780 runs

i found this little gizmo on the web -- steve's lineup toy. you plug in any 9 players, and the thing generates a recommended lineup and an estimated scoring avg. here's what i got for the 2006 cardinals:

eckstein
encarnacion
pujols
edmonds
rolen
spivey
bigbie
molina
pitcher (suppan)

est scoring avg: 4.8 runs per game, or 778 total runs, down 25 from last season

that type of scoring drop would be expected to cost about three wins in the standings; sounds about right to me. of course, the problem with this little exercise is that the projection is based on 2005 numbers, and most of these players strayed far, far away from their established norms last year. eckstein and encarnacion both had career years with the bat; they're prob'y due to fall off. conversely, spivey rolen and bigbie all had career worsts; they'll prob'y be better in 2006. maybe those imbalances all balance out, collectively, in the end; i don't know. the other problem here is that the bench is entirely unaccounted for; la russa usually starts his full complement of regulars in less than half of the games, and we know that taguchi, j-rod, and some backup infielder (miles cruz or luna) is going to see significant playing time. so just what is a reasonable expectation for the cards' offense in 2006?

i did a quick tabulation based on PECOTA's projections for the individual players on the stl roster. this required certain assumptions, which i'll summarize as briefly as possible. i started with the following guys as the 13 core position players:

C: molina, bennett
IF: pujols, miles, spivey, eckstein, rolen, cruz
OF: edmonds, encarnacion, bigbie, j-rod, taguchi

maybe you think luna should be in there instead of miles; doesn't really make a difference. to that group i added 300 at-bats' worth of pitchers' hitting, plugging in last year's rates of hits, walks, etc etc. and to bring the total plate appearances up to a full season's worth, i assumed 400 at-bats' worth of generic bench play -- whatever hector luna, michel hernandez, john gall, prentice redman, and the like contribute. i set the rate of production for that parcel at 90 percent of league average -- rather generous, but what they hell. because PECOTA leaves out obscurata (new word??) like hbp and sf/sh, i also had to make assumptions on those (just used last year's numbers) to arrive at the following team projection -- 2005 data presented alongside for benchmarking:

ab r h 2b 3b hr rbi bb avg obp slg
2005 5538 805 1494 287 26 170 757 534 270 339 423
2006 (PEC) 5535 759 1480 288 26 171 724 548 267 340 421

right off the bat (no pun), something doesn't add up. the projected numbers are nearly identical to last year's actual numbers in all respects -- avg, on-base, slugging, homers, extra-base hits, walks -- but the team's run total is supposed to drop by 46, to 759. what gives?

for a quick n dirty check on this, i calculated the projected team's runs created, using the original vanilla formula (ie H+W+HBP x TB divided by AB+W+HBP). it came out to 793 runs. the 2005 team per this formula created 798 runs -- very close to their actual scoring total of 805. so we can't say the team outperformed its base numbers last year and is due for a drop; the cards' run total was very consistent with their on-base and slugging performance. so, to the extent that PECOTA projections mean anything, a target of 780 to 800 runs for this team seems more realistic than the 759 runs in the table above.

i have to admit, i thought the numbers would look worse. PECOTA is, by design, not a bullish projection system; its powerful center of gravity keeps it from spitting out wildly optimistic or pessimistic figures. for instance, it forecasts only 16 homers from rolen, only 15 from encarnacion, just 5 from yadi; it thinks spivey will bat .247, bigbie .272, eckstein .266. the one guy whose projection could be deemed a leap of faith is john rodriguez's: PECOTA credits him with 404 at-bats (he'll be lucky to get half) of .265 / .340 / .462 hitting, with 16 hr 59 rbi and 59 runs scored. also, PECOTA is definitely bullish on jim edmonds -- he's projected to stay in the lineup (464 at-bats) and hit the snot out of the ball: .285 / .407 / .582, with 34 homers.

but on the whole, i think we've ended up right back where we began with steve's lineup toy: just below 5 runs a game. i'd take that and be very happy with it.

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