Carlos Santana: The Case of the Accurate Projections

It seems as though Carlos Santana has been all figured out. I don’t mean that opposing pitchers have figured him out — that certainly isn’t the case. While pitchers struggle to get him out, various projection systems have him absolutely pegged.

The following table is a combination of various pre-season projections as well as his final line. The accuracy is pretty remarkable.

  AB   R   RBIs   HR   SB   AVG   OBP
Bill James  532  86 91   25    4  .261  .383
ZiPS  499  80 78   22    6  .246  .361
RotoChamp  520  93 83   21    5  .267  .385
2012 Actual  507  72 76   18    4  .252  .365

Everyone give a cap tip (and a follow) to our friend Dan Szymborski. He and his system came the closest to Santana’s actual numbers, but none of the projection systems were too far off base.

The important thing to draw from this is that Santana hit close to what many thought. Though he did take a step back in the power department, his strikeouts decreased as well. Even with the dip in the slugging percentage, Santana continued to bring value with a jump in both batting average and on-base percentage.

His OBP was helped by a mere .2% increase in BB%, his 16 point jump in batting average helped buoy his OBP. The question comes down to what really caused the increase? An similar increase of 15 points of BABIP is sure to help, but that brought him up to a .278 BABIP, still 20 points below the league average. This of course could all just be statistical noise, part of the random variation that occurs when dealing in single season sample sizes, but I think there is more going on here.

There was one — admittedly quirky — statistic that Santana was very nearly at the top of, and that is F-Strike%. In all of (qualified) baseball, only Mark Teixeira had a better rate of first pitch strikes. Santana’s F-Strike% of just 50.6% meant that he basically had a coin flip scenario as to where or not the at-bat would be 0-1 or 1-0. When it went to 1-0, Santana hit .282/.435/.444. When down in the count at 0-1, he fell to .218/.301/.368. Given that the league average when ahead 1-0 in 2012 was .270/379/.443 and when behind 0-1 it was a mere .226/.265/.346, its clear that Santana was above league average in both situations.

His careful batting eye helped him get ahead in the count more often than all but one other major league player and what he did when ahead 1-0 was above average. While his power waned a bit, most of his counting numbers as well as his AVG and OBP were right in line with most of the pre-season projections. It’s hard to be disappointed in the result when you had such a clear picture from the start. Santana proved that he is a well above average hitting catcher and he figures to be an important part of any fantasy league going forward.

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5 Responses to “Carlos Santana: The Case of the Accurate Projections”

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  1. Jamie says:

    Santana suffered a concussion in late May. He was on the DL because of it, then struggled throughout the month of June. For 2013, I would expect Santana to put up numbers in line with Bill James’ 2012 projections.

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    • David Wiers says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      Even though the Bill James system tends to be a little more aggressive than what I would normally expect, I’d agree. I figure 2013 will bring counting stats (more HR, R, RBIs) like 2011 and rate stats (AVG and OBP) like 2012.

      Basically the best of both worlds.

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      • Stuck in a slump says:

        I think that Bill James’ prediction is for 2013, if not he just rehashed his 2012 projection.

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  2. DBA says:

    Looks like a bit of data mining here. Why leave out SLG, where the projections weren’t nearly as accurate? ISO down almost .050 year over year; I don’t believe that was modeled particularly accurately by any of the parties cited.

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