How does our lineup lineup?

Spring training begins in earnest next week and it’s about time, this off season seemed very long. With that in mind it’s time I decided to take a look at the projected and see if it’s up to the task of kicking Philly .. tail. Barring spring training magic from an unknown (and using defensive Wins Above Replacement – dWAR) we know these things about the defense (dWAR).

1. Our pitching remains amongst the best (dWAR not considered)

2. McCann is slimmer and (hopefully) be quicker behind the plate particularly to his right and covering his 5 hole. (0.3)

3. Freeman Will be solid to eventually superb at first (1.0 est)

4. Uggla is not a gold glove but I expect (hope) the Ted and Freddie Freeman (and tutoring for Prado???) make his miscues less frequent. (-1)

5. Chipper says he’ll be ready. If he is what we saw in  August, he won’t be gold glove but he will be fine. (0.7)

6. Alex Gonzales is older and has at least one balky knee. He can have error streaks however be solid if not spectacular at short.  (0.2)

7.Prado (a fine athlete) will quickly be an above average left fielder. Improving at third at the same time may be a big hill to climb but if anyone can do it it ‘s Prado. (0)

8. McLouth/Shafer/Young/TBA….who knows? Scafer and Young are better fielders that Mclouth whose arm is reminiscent of Juan Pierre; every runner takes an extra base when it’s hit to McLouth. (-1)

9. Heyward will be better than last year in right- I hope. Some routes he took last year on apparently routine fly balls were very . . . Magellanesque. (0.7)

This projected lineup (dWar + 0.9) is better defensively than a team of replacements; just not much better. We all know how weak glove work affected our late season run last year. This defense is better but doesn’t project to be what is needed of a championship team. Looks to me like improvement will have to be made there if we are to go back to the post season. Defense is only half the story of course, what about the offense? Is this lineup strong enough to help our pitchers overcome the less than sterling defense and win those 93 games I said they were capable of winning?

In the long run you are your baseball card until you’re not. Take the extreme highs and lows away and you have a good idea what a player will do during the season – barring a breakout or career year of course. Freddie Freeman doesn’t have a significant major league record to base a projection on so I took my cue from the way he adapted at different levels in the minors and what I read scouts project for him.  After chewing the data a bit this is how I project our lineup to do offensively this year.

Name Games BA HR RBI
Brian McCann 145 280 22 80
Freddi Freeman 150 275 17 70
Dan Uggla 150 275 25 115
Alex Gonzales 155 250 14 45
Chipper Jones 125 285 20 80
Martin Prado 150 300 15 70
Nate McClouth 140 250 12 48
Jason Heyward 155 285 20 95
Eric Hinske 100 240 10 40
Joe Mather 50 240 8 22
Brooks Conrad 50 225 5 15
David Ross 60 230 10 40
Diory Hernandez 30 190 1 5
Totals 179 725

Are 179 homers and 725 runs enough to win 93?

Every team wins 50 games and loses 50 games (ok almost every team), it’s what you do with the other 62 games determines your season. Sabremetricians (note I am not one nor do I play on one TV or this blog) say you can use the teams total Wins Above Replacement (WAR) to get a reasonable projection of how well a team will do in that 62. Simply add the games every team wins (they use 48.6 but I’ll stick with 50) to that WAR.

Freddi Freeman 1
Dan Uggla 3.7
Alex Gonzales 0.9
Chipper Jones 3.2
Martin Prado 2.7
Nate McClouth -1.2
Jason Heyward 4.4
Eric Hinske 1.2
Joe Mather 0.5
Brooks Conrad 0.5
David Ross 1.4
Diory Hernandez 0
Tim Hudson 5.7
Derek Lowe 2.1
Jair Jurrjens 0
Tommy Hanson 2.2
Mike Minor/Brian Beachy 0
Peter Moylan 0.9
Scott Linebrink 0.2
Eric O’Flaherty 0
Craig Kimbrell 0.7
Johnny Venters 1.2
George Sherrill -1
Cristhian Martinez 0
Total WAR 35

(All stats from http://www.baseball-reference.com/)

So, using career numbers and allowing for the performances I expect from a healthier Chipper and my Rookie of the Year designate Freeman, our lineup (23) and pitching staff (12) have a total WAR of 35. That method projects a season of 85-77,  8 games short of my projected 93. Oops.

To get to my magic number what we need is a career year or two. For example the reappearance of Nate McLouth circa 2008 would on its own be a  +5.8 swing. If  Alex Gonzales could replicate his best season (2010) it would give us another 1.9. Together that would move the projected season to  92 or 93 games. Can we expect that? Probably not. Gonzales is unlikely to repeat last year and as much as I’d like him to, McLouth may not ever see 2008 numbers again. Using Jordan Shafer or Matt Young in center would both improve defense and give us someone more likely to have a breakout season. Sparked by an eager Shafer and/or Young and led by Chipper, Prado, McCann and Uggla the whole team could raise their game enough to solidify a run.  If that doesn’t happen early on – say within the first 40 games, we’ll need an infusion of proven winning energy and production to sustain  a real challenge. Frank Wren recently told the AJC there Liberty Media imposes no payroll restrictions on the team, so perhaps he could reach out and make a deal or two that would dynamically improve our chances.

Did I mention that a healthy soon to be free agent Jose Reyes has a WAR of +5.5? Just sayin. . . .

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Tags: Braves Chipper Freeman Heyward Jose Reyes Lineup McCann McLouth Shafer Uggla WAR Young

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