Miguel Cabrera

2011 Projection Review: First basemen

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What follows is a review of some of my 2011 projections for Rotoworld.com. I’m highlighting my preseason top five for each position and some other notables.

If you missed the catchers last week, click here. I hope to bang the rest of these out a lot more quickly.

First Basemen

Preseason Top 5

Albert Pujols – Cardinals – $41 – #1
Projection: .322/.435/.609, 40 HR, 112 R, 119 RBI, 11 SB in 562 AB
2011 stats: .299/.366/.541, 37 HR, 105 R, 99 RBI, 9 SB in 579 AB

That Pujols barely missed out on another .300 season got some attention, but it was his OBP that really tumbled. His previous low mark was a .394 back in 2002, and he had finished at .414 or better every year since. Pujols walked just 61 times this year after coming in over 100 each of the previous three years. As a result, he actually had more at-bats than my projection called for despite missing 15 games.

Miguel Cabrera – Tigers – $36 – #2
Projection: .315/.400/.586, 39 HR, 103 R, 117 RBI, 3 SB in 577 AB
2011 stats: .344/.448/.586, 30 HR, 111 R, 105 RBI, 2 SB in 572 AB

Cabrera’s remarkable season resulted in a mere 105 RBI because the Tigers got OBPs of .311, .329 and .317 from the top three spots in the order. It certainly wasn’t Cabrera’s fault: he hit .388 and slugged .673 with RISP.

Adrian Gonzalez – Red Sox – $31 – #3
Projection: .308/.394/.550, 35 HR, 104 R, 116 RBI, 0 SB in 607 AB
2011 stats: .338/.410/.548, 27 HR, 108 R, 117 RBI, 1 SB in 630 AB

Gonzalez’s shoulder problems sapped him of some power as the year went on, but he had an incredible season anyway. Plus, even though his swing was supposed to be tailor-made for Fenway Park, 17 of his 27 homers and 26 of his 45 doubles came on the road.

Joey Votto – Reds – $30 – #4
Projection: .296/.400/.545, 32 HR, 100 R, 103 RBI, 12 SB in 558 AB
2011 stats: .309/.416/.531, 29 HR, 101 R, 103 RBI, 8 SB in 599 AB

One of these years I’ll stop underestimating Votto’s ability to hit for average. Of course, Votto didn’t get a whole lot of help this season. He had to hit .339 with runners on and .383 with RISP just to get to 103 RBI.

Mark Teixeira – Yankees – $29 – #5
Projection: .289/.391/.545, 37 HR, 105 R, 118 RBI, 1 SB in 589 AB
2011 stats: .248/.341/.494, 39 HR, 90 R, 111 RBI, 4 SB in 589 AB

I’d be more optimistic about Teixeira going forward if it was some sort of lengthy slump that produced the poor average. However, the fact is that he was the same hitter all year long. He had a .264 average in his best month of 2011. He has some work to do on his swing this winter if he wants to get back to hitting more singles and doubles.

Others

Lance Berkman – Cardinals – $8 – #22
Projection: .271/.387/.442, 15 HR, 69 R, 75 RBI, 5 SB in 439 AB
2011 stats: .301/.412/.547, 31 HR, 90 R, 94 RBI, 2 SB in 488 AB

I’m not completely stunned that Berkman reemerged as one of the NL’s top hitters this year, but I never thought he’d manage to play in 145 games as an outfielder.

Adam Dunn – White Sox – $22 – #8
Projection: .247/.357/.516, 40 HR, 94 R, 111 RBI, 1 SB in 562 AB
2011 stats: .159/.292/.277, 11 HR, 36 R, 42 RBI, 0 SB in 415 AB

I believe this was my biggest OPS miss since Javy Lopez posted his crazy .328/.378/.687 season with the Braves in 2003.

Prince Fielder – Brewers – $27 – #6
Projection: .281/.400/.548, 39 HR, 94 R, 118 RBI, 2 SB in 566 AB
2011 stats: .299/.415/.566, 38 HR, 95 R, 120 RBI, 1 SB in 569 AB

Freddie Freeman – Braves – $4 – #29
Projection: .267/.329/.418, 13 HR, 54 R, 57 RBI, 3 SB in 479 AB
2011 stats: .282/.346/.448, 21 HR, 67 R, 76 RBI, 4 SB in 571 AB

I was down on Freeman in part because the Braves started off hitting him eighth. Fortunately for his owners, that lasted a mere 10 games. He ended up batting fifth more than anywhere else.

