We've had a number of multi-part FanPosts around AN that have been very interesting, well recommended, and well commented. So, since we've had so many great series, I figured I'd make my own series, just so that we could look back on the other series and see how great they were in comparison.
I'll warn you now, instead of breaking this into 9 different FanPosts (as any sane person would), I decided I would do all the batters in one crazy long FP. If you want you can skip down to the white meat (and as a bonus, skip all or most of my terrible writing), as I've copied and pasted my predictions for all the position players and put it near the bottom.
The subject I'll be covering is a subject that's become very near and dear to our hearts. That subject is health. The A's have broken their record set for most DL uses in the last two seasons. In 2007, they used 12 different CFers! Can you name all 12 without looking?
Those twelve in no particular order were: Kotsay, Swish, MB, Buck, Shannon Stewart, Jeff DaVanon, Chris Snelling, Hiram Bocachica, Danny Putnam, Ryan Langerhans, Bobby Kielty, and Kevin Thompsen.
And yes, I’m thinking the same thing as you. Who the hell is Kevin Thompsen? Kevin Thompsen is the reason I’m doing this. No one could have predicted Kevin Thompsen would play CF for the 2007 A’s. And yet, here I am, and I’m going to try and predict the position players who will play all 9 positions throughout the 2009 season and how many PA’s they each will get. And I’ll give you a spoiler: Kevin Thompsen will not be getting any of them.
Recently, Sky Kalkman posted a spreadsheet that allows you to fill in 4 data points for each hitter in your team’s proposed lineup: each player’s individual wOBA, PA, fielding and BR (baserunning runs; basically 0 for average runners and +/- .25 for above average and below average baserunners and +/- .5 for your Raj Davises and Frank Thomases). To calculate each player’s expected wOBA you can use any projection system you like: Oliver, CHONE, Bill James, Ron Shandler, CAIRO, Marcel, PECOTA, whatever. Fielding is the same way. BR is a rough estimation and very minimal in most cases. However, what those projection systems don’t predict that accurately is PA’s. A cautious but smart fan can actually outpredict those systems.
For example, CHONE has all four of Buck, Barton, Giambi, and Sweeney at more than 350 PAs. That’s unlikely to happen, as all 4 are unlikely to be playing at the same time.
Well as fans, and using the best information available, let’s come up with accurate guesses for each position.
First off, we need to know how many PAs each position should get. I will examine in depth how many PAs each position got in 2007. Basically, each position should get somewhere between 760 and 620, depending on where each player bats in the lineup, decreasing by about 18 per lineup position. However, doing so would be a lot of work, especially considering guys like Ryan Sweeney will be getting a lot of PAs in multiple places. What I’m going to do instead is increase PAs by 20 PAs over the 2008 total if the starting player is a much better player, 10 if the starting player is a little better, and 0 if the increase is minimal. Then, I’ll see if the calculations work in the end.
Last year from the catcher position the A’s had 667 PAs from the catcher’s spot. 575 went to Suzuki and 92 went to Rob Bowen. Since both players remain in their roles for 2009 season (especially that those dreaded Greg Zaun rumors are dead) it shouldn’t change too much. Since Suzuki and his backup catcher are likely the only players getting PA from the catcher position, I’ll assume that Kurt and his backup will get all of the 675 PA’s that A’s catchers will get in 2009.
So what do the system’s project? ZiPS predicts 446. Bill James, on the opposite end of the spectrum predicts 599. In the middle lie Marcel (519), CAIRO (513), Oliver (586), and CHONE (504). That’s an average of 523 and standard deviation of 52.
I tend to think that Suzuki’s biggest attribute is that he is durable. Most catchers can’t catch as much as Suzuki and since some of the systems are bound to give Suzuki a number of PA’s closer to the mean PA’s of AL catchers, I think they will be off. I don’t necessarily think it’s the best idea for Kurt’s long-term health, but I have a feeling Geren will send Kurt to the dish about the same amount as last year. Bowen will get all the remaining ones.
Last year, A’s first basemen had a total of 655 PA’s. The great majority (514 to be specific) of those went to Daric Barton. 48, 45, and 36 PA’s went to Wes Bankston, Mike Sweeney, and Hannahan respectively. 11 went to Jeff Baisley. 1 went to Rob Bowen.
In 2009, it’ll be a lot different. I expect Giambi to get most of the playing time at 1b, despite the Chronicle’s contrary report. His primary backup will probably be Jeff Baisley or Jack Hannahan. At some point, probably when an OFer gets hurt, Barton will be called up and Giambi will move to DH and Cust to the OF. Another key aspect will be whether Giambi can stay healthy all year.
Let’s first examine the easiest claim: will Giambi stay healthy? Giambi the last three years has had 565 PA’s (2008), 303 PA’s (2007), and 579 PA’s (2006). It wouldn’t make much sense to average these since the 303 came in an injury-plagued (kinda redundant, no?) year and 2006 and 2008 were both healthy years. Giambi is, for all we know, healthy today, so I would assume that the healthy seasons are more indicative of his future than his injury-plagued one (although we can’t ignore it). And if you like conspiracy theories, Giambi has probably perfected his HGH use by now. But Giambi is a year older (aren’t we all?). Without any other information, I would guess that his PA’s will fall from last year but only by about 50.
