Wednesday, January 17, 2007

MLB 2007 Preview - AL Lineups

First post here at "Solvent is so Yesterday", it is not about implicit solvent in any way. Instead, I'll be starting my 2007 Major League Baseball Preview with a look at the AL Starting Lineups as presently constructed. The rankings provided below are subject to the following conditions:

  • The Run Per Game projections given below are only for the starting 9. I do not consider the effect of bench (this will be considered in later posts)
  • Ignoring platoon situations. If there is an expected platoon situation (e.g. Cleveland LF will likely be split between Jason Michaels and David Dellucci), I used the player likely to contribute the most at-bats
  • Projected player BA/OBP/SLG are projected from the PECOTA projection system.
  • We use the PECOTA projections for EqBA/EqOBP/EqSLG to remove the effect of park when comparing teams
  • The NL pitcher is projected to hit 0.200/0.200/0.200 (BA/OBP/SLG), which is around the average for the position over the past few years
  • Team BA/OBP/SLG are estimated as a weighted average of the BA/OBP/SLG of each lineup slot, weighted by the percentage of plate appearances that lineup slot typically gets.
  • Team RPG are estimated from a linear regression formula RPG = -6.09+1.36*BA+18.89*OBP+9.75*SLG+5.96E-05*SBA where SBA is stolen base attempts. So, there's no fancy Monte Carlo engine here, just a plain vanilla estimate of the strength of each team's current offensive performance.
  • Projected Lineups are estimated as of 1/16/07.
Onto the results...

The Cream of the Crop - aka "The Big Three"

New York Yankees: 5.98 RPG (969 Runs)
Boston Red Sox: 5.74 RPG (930 Runs)
Cleveland Indians: 5.69 RPG (922 Runs)

The starting lineups for these three teams project as far superior to the rest of the AL. Not coincidentally, all three teams have elected to use the DH position as an offense first position, rather than as a rotating rest day for the position players (the trade-off being that the defenses of the Big 3 are projected to be quite poor). The Big 3 are very unlikely to achieve their lofty projections, as injury is inevitable, and the injury replacements are unlikely to provide a reasonable facsimile of the original production.

By the way, the natural question is: "How does one become a cream of the crop team?". You've got to get superstar-level offensive performance from one player (Giambi, Manny, Ortiz, and Hafner), and combine that with solid production throughout the rest of the lineup. One interesting point, however, is that while the Yankees and Indians have followed the traditional route to offensive dominance of strength up the middle (i.e. strong offensive production from C,2B,SS, and CF), the Red Sox strength comes from LF and DH. Although Varitek, Pedroia, Lugo and Crisp are projected to provide adequate position-adjusted production, they do not drive the Red Sox offense.

I would speculate that the Red Sox are in a better position (offensively) to weather the inevitable injuries of the upcoming year because they are not dependent on their up-the-middle players to drive the offense. Alex Cora is available as a decent replacement for either of the middle infielders, and Wily Mo Pena can get by in center.

Middle of the Pack
Minnesota Twins: 5.25 RPG
Detroit Tigers: 5.22 RPG
Tampa Bay Devil Rays: 5.15 RPG
Texas Rangers: 5.12 RPG
Anaheim Angels: 5.12 RPG
Chicago White Sox: 5.12 RPG
Toronto Blue Jays: 5.10 RPG
Baltimore Orioles: 5.07 RPG
Seattle Mariners: 5.03 RPG
Oakland Athletics: 5.01 RPG

A bit of a misnomer, since all the remaining AL teams save one fall into this group. It appears that, at least amongst the starting position players, there is a fairly level playing field in the AL this year. I'm surprised by the strong showing of the Twins, but I guess I shouldn't be, given their strong up-the-middle personnel (Mauer, Bartlett, Castillo, and Hunter all provide strong production for their position, with Mauer at a superstar level). Amongst the teams listed, I would knock down Tampa Bay (depending on strong performances from a number of rookies) and the Blue Jays (absolutely no depth to speak of). Expect overperformance from the White Sox (because they can so easily upgrade by replacing Podsednik in left) and Anaheim (Howie Kendrick and Casey Kotchman are regarded much more highly than their numerical projections, plus this team always manages to squeeze out a few more runs that predicted).

The Pole Smokers
Kansas City Royals: 4.74 RPG (768 Runs)

Following up on the question I made regarding the Big 3: how can one team project to be so bad? Well, combine
awful production from the corners (Emil Brown? Reggie Sanders? Ryan Shealy? Seriously?) with Angel Berroa (the worst everyday player in baseball), and you have the worst offense in the AL (and likely the worst offense in all of MLB). However, there is room for hope in Alex Gordon (baseball's #1 prospect) and Billy Butler (a future DH to be sure, but for the purposes of offense only, he carries a big stick). If the Royals follow the expected plan of calling up Gordon and moving Teahen to LF, they improve the team projection all the way to 4.87 RPG. Additionally, if the Royals are willing to bite the bullet and replace Berroa with someone - maybe Esteban German can fake it at SS? - and that takes you all the way up to 5.04 RPG, or no longer the worst team in the AL.


waffallen said...

of course the twins will be awesome. you're surprised?

Anonymous said...

With the trades and acquisitions made going into the draft, plus the bulk of the team that is carried over from last season, and the trades and draft picks made during the draft, it sure seems like the Pats are going to be the team to beat in the AFC this season, and perhaps in all of the NFL.

Considering the Pats were almost in the Superbowl last season with a pathetic receiving corps and that they've added very talented players into said receiving corps this season, barring some nasty injury(ies), they look to be the team to take it all.I say injury(ies) because I think they could survive an injury or two to some positions, but if they lost Brady they'd probably have a hard time recovering.

I wish I could say that the Redskins did well in the draft and/or in free agency but so many holes still exist that I'm not sure they'll be significantly better than last season. I suppose on face they should be if they can keep their corners healthy. With Landry (argh, hard to type that name as a Redskin!!) back there with a healthy secondary they might be able to cheat up more and put more pressure on opposing QBs. Might.

They still have what should be a lot of talent in the receiving positions, and Campbell should be better, but they don't have the quality on either line (offense or defense) that I wish they'd have, so it could be yet another year of .500 at best, or worse.

Still, the NFC East looks to be the NFC Least again this season. None of the teams there look like they'll be that good, and none really look ready to step up and take the division.

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