We’re just a week and a half into the 2013 MLB season and the stats don’t mean much at all, but overreacting to early numbers is human nature. It’s like an annual tradition for baseball fans. So in this edition of the Weekly Wroundtable, we asked our panelists: What early small sample size trend is most likely to persist over the course of the season?
Jeff Mount: I think Michael Brantley will continue to establish himself as a .300 hitter and may sit on the fringes of the batting title race all year. I also think the struggles we have seen from Brett Myers will continue, hopefully not for long because we have better options for the rotation.
Nick Houghtaling: I expect Justin Masterson to continue his strong play. He’s struggled with his control a bit. But outside of a few isolated innings, he’s looking solid. I’m not expecting him to have a sub-3.00 ERA with a ton of strikeouts, but I think we’ll see him have numbers comparable to his 2011 season. The Indians’ improved offense should cause an increase in his win total as well.
Based on his 2012 season, I think it’s safe to assume that Michael Bourn will continue to produce. He had an outstanding first half last year, and is already off to a great start in 2013.
Lewie Pollis: On the positive side, I expect Mark Reynolds to continue hitting the living tar out of the ball. Obviously this whole on pace for 81 home runs thing isn’t going to last but he’s looked fantastic at the plate so far. He could stand to be a little more selective at the plate (he’s chased an uncharacteristically high proportion of balls out of the zone so far) but that will come. I would have included Carlos Santana here too before his thumb injury but I’m afraid another nagging malady will hold him back again in 2013.
On the other end of the spectrum, I don’t have much confidence in Brett Myers. No, he’s not going to give up more than six home runs per nine innings all season long, but the reality is he’s a 32-year-old converted reliever whose peripherals have been worsening for years, even when he’s worked out of the bullpen. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s out of the rotation before the All-Star Break.
Steve Kinsella: Mark Reynolds will continue to hit home runs throughout the season. He will find himself up to bat with men on base many times throughout the season and will see more fastballs. I would not be surprised if he hit 30+ homers this season.
Ed Carroll: I can’t predict the future, but I certainly don’t think Carlos Santana’s monster first week is really a fluke. Yes, the recent thumb issue worries me, and I do need to point out the small sample size (26 ABs), but his OBP is still .567, meaning I can say “if you watched a Santana at bat this season, you probably saw him get on base” and it’s not really hyperbole. I won’t rattle off stats, because of said small sample, but I expect big numbers from him this year.
It’s nonsensical speculation, but it really seems like having Nick Swisher and Mark Reynolds around to provide some power in the lineup has lifted Santana of the burden of carrying the offense. He no longer seems to be trying to do too much in an at bat, and seems willing to work with what the pitcher gives him, as evidenced by his two strikeouts. But the crazy thing is, he’s not really walking a ton (only four walks so far) – he’s been hitting, and six of his 13 hits have been for extra bases. No, he’s not going to continue this torrid pace all season, and for anyone who cares about batting average, I don’t expect him to even bat .300, but if he’s healthy, don’t be surprised to see Carlos Santana’s name near the league OBP leaders, and for him to remain a major factor in Cleveland’s offense all season.
Brian Heise: I’m going to go out on a limb and say Carlos Santana’s batting average. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect him to hit .500 for the season, but I don’t expect to see him hitting in the low .220′s either. I think Santana has a legit shot to hit somewhere in the .275 to .285 range. I’ve said already how I felt that his time playing for the Dominican team would help him throughout the season and so far I feel like that’s true. He’s showing tremendous patience at the plate and using the entire field. If he can continue that approach and avoid the pitfalls of becoming pull happy like he has in years past, it seems like a legit possibility that Santana become a more reliable hitter.
Katrina Putnam: Michael Brantley is hitting .280 right now, with a .400 OBP. His average isn’t likely to drop below that, as he’s proven in the past that he’s very consistent at the plate. Last season, he was among the least likely hitters to strike out, and that will help him continue to get on-base at a regular clip. He hasn’t quite found his extra-base power yet this season, but the high average and OBP should remain throughout the year.
Evan Vogel: Drew Stubbs and his 27.9 UZR/150 (a nice upgrade over Shin-Soo Choo‘s current -42.8 UZR/150 for the Cincinnati Reds in center, but who didn’t see that coming?). Carlos Santana posting All-Star quality numbers, and while he isn’t going to hit .500/.567/.885 all year, he will easily be the Indians’ best player. Ubaldo Jimenez and his 1.45 WHIP…which seems like a nice number and a reasonable bounceback for the righty. The starting pitching, outside of Justin Masterson and Zach McAllister, will be brutal, and while both of their ERA’s are solid right now (0.69 for Masterson and 3.00 for McAllister), they will both be closer to 4.00 by the end of the season; however, they’ll be the club’s most consistent arms. And finally Vinnie Pestano will post a 0.00 ERA all year because he’s that awesome, but the Indians will continue to run Chris Perez out there with a 50 percent save rate…all year.
Merritt Rohlfing: There’s two things I like, and think will carry through the season. First, Mark Reynolds’ power. Right now he’s slugging .750 with a .500 ISO. These numbers are ridiculous, but I don’t think they’ll drop as far as most think. Mark is 29 years old, typically the age when players have their peak seasons. I think he’ll have a 40+ home run season, stay healthy keep his SLG up near .500. He’s on pace to hit 81 home runs, and though that will not hit that, this will be Reynolds’ best season in the Majors.
The other thing that will carry through, and it’s a bit of a meatball, is Vinnie Pestano’s K rate and general success. He’s got a 0.00 ERA and is striking out 12 per nine, and I think it will stay above 10 for the season, while his ERA won’t get much above 1.80. He’s going to be dominant and predicate a Chris Perez trade come the deadline for a starting pitcher. Or something.