While 2010 MVP Joey Votto may grace the cover of Bill James’s latest Handbook, but it is another fellow first basemen who is projected to overshadow, well…everyone else on the planet. That player would be none other than Albert Pujols. If you are of the many who scoff at projections and dismiss them as nothing more than a fantasy, you, my friend, are sadly mistaken. As Bill James writes in his introduction to the screening section of this year’s Handbook: “As Fantasy Baseball is America’s fourth-largest business, this article of the book could be considered business consulting. Got a hot tip for you, boss: This Albert Pujols, he’s pretty good.” He’s also right. He’s also right in calling it “business consultation.” Major League Baseball(MLB) has a very stock market-like feel to it. Especially when applying that sense to Free Agency. Projections are for more than just Fantasy Baseball Geeks but are frequently used for good, sound financial moves in the baseball world. I mean, if you have a projection based on past performances, and what may happen in the future, does that not give you an investment edge for a future contract? And if you’ll truly get the “bang for your buck”? Not too long before Matt Holliday signed his seven-year 120-million dollar deal, he was projected to put up these numbers according to Bill James Handbook.
155 games, 605 AB, 105 R, 191 H, 43 2B, 3 3B, 27 HR, 109 RBI, 66 BB, 112 K, 14 SB, .316 BA, .531 SLG
158 games, 596 AB, 95 R, 186 H, 45 2B, 1 3B, 28 HR, 103 RBI, 69 BB, 93 K, 9 SB, .312 BA, .532 SLG
It was the second-best projection of that year, trailing only Raja Davis. (He was expected to steal 50 bases; and he did just that.)
Before we get to Pujols, there are other Cardinals that favor well in Bill James projections.
One that leaps out is recent Free Agent acquisition Lance Berkman,
His projected line: .275/.393/.486 line with 22 home runs and 79 RBIs. That would be a very nice bounce-back year for the current starting right fielder, and certainly better than the then current favorite to win the position Allen Craig. Craig is projected to have a .796 OPS with six homers in 152 at-bats
Holliday is expected to do what he does (.313/.390/.537) and Colby Rasmus isn’t expected to run much( 10 steals in 15 attempts) or match last years power (19 home runs)
The projections predict third basemen David Freese to have a breakout year, barring another season-ending injury, of course.
.295/.353/.452 … .805 OPS
16 HR, 85 RBIs, 83 runs created, 32 2B
You may be wondering where all of this is headed, other than giving you a glimpse into The Handbook, well–back to first base.
There probably isn’t an easier player in the major leagues to predict than first basemen and three-time MVP Albert Pujols. He is the epitome of consistency, and an unstoppable force offensively, and among many ways to measure his ungodly production is and how it rarely strayed from his career averages. Baseball-Reference.com calculates a player’s season average over the course of 162 games, and as Sports Illustrated senior writer Joe Posnanski pointed out on his Twitter feed, there are less than 10 players who have had one season equivalent to Pujols average year.
Here’s the range from Pujols’s career lows and highs.
career .331 … low: minus-19 (.312, 2010) … high: plus-28 (.359, 2003)
career: .426 … low: minus-32 (.394, 2002) … high: plus-36 (.462, 2008)
career: .624 … low: minus-63 (.624, 2002) … high: plus-47 (.671, 2006)
career: 1.050 … low: minus-95 (.955, 2002) … high: plus-64 (1.114, 2008)
career: 42 … low: minus-10 (32, 2007) … high: plus-7 (49, 2006)
career: 123 … low: minus-24 (99, 2007) … high: plus-14 (137, 2003)
career: 128 … low: minus-25 (128, 2007) … high: plus-9 (137, 2006)
As you probably noticed, the year-to-year variances are minute, and his extremes, aren’t all that extreme. If you were to delve deep into the numbers you’ll notice that not only is Albert pegged for another Pujols-esque year, but a possible Triple Crown run.
If you figure in his career lows, medians, and highs the numbers will look like this:
.336 BA, .428 OBP, .616 SLG, 1.034 OPS
41 HR, 118 runs, 120 RBIs
Of course, who couldn’t have predicted those types of numbers for Albert Pujols? It’s as elementary as counting your 1 2 3′s or your A B C’s.
The Handbook projects that Pujols will have the best batting average in the NL, the most homers and the second-most RBIs. Going back to 1969 in the National League, the same player has not won those two Triple Crown jewels in the same season.
“A lot of players, it turns out, are pretty consistent,” James writes before digging into the projections. “It’s just more notable for Albert because he is consistent and a beast.”