Ryan Howard – Phillies – $26 – #7
Projection: .272/.357/.528, 39 HR, 92 R, 120 RBI, 2 SB in 585 AB
2011 stats: .253/.346/.488, 33 HR, 81 R, 116 RBI, 1 SB in 557 AB

Howard bounced back a bit in the RBI department, but he posted a career-low OPS for the second straight season. He hit 105 homers in his first two full seasons, 93 the next two years and just 64 the last two.

Paul Konerko – White Sox – $14 – #13
Projection: .266/.352/.473, 29 HR, 76 R, 94 RBI, 0 SB in 545 AB
2011 stats: .300/.388/.518, 31 HR, 69 R, 105 RBI, 1 SB in 543 AB

Konerko had the best season of his career at age 34 in 2010 and now the second best at age 35. These kinds of things can happen without steroids, apparently.

David Ortiz – Red Sox – $13 – DH #3
Projection: .261/.358/.500, 27 HR, 78 R, 94 RBI, 0 SB in 490 AB
2011 stats: .309/.398/.554, 29 HR, 84 R, 96 RBI, 1 SB in 525 AB

Ortiz bouncing back to hit .309 definitely qualifies as one of the most surprising stats of the season. He came in at .264, .238 and .270 the previous three years, and the .270 season in 2010 came in spite of a career-high strikeout rate.

Carlos Pena – Cubs – $11 – #20
Projection: .231/.365/.480, 31 HR, 73 R, 88 RBI, 2 SB in 471 AB
2011 stats: .225/.357/.462, 28 HR, 72 R, 80 RBI, 2 SB in 493 AB

Gaby Sanchez – Marlins – $12 – #17
Projection: .276/.349/.442, 19 HR, 73 R, 86 RBI, 4 SB in 561 AB
2011 stats: .266/.352/.427, 19 HR, 72 R, 78 RBI, 3 SB in 572 AB

Eddie Perez likely to be Braves’ interim manager if Fredi Gonzalez is fired

Atlanta Braves bullpen coach Eddie Perez, left, stands with manager Fredi Gonzalez during a spring training baseball workout, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, in Kissimmee, Fla. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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There’s been a lot of rumbling that Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez will soon get the pink slip. His team is 7-20 entering Thursday’s action. Historically, front offices — particularly those of rebuilding/restructuring teams — respond to that by making coaching and/or managerial changes.

Per MLB.com’s Mark Bowman, bullpen coach Eddie Perez is likely to fill in as the Braves’ manager on an interim basis if and when Gonzalez is fired. Perez has been with the Braves as a coach since 2007. He played for the Braves in 10 out of his 11 seasons from 1995-2005. Perez wasn’t known for his bat, but was respected for the way he called games and handled the Braves’ then-elite pitching staff.

Bowman notes that Gonzalez isn’t expected to be fired over the weekend. If the team plays well, that could extend Gonzalez’s leash, so to speak.

First baseman Freddie Freeman issued a vote of confidence for his skipper, saying, “I think everything is getting magnified since we’re off to this start. I don’t know if it’s fair to put it all on [Gonzalez] because he’s not a player. We’re the 25 guys [who have to] go out there and play every day. We’re obviously not playing to our capabilities. To say that’s Fredi’s fault is unfair in my opinion.”

What’s on Tap: Previewing Thursday’s action

Chicago Cubs' Anthony Rizzo, left, and Kris Bryant celebrate a 7-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in a baseball game in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, May 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar
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The Phillies and Cardinals got started a little early, finishing up their four-game series on Thursday afternoon. In the evening, we have 10 games on our slate, including Cubs-Nationals.

The Cubs have jumped out to a 20-6 start, looking like baseball’s best — and scariest — team. Entering Thursday’s action, the Cubs have a +93 run differential (runs scored minus runs allowed). That’s by far the best in baseball. The next best are the Nationals at +50, the Mets at +44, and the Cardinals at +41. In fact, the Cubs’ run differential is so good that they have under-performed relative to their expected won-lost record of 22-4.

This is without Kyle Schwarber. This is with Jason Heyward hitting a miserable .211/.317/.256, Jorge Soler hitting .185/.276/.292, and Addison Russell hitting .224/.356/.329. It’s with John Lackey pitching to a 4.32 ERA.

