BaseballHQ Predicts the 2009 Cards: Hitters

Using BaseballHQ's projections to consider year-to-year performances of the St. Louis Cardinals position players for 2009 offers mixed signals. Part one is free, while part two, focusing on the club's pitchers, will be available only to Scout.com subscribers.

One of my milestone events of the hot stove season each winter occurs on the day in late December when the new copy of the Baseball Forecaster arrives in the mail. Now in its 23rd year, this guide from Ron Shandler and his team at BaseballHQ is the bible to the upcoming season for thousands of fans, whether fantasy players or not.

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, Jeff Luhnow wanted to pick the brains of some of baseball's best analytic minds.

This year's 271-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. The primary purpose of these articles isn't to sell books for Shandler though, as he does quite nicely in that area without my help.

Our focus here is to 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 2009 Cardinals. My premise here is very basic. That is, to look at the delta between key player stats from year to year.

First, we need 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 I do 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 get a free update in March. Buy the Forecaster here.

2009 Projections vs. 2008 Actuals* - St. Louis Cardinals Offense

AB AB YTY HR HR YTY RBI RBI YTY
2008 2009 2008 2009 2008 2009
Ankiel 413 522 109 25 31 6 71 92 21
Duncan* 222 62 -160 6 3 -3 27 9 -18
Glaus 544 543 -1 27 26 -1 99 98 -1
Greene 389 581 192 10 18 8 35 62 27
Kennedy  339 393 54 2 3 1 36 38 2
Ludwick 538 575 37 37 32 -5 113 104 -9
Mather* 344 258 -86 19 13 -6 48 34 -14
Molina 444 423 -21 7 7 0 56 52 -4
Pujols 524 563 39 37 40 3 116 122 6
Schumaker 540 391 -149 8 5 -3 46 31 -15
4297 4311 -95 0 -5
Free agents
Izturis 414 380 -34 1 1 0 24 23 -1
Lopez 481 480 -1 6 8 2 46 47 1
Miles 379 264 -115 4 2 -2 31 21 -10

AVG AVG YTY OBP OBP YTY SLG SLG YTY
2008 2009 2008 2009 2008 2009
Ankiel 0.264 0.257 -0.007 0.332 0.307 -0.025 0.506 0.483 -0.023
Duncan* 0.248 0.258 0.010 0.348 0.346 -0.002 0.365 0.436 0.071
Glaus 0.270 0.265 -0.005 0.371 0.366 -0.005 0.483 0.470 -0.013
Greene 0.213 0.251 0.038 0.255 0.293 0.038 0.339 0.407 0.068
Kennedy  0.280 0.270 -0.010 0.322 0.316 -0.006 0.372 0.364 -0.008
Ludwick 0.299 0.270 -0.029 0.372 0.333 -0.039 0.591 0.511 -0.080
Mather* 0.240 0.236 -0.004 0.310 0.298 -0.012 0.464 0.444 -0.020
Molina 0.304 0.281 -0.023 0.351 0.331 -0.020 0.392 0.373 -0.019
Pujols 0.357 0.343 -0.014 0.463 0.444 -0.019 0.653 0.634 -0.019
Schu 0.302 0.292 -0.010 0.358 0.340 -0.018 0.406 0.387 -0.019
FAs
Izturis 0.263 0.261 -0.002 0.312 0.307 -0.005 0.309 0.312 0.003
Lopez 0.283 0.277 -0.006 0.342 0.338 -0.004 0.387 0.392 0.005
Miles 0.317 0.284 -0.033 0.356 0.326 -0.030 0.398 0.367 -0.031

* Major league equivalent Triple-A and Double-A stats are included, so 2008 numbers for these players are not actuals.

What conclusions might one try to draw from this? (The following are my comments, gleaned from the Forecaster and augmented by my own knowledge.)

At-bats
The first assumptions that stand out are that both Rick Ankiel and Khalil Greene (Padres forecast) are expected to play a full season. On the other side of the coin are the clear pessimism expressed over Chris Duncan's return from first-of-a-kind neck surgery and a considerable drop in at-bats for Skip Schumaker. Joe Mather's at-bats are down, but remember that much of his 2008 total was accrued in Triple-A.

I also included departed Cardinals Cesar Izturis, Felipe Lopez and Aaron Miles for illustration. Shandler predicts Lopez will have a comparable 2009 to his 2008, likely without the extremes. Izturis is still hoping for a positive extreme.

Even with Miles assumed to be returning to the Cardinals (at the time of printing), his numbers are projected to be down considerably. Colby Rasmus is one player not mentioned in this section of the Forecaster.

Home runs and RBI
Looking at the team totals, they pretty much balance out year-to-year. Pujols keeps on plugging along, one of the easiest players to predict. Ankiel's power should take him over 30 home runs in a full season, while Ryan Ludwick is viewed to be the real deal. Ever-dependable Troy Glaus is expected to be just that.

With four 25-plus home run hitters, the Cardinals are power-laden, but could seem to use more runners on base. Back to that in a moment.

Batting average
As expected, Greene is predicted to bounce back from a dreadful 2008, and these are PETCO projections. The bad news on Ludwick is that he is not expected to challenge .300 again. Same with Yadier Molina, though .280 is certainly solid.

It is worth noting that that no one other than Pujols is projected to hit any better than Schumaker's .292.

On-base percentage
It is unfortunate that the Cardinals top on-base men are also their middle-of-the-lineup power threats. Since neither Glaus nor Pujols can lead off, the next-best OBP players are Schumaker and the departed Lopez.

Who will bat first and get on base if Skip's playing time does diminish as projected? Adam Kennedy remains the next-best option perhaps, but his on-base mark never seems to improve.

Slugging percentage
Very precious little good news here. Only two injured players in 2008, Duncan and Greene, are projected to register a higher slugging mark next season. Ludwick is expected to see the biggest drop, followed by Ankiel.

In closing

Some unheralded players may step up to fill the gaps or one must hope there is more help on the way via trade or signings. That seems especially evident at the top of the lineup.

Otherwise, these projections for position players on the current roster taken at face value might signal little improvement is ahead for the St. Louis Cardinals individually and in aggregate in 2009 compared to their 86-win regular season of 2008.

For graciously sharing their data as they do each year at this time, thank you again to Ron Shandler and BaseballHQ.com.



Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com.

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