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RMN vs CHONE: The OF, the Bench

Last week's super exciting installment of Counting Rocks featured Sean Smith's CHONE projections and how they pertained to the Colorado Rockies infield.  We got to go over what Smith sees for the Colorado infield last week, and now it's time we take the next step, to the outfield and the bench. For the projections, we'll be looking at slash lines in the form  of AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS/wOBA(wRC+), and I'll toss some counting stats in there when needed.

We'll start with the opening day outfield, and the LF there is Seth Smith. Now, we've discussed Seth Smith nearly to death, but he still remains an enigma to us. He hasn't looked too good in his 5 PA so far this season, but 2 games is hardly anything to worry about. Unless they're in October. Then panic.

Anyhow, CHONE. CHONE is calling for more playing time for Smith and a pretty effective season overall. Smith's 2010 should look like .288/.369/.482/.851/.372(130). He's also projected to be an absolutely neutral fielder according to TotalZone, leaving him at 2.4 WAR on the season.

Now, as for reacting to this, I have a bit of trouble disagreeing - sort of. My concern comes from Smith's exorbitant PH splits, and the fact that they greatly inflated his overall season numbers. Basically, he batted just a shade above .800 OPS as a starter, and then like 1.400 as a PH. Just stepping back to the macro view, one would say that production is production, if they want to limit him to PH duty, their loss. But with 5 outfielders jockeying for playing time, Smith is going to have to earn his playing time, and I hope everyone else will as well. To wrap Smith up, I think Smith's projection is pretty on pace with what we've seen of Smith: good on base skills, solid pop, and while I think he'll be a better defender than just Neutral, that's still a pretty debatable area.

Click past the jump for the rest of the OF and the bench.

Moving to CF, we have Carlos Gonzalez and the LAZOR. We all saw the breakout that Gonzalez had last season, he's an excellent defender, he's a fast runner, and he has some serious pop in his bat. I still don't like him batting leadoff, but that's not the focus of this article. If I had to guess on Gonzalez' 2010, I'd say something like .280/.350/.500, those legs of his are gonna set the single-season record for triples as a Rockie. Let's see what CHONE has to say.

CHONE is a bit more bearish on Gonzalez than I am, especially in the ISO department. If Smith were a profit, Cargo would be posting a line of .289/.345/.485/.830/.360(121). The big difference is in the ISOD, the amount of extra OBP Gonzalez will be getting due to walks (etc). It seems like he learned a bit last year, and I'm saying he'll boost his OBP from his AVG by a .070 rate, while Smith sees it more as .056 - which is more in line with his minor league numbers. Smith also sees him just shy of a .200 ISOP (SLG-AVG), while I'm saying he's gonna work the gaps to the tune of a .220 ISOP. Now, last week, I postulated that the CHONE projections were based on a park-neutral model, meaning that we could probably tack on a dozen extra ISOP points or so, but it's not going to absolutely wreck a projection to not take the Coors boost into effect. I don't know if it's enough to add .030 to Cargo's ISOP, but that's kind of what I'm working with right now.

The concern I have for my own projection is I basically have Cargo repeating (and improving upon) his 2009 numbers, which may or may not be a fair assessment. He broke out solidly, obviously, but settling into a level of play that we could speak to moving forward is a different situation. The bottom line for me though is that if Cargo really does post a .830 OPS while playing excellent defense, and plays at a ~3 WAR level, I won't complain whatsoever. Moving on.

Next on the list is the much maligned Brad Hawpe. Off the top of my head, if you asked me to project Hawpe's season, I'd just say "He'll bat his career line", which shows up as .283/.377/.499/.876/.372(120).  What's interesting to note in there is that Hawpe is a pretty decent OBP machine. If we ignore what we know to be a Jekyll and Hyde type batter as far as half-splits go, that's a batting line you can take home to your mother. CHONE, however, is thinking that Hawpe is on his way down from here, to the tune of .273/.367/.484/.851/.370(129). Again, that's a pretty solid line to go off of, and again, that ISO drop (as well as BABIP) is a bit disconcerting to see, as it's pulling his OPS down by about 20-30 points. Personally, I don't see it. Given the full season, Hawpe can more than likely produce at around (or possibly slightly above) his career numbers, and if he's given the rest he needs (which shouldn't be a problem), he might be able to somewhat buck that 2nd half stigma and continue to be a solid bat down the stretch.

