Between Michael Brantley’s injuries, Brandon Moss slumping and Michael Bourn being in an obvious decline, the outfield has been a rough spot for the Cleveland Indians so far in 2015. It has been saved by some degree thanks to Brantley finding his bat more often than not, and the combination of Ryan Raburn and David Murphy providing a solid spot in the lineup night in and night out (even if their defense leaves something to be desired).
If ZiPS and Steamer are any indications, the tables are set to flip, with some slumping outfielders getting a boost, and some great first-half outfielders hitting some rough patches. And, well, Michael Bourn will still be Michael Bourn.
Yesterday we checked out the Tribe infield, including how defensive phenom Francisco Lindor is projected to perform in the second half of the season, and today we are looking at the tumultuous outfield.
Michael Brantley, OF
Despite looking great for weeks at a time, Brantley is not projected to out-perform his 6.3 WAR 2014 season. Granted, he's playing in fewer games -- many of which are worse thanks to a lingering back injury -- but he is not likely to reach that 155 wRC+ that he recorded last year. ZiPS and Steamer have him pretty even compared to his first-half numbers (.292/.364/.420, 121 wRC+), just exchanging some on-base ability for extra-base hits. The 10.7% walk rate he is currently sporting would be a career high if he could keep it up all season, but his second-half projections have him coming back down closer to his 7.7 career BB%.
Michael Bourn, OF
Michael Bourn has been atrocious. There's no way around that fact, but both project models see him improving quite a bit. He had a great May (like every player on the Indians) where he had a wRC+ of 118, but outside of that he's been bad and getting worse. If Bourn can live up to these lofty projections, it would be great news for the Tribe. Considering he's been worth -0.5 WAR so far this year, anything would be a benefit, especially a .337 slugging percentage. That power still isn't great, but it'd be much better than his current .268.
Despite the lower walk rate, Bourn is projected to increase his .294 OBP. This is, curiously enough because he is projected to have a BABIP of .326, up from his current .301. As much as I want to optimistic about the second half of the season, this projection, in particular, feels like a case of the models relying on his old numbers, while not accounting for his obvious production drop.
Brandon Moss, OF
The projections love themselves some Brandon Moss. He has had a down year thus far, so at least a little bit of a bounce back is expected. Steamer, in particular, is on the Moss bandwagon, projecting him to be worth 1.3 in the second half of the season alone, complete with a .026 bump to his OBP and big SLG boost. If he can manage another 13-14 home runs as expected, it would bring his yearly total to 27-28, which would be the second-highest total of his career.
And they each throw in a stolen base as well. Sure, why not.
David Murphy, OF
The first half of the Murphy/Raburn platoon had a great first half of the season. Steamer appears to think that Murphy will be utilized a lot less than ZiPS does - a whole 21 games less. Other than that, both models have him falling off considerably from his 137 wRC+ first half, which does not seem like a stretch.
Steamer has a higher projected WAR by 0.1 because it thinks Murphy will be slightly less awful on defense. ZiPS has him at -5.2 while Steamer has him at -2.7. Not pretty either way.
Ryan Raburn, OF
ZiPS and Steamer both see Ryan Raburn being used a lot less than he was in the first half of the season. They also have his offensive performance dropping off considerably, down from his first half 152 wRC+. Despite being worth 1.1 WAR so far this season, he is projected to be reduced to a barely above-average player. His .382 OBP is projected to plummet, and his power numbers drop more than .100 from his first half .525 SLG.
I am a little optimistic about Raburn than these projections are, only because he has been so good in the first half. This is the first year he has been so strictly platooned, and it has really helped Raburn succeed, which is something the raw numbers are not accounting for. Even his .348 BABIP, which is a bit high, is not absurd, so I cannot him dropping off so dramatically.