I have been writing a series of posts that seem to take issues with how projection systems predict certain players over the course of the 2013 season. It may seem like I have an issue with projection systems. The fact is that I do not. When you put all of their projections together, the margin for error is quite small. All of them pretty much work the same way. You plug in the numbers that have been compiled to date and run the algorithms a few thousand times and see what spits out. Of course, I have no idea what I'm talking about, but that is my weak and general understanding of them. But there are cases where the projections do not seem to make sense. Either they are too pessimistic or too optimistic. One of those for me is Allen Craig of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Let me cover my bases here a bit and admit that I am a bit obsessed with Allen Craig. And it is quite complicated an obsession. Part of it is a deep-rooted dislike for Albert Pujols and the deep-seated hope that Craig can replace Pujols' value to the Cardinals. I admit that none of this is particularly sane. But just because I write about baseball an insane amount of time does not mean that I am an impartial metronome of players. There will always be this Fan screaming for a place like the human emotion in Spock or something. These obsessions do not always work out well. I had obsessions with Reid Brignac and Micah Owings. Those didn't exactly pan out. Though, Owings did hit a grand slam today.
But I think this one with Craig has a chance. The guy now has 857 plate appearances under his belt and has a cool triple slash line of .300/.348/.515. He has compiled 5.6 fWAR in about a year and a half of playing and has a wOBA of .370 and a wRC+ of 135. That's pretty impressive. So I am a bit flummoxed that his projections predict his numbers will go down instead of up. How could that be?
In case you want to see what I am talking about, Fangraphs.com lists the projection systems on each player's page. I'd throw in the BaseballProspectus.com projection (PECOTA) too but I need to renew my subscription and haven't yet.
First, the projection systems have him only playing anywhere from 117 to 140 games. This apparently takes into account the injury Craig suffered before the season last year. But that was last year and he is playing first base, one of the safer places on the diamond. I think he'll play 155 games. But the pessimism goes on from there. What follows are Craig's 2012 numbers followed by the average projection number for that stat (add them all together and divide). Here we go:
- Batting Average: .307 / .291
- On-base Percentage: .354 / .348
- Slugging Percentage: .522 / .501
- wOBA: .374 / .364
- ISO: .215 / .210
- fWAR: 3.1 / 2.8
Are you getting the picture here? And remember, those average projections are averages and there are some that are significantly lower. ZiPS is the most pessimistic. Three of the five projections predict his strikeout rate will rise despite the fact that his swing and miss rate has gone down three years running. Two of the five predict his homer total will be less and two of the five predict his doubles total will be less. Allen Craig has a career BABIP of .329. None of the projection systems think it will be that high in 2013.
Okay, perhaps you are saying, "Okay, smartypants, what are your predictions for Allen Craig since YOU know so much?" Well, first off, I don't know diddly. But my prediction for Allen Craig (barring injury) would be: .315/.364/.540 with 30 homers, 28 doubles, a wOBA of .384 and an fWAR of 5.0. Those are as dumbed-down a set of predictions you are going to find anywhere. There are no spreadsheets or computer readouts. But those are my numbers. And just remember, I can beat the computer at Hearts 81% of the time.