Do the systems agree with that statement? Marcel says 513 PA’s. BJ says 551; CHONE, 488. Oliver and CAIRO both use the same digits with 560 and 506 respectively. ZiPS hasn’t projected Giambi yet. The systems that did project Giambi project an average of 524 with a standard deviation of 27. 525 are about the same number of PA’s I would expect. So let’s use that assumption from now on.
Now the question becomes how many of those PA’s of Giambi will come at 1b and how many at DH? Last year, the Yankees had a very crowded DH situation with three terrible fielding Ofers, Johnny Damon, Giambi, and Jorge Posada. Giambi still got over 100 PA’s at DH. But Giambi did spend 79.2% of his time in the field last year. The A’s have their own terrible fielding OF who should be DHing competing with Giambi for that spot. They also have a good fielding 1b and three good fielding OFers.
Which leaves us with a conundrum. Who sits? Barton, Buck, or Sweeney (assuming Cunningham starts in AAA)? Buck or Sweeney’s health probably will make that decision easy soon. But for now, they’re both healthy. In fact, Barton’s health may be what helps make the decision easier. In case we’ve forgotten, Staplehead had hip surgery that was deemed "successful." But even if he is completely healthy (and remember this is the A’s we’re talking about), the surgery gives the A’s the excuse to send Barton down to AAA to "recover and make sure he’s 100%."
Another issue is that since Barton played all season last year (except for a 20 day period where he had a bad confrontation with a pool, but since he spent that time on the ML DL it counts for service time) he has 1.021 years of service time. I’m not positive on how this works but if Barton spends 42 days in the minors this year, I think his service time will then continue to be under 2 years after 2009. This scenario keeps him under club control an extra year meaning he would not become a FA until 2014. With quality players everywhere and perfectly good reason to, it would simply make sense for the A’s to get that extra year. At the same time, yes, it allows the A’s to retry the Barton to 3b experiment. 42 days into the season is mid to late May. And since the A’s have two brittle OFers, the A’s should wait until one misses time after that magic 42 day mark.
So what does this tell us? At least, for about a fourth of the season Giambi will be the starting 1b. Let’s guess that in order to keep him healthy, the A’s have Giambi play in the field 75% of his PA’s and DH 25% of his PA’s and he will take a day off 20% of the time. However when Barton is in AAA, almost 100% of Giambi’s PAs will come at 1b (since it will become a choice between Baisley/Hannahan or Buck/Sweeney as another player in the lineup). That means 80% of days that Barton is in AAA, Giambi will be the A’s starting 1b. That will be about 135 PA’s. To reach that 75-25 ratio, assuming 525 PA’s overall, that’s 370 PA’s at 1b and 155 at DH (or pinch hitting). After Barton is called up Giambi will only play 1b for 135 PA’s and DH/PH for 155. Since A’s 1b will around 675 PA’s, and 30 PA’s will go to Hannahan/Baisley when Barton is in the minors, assuming Barton gets 95% of the rest of the PAs, he will still get 260 PA’s.
Second base provides a much easier picture to predict playing time. The unicorn will remain the starting 2b. In 2008, A’s 2b had 690 PAs. 505 PAs went to Ellie, 75 to Eric Patterson, 64 to Cliff Pennington, 23 to Donnie Murphy, 16 to Gregorio Petit, and 7 to Brooks Conrad.
Ellie is without a doubt, the best 2b on the team and he will get every start he is healthy for. But the question is whether he will be healthy. In 2008, Ellie missed a variety of games with minor injuries like pulled hamstrings, etc. In 2007, he was nearly completely healthy, played in 161 games and 642 PA’s. In 2006, Ellie made us rue the name of D’Angelo Jimenez, as Ellis was semi-healthy throughout the year (500 PA’s), only to miss the ALCS.
The projection systems predict the following for Ellis in 2009: 518 PA’s (Marcel), 527 (CHONE), 564 (BJ), 544 (CAIRO), 485 (ZiPS), and 502 (Oliver). Those average to 523 PA’s with a standard deviation of 26. Looks mighty similar to Giambi, doesn’t it? ZiPS again gave a number a lot smaller than the rest, and it only predicts ABs and BBs, which I added. I find it unlikely that HBPs, SFs, and SHs would provide too much of a difference (Although I did find that in a recent article at THT where the author stated Giambi’s BABIP in the .230s, while Fangraphs said it resided near .260, that the THT author had stated BABIP without including HBPs and SF’s in their formula, which caused the difference. I don’t know if that was purposeful or not though), but it’s possible. Omitting ZiPS gives Ellis an average of 531 PA’s and a 21 sd.
I would have expected Ellis to have something closer to 550 PA’s but only two projection systems see close to that. BJ is also known for being a little too generous on hitters. And CAIRO is probably the least known and least trusted of the projection systems. I guess that leaves me to guess that Ellie will probably get 530. I want to be more optimistic than that, but to better than the projection systems requires a cautious approach.
That leaves another 170 PA’s at the second base position. The last time the A’s had a 2b who wasn’t Mark Ellis get 100 PA’s was Marco Scutaro. Scutaro was firmly entrenched as the backup IF at the time. We don’t have a guy in similar position today. Which leaves us with 170 PAs to go around between Cliff Pennington, Gregorio Petit, Yung Chi Chen, Joe Dillon (assuming he’s not claimed), Jack Hannahan and Eric Patterson. Everyone but Dillon is on the 40-man roster.
