Bill James’ 2012 Projections: Infield

For the first half of the season, the Buccos’ infield was poor, and there is no other way of saying it.  We had 8 starting catchers, most of whom we had never heard of before, a la Mike McKenry, none of whom had really performed as well as a MLB catcher would have.  At first base, Lyle Overbay easily lived up to his insanely high contract with a .240/.310/.357 slash line and a dWar of -0.7.  At second base, Neil Walker was just about average with his .264/.329/.398 slash line.  At third base, we had Pedro Alvarez and his immaculate .208/.283/.304 slash and an OPS+ of 66, bringing the “Adam LaRoche effect” to a completely new level.  Ronny Cedeno started 79 games at short and had a slash line of .252/.311/.346.  In other words, the only way it could have gotten worse is if Dale Berra and Manny Mendoza were starting at short and second.

Bill James, though, has some interesting projections for the Pirates’ infield.  There is some new personnel in the infield, such as Casey McGehee and Clint Barmes, and potentially a Pedro Alvarez rebound season.

Starting at the #2 position, catcher, Rod Barajas is starting for the Pirates.

The 36-year old catcher who is making $3.5MM this season is, not surprisingly, going to get worse.  After hitting .230/.287/.430 last season in the NL West for the Dodgers, Bill James’ projections have him hitting .224/.274/.403 with a measly .288 wOBA.  How bad is this compared to our other options?  Well, for $3.5M or less, you could have Ryan Doumit, who signed a $3 million contract with the Twins.  He is projected to hit .275/.335/.443 with a wOBA of .337.  Because I don’t have league-average figures for the upcoming season, the only chart that I could come up with for catcher batting is from the 2011 statistics.

Doumit is about right on par with the NL average for batting average, above-average for OBP, above-average for SLG, and above-average for OPS.  Barajas is far, far below average for batting average, far below average for OBP, far above average for SLG, and slightly above-average for OPS.

At first base, he has Garrett Jones taking the blunt of the starts for the Buccos.  Apparently Jones will start 138 games and step up to the plate 494 times.   According to the projections, he will have his best season since his 2009 “breakout” half-season.  His projected .261 batting average is 18 points higher than last season, he is projected to have a .325 on base percentage and a .451 slugging percentage for an OPS of .776.  If you’re looking for more power than he had last season, you’re SOL.  James projects him to have 18 home runs, just 2 more than last year, and his projected ISO of .190 is one point higher than the .189 ISO last year.  So he will pretty much have the same power as last year, except creating a little less air conditioning.

At second base, Neil Walker is projected to more or less equal his stats from the 2011 season.  His 2011 .273 average is the same as the Bill James projection, the OBP is 2 points higher than the projection, the slugging percentage is the largest change with an 18 point addition from the 2011 total.

The most bizarre projection would have to be Pedro Alvarez at third.  Bill James has him going from a mediocre .191/.272/.289 slash line to a .252/.332/429 slash line.  If K-Dro goes from being the worst player on the Pirates to a power source by hitting 19 dingers in 2012, I think everybody will be pleasantly surprised.

Clint Barmes, the Pirates’ newest infield acquisition, is projected to have nearly the same season as 2011, much like Neil Walker.  His 2011 slash of .244/.312/.386 is only going to change 20 points in total, going to .248/.303/.393.  He will pretty much bring better offense than Ronny Cedeno, and have comparable defense.


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