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Take your mind off the fact that the United States World Cup team was robbed of a win, a glorious, come-from-behind win, and focus on some baseball.

Recently Moshe passed on an interesting series idea: to examine the performance of the three contending AL East teams against their preseason projections.  While the 2010 season is still less than halfway done, this will be an good way of looking at who has been underperforming or overperforming thus far.  Using CHONE, which is by nature conservative, I will list the projection and the to-date performance of the offense and pitching staff, bullpen excluded, on the Rays.  After that, I will  out two awards.  The first award is entitled “Baseball Isn’t Played on Spreadsheets”, and is given to the player who has outperformed his CHONE projection in a notable way.  The second award is entitled “He Needs LASIK, a New Workout Regimen, a New Pitch/Stance, and/or To Get Into the Best Shape of His Life”, and is given to the player who has underperformed his CHONE projection in a notable way.  They aren’t the most pithily titled of awards, but I’m getting a really big trophy so the engraving will fit.  After looking at the Rays today, I will look at the Red Sox on Saturday and the Yankees on Sunday.

OFFENSE

C – Dioner Navarro. Projection: .257/.315/.387 , 9 HR, 46 RBI.  Performance: .218/.301/.297. 1 HR, 7 RBI.

1B – Carlos Pena.  Projection: .241/.360/.501, 32 HR, 90 RBI.  Performance: .197/.309/.425, 15 HR, 46 RBI.

2B – Sean Rodriguez. Projection: .239/.327/.438, 18 HR, 55 RBI.  Performance: .197/.309/.425, 15 HR, 46 RBI.

SS – Jason Bartlett. Projection: .286/.353/.412, 8 HR, 50 RBI.  Performance: .227/.322/.324, 1 HR, 22 RBI.

3B – Evan Longoria. Projection: .283/.361/.514, 26 HR, 88 RBI.  Performance: .312/.387/.557, 12 HR, 51 RBI.

LF – Carl Crawford. Projection: .296/.350/.453, 14 HR, 72 RBI.  Performance: .295/.357/.470, 6 HR, 36 RBI.

CF – BJ Upton. Projection: .274/.368/.426, 14 HR, 66 RBI.  Performance: .231/.324/.404, 6 HR, 24 RBI.

RF – Ben Zobrist. Projection: .268/.368/.463, 18 HR, 60 RBI.  Performance: .309/.375/.439, 5 HR, 35 RBI.

Util/DH – Willy Aybar. Projection: .261/.339/.427, 13 HR, 51 RBI.  Performance: .243/.274/.393, 4 HR, 14 RBI.

STARTING PITCHERS

SP 1 – James Shields. Projection: 198 IP, 3.91 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 148 K, 42 BB, 6.72 K/9, 1.91 BB/9.

Performance: 91 IP, 4.55 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 85 Ks, 20 BB, 8.4 K/9, 2.0 BB/9

SP 2 – Matt Garza. Projection: 179 IP, 4.05 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 151 K, 65 BB, 7.59 K/9, 3.29 BB/9.

Performance: 87 IP, 3.50 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 71 Ks, 31 BB, 7.3 K/9, 3.2 BB/9

SP 3 – Jeff Niemann. Projection: 155 IP, 4.59 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 110 K, 58 BB, 6.3 K/9, 3.37 BB/9.

Performance: 86 IP, 2.83 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 55 Ks, 25 BB, 5.8 K/9, 2.6 BB/9

SP 4 – David Price. Projection: 123 IP, 4.61 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 100 K, 54 BB, 7.32 K/9, 3.95 BB/9.

Performance: 85 IP, 2.31 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 64 K, 35 BB, 6.7 K/9, 3.7 BB/9.

SP 5 – Wade Davis. Projection: 159 IP, 4.58 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 122 K, 72 BB, 6.91 K/9, 4.08 BB/9

Performance : 71 IP, 4.94 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 51 K, 30 BB, 6.5 K/9, 3.8 BB/9

And now, the Awards.  The “Baseball Isn’t Played on Spreadsheets” goes to…

Evan Longoria! One might be tempted to give it to Jeff Niemann or David Price, but I’ve fully detailed the problem with relying on Price’s most basic set of numbers here, and Niemann has essentially the same issue.  FIP and all that.  Price and Niemann have been good, but not as good as their ERAs suggest.  That said, Longoria has taken another step forward this year, reducing his strikeout rate and increasing his line-drive percentage.  He’s outperforming CHONE’s conservative expectations and leads all third basemen with a .407 wOBA.  With apologies to Alex Rodriguez, Evan Longoria is the best third baseman in baseball.  It’s hard not to get nauseous, as a Yankees fan, when I look at the details of his contract.

The “He Needs LASIK, a New Workout Regimen, a New Pitch/Stance, and/or To Get Into the Best Shape of His Life” Award goes to…

Carlos Pena!  Despite a poor batting average in 2009, Pena still managed to post an OBP of .356 and a SLG of .537.  CHONE projected that he would maintain the same OBP, while increasing his AVG, and see a slight drop in SLG.  Yeah.  About that.  Pena’s OBP is currently .309 and his SLG is .425.  He’s striking out slightly less than last year, although still at an incredibly high rate, and is walking 2% less.  His BABIP stands at .211, abysmally low, but Pena is registering an line-drive percentage of 11, down from 16 in 2009 and 18 in 2008.  It’s probably true that he’s getting some bad luck on balls in play, but he isn’t driving the ball with the same authority as he has in the past.  I don’t know enough about Pena to speculate on what has changed for him in 2010, but he’ll have to turn it around if he wants to fare well as a free agent after the 2010 season.

This concludes our look at the 2010 Rays.  I still can’t believe they disallowed that goal…

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