Of the group, Patterson had the most impressive stats at AAA and the most MLB experience. However, he’s also probably the worst fielder. Pennington seems to be the next logical option. He played 2b last year after Patterson’s failed attempt. Hannahan could also be an option as either he or Jeff Baisley will be the primary backup at 3b and he spent time at 2b in the minors before the A’s acquired him. Petit could make some sense as he’s still young and can certainly field, but the A’s don’t seem to like him, and his bat doesn’t give the A’s much reason to like him. Yung Chi Chen hasn’t really projected as much more than a backup (highest Sickels grade: C+ with a good comment) and I can’t speak to his defense.
These facts lead me to conclude that Pennington will be the primary backup getting 90 PAs. Hannahan will get a few as Pennington will be at SS and Ellis will go down for a couple days. Hannahan’ll get 25 PAs. Petit will get a short try out when someone gets injured and get 25. The other 20 will go to Patterson.
Shortstop becomes another interesting position. The only thing AN likes better than coming up with ways to replace Bobby Crosby is complaining about him. SS, put simply, is the easiest way for the A’s to improve the team. The A’s are playing with a replacement level (or slightly above replacement) SS. So here comes the moment of truth: do I predict Crosby to remain in green and gold? Do I predict a Hardy trade? Do I predict a Cabrera signing? Or do I predict something different? I’m going to cop out. I’m going to project BoCro and update that as necessary.
A’s SSs in 2008 logged 676 PAs. Last year, the A’s gave BoCro 605 PAs, Donnie Murphy 34, Cliff Pennington 28, and Gregorio Petit 7. However, 2008 was the first year Bobby appeared in 100 games since his rookie season. Amazingly, his OPS was also the highest it had been since 2005. Until last year, Crosby just could not stay healthy.
So what do the projections see in 2009? Obviously, they will be between the 605 PAs of suckiness of 2008, the 374 sucky PAs of 2007, and the 398 sucky PAs of 2006. Marcel sees 540. BJ sees 621 (so much for my theory). CHONE sees 499. CAIRO believes it will be 476. Oliver sees 606. ZiPS sees 454. Those average out 533 with a sd of 63 (!). The projection systems obviously have no idea what to expect. Say we eliminate the highest total (BJ) and lowest (ZiPS). We are left with an average of 530 and sd of 49 (!). And that’s with 4 data points.
Since Bobby’s injuries of the past have mostly consisted of fractures (his hand once, his left hand once, and his ribs once) it’s likely that he will not miss time from a past injury. The one area of concern (besides his performance) is his back. Twice Bobby has strained his lower back. Back injuries always concern me (probably because of Kotsay), but both strains occurred in the same month, August 2006. I would say going forward Crosby will be healthy and able to play for 550ish PAs. Crosby is too expensive to be a bench player and to trade.
Possible replacements for BoCro have been gone over extensively here. Beane could sign Cabrera, or trade for Tejada midseason, or even trade for Hardy midseason. I will not even try to predict Billy Beane’s move for SS.
For now I’ll assume that BoCro will get the 550 PAs that he will be capable of getting. That leaves 125 PAs for the backup SSs. As I guessed when I predicted the 2b, Pennington will be the primary backup. Besides Pennigton and Crosby, the only player capable of playing SS is Petit. Again I’d say Petit will get most of the PAs. I’ll guess 100 of the 125. The other 25 go to Petit.
3b is probably the most important position for the A’s in 2009, with the possible exception of the rotation. Yet, the third baseman on the A’s with the most talent is as obvious at 3b as it is at 2b. Unfortunately, that 3b also is the hardest player to project PT (playing time not Paul Thomas) on the A’s.
In 2008, A’s 3b saw 633 PAs. 439 went to Hannahan. 61 went to Eric Chavez. 59 went to Murphy. 36 went to Baisley. 25 went to Pennington. 12 went to Conrad. 1 went to Barton.
It’s obvious Chavez is the starting 3b as long as he is healthy and able to play. Chavez started his career pretty healthy. As a rookie he played 115 games. He followed that up by playing 153, 151, 153, 156. And then came 2004. It was the first year that Chavvy went on the DL. However, it was nothing to worry about; Damaso Marte hit him in the hand. But, hey, what can you do? In 2005, he was healthy again (but getting hit in the hand had made him forget how to draw a walk); he played 160 games.
But in 2006, everything started going wrong for Chavvy. He still played 137 games, and didn’t go on the DL, but Chavvy was not his pre-2006 self. He seemed to be just toughing through the pain. 2007 was more of the same. His production kept suffering and this time, he went on the DL for a back injury. In the 2007 offseason, he had his first surgery on his back. 2008 again saw a decline in games played and production: he played 23 games and posted his first sub .700 OPS of his career.
Going into 2009, Chavvy will be 31, the last year of his prime years, and yet his PAs the last five years will have gone: 575, 668, 568, 378, 61. His OPS in those same five years has been: .898, .795, .786, .752, .688. Chavvy is in other words a projection system’s worst nightmare.
