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Feet to the Fire

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Ah, Projection Season. One of the most glorious times of the year. Each year, I find myself getting more and more excited as each player projection approaches, barely able to contain my enthusiasm. Oh, wonder of wonders, I say! Oh, heavenly endeavour! Oh, what joy unbounded, what pure and glorious-

Wait a second. What the hell am I talking about? I hate projection season.

It's true. I know, I know. I write for a stat-heavy baseball blog; how can I possibly not like projections? Well, let me tell you, it isn't easy, but I find a way to make it work. I almost never take part in these projection excercises, and while I certainly find it interesting to look at the various projections, I just don't find it very enjoyable.

More than anything, though, projection season is an ugly, in between time of year. Most of the good hot stove stuff is already done, as the good free agents are pretty much all gone (this year being somewhat of an exception), and you don't see too many trades until closer to spring training. You're tired of talking about last season, having analysed pretty much every single iota of information possible from several hundred different angles. And worst of all, it's still a full month before pitchers and catchers report. Let's face it, folks. The middle of January is baseball purgatory.

But, in the spirit of trying to be more projection-friendly, I've decided to do something that several of the posters around these here parts have suggested: I'm going to look at our past projections and see how we did. See, I figure that nostalgia is one of my chief allies in the world of the written word, so I shall gird myself with the weapons of the past as I attempt to find pleasure in numbers.

Now, it has been suggested that someone should round up all the projection systems, compare them to the actual performance of the players, and then try to determine how accurate these systems really are. Well, aside from the fact that I'm sure someone much smarter than me over at BP or the like has probably done so at some point, I also simply don't have that kind of time (nor, to be perfectly honest, ambition), to take on such a massive project. No, I thought it just might be fun to take a look back at our very own VEB projections from the year most recently ended, and see how we did.

Last year, the VEB community did projections for six players; four pitchers and two hitters. Honestly, I was surprised that there were so few, but I went through the archives, and that's all that I saw. If I missed one somehow, I apologise. I'm going to stick to the pitchers today, both because I'm strapped for time, and also because frankly, the pitching ones are really, really interesting.

Slight side note: you should all really read through the original threads on all of these; it's fascinating to see all the people who don't come around here anymore. It makes me wonder why.

Player Projection #1: Kyle Lohse

GS IP H BB SO HR W L ERA WHIP
29 184 196 56 118 21 11 11 4.42 1.371
33 200 211 49 119 18 15 6 3.78 1.300

The top line is the VEB projection, the bottom line is Kyle's actual numbers from last year.

So, how did we do? Well, pretty good, actually. What jumps out at you, of course, is the ERA; somehow, Lohse managed an ERA about three quarters of a run better than what we expected. The culprit? Lower home run and walks totals. Of course, this isn't really news, as we're all well aware that those two things were the real keys to Lohse's success last year. He gave up hits at about the rate that we expected, and the strikeouts are fairly comparable. He didn't walk many, and he kept the ball in the park. Simple, huh?

Player Projection #2: Joel Pineiro

GS IP H BB SO HR W L ERA WHIP
27 169 181 51 110 21 11 10 4.44 1.377
25 148.2 180 35 81 22 7 7 5.15 1.446

So, how did we do? Not quite as good on this one, honestly. Seems that at least a few people around here were looking for the Jo-El who handcuffed the Mets to show up, as opposed to the one that actually did. Looking at the numbers, it's easy to see why El Pinata was so much worse than we thought: he gave up what is commonly referred to as a 'shit ton' of hits, and he didnt strike out much of anybody. You want the definition of a hittable pitcher? Look no further. He also gave up homers at a faster pace than we predicted; not a good combo when you're already giving up a lot of hits and allowing contact on pretty much every pitch you toss up there.

Player Projection #3: Anthony Reyes

GS IP H BB SO HR W L ERA WHIP
24 147 141 52 114 -- 10 9 4.43 1.313
6 49 47 15 25 4 4 2 2.76 1.265

So, how did we do? Do you have any idea how much I love this one? Not because we learned anything at all from it, but just because it gives me a chance to think about ol' Iron Bill and the organisational differences that led to his departure again without feeling like I'm just self flagellating for no reason at all.

