Robinson Cano

2012 projections review: second base

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This is the third entry in a position-by-position review of my 2012 projections. Along with looking at my top preseason top 10 (for fantasy purposes) from each spot, I’m highlighting some other interesting players. Any requests for players not covered can be made in the comments.

1. Robinson Cano – Yankees
Projection: .309/.362/.520, 30 HR, 110 R, 123 RBI, 4 SB in 638 AB
2012 stats: .313/.379/.550, 33 HR, 105 R, 94 RBI, 3 SB in 627 AB

I thought Cano would have a real shot at leading the league in RBI after moving up in the Yankee lineup, but he came in well shy of his 2010 and ’11 totals, even though he finished with a career-high slugging percentage. The biggest problem was hit .268/.393/.436 line with RISP, but it also didn’t help that Yankees’ No. 2 hitters weren’t on base as much as expected.

2. Ian Kinsler – Rangers
Projection: .285/.373/.490, 25 HR, 109 R, 74 RBI, 25 SB in 571 AB
2012 stats: .256/.326/.423, 19 HR, 105 R, 72 RBI, 21 SB in 655 AB

Kinsler spent most of the season hitting .270-.280 before really fading in the end. It hardly seems like a good sign that he went from a 71/89 K/BB ratio in 2011 to a 90/60 K/BB ratio this year.

3. Dustin Pedroia – Red Sox
Projection: .291/.371/.450, 17 HR, 103 R, 89 RBI, 17 SB in 598 AB
2012 stats: .290/.347/.449, 15 HR, 81 R, 65 RBI, 20 SB in 563 AB

Pedroia wasn’t the problem for Boston this year, but with all of the disappointments surrounding him in the lineup, he fell well short of the run and RBI projections.

4. Brandon Phillips – Reds
Projection: .277/.335/.446, 21 HR, 96 R, 76 RBI, 20 SB in 610 AB
2012 stats: .281/.321/.429, 18 HR, 86 R, 77 RBI, 15 SB in 580 AB

If only everyone were as easy to project as BP. He’s hit 18 homers three straight seasons now, and aside from his .810 mark in 2011, his OPS has been between .750-.770 each of the last five years.

5. Howie Kendrick – Angels
Projection: .299/.345/.455, 15 HR, 90 R, 73 RBI, 14 SB in 569 AB
2012 stats: .287/.325/.400, 8 HR, 57 R, 67 RBI, 14 SB in 550 AB

Kendrick didn’t hold on to 2011’s power spike, and he still hasn’t turned into the .300-.320 hitter it looked like he’d become when he was younger. Of course, he may yet turn in a career year come 2013 or ’14.

6. Ben Zobrist – Rays
Projection: .257/.356/.427, 18 HR, 85 R, 82 RBI, 21 SB in 557 AB
2012 stats: .270/.377/.471, 20 HR, 88 R, 74 RBI, 14 SB in 560 AB

Zobrist hit .203 for two months and then .299 the rest of the way. He should have driven in a few more runs, but three-quarters of his homers came with the bases empty, even though he spent most of the year hitting third or fifth.

7. Rickie Weeks – Brewers
Projection: .273/.361/.480, 25 HR, 87 R, 64 RBI, 11 SB in 523 AB
2012 stats: .230/.328/.400, 21 HR, 85 R, 63 RBI, 16 SB in 588 AB

And Zobrist still had nothing on Weeks’ start. Fortunately, Weeks recovered to hit .269/.350/.478 with 15 homers over the final three months.

8. Chase Utley – Phillies
Projection: .282/.380/.460, 18 HR, 78 R, 71 RBI, 11 SB in 465 AB
2012 stats: .256/.365/.429, 11 HR, 48 R, 45 RBI, 11 SB in 301 AB

Utley was still pretty darn good while healthy, but it was a far cry from the MVP candidate of old. He’ll play next season at 34 and knee problems are likely a fact of life for him now, so the Phillies should be hoping for similar production over 120-130 games. Anything more would be gravy.

9. Jemile Weeks – Athletics
Projection: .287/.354/.401, 5 HR, 80 R, 51 RBI, 32 SB in 579 AB
2012 stats: .221/.305/.304, 2 HR, 54 R, 20 RBI, 16 SB in 444 AB

At least his big brother bounced back as the year went on. There was nothing encouraging to take from Jemile’s season. He didn’t hit the ball with authority, and he didn’t even turn his grounders into hits with any regularity. He’ll face an uphill climb to win his job back next spring.

