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November 17, 2011

Changing Speeds

Setting the Line: Final Results

by Ken Funck

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Last spring in this space I introduced a contest entitled “Setting The Line,” wherein I selected two key players from each American League and National League team, set a benchmark for what their 2011 season might produce in a given metric, and invited participants to select whether each player would score Over or Under that line. Now that the season is over and we are into awards season, it’s time to announce a winner. By a landslide, the most prescient prognosticator this year was Matthew Kenerly, who ran down Rex Babiera in the home stretch by choosing the correct side of the line on 39 of 50 players. No one else had more than 37 correct, so Matthew showed himself to be head-and-shoulders above the crowd and has our permission to proclaim himself the wisest of all BP readers, a title I’m sure will earn him due deference  during comments section discussions throughout the coming year. Less importantly, Matthew has won himself a free copy of Baseball Prospectus 2012 with as many author signatures as I can manage to round up this spring. Well done, Matthew.

As is often the case, the Wisdom of Crowds also performed admirably, with the majority of entries making the correct choice 36 times. Pitchers and hitters were equally difficult to predict, with the groupthink entry finding the right answer on 60 percent of both groups. Details unfold below:

AL West

Team

Player

Category

Line

Actual

Actual O/U

Crowd Choice

Angels

VernonWells

HR

23

25

O

U

Angels

Dan Haren

WARP

5.0

4.5

U

O

Athletics

Daric Barton

TAv

.290

.238

U

U

Athletics

Trevor Cahill

FRA

4.10

4.54

O

U

Mariners

Jack Wilson / Brendan Ryan

Combined OBP

.285

.301

O

O

Mariners

Michael Pineda

Starts

25

28

O

U

Rangers

Adrian Beltre

TAv

.275

.321

O

O

Rangers

Brandon Webb

Starts

10

0

U

U

Vernon Wells did manage to hit slightly more than one homer per million dollars earned, though the more pertinent question for the Angels might have been whether he would walk more than once per million (no, he didn’t). Trevor Cahill was well ahead of his line at midseason, having posted a 3.28 FRA at that point, but he collapsed in the second half. Brandon Webb never made it to the mound in Arlington, but it turned out the Rangers didn’t need him.

AL Central

Team

Player

Category

Line

Actual

Actual O/U

Crowd Choice

Indians

Carlos Santana

TAv

.280

.291

O

O

Indians

Justin Masterson

FRA

4.75

3.55

U

U

Royals

Billy Butler

Avg.

.310

.291

U

U

Royals

Kila Ka'aihue

HR

20

2

U

U

Tigers

Rick Porcello

FRA

4.50

4.37

U

U

Tigers

Brandon Inge / Jhonny Peralta

TAv

.250

.260

O

O

Twins

Delmon Young

TAv

.270

.250

U

O

Twins

Scott Baker

Baker/Greinke VORP

1

0.7

U

U

White Sox

Jake Peavy

Starts

15

18

O

O

White Sox

Paul Konerko

HR

25

31

O

O

Our readers collectively pegged nine of the ten lines in the AL Central, succumbing only to irrational exuberance in the case of former top prospect Delmon Young, who continues to be more of a free-swinger than Bob Crane. No one took me up on the crazy proposition that Scott Baker would earn more VORP than Zack Greinke, and they were right not to—but not necessarily for the reasons you’d expect. Baker outperformed Greinke in ERA (3.14 to 3.83), FRA (3.55 to 3.58), and matched him in Opponent TAv (.246) despite pitching in the DH league, though Greinke lapped Baker in FIP (2.95 to 3.48). Mostly, though, Greinke’s 37 extra innings pitched made the difference in VORP. Greinke is still the better pitcher, of course, but it’s closer than most people think.

AL East

Team

Player

Category

Line

Actual

Actual O/U

Crowd Choice

Blue Jays

Jose Bautista

HR

25

43

O

O

Blue Jays

Yunel Escobar

WARP

4.0

3.8

U

U

Orioles

Matt Wieters

TAv

.275

.268

U

U

Orioles

Adam Jones

TAv

.275

.284

O

O

Rays

Manny Ramirez

TAv

.280

.081

U

O

Rays

Jeremy Hellickson

FRA

4.00

3.95

U

U

Red Sox

Dustin Pedroia

HR + SB

35

47

O

O

Red Sox

Josh Beckett

FRA

4.00

3.59

U

O

Yankees

Jesus Montero

PA

200

69

U

O

Yankees

Curtis Granderson

OPS vs. LHP

650

.944

O

O

Joey Bats proved he’s for real, Matt “Don’t Call Me A Bust” Wieters again underperformed at the plate (it’s hard to see progress lurking behind his .235/.291/.371 line against right-handers), and Manny was being Manny outside the lines this year. However, the two most interesting cases here were Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson and MVP candidate Curtis Granderson. Hellickson’s 2.95 ERA won him his rookie hardware, though his 4.47 FIP and .223 BABIP don’t bode well for his continued success. Granderson’s parents were public school teachers (or selfish union thugs, depending on which news channel you prefer) who taught him that education is a life-long pursuit, so perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised that he made a liar out of me by finally learning how to hit lefties.

