Steamer and I: Jose Abreu & Giancarlo Stanton

Last week, I posted the first comparison in this new series discussing discrepancies between the Steamer and Pod Projections. I began by looking at Corey Dickerson and A.J. Pollock, two players I was far more optimistic about this season than Steamer is. Today, I’ll look into a pair of sluggers who Steamer likes better than I.

Steamer doesn’t like many hitters better than I do. Of the 328 hitters we both project, Steamer projected at least .001 wOBA points higher than I did for just 83 of them (25.3%). On the other hand, I am more bullish on 232 hitters (70.7%), while we project identical wOBA marks for 13 hitters (4.0%).

Two of the top five hitters I was most pessimistic about compared with Steamer are 2014 rookie of the year Jose Abreu and oft-injured basher Giancarlo Stanton. Let’s dive in and see where we differ.

To make comparisons simpler, I extrapolated the Steamer projections to the same number of plate appearances that I have projected. By popular demand, I have also included our PA projections, including the actual Steamer projection. The Steamer counting stat projections are based on my PA projection.

Jose Abreu

2014* 622 36 2 37 8.2% 21.1% 0.317 0.383 0.581 0.264 0.411 0.356
Pod 640 34 2 34 8.8% 22.4% 0.282 0.352 0.523 0.241 0.379 0.320
Steamer 609 29 2 38 9.5% 20.8% 0.293 0.367 0.554 0.261 0.395 0.319

*I extrapolated the counting stats over my 640 PA projection for comparison purposes

Absolutely nobody expected Abreu to be this good after arriving from Cuba. But he was, and now we have to wonder if pitchers adjust in his sophomore season or he follows up with a repeat performance. And if pitchers do adjust, how much regression will we see? Given the heavily regressive nature of the Steamer forecasts, I am quite surprised that it’s forecasting Abreu to sustain the majority of his performance.

Abreu actually ranked first in positive differential between Steamer and I. It projects his wOBA to rank fourth in baseball, after ranking third last season. My projection calls for a wOBA that ranks 13th in baseball. I confirmed with Jared Cross/the Steamer team that the system does indeed include foreign league statistical translations, so his insane Cuban stats are carrying some weight.

Oddly, Steamer is expecting his doubles rate to fall rather dramatically. We obviously don’t have much data to work with, but I don’t see any real reason to expect that to happen. Over the same number of plate appearances, Steamer is actually projecting Abreu to hit an additional homer over last year.

Abreu did everything right to hit home runs, maintaining a batted ball distance above 300 feet, hitting his balls closer to the lines than the average and posting a massive SDD. It all resulted in a 22.8% xHR/FB rate. His actual 26.9% 2014 mark led baseball and he was just one of six qualified hitters who posted a mark of at least 20%. I projected some regression to 23.5% as that just seems like the right thing to do. It still remains well above what we all projected heading into 2014.

More differences can be found in our respective strikeout and walk rate projections. With another year in the Majors, both Steamer and I expect Abreu to become a little more patient, though Steamer even more so. Abreu walked a ton in Cuba, so you figure some improvement, but how much I have little idea.

The strikeout rate projections are interesting as Steamer projects a slightly better mark, whereas I am projecting Abreu to actually strike out more frequently. My projection stems from two other metrics — his Swing% and SwStk%. Abreu’s Swing% was 10th highest in baseball. The more often you swing, the less opportunity to both walk and strike out. I don’t expect Abreu to swing as often, which would increase his walk rate, but given his poor 14.4% SwStk%, would lead to more strikeouts as well.

We do agree on the BABIP, though Abreu posted an xBABIP of .344, so perhaps we’re underestimating his ability there. Then again, with less projected power, a lower line drive rate and more fly balls, that combination might perfectly lead to my projected .320 mark.

So we have our answer here. Steamer is projecting more home run power, along with better walk and strikeout rates. With only one Major League season under his belt and no domestic minor league data, I can’t confidently tell you whose projection is more likely to prove correct. I’d like to tell you mine because it was all my manual handiwork, but there is significantly less confidence than in other projections for more established veterans.

Giancarlo Stanton

2014* 638 30 1 36 14.7% 26.6% 0.288 0.395 0.555 0.267 0.403 0.353
Pod 625 33 1 35 13.2% 27.4% 0.266 0.367 0.527 0.261 0.388 0.325
Steamer 645 32 1 40 13.4% 25.5% 0.279 0.379 0.566 0.287 0.403 0.323

*I extrapolated the counting stats over my 625 PA projection for comparison purposes

In yet another surprise, Steamer is actually calling for a higher ISO than the Fans for a player! How often does that happen? This seems rare, specifically for an established player coming off a typical performance and not a downturn. Steamer and I agree on the doubles and triples and are extremely close on the walk rate and BABIP. But we differ in two key components — the home run power and strikeout rate.

Steamer is actually projecting an ISO that would rank as the second highest of Stanton’s career and a new high in home runs. Since his batted ball distribution has remained remarkably consistent, it would imply that Steamer projects a HR/FB rate even higher than the 25.5% mark he posted in 2014. It’s true, he has posted a higher mark before at 28.9% in 2012, but man. To actually project that takes guts. Of course, a computer has no such parts.

Personally, I am projecting a slight decline to 24.5%. His xHR/FB rate has remained in a tight range between 23.0% and 23.2% for three straight seasons, after sitting between 25% and 26% in 2010 and 2011. At age 25, Stanton should first be entering his power peak, which is quite scary. But it’s difficult to forecast consistent HR/FB rates in the mid-20% range, especially when your home park suppresses right-handed homers by 18%.

The next disagreement comes in the form of his strikeout rate. This one is interesting, as Steamer (and the Fans as well) are projecting Stanton to strike out at a career low clip. He has cut his strikeout rate for two straight years, so why not continue the trend, right? But trends always do come to an end and most of the time reverse course. So my projection does give credit for the improvement and declining SwStk%, but also states that a reversion to historical levels is much more likely than a continuation of a trend to levels having never before been established.

So there you have it. Fueled by a career best strikeout rate and even more power than he displayed in 2014, Steamer is more bullish on Stanton than I am.

And for a chuckle, I will always remember reading this post from John Sickels’ Minor League Ball blog. It asked a simple question, “Who would you rather have, Twins outfield prospect Ben Revere, or Marlins outfield prospect Mike Stanton?” It seems absolutely ridiculous now, but in 2009, it was apparently a valid question, as a whopping 42% (604 votes) of voters preferred Revere!

So which side do you lean toward, mine or Steamer, for these two mashers?

We hoped you liked reading Steamer and I: Jose Abreu & Giancarlo Stanton by Mike Podhorzer!

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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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Revere might be the clear winner in the Revere-Stanton debate in a parallel universe.