The other day I had some fun taking a look at Bill James’s projections for the 2012 Phillies starting rotation. Continuing in the same vein, I’ll be going over what James believes the everyday lineup has in store for next year. What I’ve found are some questionably optimistic numbers combined with projections that seem reasonable enough. But hey, that’s for you to decide.
C – Carlos Ruiz
Everything here seems incredibly normal by Ruiz’s standards–getting on base at a good rate, rarely striking out, and a relative lack of power. These projections don’t take into account whatever value Chooch provides behind the plate, something that us Philadelphia fans like to believe in (whether this value actually exists or is simply perceived is a discussion for another day). The one piece of overt optimism that I find here is the amount of plate appearances. The 32-year-old has averaged 417 PAs per season, and it would almost certainly take a very healthy year for him to rack up nearly 500. But again, these numbers are right in line with the production that everyone has come to expect from Chooch.
1B – Ryan Howard
I guess James hasn’t seen this. For whatever reason, this projection doesn’t consider the fact that Howard is going to be missing a significant chunk of the season as he recovers from a torn Achilles. Depending on who you talk to, he will miss anywhere from 1-3 months, so a number in the realm of 400 plate appearances seems like a more reasonable guess. In addition to missed time, the injury will also likely hamper his production as he works his way back to form. Because of that, I find a projected .372 wOBA to be foolishly optimistic–it would be the first time since 2009 that he has produced at that level. It is important to keep in mind that at 32 years of age, Howard’s best days are almost certainly behind him. Though we would all love to watch him hit for a .885 OPS, I simply do not see this happening.
2B – Chase Utley
Perhaps there is no bigger question mark going into the 2012 season than Utley. The man who once put up five straight seasons of 7 or more fWAR has seemed like a shell of his former self over last two years, missing more than 100 games due to injury. His wOBA dipped to .344 last season, the lowest it has been since he took over full time duties at second base in 2005. He spent the year dealing with knee injuries that hindered his power, explaining a fair bit of the drop off in production. One bright spot in the season was that his injuries had little to no effect on his defensive abilities, so his glove seems as if it will continue to be a huge source of value for Utley moving forward. At 33 years old, he is no longer the 8-WAR perennial MVP candidate, but there is no reason that he can’t match these projected numbers if he maintains a good level of health.
SS – Jimmy Rollins
Though he may be 33-years-old at a position that doesn’t favor older players, Rollins should have a nice season in first year of his newly inked deal with the Phils. Over the last few years he has shown some signs of decline, but it is nothing to get too worked up about. Jimmy is projected to steal 25 bases, hit .262, and get on base to the tune of .328–numbers that are fair assumptions and that most fans would be happy with. A slugging percent at .417 seems a bit optimistic as his power has been down over the past few years, but it is not a far-fetched prediction by any means. Like Utley, Rollins has always been a good defender, and these projections say nothing of the value that he will provide in the field. Barring any physical setbacks, all signs point to Rollins having a solid year similar to what James has forecasted.