Saturday, June 6, 2009

First Third Projections - Hitting

[With the completion of Game 54 on Thursday, the regular season is exactly one third over. The sample sizes are getting larger by the day, and it's now getting to the point where it's not exactly too early to be making any assessments.

We can't draw any firm conclusions, but now seems as good a point as any to take a look at some projections. We've done two things here: first we've taken statistics from the first third of the season and done a simple extrapolation for a full season. Below that, we've taken ZIPS (Updated) projections from the awesome FanGraphs. This is easily the better predictor of the two, as it takes into account what each player has already done this year as well as historical performance to project what the end of season numbers will look like.

Here are the 10 most prominent Yankee hitters. For the extrapolation part, adjustments were made to both Jorge Posada and Alex Rodriguez to account for the time both lost to injury. Jay will be back later with pitchers.]

(Click on any chart for a larger view)

Following off-season shoulder surgery, Jorge Posada was perhaps the biggest concern entering the season. His shoulder has been just fine; it was his hamstring that put him on the shelf for a month. When healthy he's been better than can be expected, especially for a 37 year old catcher. ZIPS projects him to fall off from his current torrid pace, but the .921 OPS would be the 4th best of his career.

Teixeira had an awful, awful April followed by an unbelievable May. As such, he's leveled out, and both his extrapolation and ZIPS leave him just about where you'd expect him to be for a full season. ZIPS predicts the power numbers will drop off a bit.

Cano has rebounded nicely from a very poor 2008. Though he's dropped off a bit from his hot start, he still looks likely to finish in a good spot. His refusal to take a walk still dogs him though, as his OBP is slightly below league average despite being a .300 hitter. It is also well below his 2006-2007 numbers. If Cano doesn't improve his walk rate he will continue to be entirely reliant upon his hitting for his offensive value. As such, it'd be nicer to see him in the .320 - .330 range.

Those are good numbers for a 162 game season, nevermind from someone who missed the first month plus. ZIPS sees the AVG getting back up to a more A-Rod like level, and there's no reason to believe that it won't.

It's been a bit of a renaissance for the Captain this year as his line looks good. As it does for others, ZIPS sees his power dropping off from its current pace, but 16 HRs would still be his highest total since 2005. It's interesting to note that despite getting on base at a good clip as the leadoff hitter for a potent offense, Jeter is not a lock for 100 runs.

Hideki Matsui is the streakiest player I've ever seen. Already this season he's been through about two cycles of looking like crap followed by catching fire. ZIPS projects more of the latter the rest of the way and I hope it's right. This is almost certainly Matsui's last hurrah in pinstripes and he deserves to go out on a high note.

Johnny Damon is in a contract year in he's playing like it. He's on pace for 33 HRs, though ZIPS projects a more realistic 23, one short of his career high set in 2006. The .851 OPS predicted by ZIPS would be the 4th highest of Damon's career and his best since 2004. If he can finish out that way I'd gladly give him one year or one plus an option.

Swish hit like Babe Ruth in April and like Ruth Bader Ginsburg in May. He's getting hot again of late. Both the extrapolation and ZIPS predict just about what you'd expect from Swish: slightly below average AVG, great OBP, and good power. I'll gladly take that.

I may not be 100% sold on Melky still, but after his disastrous 2008 I can't be anything but thrilled with his 2009 thus far. Whether it's for real remains to be seen, but he's rebounded nicely and has shown a flair for the dramatic with all his late inning heroics. ZIPS sees him coming back to earth a bit by season's end, but his projected AVG, SLG, and OPS would all be career highs. I'm a little surprised to see his projected OBP that low, but Melky has been taking fewer walks as this season has progressed. Like his buddy Cano, Melky would benefit greatly from more plate discipline. I'd love to see his OBP hold at its current .360 clip, the same mark he posted in 2006.

After a disastrous start that saw him lose the CF job to Melky, Gardner has come on strong of late. He has absolutely zero power, so in order for him to offer any real offensive value he's going to have to get on base at better than the league average rate that ZIPS projects, thereby allowing him to take full advantage of his speed. The problem is that the good OBP skills Gardner displayed in the minors haven't quite translated to MLB. When you're a rookie with no pop pitchers will challenge you, making it much harder to draw a free pass. That said, given his current role on the team, Gardner looks to be doing his job adequately.

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