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BPro and the Astros in 2010

Welcome to Projection Thursday!

The good people over at Wiley were kind enough to mistake me for an actual media-type (Seriously, though, can you get a better game recap than this from Bernardo Fallas? He'd never even mention Reggie the Party Guy...). Because I work sometimes for a local newspaper, I was sent a copy of Baseball Prospectus 2010, 'the bestselling annual baseball preview from the smartest analysts in the business.'*

*That's from the press release included with the book. And I assume they mean except for the analysts working at TCB. Because we are lucky to have some of the best right here.

I thought I'd share some tidbits I gleaned over the past few days. I don't want to spoil all of the book, because, you should seriously invest in this puppy (especially if you play fantasy baseball). The analysis is just as good as the PECOTA projections and any system that includes Jose Altuve is alright by me.

So, onto the interesting stuff:

  • While overall attendance numbers may have been down and we have no way of knowing what kind of revenue they generated, the Astros did finish ninth in attendance with 2.52 million Houston fans flocking to Minute Maid Park in 2009. I'm guess they weren't all there to see Pudge, so I don't expect that number to drop much in 2010.
  • The main article focused on payroll disparity. In something called Payroll Efficiency Ratings (PER), the Astros ranked 28th in 2009 with a .82 PER and 29th since 2006 with a .88 PER. BPro didn't write about this, but the natural explanation is World Series Hangover for Drayton McLane or WSHDM. Because of WSHDM, the Astros kept adding payroll, refusing to cut costs because they expected to get back to the promised land easily again. After all, 2004 and 2005 weren't cake walks. What McLane failed to understand and what GM Tim Purpura wouldn't convince him of was that the team had to choose one way or the other. Either spend money to retain Andy Pettitte and Jeff Kent or gut the team and start over. By letting Beltran and Co. leave yet replacing them with 100 million of Carlos Lee, the Astros were caught in a feedback loop. I'm hoping they've escaped by now.
  • Some interesting numbers from PECOTA - Berkman's highest probability this season rests in the Improve category, with a 31% chance of occurrence.... Michael Bourn has just a 14 percent combined chance at either Collapse or Attrition in 2010 and is projected at .267/.338/.371 with 44 steals, comparing favorably to Steve Finley.... Jeff Keppinger has just a 12 percent chance for Collapse/Attrition while Carlos Lee has almost equal parts Improve, Collapse and Attrition. Tommy Manzella has an equally in-sync chance for all four major categories, Breakout, Collapse, Improve, Attrition....the most shocking pitching projection was that Chia-jen Lo has a 59 percent chance of collapse in 2010, but I'm not sure how much those percentages work for minor leaguers....Wandy Rodriguez has a good chance to improve and is projected with a lower ground ball rate and a higher SIERA at 4.13. Basically, PECOTA thinks his strikeouts will fall back down to 2008 levels.
  • The end of the chapter didn't leave much about Brad Mills, except a note that he probably will bunt less than Coop. However, it also said he should be far more active than former boss Terry Francona. The piece doesn't elaborate, but I assume they mean pinch-hitting and the like?

Don't worry, you'll continue to get more juicy nuggets from here as the spring goes on. This is just to whet your appetite. Thanks again to Will Carroll for putting me on the media list and to Wiley for graciously sending me a copy.