CHONE’s 2010 Rockies vs RMN’s 2010 Rockies

Many of you remember last spring when my articles focused on the pitching rotation and my expectations for the 2009 season. Welllll, rest assured, I won't be doing that again this season. Especially with less than 1 week until opening day.

No, instead, what I figure we do is sit down and have a nice fireside chat about Sean Smith's CHONE projections for Colorado, and basically I'll decide whether I agree or disagree with them, based on a myriad of criteria, including back-of-the-envelope calculations, rough extrapolations, and probably a nice thick spoonful of good old-fashioned homerism.

We'll go through the opening day lineup, the rotation, Spilly, Smith, Mora, and Greg Smith. I'm skipping the bullpen because honestly I find relief pitchers to be such a volatile commodity, I don't like attempting to project them. Call it laziness if you must, and I'll probably agree with you. I won't be projecting Miguel Olivo because... well, I'll just give you the rundown: DINGERS. There, done.

So let's begin with the position players, and move on to the rotation, and we'll finish with the bench. So click! Click on!

 

(Quick note: If you're lost on the hitting metrics, check out this article, which runs down everything except for wRC+, which I need to cover still. It'll come, don't you worry.)

So to kick things off, we'll begin with Catcher Chris Iann-

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-ry the Eighth I am, Hen-er-y the Eighth I am I a- oh, hey, look, I'm back.

Seriously, Chris Iannetta is an interesting player to say the least. Iannetta's minor league career produced a line of .303/.403/.520/.923 over the course of 686AB. So far in the majors, we saw a terrible rookie year (75 wRC+), an outstanding sophomore year (133 wRC+), and then a completely mixed bag of a 3rd year. Quick and dirty analysis of Iannetta's 2009 shows a .228 batting average (sucks), a .344 OBP (above average, but hardly great), a .460 SLG (about 50 points above average, so there's still some good pop there), and it all balances out to a 104 wRC+. That's right, slightly above league average bat. Out of all of Iannetta's 66 hits, 33 of them went for extra bases. He walked 43 times, however, he struck out 75 times. The number that kills me the most though is his .245 BABIP in 2009. He posted a minor league .348 BABIP. Heck, he's one season removed from a .311 BABIP. Basically, his hits weren't falling, his LD% was floundering around 16%, and [insert study on BABIP/LD% correlation]. His swing had too much uppercut, and blah, not much went right for him, outside of his superhuman plate discipline.

Anyhow, projections. Basically, I'm convinced Iannetta will rebound. I'm not just going to write off 2009 with a big red "Aberration" pen, but I'm not going to write off 2008, either. Neither will CHONE.

CHONE sees Iannetta as basically re-finding some of that lost BABIP. Not a lot of it, mind you, but enough that he'll bat around league-average inside the park. CHONE is projecting a .256/.368/.460/.828/.365(125) line for Iannetta in 2010 in 105 games.

Things I agree with: Low batting average (although considering his very high minor league BABIP and decently high 2008 BABIP, I wouldn't be surprised to see him crack .260, but not much higher than that), amazing plate discipline, and laser vision. Ok, not laser vision.  Things I disagree with: low ISO, sub-standard defense. In his 2 full major league seasons, Iannetta has posted a .240 ISO and .232 ISO. I have trouble not seeing that ISO at a similarly high level, but CHONE is only giving him credit for a .204 ISO, which I'm not entirely on board with. Toss another 25 points that way, and we see a .256/.368/.485/.853 line come to fruition. I know it seems homerish to just toss slugging points to a guy who's a well known favorite of mine, but why would his power start to recede at such a young age? There's a distinct chance that this projection is park-adjusted, so if we just add that LOLCORZ bonus back in, I think that extra .025 SLG isn't that far out of the lines of reason.

On to 1B!

Todd Helton is my new hero. I've always been a fan, and very little in 2009 made me smile more than watching him come back to a solid, productive form. 135 wRC+ for a guy with a trick back whose career we thought just ended is pretty impressive. .325/.416/.489/.904/.392 impressive, in fact. On-base machine that's still armed with gap power. Love it.

However, as I expected, CHONE has him relatively falling off of a cliff. Still a positive player, but far more pedestrian than the Todd Helton we've grown to know and love. .286/.387/.432/.819/.364 (which somehow comes out to 125 wRC+). I'm not buying it.

