This week we're taking a look at what some of the various forecasting systems out there have to say about the Rangers. Yesterday we took a look at the most basic of those, Marcel, and today we look at an evolution from that: CAIRO.
CAIRO -- run by the excellent Replacement Level Yankees Weblog -- uses the "everything will be the same with some regression" general idea, but improves some things. Notably, it considers ballpark, and non-Major League performances for new Major Leaguers; two things that are pretty important for the Rangers. For a full explanation, go here.
The result over the past three seasons has been possibly the best system out there (by a hair at most), particularly for projecting standings. CAIRO is also free, and comes with a full and wonderful spreadsheet of every player forecasted for you to play with. The most recent standings forecast, as well as the spreadsheet of players, can be found here.
So what does it say about the Rangers?
The first thing you'll notice is 92 wins. If you check the current poll at Baseball Time in Arlington, it looks like only a quarter of the fans polled would be satisfied with that result, but fans are optimistic; nothing wrong with that. When you compare 92 wins to the rest of the league forecast, it places them behind only the Yankees in win total; only one game ahead of the Angels, but still ahead of the Angels. More importantly, it gives the Rangers a 51% chance of winning the division, and a staggering 77% chance of at least making the playoffs (thanks to the second Wild Card). Only the Yankees and Phillies have a better shot. So nothing is said here that should be too surprising, or make anyone too upset: the Rangers look like they have perhaps the best team outside of the New York Yankees, but the Angels have made things a bit more difficult.
When we looked at individual players yesterday, the first person we checked out was Mike Napoli and his forecasted decline. CAIRO also sees a decline for Napoli, but quite so dramatic. He's forecasted to have a .397 weighted On Base Average. While that is a massive drop from .444 -- something in the range of 15 runs lost for the Rangers -- it's important to point out that .444 is outrageous, and no one is projected to approach it by CAIRO. Miguel Cabrera is their leader in wOBA with .414, and Napoli is merely fourth in the American League. Not so bad when you look at it that way, and none of them can play catcher.
Another area of interest is what the Rangers will do in centerfield. Yesterday I mentioned the value of a Craig Gentry/Julio Borbon platoon, and shortly after it came out that I'd cursed Gentry to some sort of mysterious, crippling virus. That's fun! CAIRO sees the loss of Gentry as less damaging, however. Both he and Borbon are forecasted to have the exact same .306 wOBA; .312 against platoon advantage. Instead of the good platoon offense Marcel projected, CAIRO seems more of mediocre offense. That still looks like a solid centerfielder, but bringing in a righty bat, or simply risking Josh Hamilton in center seems more reasonable if that's the case.
On the other hand, CAIRO is somewhat high on Leonys Martin, giving him a .225 wOBA, and seeing him as a roughly an average offensive centerfielder. With very little to go on, though, we shouldn't probably take that over the Rangers' internal scouting.
Though CAIRO does generally see some regression backwards from most of the hitters, it is not quite as dismal as Marcel appeared, and it actually sees some improvement from the corner outfielders (David Murphy included). Another guy showing strides here is Mitch Moreland, putting up a solid .333 wOBA in CAIRO's forecast; that is largely because it forecasts him being used in a platoon, where he has a .340 wOBA against right-handed pitching, but nonetheless that is value and improvement.
If there is anything to get excited about, it's Yu Darvish. CAIRO is extremely high on the young man, thinking his first year in the Major Leagues will not just be good, but elite. Darvish, in fact, is forecasted to be behind only Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia as the best pitcher in the American League. With 150 strikeouts to just 57 walks over 190 innings, he's given a 3.44 ERA and a 3.47 FIP. Significantly better than C.J. Wilson, by the way.
Neftali Feliz is once again still held as a reliever, but looking at his forecast, and throwing in a typical transition estimation, his projection looks like a solid-to-good starting pitcher. Take that with a grain of salt, either way.
The rest of the rotation looks fine. Derek Holland and Matt Harrison are given very slight steps back in terms of rate, but Colby Lewis is given more than enough positive regression to make up for both of them, as CAIRO sees him returning to Top of the Rotation caliber. The main issue CAIRO has with the rotation vs. 2011 is something we should already be braced for -- less health. The Rangers were incredibly fortunate in terms of health from their starters, and expecting that again in 2012 would be iffy.
Oh, and Mike Adams is projected to be the most valuable relief pitcher in all of baseball. So that's kind of neat.
Finally, if you look at the CAIRO spreadsheet, you'll see they include a Wins Above Replacement forecast, just because the creators love us. Darvish looks elite, and Colby Lewis and Alexi Ogando look like All-Stars. No position players come out quite that well, with Mike Napoli challenging all-star caliber as the leader. However, CAIRO is fairly conservative on position players in general, with Albert Pujols leading all of baseball with just 5.8 WAR. Health is the large concern keeping most players down, with Ian Kinsler, Adrian Beltre, and Josh Hamilton looking merely average. We know health is a concern, but it would probably not be too hard to see the Rangers' offensive ceiling as quite a bit higher than CAIRO does.
CAIRO also doesn't include defense, which we know to be one of the Rangers' strengths, and something that would dramatically improve players like Kinsler and Beltre.
Overall, even with that pessimism towards the position players, the CAIRO snapshot of the 2012 Rangers looks just fine. If we believe them to be overly-conservative on the offense, it looks considerably better than just fine.