A Preliminary Look at the 2010 AL East Offenses - Part 1

I was fortunate enough to get a preview of Bill James' 2010 hitter and pitcher projections, which will be coming out as part of his handbook on November 1st. If you want to buy the handbook (which I wholly recommend), you can order it from the ACTA Sports webpage, or at Amazon.com or the like. The handbook includes a lot more than just the batter and pitcher projections; it's a real treasure. I haven't seen the 2010 version yet as it's not released but I've read past years' versions and they rock.

If you're unfamiliar with Bill James' player projections, he releases them every year for current players and prospects that could get playing time. They're all based on past performance and what James considers to be the natural extension of what they've already proven they can do. For the players with little or no major league experience, he doesn't attempt to make a determination on if they will play in 2010, just a determination of how they will do if the team brings them up. The example he uses in his introduction is actually regarding Josh Bell:

What we should do is try to answer this question: If this player plays, how will he play? If Joshua Bell opens the 2010 season as the Baltimore Orioles third baseman, what will he hit? That's the question we should be focused on. Whether Bell will or will not get a chance to play next season, when his chance might come. . .we don't have a fair chance to get that one right. Our job is to figure out how good he will be, when and if his ticket arrives.

I thought it'd be fun to do a little AL East comparison by position using the projections. For the most part they won't take into account any changes the Orioles or other AL East teams hope to make before the 2010 starts. It should give a pretty good indicator of the biggest areas of needs for the O's (not that we don't already know them, really) as well as where they actually match up well in the division.

This will be part one of the discussion, focusing on C, 1B, and 2B. Part two will cover SS, 3B, and DH, and part 3 will tackle the outfield.

Oh, and I said that for the most part I won't try to account for any changes, but I've taken a few liberties. One is to insert Josh Bell at 3B, even though I think we all know it's unlikely he'll start 2010 there. James' projections include Melvin Mora and Ty Wigginton, but there's no way I'm even considering Mora back at 3B, and I don't want to talk about Wiggy. I also made two other speculative changes that you'll see when the time comes. Suspense!!

See the good stuff below the jump.

Catcher

Shall we start with the best? Matt Wieters finished 2009 on a tear and looks poised to break out in 2010. And Bill James? Well he pretty much agrees (of course he thought that last year as well).

Matt Wieters
 G
AB
H 2B HR
R
RBI
RC
BB
K
AVG
OBP
SLG
OPS
James '09 Projections
118
416
127
22
21
72
64
81
67
56
.305
.402
.519
.921
Wieters '09 Stats
96
354
102
15
9
35
43
46.5
28
86
.288
.340
.412
.752
James '10 Projections
148
547
170
29
20
75
92
101
61
112
.311
.381
.484
.865

To be fair to James' '09 projections, pretty much every projection of Matt Wieters for 2009 was a little bit absurd. PECOTA practically inducted him into the HoF with its numbers. It was as though all of the statistically oriented minds were taken over by fanboys when it came to Matt Wieters in 2009. Of course his numbers would have been very difficult to predict given that he hadn't played beyond AA when the predictions were made, but still. The projections for 2010 are still pretty lofty but I think attainable by our golden boy. For reference, in the past ten seasons there have been 21 times when a catcher has had an OPS of .865 or greater. In 2009, only Joe Mauer had an OPS over .865. In fact, if Wieters had put up the 2010 projections this year, only Joe Mauer would have had better numbers than him at C, and Mauer had the most ridiculous year ever. And honestly, maybe it's just me, but I think the HR prediction might be a little low. Don't get me wrong, I'd be thrilled with 20. But I think he can do better.

Wieters easily has the best projections of any of the other catchers in the AL East, and I look forward to seeing just how much better he'll be in 2010.

James '10 Proj.
G
AB
H
2B
HR
R
RBI
RC
BB
K
AVG
OBP
SLG
OPS
Jorge Posada
116
420
116
26
18
59
74
72
60
104
.276
.372
.467
.839
Victor Martinez
150
560
167
36
19
78
97
97
67
74
.298
.377
.464
.841
Gregg Zaun
88
244
58
13
7
29
29
30
33
44
.238
.333
.377
.710
Rod Barajas
114
366
85
20
14
41
52
40
20
67
.232
.278
.402
.679


For the Rays, Dioner Navarro was actually projected for more playing time (110 games), but I just can't imagine the Rays using him as their everyday catcher. ZAUN is a lot older, but he's better. Rod Barajas...is not good, but the Jays don't really have anyone in the system to replace him right now. Posada is good, of course, but he'll be 38 in 2010. Eventually that has to start mattering for him. And Victor Martinez is a huge upgrade over Jason Varitek, sadly. If these four plus Wieters are the 5 starting catchers in the AL East in 2010, Wieters, at age 24, will not only be the best catcher in the division, he'll also be the only one under age 30. Verdict: WIETERS!

