Ben Lindbergh of Baseball Prospectus penned an article yesterday outlining 10 players that their proprietary projection system, PECOTA, predicted would decline in 2013. Two Washington Nationals, Gio Gonzalez and Adam LaRoche, were included in the list.
Here’s what they had to say about each:
“LaRoche's lifetime stats paint a perfect picture of a league-average first baseman. He's been better than that in some seasons, including his stellar 2012, but career years at age 32 are rarely repeated. LaRoche's clubhouse leadership might make him more valuable to the Nationals, but not to your fantasy team.”
“Gonzalez continued to make strides in 2012, but as much as his breakout was supported by positive indicators like a fifth straight season with a lower walk rate than the one before, it was also aided by balls in play bouncing his way. Gio's HR/FB rate was the lowest of any qualified pitcher's, and his BABIP was 12th-lowest. There's no reason why he can't continue to pitch at a high level, but if PECOTA's projection proves accurate, he won't be contending for another Cy Young Award this season.”
While it’s disappointing to see two of the Nats key cogs on this list, it’s not entirely surprising. LaRoche had a career year in 2013 at the age of 32, while finishing in the top 25 in MVP voting, earning a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award all for the first time in his career. LaRoche has always been labeled with the tag of “Good not Great” and it’s not surprising that a computer would project his return to the norm.
Gonzalez also had a career year last year but his case is obviously a little different. Gio is just 26, so some, including myself, would argue that his stellar 21 win, 2.89 ERA performance of 2012 was a result of him entering his prime years of production. I doubt that BP would disagree with that assessment either, but the computer looks at indicating factors such as stats that are attributed to “luck” and they believe that Gio simply got lucky last year.
Only time will tell with either of these players, but it is important to note that of the other eight players on the list, five were All-Stars and one (Mike Trout) was an MVP candidate. To me this asserts that this list was much more of a reasonable and conservative algorithm making predictions that numbers would return to earth rather than a bid of no-confidence.
For LaRoche, PECOTA predicts: 251/.320/.446 (1.5 WARP)
For Gonzalez, PECOTA predicts: 3.67 ERA, 8.6 K/9 (2.4WARP)
What do you expect from these two?
I think they were probably more negative then necessary on Gio, who (as you mentioned) has seen improving K/9 and BB/9 rates throughout his career. Although he's probably not gonna keep the HR/9 rate that low, I'm not sure his BABIP was really crazy (keep in mind, he generates a ton of crappy swings from his curveball) and so I think somewhere around a 3.2-3.4 ERA is a better fit. But then again, who really knows!
That seems overly pessimistic. Of the two I think LaRoche is far less likely to equal last year, but neither do I think he will be much worse. Gio will probably come closer to repeating, although I don't expect 21 again.
@TheNatsBlog Laroche's bat is a bonus. He makes the entire infield better. That and his leadership in the clubhouse are his biggest perks.
@TheNatsBlog That would be awesome. Whatever regression Gio shows is hopefully picked up by Stras/Zimm. Get this season started!