2012 Texas Rangers Projections: Steamer

The last forecast we are taking an in-depth look at this week is Steamer.

Steamer is operated by a high school statistics professor and two of his former students. They show an intense interest in finding anything other forecast systems do well, things they could do better, and then incorporating them in to their forecast, creating steady improvement.

The result the past two seasons has been the king of forecasting pitching performances. A large part of this is that Steamer uses pitcher handedness and velocity in their projections -- to my knowledge, they are the only system that does this. You can see how that approach worked for them in 2010 and 2011. Steamer is still good on position players, but pitchers are where it shines.

So that is what makes Steamer awesome. You can get the spreadsheets for hitters and pitchers here. You can also find Steamer projections on every player page on FanGraphs.

Now on to what Steamer has to say about the Rangers.

Steamer, like the rest, is down on Mike Napoli continuing his explosive 2011 performance. Their .268/.357/.527 slash line with 29 home runs comes out to a .378 weighted On Base Average. Beyond that, it gives Napoli 100 more plate appearances than he had in 2011, but the result is still around 15 fewer runs created for the Rangers.

Steamer is very high, however, on Josh Hamilton improving in 2012. They give him roughly the same line as Napoli, but from the less advantageous side of the plate in Arlington, his wOBA comes out to .384. There is no increase in health, but Steamer's improvement seen in Hamilton makes up for most of Steamer's projected decline in Napoli. (As a quick note, these wOBA numbers don't quite match up with FanGraphs, because FanGraphs does not do hand-specific park adjustments.)

The rest of that difference is made up by Nelson Cruz also improving to a season more like his 2009 breakout, with improved health. The two corner outfielders alone are enough to make up for Mike Napoli's regression in the Steamer projections.

Steamer is ultra positive on Ian Kinsler repeating his 2011 performance, with the same offense and only slightly less health, it sees him again as one of the best players in baseball. His middle infield partner Elvis Andrus is also given pretty much a repeat of his season before, which is just fine and dandy. There is the typical expected regression of Michael Young and Adrian Beltre, but nothing too bad, and Beltre makes up for most of it with a vast improvement in PAs. Steamer sees massive growth from Mitch Moreland, however. A wOBA over .340 -- which both I and FanGraphs come up with from Steamer -- would make him an adequate every day player, or an excellent platoon option against right handed pitching.

Then there is, of course, the centerfield situation. Steamer believes in Leonys Martin as being a well above-average bat, which would be more than enough given his defensive reputation. That is, again, on such limited information, however, we should cede to the Rangers' best judgement. Steamer thinks Julio Borbon can approach average, but is not so high on Gentry. The platoon of the two would still come out fine here, but less ambitious than in other forecasts. Steamer thinks David Murphy will look more like his first two years in the league, which may not be great, but given how down it is on the other options and how high it is on Hamilton, the best course of action from these numbers might be risking Hamilton's health a bit -- and taking a hit on defense -- to put out the best hitting outfield possible.

Overall, Steamer comes out very, very high on the position players. As I said, though, its strength is on pitchers, and with that in mind, here is the no-nonsense list of how the rotation options fare.

Pitcher

IP

K/9

BB/9

HR/9

ERA

FIP

Colby Lewis

182

7.42

2.49

1.3

3.92

4.22

Derek Holland

180

7.42

3.23

1.0

3.99

4.00

Yu Darvish

169.1

7.4

2.9

1.1

4.01

3.84

Alexi Ogando

92

7.23

2.8

1.2

3.92

4.13

Matt Harrison

178

6.18

3.24

1.0

4.38

4.19

Scott Feldman

96

5.25

2.84

1.0

4.53

4.43

Neftali Feliz

136

7.4

4.1

1.3

4.33

4.43

So Steamer is not necessarily that high on the Rangers' rotation, at least not compared to other forecasts. The result is still a good rotation, just not as good as 2011. Holland stays roughly the same to become the best pitcher in the rotation, and Lewis takes a step forward. Both here look somewhat like competent No. 2 starters, while Harrison takes a mighty step backward. It's worth nothing that, while Steamer is down on Darvish from an ERA standpoint, his FIP does not come out too far behind other forecasts, and from that standpoint he would be able to hit TORP territory with more innings.

The Feliz transition may be uninspiring here, but that's still a decent middle of the order starter if he gets a bigger work load. That is the very worst in this rotation, too. This rotation forecast may be a little bit of a buzzkill, but it's not exactly bad, either. It's a good, deep rotation for regular season success, and if just one of these young pitchers were to take a step forward you'd probably be just fine for the postseason, as well.

Unlike some of the other forecasts, Steamer is down on the Joe Nathan signing, thinking him a great closer in a good bullpen.

Given how high Steamer is on the Rangers' position players, this still looks like a very good team overall. There may be some concern raised in the pitching ranks, but that doesn't mean it's worth panicking.

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