I have fairly realistic expectations for the 2013 Indians. As long as the key young players show improvement and it looks like they’re making progress toward competing in 2014, I’ll be satisfied.
That said, I am holding out hope for a dramatic turnaround, and I don’t think it’s too far fetched. So I decided to set out on a quest to prove that the Indians can make things interesting this year.
While I think the statistic WAR is becoming over-used, I do think it can be a useful tool for projecting team success. Baseball-Reference’s version of WAR is designed in such a way that a perfect replacement-level team would be projected to win 52 games. So to determine a team’s projected record, we can simply add their projected WAR to 52.
This calculation works surprisingly well. In 2012 the Indians produced a WAR of 13.4. Add that to 52 and you get 65 projected wins, just short of their actual total of 68.
So, using this calculation, let’s see what it would take for the 2013 Indians to finish with a projected record of 81-81.
For starters, let’s look at the 2012 WAR totals for the projected starting lineup, rotation and key bullpen pitchers.
C – Carlos Santana, 3.7
1B – Mark Reynolds, -0.1
2B – Jason Kipnis, 3.7
3B – Lonnie Chisenhall, 0.1
SS – Asdrubal Cabrera, 3
LF – Michael Brantley, 2.9
CF – Drew Stubbs, -0.2
RF – Nick Swisher, 3.5
DH – Chris McGuiness, 0 (did not play in majors)
SP – Justin Masterson, 0.0
SP – Ubaldo Jimenez, -1.0
SP – Brett Myers, 0.1 (2011 WAR, his last season as a SP)
SP – Zach McAllister, -0.5
SP – Carlos Carrasco, -0.1 (2011 WAR, missed entire 2012 season)
RP – Vinnie Pestano, 2.1
RP – Chris Perez, 0.5
To make things simple, we’ll assume all other role players end up with a combined WAR of zero.
Based on these numbers, the 2013 Indians would be projected to win 70 games – a five-win improvement in their projected total.
So where do the extra 11 wins come from?
I’ll attempt to break the roster down position by position in an effort to come up with a realistic projection that gets the Indians to 81 victories. And to give you an idea of what the projected WAR looks like, I’ll provide the best comparison of a former Indian at the same position.
C – Carlos Santana fell well short of expectations in 2012 and still managed to post a 3.7 WAR. So let’s project a modest improvement (more home runs, fewer strikeouts) to give him a war of 4.0. Comparison: Victor Martinez, 2008 (WAR: 4.0)
1B – To reach 81 wins, Mark Reynolds must be an asset. His 23 home runs and .763 OPS which he posted with the Orioles won’t get the job done. But he does have a track record of being a solid contributor. In 2009 he posted a WAR of 3.0 for the Diamondbacks. We can’t reasonably expect a career year at the age of 29, but let’s hope for a WAR of 2.0. This is probably the biggest leap of faith we’ll need to make in these projections. Comparison: Pat Tabler, 1986 (WAR: 2.2)
2B – Kipnis is in the same boat as Santana. His 2012 season was decent, but slightly less productive than many of us hoped. So we’ll assume he makes minor improvements and gets to a WAR of 4.0. Comparison: Ronnie Belliard, 2005 (WAR: 4.2)
3B – Chisenhall hasn’t played enough to give us a realistic projection to build upon, but he clearly needs to contribute for the team to reach the .500 mark. Conservatively, let’s put him down for 1.5 WAR. Comparison: Aaron Boone, 2005 (WAR: 1.2)
SS – It’s probably not realistic to expect Cabrera to revert back to his stellar 2011 form, so let’s just assume he remains steady at 3.0. Comparison: Omar Vizquel, 1996 (WAR: 3.0)
LF – Brantley is a wild card. Was 2012 a sign of things to come? Or will it end up being his career year? Let’s be conservative and say he regresses slightly and comes down to a WAR of 2.5. Comparison: Joe Charboneau, 1980 (WAR: 2.2)
CF – I’m not expecting anything from Stubbs, so I’m going to pencil him in for WAR of zero. As long as he doesn’t hurt the Tribe, that’s probably a successful season. Comparison: Trevor Crowe, 2010 (WAR: 0.4)
RF – Swisher is coming off a solid 3.5 WAR season, but at 32 years of age we should assume he’ll regress. Obviously, the Indians still need a strong year out of him though, so let’s put him down for 3.0. Comparison: Shin-Soo Choo, 2012 (WAR: 3.1)
DH – The DH should provide you with a positive WAR, but can we really expect anything from the platoon of Chris McGuiness and who knows who else? Since this position is such a question mark, let’s mark it down for a zero WAR season. Comparison: Andre Thornton, 1985 (WAR: -0.2)
SP – This is the key position. Justin Masterson absolutely must revert back to his 2011 form. We’ll put him down for a WAR of 3.5, just off his career-high mark in 2011. Comparison: Justin Masterson, 2011 (WAR: 3.6)
SP – Based on what we’ve seen from Ubaldo Jimenez, we should probably just hope for a zero-WAR season. But to reach .500, Ubaldo will need to become an asset once again. He’s already had three career seasons in which his WAR topped 3.5, so a drastic turnaround is possible. Let’s be conservative and hope for 1.5. Comparison: Paul Byrd, 2007 (WAR: 1.4)
SP – I’ll group Brett Myers and Zach McAllister into one category. They’re expected to be the third and fourth men in the rotation and all the Indians really need is for them to not hurt the team. If each can post a WAR of 1.0, it would have be considered a success. Comparison: Jack McDowell, 1996 (WAR: 1.1)
SP – Carlos Carrasco is another wild card as he returns from injury. We’ve seen moments were he looks like a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter, but he’s never shown the consistency. Let’s simply ask him to be slightly better than replacement level and reach 0.5 WAR. Comparison: Chad Ogea, 1997 (WAR: 0.3)
RP – Vinnie Pestano was arguably the Indians MVP last year. He posted a WAR of 2.1 while the rest of the pitching staff combined for -3.6. It’s not realistic to expect a reliever to repeat that type of performance, however, so let’s knock his WAR down to 1.0. Comparison: Danys Baez, 2001 (WAR: 1.0)
RP – While I personally believe Chris Perez is vastly overrated, he has remained steady. So we’ll simply assume he repeats his 0.5 WAR from a season ago. Comparison: Bob Wickman, 2000 (WAR: 0.5)
So, there you have it, your projected 2013 Indians. Add their WAR together, add the 52 wins for replacement level and you end up with a perfect 81-81 record.
Let’s hear your thoughts. Is it realistic?