Let’s still look at what those projection systems say about number of PAs (Their OPS projections are for another day). Oliver sees 128 PAs. Marcel sees 285. ZiPS sees 361. CAIRO sees 373. Oliver sees CHONE sees 531. BJ sees 623. That’s an average of 383.5 and a standard deviation of 160.5. Basically, the projection systems have such a bad idea of what Chavvy will do that they are 95% sure that Chavez will get between 62 and 700. Now that’s a wide range.
One of the most annoying things one deals with as an A’s fan is how the A’s treat injuries. I’ve already mentioned how Chavvy kept playing through an obvious injury. The A’s have even gone as far as to have Crosby suit up to play even though he couldn’t to gain leverage in trades. Every once in a while a player will simply disappear for a week. The A’s obviously have a policy of being dishonest with injuries to gain leverage.
One of the second most annoying things is Chavvy’s honesty. He’ll say how the team is worse than the Angels or other such nonsense that could never be true. So when we hear quotes at the beginning of the offseason how Chavvy might never play 3b, it sounds like Chavvy being honest. But now when I hear that Chavvy is feeling the best he’s felt in decades, it leaves me two options. Either Chavvy is really feeling better or the team finally convinced him to not be so open. Since Chavvy has had some stupid comments in the past and yet still was honest, I find that he’s probably telling the truth. Then again, his injury history does not seem like it would suddenly increase. How am I supposed to know? What am I, a psychic?
Since this is a cautious estimation I would guess that it’ll likely be a return to semi-health for Chavvy. That means about 370 PAs. That’s in between the only projections that are close to each other. It’s also nicely like his 2007. I hope Chavvy gets closer to 500; but I don’t like getting hurt. Besides, this is supposed to be a cautious estimate.
How many of those PAs will come at 3b? I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that Chavvy’s 2009 will be like his 2007: he’ll play 3b almost all of his PAs, even if that’s not necessarily the best thing for him. Let’s save 30 PAs for DHing and pinch hitting.
With Chavez healthy most of the year, Beane is unlikely to acquire a 3b in trade. He could make a minor deal (David Freese for Eric Patterson does make some sense). But the best 3b likely to be available, Beltre, is unlikely to join the A’s unless Chavez suffers a serious injury.
That leaves another question. Who will be the primary backup at 3b? If Chavvy’s only getting 340 PAs at 3b, the primary backup will get significant PT. There are two obvious options: Jeff Baisley and Jack Hannahan.
And then there’s Daric Barton. Barton certainly should try playing 3b in the minors. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. But as I’ve already stated, it makes a lot of sense for the A’s to send him down to AAA. And if he’s down there, the A’s need a good reason. Recovering from surgery won’t last as an excuse forever. Learning 3b certainly would give the A’s a reason to keep him in AAA.
But even if Barton does make a successful conversion to 3b, when he’s called up he will probably see plenty of time at 1b. Giambi will need plenty of time at DH to keep him healthy and likely with an OF injured (more on that later), it comes down to Cust playing OF with Giambi at DH or Cunningham playing OF with Cust at DH, Giambi at 1b, and Barton at 3b. I’d rather have one bad defender than two (even if Barton successfully converts to 3b, I doubt he’ll be more than an average defender until he really learns the position in a year or two).
Which leaves us with Baisley and Hannahan. Of course, they both have pros and cons. Baisley (as a RHH) would give us a nice little opportunity to platoon Chavez while also providing a backup at 3b. Simultaneously, it also allows the A’s to explore whether Baisley has potential. Hannahan is pretty much a known quantity at this point. However Hannahan also provides very good defense and gives more positional flexibility. Hannahan can play 2b; Baisley cannot. Another pro for Hannahan is that he does stay healthy, unlikely Baisley. Then again, the A’s will likely have Pennington as a backup SS and he has already learned 2b, so the A’s might not need the position flexibility. But with a brittle/sucky SS, and a 2b susceptible to small nagging injuries, Hannahan does look nice.
These factors all lead me to conclude that the A’s will start with Baisley as their backup 3b. However, he’s likely to get injured. At some point Hannahan will be called up. And I have a feeling Barton will get a few games in there as well.
Finally, another easy position. The A’s LF is a guy whose not gonna be sharing PT based on merit and he’s been relatively healthy. And he’s the main reason why the 2009 A’s team will be so much better than their 2008 counterparts.
That said 2008 was not actually that bad a position for the A’s. The bane of AN’s existence only registered 188 PAs there. Jack Cust got the majority of the playing time with 309 PAs. In order, Cunningham registered 76 of the other PAs, Chris Denorfia received 34, both guys from the Cubs trade, Matt Murton and Patterson, got 29, Travis Buck got 20 and Ryan Sweeney got 17. In total, the LF position saw 702 PAs.
Matt Holliday received 623 PAs in Colorado. That was actually less than the previous two years where Holliday logged 713 and 667 PAs. His DL history suggests that he’s still a good bet for 625-650 PAs again: the only time he went on it was for a fractured right pinkie in 2005. What caused him to only play 139 games as opposed to the 150+ of the years before? I’m not sure, but I’d guess it is just simple pulled hamstring, Mark Ellis type, small, nagging injuries.
