Fantastic work by Mr. Maniac. This is going to be one heck of an exciting team. ~Slow
With many projections starting to float out there, I decided to post an in-depth projection for the 2012 Rays. My goal is to provide reasonable statistics for every position. Because of this, break outs and "down years" are not included. Every player's statistics were carefully regressed. While regressed is commonly defined and used as a word for "taking a step back," regressed also means, as is the case in this post, to return to a prior state.
This post should also, hopefully, dispel the rumors that the Rays rotation is "much better" than the Yankees' or that the Ray's positional players are much worse, if at all (and if not better), than the Yanks.
I am using a WAR spreadsheet that can be found here: http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2011/11/12/2557029/updated-team-war-spreadsheet
By adding the team's WAR, the amount of wins a player(s) would achieve more than a replacement level player over 162 games, tothe amount of games a replacement level team (0 WAR or bad players) would win (43 in this case), a strong idea of the 2012's team talent can be gained. In the past four years in the AL East, the WAR and win numbers have correlated to the 99th percentile.
Note: The numbers are not park neutralized. Since half the games are played in "The Dome," pitching statistics are better than they really are while hitter's statistics unfairly demote the hitter's true performance.
1. Catcher (2.5 WAR)
Jose Molina: 300 PA, .280 wOBA, 1.5 Fld, .9 WAR
Jose Lobaton: 150 PA, .290 wOBA, 1 Fld, .5 WAR
Robinson Chirinos: 250 PA, .325 wOBA, -.3 Fld, 1.1 WAR
Molina is projected to have the most plate appearances. Despite his superb defense, he won't get a starter's share of the playing time due to a poor bat and his age. Lobaton's strong defense but mediocre bat won't give him much time on the field. Chrinos' average bat could be a welcome sign, allowing him to rack in 250 PA despite starting the year donning the uniform of the Durham Bulls. His fielding should have improved from last year, specifically his release which allowed base-runners to run freely while he was catching. His Milb wOBAs seem to indicate that a return to his normal hitting form is on the way in 2012.
2. First Base (1.3 WAR)
Filler: 550 PA, .335 wOBA, 1.2 WAR
Reserves: 150 PA, .320 wOBA, .1 WAR
As of right now, the Rays seemingly don't have 2012's first baseman. While Scott and Joyce are possibilities, it is likely that the Ray's acquire a first baseman from outside the organization. I assigned a league average hitter at first base with no fielding or base-running attributes. It is highly likely the Rays will get better production from first base; however, with the lack of the current player on the roster, the projections should be extremely pessimistic. The reserves will be made up from other players which could include Luke Scott, Matt Joyce, Russ Canzler, and Sean Rodriguez. With these players manning the reserve at bats, the projections are, once again, negative.
3. Second Base (5.3 WAR)
Ben Zobrist: 650 PA, .350 wOBA, .3 BR, 1.2 Fld, 5.1 WAR
Reserves: 50 PA, .320 wOBA, .15 BR, .9 Fld, .2 WAR
This year, Ben Zobrist should become a full-time player at one position with Matt Joyce and Brandon Guyer establishing themselves in RF. Zobrist has had at least 650 PA in the past two years (his first two years playing full-time), so the 650 plate appearances projectionseems fair. Zobrist had a down year hitting in 2010 (.323 wOBA, 103 wRC+). However, his 2009 was incredible and his 2011 season was also very good. His projected .350 wOBA is a drop-off from his past year's production, but it still remains excellent. His BR numbers listed are in line with his career numbers, and the fielding numbers, which are terrific, actually cut him short. However, it is better to be pessimistic than optimistic in projections. His WAR would drop from last year's 6.6 figure. The reserves would be made up by a collection of players who should feature strong defense (Sean Rodriguez, Reid Brignac, Tim Beckham, etc..) but lack a potent bat. The contributions from the group are understandably small.
4. Shortstop (1.4 WAR)
Reid Brignac: 275 PA, .280 wOBA, .4 Fld, .2 WAR
Sean Rodriguez: 375 PA, .300 wOBA, .3 Fld, 1 WAR
Tim Beckham: 50 PA, .325 wOBA, -.5 Fld, .2 WAR
This is where is starts to get ugly. Despite mis-guided assumptions that the SS position simply "has to get better," there is no apparent floor for these players. Brignac and Rodriguez both should hit poorly while providing solid, above-average defense (Rodriguez, with more time, will get better defensively). Tim Beckham could even get his shot, hitting better than the bat-less duo but being mediocre defensively.