There's an oddity about the serious Elite among baseball players that makes them impossible to project. Year in and Year out, we hear things like "THIS is the season that Ichiro finally collapses!" or similar. Then he comes along and bats .352 for the season and it's back to the drawing board. Similarly, I don't think Helton's age-related regression can just be scaled back like you would expect, knocking down his batting average and ISO and then just rebuilding the slash line based on career plate discipline and such. There have only been 2 seasons in Helton's career where he didn't bat .320 or higher: 1998, and 2006, and you'll recall in 2006 he rushed back from a battle with Crohn's disease. I'm pretty sure he faced off against Crohn's disease and went opposite field against it and doubled in 2 runs.

If anything is going to deteriorate about Todd Helton, it'll be his power numbers. I will lay it out there that 2010 will be the first non-injury-related season where Helton's OPS drops below .900 - but his OBP will still be above .400, and that's where I'll stand: .320/.415/.470/.885. That's 2010.

Moving along to 2B, we have Clint Barmes. Amusingly enough, CHONE sees 2010 as an uptick for Barmes, posting a .252/.301/.412/.713/.310(87). 2008 was a big BABIP year for Barmey, and while 2009 was a bit low, it wasn't so far out of the realms of reality that we can call it just an outlier or whatever.  That all said, CHONE also sees Barmes as just shy of a 2-win player in 2010, driven mostly by glove. We'll see double-digit-dingers from Barmes again in 2010, maybe not 23, but 15+ is definitely realistic. The guy knows how to drive an inside fastball. Basically, it'll do, because we'll make up some of the slack from other positions.

3B will be interesting, because we're getting sort of close to Sink or Swim with Ian Stewart. Last season, his .228/.322/.464/.785/.337(98) line just wasn't good enough to make us happy with him, or even satisfied, really. While he was a positive glove at 3B, he was pretty awful at 2B (thank God THAT experiment is over), and nothing seemed to really go right for the guy.

CHONE is calling for a much better season from Stew, to the tune of .262/.347/.479/.826/.358(120). Part of me wants to disagree, it does, but I'm having trouble arguing with a projection that's more or less normalizing his BABIP, cutting his strikeouts by 4%, and calling him a 3-win player. It's not magnificent, but it's certainly good. The only place I can see improvement is [BLATANT HOMERISM] in his HR totals, because we've seen the sheer power that Stew is carrying. Cut those K's even a bit more than 4%, let's say, 8%, and that's even more dingers than before. Seriously, the guy has 40 homer power if he can just figure out how to harness it. [/BLATANT HOMERISM]

Finally for the infield, our favorite, Troy Tulowitzki. We've covered Tulo quite a bit the past 2 weeks, based mostly on Awesomeitude, but I'll keep it brief, as we did talk about projections last week as well. After a 5+ win season in 2009, Tulo has found something magical to make us all love him. CHONE is projecting him to be a 6+ win player, but I think that Mr. Smith is a bit to bullish on the actual value of Tulo's fielding. Were I to project Tulo right now (and I guess I will), we'll see either a maintaining of 2009's bat or possibly a small step back, and we'll see similar fielding to 2009. Again, I think Smith is bullish by rating Tulo as a 12.3 run fielder in 2010, but I also don't see him as a -1 run fielder either. Hence my bearishness on the CHONE projection for Tulo. But who knows, maybe he'll hit 30 and steal 20 and discover cold fusion or something. Go Tulowitzki.

So in summary, lemme give you a quick table to look at that'll cover the 5 players we just looked at (and yes, I'm cutting this short as well because we'll be over 1500 words by time I'm done jabbering about the table).

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

wOBA

wRC+

HR

Chris Iannetta

.256

.368

.460

.828

.365

125

15

Todd Helton

.286

.387

.432

.819

.364

125

13

Clint Barmes

.252

.301

.412

.713

.310

87

15

Ian Stewart

.262

.347

.479

.826

.358

120

22

Troy Tulowitzki

.295

.373

.506

.879

.379

135

23

Out of an entire infield corps, there is only one player that is a below average bat, and that's Barmes, and he makes up a lot of value by how many balls he prevents from finding the outfield.

So because I'm exhausted and you're probably sick of reading by now, I'll cut this short for today. Next installment will be the Outfield, following that will be the bench (and I might roll these 2 into one article), and finally, the rotation plus Greg Smith.

Until then Rowbots, keep watching the skis! I mean, skies.

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