On adjusted projections and expectations

In today's Mug I mentioned Dan Szymborski's updated ZiPS projections, taking the first month into account and re-projecting batting lines for every player with 40 or more PAs. This seemed like as good a time as any to take a look at some hitters and where Szymborski says they're headed. The "current" numbers below are through Tuesday's games. The "projected" numbers are what is projected for the hitter for the remainder of the season, not including games before April 28.

Mike Cameron
Current OPS: 1.047
Projected OPS: .807
Difference: -.240

Certainly, Cameron's .309/.415/.632 line is more than any of us expected, and I don't think it's a major shock to see him projected to regress significantly the rest of the way. In fact, Cameron's expected dropoff is the fifth largest out of the 258 players projected. Cameron is currently on pace for 39 home runs and 54 doubles, and if he keeps that pace he could very well win the NL MVP. Even if his pace slows down a bit, Cameron has been a key factor in several Brewer wins already and is probably well worth the $10 million investment.

Bill Hall
Current OPS:
.873
Projected OPS: .768
Difference: -.105

Whether the difference is lasik surgery, getting to play every day again or simply a fresh season, Bill Hall has been a pleasant surprise in the early going, posting a .357 OBP, up from .293 in 2008. Szymborski thinks he'll have a nice season, hitting 16 more home runs to finish with 19, but expects him to go .251/.318/.449 the rest of the way, a significant decrease in all three stats.

Ryan Braun
Current OPS:
1.066
Projected OPS: .989
Difference: -.097

As recently as two weeks ago, many of us were watching Braun's struggles at the plate (.222/.340/.356 in his first 12 games) and wondering if he was being hampered by his sore intercostal muscles. In the team's last eight games, all he's done is hit .552/.667/1.000 with four home runs, tying Rickie Weeks and Mike Cameron for the team lead in home runs and  taking over the lead in OPS from Cameron. Szymborski thinks he'll regress to the mean a little, but a finish like the projection would still put his OPS at around 1.000 for the season. ZiPS also thinks he'll finish second in baseball in home runs (45) and third in RBI (133).

Corey Hart
Current OPS:
.904
Projected OPS: .824
Difference: -.080

In a poll we conducted in January, about 52% of voters thought the rest of Corey Hart's career would either mirror his full season numbers in 2008 (.268/.300/.459) or be worse. Even the 48% of us who were more optimistic probably would not have expected the level of plate discipline we've seen from Hart so far in 2009, where he's posted a .391 OBP and walked 12 times. Szymborski's projection for the rest of 2009 for Hart would give him a .333 OBP, a significant step down from his current level but also a significant improvement over past levels.

Rickie Weeks
Current OPS:
.806
Projected OPS: .771
Difference: -.035

Of the eight Brewers projected, Rickie Weeks' current numbers are the closest to his projection. Weeks went 0-for-3 with a walk Wednesday but had a six-game hitting streak prior to that, and three home runs in those six games. Szymborski doesn't think his power numbers are for real, and projects him to drop 72 points of slugging.

Prince Fielder
Current OPS:
.810
Projected OPS: .950
Difference: +.140

Fielder may only be hitting .225, but Szymborski thinks he'll lead the team in OBP (.388) the rest of the way and slug .562, second to Braun. He also projects Fielder for 38 more home runs, which would put him third in baseball behind Ryan Howard (47) and Braun (45). If Cameron declines as much as is expected, the Brewers would need a big increase in production from Fielder to keep pace.

Jason Kendall
Current OPS:
.500
Projected OPS: .655
Difference: +.155

If you're one of the approximately 10% of readers who think Kendall should play everyday, even when Rivera is healthy, here's some ammunition for you. Szymborski thinks Kendall will hit .256/.334/.321 the rest of the way, which is both better than his 2009 line to date (.173/.308/.192) and slightly improved over his full 2008 line (.246/.327/.324). Why does he think this? I have no idea. I will say this, though: you have to be hitting pretty poorly to have a .655 OPS be a 30% improvement.

J.J. Hardy
Current OPS:
.566
Projected OPS: .795
Difference: .229

While Manny Parra may be in the running for most disappointing 2009 Brewer, J.J. Hardy is in a class all by himself in the running for most disappointing position player. Hardy also got off to a slow start in 2008, though (.603 April OPS), so it could be just a bump in the road and not a sign of a more serious problem. Either way, a big jump in production from Hardy could be a major boost to a Brewer lineup that's seen him fall from second to sixth in the order.

So what do you think? Which Brewers do you expect to improve or regress in the coming months?

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