With more than three months remaining until opening day, and 52 more days until Dodgers pitchers and catchers report to spring training at Camelback Ranch, we are stuck with pockets of down time for much of the next several weeks, such as now in between Christmas and New Year's Day.
So it's a good thing the 2015 edition of the annual Bill James Handbook is out, which I picked up last week. There are several morsels of information throughout the book, like the Dodgers were 22-for-38 in instant replay challenges in 2014 (57.9 percent), ahead of the major league success rate of 52.6 percent.
Or that using park factors from the last three years (2012-2014), Dodger Stadium was favorable for home run hitters (a 111 park factor, meaning 11 percent above average, with 100 being average), but below average for doubles (95 park factor, fourth-lowest in the NL) and absolutely death to triples (43 park factor, the lowest in the majors).
Or that the average National League used 33 double switches in 2014, but only two managers called for 40 or more. Don Mattingly, not surprisingly, called for 62 double switches last year, but he didn't lead the league; Giants manager Bruce Bochy called for 64.
But perhaps the most fun part of the annual book is the 2015 projections for just about every player.
In 2014, James pretty much nailed most of his projection for Matt Kemp:
projected: 157-for-543, .289/.352/.483, 23 home runs, 30 doubles, three triples, 85 RBI, 50 walks, 147 strikeouts
actual: 155-for-541, .287/.346/.506, 25 home runs, 38 doubles, three triples, 89 RBI, 52 walks 145 strikeouts
In 2015, most of the projections were done before the flurry of trades at the winter meetings, so Kemp is projected as a Dodger, Jimmy Rollins as a member of the Phillies, Howie Kendrick with the Angels, and so on.
I won't share all of these projections since the book and James' website are for-profit ventures with information behind pay walls, but there are a few noteworthy items to point out.
- James' offensive projections tend to be on the favorable side, so take this with a grain of salt, but Alex Guerrero — assuming he finds enough playing time — is projected to hit .278/.300/.483 with 24 home runs in 2015.
- Kemp was projected — again, as a Dodger — to hit .289/.353/.495 with 25 home runs.
- Joc Pederson is projected to hit .269/.355/.462 with 26 home runs and 29 steals, which would qualify as "jump for joy" status at the very least and would likely net Pederson NL Rookie of the Year honors.
- Andre Ethier is projected to hit .270/.350/.420 with 12 home runs.
- Newcomer Yasmani Grandal was projected to hit .260/.362/.447 with 17 home runs, 28 doubles and 68 walks with the Padres, so adjust accordingly for his new team.
- James projects Yasiel Puig to hit .316/.399/530 with 23 home runs, ranking fifth in MLB in OPS, behind only Mike Trout (.992), Miguel Cabrera (.965), Paul Goldschmidt (.955) and Giancarlo Stanton (.950).
- Clayton Kershaw is projected to go 21-5 with a 2.37 ERA and 245 strikeouts in 232 innings, the only pitcher in baseball projected by James to win more than 16 games. In 2014, James also had Kershaw as the only 20-game winner, projecting 20-5 with a 2.50 ERA, and Kershaw went 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA.
- James gives Kershaw, with 98 career wins through age 26, a 31 percent chance at 300 wins, the best chance among active pitchers. Felix Hernandez (125 wins through age 28) has a 26 percent chance, the only other pitcher really close.
- Kershaw also is the most likely pitcher in baseball to throw a(nother) no-hitter, with a 25-percent chance to hurl another one in his career.
With Steamer projections currently on FanGraphs, and Dodgers ZiPS projections due out next week, we will have more to work with in terms of projections soon. The 2015 player profiles will begin in February.