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Too soon to look forward? Not according to Bill James...

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The ink may not yet be dry on the 2008 season as yet, with the champagne still awaiting the winners of the Phillies-Rays/Sox World Series, which begins next week. But we already have the first set of projections for next season, courtesy of the 2009 Bill James Handbook, whose distributors, Acta Sports Publishing, were kind enough to send us some extracts earlier this week, though the full beast isn't due out until November 1st [you can pre-order a copy here]. As well as the projections, that will contain a wealth of other information, including the Fielding Bible Awards and analysis of both base-running and manufactured runs. Based on what I've seen, it looks likely to contain enough information to keep us going through the cold, dark winter - okay, in Arizona, that'd be "slightly cool, less blindingly bright winter."

Half the fun of projections, as we've seen here over the past week, is looking back at the ones made at the start of the season, and wincing in embarrassment at how far off you were in some cases. James doesn't shy away from that, cheerfully admitting that their Andruw Jones prediction - 34 HR, 103 RBI - "has to be the worst projection we have ever published." I was especially amused to see James 'fess up to being "inexplicably dense" about Carlos Quentin - hardly alone there - and pointing out "We had about the same projection last year for Carlos Quentin that we did for Dan Ortmeier, which brings up an interesting question: Who, exactly, is Dan Ortmeier?"

Obviously, no system which attempts to predict the results of human behavior is ever going to be perfect, but that doesn't mean its fun to try. So, after the jump - because the projection needs more space than can be found in a narrow front-page column - you'll find the batting and pitching numbers expected for the major Arizona players in 2009. I've omitted a couple I either don't think will be with us [such as Clark and, hopefully, Burke] or only in minor roles [Romero and Salazar] but have also included a couple that probably won't be, in the shape of Hudson and Dunn, so we can see what we'll be missing out on. This is also only a subset of the data included in the book, which also includes things like Runs Created and Caught Stealing, omitted here for space and legibility reasons.

        Age  AB   H 2B 3B HR   R RBI  BB  SO SB  Avg  OBP  Slg  OPS
Byrnes 33 540 139 32 3 18 79 66 44 92 20 .257 .319 .428 .747
Drew 26 560 156 36 7 19 78 66 47 93 4 .279 .336 .470 .805
Dunn 29 562 138 30 1 42 100 103 122 183 4 .246 .386 .527 .913
Eckstein 34 483 134 22 1 3 64 36 38 41 7 .277 .346 .346 .692
Hudson 31 533 151 32 4 11 71 59 55 85 6 .283 .353 .420 .773
Jackson 27 534 158 36 3 15 81 81 65 59 7 .296 .379 .459 .837
Montero 25 302 77 18 1 11 35 44 32 57 0 .255 .330 .430 .761
Ojeda 34 225 53 9 1 1 27 17 24 23 1 .236 .317 .298 .615
Reynolds 25 553 149 32 4 32 101 105 66 182 10 .269 .350 .515 .866
Snyder 28 399 97 26 0 16 49 63 57 95 0 .243 .342 .429 .771
Tracy 29 325 92 22 1 10 41 44 26 55 1 .283 .340 .449 .789
Upton 21 506 133 30 9 22 79 68 70 146 6 .263 .356 .488 .844
Young 25 554 141 39 4 26 86 79 56 128 17 .255 .325 .480 .805

A few things stand out there. Adam Dunn looks set to be much the same monster he was this season, with a lot of home-runs, walks and strikeouts. Mark Reynolds is expected to be not far behind in two of those three categories, though still needs to improve his plate-discipline, or he'll remain Dunn Lite. Beyond him, Upton is expected, as you'd imagine, to improve - to put that .844 OPS into context, only a couple of 21-year olds have produced above that level for 300+ PAs in the past decade [Miguel Cabrera in 2004 and Albert Pujols in 2001].

According to James, Conor Jackson is predicted to be a lot more productive than his rival for the left-field position, Eric Byrnes - ninety points of OPS, to be exact, with Eric returning among the lowest figures of any regular player. Perhaps surprisingly, Chris Snyder and Orlando Hudson are right next to each other in OPS, Chris's walks and power making up for O-Dawg's advantage in raw BA. One potential replacement for Hudson, David Eckstein, is eighty points behind him offensively, so would seem not to be the answer, based on these expectations. And with that, we move on to the pitching staff. [Note: James uses base-runners per nine innings - I've divided those figures by nine to come up with something more WHIP-like]

       Age  G GS IP    H HR BB SO  HB  W-L  Sv WHIP  ERA
Cruz 30 57 0 57 47 5 29 63 5 3-3 0 1.42 3.74
Davis 33 29 29 159 165 16 70 121 4 8-10 0 1.50 4.41
Haren 28 32 32 210 206 23 47 174 6 14-10 0 1.23 3.59
Johnson 45 28 28 170 153 21 41 178 8 12-7 0 1.19 3.40
Lyon 29 54 0 55 61 5 15 35 1 3-3 3 1.40 4.16
Pena 27 67 0 70 67 6 19 51 3 5-3 2 1.27 3.55
Petit 24 21 13 76 75 13 21 59 1 4-4 0 1.28 4.05
Qualls 30 76 0 77 72 7 22 63 4 5-3 30 1.28 3.52
Rauch 30 68 0 66 60 8 19 57 1 4-3 3 1.21 3.48
Webb 30 32 32 222 204 14 71 176 8 15-9 0 1.28 3.37

What whacks me across the face here is that Randy Johnson is expected to have a better ERA than Dan Haren and only fractionally (0.03) worse than Brandon Webb [though I can't recall any prediction system ever being kind to our ace]. This provides backing for a piece Levski wrote on DBBP on the case for bring back Johnson. Both from a pitching and a financial perspective, he comes down firmly on the side of it being near-imperative for the Diamondbacks to get the Big Unit back. If he comes anywhere near these numbers, 300 wins look to be assured. The drop-off after those three is significant, though James is a much bigger fan of the Petit Unit than shoewizard! Somewhat surprisingly, there was no prediction included for Max Scherzer, probably the pitcher for whom I was most curious to see numbers.

Moving into the bullpen, I was shocked - shocked, I tell you - to discover that, according to Bill James, our best reliever in 2009 is going to be Jon Rauch. Well, we're doomed, if he pitches anything like the 2008 version. Anyone know the modern-era record for losses by a bullpen arm? It is, admittedly, pretty close at the top, with Qualls and Peña each within one-tenth of a run of Rauch's mark. Cruz may or may not be around, but will likely be more of the same - plenty of strikeouts and more walks than you'd like. Finally, James doesn't envisage Lyon being our closer, and a 4.16 ERA is nothing special to write home about.

But we still have almost six months to wait before we can even begin to see how accurate - or otherwise - these prophecies will turn out to be. For the moment, we can just file them away, and perhaps use them as fuel for our own predictions, though I think we'll wait until closer to Opening Day before embarking on those!