09 February 2007

Running down the Royals' '07 position PECOTAs

The venerable numbers crunchers and baseball fiends at Baseball Prospectus have run out their PECOTA numbers for the Royals for 2007. For people unfamiliar with PECOTA (it stands for Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm), it is a BP-created statistical prediction system that uses a player's statistical similarity to other players over baseball's history as a way to weigh out the player's performance for the coming year and future years. Long story short, here's the Wikipedia page that explains PECOTA somewhat more in-depth. For Royals fans, there is some sentimentality attached to the system as, of course, utility player extraordinaire Bill Pecota was part of the Royals in the somewhat dog days of the late '80s and '90s and the system reflects his last name.

I figured I'd take the time here to run through the short version of the PECOTA predictions for significant Royals players and make a short comment on each. I'm using the weighted mean version of each player's predicted stats, as PECOTA gives a prediction for the 10th to 90th percentile for each player with the 10th being a kind of worst-case scenario and the 90th being a breakout-type best-case scenario season. The mean is the middle of the spectrum, the best guess average of the system. I'm confusing myself at this point, so on to the rundown:

John Buck, predicted line of .253 BA/.311 OBP/.419 SLG, 9 HR, 37 RBI in only 286 plate appearances. The system predicts a below-average offensive output for Buck over the next 5 seasons. I can't really see Buck doing much better than this. That's better than '06 by about an inch in his averages but down in other totals. Basically the Royals have mediocrity at the catcher position and will live with that for the time being, I guess.

Jason LaRue, predicted .233/.313/.367, 5 HR, 23 RBI in 217 PA. The numbers point to LaRue being brought in more for defense than offense. Hopefully that was the case, anyway. PECOTA predicts he's out of baseball by 2011. I figure he's an upgrade from Bako and hope that stays the case.

Predictions were also given for Mat Tupman and Paul Phillips but, needless to say, weren't pretty.

Ryan Shealy, predicted .271/.334/.475, 20 HR, 72 RBI in 486 PA. I can see Shealy exceeding these power numbers with a slugging percentage more in the .500 range. The only problem I see with PECOTA is that its five-year forecasts keep all the numbers pretty consistent, when in reality, don't they fluctuate a little more than just by 3 percentage points? Anyway, if Shealy can provide those numbers or better and play somewhat adequate defense at 1B, I'll take it.

Ross Gload, predicted .306/.353/.456, 6 HR, 33 RBI in 245 PA. Crap, if we can get that out of Ross Gload I don't think I'll have any problem that KC gave up on Andy Sisco to get him. Gload may be a productive bench/part-time guy this season. I hope these numbers hold true.

They also did a PECOTA for Mighty Mike Stodolka (as the Pipeline likes to call him) that projected an OBP over .300 but he isn't getting to the majors in '07. Good luck in Wichita (hopefully), tho. They also did one for Justin Huber at 1B but I think that position is in the past for Huber, so I'm listing him under corner OF.

Mark Grudzielanek, predicted .286/.329/.396, 4 HR, 39 RBI in 388 PA. Grudz is projected in decline, being that he's 37 and all. I can definitely see that happening. I'm so glad KC inked him to that extension late last season. Sarcasm, there.

Esteban German, predicted .287/.360/.387, 4 HR, 31 RBI in 391 PA. BP has him listed at third but I think if Grudz is in decline, German should get more of a shot at 2B. Lord knows, though, that my brain and Buddy Bell's aren't wired the same. I think German can do better than those numbers, more toward his 75th percentile projection of .306/.381/.418, but then again I'm biased in his favor. His '06 numbers exceed the 90th percentile prediction for him in PECOTA for '07. I'll go out on a limb here and predict German proves these numbers wrong in a good way.

For some reason, Donnie Murphy and Jeff Keppinger are still listed under the Royals on BP. Those guys should be filed under the A's and Reds, respectively.

Mark Teahen, predicted .283/.357/.475, 17 HR, 69 RBI in 528 PA. Wow, I really figured PECOTA would be more favorable to Teahen after '06 but, then again, I didn't know what to expect because I didn't expect to see Teahen doing what he did in '06 after getting sent to Omaha early in the season. The other question is, does he put these numbers up at third or in LF? This may be a make-or-break year for Teahen with KC. Going by PECOTA's comparables, he could be an up-and-coming Larry Walker or J.D. Drew or could be an Eric Hinske on the brink of mediocrity. I guess 2007 will help tell.

Alex Gordon, predicted .282/.364/.511, 26 HR, 89 RBI in 618 PA. Might as well move Teahen, because if these numbers hold true the Royals have their next 3B. Lock him in.

