Astros offseason: Chris Carter vs. the projections

Eric Christian Smith

We look back at the Astros slugger before the season to see what he was projected to do before the season and what he actually did.

Happy Friday everyone. Here's another entry in our series of posts looking back at the 2013 season to see how players performed relative to their projections. We've done two hitters and two pitchers now, so it's time to go back to the plate. In particular, let's look at the Houston slugging first baseman/left fielder who was acquired from the Oakland Athletics in February as part of the Jed Lowrie deal.

You know him better as TROOOOGDOOOOR!

What we said

No one on the Astros inspired more posts throughout the season than Carter. With his home runs, his strikeouts, his terrible outfield defense and his awesome nickname, he quickly became a fan favorite. Before all that, though, there was our season preview. Regrettably, it was written by me. Nothing I dislike more than reviewing my own work and realizing how flawed I am as a human. Not big on self-awareness, if you couldn't tell.

At any rate, here's what I said back then:

Things didn't go so hot the last time Carter was out in left field. The general consensus is that Minute Maid Park's snug dimensions in left could serve Carter well, with him rotating in at DH and first base on the road. However, reports out of Oakland were fairly terrible in his last tiny playing time out there.

The Coliseum is not MMP, but the fact that Carter's comments upon reporting to camp were not supportive of a move to the outfield may leave this idea in an untenable spot.

Still, having Carter's bat in the lineup is exciting. Making sure he's in there with either Freiman, Pena or Wallace is even better. But, because of his bat, you can bet the Astros will try to get Carter in the lineup however they can for most of the season.

Turns out Chris Carter knew what Chris Carter could do in the outfield. Who knew?

What they said

The projections were all over the place, since his playing time was less than consistent in Oakland.

Bill James likes Carter the best, but only has him down for 369 plate appearances. Still, the Jamesian system has him hitting 17 homers with a 11 percent walk rate and a 26 percent strikeout rate, which is about five percent less than he posted last year. James also has him with a slash line of .248/.333/.471 and a wOBA of .348.

ZiPS is more bullish on his playing time, pegging him at 568 plate appearances with 25 homers and a slash line of .231/.317/.439. ZiPS also sees his strikeout rate falling slightly to 29 percent while his walk rate stays solid at 10.7 percent with a club-best isolated average of .208 for the A's (ZiPS released on Dec. 21).

Steamer is more positive on his playing time, but splits the difference between ZiPS and James with 466 plate appearances. It has Carter hitting 21 homers with an 11 percent walk rate and a very low 25.9 percent walk rate. His slash line here is .238/.326/.449 because of a career low BABiP of .286. His fWAR here is 1.3.

Oliver's projections are closer to ZiPS, with 539 plate appearances for Carter and a projections-high 28 home runs. It has similar walk and strikeout rates for Carter as ZiPS with a slash line of .240/.328/.473 and an fWAR total of 2.0. That includes a Fielding Runs total of -4.0, which could be seen as a positive, considering how DHs and first baseman can be penalized here.

Overall, we were looking at a walk rate around 11, a strikeout rate from 25-29 percent and somewhere around 24 home runs. They also expected him to hit around .230 with an OBP of .320.

What he did

The dragon man used his beefy arms to bash 29 home runs in 585 plate appearances. He hit .223/.320/.451, which nearly fell in line with his projections. The three notable exceptions were his contact rate, his walk rate and his strikeout rate.

You know what, those are all tied together!

Carter walked 12 percent of the time, struck out a ghastly 36 percent of the time, but still had an OBP around where he was projected to be, despite losing nearly 20 points of batting average to all those whiffs. His power manifested greatly, though the great defensive experiment didn't work and Carter was back at first base and DH by the end of the season.

He also did things like this:

Carterhr_medium

And this:

Cartertriple_medium

And this:

Trogdorhr_medium

All in all, I think Carter met expectations almost completely. He did exactly what he was projected to do, with a few tweaks. Weirdly, though, I sort of expected him to have failed to live up to what he wsa expected to do. With all the focus on his strikeouts during the season, I lost sight of how much value he had and how consistent he was to the rest of his career.

What say ye? Did Chris Carter live up to his expectations or were the strikeouts too much for you to deal with?

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