What do the projection systems say? CAIRO says 575; CHONE, 633; Marcel, 583; BJ, 671; ZiPS sees 651; Oliver, Oliver, 628. That’s an average of 623.5 and a sd of 34.5. Eliminating the most optimistic and most pessimistic (that’s BJ and CAIRO) gives an average of 623.75 and sd of 25. My eyeballing guess before was somewhere between 625 and 650. The systems seem to agree with the lower estimate. Again, these estimates should be cautious anyways, so we’ll stick with that. 625 PAs it is. Let’s say 10 of those come in pinch hitting situations.
Given that Holliday is a very good defender, I find it highly unlikely that he’ll move off his natural position of LF. That could change if say Adam Dunn or Manny Ramirez’s price drops enough that BB could sign one of the two and plug them into LF and move Holliday to RF. It’s unlikely (Dunn will probably go to the Nats despite their recent posturing and Manny will probably go to LA or SF or someone else offering 20 mil+ a year). Holliday could potentially play RF with Jack Cust in LF, but Cust has played RF for the A’s before and I would imagine Holliday is a lot more comfortable in LF. I don’t see the A’s messing with their superstar.
So who gets the rest of the PAs? Jack Cust is a natural LF and if Holliday isn’t playing, the A’s will want all the bats they can get in the lineup. I would say Cust will get some PAs out there. If the A’s want good defenders out there, say at the end of a game, Holliday is likely to be that defensive replacement if he’s sitting. But let’s say a guy like Aaron Cunningham will get a few PAs too. Matt Murton could also get a few PAs, but as a bad fielder who I don’t think can play RF, and even though he rakes lefties, he won’t steal any PAs from Holliday. Eric Patterson just has too many people with his skill set and more in front of him (Raj Davis and Chris Denorfia in the OF and Petit and Pennington at 2b). There’s also Ben Copeland. But I have a feeling he’ll go the way of Ryan Goleski (anyone rather have had Josh Hamilton?).
Ah, back to some tough predictions. The starting CFer for the A’s is easy: Ryan Sweeney. But, he’s injury prone and he could be susceptible to a sophomore slump as epitomized by fellow OFer Travis Buck. If you think Sweeney’s style seems like it would be impervious to that dreaded slump, I need point you no farther than his best buddy Staplehead.
So, who occupied the CF spot in 2008? CarGo registered the most PAs there (246), Rajai was second (198), Sweeney came third (166), Denorfia was next (29), while each Emil Brown and Jeff Fiorentino each got 1. That’s a low total of 641 PAs.
Of those three are gone and two are backups. Besides, Sweeney has already been declared the starting CF. Last year he got 433 PAs split between all three OF spots. He also got 42 in the minors. In 2007, he got 450 PAs in the minors and 49 with the Sox. In 2006, he got 492 in the minors and 35 in the show. Last year, Sweeney went on the DL twice, once for a left toe contusion and once for a sprained right thumb. Neither should really be a concern going forward, but it does show the tendency of Sweeney to miss chunks of time with small nagging injuries (just like Mark Ellis and to a lesser extent Matt Holliday). Put it all together and I’d give a rough estimate that Sweeney will have around 475 PAs next year. Some are bound to be in the minors, be it by injury or bad performance, so I’ll say Sweeney receives 450 PAs with the A’s.
Some of those PAs will probably in RF, as the backup OF will probably be able to play a very good CF (be it Davis or Denorfia). Let’s say 300 PAs come in CF (we’ll see why in the RF section). That leaves 350 PAs for other players. When Cust plays RF and Holliday LF and Buck is healthy, Buck is a better hitter than Sweeney (though a worse defender). So he’s likely to get some PAs in CF. He could also get CF PAs when Sweeney is injured or day to day, as Cust moving to RF and Giambi DH allows a better hitter in the lineup than Raj Davis or CD (the backup 1b or Barton). However, given Buck’s health problems and the fact that he will be mostly playing RF when Sweeney is healthy, Buck will probably only get 50 PAs in CF.
That leaves another 300 for the backup OF. I’ve already stated the possible candidates for the position: Raj Davis, Chris Denorfia, Aaron Cunningham, Matt Murton, Eric Patterson, Ben Copeland, Jav Herrera, and Richie Robnett. Robnett is the only one sure of NOT playing on the 2009 A’s. Herrera is a dark horse candidate that the A’s could rush to the big team, but it’s much more likely they will send him to AAA. That leaves Matt Murton, Eric Patterson and Ben Copeland with a distinct disadvantage. None can play a good CF and with roster space already in question, it’s unlikely the A’s will want to carry 5 Ofers (though they did when they had Kielty and early in the year last year). The A’s do start the year off with three off days in 19 games, so the pitching should be well rested in case the A’s do go with a 5 man OF.
That leaves Aaron Cunningham, Raj Davis, and Chris Denorfia for the backup spot. As I mentioned before with Daric Barton, leaving Aaron Cunningham in AAA allows the A’s to gain an extra year of service time, and they have more of an excuse to leave him in AAA than Barton. The A’s will probably want to leave Cunningham down long enough for him to avoid being a Super Two. The A’s called him up on August 30 last year. He stayed with the team the rest of the year. That’s 30 days of service time. To qualify as a Super Two Cunningham will have needed to accumulate around 2 years and 128 days (or thereabouts) of service time (this is after the 2011 season).
