Hello VEB and any other baseball fans who have wandered over to this corner of the intertubes (a great network of pipes and tunnels). I've decided to kick off a series of articles on NL Central teams for the 2012 season, similar to ones I wrote last spring. (but instead of Bill James as a component, I'm using CAIRO)
I'm getting a late start on this tonight, so rather than attempt to finish a lengthy post on the entire division, I am going to go one team at a time like most sane folk. And what better team to start with but the Cardinals... (I will probably revisit this vs the other teams on the last post or something like that, towards the end of preseason).
Where to begin? Lots of players on a both familiar and a little strange team (no TLR and Albert?? wat). Anyway, starting out with a familiar but missing in action player is my inclination at the moment (and without much question who should still be the ace of the Cardinals staff).
CAIRO: 204 IP at 3.06 FIP (4.5 WAR)
ZiPS: 173 IP at 3.05 FIP
RotoChamp: 175 IP at 2.89 FIP
Fans: 196 IP at 3.2 FIP (4.6 WAR)
The return of Adam will be a much welcomed one looking at these numbers (not to mention his ability to rally a team while starting). An average of 3.05 FIP through the 4 systems listed is nice. Anywhere close to that will be awesome actually. The average expected amount of innings is 187, which would be a robust comeback season after TJ surgery. The projection by CAIRO in particular would be a magnificent return, but I'd be practically just as happy with 175 innings at 2.89 FIP as forecasted by RotoChamp.
CAIRO: 206 IP at 3.23 FIP (3.6 WAR)
ZiPS: 201 IP at 3.29 FIP
RC: 195 IP at 3.11 FIP
Fans: 209 IP at 3.37 FIP (4.4 WAR)
Before I go on, there seems to be a significant difference between how CAIRO and Fans determine WAR total. But I figure that it is worth listing anyway, for the purposes of totaling what each team is projected for by 2 different systems. Any advice on how to handle the CAIRO pitcher's WAR projections would be welcome.
Carpenter looks to be just as important a component in the '12 Cardinals rotation as Wainwright. I think the projections are pretty good for Chris, as far as yeah that's what I'd expect as well as the results. 203 innings pitched at 3.25 FIP is the average projection, about what most fans would think if they knew what FIP was. This average most closely matches the CAIRO and ZiPS projections. RotoChamp and Fans are outliers, one being optimistic about rate and the other about inning count, and vice versa. If all goes well, another 200 innings will be on the books for the tough as nails, cussin like a sailor, hardball hurler.
CAIRO: 166 IP at 3.34 (1.8 WAR)
ZiPS: 184 IP at 3.31
RC: 195 IP at 3.23
Fans: 193 at 3.46 (3.9 WAR)
Garcia is clearly not the WARrior that Waino and Carp probably are, but as a third starter he's pretty kickass. The average expected amount of innings projected is over 184, and at 3.34 FIP or so. This is a capable playoff team again with 3 strong starters, perhaps even better given the starting pitching return of Waino. Again, the averaged projection is about what I'd expect. I don't see him as an innings eater, but I also have seen him be quite effective, and a 3.34 FIP is not out of the question at all, being in between his 2010 and 2011 seasons.
CAIRO: 150 IP at 3.86 FIP (1.2 WAR)
ZiPS: 124 IP at 4.06
RC: 185 IP at 3.8
Fans: 156 IP at 4.16 (1.8 WAR)
As one of my favorite Cardinal players (as much for him sort of being a scapegoat/underappreciated at times as anything) I find the projections for Lohse to be a little crazy, except for RotoChamp, which is one of my favorite projections systems. ZiPS clearly thinks that he'll get hurt for part of the season, or something. Fans kinda approximates he just is not that good. But anyway, as I said I think RC is closest here, but here are the averages: 154 IP @ 3.97 FIP.
CAIRO: 174 IP at 4.07 FIP (1.4 WAR)
ZiPS: 127 IP at 4.19
RC: 160 at 4.2
Fans: 162 at 4.37 (1.5 WAR)
Ouch, fans. That does not look that good. But the CAIRO projection seems pretty decent for a fifth starter! As long as the middle infield is shored up, I don't think he'll be as bad as last year, and a little more towards what we saw in 2010. Average projections are 156 innings pitched at 4.21 FIP.
Like last year, I'm going to hold off on the bullpen and include it more as a tiebreaker in projecting divisional ranking expectations. Plus it will become much clearer who will make up the bullpens of each team later on in spring training games. For now, let's take a look at the hitting projections......
CAIRO: 570 PA at .375 wOBA (3.5 WAR)
ZiPS: 521 PA at .364
RC: 557 PA at .388
Fans: 586 PA at .379 (3.8 WAR)
Sgt Slaughter, Cop Stache, or Puma, whatever you wanna call him, just throwing nicknames out there... will be back with his bad self destroying baseballs in 2012. Not sure how long the mustache will last, but he looks sort of like a throwback player now to me. Which would be great if he can have another retro season like last year. If RotoChamp is right, he is going to be awesome (it says .402 OBP!). But let's take a look at the average projection of these 4 systems: nearly 560 plate appearances at .377 weighted On Base Average. Not too bad, eh? Since the WAR totals seem to relate more for hitting than for pitching, here's the average: 3.65.
