ZiP It! The Outfield Edition
By Sean Davis
There are many sources one can seek to try to predict the future in baseball, Baseball Prospectus is famous for their annual handbook with projections for every player imaginable, advanced stat pioneer Bill James has his own method, and Fangraphs has their ZiPs projections. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, which I won’t even think about delving into at this juncture. I like the ZiPs projections so that will be the basis for this and the following articles in this series.
October 3, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics left fielder Yoenis Cespedes (52) returns to the dugout against the Texas Rangers during the first inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
As we officially turn the page from football season to baseball season, it’s time to rev up the hype for the glorious 162 game schedule that is the MLB season. We’ve spent half the offseason looking back at the amazing 2012 season, and half of it trying to make sense of what the 2013 season may bring. Now it’s time to take a hard look at each player and determine what the computer models have to say about the A’s, and I’ll throw in my own projection as I channel my inner NostraDavis.
In this edition I’ll keep to the projected outfielders for the Athletics, but I’ll examine every facet of the team in the coming days as we try to piece together the 2013 season.
Yoenis Cespedes: 625 PA, .273/.338/.452, 23 HR, .179 ISO, .343 wOBA, 117 OPS+
Josh Reddick: 614 PA, .243/.300/.430, 22 HR, .187 ISO, .311 wOBA, 99 OPS+
Coco Crisp: 462 PA, .263/.322/.400, 8 HR, .137 ISO, .320 wOBA, 99 OPS+
Chris Young: 525 PA, .225/.319/.392, 16 HR, .167 ISO, .314 wOBA, 96 OPS+
Seth Smith: 445 PA, .242/.324/.411, 13 HR, .169 ISO, .314 wOBA, 102 OPS+
So it’s safe to say ZiPs isn’t terribly friendly to the Athletics outfielders for the most part, but some of the numbers do look like they’re just about where we’d expect them to be. The one true bone I have to pick with these numbers would have to be what they think will happen with Yoenis Cespedes. Essentially they don’t expect him to make any progress whatsoever from 2012 to 2013. I can’t say I understand that. I believe we saw just a glimpse of what Cespedes is capable of, and after having experienced the grueling MLB season already. A .290/.350/.500 line with 30 bombs and close to 100 RBI (I know, I know RBI is stupid) is well within reach. Cespedes is a budding star, not the slightly above average player ZiPs thinks he’ll be.
Josh Reddick’s projection falls just about exactly what I expected it to be. After his smoking hot start to the season, shades of the real Josh Reddick came into focus during the latter half as he fell into some terrible habits that zapped just about all of his production. I do think the power is legitimate to a degree though, and I would expect him to eclipse the 25 HR mark still, but the slash line shown above seems about right. Coco Crisp is the spark plug of this offense, his value to the team goes beyond just what is measured by the numbers. The chances are good that he’ll miss some time, so I think the projections are just about right on point.
New face Chris Young will likely experience a bit of an adjustment period to the American League, but he’s been around enough that he should be able to make that adjustment successfully. He’s never been a guy to post a high batting average, which will drag down some of his on base numbers, but the lack of power seems a bit odd. It appears like the 16 home runs total from the ZiPs computer may have been influenced by the 2009 season in which Young had only 501 plate appearances and went deep 15 times that year. Give him another 24 PAs and he’ll go deep once more perhaps? In every other season he’s played more than 140 games he’s gone deep at least 20 times, I expect him to get into the lineup a whole lot and the power production will increase. I expect him to reach that 20 homer plateau with ease.
Seth Smith is the 5th outfielder for the A’s, and will likely see time at DH as well. His projections seem to be the most generous of the group, and I think they’re justified. Smith will serve as something of an outfield utility man, and he’ll contribute a lot to the success of the 2013 Athletics. I see his projections as a floor for what he’ll bring to the table, an uptick in those numbers wouldn’t surprise me in the least.
On paper it doesn’t necessarily look like this is the outfield that will defend the division title, but the A’s are a classic case of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Next in the series I’ll examine the starting rotation, the part of the team that carried them to the 2012 AL West title.