A special Holiday season event each year is when the mailman delivers the new version of the Baseball Forecaster for the upcoming season. Now in its 29th year, this guide from the highly-respected team at BaseballHQ is the bible to the upcoming season for thousands of fans, whether fantasy players or just baseball watchers interested in the numbers behind the game.
What could be better to help pass the hours until baseball is played again in the spring than analysis, discussion and debate over performances in 2014 and what the players may accomplish in 2015?
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 277-page Forecaster, edited by my friends 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 2015 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 40-man 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 need 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.
2015 Projections vs. 2014 Actuals* and 2014 Projections - St. Louis Cardinals Offense
|* incl MiLB|
* Major league equivalent Triple-A stats are included, so 2014 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. Yadier Molina remains among the top-tier of catchers and is among the most consistent at his position, though his .300-hitting days may be over. Tony Cruz merits a comedic mention in the Forecaster because he plays so little.
Infielders. Concern about Matt Adams’ results against left-handed pitching is noted, but his first 20-home run season is projected with a stated upside of 30. In fact, the first baseman is one of the few Cardinals hitters with considerable upside noted.
On the other hand, in a bit of a surprise to me, Kolten Wong is expected to experience a drop in both power and production. Not identified in the table is that his stolen bases are expected to remain essentially flat year to year.
HQ ate a bit of crow after Jhonny Peralta did not miss a beat in his first season in the National League (and first post-suspension) in 2014. For 2015, the shortstop is expected to drop to 18 home runs but add 10 points of batting average. Matt Carpenter is forecasted to have a good year, better than 2014, but not up to his wildly-successful 2013.
Newcomer Mark Reynolds is viewed to be what he has been, with his counting stats tied to his number of at-bats. Optimists can latch onto his expected batting average rising all the way to .201. There is so little optimism for Pete Kozma that he was left out of this year’s Forecaster entirely.
Outfielders. The Forecaster notes Matt Holliday’s slide against right-handed pitching last season. His expected home run and RBI numbers are basically the same as 2014, and so is his .270-ish batting average, a considerable drop from his .300 days.
While registering concern about Jon Jay’s spike in results against lefties, the Forecaster is expecting a 2015 similar to 2014 from the centerfielder. Fearing worse, most would be happy with that, I suspect.
For Jason Heyward, there is both good and bad news. His home run and RBI counts are expected to be his best since 2012, but 17/70 would fall short of many Cardinals fans expectations for the new right fielder.
Among outfield reserves, there is little excitement about either Peter Bourjos or Randal Grichuk. Interestingly, both are called out for a lack of patience and inconsistent contact. Difficult to dispute that.
Newcomers. Stephen Piscotty shows up among the Forecaster’s list of top 75 impact prospects for 2015 at number 36. It is faint praise, however, as it is noted that his low walk rate and lack of power mean he is at best a fourth or fifth outfielder in 2015 and most likely will spend the year getting additional Triple-A seasoning.
Grichuk comes in at number 23 on that list, with his primary exposure an overly-aggressive approach at the plate leading to too many strikeouts and few free passes.
The departed. Not surprisingly, HQ does not see a big bounce back coming from the likes of former Cardinals Daniel Descalso, Mark Ellis or A.J. Pierzynski, but demonstrates some optimism for at least a partial rebound by Allen Craig. Shane Robinson was dropped from the 2015 Forecaster, likely not by mistake.
There is not a lot of optimism or pessimism with the 2015 Cardinals offensive projections. Adams and Heyward are expected to deliver additional pop with Molina forecast to return to normalcy. On the other hand, Peralta, Reynolds and surprisingly, Wong, may trend in the wrong direction.
Overall, with this data as a baseline, it is difficult to see how the team will score runs midway between its 2013 peak and 2014 valley, as manager Mike Matheny recently outlined would be reasonable. Instead, more offensive inconsistency could be just ahead.
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.
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