting only 12 home runs. Luckily, Steamer has him rebounding… sort of.
If indeed robots are getting smarter and they predict Gomes’ 2016 on the nose, it would still not be up to his 2014, 4.5 fWAR campaign or even his 3.3 fWAR the previous year. His .249/.293/.417 slash also does not instill much confidence, although the 16 home runs would be a nice bonus (and also the second-highest total of his career). The majority of his Steamer value comes from defense, which is a 13.6 on FanGraphs’ scale--compared to 12.4 in 2014 and 11.6 in 2013.
Steamer also has Yan "The Flash" Gomes stealing a single base in 2015. Okay.
Why you gotta do this, Steamer? I spend all of 2015 swatting away negative Twitter users calling for Santana’s head, dedicated way too many words to just calm talks of him being traded, or even cut, and you go and project him to have an even worse season next year.
Offensively, this would be a pretty ideal season for Santana, honestly. It would be the same "type" of season as 2015, in that he hits a lot of home runs, gets on base a lot, but does not get a lot of hits--as his low average compared to his high walk rate would imply. I guess the only difference, as far as fan perception of him, would be how well he hits "in the clutch," which Steamer does not predict because it’s not really a skill. Weird how that works.
Santana’s 117 wRC+ would be better than 2015’s wRC+ of 110, but lower than any other year of his career.
Steamer’s projection of Jason Kipnis is basically as if it watches Kipnis play in 2015 and just ignores May altogether. The robots that be have him hitting 11 home runs, which would be his highest total since 2013, but the rest of his offense takes a steep hit from his great 2015 campaign.
Nothing is quite as bad as his dreaded 2014 season, but Kipnis is projected to see his on-base percentage dip to .341 (down from .372 in 2015), and his strikeout rate rises by nearly 2%. Steamer also realizes that a lot of Kipnis’ 2015 success was due to an inflated BABIP of .356, so it knocks it down a peg to .314.
In reality, Steamer is probably looking at his last three seasons, throwing up its hands and throwing a statistical projection dart somewhere in the middle of them.
This projection is a particular surprise to me, in a good way. Seeing how Steamer usually hates breakout rookies who play way above their minor league numbers, I assumed Lindor would be thrown into its mathematical maw, chewed up, and spit back out with nightmare-inducing expectations.
Instead, it has Lindor at what most everyone expected from the 21-year-old when he first came up in June. It is almost hard to remember now after Lindor was one of the best offensive players in the ENTIRE American League since the All-Star break, but he is not an offensive-first prospect. Lindor made his way through the minors and into the hearts of scouts and fans overwhelmingly on his defense. Steamer projects the defense to still be there, obviously, but they knock his offensive numbers down to a more reasonable .268/.318/.390 slash with eight home runs.
That kind of offensive production would not surprise me one bit for Lindor in his sophomore season, but with sports fans being the rational beasts that they are, would have a lot of people calling for his head. There is also the very exciting possibility that something really did click when he made it to the Indians (maybe through the power of electric scooter boards), and he can be one of the best all-around shortstops in the league. Until 2016 rolls around that is my theory and I am sticking to it.
Is Giovanny Urshela actually going to be the Indians starting third baseman for the majority of 2016? I don’t know, you don’t know, Steamer doesn’t know.
Like Lindor, Urshela’s main draw is his defense at the hot corner. Steamer was even nice enough to give him a small offensive boost, with his OBP skyrocketing to .283, compared to .279 in 2015. However, if the Indians sign or trade for a third baseman in the offseason, Steamer wasted all this time calculating for nothing. Take that you filthy cyborgs.
(Steamer projections update through the offseason. All numbers in this article are based on 10/23 projections)