5. Third Base (7.2 WAR)
Evan Longoria: 650 PA, .385 wOBA, 1.3 Fld, 7 WAR
Reserves: 50 PA, .320 wOBA, .8 Fld, .2 WAR
The anchor for the Rays here is Evan Longoria. Instead of babbling on about his superb defense or his solid base-running, I'll move on to the hitting. Last year, Evan managed a .365 wOBA while struggling through injuries and BABIP issues. With his hot second half and his entrance into his prime baseball years, Longoria seems to be a reasonable bet to post his best hitting year yet (although not by much). The reserves should be a light-hitting bunch who provide good fielding (Rodriguez, Zobrist, etc..). I understand it is Evan's goal to play 162 games, yet injuries have consistently stopped him short of that desirable outcome. Why projectanything different to happen in 2012 regarding that?
6. Left Field (4.6 WAR)
Desmond Jennings: 630 PA, .345 wOBA, .4 BR, 1.6 Fld, 4.2 WAR
Reserves: 70 PA, .335 wOBA, .3 BR, 1.5 Fld, .4 WAR
Desmond Jennings arriving to the scene has been a long awaited occurrence. He probably won't hit as well as he did in his short callup last year, but his bat should still be a positive force. Jennings has transformed a bit as a player, showing more (and sustainable) power in exchange for a lower batting average and a higher K rate. On a side note, I found myself looking at Crawford's defensive and base-running numbers as a comparison and reference for Jennings. The reserves are able to hit solidly due to the Rays match-up abilities (Fuld and Guyer), filling in for Desmond when he makes his annual trip to the DL.
7. Center Field (3.9 WAR)
BJ Upton: 630 PA, .340 wOBA, .3 Fld, 3.5 WAR
Reserves: 70 PA, .335 wOBA, .25 Fld, .4 WAR
BJ Upton, barring a trade, will start the year off as the Ray's CF. Upton has asserted himself as one of the top center fielders, providing power and solid defense in CF. Despite this, his fielding does not appear to be what it has been made out to be, nor is his base-running. Despite not having many injuries, Upton has failed to rack in a high total of plate appearances on a yearly basis.The reserves (Fuld and Guyer) shouldprovide solid defense with an average bat, a testimony of the Ray'sremarkable depth.
8. Right Field (3.7 WAR)
Matt Joyce: 530 PA, .360 wOBA, .15 Fld, 2.8 WAR
Reserves: 170 PA, .345 wOBA, 1.2 Fld, .9 WAR
There is the possibility Matt Joyce could break out against lefties and receive 650 PAs. As of now, I'm going to bet against that and assume that Joyce will have practically the same season as he did last year (a quick reminder to the observant reader: Joyce's WAR was higher last year because WAR is park adjusted. In these projections, it is not. So discount pitchers and lighten up on the hitters). The reserves, mainly Brandon Guyer, should get a large portion of the left handers, providing an optimal platoon situation.
9. Designated Hitter
Luke Scott: 520 PA, .355 wOBA, 1.4 WAR
Reserves: 180 PA, .335 wOBA, .2 WAR
Luke Scott enters the year as the Ray's DH. From 2008-2010 in Baltimore, Scott went on a nice little run, raising his walk rate and his power each year while maintaining his strikeoutrate. Unfortunately, an injury has set all of this back a bit. Despite this, Scott should still be an above average hitter. The reserves should be players more in the Joyce or Canzler mold than the Rodriguez or Brignac mold, giving the Rays more offense.
The Ray's Total Positional Player WAR is 31.6 WAR. Last year, the Ray's positional player WAR (park adjusted) was 31.6.
Now, before I move on to the pitchers side, I want to clarify a few things. The Rays actual positional player WAR, if my projections prove to be accurate, should be quite higher than 31.6. This is due to Tropicana Field. A significant portion of WAR is based on hitting. WAR uses park neutralized stats while the spreadsheet I am using uses wOBA, which is certainly not neutralized.
After going through some rough calculations on the Trop's affect, I have calculated the wOBA's of the players if they played in a nuetral park.*** After inserting these numbers, it appears that the Ray's Positional player WAR will be 36.9 (!). That would have been 3rd last year (slightly behind Texas and behind Boston).
A quick note on the pitching: I am using an ERA/FIP hybird. FIP nuetralizes ballparks, which is not my goal. However, ERA accounts defense, which I already accounted for in my positional player projections. So I'll go in between the two numbers, acknowledging the Trop yet eliminating defensive affects.
