Orioles Think Tank

Orioles Coverage for the Information Age

Forecasting- Brian Roberts

Posted by Mike on March 7, 2006

There is no greater cause for optimism, debate, and concern for the 2006 Orioles than Brian Roberts. That’s a lot of hats to wear for one little guy.

Baseball America‘s college ‘Freshman of the Year’ in 1997 hit his stride in 2005 as few have ever done. Roberts was the best second baseman in baseball and the best player on the Baltimore Orioles. Unfortunately, the year ended with Bubba Crosby nearly ripping his left arm off of his body- an event that could make any sort of prediction for 2006 fruitless. Early word is that Roberts is progressing nicely but may need some time on the DL in April. How inhibited he will be upon his return is anyone’s guess. This is likely the first case study of a position player coming back from what we’ll label an “arm explosion”.

All that said, what I intend to do here is analyze B-Rob’s 2005 and it’s place in his career path. Trending the data should help determine what aspects are flukey and what improvements were genuine. Moving forward, this should help us figure out what he might do in 2006 (sans the injury). Incorporating the injury into Roberts’ forecast is something I, and likely no one, is fully capable of.

Year by Year Data

Age..Year….AB……BA……OBP…..SLG…XBH….BA/BIP
23……2001….273…….253…….284………341……17………..297
24……2002….128…….227…….308………297……7………..287
25……2003….460…….270……337……….367……31……….302
26……2004….641……..273……344……….376……56………310
27……2005….561……..314…….387……….515…….70………343

No surprises- Brian Roberts improved across the board in 2005. One thing that is evident is his growing power; as in many cases, his extra base hits increased as he approached his physical peak. One word of caution, however, is that while it looks like 2004’s record amount of doubles (for a switch-hitter) were a sign of things to come, they made up over 89% of all his extra base hits. Couple this with the fact that they were in 80 more at at-bats than he had in 2005 and the extent of his power surge begins to look flukey.

His exceedingly high Batting Average on Balls In Play is another cause for concern. Speedy players can have legitimately high BA/BIP’s, but the .302 and .310 he posted in 2003 and 2004, respectively, are closer to what we can expect in the future. For the sake of argument, let’s recalculate his 2006 batting line, this time assuming a .310 BA/BIP (with equal impact distributed to 1B’s, 2B’s, and 3B’s– although, at this point, it is inconclusive as to whether or not that is the most effective way of handling BA/BIP) . We are left with the following line:

AB……BA……OBP…..SLG…XBH….BA/BIP
561…….287…….363…….478…..65……..310

Certainly that seems more in line with Roberts’ career line. Had those been his final numbers, it would have been more difficult to dismiss his gains as anything but legitmate.

With the help of Baseball Graphs, let’s take a peak at why anything beyond this batting line may have been flukey. I’m not going to republish Dave Studeman’s entire chart but you can follow this link to see the data I am drawing conclusions from in the next section.

Batted Ball Data

  • The first thing that jumps out at me is Roberts’ line drive rate. In 2005, 27% of his batted balls were classified as line drives. Despite the fact that this is not a career high (2003-30%), it should regress towards the four year AL average of 21%.
  • Roberts made another big jump in the percentage of outfield flies he converted into home runs. After matching his then career norm of 2% in 2004, he made a huge leap to the league average of 11%. That extra oomph he generated was the reason he set a career high in home runs last year. While 11% seems dramatically out of line with his career, let’s put it into context. You don’t have to scroll down on those charts any further than to Melvin Mora‘s numbers to see that a sudden jump in HR/OF can be legitimate. Plus, Roberts has clearly entered his physical peak at age 27. And, although I can’t scrounge up a link, I remember Peter Gammons reporting that the athlete’s training facility in Arizona, that Roberts attends in the offseason, declared him the hardest worker they had ever seen (pre-breakout). Even if I were reluctant to give him full credit for reaching the AL average in HR/OF, it’s probably less likely that he would fall all the way back to previous levels.

Finally, let’s take a closer look to see if there were obvious hot and/or cold streaks in 2005 that could explain his dramatic rise in production.

Month-by-Month OPS

Apr.- 1.185
May- 1.009
June- .942
July- .705
Aug.- .715
Sep.- .904

Pre All-star break – .345/.416/.591
Post All-star break- .274/.351/.419

It’s clear that Roberts’ impressive final numbers are in no small part due to a blistering start of the season. I would be reluctant to dismiss it entirely for two reasons: 1) It lasted three months, and 2) even his post ASB numbers are above his career established levels.

Unfortuantely, I would also be reluctant to dismiss the disparity created by these splits. Regardless, the player that Roberts was in the second-half of the season may not be an all-star, but he is an above-average second baseman and a capable leadoff hitter. I have little doubt that at least the post-break gains (as compared to career numbers) will carry forward.

Conclusion

I purposely prefaced this entry with my concerns about his injury because that makes forecasting an already particularly difficult player to forecast nearly impossible. That said, I’ll avoid taking the cheap way out and offer my prediction for Brian Roberts in 2006:

124 G…441AB…284 BA…360 OBP…436 SLG… 18/6:SB/CS

While Orioles fans will likely accuse me of being pessimistic with that projection, I should note that I would likely have been more optimistic than other forecasters had the injury not occured. I’ll leave you with something positive– Roberts will likely be in the running for his first Gold Glove now that Orlando Hudson has been shipped to the NL.

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9 Responses to “Forecasting- Brian Roberts”

  1. Anonymous said

    you really think roberts will miss that many games?-+

  2. No Speakz said

    I wonder how tentative B Rob will be even when his arm is supposed to be 100%. It was such a severe injury that if I put myself in his shoes, I think it would still be in the back of my mind even after trainers & docs have deemed it healed completely. As you said though these are the types of things that go along with injuries that in no way can be quantified or predicted. On another note, I will definitely be in ft. lauderdale starting on friday. Ill be around for two home games… Sunday the 12th vs. the Mets and Wed. the 15th vs. the Red Sox. If there is anything or anyone you would like me to share my opinions on I would be happy to do so. I definitely plan on arriving early to sneak a peak at BP and infield/outfield. So let me know and I will get in touch with you before Sunday. However, I am still awaiting my thinktank shirt and microphone, without which I may not be able to nail down exclusives with the high demand personnel such as Fernando Tatis and Jeff Fiorentino, AKA – “Screech”

  3. Mike said

    Anon- I have no idea, but I would bet that the majority of fans don’t realize exactly how serious his injury was.

    NoSpeakz- Email me

  4. Rob said

    Does Roberts remind anyone else of Frankie Frisch?

    Just a thought.

  5. Mike said

    Pretty good reference Rob. Frisch finished in the top ten in BA 4 times, OBP 1 time, SLG 2 times, total bases 4 times, runs 7 times, and SB 15 times. (Thank you Baseball Reference). He was a pretty good fielder to boot.

    I’d say he represents the high end of what Roberts is capable of.

  6. Geoffery said

    I think Rob is overly optimistic. I’d say Brian is more like a Kid Gleason type, adjusting for the dead ball era of course.

  7. Geoffery said

    Brian won’t win 38 games though huh Mike?

  8. Mike said

    you mean *play* in 38 games?

    That’s right, he will miss exactly 38 games.

  9. Geoffery said

    I meant win 38 games. That Kid Gleason was to pitching was what Home Run Baker was to the long ball.

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