What could be better to help pass the hours until baseball is played again in the spring than analysis, discussion and debate over the performers from past season and the one upcoming?
Front office personnel across the game of baseball also are regular users of the Forecaster. It wasn't a coincidence that Shandler and his analysts were hired as consultants by the Cardinals back in 2004. As he was getting started, then-VP Jeff Luhnow wanted to pick the brains of some of baseball's best analytic minds.
This year's 273-page work includes a wealth of historical as well as predictive information for major leaguers and minor leaguers, along with sections on gaming (fantasy) and sabermetric tools.
Our focus here is to again cobble together a small subset of his work to assemble what could be called an overly-simplistic glimpse of what we might expect from the 2012 Cardinals. My premise here is very basic. That is, to look at the delta between key player stats from year to year. Also, for the first time, I included last year's predictions as interesting comparison points.
First, some disclaimers. This data was generated to analyze individual players, not a team. Nowhere in the Forecaster does BaseballHQ aggregate stats for even partial team views as is done here, nor do they focus on trying to project playing time. Therefore, some of the comments made below could become invalid, especially as roles shake out later on.
I also did not include the entire Cardinals roster, which would be required for a thorough analysis of the team. Finally, these projections were completed prior to the completion of this off-season's free agent signings and trades.
All disclaimers aside, for individual players, these projections are well-founded, based on years of experience in analysis of individual skill sets, rates of growth and decline, resistance and recovery from injury, opportunity and other factors.
You still have to buy the Forecaster to get the full story, as these stats only scratch the surface of the in-depth analysis provided for every player. It is $24.95 well spent, and for that price you also get a downloadable version and a free update in March. Buy the Forecaster here.
2012 Projections vs. 2011 Actuals* and 2011 Projections - St. Louis Cardinals Offense
* Major league equivalent Triple-A and Double-A stats are included, so 2011 numbers for these players are not true actuals.
What suggestions might one try to draw from this? (The following are my comments, gleaned from the Forecaster and augmented by my own thought processes.)
Catchers. Good news here at the start. Despite Yadier Molina having his best season to date in 2011, his forecast for the coming season is very similar. His .300 batting average is called "legit" and his second half moved him into the catching "elite." Neither of the inexperienced players competing for the back up job, Tony Cruz and Bryan Anderson, merit a mention in the Forecaster.
Infielders. Despite the usual health warnings about David Freese, he is projected with almost 500 at bats and a resulting bump up in RBI with only a bit less power. Daniel Descalso's forecasted at-bats are down, perhaps as a result. More expected health risks are noted with Rafael Furcal, but there is also guarded optimism about his upside based on low rate for hits per balls in play. Lance Berkman takes a slight hit in at-bats but a major cut in results. (Note this was done when he was still a full-time outfielder.) Skip Schumaker is projected for more of the same, apparently whether an infielder or outfielder.
Outfielders. Matt Holliday is forecasted to pump up his at-bats by 100 to a more typical Holliday season with resultant home run and RBI growth over 2011. Allen Craig is projected to approach 400 at-bats with comparable gain in power and production, with Jon Jay headed in the opposite direction. Carlos Beltran is expected to keep up his slash stats, but decline in home runs and RBI.
The departed. Albert Pujols will have a more Pujolsian season, says the Forecaster. It would be hard to believe Colby Rasmus would have a worse year in 2012 than 2011 and the numbers recognize that. I wonder what club will give Ryan Theriot 400 at-bats?
From the home run and RBI counts of these players alone, one might look for slightly higher run scoring in 2012 over 2011. Craig, Freese and Holliday on the upside slightly overpower the down year predicted from Berkman and Beltran. With some modest improvement from others, perhaps the 2012 club can improve on their predecessor's 90-win showing.
For graciously sharing their data as they do each year at this time, thank you again to Ron Shandler and BaseballHQ.com. Subscribers should check back for the second installment covering the Cardinals pitchers to be posted soon.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Look for his weekly minor league column during the season at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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