The Bill James System Projects The 2011 Diamondbacks

The Bill James projection system is always the first out of the box - even before the burnt-out cars in San Francisco had been extinguished, we had their expectations on what we'll be getting from the 2011 Arizona Diamondbacks. In previous years, it has been suggested that they tend to be too optimistic, particularly with regard to hitters. To check that, we've also cranked the wayback machine, and checked how the system projected the 2010 team, in contrast to what they actually produced. Those, and highlights from the 2011 projections, can be found after the jump. What do you think? Optimistic, pessimistic or about right?

Full projections for every player in the majors, on every team, and a lot more content beside, can be found in the Bill James Handbook 2011, which was published on November 1 by Acta Sports. It's available for $24.95 through the publisher's website.

Here are the numbers for our 2011 players, along with the projected and actual numbers taken from this time last year. Players marked with a * changed teams during 2010 (actual numbers are for the entire year), and those in italics were not with the D-backs when the 2010 projections were made. We start with the hitters.



2010 Projected 2010 Actual 2011 Projected
Hitter Age Avg OBP Slg OPS Avg OBP Slg OPS G AB HR RBI Avg OBP Slg OPS
Tony Abreu 26



.233
.244
.318
.560
85 229 3 25 .275 .303 .389 .691
Brandon Allen 25 .271
.338
.485
.823
.267
.393
.400
.793
143 494 24 78 .251 .338 .462 .800
Ryan Church* 32 .271
.342
.425
.768
.201
.265
.352
.616
112 242 6 32 .248 .323 .401 .724
Bobby Crosby* 31 .240
.311
.377
.688
.220
.294
.298
.592
55 111 2 12 .234 .309 .351 .660
Stephen Drew 28 .275
.335
.456
.792
.278
.352
.458
.810
152 596 16 67 .270 .338 .443 .781
Cole Gillespie 27



.231
.283
.365
.649
84 199 5 26 .251 .332 .412 .744
Kelly Johnson 29 .274
.354
.445
.799
.284
.370
.496
.865
146 522 19 65 .268 .354 .460 .813
Adam LaRoche 31 .271
.348
.485
.833
.261
.320
.468
.788
149 536 24 86 .261 .333 .470 .803
Miguel Montero 27 .275
.344
.458
.801
.266
.332
.438
.770
116 403 14 58 .273 .343 .447 .790
Gerardo Parra 24 .297
.351
.428
.779
.261
.308
.371
.679
141 405 5 45 .289 .339 .415 .754
Mark Reynolds 27 .268
.356
.551
.907
.198
.320
.468
.788
150 529 35 94 .233 .337 .490 .826
Justin Upton 23 .293
.371
.534
.904
.273
.356
.442
.799
143 534 23 82 .287 .371 .498 .869
Chris Young 27 .245
.326
.463
.789
.257
.341
.452
.793
154 569 25 78 .246 .330 .455 .785

While this is a small sample size, there does seem evidence that, for hitters, the James projections are optimistic. Of the batters for whom we have numbers, five fell 96 points or more short of the predicted 2010 number, five were within 50 points of expectations either way, while only Kelly Johnson over-performed by a significant margin, at +66 points. A good chunk of that is likely park factors, given the projections were made before anyone knew he'd be playing at Chase - where his 2010 OPS was .976. The unweighted average over all eleven was a projected OPS 54 points higher than actually achieved.

Looking at the numbers for 2011, a few numbers do stand out. As noted previously, the projection gives almost the same numbers for Brandon Allen as Adam LaRoche - the latter, of course, will not have his option exercised by Arizona. The system also seems very down on Tony Abreu, and even if this year's model is less optimistic than 2010's, Gillespie and Parra are not going to be the answer in left-field for the Diamondbacks. Drew and Johnson are seen as regressing somewhat, while Reynolds and, in particular, Upton are expected to rebound, which I certainly hope is true. However, the 2011 projections are 81 and 35 points respectively below those for 2010.



2010 Projected 2010 Actual 2011 Projected
Pitcher Age IP ERA WHIP IP ERA WHIP IP ERA WHIP
Blaine Boyer 29 57.0
4.74
1.58
57.0
4.26
1.54
60 4.65 1.57
D.J. Carrasco* 34 90.0
4.90
1.54
78.1
3.68
1.30
72 4.50 1.50
Sam Demel* 25


37.0
5.35
1.46
45 3.40 1.33
Barry Enright 25


99.0
3.91
1.27
144 4.50 1.35
Juan Gutierrez 27 68.0
4.76
1.49
56.2
5.08
1.38
56 4.82 1.48
Aaron Heilman 32 72.0
3.86
1.35
72.0
4.50
1.38
72 4.00 1.35
Daniel Hudson 24


79.2
1.69
0.84
201 3.85 1.35
Ian Kennedy 26


194.0
3.80
1.20
194 3.66 1.27
Rodrigo Lopez 35


200.0
5.00
1.42
84 5.04 1.46
Joe Saunders* 30 178.0
4.15
1.36
203.1
4.47
1.46
215 4.27 1.38
Esmerling Vasquez 27 54.0
4.67
1.52
53.2
5.20
1.56
52 4.67 1.52
Brandon Webb 32 180.0
3.40
1.24



179 3.42 1.25
Dontrelle Willis* 29


65.2
5.62
1.95
33 4.64 1.52

The rise of young guns like Hudson, Kennedy and Enright caught James by surprise, with none of them appearing in the 2010 projections - then again, neither did Rodrigo Lopez, and they expected Brandon Webb to throw 180 innings. I'm looking forward to tha...oh, never mind. Interestingly, the system projects Webb to be at almost exactly the same numbers again in 2011. Though now, it's almost certain to be with someone else. That would hurt, but I would be prepared to bet Webb will fall short of 180 IP and/or a 3.42 ERA. We only have six players with projections and actual performance: two had lower ERAs than expected, four higher, so impossible to say much from that.

Looking at the projections, our rotation would seem pretty solid, if these numbers come to pass. Using our rule of thumb guidelines, Hudson and Kennedy would profile as #2 starters, with Saunders and Enright as #3's. Even if we plug in Lopez or an equivalent Lopez-alike at the back-end, that doesn't suck. With three of the four only in their sophomore seasons, and Jarrod Parker languidly breaking the surface, the Diamondbacks' rotation will hopefully take care of itself to a large extent for the next few seasons.

As for the bullpen, the "Sam Demel for closer" campaign appears to be well under way, with these projections waving a banner at the fore-front, predicting a better ERA for him than Brandon Webb. Indeed, it's basically the same number expected from Francisco Cordero (3.33), who has saved more games since 2007 than anyone else in the majors bar K-Rod. Much as I like Demel, and think he will be a useful part of the 'pen next season, I doubt even the most die-hard of fans would not put Sam at the same level as Cordero. The rest of our relievers' numbers seem less implausible, in the 4.50-5.00 range. After last year, I'd probably settle for that.

Early days of course. If you compare the team we ended 2009 with, to the team we had on Opening Day 2010, it's clear how much things can change over the course of the winter.

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