The tribe has spoken. Thanks for all the player votes you included in your comments of the first edition of this year’s Pod Projections. The winner was Mark Trumbo with 5 total votes. Clearly, many of you were wondering about his second half when he hit just .227 with 10 home runs after a scorching .306, 22 home run first half. Before I dive into my projection process though, it’s important to be aware that I don’t put much stock into first half/second half splits. They have proven to have limited predictive value, so unless it was a sign of injury or there is some clear explanation that might very well continue, I mostly ignore the splits. With that caveat out of the way, let’s get to the projections.
With Kendrys Morales now gone, the designated hitter slot is pretty much freed up for Trumbo. Last season, he had to rotate between first base, the outfield corners and DH. However, Vernon Wells remains a threat to Trumbo’s playing time, plus he’s likely to lose some at-bats during interleague games played in National League ballparks, so his at-bat projection doesn’t jump much from last year. But, his playing time does appear more secure.
Contact Rate: 76% (a reminder, this is [at-bats – strikeouts] / at-bats, which differs from FG’s K%)
Last season, Trumbo made contact at just a 72% rate after a 78% rate during his rookie 2011 season. In the first half, he was just fine, posting a 77% contact rate. But then his ability to put the bat on the ball took a dive, as his contact rate dropped to just 66% in the second half. It’s possible that the back spasms he experienced at the end of July was the cause of his struggles over the last two months. That coincides perfectly with his late season swoon. Or, it could just be random seasonal variation. Since the likeliest explanation appears to be injury related, I am projecting a rebound to 76%.
Trumbo has remained remarkably consistent with his batted ball distribution over his first two seasons. He posted essentially identical rates each season and his half-season splits from 2012 were pretty close as well. Not much thought required for this projection.
The two expected BABIP formulas I use spit out .315 and .324, but they have their flaws and I favor a veteran’s actual BABIP history. It has only been two seasons which is a small sample to extrapolate true BABIP skill, but Trumbo has shown a tendency to pop up and he hits line drives at a low rate. These issues don’t seem to factor into the expected BABIP formulas enough, so I projected a mark just above his career mark of .293.
HR/FB Ratio: 19%
While his half-season splits makes it appear that Trumbo suffered a power outage in the second half, he still posted a 15% HR/FB ratio in that time frame. It was really September though where things fell apart, as his rate dropped to just 7%. Did pitchers figure him out? Maybe, maybe not. But it is more likely related to those back problems and again, random variation. On the season, he still posted a HR/FB ratio of nearly 21%, which was higher than his rookie year of about 18%. In the last two years, Trumbo’s average home run plus fly ball distance has sat around 290 feet. This is excellent, but not elite, as the top guys average above 300 feet. Therefore, I cannot project another 20%+ HR/FB ratio, but a slight regression to his current career average.
RBI and Runs: 90 and 65
Trumbo is projected to hit fifth in the lineup behind some strong hitters. However, Josh Hamilton isn’t the best hitter to hit behind because his OBP isn’t expected to be that impressive, while he will be clearing the bases himself a lot. I projected a slight decline in runs batted, which now falls between his first two seasons. Since Trumbo fears the base on balls and is expected to post a weak OBP, he gets another 65 runs scored projection, which seriously hurts his value.
It’s funny how big guys like Trumbo randomly steal bases. Who knows when he’ll suddenly decide to stop running, especially since his success rate stinks. For now while he’s on the right side of 30, mid-single digits is fine to continue expecting.
Below is my final projected batting line, along with Bill James and Fans projections for comparison.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.