2011 Orioles Projections: Brian Roberts

The initial team projections are posted here. A more thorough walkthrough of how I put the individual ones together is in the Matt Wieters post here. The components I’m looking for are playing time (plate appearances), batting (BA/OBP/SLG), and fielding.

Today we’re looking at the longest tenured member of the Orioles; second-baseman Brian Roberts.

Playing Time:

Roberts missed a large chunk of the 2010 season due to injury, accumulating only 261 plate appearances, but in the preceding three years he was good for 700+. A middle infielder on the wrong side of 30 (he’ll turn 34 late this year) with recent history of back problems is mighty troubling though, and thinking he’ll hit the DL for at least a minimum stretch in 2011 isn’t crazy. I’m going with 575 PA, which is like missing ~35 games.

Batting:

Roberts has a 10% career walk rate, and it’s been right at that level the last couple seasons. I see no real reason to make a change there.

His career strike-out rate of 15% is a bit lower than where it’s been recently – hovering around 17.5%. A slight increase to 17.75% seems reasonable; and Roberts did post the lowest contact rate of his career last year (even if not by a lot).

It surprised me to see that Roberts is actually somewhat of a flyball hitter – or, at least, he has been in over the last four seasons. His career home run per flyball rate is 5.5%, and it’s been right around 5% in four of the last five years. Keeping it at 5% for 2011. That would give him 9 home runs.

Keeping the pattern going, Roberts’ career BABIP is .317 and it was .319 and .318 in ’10 and 09. So .317 it is. That would result in 132 non-HR hits, with 42 being doubles and 1 being a triple (though if he stays healthy enough to amass 700 PA again, he should make another run at 50+ doubles).

So now we’ve got all the components. 141 hits in 518 at bats is a .272 batting average. Add 58 walks (and a couple HBP) for a .350 on-base percentage. Slugging would be .409.

A .272/.350/.409 line would make Roberts around 2 runs above average with the bat in 2011. Maybe on an another run for his success on the base paths (80% steal rate for his career).

Fielding:

Roberts’ UZR numbers the last four years: +1.8, -2.9, -0.8, +0.8. The other fielding metrics have him as a little worse, while the Fans think he’s been above average. Between the back injury and another year of aging otherwise, I’m going to be a little more pessimistic and go with -3.5 runs (for a full season).

WAR:

Adding it up, Roberts would be at around 2 Wins Above Replacement in 2011. That is quite a bit less than 3.8 fWAR from 2009, and not too far above the 1.5 fWAR from last year, but he’s losing 5 runs defensively from ’10 to ’11 and a whole lot offensively from ’09 to ’11 (over 40 points of slugging).  There is certainly plenty of upside with Brian, but I’m really worried (perhaps somewhat irrationally) about him falling off a cliff at some point. Anyway, at this off-season’s going rate of $5 M per win, Roberts would be worth the $10 M he’s getting paid in year two of his contract extension. Unfortunately, the O’s are already a little behind due to the missed time in 2010, and things will likely go downhill in 2012-2013 in any case. If he’s able to put together, say, a 2.75 WAR season in 2011, then using a half win decline due to aging and 5% salary inflation we would get that Roberts would do well enough to make his contract end up even. I doubt it, but we’ll see.

Let me know how you think Brian Roberts will do next year here.


Stats: BB% & K%, FB%, HR/FB%, BABIP, wRAA, UZR, DRS, Total Zone, Fan Scouting Report, WAR, Aging Curves,