That means that the maximum the A’s will want to have Cunningham with the big club is 98 days of service time. If Cunningham were to serve this time in one big chunk without being sent back down, that would mean he would be called up around the 1st of July. But since I’m assuming the A’s are going to go to so much trouble to protect Cunningham for another year (same with Barton), I’m assuming that the A’s feel Cunningham has a role in their future. And since he has a role in this future, it makes no sense to call him up unless he sees regular PAs.
Therefore, Cunningham doesn’t make sense as a backup OF, despite the A’s tendency to use fourth OFers a lot in recent years (Brown had 438 PAs, Stewart 630, Payton 588). I feel Cust is the A’s fourth OFer in 2009 (Davis/CD being the fifth OF), crappy defense and all. Barton allows that to work since after 45ish days (around mid-May) since playing Cust in RF puts Barton’s bat in the lineup and Buck/Sweeney in center instead of CD or Davis. Which brings us back to the original argument. Who has more merit on the 2009 squad Denorfia or Davis?
Between them last year, Denorfia and Davis logged around 300 PAs. That’s a lot of PAs. I’ve already estimated that the backup will get around 265 PAs (assuming Cunningham gets 35 or so). It’s worth putting a good option out there. One would think that the easy choice would be the guy whose wOBA is projected at 20 points higher, at around league average. However, CHONE projects Davis as nearly 12 runs better in CF than Denorfia. Since they do involve tiny sample sizes, the projections aren’t that accurate (offensively and defensively, but more so defensively), but I would think that Davis is a better defender. Which do you want more in a backup OF, defense or offense? Both are baserunning whizzes, so I’ll count them as equal.
There are two other factors that count in Davis’ factor; if both Denorfia and Davis were put on waivers, would either get claimed? Davis became an Athletic through the waiver process. He left the Giants and then was claimed by the A’s. That means he made it all the way through the NL (which would more suit Rajai’s style of play, one would think) before he reached the A’s. I don’t think his 2008 was good enough to change teams’ opinions, but I would think that there’s about 50% chance of Davis being claimed. Denorfia I would think has less than that, mainly for the reason I’m about to mention. What’s the key word of the last two seasons for the A’s? Health. It’s still one of the A’s biggest issues and it’s something Denorfia doesn’t have. Denorfia came to the A’s injured. Last year was Denorfia’s second healthiest year of his career and he still only managed 300 PAs or so. Denorfia’s got some talent, but his talent isn’t enough to overcome that he’s seldom healthy. Add in the fact that Davis is the incumbent and has more of Geren’s (or Beane for you conspiracy theorists) confidence, and I’ll guess that Davis sees the lion’s share of backup CF duties.
Ryan Sweeney 300
Raj Davis 200
Chris Denorfia 65
Travis Buck 50
Aaron Cunningham 35
What happened in RF in 2008? Surprisingly, RF wasn’t the reason the A’s offense sucked. A’s RFers got 707 PAs and posted a .724 OPS (A’s Cfers got 641 PAs and posted a .658 OPS), about league average. Sweeney got 244 PAs there. Brown got 217. Buck got 151. CarGo got 64. Jack Cust got 18. Cunningham got 9. Denorfia got 4.
Before I say anything else, I am a Travis Buck apologist. I’m a relatively recent A’s fan (became one in 1998) and Miguel Tejada was always my favorite player. When he moved on, I was depressed but still a fan. And I was determined to root, from then on, for the front of the laundry and not the back. Of course, as a hard-core fan, that can be hard to do. In 2005, I first went to Spring Training and had heard of this up and coming shut down pitcher. The first ST game I went to, that pitcher struck out the side. And they weren’t AAA nobodies; they were legitimate big leaguers. Huston Street had become my new favorite player. It’s ironic that the pick the A’s used to draft Street came from letting Miggy go.
And then came the next few years. Soon Street trade rumors started popping up. I needed a new favorite player. The obvious choice would have been Swisher. I liked Swish. In fact, I got his autograph at ST in 2007. He was sitting by the dugout about an hour before the game giving out autographs; he had given out so many that there was no line for them. That’s an accomplishment even at ST. I asked for his autograph and he looked at me like I was going to sell his autograph immediately on eBay (hey, I can’t help my age group). But he did sign the shirt I gave him. I wish I had asked him to write "there’s a new 33 in town" but I was too star-struck and it was too sudden for me to think of it.
Anyway, long story short (bet you wouldn’t expect to find those words in a FanPost this long), 2007 was the year I was looking for a new favorite player (I had long since given up the notion that I would root only for the front of the shirt). It was that year that a fun loving rookie with long hair, a sweet stroke and a knack for doubles impressed me at every game I went to. He looked like the best natural LH hitter I had seen since Giambi. People even compared him to Giambi. TBuck had become my new favorite athletic.
This whole tangent is just to tell you that even though I’m biased towards all A’s players, I’m especially biased towards Buck. I think that he’s a much better player than Sweeney and that his 2008 was an aberration caused by shin splints and overthinking (I am not prone to believing that mental states can help a player do better, but I do think they can cause a player to do worse). Plus with a guy like Giambi in the lineup and clubhouse, I think he will get an even better mentor than he had with Swish (when he did well).
