FanPost

2010 NL East Fan Projections: OFs

Introduction

Hi again, everybody.  Welcome to Part 4 of my series on the 2010 Fan Projections from FanGraphs.  Here are the links to the first 3 parts:

In this part, we'll be covering the NL East's outfielders.  Unlike in the infield or at catcher, there are no superstar outfielders in the division (unless Beltran comes back as good as ever).  There are, however, a wealth of solid-to-very-good (3-5 WAR) players, led by Beltran and Jayson Werth.  In fact, there's only one starting outfielder in the division whose projection is definitively below average (guess who?).  The lack of superstars and depth of solid players means that the WAR spread between the best and worst outfields is not very great, but there does seem to be a clear consensus on which team has the best outfield.

The Best Outfield in the NL East Will Be...

I started off by selecting the top 4 outfielders for each team--a starter at each position, plus a backup.  Unlike with the SP projections, I went with the 4 players who seem most likely to get the most playing time rather than the ones with the highest projections.  This meant that I included Melky Cabrera instead of Jordan Schafer, and Jeff Francoeur instead of Fernando Martinez.  My assumptions could turn out to be wrong, of course.  Feel free to disagree in the comments.

So, who has the best outfield in the division?  I summed up all the WAR values from each team's 4-man outfield, and these are the results:

4427579086_4e1c7eda95_o_medium

The Phillies, as one might expect, came out on top.  They have a nice mix of power and speed, and all 3 starters can generally be counted on to put up good numbers.  Barring an injury, they'll almost certainly get something close to this projected production.  In a bit of a surprise, the Nationals come in second.  The secret to their (projected) success is defense, although they have some decent hitters as well.  Right behind them are the Mets, although you can feel free to be skeptical of this projection given Beltran's surgery and the presence of Gary Matthews, Jr.  Next up is the Marlins, who have 3 good-but-not-great guys.  The Braves bring up the cellar, but there are lots of disclaimers about these projections (especially regarding Heyward), so please do read on.

I will reiterate my warning from the first post: a lot can change during the season, between injuries, trades, surprise performances, and call-ups.  This is not a prediction; it is only a projection based on how things look right now.

Below, I examine the projections for each team in more detail.  

Team-by-Team Projections

For each OF in the sample, I list the # of votes cast for that player, plus the following stats: PA, AVG, OBP, SLG, BB%, K%, HR, SB, UZR, and WAR.  For more about these stats, see part 2 on infielders.  As before, players listed as "Other" (with the green background) were not included in the graphs.

A few caveats:

  • Remember, there's a lot of wiggle room in these numbers, since they aren't, y'know, real.
  • Jason Heyward was not eligible to be projected by the fans, since he did not appear in the majors last year, but I included him anyway. I know that I didn't include any other such players in these analyses, but honestly, who thinks that Heyward won't be spending almost all of the year in Atlanta? I couldn't leave him out.  For his projection, I used the average of his CHONE and Bill James projections.
  • WAR depends largely on playing time, so check each player's PAs if you think their WAR is a bit low. If that player stays healthier than the fans project, he will eclipse his WAR projection even if he doesn't play any better. Similarly, if a player is injured, his WAR will be less than projected even if he does not play any worse.
  • As always, you should keep in mind that the projections with fewer votes are more likely to be outliers than those with more votes, so if a player has fewer than 15 votes, take his projections with a grain of salt.

Atlanta Braves

  Player Votes PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% HR SB UZR WAR
LF Matt Diaz 46 507 .305 .367 .441   6.9% 21.8% 12   7 -1.9 2.2
CF Nate McLouth 80 642 .265 .353 .442 10.7% 18.2% 21 22 -0.4 3.6
RF Jason Heyward ** 471 .289 .357 .451   9.3% 14.6% 13   8  2.7 1.9
4th OF Melky Cabrera 85 530 .276 .331 .398   7.5% 12.4% 11 12  0.3 1.4
Other Jordan Schafer 14 332 .259 .349 .420 11.7% 27.0%   8 11  2.8 1.8

** As I mentioned above, Heyward was not eligible for the Fan Projections.  These numbers are the averages of his Bill James projection (which is optimistic) and his CHONE projection (which is very pessimistic).  Since Bill James doesn't project WAR, I had to make an educated guess for the resulting WAR based on Heyward's numbers.  The result is a fairly middle-of-the-road estimate of what he might do this year.

