Sunday, April 23, 2006

Fun With Projections

One-tenth of the way into 2006, or 16 games, may not produce any useful projections. But that shoulnd't stop anyone from overanalyzing those projections.


Record: 192, Billy Hamilton 1894
Travis HafnerCLE23

Hafner has the ability to get absolutely locked in at the plate for a week at the time. That's how this season started, so any of his numbers will look slightly inflated. 192 runs is an absurd number, especially for a #4 hitter, who would have to rely on impressive RBI production from the 5-9 hitters in the Indians lineup. Hafner nearly got to the 100 run mark in each of the past two seasons, and he should top that plateau this year.


Record: 67, Earl Webb 1931
Todd HeltonCOL9
Jay GibbonsBAL8
Mike LowellBOS8
Garrett AtkinsCOL7
Johnny DamonNYY7
Adrian GonzalezSD7
Josh WillinghamFLA7

If I was a betting man, my money would be on Helton, who did hit 59 doubles a few years ago. He and Atkins do benefit from the thin air and big gaps at Coors Field. Of course, Helton is already on the DL. The bandbox that is Camden Yards may turn some of Gibbons' doubles into singles (or, in the case of the short right field porch the lefty Gibbons has to deal with, some doubles into home runs). Lowell has the benefit of a right-handed pull swing and the Green Monster, but some wonder if he can hit well enough to play every day for the BoSox. Adrian Gonzalez has the benefit of an insanely spacious Petco Park. But, to reach this record could require stretching some singles into doubles, and it doesn't look like Gonzalez has that kind of speed. (Of course, Gonzalez could just take a page from Mark Grace's book. Grace credits his 511 doubles to his ability "to turn triples into doubles.") Willingham does have the benefit of playing in a large stadium, even if it isn't as large as Petco. But, can a player with 48 career at bats entering this season break a 75 year old record?

Home Runs

Record: 73, Barry Bonds 2001
Albert PujolsSTL10
Chris SheltonDET9
Adam DunnCIN8
Andruw JonesATL8
Carlos LeeMIL8

Pujols is off to a tremendously hot start. In his favor, it looks like the ball carries well to left and left center in the new Busch Stadium. Of course, maybe it just looks that way because of the way Pujols is hitting. Most people are aware of Shelton's hot start as well, but one wonders how long he can keep it up. The large dimensions of Comerica Park are working against him, as is his spot in the order. Batting sixth certainly takes pressure off of him, but sooner or later pitchers can and will start pitching around him to face the bottom of the Tigers lineups. Dunn is known for his power, but he's also known for swinging and missing - a lot. Of all the 60+ HR seasons over the past 10 years, the player to do it with the lowest average was Mark McGwire when he hit just .278 in his 65 HR season of 1999. Dunn's highest career average is .266. Andruw Jones, still only 28, had the highest single-season total of any player on this list last year when he hit 52. He's continuing to show that he has become a great hitter, but is he really a 70+ HR guy? Carlos Lee, a good all-around hitter (let's just not go into his defense), seems to have hit a wall at 32 HR for a season, and he's already on the DL this year.


Record: 191, Hack Wilson 1930
Andruw JonesATL23
Albert PujolsSTL20

As I alluded to above, Andruw Jones is coming into his own as a hitter. On one hand, Jones has done rather well as a one-man RBI machine so far. On the other hand, with Rafael Furcal gone to LA and Marcus Giles and Chipper Jones frequently on the DL, who will be on base for Andruw to drive in? In Pujols' case, here's an interesting question: In the NL, is it better to bat third or fourth if you want to drive in more runs? Batting fourth, there are three good hitters in front of you who could potentially be on base for you to drive in. Batting third, you get more at bats, but there are only two good hitters (and before that the pitcher's spot) in front of you.

Total Bases

Record: 457, Babe Ruth 1921
Chris SheltonDET63
Morgan EnsbergHOU50
Travis HafnerCLE49
Albert PujolsSTL49
Andruw JonesATL47

Question: Where can I find a nearly complete list of hitters who are off to a hot start in 2006? Answer: See the table above. Ensberg is starting to mirror Andruw Jones - both broke out last year, and are continuing to hit very well this season. But, if this record has stood for 75 years, something tells me it's going to be more difficult to break than it looks from these initial numbers.


Record: 195, Adam Dunn 2004
Brad WilkersonTEX25
Richie SexsonSEA21
Adam DunnCIN20
Geoff JenkinsMIL20
Adam LaRocheATL20
Ryan ZimmermanWAS20

Who has the best shot at breaking this mark? Well, Dunn obviously set the record, and he's come close a couple other times. Sexson usually racks up the K's as well. I was surprised to see Wilkerson on this list. He doesn't have the star power that Dunn or Sexson have, though. If he continues to perform poorly, he'll be benched, demoted, or shipped out before he even has a chance to approach the record. Jenkins was an outstanding hitter in college. He hasn't quite lived up to that reputation in the majors, but something tells me he wouldn't let himself get anywhere near 195 strikeouts. Plus, if he continues to hit in front of Carlos Lee and Prince Fielder, he's going to get some good pitches to hit. LaRoche is platooning with Brian Jordan at first base for the Braves. I can't see Bobby Cox letting a dubious honor fall on one of his young players. Plus, at this point, would anyone be surprised if Atlanta found a superstar first baseman in their farm system to replace LaRoche? There was some question as to whether Zimmerman, a college star, was ready to be an everyday player in the majors. His glove is definitely ready, but there were still questions about his bat. One thing's for certain: Frank Robinson will not let his future star's psyche be bruised by getting anywhere near 200 K's.