First Base

After the euphoria of the Orioles catching situation, here's the cold reality: The Orioles need a first baseman, and bad. In-house the Orioles have a few options. Luke Scott proved an adequate fielder in the short time he spent there in 2009 but his Jekyll and Hyde act at the plate gets tiresome. Michael Aubrey is great with the glove and while his bat showed some promise, my personal opinion is that he's our new Oscar Salazar: useful, but not an answer. Down in the minors Brandon Snyder is hoping to win the job and I'd have to think it's on the mind of Rhyne Hughes as well. I'd like nothing more than for Brandon Snyder to step up and earn the job, but even if he does that I don't believe it will be out of spring training. So for the meantime I have to think they'll go with Luke Scott at 1B for 2010, at least until another solution is found.

Luke Scott
G
AB
H
2B
HR
R
RBI
RC
BB
K
AVG
OBP
SLG
OPS
James '09 Projections
142
476
130
31
25
69
79
75.9
57
98
.273
.354
.508
.862
Scott '09 Stats
128
449
116
26
25
61
77
71.6
55
104
.258
.340
.488
.828
James '10 Projections
142
463
120
29
24
64
76
76
56
109
.259
.342
.486
.828


So James expects Luke to basically have the same exact year that he did in 2009. Fair enough. Luke is pretty much at the stage of his career where he is who he is. And honestly, if he could come by those numbers in a more even fashion I'd be happy with them. But he's hard to rely on when he hits like Babe Ruth for two months and Brandon Fahey for two months. I'm not totally unhappy with Luke playing 1B for the O's in 2010 as long as he's not looked at as any kind of permanent solution.

James '10 Proj. G
AB
H
2B
HR
R
RBI
RC
BB
K
AVG
OBP
SLG
OPS
Mark Teixeira
156
596
179
42
36
191
121
129
84
113
.300
.395
.559
.953
Kevin Youkilis
149
557
161
42
23
98
95
105
85
128
.289
.394
.492
.885
Carlos Pena
148
530
127
27
36
88
99
93
93
176
.240
.360
.498
.858
Lyle Overbay
140
460
123
34
15
60
63
73
65
100
.267
.359
.443
.803


Ah, Carlos Pena. I often think of that commenter here by the name of Wade Boggs Hair who loved Carlos Pena. You guys remember him? He was the president of the Carlos Pena fan club before Pena signed with the Rays. After we later learned that Pena almost came to the Orioles and they couldn't work out a deal (what could he have been asking for, really, the the O's wouldn't give him but the Rays would??), it was a major bummer. If only it had worked out. sigh. VERDICT: At least it's not Kevin Millar

Second Base

The Orioles stalwart. The veteran. With Melvin Mora out of the picture, Brian Roberts takes his place as the longest tenured Oriole, and the only one to have been with the team prior to 2006. With all of the changes to the Orioles in the past few years, Brian remains our comfort. 2010 will be Brian's 10th in the majors, all of which have been losers. When the Orioles finally rid themselves of their losing ways Brian Roberts probably won't know what to do with himself. Actually there is no doubt in my mind that when the time comes for this team to be in a pennant race, old man Brian Roberts will be leading the charge and playing like we've never seen him. Here are Brian's numbers:

Brian Roberts
G
AB
H
2B
HR
R
RBI
SB/CS
BB
K
AVG
OBP
SLG
OPS
James '09 Projections
156
623
176
44
10
100
58
36/12
79
99
.283
.364
.414
.778
Roberts '09 stats
159
632
179
56
16
110
79
30/7
74
112
.283
.356
.451
.807
James '10 projections
159
630
177
47
12
103
65
30/10
78
108
.281
.361
.422
.783


Roberts is steady in his production. James always pegs Brian to have less power than he does. I'm not sure why since he's had an SLG less than .432 once since 2005, and that was in 2006 when he was returning from that awful arm injury. He slugged right around .450 in both 2008 and 2009 but James continues to project him low. I feel like we always know what we're going to get from Brian, and it's nice to have one less thing to worry about. He's one of the leading 2B in the American League, although unfortunately you could also say that about several 2Bs in the AL East.

