2021 Pod vs Steamer — SB Upside

Today, I continue my Pod Projections vs Steamer battle, this time moving along to stolen bases. Similarly to the way I compared our home run forecasts, I’m going to calculate a PA/SB rate first and then extrapolate that projection over 650 plate appearances so we’re only comparing stolen base projections and playing time forecasts don’t factor in.

SB Upside
Player Pod PA/SB Steamer PA/SB Pod SB – 650 PA Steamer SB – 650 PA 650 PA Diff
Jarrod Dyson 15.9 20.8 41.0 31.3 9.6
Bradley Zimmer 37.3 59.0 17.4 11.0 6.4
Tim Locastro 22.9 28.0 28.4 23.2 5.2
Andres Gimenez 20.0 23.5 32.5 27.6 4.8
Myles Straw 17.2 18.9 37.8 34.4 3.4

Once again, Jarrod Dyson finds himself atop the Pod SB bull board. He was in that very same spot heading into the 2020 season as well, and although he whipped both the projections, Pod’s more optimistic forecast was significantly closer. This year, both projections are forecasting a slight decline in stolen base prowess, but the gap between the two actually grew marginally. Obviously, Dyson’s age is tripping up the computer forecast, but he’s shown no signs of slowing down is basestealing yet. A reserve role is actually beneficial as he’ll pinch run more frequently and add steals without adding plate appearances.

A former top prospect, Bradley Zimmer has battled injuries and has recorded just 510 plate appearances over parts of four seasons since 2017. He’s now healthy again after recording 50 plate appearances last year, and is competing for time in the Indians outfield. Pod’s bullishness here is due to a higher projected OBP and possibly the low projected PA projection by Steamer, which makes the extrapolation process less accurate. For whatever reason, Steamer’s OBP projection is well below the rest of the systems, and below Pod. Steamer’s projected walk rate is the lowest of any of the systems, but still slightly higher than Pod. So the biggest driver of the OBP difference is from BABIP, in which I’m high man on the totem pole.

In terms of the second reason, a low PA projection is difficult to accurately extrapolate when the projected metrics are rounded to a single digit. A perfect example is triples. Imagine a hitter projected to hit a triple every 100 ABs. Now imagine he is projected for 49 ABs. He would be projected for 0.49 triples, but his projection will show 0. Extrapolate that to 600 ABs and you’re still left with 0 triples. However, if we had decimals to work with, we would project six triples over 600 ABs, which is an enormous difference from 0. So I think that’s skewing Steamer’s PA/SB rate here. Anyway, Zimmer remains a deep sleeper given the Indians unsettled outfield.

Speaking of sleepers, Tim Locastro is another one. Once again, we find that Steamer’s OBP projection is the lowest of any system driven primarily by the combo of the highest strikeout rate and lowest BABIP forecasts. With Kole Calhoun expected to miss time, there’s an opportunity here for playing time early on. Since he’s not completely powerless, he makes for a pretty interesting power/speed combo for as long as Calhoun is on the IL.

The assumption right now is that Andres Gimenez wins the Indians starting shortstop job, but that wouldn’t affect the rates calculated in the table. The 21-year-old skipped Triple-A and enjoyed a rather solid MLB debut on offense last season. For the first time, Steamer is actually the most bullish on a hitter’s OBP. It’s a bit higher than my projection, and yet I’m far more optimistic on Gimenez’s PA/SB rate. I’m weighing his minor league record more heavily than Steamer it seems, as Gimenez had been even more willing to run back then. I still get nervous about hitters jumping straight from Double-A, especially those who weren’t even good at Double-A, but for as long as he’s playing, he should contribute nicely in steals and chip in some homers as well.

I still can’t believe that Myles Straw opens the season as the Astros leadoff hitter, which is why I continue to project him as a bottom of the order hitter. But again, his lineup spot and PA forecast won’t change his PA/SB. For the second straight hitter, Steamer is well above the rest on OBP, while my forecast is actually slightly lower than the majority of the systems. And yet, I’m forecasting more steals! Straw’s main skill is his speed and he’s been a pretty strong basestealer in the past. Even though I’m forecasting a lower stolen base per opportunity rate than his current career average (over a small sample), Steamer is apparently even lower than me. His value is going to be significantly tied to his lineup spot, and even with that, it’s hard imagining him holding a starting job all season given his projected sub-.300 wOBA. So while he’s probably a bargain in fantasy leagues given his potential for steals, I just don’t think he’ll last, and I’m projecting the fewest number of plate appearances versus the other systems.

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.

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2 years ago

Dyson is actually a brilliant call because the projections are showing him at 250 plate appearances, but don’t you really think he’ll get 50 or 75 additional PA? 300 PAs = 19 SBs (with Pod), 325= 20 SBs. Add in some late inning pinch running and it makes him worth considering for $1.