Slugging %

Record: .863, Barry Bonds 2001
Chris SheltonDET1.086
Albert PujolsSTL1.021
Morgan EnsbergHOU.943
Jim ThomeCHW.867

Question: Is there anyone we left off of that hot start list? Answer: Yes, Jim Thome. Thome's tear hasn't finished yet. But, like Hafner, he's a guy who just gets locked in from time to time, and he's locked in right now. Oh, and if any of these guys are still slugging over .800 in June, we'll talk.

Batting Average

Magic Number: .400
Chris SheltonDET.431
Morgan EnsbergHOU.415
Victor MartinezCLE.413
Casey BlakeCLE.412
Ramon HernandezBAL.407
Todd WalkerCHC.405
Luis CastilloMIN.404

Ah, the magic number 400. Will anyone chase it this year? Shelton and Ensberg are locked in right now, but can they keep it up for a full season? Shelton is only in his second full season, and Ensberg's never even hit .300 before. Martinez and Hernandez have their position working against them. Hitting .400 requires you to leg out some infield singles, and there's a reason why the phrase "catcher running!" is a signal for an infielder to slow down and take his time with the throw. As catchers, their bodies will also break down over the course of the season. Of course, Martinez, a notoriously slow starter, did hit .380 in the second half last season. That hot streak has continued into this year, aided by the Indians facing an abnormal amount of left-handed starters. Thus far in 2006, Martinez is hitting .533 against lefties but "only" .265 against righties. Can Martinez keep his average up once he starts facing the regular dose of right-handed pitching? Casey Blake had a career year in 2004, hitting a whopping .271. The following year, he hit .241. I'm in no hurry for him to cool off, but I know it's going to happen sooner or later. I was going to say I was worried whether Dusty Baker would give Walker enough at bats to chase .400, but now I'm starting to regret that thought. Walker has always been a decent hitter, but .290 isn't .400. If there's anyone to put your money on, it's Castillo. Castillo flirted with .400 for a while 6 years ago, but ended the season hitting .334. Still, the pinball table that is the Metrodome is a perfect complement to his ground ball, contact-hitting style.


Magic Number: 30
Erik BedardBAL4
Curt SchillingBOS4
Oscar VillarealATL4
Josh BeckettBOS3
Gustavo ChacinTOR3
Greg MadduxCHC3
Jason MarquisSTL3
Pedro MartinezNYM3
Roy OswaltHOU3
Kenny RogersDET3

The 30 win mark hasn't been hit in decades. Of the pitchers who already have 4 wins, only Schilling is on a team good enough to give him a shot. But, of course, health is an issue. He may not reach 30 starts, much less 30 wins. Beckett's move to a new league has aided him so far. Hitters will start to figure him out eventually. That isn't to say he won't have a very good year, though. Chacin just appears to be a hot starter. After a handful of wins in a row to start 2005, he ended with a 13-9 records. Chacin needs to think about 20 before he can think about 30. Maddux is definitely an interesting choice. I'll be rooting for him, and leave it at that. Marquis has been on the verge of a breakout season for a while now. I'd be happy for him if this was his breakout season, assuming a 15-7 2004 wasn't. But, like Chacin, he needs to think about taking things one step at a time. Pedro Martinez has been aided by the Mets' great start. He flirted with 30 a few years back before his body broke down. Houston is known for a mediocre offense, and Roy Oswalt may find himself on the wrong end of a few too many 1-0 and 2-1 games this year. Like Martinez, Rogers is partially the beneficiary of his team's hot start. He keeps himself in great shape, but to assume he wins 30 games is to assume the Tigers win 100.


Magic Number: 20
Scott ElartonKC4
Jon LieberPHI3
Brian MoehlerFLA3
Andy PettitteHOU3
Victor SantosPIT3
Jorge SosaATL3
Josh TowersTOR3

The easy money is on Kansas City's Elarton, right? Not so fast my friend. Elarton may hit the mid teens in the loss column, but manager Buddy Bell will start shuttling minor leaguers to the mound before his new millionaire "ace" has a chance to hit 20. If the Phillies ace approaches 20, things will get ugly. I can't see that team being that bad. Yes, the Marlins did have a firesale, but they really are rebuilding. Before Moehler hits 20, there will be a legit prospect waiting in the wings to replace him. Pettitte still has his pride. He's off to a rough start, but he should turn things around to some degree, with or without run support. Victor Santos is the guy I would worry about. Unlike in Elarton or Moehler's case, he is the young replacement prospect. Good luck, kid. Sosa won't last in Atlanta to see 20 losses. Bobby Cox wouldn't risk losing face by letting anyone get close the year after Leo Mazzone left. If Sosa doesn't turn things around, he'll be out the door. Towers, the only pitcher in the majors with a single-digit uniform number, perhaps plays for the best team of anyone on this list. He'll get things righted, even if it takes playing with his psyche by switching to a traditional two-digit number.


