Projecting the 2012 Cubs: Center Field

Marlon Byrd is entering the final year of his contract and will earn $6.5 million in 2012. He's been a very good producer for the Cubs relative to what he's been paid. He's contributed 6.4 fWAR so far. 4.4 of that came in his first season in a Cubs uniform and last year he was worth 2 fWAR. It's worth noting that he's been worth 4.2 rWAR over those same two years (2.5 in 2011 and 1.7 last year). The difference between the two is explained by defense. Total Zone has him about average and UZR has him at +12 over those two seasons. The remaining difference is partly in the different replacement levels used and the difference in which the two are calculated. Let's split the difference and say he's been worth 5.3 WAR over the first two years of his contract.

The win has been worth $4.5 million each of the last two seasons making Byrd worth $23.85 million. Two offseasons ago he was signed to a 3-year, $15 million contract so he's already provided well more value than the contract is worth. Regardless of what Byrd does this season, the Cubs received more value from Byrd than they paid him. But he does get another year to add to his value. Before we look at that, let's take a look at last season.

Overall last year Byrd hit .276/.324/.395 (.315 wOBA, 93 wRC+). His wRC+ the previous year was 107 so his offense wasn't quite as good as a year ago. However, Byrd did suffer the type of injury that one can't help but think is very difficult to recover quickly from. If that video doesn't make you cringe there is something wrong with you. Seek help immediately.

Prior to getting injured on May 21st, Byrd was hitting .308/.346/.419. In 2010 Byrd hit .293/.346/.429 in his first year with the Cubs. Considering the decline in league average offense, through May 21, 2011 he was hitting much better than he was a year earlier. Things changed when he came back.

He returned to action on July 2nd and through the rest of the season his batting dropped to .255/.311/.380. There's no way to know if this is directly the result of being hit in the face, but it's hard to believe that it didn't have some negative impact on his ability to hit.

There's also no way to know whether or not we should expect them to be different in 2012. Getting hit by a fastball in your face isn't something you quickly forget. Byrd will probably think about that the rest of his life. He came this close to dying. If you want my opinion, my guess is that whatever negative impact this had last year will still be present in 2012. The good news is that Brett Jackson will be waiting in AAA in case Byrd is struggling. Below are the projections.

Projection PA H HR BB SO avg obp slg wOBA
CAIRO 468 115 10 27 78 .270 .324 .409 .322
Guru  433  103  11  27  69 .262 .320 .400 .317
ZiPS 516 133 12 28 82 .273 .324 .414 .317
PECOTA 570 151 12 33 98 .281 .332 .416 .323
Oliver 623 157 12 31 93 .274 .323 .408 .321
Bill James 592 153 13 36 103 .275 .329 .412 .321
RotoChamp 495 133 10 27 82 .284 .337 .415 .330
Dav-Marcel 570 146 13 32 94 .271 .324 .406 .315
Steamer 597 147 13 35 100 .269 .325 .408 .332
Marcel 504 126 11 27 85 .272 .322 .495 .320
Average 537 136 12 30 88 .273 .326 .418 .322
2011 Proj 548 152 14 35 95 .283 .336 .430 .335
2011 Actual 482 123 9 25 78 .276 .324 .395 .315

I've included Byrd's 2011 projection and actual production. Keep in mind that offense was down last year and the projections estimated a higher base line. Overall last year we projected Byrd to be worth 1.8 WAR based on these projections and our 548 plate appearance estimate. We used wOBA so we'd want to compare to fWAR and as already mentioned, Byrd was worth 2.0 fWAR so he out-produced his projections last year despite missing time and being hit in the face with a fastball.

The .322 wOBA projection with 537 PA makes Byrd worth a projected 1.7 WAR in 2012. Add that to what he's done so far and he'd end his Cubs career with 7 WAR. He'd have provided $32.3 million in value while being paid only $15. Say what you want about Byrd. He doesn't have excellent patience. He swing at shit he shouldn't. He's still provided excellent value compared to what he's been paid and that's all you ask. If Byrd has another season like 2010 he'll more than likely pass Mark DeRosa as having been worth the most over the value he was paid. And why do I get the feeling he won't be nearly as well liked as DeRosa? Even if he only reaches his projection, he'll be right after DeRosa and if he has the type of season we're projection the fans will hate him. Explain that to me. It can't be as simple as one being white and one being black, right? Is it really that simple? I sure hope not.