Even the most pessimistic among us didn't see this first half coming and on the whole as a community we were cautiously optimistic about the team's overall chances. What did we miss? In an effort to see if we erred in judgment, I've decided to review the community projections made at the start of the season against the first half performances and see where they diverge.
We expected some pretty big regression in Raul's bat this season going from a .831 OPS in 2007 down to a .790 OPS in 2008 with most of the downfall coming in the form of hits with a 15 point drop in average and a 33 point drop in slugging. We were pretty accurate in that regard as Raul's first half line stands at .273/.338/.438 against the projected .276/.343/.447.
Once again, we have a partial victim of bad luck with a 20.6% line drive rate against a .290 BABIP which is the lowest number in the past five seasons for Raul. However, his HR/FB% continues to fall, down to 8.3% from 11.0% suggesting that Raul might be running on fumes at this point, relying on better contact and a better eye to supplant a rapidly diminishing power ability. Now would be a perfect opportunity to bid farewell. That being said, we projected a .067 and .172 iso and got a .065 and .161 respectively. Pretty accurate.
WHAT WE MISSED: Nothing.
In retrospect, this was a hugely optimistic projection. Essentially, the community forecasted Ichiro for minimal decline from 2007 down from a .351/.396/.431 line to a .337/.385/.434 one. Now, it's tough to judge Ichiro mid-season since he got off to his typical early season slump. One thing Ichiro does have going for him this season is an improved walk rate even with him seeing less pitcher per plate appearance.
Ichiro has been remarkably consistent drawing 49, 48, 49 and 49 walks the last four years. He's already at 38 on the year leading to a career best .062 isoD, far above the projected .048 figure. The downside has been in his power, with no extra base hits in a month's time, Ichiro is posting just a .067 isoP against the hoped for .097 number and the .080 from 2007.
However, one popular method to help translate a player's speed contribution into a batting line is to add the player's stolen bases to his slugging and subtract his caught stealings from his OBP. If we apply this to Ichiro, his batting line turns into .304/.361/.458. It's not a perfect translation since a double is more valuable than a single and a stolen base, but then again, a single/walk plus a caught stealing is a lot more valuable than a random out.
I have little doubt that Ichiro's batting average will continue to rise; his improved contact rate suggests he hasn't lost anything in the bat control department and we may even see the slugging go up a bit as well after his hamstring issues clear up and he becomes potentially more apt to stretch some of those singles into doubles. All in all, we were too optimistic on his power, but he's surprised us a bit with his discipline while overcoming yet another typical early season slow start.
WHAT WE MISSED: Projected a little too much power.
More after the jump.
Whoops. We thought Wilkerson might rebound a bit in the average and walks department while losing a good chunk of his power. That's not an unreasonable projection. Problem is, there was some, shall we say, mitigating factors surrounding Wilkerson's performance that made duplicating said performance unlikely. Wilkerson actually had a tremendous walk rate, providing a .116 isoD along with 4.4 pitches seen per PA, an unheard of number for a Mariner. Unfortunately, he had no concept of power, smacking just 12.2% line drives, zero home runs and a .072 isoP.
WHAT WE MISSED: Justifiable fear of urine sample cups.
Willie's 90th percentile PECOTA projection has him hitting two home runs.
Hehehe. Behold the hilarity of Willie Bloomquist. He's like Reggie Willits on some sort of gritty steroid, which I imagine are shaped like Flinstone vitamins. We did get one thing right; we expected an on base percentage above his slugging; we just had no idea how incredulously big that margin would be.
.255/.315/.307 was our prediction, marking a .060 isoD and .052 isoP. Instead we have seen a remarkable .270/.377/.279 line. Willie has one extra base hit all year, a double. He's recorded 31 total bases from hitting and 28 total bases from walking, getting hit and steal attempts. How have the walks spiked? For one, Willie is swinging at fewer pitches this year, down over 5% from 2007. Secondly, when he does swing, he's doing a much better job at making contact, missing only 9.6% of the time, 50% of his 2007 rate. When you take more pitches and make more contact with the ones you do swing at, chances are that your walk rate is going to go up and your strikeout rate down.
If you apply the same stolen base translation that we looked at for Ichiro you also get a noticeable change in Willie's line since he has so few total bases otherwise. His slugging jumps almost 100 points to .378 while his OBP drops only to .362. A .270/.362/.378 would be one of our most productive hitters. That is so funny.
WHAT WE MISSED: A (SSS) step forward in bat control and plate discipline counterbalancing a disappearance in power.
Looked pretty bad in his first extended Major League trial. Drew more walks than we anticipated, but also struck out way too often and hit too few line drives to sustain a projected .263 average. The power was off a bit as well. I don't think it really dampens anything about Balentien's luster, he had more to learn at Tacoma even when he was called up so it wasn't much of a surprise that he struggled. Hopefully he's working on learning those lessons.
WHAT WE MISSED: Earlier than expected call up leading to bigger contact problems.
Reed had another decent year in Tacoma and finally earned himself a second shot at the big leagues and so far has pretty much looked exactly like he looked in 2005 though with perhaps some improved defense this time around. What's really changed over 2005 is that Reed is swinging more often now. He's not really seeing more strikes and his contact rate is about the same, so in theory he could start taking a few more pitches and get his walk rate back up to 2005 levels, which would go part of the way toward making him a suitable stopgap starting CF. The rest of the way would be some more doubles.
WHAT WE MISSED: How bad our other outfielders would be.
Like 1B and DH from part 1, what we missed most of all here was the total collapse of a position, in this case RF. Wilkerson and Balentien both fell completely flat and the team was left without any suitable alternatives since they traded Adam Jones, cut Greg Norton, demoted Charlton Jimerson and instead tried out Mike Morse.
On one hand, we got most of our projections at least within the margin for error, which is impressive. On the other, when your team has a black hole at DH, 1B and COF, the three most offense heavy positions, it's no surprise when the team's overall offense turns out to suck. Badly.