Even after writing all this, I will be the first to say that Buck had a terrible start of 2008 (that he finished at 99 OPS+ astounds me). He also has injury problems. He has not only been on the DL 3 times in his 2 year ML career, he’s also been day to day many times. His injuries include shin splints, a hamstring problem, a thumb problem, and proximity to Dan Johnson. Now that DJ is in Japan, Buck should be out of firing distance of industrial sunscreen. With Putnam in AAA, Buck is also unlikely to suffer from a grape attack. However with Rickey’s number being retired this year, Buck should be careful not to sleep on icepacks. Seriously though, I’m not a doctor, but shin splints seem like the type of an injury that could recur while the other two don’t.
So what has Buck done the last few years? Buck has only been a pro player for three and a half years. In 2006, Buck had 383 PAs between A+ and AA. In 2007, Buck had 343 PAs, mostly for the big club. Last year he had 369 PAs, between Sacramento, Oakland, and rookie league. That’s an average of 365 PAs a year. Sadly, that’s terrible. Until last year, Buck had never put up an OPS below .840 in more than 10 PAs. That’s amazing. I thought that Buck would quickly rise to stardom, or at least become Milton Bradley, great when healthy, but seldom healthy. But we all know what happened in 2008; Buck struggled terribly out of the gate and never recovered until September. It’s possible he struggles again (which would cause him to lose PAs), but I think that’s unlikely. When he is healthy, he’ll be playing.
So what do the projection systems think of Buck? Bill James projects 570 PAs. Even as an ardent Buck fun, that’s gotta be too high. CHONE projects 357. Marcel projects 319. Oliver projects 370. CAIRO projects 375. ZiPS projects 354. The average of those 6 systems give 391 PAs (greater than all but the James projection) but with a sd of 82. I’ve already mentioned that the BJ projections seem to be high for position players. If I cast out the James data point as an outlier, the average becomes 355 PAs and sd of 19.5. One could argue I should also throw out Marcel’s data. Marcel is based mostly on the previous year. Every year Buck has been healthy for more than 319 PAs. Marcel is projecting Buck to spend some time in the minors. It’s quite possible that he will spend some time rehabbing there, but guessing that Buck will not struggle in 2009 (which I am), it would make sense that Buck would spend more than 319 PAs with the A’s. If I eliminate Marcel, the average number of PAs projecting for Buck becomes 365. But since I’m being conservative, I’ll split the difference of averages with and without Marcel (but still eliminating BJ’s projection). That leaves me with 360 PAs. I’ve already guessed that 50 of those will come in center. That leaves 310 in right.
That leaves another 400 PAs in RF. I’ve already guessed that Sweeney will get 150 PAs in RF. The other player who will get significant time in RF is Cust. When Giambi needs to DH and Holliday is in LF, Cust needs to play in RF. I’ve predicted that Giambi will get 155 PAs at DH. Since Cust will almost assuredly be in the field every day Giambi DHs, and they should bat in about the same position in the lineup, Cust should get around 155 PAs in the field. There are reasons why he could get a few more and reasons why he could get a few less, so I’ll assume they cancel each other. Since there’s little reason to play Cust in the field with 4 plus defenders on the roster unless Giambi is DHing, Cust should only get those 155 in the field. I’ve already penciled him in for 70 in LF. That gives him 85 in RF.
Still there are 165 PAs available in RF. I’ve already mentioned that when Buck or Sweeney get hurt (and they will get hurt), the first reserve will be Barton, thus sending Giambi to DH and Cust to RF. In about June, the A’s could then call up their second reserve Aaron Cunningham. It would be nice if Cunningham could then play for these 165 PAs as he is a quality player. However, if Cunningham comes up, it will only be if he can get regular PAs, meaning two of Buck, Sweeney, Holliday, and Barton is hurting (or sucking). Those events will probably happen at some time, but probably not for all of those 165 PAs. I’ll guess that Cunningham only gets 100 of those PAs.
That leaves 65 PAs. These 65 PAs are likely going to go to a random AAA player who is doing well (as the A’s did with Bankston/Conrad last year). I’ll guess this player will be Javier Herrera. He needs to get one shot with the A’s. This is his last option year and the A’s will want to see a few PAs of one of their former top prospect. Herrera also is one of the few Rivercats who could play RF (I’m assuming this since he’s played CF, and hey, the A’s have Jack Cust playing RF sometimes).
Finally, we reach our last position. It’s also one of the most complicated. I’m lumping together pinch hitters and DHs because the position could be filled with anyone on the A’s roster. Obviously, PHs are going to be hitting in high leverage situations, so they’re likely to be the better hitters on the team. But also, they tend to hit worse in those situations. In any case, let’s start at DH. Who batted at DH in 2008?
11 people got PAs at DH in 2008 for a total of 662: Jack Cust (266), Frank Thomas (215), Mike Sweeney (79), Chavez (34), Brown (19), Hannahan (18), Bankston (15), Davis (7), Suzuki (5), Denorfia (3), and Sweeney (1). Obviously, the top 3 got PAs there as starters. Chavez got some because he was partially injured. Brown, Hannahan, and Bankston played there because they were hitting well and there were no other options. Davis and Denorfia got there PAs because they replaced Jack Cust or Frank Thomas as a PR and the game ended up going to extra innings.