What makes the Cubs so good? They’re on-base machines. The club’s aggregate .364 on-base percentage is second best in the majors behind the Pirates. Dexter Fowler has an outstanding .470 OBP and Anthony Rizzo is at an elite .403. In fact, of their regulars with 100-plus plate appearances, Heyward is the only one with a sub-.350 OBP. The league average is .319. The Cubs steal bases, too, as they’re 17-for-24 (~71 percent) in that department.

The Cubs have baseball’s best pitching staff, which has yielded a major league-best 2.54 runs per game. Only four teams are below 3.00 runs allowed per game. Of course, reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta is the big contributor to that with a sterling 0.84 ERA, but Jon Lester has put up a 1.58 mark and Jason Hammel 1.24. Closer Hector Rondon has found himself in only four save situations but has converted each of them with an even 1.00 ERA and a 15/0 K/BB ratio in nine innings. The Cubs’ aggregate bullpen ERA of 2.66 is fifth-best in the majors.

It’s too early to use defensive statistics with any degree of certainty, but even the eye test shows the Cubs to be elite defenders at the important positions, particularly shortstop (Russell), right field (Heyward), and third base (Kris Bryant).

The Cubs’ success isn’t exactly surprising. The club rode five consecutive fifth-place finishes into some high draft picks and that talent is starting to establish itself in the majors. Whether it was fans, writers, or Vegas oddsmakers, the Cubs were preseason darlings.

Kyle Hendricks starts for the Cubs opposite the Nationals’ Joe Ross at Wrigley Field tonight at 8:05 PM EDT.

The rest of Thursday’s action…

Detroit Tigers (Michael Fulmer) @ Cleveland Indians (Trevor Bauer), 6:10 PM EDT

New York Yankees (Masahiro Tanaka) @ Baltimore Orioles (Kevin Gausman), 7:05 PM EDT

Texas Rangers (Derek Holland) @ Toronto Blue Jays (J.A. Happ), 7:07 PM EDT

Arizona Diamondbacks (Robbie Ray) @ Miami Marlins (Adam Conley), 7:10 PM EDT

Milwaukee Brewers (Chase Anderson) @ Cincinnati Reds (Alfredo Simon), 7:10 PM EDT

Boston Red Sox (Henry Owens) @ Chicago White Sox (Erik Johnson), 8:10 PM EDT

Seattle Mariners (Wade Miley) @ Houston Astros (Chris Devenski), 8:10 PM EDT

New York Mets (Jacob deGrom) @ San Diego Padres (Colin Rea), 10:10 PM EDT

Colorado Rockies (Chris Rusin) @ San Francisco Giants (Matt Cain), 10:15 PM EDT

The Phillies are seeing to it that their minor leaguers eat well

Crop of vegetables. Potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and other vegetables.
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For years we’ve talked about how odd it is that baseball teams are in the extraordinarily competitive business of developing highly-trained athletes yet, for whatever reason, it pays minor leaguers virtually nothing and all but forces them to subsist on junk food and other cheap options.

As Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, however, the Phillies are changing that. Indeed, they’re plowing serious money into nutritious food options for their minor league players:

The Phillies are teaching their minor leaguers how to play baseball, so why not teach them how to eat well, too?

“We want them to not have to worry about anything other than baseball,” assistant general manager Ned Rice said. “When they’re playing for the Phillies, they’ll have that stuff taken care of for them.”

 

That this is a news story — and it is a good and novel one — is kind of sad in some ways. How teams haven’t been on board with this approach for decades is beyond me.

Tracking baseball’s “Naturals”

The Natural
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Rob Neyer has a great column in today’s New York Times in which he tracks the real life players who, at one time or another, were dubbed “The Natural.” A la Roy Hobbs in the book and movie of the same name.

There are some that a lot of people probably remember: Jeff Francoeur and Ken Griffey, Jr. as “The Natural” come to mind easily. There are some who I don’t ever recall being called “The Natural” but were, apparently, like Terry Pendelton and Karim Garcia. There are also some whose stories were far odder and far more tragic than any version of Hobbs’ tale (oh man, a Toe Nash sighting!). Then there’s Rick Ankiel, whose path may be the closest one to Hobbs’ of them all, at least broadly speaking.

Fun stuff that, in addition to being a walk down memory lane, is also an instructive lesson about how the power of narrative works in sports.