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Your 2010 Diamondbacks: The First Projections

After a crappy season like the one just endured by Arizona fans, it's comforting to turn towards 2010, even before  the line is officially drawn under 2009 - the playoffs have largely become a buzzing sound in the background, with the best I can hope for, being that a team I don't hate wins the World Series. Bill James is clearly with me there: as has become tradition, the Bill James Handbook is the first of the projection systems to throw its hat into the ring for next year, and the publishers, Acta Sports, were kind enough to give us a look at the numbers for Arizona.

Think of this as an early Christmas present - it's as much designed to whet the appetite for the 'real' numbers to come next April, as anything else. That's especially the case for a generally young team like Arizona where, generally, we are looking for our players' stats to improve, simply through experience and maturity. After the jump, we'll take a look at the numbers projected for the 25 players currently most likely to be on the 2010 Diamondbacks roster, and see whether there is a shiny new truck or a lump of coal waiting for us under the tree.

Obviously, these are astonishingly early projections, not just in terms of the numbers, but the playing time for the individuals concerned. Even I would be rash to try and project, for example, how the playing time in the outfied will be split up next season: the one just finished should be warning enough there [who had 120 games in their Gerardo Parra office pool?]. Hence, for each hitter below, I've listed the number of games projected, which will influence expectations for HR and RBI in particular. I've also given their 2009 OPS, for comparison - those marked with a * are based on less than 150 PAs. I've chosen the 13 position players I think are most likely to be significant parts for next season, and for whom we have projections.

Gms HR RBI OPS 2009
Brandon Allen 122 19 60 .823 *.669
Eric Byrnes 74 7 28 .735 .663
Stephen Drew 151 17 71 .792 .748
Conor Jackson 135 12 69 .807 *.516
Miguel Montero 132 18 69 .801 .832
Gerardo Parra 132 8 64 .779 .729
Mark Reynolds 153 40 107 .907 .892
Ryan Roberts 125 11 47 .785 .783
Rusty Ryal 50 4 15 764 *.946
Chris Snyder 78 9 34 .761 .685
Justin Upton 148 28 90 .904 .899
Josh Whitesell 46 4 13 .802 *.633
Chris Young 151 25 73 .789 .711

The most obvious omission is Tony Abreu, who was not listed - I think he's more likely to be on the Opening Day roster than Rusty Ryal. I also note that the games played may make sense for individuals, but do not necessarily do so in total. adding up the totals for Byrnes, Parra, Upton and Young, you get 505 games: even allowing for PH appearances, this pretty much maxes the outfield, without any room for Conor Jackson. Unless he's playing first, but Brandon Allen has 122 games there too... You see the issue, which is why I'm not going to bother adding up these numbers to reach any kind of team total.

Still, such caveats aside, this makes for encouraging reading on an individual level, with most players expected to improve their performance, or at least stay around the same level. As noted, this is no surprise, given most of our players are on the upside of the aging curve. James is particularly impressed by Allen, whose OPS is projected to be behind only Reynolds and Upton. That seems optimistic, though I am prejudiced by his struggles in 2009. Somewhat of a bounceback for Byrnes and Young: the former goes from entirely-sucky to poor, while the latter goes from fairly-sucky to about CF average [I like the idea of 25 homers], and is projected to outperform Parra, slightly.

Montero is the only player with any real regression, and the gap in performance over Snyder is expected to be much smaller, only forty points of OPS. Roberts, Reynolds and, perhaps surprisingly, Upton are projected to be very close to 2009 production. I say that for J-Up, mostly because of his age:  he's only 22 and, generally, players will improve significantly at that point, and so projecting no change feels conservative. If you discount the first two weeks of last season, Upton's OPS the rest of the way was .930,. and that may be a better starting point for his 2010 number. However, if you look at the ten 21-year olds whose OPS was closest to Upton's [a list that includes seven Hall of Famers!], their OPS at age 22 dropped fractionally, by eight points, so maybe we shouldn't expect too much.

Here are the projected pitching numbers. As with the hitters, I've selected a dozen for whom projections are available, who would seem to have a good shot at the roster. I did include Davis, even though I expect him to sign elsewhere; I certainly hope that whoever we do get as a replacement, provides around the same level of performance projected below.

IP W-L ERA 2009
Blaine Boyer 57 3-4 4.74 4.12
Billy Buckner 94 4-6 4.98 6.40
Daniel Cabrera 42 2-3 5.14 6.00
Doug Davis 202 11-12 4.46 4.12
Juan Gutierrez 68 3-4 4.76 4.06
Dan Haren 221 16-9 3.38 3.14
Yusmeiro Petit 105 6-6 4.37 5.82
Chad Qualls 50 3-2 3.42 3.63
Leo Rosales 47 3-2 3.83 4.76
Max Scherzer 180 11-9 3.80 4.12
Esmerling Vasquez 54 3-3 4.67 4.42
Brandon Webb 180 13-7 3.40 N/A

As with the hitters, there are a couple of names who appear unfairly omitted. Clay Zavada appears to have a bullpen spot locked down, and is more likely to be a part of the team in 2010 than Cabrera. - maybe Daniel Schlereth too, though there were no numbers available for him Bit more of a variation here than on the hitting; generally, the trend seems to be an overall regression towards the mean, with the good pitchers getting worse and the bad ones getting better. I would, however, be prepared to bet that Yusmeiro Petit will not have an ERA better than Doug Davis next season.

One major comfort is the expectation that Brandon Webb will return almost to his normal level of productivity - James gives Webb thirty starts, and an ERA almost identical to that projected in 2008 (3.39) and 2009 (3.36), so appears to have no qualms about the surgery - though s hard to say how much such things play into these estimates. The numbers have him and Haren forming an impressive 1-2 punch for Arizona: worth nothing that less than a handful of NL pitchers are forecast to win over 15 games [Lincecum, Wainwright, Santana].It seems the W-L records are, as usual, conservative; makes sense, since these things depend heavily on the runs scored by a pitcher's team-mates.

I would project Buckner and Gutierrez to do better than the James numbers; on the other hand, Petit and Rosales will be doing very well if they can produce as expected. It's good to see James sees Scherzer as improving next year. If he joins Dan and Brandon at 3.80 or below, that would put us in very good shape, since only two teams in the majors had three such qualifying starters in 2009 (the Cubs and Cardinals), and few played in a hitter-friendly park like Chase. Finally, in case you're counting, adding up those W-L records gives us a total of 145 decisions and a team record of 78-67. I think we'd settle for that at the middle of September next year.

For the full projections, which are a lot more detailed than the numbers here, and for all the other goodies therein, you'll need to buy the book. It comes out on November 1st from Acta Sports and can be ordered through their website.