Managing Expectations

While the season isn’t progressing as well as we would like to see there’s no reason to think everything has been a failure. With the matchup tool providing park-adjusted, regressed platoon split expectations for every plate appearance we can get an idea of whether a guy’s poor start is due to seeing unfavorable matchups or an abundance of plate appearances against good pitchers giving us a better frame of reference for how a guy has actually performed. Here’s what the team has put up through 4/26:

The columns for wOBA and wRAA use The Book’s linear weights for every plate appearance to calculate offensive output and then compare that to league average and bring in plate appearance because more good is better than less good. The columns for xwOBA and xwRAA look at these same things, but use the projected wOBA for each plate appearance and the diff column shows the difference between actual and expected wRAA. Joyce has exceeded expectations the most heavily, while Jose Molina hasn’t even come close to reaching his low bar.

This is really interesting stuff, but it doesn’t give us any sense of how these things have accrued over time. A static figure is nice, but what if a guy hit four homers the first game and has struck out every time since? To that end I’ve created timelines for each guy to compare the two figures so that we can get a sense of how each season has evolved for each guy. I’ll be using a 20-PA rolling average to smooth out some of the extremes. Let’s start with the good:

Joyce started hot and has mostly maintained with only a couple of short runs not meeting expectations. His most recent stuff has continued to come it at a high level as he’s having series long runs where his wOBA approaches .500.

James Loney has also exceeded expectations at a high level, but his run has been a bit more volatile than Joyce’s maintenance of excellence. He started close to expectations then went through a pretty prolonged slump, but the past 40 PA have all seen a very high level of production. There has been some come down in the latest run, but this is a fine example of regression to his own personal mean.

Most reviews of the Rays offseason didn’t have an extensive section on trade balance surplus candidate Ryan Hanigan, but Reds fans know what they were giving up. While the glove is very good we’re here today to talk about offense and he has excited fans over the last 5-7 games showing continuous growth. He’s not always going to hit this well as he’s in the stratosphere compared to his projections, but it sure is nice to have a catcher that can hit.

Desmond has shown some oscillation around his mean, but those peaks are fun to dream on. It’s nice to see that when he’s slumping the depths aren’t quite as low as some of the guys we’ve seen so far, but due to low overall projections and struggles with righties in the past Jennings doesn’t have a very high expectation of offense against righties, especially those that are tough on same-handers. Still, nice to see him make some hay when the sun’s shining.

Ben Zobrist combines very high expectations with even better results. Ben’s expected wOBA is .352 on the year trailing only Evan Longoria (.357) and he has continued to beat that figure nearly across the board. He has slowed down a little bit of late, but even his worst 20-PA stretches are around .300 wOBA

With only 32 PA on the year we’re looking at a pretty small sample for Sean Rodriguez, but Sean Rod has shown an ability to be a little better than what you’d expect and when he gets into a ball his peaks can go toe to toe with anybody on the team. He should be used in a strict platoon, but in limited duty so far Sean Rod has been better than you would think.

We see some real volatility here with Evan Longoria as his peaks are better than anybody, but his troughs rival Death Valley. His most recent stretch has been a bit below what you would expect around .300 wOBA, but when he’s going well there isn’t a bigger game changer on the team. Hopefully, he can get back to his prodigious ways in no time.

With only 23 PA it’s not even worth talking about Guyer, but I wanted to include him, and it looks like he has pretty much met low expectations, thus far.

The majority of the season Wil Myers has failed to live up to rather modest expectations, but man oh man, check out that spike when things were going well. Wil has disappointed a bit to date, but there’s going to be a lot of successful runs in his future and I can’t wait to tag along for the ride as he’s able to single-handedly keep this team in games.

Being one of a handful of everyday players, and on the short side of the platoon advantage, Yunel has pretty low expectations. Aside from that very wide drought early on he has mostly moved within an acceptable range around his mean. He hasn’t tempted us with extreme peaks of performance yet, but the last half of his plate appearances haven’t exactly crippled our offense, either.

Logan Forsythe is another guy that was brought in and we should expect some success against lefties, but being pressed into more normal service has kept his expectations at a lower level. So far he has been kind enough to not even meet those other than a couple of brief stretches where he played as well as you should reasonably expect. You never want to write off a guy on this small of a sample, but it sure would be nice to see him have a hot run to balance off the year-long malaise.

David DeJesus was brought back to hit righties and play a good left field. We’ll focus on the former here and you’ll see that most of the year has been an extended mess. Picture yourself tipping over a jug of liquid dish soap at the store. You don’t want to alert anyone so you start trying to clean it up, but it just pushes it around. You find a mop and start mopping it, but the water activates the soap and now there’s bubbles all over the floor. Just when you finally decide to go get help you slip on the slick surface and end up on your back in the center of it. Wet and soapy is how you find yourself wondering how you got into this latest mess. That’s David DeJesus so far, but luckily he’s trending positively. With the 5th highest wOBA projection on the team for the year he should be a positive contributor throughout the season, just do it.

Lastly, we get to Jose Molina’s abysmal clownshow where he stands at the plate and tells The Aristocrats on loop to a group of children. This is why when you ask for consistency you should also ask for consistently GOOD results. Despite the lowest expectations on the team he has failed to do anything resembling hitting. It will be interesting to see where this recent blip upward rates at the end of the year. Thank God for Ryan Hanigan.

I hope you found this beneficial. When decrying how good or bad a player has been you should keep in mind how good or bad you think they ought to be. The offense has been better than you should expect, overall, but there’s still a couple of key guys that we’re counting on to help rise the tide for all these ships. As everyone regresses to their means that means that some players will be falling down from their lofty heights so it’s doubly important that those that are trying start doing.

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About Jason Hanselman

Rays fan.
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2 Responses to Managing Expectations

  1. Pingback: Analyzing Game-to-Game Offensive Output |

  2. Pingback: Pitcher Expectations and Trends |

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