10. Dustin Ackley – Mariners
Projection: .279/.357/.443, 15 HR, 83 R, 77 RBI, 13 SB in 594 AB
2012 stats: .226/.294/.328, 12 HR, 84 R, 50 RBI, 13 SB in 607 AB

I didn’t think I was that high on Ackley, but that was just a dreadful season. Still, there’s better reason for optimism here than with Jemile. For one thing, the Mariners are firmly in his corner, and he’ll almost certainly be the Opening Day starter again, even if bringing in some competition would be a good idea. For another, he did lower his strikeout rate some from his rookie season. I still think he’ll settle in as an above average offensive second baseman next year. However, he doesn’t project as a star.

11. Dan Uggla – Braves
Projection: .252/.343/.470, 31 HR, 82 R, 90 RBI, 2 SB in 560 AB
2012 stats: .220/.348/.384, 19 HR, 86 R, 78 RBI, 4 SB in 523 AB

Uggla had 36 homers in 600 at-bats in 2011 and finished with 88 runs scored and 82 RBI. In 2012, he had 17 fewer homers and still essentially matched those run and RBI totals, taking off three or four of each to account for the fact that he played in seven fewer games. Anyway, his contract is looking really, really lousy at the moment. Still three years and $39 million to go.

12. Aaron Hill – Diamondbacks
Projection: .267/.319/.456, 24 HR, 75 R, 71 RBI, 13 SB in 570 AB
2012 stats: .302/.360/.522, 26 HR, 93 R, 85 RBI, 14 SB in 609 AB

Hill is maybe baseball’s most inconsistent player. His career OPS is an average enough .759, but he hasn’t finished with 70 points of that mark since 2007. His last five years: .685, .829, .665, .655 and now .882.

13. Neil Walker – Pirates
Projection: .281/.341/.438, 16 HR, 77 R, 83 RBI, 6 SB in 566 AB
2012 stats: .280/.341/.426, 14 HR, 62 R, 69 RBI, 7 SB in 472 AB

14. Jason Kipnis – Indians
Projection: .265/.337/.440, 17 HR, 73 R, 78 RBI, 13 SB in 532 AB
2012 stats: .257/.335/.379, 14 HR, 86 R, 76 RBI, 31 SB in 591 AB

I had Kipnis ranked ahead of Walker most of the spring, only to make the change at the last minute because the Indians decided to start off the season with Kipnis hitting eighth. Of course, that ended up lasting for all of a week. Kipnis’ season actually ended up being a bit of a disappointment thanks to the second-half swoon, but that wasn’t the case for fantasy purposes, as all of those steals made him very valuable.

15. Danny Espinosa – Nationals
Projection: .244/.325/.416, 22 HR, 78 R, 67 RBI, 17 SB in 579 AB
2012 stats: .247/.315/.402, 17 HR, 82 R, 56 RBI, 20 SB in 594 AB

With RISP and none or one out this year, Espinosa hit .182 with one double, no homers and 12 RBI in 77 at-bats. With RISP and two outs, he hit .246 with four doubles, five homers and 23 RBI in 57 at-bats. That’s a .453 OPS versus a .937 OPS. In 2011, he was basically the opposite, struggling with two outs and doing a terrific job with none or one out.

I’m not sure I have a point here, except that I’m sick of Joe Buck harping on a guy’s RISP stats like it really tells us something about the player.

17. Jose Altuve – Astros
Projection: .287/.327/.385, 6 HR, 71 R, 50 RBI, 20 SB in 571 AB
2012 stats: .290/.340/.399, 7 HR, 80 R, 37 RBI, 33 SB in 576 AB

Altuve’s OPS dropped pretty steadily after his strong April, and I’m guessing fatigue played a role. If not for the league switch, I’d project him to hit a bit over .300 next year. The AL West makes for quite a bit tougher competition than the NL Central, though.

19. Gordon Beckham – White Sox
Projection: .262/.330/.414, 15 HR, 67 R, 64 RBI, 7 SB in 512 AB
2012 stats: .234/.296/.371, 16 HR, 62 R, 60 RBI, 5 SB in 525 AB

Beckham was able to cut back on the strikeouts this year, but it didn’t result in any more hits. A change of scenery seems like a must after three straight disappointing seasons, but he has little trade value remaining and the White Sox don’t have a replacement in house. Plus, he’ll still be pretty cheap, even though he’s off to arbitration for the first time. Maybe he’ll stay.