James '10 Proj. G
AB
H
2B
HR
R
RBI
SB/CS
BB
K
AVG
OBP
SLG
OPS
Robinson Cano
161
624
193
46
20
89
87
4/3
32
69
.309
.347
.489
.836
Dustin Pedroia
156   
623
191
50
15
109
75
16/6
66
43
.307
.378
.465
.843
Ben Zobrist
153
509
143
28
23
86
75
15/6
84
93
.281
.385
.491
.876
Aaron Hill
138   
540
153
35
20
78
76
5/2
40
78
.283
.337
.463
.800


I'll be honest, the Rays roster confuses the hell out of me. 2009 started with Akinori Iwamura as the starting 2B with Ben Zobrist playing RF/UTIL/Bench. Aki went down with an injury and Zobrist took over 2B pretty much full time and ended up having just a monster year. With Zobrist at 2B the RF duties were left to the Gabe of the Day platoon, neither of which were anything special. Initially I imagined that Iwamura would return to 2B in 2010 with Zobrist going back to RF. I did some snooping around on DRaysBay though and they seem to be of the consensus that Aki's option won't be picked up and Zobrist will return to 2B. 

Anyway, the projections have every other AL East 2B as having a better year than Brian Roberts, pretty much. I'm not sure I buy that, especially for Zobrist and Hill. Zobrist will be 29 in 2010 and just played his first full season in the majors. Even though the James projection predicts he'll have a regression, the numbers are still high enough to give me pause. He could be a late bloomer, I suppose, but there just isn't enough evidence to give me much confidence in him. And don't even get me started on Aaron Hill. If he has an OPS of .800 or more in 2010 I'll eat my shoe.

You know what bugs me about Dustin Pedroia? The way everyone acts like, "Look at this little dude coming along and showing everyone what he can do!" Please. Brian Roberts was doing that for years before Pedroia came along, although with hardly any attention.

Don't get me wrong. I know that Pedroia is a more valuable player than Brian Roberts. Most of the value is in his age (he's also, by all accounts, NOT a lollygagger). He puts up slightly better numbers than Roberts, but five years earlier in his career. That's a pretty big deal, especially since it's how he started his career. But it doesn't explain why Pedroia is so much more revered when looked at in a single season scope. Behold the numbers:

2007
AVG
OBP
SLG
OPS
OPS+
H
2B
HR
SB/CS
Roberts
.290
.377
.432
.808
112
180
42
12
50/7
Pedroia
.317 .380
.442
.823
112
165
39
8
7/1
2008
AVG
OBP
SLG
OPS
OPS+
H
2B
HR
SB/CS
Roberts
.296
.378
.450
.828
117
181
51
9
40/10
Pedroia
.326
.376
.493
.869
122
213
54
17
20/1
2009
AVG
OBP
SLG
OPS
OPS+
H
2B
HR
SB/CS
Roberts
.283
.356
.451
.807
108
179
56
16
30/7
Pedroia
.296
.371
.445
.819
108
185
48
15
20/8


I was sure to include the OPS+ in there, since they're identical in 2007 and 2009. It's easier to hit in Fenway Park? You don't say! Yeah, Pedroia gets more hits than Roberts, but check out the OBP. Pretty close. Add in Brian's base stealing prowess and the margin tightens even more. Like I said, if I'm looking for a guy on my team for the next 10 years, yeah, I go with Pedroia (or Cano for that matter, who I've completely ignored). But for 2010? Brian Roberts suits me just fine. VERDICT: He's not the flashiest, but I stand by Brian Bob. (oh, and Dustin Pedroia? Brian's 2005 season laughs in the face of your 2008 MVP season)

With three positions down, I'd say the O's look pretty good comparatively. They just gotta find a legit 1B. They really haven't had one since Palmeiro's first tour (no offense Jeff Conine!),

Next up will be a look at Shortstop, Third Base, and Designated Hitter (warning, this one is a lot uglier).

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