Projecting baseball statistics is an inexact science, at best. But in March, projections are all we've got to go on.
I love baseball simulation games like Diamond Mind and Strat-O-Matic. So, when Dan Szymborski at Baseball Think Factory came out with his 2005 ZiPS Projections and made them compatible with Diamond Mind, I decided to play Ned Yost for a few days.
I managed the 2005 Crew through all 162 games using some blend of what I figure Ned's managerial strategy will be (Adams is the closer, Helms & Branyan will platoon at third, etc.) and what I think the best strategy would be (Matt Wise is the fifth starter, Krynzel as 4th OF, etc.). The results: Milwaukee goes 79-83, tied with the Astros and the Reds for 3rd, 1 game behind the Cubs and 16 games behind the Cardinals.
Sheets and Davis were stellar -- I coaxed over 240 IP and 15 wins out of both. Sheets put up Cy Young-caliber numbers, going 18-7 with a 2.74 ERA and 248 K's. Capuano stayed healthy, as he and Santos were both about league average. I got decent swing-man pitching out of Capellan, Wise, and occasionally de la Rosa.
The pen was painful to watch. By the all-star break, I had demoted Bottalico and stuck with an 11-man staff from then on. I found I couldn't trust Lehr with important innings, which was tough, as I lost my faith in Mike Adams as the closer, as well. Kieschnick pitched quite well, as did Turnbow, at times. Sheets's 10 complete games were probably the only thing that kept me from pulling all my hair out.
The offense was an odd mix of pleasant and unpleasant surprises. Eight guys hit between 12 and 24 HRs -- nobody hit more than Branyan with 24. J.J. Hardy and Junior Spivey were nice surprises with 19 apiece, and while Overbay didn't rack up the dingers, he did pile on the doubles--72 by the end of the season for a team-leading slugging average of .538. Carlos Lee was a bit disappointing: 18/87/.279/.324/.405. Jenkins and Clark both got injured in early September, which meant a few extra at-bats for Corey Hart, Dave Krynzel, and Kieschnick. Hart was solid--he hit 2 incredibly clutch pinch-hit HRs, while Krynzel was only really helpful as a pinch-runner.
This simulation, inexact and unrealistic as it may be, offers some hope. 79 wins would be quite respectable for this team. And my Diamond-Mind Brewers achieved that without a big year from Carlos, with pretty putrid numbers (a .233 AVG, .316 OBP) from Brady Clark, and a horrible bullpen. I have enough trust in Mike Maddux to get decent performances out of at least a few of Adams, Lehr, Turnbow, Wise, de la Rosa, Capellan, and Bottalico.
Perhaps most encouraging, Prince Fielder saw a little action in his September call-up, hitting .385 and slugging .538 in 16 plate appearances, including 2 doubles and 2 RBIs.
79-83, tied for third place. I'll take it. Would you?