36. Jeff Keppinger – Rays
Projection: .282/.335/.382, 4 HR, 37 R, 32 RBI, 1 SB in 280 AB
2012 stats: .325/.367/.439, 9 HR, 46 R, 40 RBI, 1 SB in 385 AB

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Previous 2012 projection reviews: catcher / first base

Don Mattingly thinks pace of play can be improved by changing views on strikeouts

Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly sits in the dugout prior to a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles, Monday, April 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)
AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo
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Marlins manager Don Mattingly has one potential solution to the pace of play issue: change the way people value strikeouts, the Associated Press reports.

Strikeouts have been rising steadily since 2005. Then, a typical game averaged 6.30 strikeouts. In 2016, there were 8.03 strikeouts per game. There are many explanations for this phenomenon. For one, teams are searching specifically for young pitchers who can throw hard — like triple-digits hard. They figure they can teach them the other pertinent skills in the minors. Second, Sabermetrics has shown that a strikeout is only marginally worse than an out made on a ball put in play. Sometimes, the strikeout is preferable, especially if there’s a runner on first base with less than two outs and a weak hitter at the plate. Sabermetrics has also shown home runs to be the best and most efficient way to contribute on offense. Furthermore, younger players tend to focus more on power in order to get noticed by scouts. Unless it’s paired with other elite skills, a scout isn’t going to remember a player who hit the ball into the hole on the right side, but he will remember the kid who blasted a 450-foot homer.

Here’s what Mattingly had to say:

Analytically, a few years back nobody cared about the strikeout, so it’s OK to strike out 150, 160, 170 times, and that guy’s still valued in a big way. Well, as soon as we start causing that to be a bad value — the strikeouts — guys will put the ball in play more. So once we say strikeouts are bad and it’s going to cost you money the more you strike out, then the strikeouts will go away. Guys will start making adjustments and putting the ball in play more.

[…]

If our game values [say that] strikeouts don’t matter, they are going to keep striking out, hitting homers, trying to hit home runs and striking out.

Simply believing strikeouts are bad won’t magically change its value. However, creating social pressure regarding striking out can change it. Theoretically, anyway. Creating that social pressure is easier said than done.

There is a dichotomy here as well. Home runs are exciting. Strikeouts and walks are not. Often, though, the three go hand-in-hand-in-hand. A player actively trying to cut down on his strikeouts by putting the ball in play will also likely cut down on his strikeout and walk rates. There doesn’t seem to be an elegant solution here. Wishing for fewer strikeouts, walks, and homers doesn’t really seem to give way to a more exciting game.

Sean Doolittle: “Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans.”

ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 25:  Sean Doolittle #62 of the Oakland Athletics pitches during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on June 25, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
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In the past, we’ve commented on Athletics reliever Sean Doolittle and his girlfriend Eireann Dolan’s community service. In 2015, the pair hosted Syrian refugee families for Thanksgiving and their other charitable efforts have included LGBTQ outreach and help for veterans.

Athletes and their significant others have typically avoided stepping into political waters, but Doolittle and Dolan have shown that it’s clearly no concern to them. In the time since, the Syrian refugee issue has become even more of a hot-button issue and Doolittle recently discussed it with Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.

I think America is the best country in the world because we’ve been able to attract the best and brightest people from all over the world. We have the smartest doctors and scientists, the most creative and innovative thinkers. A travel ban like this puts that in serious jeopardy.

I’ve always thought that all boats rise with the tide. Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans. But if we include them, we can make the pie that much bigger, thus ensuring more opportunities for everyone.

Doolittle, of course, is referring to Executive Order 13769 signed by President Trump which sought to limit incoming travel to the United States from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. A temporary restraining order on the executive order was placed on February 3, a result of State of Washington v. Trump.

Doolittle spoke more about the plight refugees face:

These are people fleeing civil wars, violence and oppression that we can’t even begin to relate to. I think people think refugees just kind of decide to come over. They might not realize it takes 18-24 months while they wait in a refugee camp. They go through more than 20 background checks and meetings with immigration officers. They are being vetted.

They come here, and they want to contribute to society. They’re so grateful to be out of a war zone or whatever they were running from in their country that they get jobs, their kids go to our schools, they’re paying taxes, and in a lot of cases, they join our military.

Around this time last year, Craig wrote about Doolittle and Dolan not sticking to baseball. They’re still not, nor should they be. Hopefully, the duo’s outspokenness inspires other players and their loved ones to speak up for what’s right.

[Hat tip: Deadspin’s Hannah Keyser]