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Notes: Torres’ Forecast, Sandoval and Situational Hitting

February 20, 2011

It feels really nice to finally have some free time.

Forecasting Andres Torres

I’ve noticed recently that projection systems just aren’t very high on Andres Torres.  If you’re familiar with the way forecasting systems work, it makes perfect sense- they weight multiple years of data (with the most recent year weighted the heaviest), regress to the mean (Marcel regresses to the mean of all non-pitchers as hitters; Oliver and CAIRO to the positional mean, and ZiPS and PECOTA to the players they compare best to historically) and add an aging factor.

Andres Torres doesn’t really have any of these things going for him.  He has relatively little Major League experience (1,025 PA- 740 of which came within the last two years; all previous PA occurred between 2002-2005), which means we have less to work with in terms of making an educated guess about his skill level.  This means we have to regress him more towards the mean, which means there is less certainty about his forecast; and, given that he is 33 years old, he doesn’t have much upside left to him (at least, based on standard aging factors).  These forecasts are completely unaware that Torres has revamped his swing entirely and is taking medication for ADHD.  And really, you can’t blame them for not knowing this.  Forecasting systems use the information that is available to them, and they have no clue as to when a player makes a mechanical adjustment or has a mental breakthrough of some sort.  This is why scouting is so imperative.

Another factor that has been bringing Torres’ projection down would have to be the appendicitis he dealt with in September.  Through August, Torres was hitting .284/.365/.502; a wOBA of .369, about 28% greater than the league average.  Torres hit .164/.188/.328 in 69 plate appearances in September and October, which dropped his overall line to .268/.343/.479, only ~15% above the average.  Correlation doesn’t equal causation, but it’s pretty clear from the reports and numbers that his major decline in the last two months of the season was most likely due to his health.  Believe it or not, this does affect his forecast.  I can’t speak for the advanced forecasters, but Marcel’s revised projection- if we exclude his last two months- changes from a .349 wOBA (.264/.337/.465) to .355 (.273/.349/.477).  That’s three runs per 600 plate appearances.  I know that might not seem like a lot, but it certainly says something about the sensitivity of a forecast.  Bottom line: take forecasts seriously, but know that they’re certainly fallible, especially in cases like this.  I would expect Torres to regress some in 2011, but not as severely as the forecasts expect him to.

Pablo’s (Hopeful) Reformation

Speaking of uncertainty in forecasts, Pablo Sandoval is perhaps the most difficult player in the Major Leagues to project.  Sandoval apparently weighed around 280 pounds at the end of last season.  Andrew Baggarly wrote a fantastic article on the matter today, and here are some of the highlights:

He couldn’t take a half-dozen ground balls without panting, hands on knees. His chronically sore hips locked up his swing, especially from the right side.

I actually had no idea that it was that bad.  That’s just terrible.

“He ate in a way that crushed his metabolism,” Banning said. “He’d not eat breakfast, sleep till he got to the ballpark, go out at night and eat a mammoth meal, probably some adult cocktails. That’s the way it went down.”

Sandoval couldn’t do three pull-ups in early November. Now he does sets of 10. His legs shook when he tried to squat 135 pounds. Now he is squatting 400. The first day, Sandoval struggled to complete two reps of an exercise called the inverted row. He maxed out at 26 last week.

His flexibility and range of motion vastly increased, too. Sandoval, a switch-hitter, complained of constant hip pain last season, and now acknowledges that the problems wrecked his right-handed swing. (He hit .379 from the right side in ’09 but just .227 last season.)

“It was bad, my hips,” Sandoval said. “I (couldn’t) even get through to the ball. Now I can swing hard. Now I get loose and nothing is sore.”

Sandoval received chiropractic alignments and deep-tissue rubs — what Banning called “hurt-you” massages — to correct the dysfunction in his hips. Three months ago, he couldn’t touch his fingertips to his toes. Now he palms the floor.

Sandoval now stands at a much-improved 240 pounds.  Given that he’s 5’11”, this isn’t an ideal weight- but geez, talk about an improvement.  It sounds like he’ll have a personal chef with him while he’s in San Francisco; let’s hope that he continues to eat well while on the road.  It also sounds like he’s spent some time talking to Barry Bonds about his free-swinging tendencies.  I guess you could say that one word describes his future: discipline.  If he is able to maintain a strong work ethic not only at the dinner table but show a bit more discipline at the plate, we could be looking at a reformed player.  And with his contact abilities the way they are, he could really become an elite hitter.

Productive Outs and Double Plays

The Giants added +4 runs above the league average when it came to making productive outs last season; about half a win.  The best in the Majors were the Texas Rangers at +8 runs and the worst the Milwaukee Brewers at -9 runs.  The difference between the best and worst teams at making productive outs is approximately two wins.  The Giants were -13 runs below the average at hitting into double plays, tied with the Baltimore Orioles for the worst in the Major Leagues.  The best team at avoiding them were the Tampa Bay Rays at +11 runs.  It would behoove the Giants to avoid double plays in 2011, but that might be a difficult feat- recently signed Miguel Tejada is a double play machine, and early reports of him hitting near the middle of the order have me pretty darn worried.

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