I won't be going through every single projection, because some of them aren't as interesting or relevant as others...which just means I'll leave out Eddie Guardado and Dennys Reyes. We'll cruise through the pitchers tonight, and then after we kick off the SB Nation yearly awards tomorrow afternoon, we'll get to the hitters tomorrow night.
Nothing seems too unrealistic with James' expectations here, which is what I expect to find as I roll through his projections. I do think Baker will top 200 innings for the first time in his career in '09, his strikeout rates will hopefully stay closer to where they were this past season, and hopefully the ball bounces his way and he can post a better than .500 record for the year, but in general this is a pretty fair forecast. Francisco Liriano will be "the talented one" that will see his successes fawned over, but it's Baker who, at just 27, will be the ipso-facto leader of the rotation.
James clearly expects Liriano's trajectory, at least for 2009, to continue to be on the rise. While Cisco's throwing motion still makes me cringe a little on the inside (I've trained the outside to keep from shuddering), and we all know he isn't the burner of '06, his performance over the last two months of 2008 were encouraging: 11 starts, 55.2 innings, 60 strikeouts, 19 walks, 59 hits and a 3.23 ERA. Making 28 starts is a pretty safe prediction, and going 166 innings puts him on a pace to average just under six innings a start...once again, at a level that can be expected. If Liriano can duplicate James' forecast, I think it'll be a very good year for him.
This one turned out to be a better projection than I anticipated. James clearly likes Slowey, or at least pitchers like him. Better strikeout rates, a bit better control of the longball, what looks like a clean bill of health and not a great deal of base runners; all things that should point to a pretty effective year. There's no doubt that Kevin is a talented pitcher, and I'm certainly looking forward to seeing him have a good season in '09, so if this is the year in store for him then I'll be very happy.
James expects, basically, a duplication of '08 for Blackburn next year. Everything stays on a pretty even keel, perhaps a sign of Nick's consistency and definitely a sign of the pitcher profile he embodies, with the "biggest" change being a slight regression to the mean in ERA. For a pitcher who allows as many base runners as Blackburn, a low-4's ERA will be difficult to maintain, but his makeup will always keep him from imploding. That's a big positive, especially when moving into the back end of the rotation. He's durable, affordable, and he can be effective.
There are some improvements here, with a significant bump in strikeouts. The slight dip in hits is off-set by the walks, but in the end James basically expects Perkins to have a pretty similar year to what we just saw. While the ERA will be higher, on its own that won't be an indicator as to whether Perk will be any more or less effective. He's hittable and allows baserunners, and in general I think James makes a pretty realistic projection here.
Boof Bonser has been on the bad end of the stick in regards to luck the last few years, sure, but that doesn't mean he's been a good pitcher. Still, his FIP for this last year was a manageable 4.26, and that's a far cry from the 5.93 ERA. James expects Boof's performance indicators to more accurately reflect his performance next season, but to meet those forecasts he'll have to improve on one thing: stranding base runners. Go get 'em, Boofster.
After a very successful opening campaign with the Twins, it's likely Breslow will take a more prominent role in the '09 incarnation of the bullpen. James sees him getting a bit more hittable and he allows a few more runs, but in general Breslow is forecasted to remain a reliable and effective southpaw reliever. I have to concur.
If asked which of these lines would create the most accurate picture of what kind of a pitcher Matt Guerrier would be, it'd have to be the third line. At 30, and with his stuff, Guerrier isn't likely to recapture the glories of '05 - '07, but James still paints a picture of a very busy and moderately effective bullpen arm. There are still a lot of appearances, even though the innings are down, but it's a forecast I could buy into. Eventually I'll get to my predictions for next season, and I can see myself being a bit more pessimistic in regards to Guerrier than James, but he's a smarter man than I.
Crain had a pretty good comeback season with the Twins, and while James doesn't exactly tell us he's having a bad year in '09, he is telling us he won't be the shut-down reliever we'd like him to be. James sees the strikeouts regressing again. It spite of this the base runners are kept reasonable and Crain looks like he's put together a solid season, but this doesn't make him the reliable set-up arm the Twins are looking for.
Joe Nathan having another Joe Nathan season. Yawn. James doesn't expect Nathan to start regressing, at least not yet, and projects him to have another good year...just like every other year he's had since coming to Minnesota.
Overall there aren't any real controversial forecasts one way or the other, but that's the whole point. Zips, Baseball Prospectus, Chone, Bill James...they all use their own formulas/guesses to express how a pitcher will do, and they're always in line with age, career history, and the career histories of players similar to them.
That doesn't mean you have to agree. How would you rate James' forecasts for Twins pitchers in '09?