Bill James Projections: How Good Will Indians Infielders Be in 2012?

Last week, we unveiled our new Simple WAR Calculator, a quick way to estimate value for a player given a few easy projected statistics. Today, we’re putting it to the test for next year’s Cleveland Indians.

Sabermetric guru Bill James has already released his player projections for the 2012 season (hat tip to FanGraphs, where they are available on the player pages). I plugged his numbers into the Simple WAR Calculator for every Indians hitter he projected. Below are the results for the infielders (outfielders to come later this week).

Before we get into the numbers, there are few quick things to note about how they were calculated. In addition to his performance stats, I used James’ projected numbers for games played and plate appearances. I also made my own assumptions about fielding and baserunning ability based on the players’ track records and my own observations. Also note that the calculator’s totals do not match up precisely with real 2011 numbers; if the run environment in 2012 is as low as it was this year, these projections will be slight underestimates.

Without further ado, here are the projected WAR numbers:

Carlos Santana comes in on top, just as he did among Tribe hitters in 2011. It’s worth noting that these numbers are based on the assumption that he’d be the full-time catcher—put him at first base instead and he falls to 2.3 WAR. Still, he’ll probably get the majority of his playing time behind the plate, and I think there’s a decent chance he’ll blow past his projected .262/.360/.457 triple-slash and rate even higher.

Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera both come in lower than most fans would expect. I agree that James’ projections look a little bearish, but his skepticism is at least rational. He sees both middle infielders losing some of the power they showed in 2011—Kipnis has played in only 36 MLB games and Cabrera has never slugged as much as he did this year—but he also sees each making some gains in plate discipline. I’d still probably go a little higher for each, but perhaps that’s just subconscious homerism.

Other than that, I didn’t think there were any major surprises here. Neither Lonnie Chisenhall and Jack Hannahan will provide too much value as long as they’re sharing time at third base, and as the projected sixth infielder (at best) Jason Donald won’t be seeing too much action unless the injury bug strikes big time. Travis Hafner still has a strong bat, but his value is hampered by his inconsistent playing time. Same goes for Matt LaPorta, but without the “strong bat” part.

To me, the most interesting result here is how high Lou Marson ranks. He’s a backup catcher whose only offensive attribute is plate discipline, yet in less than half a season’s worth of game’s he’s projected to be worth a win and a half. Part of that is from my bullish estimations of his defensive ability, but even if you take his glove down a notch he’d still be over 1.0 WAR.

How do these projections look to you?

  • Too pessimistic (50%, 12 Votes)
  • About right (38%, 9 Votes)
  • Too optimistic (12%, 3 Votes)

Total Voters: 24

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Tags: Asdrubal Cabrera Carlos Santana Jason Kipnis Lou Marson

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