Baseball Prospectus 2012

It hath arrived.

Got it first Sunday at a chain bookstore here and have not dived fully in,  but the predictions based on Statistical Reduction and a dozen other complicated formulae cascade out upon you from every page and it’s worth mentioning a few even before anybody’s done a thorough vetting of what they’ve got.

The most poignant of them, perhaps, are the minimalist predictions for the Yankees’ only offensive addition (“his dense hasn’t been good in a decade, and his bat is barely good enough to fill a DH role”) compared to the man the franchise downgraded, degraded, and then forced into retirement:

Player                                           PA    2B     3B   HR    RBI     AVG/OBP/SLG    WARP

Raul Ibanez                              552   28     3      17     65       .251/.311./.416    1.5

Jorge Posada                           376   18     0      13     45       .260/.350/.440   2.1

The predictions were done, obviously, before Ibanez signed with the Yankees and do not account for their intention to sit him against lefthanders. If that brings Ibanez’s predicted Plate Appearances down the 32 percent or so to where the Posada predicted Plate Appearances are, the BP forecast for Ibanez translates to 19 doubles, 2 triples, and 44 RBI.

In short, the stats – and remember this is the predictive formula that got Evan Longoria’s rookie season virtually exactly correct, even though it had nothing but college and minor league data to work with – suggest Jorge Posada would’ve had a better year than Raul Ibanez will have. This underscores a point that has become clearer and clearer to me since the Montero-Pineda trade: Brian Cashman and the Yankees are approaching 2012 in exactly the opposite way they should be. They are not flush with hitting and weak with starting. Their offense is, in fact, getting dangerously old, and the only immediate productivity from their farm system was likely to be more starting pitching (the traded Hector Noesi, plus Manuel Banuelos and Dellin Betances). They did not have a hitter to trade, least of all one that Cashman compared to Miguel Cabrera.

I’ll go into the Yankees’ age problem in another post but the Alex Rodriguez prediction is appropriate here:

Player                                           PA    2B     3B   HR    RBI     AVG/OBP/SLG    WARP

Alex Rodriguez                       437   18      0    24      66       .279/.377/.525    4.3


BP has long been known as a deflator of the balloons of hope. It sees Mike Trout getting just 250 ups this year, with a 4-24-.254/.317/.369 line. Bryce Harper gets the same number of plate appearances, and just 7-26-.239/.304/.383. The rookies it likes best include an unusually large lot of catchers:  Jesus Montero (2.7 WARP), Robinson Chirinos (2.5), Ryan Lavarnway (2.3; I agree; Boston hopes this year may rest on whether or not anybody on the “New Sox” has the vision to see it); James Darnell (2.1) and Devin Mesoraco (2.1). The likelies to crash (in terms of WARP falloff) are Jose Bautista, Jacoby Ellsbury, Alex Gordon, Matt Kemp, Alex Avila, and Jeff Francoeur – but even with that it still sees Bautista at 9th in that category in the AL and Kemp tied for 7th in the NL.

What it says about the big Pujols move, and the other transactions, I leave to the hard-working editors and publishers. I’ve stolen enough of their thunder.

As to an evaluation of the book itself, there is a format change. In past years, players were grouped by the teams they were with in the preceding year. In this edition, all those who have moved before the publishing deadline have been put in the sections of their new teams – which sounds great, except when you go looking for Pujols and Fielder you’ll find the former with the Angels and the latter with the Brewers instead of the Tigers. It’s a nice try but ultimately not helpful.

And in what is either a booming typo or a bizarre redefinition, the very last leader board in the book – Rookie Pitchers’ WARP – seems to list last year’s rookie pitchers. Unless I’m missing something, Pineda, Hellickson, Ogando, Kimbrel, Sale, et al, don’t get a second bite at the kiddo apple.


  1. David Perez

    Brother Keith:

    Thank you for this. Thanks for your show. I’d love to watch a ballgame with you sometime. I’ve been on a personal boycott until McCourt is gone. Once he’s gone, I can go back to Chavez Ravine.

    Your pal,

    Dave Perez

  2. christopher plummer (no, not that one)

    Keith, thanks, it is good to know, before I buy it myself, that instead of the BP downgrading the entire Royals roster they’ve narrowed it down to two individuals. Huzzah!…and thanks for the occasional reminder that baseball and liberal have more in common than just Francoeur and his strike zone. Cheers.

  3. Sam

    It’s a preseason ritual– Keith forecasting gloomy things for the Yankees. Where were they supposed to finish last year? Third or fourth? Instead they won the division. But I’m not a numbers-cruncher. What the Cards did last year was magical and I doubt could have been predicted.

  4. EarlNash (@EarlNash)

    Typo correction: (“his SENSE hasn’t been good in a decade, and his bat is barely good enough to fill a DH role”) Lavarnway for AA Portland Sea Dogs; he can outhit and out “de-sense” Salty Dog…

  5. Debra Cebulski

    Hey Keith – looks like the Yanks got ripped off by signing Ibanez. If the numbers you cite accurately predict his performance this year, his departure from the Phils could be a good thing. Pap has good numbers from last year with the Red Sox and I hope that he performs well for the Phils this year. Our pitching looks solid (i.e. Halladay, Lee) and Howard seems to be ready for action soon. I want a Phillies/Yankees World Series because payback is a b***h.

  6. KTroilo

    Great stuff. Personally I expect hellickson and ogando to regress a bit this year rather than continue to pitch how they did last year. Ogando was shaken up late in the world series last year. I’m not saying that wasn’t expected as a rookie on that stage but it definitely doesn’t sit well on a kids head for the offseason. Keep up the great work man!

  7. Patricia Ellyn Powell

    The only Ibanez I knew before this was my guitar! I wish I could go to spring training! It is getting close. Wheeeee! ;D

  8. Stephen S. Power

    The editor who puts together BP does an amazing job over what the rest of publishing calls “the Xmas break,” then practically minute by minute for the next two months to make this book happen. But nothing engages him more, I think, than choosing the players to go on the cover and writing the taglines. I’m his colleague and a baseball nut too, so he bounces his drafts of both the lineup and the taglines off me, and that’s my favorite part of spring (until I get my BP, of course) (then my fantasy draft) (then Opening Day).

    • Patricia Ellyn Powell

      That would drive me nuts too after a lifetime of teaching English! I have a student who wrote a book that is so filled with them that I cannot even read it. That is so distractive and maddening…for people who care about the language.

  9. Gus

    This is excellent news indeed, however, I wished you would have gotten the BP 2012 at a local independent bookstore instead. Sorry, but I felt compelled to comment on the ‘chain bookstore’ part of the article.

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