NL West

Team

Player

Category

Line

Actual

Actual O/U

Crowd Choice

Diamondbacks

Justin Upton

TAv

.290

.304

O

O

Diamondbacks

Dan Hudson

FRA

4.5

3.78

U

U

Dodgers

Matt Kemp

TAv

.290

.350

O

O

Dodgers

Juan Uribe

HR

15

4

U

U

Giants

Pablo Sandoval

VORP

30

35.5

O

O

Giants

Madison Bumgarner

VORP

30

38.8

O

O

Padres

Cameron Maybin

WARP

2.5

3.2

O

U

Padres

Mat Latos

K

200

185

U

O

Rockies

Carlos Gonzalez

OBP

.340

.363

O

O

Rockies

Chris Iannetta

HR

20

14

U

U

Our readers correctly forecasted Upton’s breakout, CarGo’s improved patience, and Sandoval’s bounceback—a term that seems appropriately descriptive for the Pillsbury-esque third sacker. On the other side of the ledger, our readers didn’t expect Maybin to provide so much value, an opinion they apparently shared with the Marlins front office. Similarly, Kenny Williams converted young ace Dan Hudson into Jason Frasor and Zach Stewart via a collection of moves as regrettable as the Safety Dance, something the South Side faithful are sure to remind him of.

NL Central

Team

Player

Category

Line

Actual

Actual O/U

Crowd Choice

Astros

Michael Bourn

SB

50

61

O

U

Astros

Brett Wallace

OBP

.333

.334

O

U

Brewers

Rickie Weeks

WARP

3

3

Push

O

Brewers

Zack Greinke / Yovani Gallardo

Greinke - Gallardo VORP

0

-1.8

U

O

Cardinals

Albert Pujols

Contract Date

9/30/11

N/A

O

O

Cardinals

Colby Rasmus

TAv

.285

.244

U

O

Cubs

Carlos Marmol

K

99

99

Push

O

Cubs

Starlin Castro

BA

.300

.307

O

U

Pirates

Pedro Alvarez

TAv

.285

.194

U

U

Pirates

Pitchers

Pitchers With 10.0+ VORP

0.5

3

O

O

Reds

Aroldis Chapman

Avg. Fastball Velo

98

97.9

U

U

Reds

Drew Stubbs

HR

25

15

U

U

The NL Central was the most difficult group to predict, with only five of 12 outcomes matching conventional wisdom. If Matthew hadn’t won by such a sizable margin, the winner may well have been decided during Carlos Marmol’s final appearance on September 27th, when the Cubs closer worked the ninth inning of a meaningless 6-2 ballgame. In true Marmol fashion, he issued two walks and allowed a weak groundout to second base but struck out Andy Parrino and Jason Bartlett to end the game and close out his season with a line-matching 99 punchouts. And you thought there wasn’t any drama in a matchup of also-rans.

NL East

Team

Player

Category

Line

Actual

Actual O/U

Crowd Choice

Braves

Jason Heyward

TAv

.300

.253

U

O

Braves

Craig Kimbrel

K/9

10

14.84

O

O

Marlins

LoganMorrison

HR

14

23

O

O

Marlins

Mike Stanton

OBP

.340

.356

O

U

Mets

Johan Santana

First IP

July 4, 2011

N/A

O

O

Mets

Jose Reyes

VORP

30

58.2

O

U

Nationals

Jayson Werth

HR

25

20

U

O

Nationals

Ian Desmond / Danny Espinosa

HR + SB

60

71

O

U

Phillies

Dominic Brown

HR + SB

30

8

U

O

Phillies

Hamels, Halladay, Lee, Oswalt

Total Wins

60

59

U

O

There are a lot of storylines in this chart, from Heyward’s sophomore slump to Kimbrel’s award-winning whiffleball act to LoMo’s twitter-iffic demotion to the well-timed reappearance of Jose Reyes. The headline, however, remains the dominant Philadelphia rotation, which fell just short of 60 combined wins, mostly due to Roy Oswalt’s balky back. It’s always risky to bet on a whole stable of pitchers remaining healthy and effective.

Many thanks to those who took the time to send in their picks. I enjoyed this, and I hope to be able to do it again next year.

Ken Funck is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ken's other articles. You can contact Ken by clicking here

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