Before I get to my comments about these projections, I just want to point out how big of an improvement even this (seemingly below-average) projection is over last year.  In 2009, the Braves got 3 WAR from their OFs, which is just absolutely abysmal--and it could have been worse without a couple of shrewd trades.  In 2010, this pessimistic set of projections says the Braves will be good for 9 WAR, or a 6-win improvement.  Even if the Braves' 2010 outfield is somehow worse than these projections, it will still be much better than last year's.

These projections are some of the most arguable that I have seen in this entire series.  For instance, Diaz is projected to be worth 0.5 WAR less than he was last year despite getting 80+ more PAs.  Does that seem likely to you?  Last year, he hit .313/.390/.488, so he is projected to lose 23 points of on-base and 47 points of slugging while having essentially the same batting average.  I understand projecting him to regress back to the mean somewhat, but that seems excessive.  If he really does get 500 PAs, I can't imagine him being worth much less than 3 WAR.  For a slash line, I'd guess more like .305/.375/.470.

Cabrera's projection also seems too low to me.  He's moving from the AL to the NL and is at an age which many players have breakout years, and yet these projections have him hitting worse than in 2009.  I realize that a lot of people aren't sold on Melky, but what basis would anyone have for projecting him to decline at age 25?  I personally think his CHONE line is much more likely: .296/.367/.441, for 3.3 WAR.  I'm not saying that will happen, only that I think he's more likely to have that kind of mini-breakout than to be worse than last year.

On the other hand, Schafer's projection completely baffles me.  First off, how is he going to get 332 PAs in the majors?  Wouldn't two guys have to get injured for a long stretch for that to happen?  Even in that sort of disaster scenario, I'm still not sure he'd be called up; he'd have to be playing well and staying healthy for Gwinnett.  And even if he did get called up, I don't think he'd be likely to hit that well.  It's possible, I guess, but given how bad he was last year, it seems like a huge stretch.  I think Jordan will be a good player eventually (if he can stay healthy and such), but I'd peg that time for 2011 at the earliest.  This is probably the single weirdest projection I've seen so far, which is part of why I didn't include him in the graphs over Cabrera.

The other potential over-projection here is McLouth's.  I happen to think his numbers will end up being very similar to his projection, but I could see someone making an argument for him being worth only 2 WAR, or as much as 5 WAR, depending on how things shake out with injuries, eyesight, and slumps.

Finally, I should say a bit about Heyward.  He is very hard to project, obviously, since he is so talented but also so young.  I think the mixed projection above is reasonable, but I could see him being worth anywhere from 1 to 6 WAR. Obviously, 6 WAR isn't likely, but then it wasn't very likely that Albert Pujols would do what he did in 2001.  For a lot of reasons, Heyward reminds me of Pujols.  Regardless of whether he hits like Pujols or just a poo-hole, he's an important part of the Braves lineup this year, and the team's success depends in large degree on his performance.

What d o you project for Heyward (slash line and WAR)?

 -------

I combined the projections from the Braves' 4 outfielders and compared those numbers to the projected league-average numbers.  The graph below gives you a sense of how the Braves compare to the averages in 5 categories: batting average (AVG), isolated power (ISO; slugging minus batting average), walk rate (BB%), strikeout rate (K%), and UZR (Above Brad Hawpe)*.  For an explanation of UZR (ABH), see part 2 on Infielders.

* One other note on these graphs.  Because a couple teams had such outstanding UZRs from their outfielders, the UZR spoke in all of these graphs is on a different scale than the other 4 spokes.  Normally, each gray line represents an interval of 5%; for the UZR spokes in these graphs, that interval is 10%.  In other words, a good UZR in one of these graphs is actually twice as good as it looks, and a bad UZR is twice as bad as it looks.  Sorry if that is confusing; it was the only way I could get the graphs to look right. (Stupid Nyjer Morgan and his fantastic fielding...)

Here's the Braves' graph:

4427579360_4ec0156cac_o_medium

Based on the fans' projection, the Braves seem to be a bit below average.  I think that the ISO and BB% figures are at least a bit low, but overall, this isn't a terrible set of numbers.  Not as good as the Phillies', obviously, but still acceptable given our pitching staff.