To be honest, this one isn't even close to being right, but in our defense, none of us thought that Anthony's 2008 was going to be anything like it was. At the time this projection was made, he was seen as being the favourite to be the fifth starter in the rotation; we all know, of course, that did not, in fact, happen. All of his starts were after he was dealt to the Cleveland Indians; Reyes served the Cardinals only in a relief capacity.

The one and only thing that really jumps out to me about this (and it is significant), is that in both projection land and reality, Anthony gave up less hits than innings pitched. That, we were all kinds of accurate on. In fact, the rate at which he gave up hits in 2008 is exactly the rate we predicted. Let me say that again. Our projection on Anthony's hit rate was perfect. I'm not a huge math guy, so maybe that's not as weird as I think it is, but estimating a rate stat like that perfectly strikes me as more than a little bit freaky.

This was also the only projection that lacked a home run component for the pitchers; not sure why, exactly, but there it is. The long ball, of course, always was a bit of a bogey for Anthony, and I'm assuming that our predictions for his ERA were based largely on a continuance of his homer-allowing, no-runner-left-behind anti stranding policy ways. What happened for Anthony is that he mostly kept the ball in the yard, reducing his HR rate to less than one per nine innings pitched, and kept his walk rate down fairly low, less than three per nine innings. In short, the only thing Anthony really didn't do that you would like to see is strike people out. In the minors, Reyes consistently had remarkable K/BB rates, and as we all know, those ratios are one of the best predictors of future success we have. Since coming to the big leagues, though, his strikeout rates have been nowhere near what they had been. Bottom line, I still believe in Anthony Reyes. He's maybe not quite what we thought he was going to be, but that's part him and part a bad situation, in my ever so humble opinion. The talent is still in there, I think, and I hope Reyes figures out a way to tap into it fully in Cleveland.

Player Projection #4: Matt Clement

GS IP H BB SO HR W L ERA WHIP
24 142 141 60 112 17 9 9 4.48 1.421
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

So, how did we do? Well, I saved the best one for last. At the very least, it's certainly the cleanest, tidiest pitching line you're ever going to see.

I'm going to go on record right now and say that I really liked the Matt Clement signing at the time. I did. I may look stupid now, but at the time, I thought it was an excellent, calculated risk. Of all the bargain guys on the market that the Cardinals were legitimately looking at to try and catch lightning in a bottle for the back of the rotation, I thought Clement had easily the best stuff in the non-Mark Prior category, and should have had at least a decent chance to come back healthy.

Sadly, it wasn't to be for Clement. His velocity just never came back, and it looks like it very well may not be coming back at this point. You feel bad for the guy, who really was a pretty good pitcher at one point. He got lost, of course, in all of the wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth over the Mulder and Carpenter arm issues and the Wainwright injury. (Good god, how did this team manage to win any games at all last year?)

Given what we know now, I would support a Matt Clement signing again. Tomorrow. Seriously. I don't mean Clement specifically, of course, but this type of pitcher. Sure, I understand that it feels like we're always dumpster diving, and it can be frustrating at times. But even so, I don't see any real downside to taking a shot on a guy like this. Worst case scenario is exactly what we got out of Matt Clement last year: nothing.

Well, I hope you've enjoyed this trip down pitcher projection memory lane. I'll probably throw the two hitter projections in another post as part of something else one of these days, but I'll be honest: neither one is nearly as compelling as a couple of the pitchers.

Take care, everybody. And Mo, if you're reading this, I'm just kidding about Clement. Seriously, no more of that stuff. You guys are killing me.

Oh, one last thing. If everyone could be so kind, I would greatly appreciate if you would head on over to the RFT's interview with Tony La Russa. He's promoting his ARF music thing, so if you've ever wondered the skipper's exact postion on Dragonforce, this is your chance to find out. It isn't one of my pieces, but a) it's always a fun time when the skipper starts waxing about his favourite rock bands, and b) it would score me major points with my editor if I can steer some traffic over. So come on, El Vivis, show the Baron how much you love him. Do if for Red. Red would do if for you.

(This moment of third person speechifying has been brought to you by Rickey. Congrats, Rickey.)