When players get off to hot starts, you often hear analysts talk about which players' performances are "for real" and which players are likely little blips on the screen that we call the 162-game season. But even 12 games into the season, you'll see some pretty sizable adjustments within projection systems, as a scorching stretch that lasts even 12 games can have a pretty solid impact on one's full season numbers. If you haven't played around, or at least looked at some of these, yet, then I recommend the in-season ZiPS projections that Dan Szymborski that FanGraphs provides on their player pages.
But I thought that I'd quickly go over some of the guys that ZiPS believes will benefit the most from their unusually strong first two weeks of the season. Now, I don't know exactly how ZiPS calculates these projections, Szymborski's math skills infinitely surpass my own, but ZiPS is one of the most well-regarded projection systems available, and it's one of my favorites.
So here we go, with a list of five players who have seen the biggest jumps in their in-season ZiPS projections thanks to some handy performances in the first dozen or so games of the season.
3B Casey McGehee, Milwaukee
ZiPS projected McGehee for a .315 wOBA after his 2009 breakout season with the Brewers, easily the most pessimistic of the projections on his FanGraphs player page. But he's been off to a big start this season, with the fourth-best wOBA in baseball (.516) on the heels of a .400 BA, 5 doubles and 4 home runs. ZiPS now projects him to post a .330 wOBA the rest of the way, which would leave him with a .350 wOBA for the season. Not bad for a guy who's got a .745 OPS in over 1,100 Triple-A plate appearances.
Difference between preseason and present projection: .035
LF Scott Podsednik, Kansas City
Pods is another guy that I've given some attention to because of his hot start, which has consisted of a whole lot of singles, a solid amount of walks, and a surprisingly perfect 7-for-7 mark on stolen bases. ZiPS liked Scotty Pods more than the other systems, projecting him for a .323 wOBA, which would've been the third-best mark of his career. While his projection hasn't changed much in terms of power (he's actually projected for a worse isolated power now thanks to his extra-baseless barrage of singles), the much improved OBP (40 points higher than the preseason projection) pushes his wOBA up to .357, which would be a huge performance from him and easily the best since his breakout in 2003.
Difference between preseason and present projection: .034
C Ivan Rodriguez, Washington
What is this? 1999? Is Sugar Ray still popular? Pudge came into the season with a gnarly .289 wOBA projection, but he's currently second in the game with seven doubles. More interesting, he's already walked 3 times in 10 games. Let's remember that this guy walked just 9 times in 129 games back in 2007. Now his projected wOBA is up to .328, which would make him a pleasant surprising on a pleasantly surprising Nationals team.
Difference between preseason and present projection: .032
DH Jose Guillen, Kansas City
I talked about Guillen as a potential big money release candidate just 11 days ago, but that seems far less likely now after his monster start to the season. He's already got 5 home runs under his belt and has re-established himself as the Royals' clean-up hitter. Like with Podsednik, ZiPS actually liked Guillen more than most systems, projecting him for a .333 wOBA for 2010 (Apparently ZiPS likes the Royals? Eh? Yeah, probably not..). The big start has pushed his projection up to .364, which would actually be his second-best career mark and the best since his big year in 2003.
Difference between preseason and present projection: .031
CF Vernon Wells, Toronto
This one's not worth getting too deep into, as Wells' big start has gotten him a lot of attention. But after coming into the season with a projected wOBA of .328, roughly league average, his projection now sits at .357, which would be tied for the third-best mark of his career. Yeah, he won't be worth all the money that's owed to him, but if he's at least an above average player then all those millions will be a lot easier to swallow.
Difference between preseason and present projection: .029
So there you have it, the five guys that have improved their full-season projections the most according to ZiPS. Some of these guys will probably fall well short of their projections, but at least their hot starts have the numbers pointing in a far better direction than before.