The first half of the Cleveland Indians' 2016 season was tremendous, there is no way around it. The team ripped off a 14-game winning streak to set a new club record, they are entering the All-Star break with a 52-36 record and a 6.5-game lead in the American League Central -- the largest lead in any AL division, and just about everyone is contributing in meaningful ways. Even the most optimistic projection systems such as FanGraphs, who had the Indians winning the AL Central, could not have predicted the team would be this good.
With any greater-than-expected stretch of games, there are bound to be some players hitting or pitching well above their heads. The Indians have had several such surprises, especially on offense.
I was one of the many Tribe fans excited for the Mike Napoli signing, but I did not envision him to be quite the offensive powerhouse and clubhouse influence that he has been. Even Rajai Davis, who was one of the quieter signings this offseason, looks like money well spent in the first half of the season.
But with all that said, the ugly "r-word" is likely to rear its ugly head at some point. No, not "Royals," but "regression." There is a decent chance that a couple Tribe batters will come back to earth over the final 74 games as the team -- hopefully -- hurtles towards a postseason birth.
To find out just who will regress and how much, we will turn to both ZiPS and Steamer over the next few days to maybe get a glimpse at who could be in for a rough couple of months. Both systems are available at the bottom of their respective player pages on FanGraphs, both update with new information daily, and all numbers are current as of July 11.
Yan Gomes, C
|2016 First Half||254||8||0||3.5%||27.2%||.193||.166||.201||.315||31||-0.5|
Not exactly the most thrilling place to start, but I was determined to go around the diamond with this and damnit I'm sticking to it.
Yan Gomes has been a train wreck all season long. Whether it is due to an eye issue, a mechanics issue, or something else, the bottom line is that Yan just cannot catch a break with his bat right now. Of all the Indians batters, if anyone is due for some positive regression it is their catcher.
Both ZiPS and Steamer have Yan's abysmal .193 BABIP improving significantly, and his slash line becoming almost respectable as a result. Taking the optimistic route and assuming Gomes is worth 0.6 wins as Steamer suggests, his 0.1 FanGraphs WAR at the end of the season would be the lowest of his career since his rookie season with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Gomes' defense has been incredible so far this season, worth a 7.7 rating from FanGraphs, but ZiPS and Steamer both see that regressing to 4.6 and 4.8, respectively.
It will not take much for Yan to look better in the second half than he did in the first, but if Roberto Perez can come back healthy and ready to play by August, Gomes may never make it to the 182 plate appearances projected by Steamer, let alone ZiPS' 200.
Mike Napoli, 1B
|2016 First Half||355||18||3||11.0%||33.5%||.326||.243||.327||.466||111||0.4|
For all the excitement Napoli has provided in the first half of the season -- with his bat and off the field -- it's a bit of a surprise that he has only been worth 0.4 FanGraphs WAR. That disparity can mostly be attributed to the fact that he has struck out in one-third of his at-bats.
The 33.5 percent strikeout rate Napoli had in the first half would be the worst of his career, which is especially surprising given the 25.2 percent of at-bats he struck out last season -- it looked like he was finally getting a handle on his strikeout issues in 2015. His 11.0 percent walk rate would also be the worst of his career since 2010.
ZiPS and Steamer normalize both of those issues a bit, dropping his strikeout rate to around 30 percent -- which is still over Napoli's 27.0 percent career strikeout rate -- and raising his walk rate to 12.4 percent, right at his career average.
Napoli's power dwindling as the projections suggest would be disappointing, but a .441 slugging percentage and 10 home runs seems fair. Even with two more home runs, Steamer has his slugging percentage dropping all the way to .422.
Jason Kipnis, 2B
|2016 First Half||380||14||5||7.9%||20.8%||.319||.276||.335||.475||115||2.9|
Jason Kipnis quietly had a great first-half of the season. In fact, it was one of the best first halves of his career. Last year, when he absolutely decimated the month of May and had an .889 OPS in the first half, was obviously his best, but his 2016 campaign so far does not rank far behind. At the very least, Kipnis' strong start puts him on the path to debunking the "every other year" theory with the second baseman.
Kipnis' first-half .475 slugging percentage is third on the team behind only Tyler Naquin and Carlos Santana. Both projection systems have that coming down quite a bit, with Steamer once again being especially pessimistic with his future power.
Unless something terrible happens in the next week, Kipnis is almost guaranteed to set a new personal-best for home runs. His current high stands at 17, which he hit in his breakout 2013 campaign. ZiPS and Steamer both have him ending the season with 21 long balls. Still not 30 dingerz, though.
Francisco Lindor, SS
|2016 First Half||382||10||13||8.6%||13.1%||.326||.306||.363||.460||119||4.1|
Francisco Lindor, First of His Name, King of Defense, King of the Doubles and the Clutch Hits, Slayer of Projections.
I am convinced at this point that projection systems just have no idea what to do with Frankie. It is also becoming apparent that Lindor really was just bored in the minor leagues and his focus never came until he reached the majors. Projection systems cannot really account for that, so they are still playing off of his lowly minor league numbers. As a result, they are constantly screaming "REGRESSION" like my calves are screaming "PLEASE STOP" after five-straight hours of Pokemon GO farming.
ZiPS and Steamer have both thrown up their hands and decided that Lindor's BABIP will hardly drop, but his on-base percentage and slugging percentages will plummet because reasons. We are still a couple years off we will be able to really get much out of Lindor's projections, but for now it's fun to watch them be so, so wrong.
Juan Uribe, 3B
|2016 First Half||231||7||0||6.5%||18.2%||.236||.218||.273||.360||66||0.6|
As much as I love Juan Uribe's positive impact on the clubhouse and his general personality, I just cannot imagine a spot for him on a winning baseball team moving forward. His time may be up as soon as Michael Brantley returns and Jose Ramirez shifts to full third-base duties or, at the very least, when/if Yandy Diaz is ready to make his major-league debut.
ZiPS and Steamer seem to agree, as they have him improving slightly over his disappointing first half, but not enough to warrant as many plate appearances as he saw in the first three months of the season. Steamer even has a stolen base, because sure why not.
Carlos Santana, DH
|2016 First Half||382||20||4||13.1%||14.1%||.245||.253||.351||.497||126||2.1|
There is no hiding the fact that myself and the majority (all?) of the Let's Go Tribe staff love us some Carlos Santana. He draws the ire of many Indians fans because he *only* draws walks, but this season he is hitting with more power than ever before. Steamer has him actually getting better.
Better is mostly subjective, of course. If you want Carlos to hit straight home runs and nothing else, you may consider his projections worse. You are wrong, but there is nothing stopping you from being wrong. Steamer has him hitting fewer home runs in the second half (but still over that mythical 30 dinger mark), but is on-base percentage rises to .367 and his walk rate goes up a full 2.4 percent.
There has been a legitimate change in Carlos' plate approach this season, so I could see him avoiding striking out at the rate both projection systems have him at. His career strikeout rate is 17.7 percent, but I would not be surprised to see him best that this season. I would also not be surprised to see him beat his career-best 16.6 percent strikeout rate in 2012, even if he walks quite a bit less.
Chris Gimenez, C
|2016 First Half||87||2||0||5.7%||25.3%||.224||.185||.230||.272||31||-0.5|
Nice try, not-Roberto-Perez.