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 HQ founder Ron 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 276-page Forecaster, edited by Ray Murphy and Brent Hershey, 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.
As I do each year, my focus here is to extract a small subset of BaseballHQ's work to assemble what could be called an overly-simplistic glimpse of what we might expect from the 2014 Cardinals. The premise is very basic. That is, to look at the delta between key player stats from year to year. Also, last year's predictions are included as other relevant 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. Therefore, some of the comments made below could become invalid, especially as roles shake out later on.
The Forecaster does 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 $25.95 well spent, and for that price you also get a downloadable version. Buy the Forecaster here.
2014 Projections vs. 2013 Actuals* and 2013 Projections - St. Louis Cardinals Offense
|* incls MiLB|
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. Yadier Molina remains at the top-tier of catchers and is among the most consistent at his position. The numbers should continue from 2012, but the injury risk increases with age. Tony Cruz barely merits a mention in the Forecaster because he plays so little.
Infielders. The infield situation is very different from one year ago, with projected new starters at every position.
Matt Adams is projected to move into a more traditional power hitter's profile, with more home runs (20) and RBI, but a lower batting average. Most of what Kolten Wong is seen to offer in 2013 is the potential for stolen bases. HQ has him down for 13. Concerns about an age-related dropoff from newcomer Mark Ellis temper what appear to be decent projections.
Moving to the left side, let's start with the new shortstop. Jhonny Peralta is projected to contribute home runs and RBI at rates comparable to his 2013 in Detroit, but his .300 batting average is not viewed to be sustainable. Matt Carpenter is expected to have a good year, but not up to his wildly-successful 2013. Not surprisingly, there is little optimism for Pete Kozma while more of the same may come from Daniel Descalso.
Outfielders. The other name for consistency is Matt Holliday, with pretty much a carbon copy of his 2013 expected. Ho hum - another .300 season with team-leading home run and RBI totals.
Concern with Allen Craig's health limits his projections to another 2012 repeat. Jon Jay's slash line may remain comparable, but his RBI total was viewed as a one-time spike. New centerfielder Peter Bourjos carries his own risks. An upside of 10 home runs and 20 stolen bases is highlighted, which is more encouraging than his forecasted .317 on-base mark.
Newcomers. The primary name not mentioned already is Oscar Taveras. With a lost year, his 2014 projection is comparable to his 2013 view from a year ago. HQ sees him starting in Triple-A, getting about the same number of MLB at-bats as did Adams last season.
The departed. After two consistent years with the Cardinals, if Carlos Beltran can remain somewhat healthy, he may continue to deliver. HQ does not see a big bounce back for David Freese, but demonstrates some optimism for Rafael Furcal.
While the home run and RBI counts of these players are not substantially higher than last season, almost everyone is projected for a slight increase over 2013. That could help to cover for the loss of Beltran's potent bat.
Not surprisingly, there are injury concerns, especially with players on the other side of 30, plus Bourjos and Craig, too. The potential incremental contributions of Taveras could be a difference-maker as a test of the Cardinals' depth may come into the 2014 equation.
For graciously sharing their data as they do each year at this time, thank you again to the great folks at 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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