2012 Bill James Projections

It’s the offseason. That means hot stove rumors. That means prospect rankings. And that means projections. Bill James’ projections, which he publishes in his yearly handbook, were added to Fangraphs player pages about a week ago. As far as I know, they’re not all published in one place (besides, of course, the handbook, which I highly recommend you purchase), so it’s hard to just look at all the Giants’ projections unless you want to dig through all the individual player pages.

Anyway, do note that they are widely considered to be overly optimistic, but I think that’s overstated.

Here are the Giants hitting projections.

A few thoughts:

– The best thing on here is the Brandon Belt projection. A .363 wOBA would do wonders for this offense, and it’s right up there with Buster Posey (.363) and Carlos Beltran (.367). Belt is one of the huge keys to making next year’s offense better than it was this year.

Andres Torres (.327) is projected for a higher wOBA than Melky Cabrera (.325). This is precisely why I wasn’t a big fan of the Cabrera trade. The Giants gave up rotation depth for a worse (arguably, and I’d make that argument) centerfielder.

Nate Schierholtz is projected to hit .328 — roughly as well as he did in 2011 — confirming that there’s good reason to believe he can be a quality everyday right fielder. Fangraphs had him at 1.4 WAR in 362 plate appearances last year (.327 wOBA), and that was with negative fielding value. I’m fairly certain that he’s capable of being a 2-3 WAR player in 2012.

– There’s not much to be hopeful about with Brandon Crawford. I’ve gradually become less enthused about the prospect of him as the Giants’ starting shortstop, and this doesn’t help. He’d have to carry a lot of value with his glove to be a viable everyday option, and I just don’t know that his fielding is good enough to stomach a .282 wOBA.

Brandon Belt, Pablo Sandoval, and Buster Posey form a pretty respectable heart of the order, and if the rest of the lineup carries their weight (granted, a big “if”), this offense could just be good enough.

And here’s the pitching.

Thoughts:

– I’m a little disappointed by the Madison Bumgarner/Sergio Romo projections, but that’s only because I have such high expectations when it comes to those two. I’d bet they beat their projected FIPs.

– These projections only make me dislike the Javier Lopez/Jeremy Affeldt moves even more. It seems like that’s where most of the Giants’ offseason spending will have gone, when all is said and done. That doesn’t look too good.

– At first glance, the Barry Zito projection (sub-4.00 ERA!) looks quite nice, but it’s a) mostly pitching out of relief, and b) a small sample size.

Giants Re-Sign Javier Lopez, Exercise Jeremy Affeldt’s Option

The Giants wasted no time making their first set of offseason moves, as they re-signed Javier Lopez and exercised Jeremy Affeldt‘s option for the 2012 season. Lopez’s contract is worth $8.5MM over the next two years, while Affeldt’s option is worth $5MM.

The Lopez deal buys out what would have been his first two free agent years; he’s essentially a LOOGY (something useful, obviously, but not of great value), so it’s a bit peculiar that the Giants handed him such a deal. Since coming over to the Giants in the John Bowker/Joe Martinez trade in 2010, he’s tossed 72 innings over 97 appearances, posting a 157 ERA+. His peripherals aren’t particularly good, as his highest single-season K/9 is 6.79 (this year), and he’s averaged a little more than four walks per nine innings pitched over his career. The one thing that does separate him from the pack is his elite home run prevention skills — he has yet to allow a home run in a San Francisco uniform, and his career HR/9 is 0.46. In any event, the contract seems a bit excessive, but that’s the nature of the market at this point. Relievers have been consistently overpaid, despite the fact that they’re not actually worth that much.

The Affeldt move is even more questionable, as his option is quite expensive, and — of course — it was announced after the Lopez deal. Affeldt’s a bit younger than Lopez, and has more versatility/durability, but he’s basically been a replacement level pitcher over the past two seasons, and retaining Affeldt shouldn’t have been much of a priority. I’m not even sure if he’d command $5MM on the open market.

As a whole, these two moves are a bit excessive and unnecessary — at least at this point. The Giants just spent more than $9MM on a couple of lefty relievers, even though they’ve made it clear that they’re limiting payroll this year. The Giants are in dire need of bolstering their offense, and this deal conceivably means less money will be invested in free agent hitters. These aren’t terrible moves, per se, but they’re clearly not good ones either — there’s not really any potential for surplus value. If the Giants are intent on keeping payroll at a minimum despite the fact that they have resources to boost it, these deals are even worse. The Giants solidified their ‘pen, but they spent a good chunk of money to do so — money that would have been better invested on a quality free agent position player.

Of course, if the Giants do happen to raise payroll significantly (which I don’t anticipate), these deals are much more palatable.

Let the Offseason Begin

And with that, the Giants are no longer reigning world champions. The Giants failed to defend their title, failed even to make the playoffs, and didn’t even come close to winning their division. But 2011 was quite a ride nonetheless, and one of the best baseball seasons ever, culminating in a particularly exciting World Series.

Now, focus turns to the future. The Giants have an immensely flawed offense, and it’s not going to be easy to fix. That said, the NL West does appear to be somewhat wide-open, and with the right moves, the Giants can put themselves in good position to do what they failed to do this year: make the playoffs.

Over at the Chronicle’s Giants blog, Henry Schulman has some interesting information (and speculation) on the offseason to come:

Oh yeah, and the Indians are expected to decline Grady Sizemore‘s option.

Anyway, the free agency period doesn’t begin until 12:01 AM ET on October 30th, as it has been delayed 24 hours. Via Troy Renck, the MLBPA will release the list of Free Agents and potential Free Agents on Sunday, October 30,” and “Players can sign with new teams on Nov. 3.”

This should prove to be a much more interesting offseason than the last one (remember when Miguel Tejada was the Giants’ biggest new addition?). Until then, congratulations to the St. Louis Cardinals and their fans on a fine season, and well-deserved championship.