Next in line for OF playing time is Dexter Fowler, the kid who skipped AAA and put up a .363 OBP in his first full season. CHONE sees him striking out less, but also walking less, and trading those "true" outcomes in for some good old-fashioned American hits. Sean Smith is expecting the following line out of Dex: .279/.370/.409/.779/.346(112). Not an awful line, and it's stressing those OBP skills that we've seen throughout his entire baseball career. Now, I can buy a higher AVG, just as Dex continues to acclimate to being a major-league baseball player. I also am right on board with the OBP, as he has a pretty solid eye at the plate, especially for someone with a tall strike zone. It's the SLG I'm having trouble with. Again, and I've said it a couple times, but I really don't think that CHONE is accounting for Coors' disgusting triples inflation, which will be a big part of Dex's SLG. He has the straight up wheels to get to 3B on a regular basis, and he might cheat a couple more home runs in Colorado's thin air, and basically I think that Dex has the legitimate ability to outperform the small-ball SLG that CHONE sets out for us. For some reason, CHONE also sees Dex as a neutral fielder who will be worth 2.3 WAR for us in the 2010 campaign. I bet he could hit 3 WAR.

Finally for the OF, we have Ryan Spilborghs. Spilly dealt with a lot of crap last season, in the forms of personal issues as well as having to fight for playing time. Overall, it was a pretty sad campaign for him, and CHONE doesn't see it getting too much better. Things that hurt Spilly in 2009 included a poor BABIP, a lowered LD%, an uppercut similar to that which we saw in Chris Iannetta, and a missing smile. CHONE is calling for him to bat .271/.352/.424/.776/.343(110), which isn't an unreasonable line. It's above average, and for a guy who's gonna see the least amount of PAs of the 5 OF, that's not necessarily a terrible thing. It's a far cry from Spilly's .875 OPS 2008, but I'm pretty sure that season was BABIP inflated as it is. Essentially, that batting line is in line for his career numbers, although I could see him batting a bit higher, like .280-.285, which would give him a 30-ish OPS boost. Spilly's situation is a bit hard to see, considering how much we love him, but let's just hope he can defeat reality and rock some faces off in shared playing time.

Three players left in our analysis today, and I'll cut you all loose to talk about how dumb projections are or how much work is put into them (hint: a lot), or why you think they're a great tool.

Our last three players fill out the bench, and we won't have too much to say about them, because one of them (Olivo) is pretty cut and drDINGERS, and the other two are in their last year(s) and are on a pretty noticeable decline.

First, Miguel Olivo, our apparent 2nd starter or whatever he is, but realistically, our backup. I'm not even going to bother with the slash line. According to CHONE, Olivo will hit .262, and if he's given 400PA, he'll hit 22 bombs. If he bats like that in that much playing time, CHONE sees him as a 2.3 WAR player, which is solid any way you slice it.

Second, Melvin Mora. He doesn't get much prettier than what we're expecting, but CHONE is the only projector listed on Fangraphs that sees him as being an above-average bat, even if it's just a smidgen above. Mora's line is expected to be .269/.335/.412/.747/.330(101) - which is amusingly like the league average batting line. Really, considering our expectations of Mora to back up Stew and Barmes, we could do a lot worse, having an average bat. By comparison, Omar Quintanilla posted a 27 wRC+. I for one welcome our ant overlords.

Finally, Jason Giambi. The man has had a long, storied career, rife with steroid problems, golden thongs, and some special time spent with a mustache. I know I'm not alone when I say that I'm pleased to have him around, just so Todd Helton has someone to play with. But on to the projection. One thing I find interesting about CHONE's numbers is that they are set up to try and describe a player as if he were a part-time starter, even if that player is a notorious bench guy or something. CHONE's numbers are set up for Giambi to receive 410 PA and walk in 62 of them. .237/.371/.464/.835/.368(127) is what CHONE is calling for, and really, that line plays in just about any lineup. It's not completely ideal, but it's still good looking, especially that the OBP and SLG are both well above average. I mean, seriously, a .230 ISOP at age 39? That's badass. The thing that I don't think CHONE is capable of really capturing is the same thing that we deal with while looking at Seth Smith's lines: the fact that Giambi will be doing a lot more PHing than starting.

Anyhow, that brings us to the end of the batting projections. I only have one conclusion to make, really, and this is it: Our team is solidly above average. Both of our catchers, 3 of our 4 IF, our entire OF, and everyone on the bench is expected to be Average or Better. The only outlier is poor Clint Barmes, but as we've discussed, he's still a pretty elite glove, and he really earns his spot in the lineup every day. We have a good offensive team who (for the most part) earns their Christmas bonus with their gloves. Add in the "youth" factor and this team could seriously wreck the National League.