Interesting Projections for Pittsburgh Pirates Offense from Bill James

RumBunter wraps up today’s early preview segment by looking at the 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates offense.  Look.  It has to be better than it was in 2011.

A quick glance at the Pittsburgh Pirates 2012 offense is exciting if you buy into any of the early projections coming from Bill James.  Not pennant chasing mind you, but damn, it’s better than 2011.  Well that’s not real hard considering the 2011 Bucs hit just .244 with 19 less homers than 2010, but I think I have become accustomed to such little offense from the Pirates that these projections, as meager as some of them are surprised me a bit.

Perhaps the Bucs will not be such a poor run producing offense–remember, the 2011 Bucs scored less than three runs 79 times!

The infield is where we want to give you a quick look.  The combination of at least a modest Pedro Alvarez rebound, the addition of Casey McGehee with Garrett Jones, the rock steady Neil Walker, and new shortstop Clint Barmes show some power, on paper at least.

Pedro Alvarez is projected for 19 bombs.  The Bill James projections in a nutshell:  Turn Around City from the 2011 season, but not nearly what we imagined when we saw him in 2010.  James forsees a 252 average, 332 OBP, 429 slugging, and 761 OPS.  James has Pedro walking at a 10.5 percent clip and getting punched out on strikes 26.7 percent of the time.

Alvarez is the key to the Pirates offense and in order for him to return to the middle of the order thumper we all believed he was, he must start crushing the soft stuff early and often when he reports to Bradenton.

Neil Walker is projected for 15 bombs.  The Bill James projections in a nutshell:  steady, a tad more power and a slightly reduced strikeout rate.  We think Walker has a solid season and jumps his OPS closer to 800, not 758 like James projects.  James says Walker will hit for a 273 average, with 332 OBP, and 426 slugging.

There were two months that Walker struggled mightily, that ain’t happening in 2012.  Sit back and watch, Hometown is busting out in 2012.  He will take the numbers he put up in high leverage situations and start delivering in less clutch situations.  It’s coming.  Write. It. Down.

Casey McGehee is projected for 12 bombs.  The Bill James projections in a nutshell:  a gradual bounce back year for McGehee with a 264 average, 322 OBP, 410 slugging and 732 OPS with a strikeout rate reduced by three points.   We have no idea what to expect from McGehee, so I guess this will suffice.

Garrett Jones is projected for 18 bombs.  The Bill James projections in a nutshell:  ten less games for GFJ, but nearly twenty more plate appearances.  His walk rate is projected to fall a point and a half to around average at 8.5 and his strikeout rate also drops from 21.8 percent to 19 percent.  He projects to be on base a bit more with better slugging numbers.

Clint Barmes is projected for 13 bombs.  The James projections call for Barmes to not have a good offensive season:  on base less, with a tick less power.  A 248 average, 303 OBP, 393 slugging, and just a 696 OPS with a reduced walk rate and a 17.8 percent strikeout rate.

He better remind me of Roberto if he played shortstop to put up these numbers.  Certainly, he can perform better than this, or it will get real old real quick.

Josh Harrison is projected to play 57 games while making 139 plate appearances.  He is projected to play less, and get on base at a higher percentage which is nearly impossible to not achieve.  (Did you know that in over 200 at-bats in 2011, J-Hay walked three times.  Incredible)  James sees Harrison increasing his 1.5% walk rate to 4.5% in 2012 while reducing his strikeouts.  An average of 278 with a 309 OBP, 383 slugging works out to be a 692 OPS in the eyes of Bill James.

One nice thing for Harrison is that the projected OPS is nearly a 40 point increase on a tough rookie season for Harrison.

As you would expect, Andrew McCutchen leads the team in offensive projections.  James projects 19 bombs to go along with an 823 OPS while bumping his average up to 277 with an 368 OBP and 455 slugging.  In short, less whiffs and less walks with more singles, but less isolated power in 2012.

Cutch is projected for 27 stolen bases which equates to scoring ten more runs over 2011 with 97.  His RBI total is reduced by 15 in James projections to 74.

A bounce back year for Jose Tabata is projected with 623 plate appearances and a 283 average, 349 OBP, 387 slugging and a 736 OPS.  James has Tabata with seven bombs, 88 runs, 48 RBI, and 29 stolen bases which would be a career high.  An interesting projection is the reduction in walk rate for Tabata to 8.8 percent, but the nice sign was the projection for a 13.3% K rate.

These numbers are very positive for Tabata, we would be ok with this production although it’s not quite what we are looking from a corner outfielder.

Alex Presley is projected for nine bombs in 482 plate appearances.  The numbers say his average will be 301 with a 346 OBP, and 445 slugging.  The need for Presley to earn the base on balls doesn’t jump dramatically just touching 6.2% while his strikeout rate is projected to drop to 14.3 from 17.3 percent.  In short, more singles, more runs driven in and less whiffs all while stealing 22 bases and scoring a projected 62 runs.

Does anyone else have a difficult time believing these numbers?  We’re just not sure this can happen.  Presley will slug at a 445 clip?  Nearly 20 points higher than Walker?

The interesting projection is Nate McLouth who is projected to hit nine bombs in 344 plate appearances.  This is a bad sign.  Bill James sees less walks and more strikeouts in store for McLouth along with a 243 average, 340 on-base, 397 slugging, and 737 OPS.  In short, the only thing interesting about Nate the Great is a 50 point pop in ISO.   We trust McLouth figures it out, we think he won’t however.

Bill James does have Nick Evans getting less work than he did with the Mets while putting up somewhat better offensive numbers.  147 plate appearances with four bombs and a 267 average, 331 OBP, 437 slugging and a 768 OPS.

The difficult part to read are the projections for the catchers, not that you wouldn’t expect it.  Rod Barajas is projected to do everything worse with the bat than he did in 2011.  James has him at 17 bombs, which we think will never happen.  A 224 average, with a 274 OBP, 403 slugging and 677 OPS is enough to make fans miss Ryan Doumit in a big way.  James sees Barajas playing 117 games and making 420 plate appearances.

Mike McKenry apparently makes the roster in the world of Bill James.  Sigh.  James sees McKenry hitting for a 242 average, with a 309 OBP, 382 slugging, and 691 OPS in 61 games while making 181 plate appearances.  James sees four bombs for the Fort.

The below average offensive projections for the catchers will be acceptable if the pitching staff can continue to improve, but James doesn’t see that happening.  Let’s trust this is where his mis-calculations lie, because with a turnaround offense, the Bucs have at least a punchers chance to snap the streak in 2012.

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Tags: Alex Presley Andrew McCutchen Casey McGehee Clint Barmes Garrett Jones Jose Tabata Josh Harrison Michael McKenry Nate McLouth Neil Walker Nick Evans Pedro Alvarez Pittsburgh Pirates Rod Barajas

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