Florida Marlins

  Player Votes PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% HR SB UZR WAR
LF Chris Coghlan 41 671 .300 .378 .425 10.1% 14.6% 10 16  -4.1 3.2
CF Cameron Maybin 32 556 .272 .345 .414   9.5% 25.2% 11 18   4.7 2.9
RF Cody Ross 30 622 .274 .334 .471   7.2% 21.7% 25   7   0.4 2.8
4th OF Brett Carroll   9 333 .248 .305 .376   6.6% 23.8%   7   2 10.8 1.1

The one number that jumps out to me here is Brett Carroll's projected UZR--10.8 runs above average in limited playing time.  That is superstar-level defense.  He did put up a fantastic UZR last year, but given the sample size, I can't help but think that was at least partially a fluke.  I would project him as +5 at best.  Of course, almost all of his value is pegged to his defense, so if his glove isn't worth 10+ runs, he'd better work on his hitting (oh, I guess he already is...).

The hitting numbers all seem reasonable to me.  Maybin might have a breakout year--he certainly has the tools--but I'll believe that when I see it.  Until then, 2.9 WAR seems about right.  Coghlan and Ross are right on with my projections as well.  Coghlan may be able to repeat his 2009 numbers, but I agree with the voters that a slight regression is more likely.

Here's the Marlins' graph:

4427579306_3bc74157b6_o_medium

So basically, they're not great at hitting, but they are great at defense, thanks to Maybin and Carroll.  Very interesting. I wonder if their good OF defense will make up for their potentially terrible IF defense?  This does make you wonder if the Marlins can score enough runs to compete. 

New York Mets

  Player Votes PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% HR SB UZR WAR
LF Jason Bay 138 646 .273 .372 .496 13.3% 27.7% 29 10 -11.2  3.0
CF Carlos Beltran 132 563 .288 .380 .507 13.1% 16.6% 23 17    2.3  4.9
RF Jeff Francoeur 113 597 .271 .308 .422   4.4% 17.7% 16   5   -2.4  0.4
4th OF Angel Pagan   35 415 .283 .339 .449   8.2% 16.8%   8 16    5.5  2.4
Other Fernando Martinez   16 280 .275 .329 .431   6.4% 18.7%   7   7    1.8  1.0
Other Gary Matthews, Jr.   36 349 .250 .325 .373   9.5% 22.8%   6   6   -7.3 -0.4

You can see from these projections exactly why the Mets were so keen on signing Bay, but also why so many teams were wary of giving him money.  On the one hand, he's got excellent patience and good power.  On the other hand, he strikes out a ton, has injury concerns, and has terrible defensive stats*.  Even if he hits very well, I don't think he will stay healthy enough or field well enough to justify his contract.  The fans seem to agree, putting him at 3 WAR--good, but not star-caliber.

* I know that there's a lot of debate about Bay's defense, with many people saying it's not that bad, and that Fenway distorts the fielding metrics... But Bay had terrible UZRs in his last year and a half in Pittsburgh, too, and has a career UZR/150 of -7.9.  Maybe he's not as bad as he was last year (-13 UZR), but he's just not a good outfielder.

Beltran's projection is obviously very questionable, given his knee issues.  He's a great player when he plays, but who knows if he'll be able to get 560+ PAs, as the fans project?  I don't exactly disagree with this projection, but given the Mets' recent injury history, it's very easy to doubt that Beltran will be worth nearly 5 WAR.

As for Francoeur, well, if you can't say something nice... Actually, here's one nice thing: if he somehow defies the laws of probability and hits like he did with the Mets last year, he will actually be worth that $5M Omar is paying him. I'll let you guys speculate on just how likely that is.

Also, Angel Pagan is one heckuva backup.  I didn't quite realize how good until I did this post, but he could probably start for a lot of teams (and probably should start for the Mets, even once Beltran gets back).  Mets fans should be glad to have him filling in for Beltran.  Plus, he has an awesome name; anyone whose name is in an Iron & Wine song is OK by me.

Now for the Mets' outfield graph:

4427579248_d3121fb65d_o_medium

Great power, good walk rate (despite Frenchy), but awful defense (thanks to Bay).  Seems about right to me.

Philadelphia Phillies

  Player Votes PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% HR SB UZR WAR
LF Raul Ibanez 76 563 .281 .353 .512   9.8% 20.5% 26   4 -3.7 2.7
CF Shane Victorino 75 657 .288 .346 .433   7.5% 12.8% 12 29  2.8 3.8
RF Jayson Werth 83 623 .272 .372 .497 13.2% 27.0% 30 20  7.9 4.9
4th OF Ben Francisco 27 374 .267 .332 .430   8.0% 21.8% 11 10 -1.8 1.1

Everyone seems to agree that Ibanez's 2009 was a bit of a fluke, at least as far as the power goes.  These numbers seem like a decent enough guess at how far he'll regress, but given his age (almost 38), I would not be surprised to see his numbers plummet, either.  Victorino's projection seems right on to me, but then, he is one of the two easiest guys to project (the other is Adam Dunn), because he does the same thing every year.

