Is this guy for real?

The All-Star break is upon us, and if they haven’t already, teams will be re-evaluating their position relative to the league. Are they buyers? Are they sellers?

That decision depends partially on where you are in the standings, but also on what you think your players will do in the coming months. Dumb teams will assume that their players will put up similar numbers in the second half as they did in the first half. But smart teams, of course, won’t do that.

Why not? Because what a player has done this year is not his true talent level. He could be significantly better or worse, or he may be playing up to his true talent level. But performance data are just a sampling from a player’s true talent, and half a season really isn’t enough information to say Barry Zito is cooked or that Xavier Nady has become a star.

As usual, a player’s true talent level, or what we expect his performance to be going forward, can be determined by creating a projection utilizing all of his performance data—this year’s, last year’s, and even the year before that. And as I’ve focused on recently, the easiest way to do that is to run a simple Marcel projection.

Is this man the worst hitter in baseball? (Icon/SMI)

Today, I’m going to give you the tools to do that for yourself—with a major assist from Dave Studeman who helped me test and improve the initial versions. You might use it for your fantasy team or just to see if your favorite club should stick with a struggling player.

You can download a spreadsheet for pitchers here and for hitters here. Using them is simple. Download and open the spreadsheet and find the “Paste” tab. Enter your favorite player’s name and his date of birth. Then, use our handy search feature to find his THT player page. Copy the first block of stats (this works best if you use Internet Explorer), all the way back to 2004 (which is as far as we go) and paste them in the appropriate place in the “Paste” tab. The next tab, called “Quick-n-dirty Marcel hitting” (or “Quick-n-dirty Marcel pitching”) automatically computes that player’s current projection for the rest of the year and his projected 2008 totals.

Marcel has a lot of caveats. Basically, Marcel only knows three things: a player’s stats, the stats of the rest of the league, and the player’s age. Marcel doesn’t know anything about injuries, parks, minor leagues or platoon splits. But by and large, this simple system isn’t a whole lot worse than the heavy hitters like CHONE or PECOTA or ZiPS. And there’s a reason why I call them “quick-n-dirty.” The spreadsheet I made is a pretty simplistic tool. It doesn’t forecast RBI or runs—sorry fantasy gurus—and the estimated playing time is based purely on extrapolation. But it does do a pretty good job at most of the other stuff.

How good is this guy?

For example, Chipper Jones is currently hitting .373/.473/.613. That’s pretty darn good, but we all know that, good as Chipper is, he can’t keep that up. Pretty much nobody can. That’s not a reflection on Jones; it’s just the truth. His projection for the rest of the year is a still-awesome .316/.409/.553, which would put him at .346/.441/.585 at year’s end. Impressive.

What about Jose Vidro? There’s a blogospheric debate over how bad he is right now. Yes, Vidro has hit terribly this year (.214/.261/.311—yeesh!), but we can’t look only at this year’s stats. That would be dishonest. His current projection for the rest of the year is .269/.333/.374. Yeah, that’s bad, especially for a DH. No, he probably couldn’t help any team in the league, unless he could still play second base acceptably. But he’s not the stinky pile of poo that M’s fans make him out to be. He’s more like a, well, let’s say an odorless pile of poo. Still offensive, though.

And pitchers? Bay Area whipping boy Zito is sporting a 4.77 FIP. That’s not what you expect from a $120 million ace. Is he really that bad? Kind of, yeah. His projected FIP for the balance of the year is a slightly-better-but-still-not-good 4.49.

Cliff Lee has been awesome this year, posting a 2.31 ERA—and that’s a legit mark, given that his FIP is 2.37. But this is coming after years of mediocre-to-poor performance, including a brutal 5.59 FIP last year. It’s not fair to brush off this year’s hot half, but it’s not fair to ignore all of last year either. Marcel sees him posting a 3.64 FIP for the balance of the year. That’s remarkable, considering that his Marcel projection entering the year had him tabbed for a below-average 4.37 FIP going into the year.

Before I leave you, I’ll share with you what Marcel thinks the end-of-the-year leaderboards will look like (on pace for a minimum 500 PA):

Player               AVG    OBP    SLG     OPS
Pujols, Albert      .337   .451   .596   1.047
Berkman, Lance      .322   .424   .604   1.028
Jones, Chipper      .346   .443   .584   1.027
Holliday, Matt T    .331   .408   .558    .966
Rodriguez, Alex     .303   .394   .567    .962
Bradley, Milton     .300   .414   .546    .961
Burrell, Pat        .270   .399   .538    .938
Ramirez, Hanley     .311   .387   .550    .938
Utley, Chase        .293   .376   .558    .934
Uggla, Dan C        .274   .359   .553    .913

Those stats are a combination of performance already in the bank plus the Marcel projection for the balance of the year. Here’s who Marcel thinks are, at this very moment, the best hitters in the league.

Player               AVG    OBP    SLG     OPS
Pujols, Albert      .324   .427   .586   1.014
Jones, Chipper      .316   .409   .554    .964
Ortiz, David        .289   .397   .565    .963
Rodriguez, Alex     .297   .396   .560    .956
Holliday, Matt T    .322   .391   .556    .948
Berkman, Lance      .295   .400   .546    .946
Cabrera, Miguel     .317   .397   .543    .941
Howard, Ryan J      .272   .376   .560    .936
Braun, Ryan J       .304   .355   .571    .927
Wright, David A     .307   .396   .523    .919

…and the worst (among guys who’ll see significant playing time).

Player               AVG    OBP    SLG     OPS
Izturis, Cesar      .254   .311   .337    .649
Everett, Adam       .236   .288   .353    .642
Berroa, Angel       .244   .286   .350    .637
Molina, Jose        .236   .281   .349    .631
Bako, Paul          .224   .296   .328    .625
Vizquel, Omar       .239   .304   .319    .624
Cairo, Miguel       .238   .295   .329    .624
Ausmus, Brad        .229   .307   .312    .619
McDonald, John      .237   .286   .329    .615
Pena, Tony F        .239   .273   .336    .610

So go ahead, download, and enjoy!

References & Resources
PS. Xavier Nady is projected at .282/.342/.467 for the rest of the year.

How an Ace Performance Impacts Reliever Workloads
Bullpenning has its advantages, but it's great when an elite starter eats up a bunch of innings, too.

The spreadsheets are located at the following URLs:

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Michael Baranowski
Michael Baranowski

Is there an updated link to these spreadsheets? Can anyone send them to me or post updated links? Thanks!