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Projecting Justin Morneau

Justin Morneau is one of the most difficult hitters to project. PECOTA projects him regressing from his .271/.342/.492/834 of last year, which seems odd considering that he put up a .321/.367/.559/926 line in 2006 and he'll still only be 27 in May. One would think Morneau would improve in 2008 considering that he's still entering his prime.

PECOTA compares him to Kent Hrbek and Boog Powell, who regressed in their 27-year-old years. Hence the low projection. My preliminary projection is that he'll split the difference between his 2006 and 2007 years. So my job seems to be to show how he's different from Kent Hrbek and Boog Powell.

The one obvious thing is conditioning. Neither Hrbek nor Powell ever worked out in the offseason, unless you consider all the 12 oz curls working out. While Morneau has been known to enjoy a barley pop now and then (he is Canadian after all), he is a compulsive worker. And it shows. Morneau is one lean mass of elastic muscle. The closest thing Hrbek and Powell came to elastic was their bellies hanging over their shorts.

Prior to this progression exercise, I took PECOTA at its word that Hrbek regressed going into his 27 year. The reality is, he did not. In fact, I would take his .285/.389/.545/934 line with 34 homers from Morneau in a heartbeat. Interestingly enough, Hrbek hit .267/.353/.478/831 in his 26-year-old year. That's eerily similar to Morneau's 26-year-old year. So I am clueless why PECOTA would project regression if Hrbek is the best comp.

It's hard to imagine Boog Powell even being a good comp for Morneau. In his 25-year-old year (the year Morneau won the MVP), he hit .234/.324/.366/690 with 13 homers. In his 26-year-old year, he hit .249/.338/.411/749 with 22 homers, not even Morneau like in a down year. But even if you assume a good comp, Powell hit .304/.383/.559/942 with 37 homers in his 27-year-old year. That's a line we all would droll over if Morneau were able to do it.

OK, now I'm really puzzled. If PECOTA averages Powell and Hrbek comps, Morneau's line should be .290/.390/.550/940, not the measley 806 OPS it does project. Both Powell and Hrbek came into their own when you would expect them to, just as they entered their prime years. If they are Morneau comps, he should also come into his own entering his 27-year-old season.

I do think Hrbek is a good comp, except for the conditioning part, which favors Morneau, and the walks, which favors Hrbek. So rather than splitting the difference between his 2006 and 2007 years, I'm projecting closer to Hrbek's 27-year-old year, with a lower OBP. Here's my projection:

G:150  PA:580 AB:480 H:140 2B:20 3B:1 HR:34 BB:60  SO:90 .291/.344/.550/894


Morneau's 2008 OPS

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