Here come the projections

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As rosters are finalized and spring training stands just around the corner we’ll start to see many projections. The first overall one I’ve seen with wins and losses is Clay Davenport’s. Go see his here.

They all look pretty reasonable to me, at least insofar as how each team finishes in its division. I’m not a numbers guy so I can’t pick nits or say things like “Only 85 wins?! Bah! I think they win 89!” Go read Clay’s methodology. It’s complicated.

And I’m glad people like Clay do these because it helps to put actual past performance and numbers and things on top of all of our offseason feelings and expectations. Aging curves and past performance being the best predictor of future performance are concepts that are easy (and frankly, fun) to forget when your team is having press conferences putting its jersey on its new free agent.

My favorite thing about projection season, though? How mainstream baseball writers will deride them as silly as they come out. They’ll drop barbs on Twitter and in their columns about how, since someone projected wins and losses for the league “there’s no reason to play the season now!” or some such. The disdain for projections and statistical analysis in general comes through pretty clearly in this stuff.

And then, come March, these same guys will run “predictions” columns. Based on far less data and far more unverifiable and unfalsifiable conventional wisdom and pure gut feeling. And rather than predict things like “generalized results over a sample of 2000+ games,” they’ll predict who out of 30 teams will win a seven-game series six months in the future. And claim their own expertise as the basis for taking them seriously.

Fun times.

Hunter Pence is mashing for the Rangers

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Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.

Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.

Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.

What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.

That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.