Fourth on our list of Texas Rangers forecasts is a new-comer: the Davenport Projections. It doesn't have a fancy acronym or anything yet!
It also has no previous results for us to see how accurate it is, so it is to be taken with a rather large grain of salt. Clay Davenport himself, however, had a rather large track record, as a founding member of Baseball Prospectus, perhaps the foremost expert on finding ways to translate minor league stats to the Majors, and having done some work on their popular PECOTA forecast system.
His own system uses a Marcel-like regression with different (hopefully more accurate) weights, and then ages players using comparable players from MLB history. You can find the projected standings as of Monday here, and it includes a link to spreadsheets including every player's individual stats. And you can find his playoff odds forecast here. Again, we don't know a whole lot about how reliable we should treat it, but it can be fun to look at something new.
There's another reason to look at these if you're a Rangers fan, too, and you'll see it the moment you click those links.
Well, that's just a tad exciting, huh?
If you clicked the jump instead of going to the Davenport site, then you missed a projected 100 win season on average for the 2012 Texas Rangers; winning the division by 16 games. SIXTEEN! Can you imagine if the Angels shell out ridiculous money for Albert Pujols, and in most likely his best season of the contract they lose the division by 16 games?!
That forecast is the best record of any team by seven wins (ahead of the Yankees). The Yankees' 93 win forecast is more typical of a projection system for a good team. Teams are pegged to their mean performance, not a high end of an extreme. You don't usually -- or ever -- see teams pegged with a mean of 100 wins. Davenport thinks the Rangers are the best team in baseball by a mile, and that would put their floor somewhere at "merely in contention" and their ceiling at about "historically great."
The playoff odds give them an 85% chance of winning the division, and that's prior to an update that gave them 100 wins. The total playoff odds come out to 93%, the kind of odds you hope to get late in the season, not before a pitch has been thrown. Good heavens I hope he's on to something the rest of the models are not.
This is by far the smallest expected regression seen yet out of Mike Napoli. Davenport has the Rangers only scoring about 10 fewer runs in 2012 on account of Napoli. It does not, however, see Napoli as the team's best hitter. That title, rather, goes to Josh Hamilton.
Davenport is also pretty high on the platoon of Craig Gentry and Julio Borbon, seeing that combination as nearly an all-star player given good defense. Leonys Martin is also seen as a slightly better option than Borbon, though once again that cannot be with much confidence.
Despite the optimistic win total, however, the position players are not particularly great here. There are not any significant bounce back candidates on the list -- not even Mitch Moreland. Like just about everyone else should, Davenport expects the Rangers to take a step back offensively. However, it doesn't expect as large a step back as some of the other forecasts do. The position players seem like a few All-Stars (Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler), some good, a lot of solid, and black holes at either catcher or first base/designated hitter, depending on where Napoli is playing that day. That's just fine, it's not as good as 2011, but it's still a good lineup. With some good pitching, that's a very good team.
Davenport thinks "good pitching" is an under sell. With 164 strikeouts, 58 walks, and a 3.56 ERA over 203 innings pitched, Darvish comes out as the third best pitcher in the American League, continuing a trend of forecasts liking the Japanese import a lot. This has been mentioned before, but systems were pretty high on Colby Lewis, too, and he outperformed them; there is an inspiring precedent here.
Lewis, by the way, comes out as the second best pitcher, just barely over Neftali Feliz. Feliz, however, only loses out due to fewer innings (189 to 165). Feliz's 144 strikeouts to 69 walks peg him as a solid No. 2 starter -- very nice for a first-year starter in a projection system -- with a 3.79 ERA.
Like every system, Matt Harrison and Derek Holland are both seen as candidates to take a step back, but they still both come out looking like middle of the order starters. That may not sound fantastic, but when your worst starter is a guy who could be a No. 3 on most teams (Holland is still a top 80 pitcher in baseball by WARP in the forecast), you have a very good rotation. Davenport sees the Rangers as matching up favorably on the mound against the typical team in any five game set, especially after the first two spots.
There's also the matter of the bullpen, where Davenport thinks the Rangers have the two best relievers in the entirety of baseball in 2012, in Mike Adams and Koji Uehara. It's by a negligible amount, but -- like ZiPS -- Davenport actually has Uehara as the better pitcher of the two. Complimenting them, Yoshinori Tateyama comes out as a solid reliever, and Joe Nathan comes out useful. The trend of Nathan looking nowhere close to the best in the bullpen continues, so that may make some early games scary, but we will have to see. Of course, there is also Alexi Ogando, projected to be good enough to make the Rangers' rotation, let alone help their bullpen.
And that is where you get a 100 win forecast. Davenport has the Rangers total pitching performance behind only the vaunted Phillies -- who don't have to face a DH -- and that's more than enough to compliment a good position player group.
Again, we know little about how the Davenport forecasts will look in seven months, but at the very least it's a nice boost of optimism to go with your lunch today.