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The Oddly Similar Projections for Four Orioles Hitters

We don’t have too much to cling to at this time of year. Real baseball is so close we can almost taste it, but what’s happening now is mostly just loosely arranged scrimmages spitting out numbers we really have no reference point for.

Like sure, it’s great that Dan Vogelbach is hitting a bunch of homers for the Mariners this spring, but what do we do with that? Is he going to be Chris Shelton 2.0? Better? Worse?

We really have no idea.

Your mileage may vary, but other numbers we see at this time come from projection systems that are either closer to the problem, or a bigger part of it. These systems tend to skew conservatively, but at least give us an idea of how the player has trended based on previous indicators weighted differently depending on whose system is being used.

(Chat about this on the BSL boards here!)

One I like that is housed over on Fangraphs is Steamer, a system devised by Jared Cross, Dash Davidson and Peter Rosenbloom. It started in 2008 at Saint Ann’s school in Brooklyn, and from there has become one of the industry standard projection systems, with Marcel, ZiPS and PECOTA.

Two things stuck out to me when perusing the Orioles projections this season:

The starting staff — more so pre-Cobb signing — looked terrible.
The team has a significant number of players clustered together with similar projections.

We’re going to focus on No. 2 today.

Atop the list is, of course, Manny Machado, whom the projections see posting a .373 wOBA and a line of .291/.351/.543. For the fantasy players in the crowd, they see nearly 40 homers, 104 RBI and 97 runs scored with a handful of steals. He’s a bona fide stud. Nobody here is surprised.

Chris Davis and Jonathan Schoop are both in the same general area with projected wOBA marks of .341 and .339, respectively. Now, you can be the judge if you think 30 homers for both is a good thing or a bad thing — for Schoop 30 seems solid, for Davis, 31 seems…..hopefully low for O’s fans, right? — but nevertheless, it sees them as somewhat similar.

The next tier is what struck me, though. Take a look at these four players:

  • Player A: .274/.325/.457 | .332 wOBA
  • Player B: .252/.310/.477 | .332 wOBA
  • Player C: .243/.317/.468 | .331 wOBA
  • Player D: .273/.315/.468 | .331 wOBA

Maybe that doesn’t jump off the page to you, but it does to me. Those players are freakishly similar.

Now there are certainly different ways to skin a cat, but by and large these players are forsaking on-base skills for power to get to roughly a .780 OPS. In fact, the lowest mark of the quartet is .781 and the highest is .787. Again, super close. As a brief aside, that sort of feels like the identity of this team, doesn’t it? Low batting average, high power? Machado is an exception in more ways than one, and Davis does his part by supporting his average with some walks, but otherwise, this is a “shoot-for-the-downs” bunch.

So maybe it isn’t that shocking that four players all have almost identical projections. I’m reasonably certain ardent O’s fans can list the four without me reciting them, but certainly couldn’t pick which player is which with too much certainty — I don’t think.

What amazed me overall, though, is that while these players as numbers are awfully similar, but as human athletes, I don’t think they could be too much different.

To ruin the suspense, here’s who they are:

  • Player A is Trey Mancini
  • Player B is Mark Trumbo
  • Player C is Colby Rasmus
  • Player D is Adam Jones

I think this sort of underscores the beauty of this great game, that four totally different players can have very similar seasons. Mancini has a bit more contact in his bat and a little less punch, and even then he might be a 30-30 (HR-2B) guy, which is nothing to scoff at. Otherwise, it’s all bash, no dash for these guys.

Trumbo’s calling card is literally his power, and just his power. Jones has been putting up almost that identical line since the day he was born. The Rasmus one, though, I find really intriguing. He hasn’t played a big-league game since mid-June of last year, yet the projection systems expect him to not miss a beat in picking up where he left off. Like Jones, there isn’t much of a delta in what Rasmus brings to the table.

So I don’t know. Maybe this is a whole lot of nothing. Each of the projections has the guys playing a different number of games, with the exception of Jones and Mancini getting into 137 apiece. They have Rasmus down for 77 and Trumbo down for 90, but I still think it’s interesting that these are the players the Orioles tend to find themselves with.

Oh, by the way, Danny Valencia will probably pick up some at-bats while Trumbo is down, right?

Guess what his projection is? Oh, just .264/.324/.445 — or a wOBA of .328.

Crazy.

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Brandon Warne

Warne is a Minnesota Twins beat reporter for 105 The Ticket's Cold Omaha website as well as a sportswriter for Sportradar U.S. in downtown Minneapolis. He also contributes to FanGraphs / RotoGraphs.

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