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Zipping The Cubs: The Hitters
by Phil Bencomo
The Baseball Think Factory has released its annual ZiPS projections. Though the system is far from perfect (after all, it did project an AVG/OBP/SLG line of .287/.332/.412 for Ronny Cedeno in 2006, and we all know how that little experiment turned out), it makes for great fun nonetheless.
Jim Hendry has spent more money this offseason than I'll ever see in my lifetime. But does ZiPS think Alfonso Soriano will live up to his contract? How improved will the 2007 Cub offense really be? Well, enough bantering. Here are the hitters' projections:
C Michael Barrett .285 .349 .481 15 35 56 67
C Henry Blanco .225 .276 .398 8 15 42 25
1B Derrek Lee .299 .383 .567 32 65 106 110
1B Daryle Ward .257 .315 .442 14 28 53 46
2B Mark DeRosa .265 .324 .403 8 32 85 52
2B Ryan Theriot .275 .335 .356 2 34 46 49
SS Ronny Cedeno .256 .286 .358 7 18 86 45
SS Cesar Izturis .272 .320 .356 3 31 49 53
3B Scott Moore .248 .319 .425 19 45 137 63
3B Aramis Ramirez .296 .355 .559 35 46 63 105
OF Matt Murton .299 .361 .446 13 42 65 73
OF Alfonso Soriano .265 .324 .498 36 50 150 102
OF Jacque Jones .263 .320 .456 24 39 123 74
OF Angel Pagan .251 .310 .360 5 32 90 44
Let me first say this: ZiPS hates Soriano. So much for improving on-base skills and an affinity for walks; ZiPS says Soriano will be far worse in both categories than he was in '06 (.351 OBP and 67 BB). And even though Soriano will be leaving pitcher-friendly RFK Stadium, ZiPS still thinks Soriano will record his lowest slugging percentage since 2004.
Because ZiPS does not adjust for playing time, projections for players like Ryan Theriot and Scott Moore become very interesting. Though neither is likely to reach 400 at-bats this season, we can partially satisfy the ever-present question that gnaws without end at the mind of every baseball fan What if?
In the case of Theriot, ZiPS pegs him for 404 at-bats, the same amount allotted for Mark DeRosa. Comparing the two, we see that they are actually quite comparable. DeRosa has a bit more pop, but Theriot has better contact and on-base skills. The result is expressed in Runs Created: 52 vs. 49 for DeRosa and Theriot, respectively.
Moore is another interesting case. He may not even make the big-league club in '07, but his power potential is quite impressive. In 38 at-bats last season (!small sample-size alert!), Moore posted a .474 SLG%, consistent with his minor-league slugging numbers from the same season (.479 in 463 AB at Double-A West Tenn). ZiPS gives Moore 471 '07 at-bats, during which his power is seen pretty clearly. Give him another season in the minors to work on contact skills, and then the Cubs will have to find a spot for him in the majors.
A note on Matt Murton: Give the red-head playing time! His production, based on RC, is very comparable to that of Jacque Jones, and Murton's on-base skills are to be embraced, not ignored. There is no reason he shouldn't be playing every day. If he develops a bit more power, the kid is an All-Star.
Derrek Lee will have a nice post-injury season, says ZiPS. But I'd go so far as to say that Lee will surpass his projection. A .315 AVG and .400 OBP, plus 45 home runs, is certainly plausible, especially with solid lineup protection from Aramis Ramirez, Soriano and others.
Coming soon to a blog near you: Zipping The Cubs: The Pitchers.