It’s projection time! Welcome to the first edition of the 2013 Pod Projections. Last year I started the Pod Projection series and in it, I explained the process behind my projections of the five fantasy categories for various players who were most interesting. I included an introduction that described the process in a general sense, so refresh your memory by checking it out again.

As usual, this year I am incorporating some new data into my projections. Every year I typically learn something new, whether it’s a formula or a new metric to analyze. This time it’s our own Jeff Zimmerman’s site and the batted ball distance data. Although full-blown studies have yet to be performed, I’m fairly confident that it will prove to be a fantastic data set to predict breakouts and busts when projecting power.

I decided to start this season’s series with Carlos Gomez. RotoGrapher Howard Bender analyzed Gomez through the lens of ADP yesterday. After checking out the Bill James and Fans projections, it is clear that nobody has a clue how much playing time Gomez will receive, let alone how much of that power spike was for real. So he makes for an interesting choice for a first projection indeed.

**At-Bats: 525**

With Nyjer Morgan now gone, the Brewers have no obvious candidates to steal center field at-bats. And since Gomez has always been an excellent fielder and may even contribute positively from an offensive standpoint as well, the Brewers might very well be happy with their lack of depth. But given that he has only seen 500 at-bats once, which came back in 2007, I have to hedge a bit. Furthermore, he is likely to hit seventh with limited opportunity to move up in the order, which will cap his at-bat potential.

**Contact Rate: 75%** *(a reminder, this is [at-bats – strikeouts] / at-bats, which differs from FG’s K%)*

Last season Gomez posted a 76% rate and the year before 72%. He has always been in the mid-70%’s in the Majors. Gomez’s SwStk% set a career high, but that didn’t lead to a dive in contact rate. I am projecting a slight regression just given his history.

**GB%/LD%/FB%: 42%/17%/41%**

These rates differ a bit from Gomez’s career averages. Over the last two seasons, he jacked his fly ball rate up to between 43% and 44% after typically living in the mid-to-high 30% range. Since batted ball distributions are fairly stable, this appears to be a conscious change in approach. This is especially true since it has gone hand in hand with a surge in power. Over the second half of the year, his FB% fell back to 41%, so given the small chance he does revert back to his higher ground ball ways, I am projecting his full season rate equal to that second half mark.

**BABIP: .300**

The two expected BABIP formulas I use spit out .314 and .328, but they have their flaws and I favor a veteran’s actual BABIP history. Gomez hits a below average rate of line drives and too many pop-ups. He also hits more fly balls than grounders. All of these factors should negatively affect his BABIP projection. His career mark sits at .303, but he’s hitting more fly balls now. Only his speed and power save him from a below .300 BABIP projection.

**HR/FB Ratio: 12%**

This is probably the projection that will spur the most debate. Before 2011, Gomez was your typical weak speedster, never posting an ISO above .110 or HR/FB ratio above 7.1%. But then something happened in 2011 and his power spiked. That carried over, and then some, into 2012. But get this — his average fly ball plus home run distance has been 288 feet the last two seasons, a jump from the 274 feet he posted in 2010.

The league average distance is around 273 feet, so this data tells me that his bat is now legitimately packing a wallop. What contributed to this power spike, I don’t know, but it appears to be completely for real. Of course, that doesn’t mean I can project a repeat 14% HR/FB rate, but a 12% mark is still likely well above any other projection.

**RBI and Runs: 60 and 75**

As mentioned earlier, Gomez is currently expected to hit seventh in the Brewers lineup. He hit there at the end of last season and given the rest of the Brewers order, it doesn’t appear that he has any real chance to move up aside from an injury. These projections are a bit higher than what he posted last year to adjust for the additional at-bats. But last year, he hit first or second nearly half his at-bats, so with weaker hitters behind him this time, his run projection doesn’t increase as much.

**SBs: 35**

Besides running frequently, Gomez has been an excellent base stealer, succeeding 80% of the time in his career. Last season, though, he posted an 86% success rate. I don’t think he will be that successful again, so despite the additional at-bats, I am projecting a slight decline in stolen base totals. In addition, over his career he has stolen 35 bases per 525 at-bats. This was a complete coincidence though that it equaled my projection exactly, because I didn’t calculate that until just before typing that sentence! The projection itself was done a week ago.

Below is my final projected batting line, along with Bill James and Fans projections for comparison.

System | AB | AVG | HR | RBI | R | SB | CT% | BABIP | HR/FB | GB%/LD%/FB% |
---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|

Pod | 525 | 0.251 | 19 | 60 | 75 | 35 | 75% | 0.300 | 12% | 42%/17%/41% |

Bill James | 351 | 0.251 | 11 | 38 | 55 | 27 | 76% | 0.302 | ? | ? |

Bill James prorated to 525 ABs | 525 | 16 | 57 | 82 | 40 | ? | ? | |||

Fans (18) | 501 | 0.252 | 14 | 53 | 50 | 28 | 77% | 0.298 | ? | ? |

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**Decide who I should publish a Pod Projection for! Tell me in the comments which hitter you want to see and whoever gets named most will become the subject of the next post.**