Friday, April 29, 2005

 

Surprising Starts

Much as my colleague did an article on interesting starts, I find myself engrossed in a similar endeavor, on a different end of the spectrum. Let's take a look at a few players off to extremely surprising starts over the next week. Today I'm going to start with arguably the biggest surprise of both leagues:

Brian Roberts 2B-BAL

By now, if you haven't been living under a rock, and know what a baseball is, you've heard that Brian Roberts is playing so far above his head that he may actually be playing in the stratosphere. After comparing the stats and looking at the trends, the only reasonable conclusion I can come to is that God plays fantasy baseball, and after he lost out on Chase Utley to the Archangel Gabriel, he was forced to take Brian Roberts and work a little magic.

May 2003 (DNP April) .310/.408/.548/2 Steals 2 HR, 11 RBIs
Apirl 2004 .305/.356/.421/7 steals 1 HR, 8 RBIs
Apirl 2005 .368/.450/.713 9 Steals, 7 HR, 23 RBIs

Surpring trend here as we look at his first month stats. With lines like this, you'd think we would have been hearing the Brian Roberts is the most underrated player in baseball story one or even 2 years ago. So why is this year any different?

2003 Stats
May
.310/.408/.548/2 Steals 2 HR, 11 RBIs
June .276/.328/.362 7 Steals 1 HR, 6 RBIs
July
.267/.359/.344 8 Steals 0 HR, 8 RBIs
August .244/.301/.325 3 Steals 2 HR, 9 RBIs
September .281/.337/.371 3 Steals 0 HR, 7 RBIs

Season
20.4 VORP (Just above Marlon Anderson (19.0 VORP) .270/.325/.376)
.097 ISO
.261 EqA (This puts him right on par with Scott Hatteberg)

2004 Stats
April
.305/.356/.421/7 steals 1 HR, 8 RBIs
May .235/.318/.306/11 Steals 0 HR, 6 RBIs
June .236/.325/.321 4 Steals 1 HR, 14 RBIs
July
.279/.342/.385 3 Steals 0 HR, 2 RBIs
August .346/.432/.439 1 Steals 0 HR, 10 RBIs
September .246/.296/.386 1 Steals 2 HR, 12 RBIs

Season
22.2 VORP (Ties him exactly with Miguel Cairo(.292/.336/.417)

.103 ISO
.261 EqA (Putting him on pace with Mark Grudzielanek at .263)

2005
VORP 20.7 (This puts him second in all of baseball behind Derrek Lee)
ISO .345
.373 EqA (This puts him 5th in baseball behind Derrek Lee, Chipper Jones, Jacque Jones, and Adam Dunn)

I don't think anyone needs my analysis to see that Roberts traditionally hits well at the beginning of the year, but something seems different this year. His rank of second in baseball in VORP would put him in line in terms of VORP with Albert Pujols, who finished second last year behind Barry Bonds. Read that again, and look at his 2003 and 2004 comparisons, where I'm pairing him with Scott Hatteberg and Miguel Cairo, not best player in the baseball not named Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols!

So the question is, can Roberts keep it up? All signs point to no, but he's never had a month as big as his April this year. In fact, he's already bested his career mark in homeruns (5) with 7 already. In April alone he's already halfway toward his career RBI mark (53) with his 23 now.

What do I think? I think it all depends on the next month. Look at his 2003 and 2004 stats for his second month of play (being June for 2003, and May for 2004). They are both HUGE dropoffs from where his first month numbers were, and the rest of the year tends to follow suit (with August 2004 being the outlier). I think if Roberts can pull together a second straight month of solid baseball, and I think he will, this could finally be his breakout season.

However, I don't see him finishing on the pace that he's on, but if he can string that second straight successful month together, I don't see something like .290/35HRs/95RBIs/45SBs being out of the question, and for a second basemen, those numbers would be absolutely phenomenal, and probably put him above Soriano in terms of draft position next year, since plate patience actually means SOMETHING to Roberts, as opposed to Soriano, who would swing at a fastball thrown by a polar bear.

Of course, it's entirely possible this is just Roberts's normal hot start, and he's going to cool off as he always does, in which case I'd put him around .270/15HRs/55RBIs/30SBs, which would probably make him a top 10 pick at his position, if for no other reason than the stolen bases at a thin position.

So let's play it safe, and make a conservative prediction from both schools of thought.
.280/25HRs/75RBIs/37SBs, which probably makes him a top 5 second basemen.

Only time will tell, but it's going to be an uphill battle for Brian Roberts to prove that he's not a first month wonder once again. He just better hope God doesn't sell him while his value is high for some help at starting pitching..

Comments:
I'm feeling 17 homeruns at the very, very most...and next year he returns to earth like Erstad and Renteria...outliers are fine though; just ask Wonder Neifi.
 
Remember April 2000, with another Oriole middle infielder: Mike Bordick? That April he hit .352/.365/.682 where he was leading the AL in rbis with almosts 30. He ended up hitting .273/.336/.400 from May on with the Orioles, then the Mets,(where the Mets gave up Melvin Mora.)

My prediction: Roberts will 20 homeruns and drive in 80 (the totals as Bordick in 2000)
 
Interesting comparison wtih Bordick, but Roberts showed extra-base power last year...there were signs of improvement from Roberts (50 doubles), where for Bordick, it was just flukish. I think Bordick was like 34 back then, too... Roberts is only 27.

I don't think it'll keep up, either, but I'm not expecting a Bordick-esque drop.
 
I like the 20 homeruns and 80 RBIs, you'll see both very close to my estimates. Of course, with 7 HRs already, he could hit 3 a month for the next 5 months and come close to our predictions, which is why I made them so conservatively.

As I said, I don't see him dropping off, I just see pitchers beginning to respect him, and the meatballs stopping.
 
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