Bill James Projections: How Good Will Indians Outfielders 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. Earlier this week, we put it to the test for the 2012 Indians infielders. Today, we turn our attention to Cleveland’s outfielders.

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 our Simple WAR Calculator for every Indians hitter he projected.

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:

No surprise that Shin-Soo Choo comes out on top. A four-WAR season would be disappointing after he posted 11 wins above replacement in 2009-10, but James is actually projecting some significant improvement over 2011. No doubt Choo could blow past this projection, but that he will return to his All-Star form is not a safe assumption.

The middle tier is grouped intriguingly close together, especially since their respective projected playing times aren’t equal. Part of that comes from (in my opinion) underestimating Michael Brantley will thinking too highly of Grady Sizemore. James sees Brantley hitting .268/.332/.358 in 2012; I’d say his on-base skills will be better than that, and I’m not sold that his power will decline as he turns 25 (he slugged .384 last year).

Sizemore, meanwhile, projects as a roughly average player, but that’s predicated on him raising his walk rate back near its former levels, which isn’t a safe assumption. Grady’s walked in just 6.2 percent of his plate appearances over the last two years, yet James projects his walk rate to climb back above 10 percent in 2012. Use instead his last-two-years walk rate and his projection falls to 0.8 WAR in 82 games, meaning he probably wouldn’t be worth his $5 million salary.

Meanwhile, Shelley Duncan and Ezequiel Carrera look like pretty viable options for the outfield in case someone gets injured or a spot opens up. James sees basically more of the same for Duncan in 2012, while he sees Carrera essentially matching up with Brantley in terms of on-base skill—his power still lags behind, but Carrera definitely has the better glove. I’m not seriously suggesting that Carrera take Brantley’s place in the lineup, but for what it’s worth, based on these numbers Carrera actually projects as more valuable on a per-game basis.

Felix Pie, who was just signed to a minor-league deal, looks like a non-factor. If enough things go wrong for the team that he becomes a factor it will be a bad sign for the Indians next year.

How do these projections look to you?

  • Too pessimistic (50%, 12 Votes)
  • About right (38%, 9 Votes)
  • Too optimistic (13%, 3 Votes)

Total Voters: 24

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