I've talked about this before, but one of my favorite things to play around with during the season is the set of in-season ZiPS projections over at FanGraphs, provided by BTF's Dan Szymborski. They take ZiPS original preseason projections and adjust them based on the player's in-season performance, adjusting their final line for what's already happened while also adjusting the projections based on how the player's played so far.
It's a fun little tool for those of us who like projections and numbers, especially for those who aren't so mathtastic like me, and also can provide some pretty interesting little tidbits into how what's happened this season will affect how it ends. About ten days ago, I looked at five players who most positively altered their updated ZiPS projections. While I'm not going to go through that same old routine again here, I thought I would look at some interesting individual numbers that ZiPS is tossing out there right now.
Nelson Cruz and Paul Konerko are going to finish with a lot of home runs
Now, this isn't all that surprising. Cruz and Konerko are both in the top-5 in home runs currently, and both hit for isolated powers of over .200 in 2009. These guys are power hitters, plain and simple.
But after their quick starts to the season? Konerko's projected for 40 home runs per 600 PA, while Cruz is projected for a monster 44 home runs per 600 PA. Other hitters with similar projections? Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard, Mark Reynolds, Carlos Pena and Adam Dunn. You know what all of those guys have in common? They're really, really damn good at hitting home runs. That's some sick big-fly company to be in.
They just aren't accumulating hits like they used to
Last season, Ichiro led the league with 225 hits, 4 players exceeded 200 hits, and 24 players exceeded 180 hits. This season's projected hits leader? Big Panda with 201 hits, Sandoval is the only hitter that ZiPS likes to exceed 200 hits as of today. And the number of players with 180+ hits? Cut last season's number in half, ZiPS has only 12 guys with 180+ hits by season's end. Then again, does anyone actually believe that Ichiro won't get to 200 hits this season?
Don't worry, Tex will get his 100 ribbies
Mark Teixeira is a power hitter, and a good one to boot. Mark Teixeira has hit in the middle of good offenses for most of his career. Therefore, Mark Teixeira has been pretty much a lock for 100 RBIs the past few seasons. He's hoping to make it seven consecutive seasons with 100+ RBIs in 2010, but he's off to a rough start, with just 9 RBI in his first 21 games. For those of us who are extremely concerned with Tex's RBI total (it's a bad year if he doesn't get to triple digits!!!), it should be relieving to know that ZiPS still projects Tex for 103 RBIs in 2010. Then again, his projected wOBA has dropped from .381 to .357, so things aren't all good. But hey, 100 RBIs!!!!!!!!!!!
Remember what I said about hits? Well, yeah, steals, too.
The last time that the game's league leader in steals couldn't reach the half-century mark was 2002, when Florida's Luis Castillo topped the leaderboard with 48 steals. The current projected leader in steals is unsurprisingly Carl Crawford, but the relatively low number of 46 is surely surprising. MLB's stolen base leader as of today, Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen, has never stolen more than 34 bases in a single pro season. The onus is going to be on either Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury or Michael Bourn to reach the 50+ plateau, presumably, after each of them stole 60+ last season.
(Okay, so I feel kind of stupid forgetting to mention this, but of course these are just projections, and they're subject to the same quirks that any projection system deals with. Alas, stupidity is something that quickly gets called out on a site with readership like this one. A number like 48 steals could very well end up being 38 or 58. It was rather silly of me not to mention it.)