Fri Jul 16 06:46pm EDT
Big League Stew statistical doctor Alex Remington makes 10 number predictions for the 2010 season.
1. Ubaldo Jimenez(notes) will win fewer than 25 games. The Colorado Rockies ace is having an eye-popping season with a no-hitter and 15 victories under his belt before the All-Star game that he was chosen to start.
The total of 15 wins in unbelievable, but also unsustainable. After maintaining an ERA under 1.00 into the beginning of June, he went into a bit of a summer swoon, with a 4.99 ERA over his past six starts. Though Jimenez had a great start in his last game of the first half, he may not be done swooning. His 3.13 FIP is almost a full run higher than his 2.20 ERA, suggesting that he has a little more catching up to do.
However, the main reason I'm convinced he won't win 25 games is that no one wins 25 games. It hasn't happened since Bob Welch won 27 in 1990 (in 35 starts), and before that, it hadn't happened since Steve Stone in 1980 (in 37 starts). Ubaldo has made 18 starts so far and stands to make about 15 more, fewer than either Welch or Stone. He had a great first half, but his luck has already started to change, and the odds are very good that he'll wind up with 24 wins or fewer, just like every other pitcher in the last 20 years. (Not that he'll have anything to be embarrassed about. It's just the current way of the world.)
2. For the second straight year, Adam Dunn(notes) will fall just short of hitting 40 home runs. You used to be able to set your watch by the guy as the Washington Nationals slugger hit exactly 40 homers four years in a row from 2005-2008. But last year he came up two shy with a total of 38 that ended that fun little streak.
Dunn is currently leading the league with 22 homers, but that's the lowest total he's had at the half since his rookie year in 2002. And that should tell you that he's really a first-half player. In fact, Dunn's career numbers show that he has a .932 OPS and hits a homer every 12.6 at-bats in the first half. Meanwhile, in the second half, he has an .874 OPS and hits a homer just every 16.4 at-bats. Dunn is having the best season of his career, but it's boosted by an unsustainably high BABIP and now he's entering the back half of the season. It says here that he'll top out in the high 30s.
3. Angel Pagan(notes) will lead the Mets in stolen bases. Jose Reyes(notes) led the Mets in stolen bases from 2005-2008, but David Wright(notes) led the team in 2009 when Reyes was out with a calf injury. This year, Reyes has been only mostly healthy, so he's tied with Angel Pagan for the Mets' team lead in stolen bases this year and back on the shelf with a day-to-day back injury.
Pagan, meanwhile, has been doing his best Carlos Beltran(notes) impression on the plate and in the field, and he's been staying healthier and getting on base far more often than Reyes. He hasn't often been thought of as a speedster — he stole just 26 bases in four seasons prior to this — but he swiped 211 in the minor leagues, and he clearly still has some power in his legs. Reyes, with his checkered injury history, may be a little more hesitant to run. If Pagan stays on the field — and he should, because he's neck-and-neck with David Wright as the team's best player this season — he'll lead the team in steals.
4. Albert Pujols(notes) will finish the year with his most strikeouts in a decade. Oh, and he won't win the MVP for a third straight year. Yeah, yeah, Pujols is great. We know. But his K rate is the worst it's been since 2001, when he was a 21-year-old rookie of the year. Since then, his high was 69 in 2002, and with 44 strikeouts in his first 88 games, he's poised to blow by that.
That doesn't change the fact that he's still the best player in the league, of course. But Joey Votto(notes) and David Wright have been more valuable to their teams this year, and Adrian Gonzalez(notes) and Ryan Zimmerman(notes) are up there as well, and with so many other good years to choose from, it's likely that the voters will want to spread the hardware around. After all, in the history of the award, no player other than Barry Bonds has ever won three MVPs in a row. Albert's strikeouts won't keep him from the award, his boringly routine greatness will. Still, he's striking out much more than usual.
5. Bill Hall(notes) will lead the majors in ERA and WHIP. Bill Hall has played seven positions on the diamond for the Boston Red Sox, including a perfect relief inning on May 28, the first time he'd pitched professionally in the majors or minors. And Hall did great, refusing to allow the ball out of the infield during his appearance.
Hall is already having his best season at the plate since his career year 2006 — from 2007-2009, he had an OPS of .682, and this year he has an OPS of .778 — and the odds are very good that he will never get a chance to put a blemish his perfect 0.00 ERA and WHIP.