The Second Baseman
CAIRO: 350 PA at .293/.306/.313 wOBA, or .304 ave (1 WAR... CAIRO is crazy about Schu though, 1.5 WAR proj)
ZiPS: 514 PA at .305/.308/.302/.305 ave wOBA
RotoChamp: 278 PA at .327/.315/.311/.318 ave
Fans: 442 PA at .344/.294 (fans declined to project Dirty Dan) .319 wOBA ave for these guys (1.4 WAR, fans likes Tyler Greene a lot at 2.6 WAR)
So what to make of that mess? Not sure, but the projections aren't either. I don't think the systems know what to make of Tyler Greene, or Dan Descalso for that matter. Skip seems to be the most expected to get playing time, but I don't think that that's necessarily the case. Anyway, since this is a grey area, here's a grey projection: 396 PA at about .311 wOBA. If they do indeed go with Tyler Greene, here is his average wOBA projection: .317! Or RotoChamp's .327, please. (1.2 WAR average proj)
CAIRO: 362 PA at .311 wOBA (1.5 WAR)
ZiPS: 433 PA at .319 wOBA
RC: 500 PA at .330 wOBA
Fans: 505 at .315 (2 WAR)
And it looks like projections expect him to get hurt, at least for a bit. Again, I tend to agree with RotoChamp, which projects Furcal at just a bit below his career average. I sincerely think he has one more good season in him. The averages are as follows: 450 plate appearances, .319 weighted on base average, 1.75 WAR.
CAIRO: 246 PA at .331 wOBA (1.1 WAR)
ZiPS: 366 PA at .320 wOBA
RC: 523 PA at .340
Fans: 543 PA at .353 (matching Bill James' projection for wOBa) (4 WAR)
Must say, these projections are all over the place. While I lean more toward the Fans perspective here, there are some legitimate concerns of playing time by CAIRO and ZiPS. RC seems pretty reasonable again. On average, the projection would be 420 plate appearances and .336 wOBA, and over 2.5 WAR.
CAIRO: 534 PA at .323 wOBA (2.7 WAR)
ZiPS: 534 at .322
RC: 473 PA at .334
Fans: 551 PA at .326 (4 WAR)
Yadi, the man of the moment right now with the contract talks, is not projected to hit like he did last year. Even RotoChamp with the most optimistic projection does not come close to his career high .349 in '11. He'll be lucky to come even close to that, but his defense should still be pretty great, and he calls a game and has the mysterious catcher's intangibles, which are elusive to evaluate. But anyway, the averages: 523 PA at .326 wOBA (3.35 WAR).
CAIRO: 480 PA at .356 wOBA (2.5 WAR)
ZiPS: 461 PA at .360 wOBA
RotoChamp: 542 PA at .376
Fans: 563 PA at .370 (3.6 WAR)
The new guy, Carlos Beltran, looks to bring a lot to the table, even if he's not named Albert Pujols. If he's like what RC or Fans thinks he will be, then that is a nice player to have in the lineup, even with Allen Craig being relegated to a more limited role. Here are the averages: 512 PA at .366 wOBA (3 WAR).
CAIRO: 460 PA at .329 wOBA (1.3 WAR)
ZiPS: 556 PA at .324 wOBA
RC: 562 PA at .337 wOBA
Fans: 611 PA at .324 wOBA (2.7 WAR)
It looks like only CAIRO is taking into account concerns about playing time once Allen Craig is fully recovered and the possibility of Beltran playing center field, even if it is not doing so on purpose. I think all these projections are welcome, since that would be a great player in each of these center fielder scenarios. Even the more stodgy Fans projection indicates he will get on base at a pretty acceptable .345 clip. The most pessimistic system about his BABIP peculiarities, ZiPS, thinks he has some power. The average projections are 547 PA at .329 weighted on base average (for the WAR projections they average out to a 2 WAR player).
CAIRO: 611 PA at .378 wOBA (4.1 WAR)
ZiPS: 597 PA at .370 wOBA
RC: 573 PA at .390
Fans: 633 PA at .394 (5.9 WAR)
I'm thinking Fans looks about right here, they are going with 27 home runs too, which would be pretty cool (but cmon, hit 30!). Even if Holliday is more like a RotoChamp Holliday, that's a key player to have starting. 604 plate appearances on average is by far the most projected for a Cardinals position player this year. He's just very important to the team's success this year. The systems agree: .383 projected wOBA! The guy just wears down pitchers, has power, can pepper the ball all over the field or into the bleachers, and will take a walk if he has to. Probably a given that he is at least a 5 WAR player in '12.
CAIRO: 286 PA at .326 wOBA (.9 WAR)
ZiPS: 457 PA at .342 wOBA
RotoChamp: 255 PA at .356 wOBA
Fans: 499 PA at .351 wOBA (2.8 WAR)
Was mulling this over as I wrote this piece, but I could not leave out Tortyfather Allen Craig. This means for the other teams I do features on I'll include 9 position players as well (the 3 second basemen I used in the Cards case are by committee for one position). The projection systems CAIRO and RotoChamps think of Allen Craig as a pinch hitter and supersub type player, which he will quite possibly be. ZiPS and Fans give him more playing time. RotoChamp is as optimistic as ever, with a .356 wOBA projection for Craig. Keep in mind he posted a .399 wOBA last year though (and he kicked ass in the minor leagues). His averages look like this: 374 plate appearances at .344 wOBA... which would be a surprise to me, but even that is a valuable player obviously. CAIRO seems to be so pessimistic I'd almost throw it out of the equation, but I suppose that it is possible he will have that drastic of a downturn, albeit unlikely in my mind. As for the 2 WAR projections I have, the ave. of that is 1.85.
So, the starting pitching's average projection per starter is at 3.56 FIP. That sounds pretty great. Just using Fans WAR projections, 16.2 is the total. For those interested in the CAIRO WAR total, it is 12.5.
+hitting total WAR (using the averages) of 24.3 = 40.5 WAR. The average wOBA projection for a Cardinals 2012 position player is something like .344 wOBA, so the offense still seems to be a force to be reckoned with.
I hope you all enjoyed reading this, it's a lot of fun to put this together. Stay tuned for at the least some projections for the Reds and the Brewers, and time permitting I'd also like to take a look at the other divisions using this method.