Obviously, the A’s full time DH duties will be split between Giambi and Cust. Since I’ve already discussed their situation I won’t rehash it here. However, I do need to know how many PAs I should pencil in for Cust. In 2008, Cust got 598 PAs. In 2007 between AAA got 607 between AAA and the big leagues. In 2006, between the minors and majors Cust got 594 PAs. He’s never suffered a major injury. Suffice it to say he is as good a bet as anyone to get 600 PAs.
BJ sees 573. Marcel sees 550. CHONE sees 589. CAIRO sees 588. Oliver sees 593. ZiPS sees 535. That’s an average of 571 and sd of 24.
These projections surprise me. Normally, they have seemed pretty in line with what I would guesstimate. However, no projection systems projected as many PAs as his lowest year in the last three. The systems must think that Cust either gets injured, sent down to AAA or is benched. I don’t find many of these scenarios likely at all. I may be jinxing the A’s here (I still blame grover for the A’s not signing Furcal) but I’m going to write in Cust for 600 PAs. This estimate is supposed to be conservative, but I could see Cust getting more than that or less than that but not that much in either case.
I’ve already guessed Cust will get 155 PAs in the field. That leaves 440 at DH (5 at PH). I’ve also guessed Giambi will get 155 at DH/PH. I’ll assume Giambi only get 145 at DH. Our two "starting" DHs accumulate 585 PAs. Now come the "injured" players. I’ve saved 30 Chavez PAs for DH and PH. 20 of those PAs will come at DH. I’ve guessed Holliday will have 10 PAs between PH and DH. Let’s guess 5 come at DH (maybe he gets a little injury and DHs for a day). That leaves about 60 PAs for everyone else (assuming 670 overall).
I’d guess that just like last year both Davis and Denorfia get 5 or so PAs PR and batting later in the game. That leaves 50 PAs to whoever the hot hitter is at the time. The hitters who are most likely to be hot and on the bench at a time are Cunningham and Barton. Let’s guess they split the PAs.
What about PH? Last year, the A’s had 18 different PHs totaling 91 PAs: Mike Sweeney (14), Emil (14), Hannahan (9), Barton (8), Kurt (8), Sweeney(6), CarGo (6) Cust (5), Bowen (5), Davis (3), Thomas (2), Ellis (2), Murton (2), Denorfia (2), Cunningham (2), DJ (1), Buck (1), and Murphy (1). I’m not sure how many came in NL games, but I’d guess a fair bit of them did. Because of this every bench player I’m going to give 2 PAs with the noted exceptions of Herrera and Patterson who I’ll give 1 and Hannahan and Baisley who I’ll give 10 each. That’s Davis, Denorfia, Bowen, Pennington, and Petit who each get 2 PAs. In total that gives us 32 PAs. Also notice I didn’t include Cunningham and Barton. Everybody caught in the OF/1b/DH clusterfuck will get 5 except Giambi. That’s Holliday, Sweeney, Buck, Cunningham, Barton, and Cust. That’s another 30 PAs. That leaves us Chavez and Giambi. Both are likely to be rested a lot to protect their health and they both are quality hitters (or Chavez was). They will each get 10. Then we have Suzuki. He’s likely to get 10 PAs as a PH replacing Bowen late in the game. In total, that’s 92 PAs.
And finally after all that reading (ahem, scrolling), here is the white meat. Here are my projections for the 2009 A’s by position:
Total 675 2008 Total 667
Total 675 2008 Total 655
Total 690 2008 total 690
Total 675 2008 Total 676
Total 650 2008 Total 633
Total 715 2008 Total 702
Ryan Sweeney 300
Raj Davis 200
Chris Denorfia 65
Travis Buck 50
Aaron Cunningham 35
Total 650 2008 total 641
Total 710 2008 total 707
Total 675 2008 total 662
Total 52 2008 Total 51
Does the math work out? Well I have projected the A's to get 6207 PAs. In 2008 the average team got 6259 PAs. That's pretty damn close for not calculating PAs specifically based on the 6259 number.
That leaves us a few interesting facts about this projection:
I have projected 18 position players to get PAs for the A’s in 2009. The A’s had 26 position players play for them in 2008.
I did not project a player to sign with the A’s nor a midseason trade. Likely, there will be both. But if Orlando Cabrera signs with the A’s tomorrow or Nick Johnson is traded to the A’s tomorrow, I’m still going to be frustrated.
Use this FanPost to tell me if you think I’ve miscalculated on a player (do read my reasoning if you do though), post your own predictions (try not to be as exhaustive, this took me a while), or run simulations based on these projected PAs (I would, but I figured 18 pages in Word is long enough).
I said this was going to be a series in the beginning, so yes, I will write one for pitchers if you want me to (post if you do). If you don't, you can tell me to. I'm not sure I'm up for another one of these anyways.
Should I delete this FanPost and make it into separate ones?
No (29 votes)
Yes, one for each offensive position (9 votes)
Yes, one for each three offensive positions (13 votes)
Yes, cut it in half (2 votes)
I'm not gonna read it no matter what you do (14 votes)
67 total votes