Magic Number: 2.00
Josh BeckettBOS1.29
Jose ContrerasCHW1.29
Greg MadduxCHC1.33
Tom GlavineNYM1.38
Curt SchillingBOS1.61
Chris CarpenterSTL1.67
Jason JohnsonCLE1.83
Brad PennyLAD1.88

As I mentioned above, hitters will figure out Beckett sooner or later, but he'll still have a good year. Contreras is still relatively new to the majors. He could go either way, but he should focus on an ERA under 3 before worrying about one under 2. Maddux is the only person on this list to finish a season with an ERA under two. He was below 1.70 in both the 1994 and 1995 seasons. Eleven years later, can he repeat? And how will his former Atlanta teammate fare? As the season wears on, one wonders how Schilling will fare. Carpenter proved he was an ace last year, but there's nothing shameful in giving up a few runs at hitter-friendly New Busch. Johnson had his first rough outing of the year on Sunday, giving up 4 runs in 6 innings of work. Johnson will prove this year that he's better than his career numbers to date, but he won't be a superstar. Brad Penny has finished with an ERA under 4 in only three of his six seasons. One thing at a time, Brad.


Record: 57, Bobby Thigpen 1990
Jonathan PapelbonBOS7
Bobby JenksCHW6
Tim WorrellSF6

Papelbon looks to be the leading contender, but for some there's already a countdown to move him to Boston's starting rotation. Without Papelbon, the next obvious choice is the closer on the reigning World Series champs. That makes Jenks, still considered a prospect, a good choice. It looks like Tim Worrell won't get an opportunity for 57 saves. Yes, the Giants are playing well, but Armando Benitez is already back from injury and has moved back to his closer role.

HR Allowed

Record: 50, Bert Blyleven 1986
Livan HernandezWAS9
Rodrigo LopezBAL7
Brad RadkeMIN7
Glendon RuschCHC7
Bruce ChenBAL6
RA DickeyTEX6
Brett TomkoLAD6
Kyle DaviesATL5
Aaron HarangCIN5
Danny HarenOAK5
Joe MaysKC5
Eric MiltonCIN5
Brian MoehlerFLA5
Oliver PerezPIT5
Andy PettitteHOU5

Wow, that's quite a list. Quickly. Livan Hernandez: How bad do you have to be to give up 50 homers in RFK? Rodrigo Lopez: My fantasy curse of Orioles starters continues. Radke, Mays, Milton: Well obviously you need to be a fly ball pitcher to have success in Minnesota. Milton, by the way, has given up 40+ home runs in each of the last two years. Glendon Rusch: Time for me to pull out my Cubs top 10 prospects list. Bruce Chen: Well, Camden is a bandbox. Let's see, what east coast teams hasn't he played for yet? RA Dickey: Gave up all 6 homers in his first start, and hasn't pitched since. Brett Tomko and Danny Haren: Does the phrase "pitcher's park" not mean anything to you? How about "fly ball pitcher?" You do realize that implies fly ball outs? Kyle Davies: Hope you have bus fare to Richmond. Aaron Harang and Oliver Perez: Going to be a long year, isn't it? Moehler and Pettitte: See above.


Record: 41, Joe McGinnity 1900
Barry ZitoOAK5

Not happening. Around 30, the ump will read the lineup card before the game, see Zito's name on it, and eject him before he can even throw a pitch.

Quick Notre Dame Baseball Alumni Update

Grant Johnson is a starter for the HiA Daytona Cubs. He's 2-1 on the season with an ERA of 3.00

The good news for Chris Niesel is that he's with the HiA Kinston Indians in his second year of pro baseball. The (arguably) bad news is that he's already been made a reliever. Niesel has now pitched 8 innings in 4 games, with an ERA of 4.50.

Steve Sollman is tearing up HiA as a Brevard County Manatee, in the Milwaukee organization. He's hitting .392 with a homer and 8 RBI in 14 games.

Steve Stanley's career with the Oakland organization got off to a hot start. He was at AA Midland by his second season (2003), and even spent most of 2004 at the AAA level. But, he was back to AA for all of 2005 and the start of 2006. Stanley announced his retirement from baseball on April 18.

One has to wonder if the success of teammate Brian Stavisky played a factor in Stanley's retirement decision. The two played together for Midland in 2005, but Stavisky received a promotion to AAA Sacramento and to major league camp for spring training in 2006. Stavisky is hitting .200 as a part-time outfielder this season.

For a complete list of Notre Dame alumni in professional baseball from the 1800s to the present, including stats through 2005, be sure to check out the Notre Dame alumni page at The Baseball Cube. And, for current stats, try