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Collette Calls: The Pace Game

Jason Collette

Jason Collette

Jason has been helping fantasy owners since 1999 at RotoJunkie, Fanball, Baseball Prospectus and now here at RotoWire. He covers the Tampa Bay Rays at theprocessreport.net. You can hear Jason weekly on many of the Sirius/XM Fantasy channel offerings throughout the season as well as on the Towers of Power Baseball Hour Podcast on iTunes. He was selected as the Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year by FSWA in 2013.

Throughout the 2013 draft season, we all combed through projections looking at what players would be in the coming season according to the braintrust here at One RotoWire Place. Keep in mind, the best projection systems have somewhat around a 35 percent miss rate, which doubles if you consider anything that is not an even match as a miss.

At this point of the season, the sample sizes are still too small to do any meaningful analysis on what is real or what is a house of cards for hitters and pitchers. Nearly one year ago to the day, I penned a piece about minor league hitters off to red hot or ice cold starts. A few of those names, Tony Campana, Anthony Rizzo, and Starling Marte, made differences in leagues last season while Evan Gattis started to get his name on the board so owners who picked him up on a hunch in keeper leagues last season are enjoying the fruits of their labor so far in 2013.

What I would like to do today is play the pace game. We hear announcers and radio people joke about player X is on pace to hit Y homers or steal Z bases. The totals are fun to listen to, but somewhat depressing when you compare them to the player projections. If a player was projected to hit 22 home runs but is on a pace to hit 44 of them, if should force you to review the skills and the player’s history and decide what your comfort level is with said player moving forward.

With that said, here are some of the paces select hitters are on in 2013 compared to their projections.

Nate McLouth

Projections: .231 average, 53 runs, 10 home runs, 12 steals, 53 runs
Actual: .302 average, 16 runs, 0 home runs, 7 steals, 16 runs
Pace: .302 average, 118 runs, 0 home runs, 52 steals, 118 runs

Even in his best seasons, McLouth has never hit over .276. He has scored more than 90 runs just once in his career and has never stolen more than 23 bases. He is 31 years old, so this type of speed breakout would be rather unprecedented. He is scoring a lot of runs because he is doing an excellent job of getting on base with an 18 percent walk rate which allows him to score when Chris Davis is doing what he is doing. His current BABIP is .345, which is is 65 points above his career norm. That may come down but if he can hold this walk rate, and he has always had a good eye, he should safely exceed his projected runs and steal totals – just not at the current pace.

Shin-Soo Choo

Projections: .281 average, 84 runs, 17 home runs, 22 steals, 73 RBI
Actual: .378 average, 18 runs, 3 home runs, 2 steals, 9 RBI
Pace: .378 average, 127 runs, 21 home runs, 14 steals, 63 RBI

Choo's current on-base percentage is an incredible .523. The reason he has not scored even more runs is that Zack Cozart is not hitting well behind him. Choo's increase in his OBP is two fold - he is walking 14 percent of the time and he has already been hit with 10 pitches this season when his career high in that category is 17 back in the 2009 season. He has always been an OBP monster but this is crazy. Still, 100 runs should be easily attainable if he can avoid injury.

Justin Upton

Projections: .294 average, 106 runs, 28 home runs, 22 steals, 93 RBI
Actual: .316 average, 19 runs, 11 home runs, 2 steals, 16 RBI
Pace: .316 average, 147 runs, 85 home runs, 15 steals, 123 RBI

I felt our projections were on the optimistic side for Upton but his current pace is ridiculous. We have recently seen players such as Mark Reynolds, Trevor Plouffe, and Chris Davis go on power binges, but Upton is hitting them frequently and quite far when he does connect. With the head start he has, he has a legitimate shot at 40 home runs, which is half of his current pace.

Jason Kipnis

Projections: .271 average, 96 runs, 17 home runs, 25 steals, 81 RBI
Actual: .170 average, 3 runs, 0 HR, 4 steals, 3 RBI
Pace: .170 average, 23 runs, 0 HR, 31 steals, 23 RBI

Kipnis has not been 100 percent health-wise and it is showing up in his statline. The good news is that when he is getting on base, Terry Francona is letting his fellow Arizona State alum run. As Kipnis gets healthy, that bears watching because he could end up being a sneaky 30-steal source which will somewhat help offset the lost power so far.

Adam Dunn

Projections: .202 average, 74 runs, 35 home runs, 202 strikeouts, 87 RBI
Actual: .108 average, 8 runs, 4 home runs, 28 strikeouts, 8 RBI
Pace: .108 average, 62 runs, 31 home runs, 216 strikeouts, 62 RBI

Well, at least he is on pace to hit 30 home runs again, right? If you have watched him play, you know he looks as lost as ever at the plate as he swings and misses while waiting to pounce on a mistake such as the one he got from Jeremy Hellickson on Thursday night. I cannot be the only one who thinks Dunn may not be in the major leagues in 2014, am I? He is headed down the Dave Kingman path towards retirement.

B.J. Upton

Projections: .252 average, 89 runs, 28 home runs, 155 strikeouts, 36 steals, 84 RBI
Actual: .150 average, 6 runs, 3 home runs, 27 strikeouts, 3 steals, 5 RBI
Pace: .150 average, 46 runs, 23 home runs, 208 strikeouts, 23 steals, 39 RBI

While the younger Upton is hitting everything in sight, the older sibling is once again wasting opportunities. Upton could easily be one of the league leaders in runs scored at this point if he could simply get on base, but a 30 percent strikeout rate and a .176 BABIP are preventing him from doing so. Upton is notorious for slumps and second-half production so this would be an excellent opportunity to kick the tires on him as he could still be a 20/20 player at season’s end but the 30/30 dreams that myself and others had in mind appear to be very unlikely.

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