Until last year, I had never thought of Jayson Werth as anything more than a solid player, but he's actually been an excellent all-around player for several years.  I think he just gets lost behind the bigger names in that Philly lineup. He's certainly an asset, though--he hits for power, walks, steals bases, and is good in the field. In fact, the fans project him to be worth more than Rollins or Howard, despite their MVPs.

Here's the Phillies' outfield graph:

4427579202_2b950dae58_o_medium

Just an excellent all-around graph.  Maybe they strike out a bit too much, but given the great ISO, that's not a big problem.  Their UZR also projects to be quite good; I think the Phillies definitely have the best all-around defense in the league.  They have plus defenders at every position except LF.  I wonder how much that will help Halladay and Hamels...

Washington Nationals

Finally, the Nats.

  Player Votes PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% HR SB UZR WAR
LF Josh Willingham 81 561 .266 .374 .474 12.3% 22.4% 23   5  -3.7 2.9
CF Nyjer Morgan 53 652 .296 .356 .367   7.2% 16.0%   3 44 14.6 4.0
RF Elijah Dukes 38 509 .266 .367 .441 12.8% 20.0% 16   9  -0.1 2.4
4th OF Willie Harris 19 471 .251 .355 .358 12.7% 18.0%   6 14   3.9 1.7
Other Justin Maxwell 12 352 .247 .339 .394 11.4% 31.3%   8 18   6.4 1.5
Other Willy Taveras 32 360 .258 .301 .328   5.3% 16.1%   3 24  -7.8 0.4

Is it too early to call Nyjer Morgan the second coming of Otis Nixon?  I guess Morgan hits for a bit better average and walks a bit less, but on the bases and in the field, nobody reminds me more of Otis than Morgan does.  Baserunning and defense have their value--that's how a guy with a .367 SLG can be worth 4 WAR.

Can someone please tell me why the Nats picked up Willy Taveras?  I mean, what does he offer?  Don't you already have a guy who does everything Taveras does, but does it better, and who plays more positions (our old friend Willie Harris)?  And don't you also have Justin Maxwell, a kid with some potential?  OK, so he probably won't make the team, but why even waste ST ABs on Taveras? It's decisions like these (and signing Pudge Rodriguez) that make me question whether the Nats--even with Strasburg--will ever be any good. I just don't think their management values the right things in a player (Nyjer Morgan notwithstanding).

Here's the Nats' outfield graph: 

4427579146_a7cb0dd192_o_medium

What an interesting graph.  Fantastic defense and walk rate but terrible ISO.  You don't see that combination from very many outfields these days.

Wrap-up

On paper, the Phillies have the best outfield.  Unlike with their infield, however, the difference between them and the other OFs is not very large.  In fact, the spread from the Phillies' OF to the worst projected OF in the division (the Braves') is only 3.4 WAR, which is less than the gap between the Phillies' IF and the 2nd-best projected IF (the Mets'). In short, whichever team's OF stays healthiest and gets a career year or two will probably end up with the most WAR. You could make an argument, I think, for any of the 5 teams to be #1.

Here are the WAR standings when you combine the figures from the all 4 parts so far (SPs, IFs, Catchers, and OFs):

Team SP IF C OF Total
Phillies 16.2 19.8 3.1 12.5 51.6 WAR
Braves 18.3 15.8 6.9   9.1 50.1 WAR
Marlins 15.5 14.6 4.0 10.0 45.1 WAR
Mets 14.0 16.4 2.2 10.7 43.3 WAR
Nationals   9.7 14.1 2.8 11.0 37.6 WAR

The Braves and Phillies keep flip-flopping at the top, with the Marlins and Mets remaining a ways back.  With only the bullpens still to be analyzed, not much is going to change in these standings.  (In case you're wondering, I'll be doing two more posts in this series--one on relievers and one that summarizes all the projections.)

Thanks for reading.  I'm especially interested to hear your comments about the Braves' OF projections.  What would you project for Heyward, Diaz, McLouth, and Cabrera?  What's the over/under on Jordan Schafer's MLB PAs in 2010?

This FanPost does not express the views or opinions of Talking Chop.

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