6. Ichiro Suzuki(notes) will bat .300 with more than 200 hits for the 10th straight season. The Seattle Mariners star is only the third player in baseball history to have nine seasons with at least 200 hits, and he's the only one to do it consecutively. If he gets 200 hits this year — and of course he will, because he's already at 119 — he'll tie Pete Rose for the most ever. And the 36-year-old is signed through 2012, so there's a very good chance that, over the next two years, he'll set a record that no one will match.
The remarkable thing is, he's basically the same hitter this year that he has been his entire career, with swinging strike and contact rates equal to his career norms. He's striking out and walking a bit more than he did earlier in his career, but the difference is barely noticeable. He's getting older, but contact hitters tend to age much better than power hitters, because he's not swinging from his shoetops, just trying to poke the ball over the infield. And there's no sign that will stop any time soon.
7. Zack Greinke(notes) will continue to pitch about as well, but he'll still win 10 games or less. In the last three years, 13 different pitchers have qualified for the ERA title and posted an ERA under 4.00 while winning fewer than 10 games. John Lannan(notes) and Matt Cain(notes) have both done it twice. You could think of it as the curse of being a good pitcher on a bad team, but last year, it happened to the ace of a division champion: Clayton Kershaw(notes) made 30 starts with a 2.79 ERA for a 95-win Dodger team, and somehow his teammates made him 8-8. As many, many people have pointed out, this is a pretty good example of why pitcher wins are often pretty meaningless.
The Royals are not a good team this year: even though they're leading the majors in batting average they're just 21st in runs scored, and the odds are a lot better that their batting average will come down than that their run scoring will go up, especially as long as Alex Gordon(notes) stays in AAA. Moreover, their second-best hitter this season, David DeJesus(notes), is almost certain to be gone by the end of the month, as he's one of the best outfielders on the trading market. Zack hasn't had much luck with wins this year and his luck isn't likely to improve any time soon.
8. Jose Bautista(notes) will hit 35 homers this year, a career high he will never again come close to matching. Somehow, the Toronto Blue Jay is still leading the majors in home runs. The erstwhile journeyman has 24 on the year, with nearly half a season yet to come. But there are a lot of reasons to expect that he'll slow down, and a lot more reasons to think he'll never have a year like this again.
First, he's historically been a first-half player, with an OPS more than 100 points higher in the first half — .796 to .692. He's been hot in July, but he had a really bad June, batting just .179 with four homers after hitting 16 total in April and May. In other words, he's a streaky player, and he's had both hot and cold streaks this year, and the odds are good that he'll slump a bit more this summer. He'll still probably get to 35, especially because Toronto's Rogers Centre has been the sixth-best park to hit a homer in this year, but he won't stay on his current pace. (Dan Szymborski's updated ZiPS projection predicts that he'll get to 34.)9. Mark Reynolds(notes) will strike out 200 times, again. In major league history, there is only one man who has ever struck out 200 times, and he is now poised to do it three times in a row. Reynolds is having a bit of a down year — his home runs and strikeouts are all pretty much at their usual rates, but his batting average is way down, thanks to a major dip in his BABIP. For his career, he's struck out in one-third of his plate appearances, once every 2.6 at-bats. He already has 122 strikeouts this year, and he'll probably get another 300 plate appearances this season, so the odds are very good that he'll do it again.
Those kind of whiff totals give many old-school baseball types a serious case of the vapors, and he's lucky he's on a team progressive enough to appreciate his other talents — if he played for Tom Kelly, he'd probably be on the bench or on a plane. As it is, he's got a big contract, and there's pretty much no way he's getting moved off his position, so he'll keep on striding to the dish and keep on striking out at record-breaking rates.
10. The New York Yankees will win 100 games. Even without Cliff Lee(notes), the New York Yankees are the best team in baseball, again. They have baseball's best run differential and baseball's best record, and they really are the best team that money can buy. The rest of their season isn't a cakewalk — they still have another 23 games against the Rays and Red Sox — but Mark Teixeira(notes) is starting to come around, and it's really hard to find a serious weakness on their roster beyond their poor treatment of Joba Chamberlain(notes). Of course, even if they just stop short at 99, they're still favorites to win the World Series. George Steinbrenner — may he rest in peace — would be proud.