PECOTA also did a projection for 3B Mike Aviles, whose defense and consistency problems are holding him back. If Gordon pans out, Aviles is trade fodder. Actually, either way he probably is.

Angel Berroa, predicted .255/.290/.362, 7 HR, 38 RBI in 419 PA. I'm still hoping Berroa is gone by opening day, but if he's not I don't expect more than this. If Berroa was going to learn to take a walk and play good defense, he woulda done it by now. Please, Dayton, get rid of him now.

Alex S. Gonzalez, predicted .234/.289/.351, 2 HR, 11 RBI in 107 PA. Pure bench filler, one millimeter up on the defensive scale from Berroa. If he's a more productive member of the '07 Royals, I'll have some kind of seizure.

Andres Blanco, predicted .251/.297/.320, 3 HR, 33 RBI in 435 PA. Blanco is Mark Belanger defensively compared to Berroa and Gonzalez, so why not give him a shot, even if he does hit like Belanger, too? If he can improve on this a little and play solid D up the middle, so be it. Of course, Belanger didn't play in the days of guys at short like Jeter or Ripken, etc. Let him (Blanco, not Belanger) play.

BP also did a PECOTA for Angel Sanchez that had him with an OBP over .300 with all right D. I don't see the second Angel making it to KC this season, unless the first Angel is long gone and it's September.

corner OF
Emil Brown, predicted .281/.348/.441, 14 HR, 66 RBI in 526 PA. PECOTA predicts a decline for Emil with another subpar defensive season. Big surprise there. Brown or Reggie Sanders could also be somebody that is elsewhere by opening day, if that sentence makes any sense. I can see a decline in the cards for Brown, but he's not a huge problem with the team. This is a see-how-it-plays-out situation.

Reggie Sanders, predicted .259/.323/.466, 10 HR, 35 RBI in only 258 PA. A little bit of a rebound is projected for Reggie, but in limited playing time. It's the basic aging OF story. I'd like to see him plying his trade elsewhere but wouldn't be surprised if he's in KC in April. If he's putting up these numbers coming off the bench, that would be much better.

Shane Costa, predicted .288/.331/.449, 12 HR, 54 RBI in 435 PA. The system predicts a Mark Kotsay-like season for Costa, which I would definitely take. If he can deliver these numbers I say start him.

Billy Butler, predicted .295/.347/.455, 16 HR, 78 RBI in 585 PA. I don't think Butler's getting this many PAs for KC this season, more for his defense and the presence of Mike Sweeney than anything but time will tell on this, too. Those are nice numbers but he's only 21. We can wait another year, right Royals fans? The Pipeline would like to see Butler rake in Omaha and visit KC in September. If his numbers call for more sooner, more power to him.

Justin Huber, predicted .272/.349/.454, 16 HR, 66 RBI in 483 PA with subpar D at first. I figure he's gonna stay in the outfield as he played there the second half of last season. If they (meaning the KC powers that be) move him back to first, they're jerking him around more than they already have. I don't know why they're handling the situation this way, but they are. It would be interesting to see what Huber could do in the majors if given a decent shot. Maybe that happens in 2007. If he puts up these numbers, I'm OK with that.

BP also predicted a plus-.300 OBP and plus-.400 SLG for Chris Lubanski with bad defense but I don't expect to see him in KC this season.

David DeJesus, predicted .291/.358/.425, 10 HR, 59 RBI in 587 PA. I'd like to hope DeJesus can get on base better than that but he'll have to prove me right. He also gets the PECOTA comparison to a stable Mark Kotsay. I just hope he stays healthy so Buddy doesn't trot German out there in CF this season.

Joey Gathright, predicted .275/.340/.353, 3 HR, 27 RBI in 419 PA. Another subpar offensive and defensive projection for Joey. Let's hope his speed pays dividends. If all else fails, can't we go the Charlie O. route and use him as a full-time designated runner a la Ron Washington?

PECOTA projects a .701 OPS for Mitch Maier with decent defense in 582 PA so he's a fringe guy this season. He could stick all season in Omaha or see some time in the show. I wouldn't mind seeing him get his shot.

Mike Sweeney, predicted .273/.341/.462, 14 HR, 56 RBI in 374 PA. So continues the projected Sweeney decline. Forget Meche, KC is paying $11 million for this? It'll be interesting to see if he gets to 374 plate appearances. His most comparable player is the '03 Juan Gonzalez. Yikes. He ain't what he used to be and Royals fans better get used to that idea.

NOTE: I'll try to get to the pitching PECOTAs over the weekend but may not get to them until next week. The Royals legacy countdown will also continue soon.

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