What Is In A Projection - Part 1 - Hitters

This is the first part of a two-part series in which we look at the 2012 season for the Athletics. Today we look at the hitters, tomorrow we tackle the pitchers and possible number of wins.

Spring  Training is just around the corner and with pitchers and catchers reporting in under a week, this time of year holds a little bit of everything for baseball fans. For some, it is Truck Day. For others, it is Top 100 lists. And yet still for others it is projections. Projections are fun and can offer insight into a teams upcoming season. However, there is an inherent risk; they can all be completely different. Just take Jemile Weeks for example. Below are two projections for his 2012 season:

  AB Hits 2B HR SO BB BA
Davenport 553 149 29 7 92 44 0.269
ZiPS 373 98 19 4 64 28 0.267

The averages are the same, however the way they get to those averages are completely different. Clay Davenport sees Weeks staying healthy and getting a whole seasons worth of at-bats, whereas ZiPS disagrees. So what good are these projection systems to us? What can we do with them?

As Jason Collette suggests, you combine them and get an average. With projection systems being so different, collecting as many as you can and averaging them out, while overly simple and dirty, can give you a better look at what to expect for the upcoming season. 

Before we get into the meat of this, I did take a couple liberties. As far as a lineup I used the one that Bob Melvin seemed to set forth at Fan Fest. It looks as follows;
Weeks 2B
Crisp CF
Smith LF
Allen DH
Suzuki C
Reddick RF
Barton 1B
Sizemore 3B
Pennington SS

Whereas I do not fully agree with the construction of the lineup, this seems like the most likely one, for now. Also, the Athletics are not constructed of Cal Ripken, Jr. clones, but I did air on the side of relative health. So when we get to the part where we talk about possible number of runs scored for the season, the above lineup was assumed to be constructed that way for 150 games. Ambitious, I know. Let us have a look at the lineup, shall we?

I compiled the stats from five projection systems; Bill James, Clay Davenport, ZiPS, CAIRO, and ROTO Champs. To the best of my ability I tried to get projections that were both optimistic and not so optimistic. Below is the lineup with the aggregated stats.

    AB Hits 1B 2B 3B HR SB CS BB SLG BA
Weeks   513 141 101 28 8 5 21 10 38 0.387 0.274
Crisp   437 118 84 22 5 8 34 8 39 0.395 0.270
Smith   431 113 68 25 5 15 7 2 45 0.447 0.263
Allen   388 89 52 19 3 15 7 2 48 0.408 0.229
Suzuki   489 125 85 26 1 14 4 2 37 0.397 0.256
Barton   367 91 63 20 2 6 3 2 61 0.363 0.249
Sizemore   458 116 76 26 2 13 7 4 57 0.401 0.253
Pennington   502 130 94 25 4 7 19 7 47 0.365 0.258
Reddick   430 109 65 26 4 14 4 4 33 0.428 0.252

Not pretty, especially Allen sitting at #4 and only hitting .229. I was surprised by the relative success of the top three of the lineup, specifically Seth Smith. Also, if Reddick is a 4th outfielder, I’ll take near-.500 slugging 4th outfielders all day long. But overall, where does this leave the A’s?

After running this lineup through a simulator and assuming this lineup is together, as is, for 150 games, one can expect the Athletics to score 675 (4.12 runs/game) runs in 2012. This means the A’s would score more runs than they did 3 of the last 4 seasons. That’s not bad considering they are going to run out a lineup of guys that either haven’t been given a full season worth of plate appearances, are coming off a injury season, are old and shouldn’t be there, or generally considered the castoffs of other teams. Now all of this could be rendered completely moot with injury, trade, unexpected bad season (see: 2011, Adam Dunn) or some combination of those. Just remember, projections are simply that and nothing more. As much as we would like to think we know what is going to happen during the season, it is simply impossible for us to know everything.

David Spencer can be found on Twitter at @oakfaninva. If you like listening to four random guys talk about the Oakland Athletics for an hour each week, you can check out the podcast he hosts called Tarp Talk.

Tags: Bob Melvin Brandon Allen Cliff Pennington Coco Crisp Daric Barton Jemile Weeks Josh Reddick Kurt Suzuki Scott Sizemore Seth Smith

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