Starting Pitching (16.2 WAR)
David Price: 230 IP, 3.35 ERA/FIP, 4.8 WAR
James Shields: 230 IP, 3.52 ERA/FIP, 4.2 WAR
Jeremy Hellickson: 200 IP, 3.90 ERA/FIP, 2.6 WAR
Jeff Niemann: 155 IP, 4.10 ERA/FIP, 1.6 WAR
Matt Moore: 185 IP, 3.85 ERA/FIP, 2.5 WAR
Alex Cobb: 50 IP, 4.10 ERA/FIP, .5 WAR
David Price encountered some poor luck last year, having an ERA higher than his FIP despite pitching in the Trop and having some excellent defense behind him. Even though his FIPfigures to rise some (career low last year), his ERA should go down with better luck. Shields, on the other hand, should see both his FIP and his ERA go up due to a heavy workload and regression. His status as an excellent pitcher should go unchanged, though. Jeremy Hellickson is due for some big-time ERA regression (not the good type). However, I think the number will be satisfactory despite this, given Hellickson's superb minor league track record. Niemann should continue to be bothered by injuries but provides good value for being the team's worst starter. Rounding out the top 5 is Moore, who I think is in line for a good but not phenomenal year. We have to pessimistic, right? 2.5WAR is obviously pessimistic..... Alex Cobb should fill in for Niemann or any other minor injuries. A 16.2 WAR would have ranked 6th in the AL last year. Last year, the Rays ranked 8th (13.8).
Relief Pitching (2.7 WAR)
Kyle Farnsworth: 55 IP, 3.32 ERA, .1.1 WAR
Joel Peralta: 60 IP, 3.45 ERA, .7 WAR
Jake McGee: 65 IP, 3.45 ERA, .6 WAR
Burke Badenhop: 65 IP, 3.75 ERA, .3 WAR
JP Howell: 45 IP, 3.88 ERA, .1 WAR
Brandon Gomes: 50 IP, 4.00 ERA, .1 WAR
Fernando Rodney: 50 IP, 4.70 ERA, -.2 WAR
Since I projected the starters to go for the same innings totals as last year, I am projecting the relievers to do the same. Farnsworth and Peralta are bothdue for regression and less innings; however, they should be a solid closer/setup duo. Rounding out the top 3 is McGee, the most optimistic projection in this whole post. There is reason to be optimistic for McGee though, due to his blazing fastball, improving command, and workhouse capabilities. Badenhop should actually pitch better in the AL East in terms of ERA while those familiar with FIP will notice regression. In Howell, the Rays should find a good loogy who can also begin to challenge right handed hitters. Improvement through the course of the year is expected from Howell. Gomes addsanother solid reliever while Rodney, even withhis blistering fastball and awe-worthy change-up, should provide minimal, if not negative, value. Hopefully the Rays can prove me wrong in Rodney's case. Overall, the bullpen should be much better than last year's group due to a more stable core. A 2.7 WAR would have been 8th in the AL last year. Last year, the Ray's ranked 13th (.7 WAR).
In my total projections, the Rays are projected to win 94 games. Park adjusted, the positional players are projected to be worth 36.9 WAR and the pitchers are projected to be worth 13.8 WAR.
And now for the Cliff Notes section.....
1. The Rays have a very strong lineup (positional players). Perhaps it isn't Boston's quality (or Texas'), but the Ray's shouldbe every bit as good as the Yankees despite popular beliefs otherwise. The gains should mainly come from the DH position, third base, and catcher.
2. The Rays pitching should be good as well. While the Rays have had the reputation as a pitching team, Tropicana filed and the Ray's fabulous defense have had more to do with this than anything.
3. The Rays are a good team. I don't think anyone would project the same value from every spot as I did. However, I honestly don't feel that these projections are too optimistic. A few injuries could bump down the wins total, but the Ray's tremendous depth (in both hitting and pitching) should prevent a major slide.
4. It is my greatest wish that everyone reads these projections and thinks over them with an open mind. Hopefully this can make the front page so numerous fans can read this.
*** To calculate the Trop's affect, I went through various numbers including the Ray's pitching numbers at home and on the road and also the Ray's hitting numbers at home and on the road. Through many difficult calculations, I came upon a number that satisfied me: 1.06. That is the amount better a hitter hits away from the Trop than at the Trop. I was able to find the adjusted wOBA numbers by inserting my projected combined numbers (as in 50% at the Trop, 50% on the road) and coming up with the following formula: wOBA on the road is equivalent to 171.72 multiplied by the combined wOBA and divided by 166.86.