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
* 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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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