Indians Hitters First Half 'On Pace' Projections

With the mathematically inaccurate “first half” of the Indians’ 2012 season now behind us, it’s time to indulge in one of the most overly simplistic statistical analyses in baseball: “on pace” projections. Expecting a player to continue at the exact same level of production without any positive or negative regression won’t get you very far, but nonetheless it’s fun to see the results.

The numbers that follow are simply the major counting stats for every position player on the Tribe’s active roster (pitchers to come tomorrow) multiplied by 162 and then divided by 85 (like I said, the “first half” is an inaccurate term). Though I find them fun, I once again would like to make it clear that I do not endorse these projections as serious—especially since UZR (and, by extension, WAR) isn’t very stable after just a half-season sample size.

Starting with the good, what a year this would be for Jason Kipnis. He’s got a great shot at the 20/20 club and could make a run at 40 steals. A strong second half could send him to the century mark in both runs and RBI, and in WAR terms he’s on pace for the best individual season for a Tribe player since 2010. Not bad for his first full MLB season.

Kipnis’ keystone partner is in for a great year as well. Asdrubal Cabrera‘s lack of stolen bases is a bit disappointing, but he’s on pace to pass 20 homers once again and reach 80 runs and RBI. His 4.0 projected WAR is very nice, but the best part is that that might be underselling his value as there is a substantial disconnect between Cabrera’s visually perceived defensive prowess and the sabermetric stats’ harsh rating of his glove. If he’s an average defensive shortstop then his value is on par with Kipnis’. If he’s really the best fielder in baseball, he’s an MVP candidate.

We also see solid numbers from Shin-Soo Choo, and despite all the talk about his slump Carlos Santana still projects as an above-average catcher. Travis Hafner is essentially a league-average player given his lack of playing time (not bad for a so-called washed-up player), and while his current pace is completely unsustainable Lou Marson would be on pace to match Choo’s WAR if he played 162 games.

On the other side of the ledger are two below-replacement-level guys: Casey Kotchman and Aaron Cunningham. Kotchman is absolutely underrated by UZR’s poor quantification of his defensive skill and has been turning it around of late, and Cunningham is on the roster for a very specific purpose: to be a late-game pinch runner and defensive replacement. Still, you have to wonder if the Indians would be better off with Matt LaPorta and Ezequiel Carrera.

Then there are the barely replacement-level guys. Jack Hannahan, Johnny Damon, and Shelley Duncan are all having down years, but I (along with the team, I presume) have full confidence that all can rebound, at least to some extent. Meanwhile, this paints yet another picture of how mediocre Jose Lopez has really been. Why are the team and the fans so enamored with him?

But maybe the most interesting player here is Michael Brantley. He got national attention for his 25-game hitting streak, he’s been a regular feature in the middle of the order, and he’s even been in the conversation for the team’s first-half MVP. Yet because of his underwhelming power and plate discipline and his perceived lackluster defense in center field, WAR ranks him as about an average player. He’s still a key part of this team and he has room to grow, but there seems to be a disconnect between his actual production and perceived level of play.

Tags: Aaron Cunningham Asdrubal Cabrera Carlos Santana Casey Kotchman Jack Hannahan Jason Kipnis Johnny Damon Jose Lopez Lou Marson Michael Brantley Shelley Duncan Shin Soo Choo Travis Hafner

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