2/8/2013 10:49 A.M. ET
Adding big sluggers will have ripple effect on lineups
Those who hit around newly added stars should see improved production in 2013
By AJ Cassavell / MLB.com
Sure, the careers of Josh Hamilton, Jose Reyes and both B.J. and Justin Upton were greatly altered this offseason when they headed to their new teams and new cities.
But their movement didn't impact them alone. All over baseball, lineups were altered and the projections for certain players changed because of what changed around them.
Albert Pujols, Jose Bautista and Jason Heyward all saw significant help added around them, which will likely be a boon to their own run production and overall output -- not to mention a potential boost in the win column, too.
Meanwhile, players like Giancarlo Stanton, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz might have their offensive output affected adversely because of the resulting subtractions from their lineups.
So, how will some of the bigger bats who moved this offseason affect those who stayed put? Last year, Prince Fielder's presence in Detroit obviously helped Miguel Cabrera, but Fielder's departure from Milwaukee didn't seem to hurt Ryan Braun much.
After the Braves acquired their second Upton of the offseason -- Justin -- through a trade with Arizona, right fielder Heyward proclaimed in a tweet that it was "Christmas in January."
That makes sense. The Justin Upton trade had many pundits picking the Braves as challengers for the National League crown, and as a legitimate threat to unseat Washington as NL East champions. Heyward's chances at heading back to the playoffs got a major boost, so of course he was happy.
The fact of the matter is, however, that new additions don't have much of an impact on the stats of individual players, historically -- unless they are protecting them in the order.
In 2009, when Pujols was a member of the Cardinals, he was intentionally walked 44 times. Only 10 of those walks came after the club acquired Matt Holliday in mid-July. It's likely he'll see his intentional-walk totals drop again in '13.
Of course, that means more pitches to hit for Pujols. Assuming Hamilton hits behind him at No. 4 in the order, opposing pitchers are going to have a hard time walking Pujols -- or even pitching around him -- knowing a perennial AL MVP Award candidate awaits on deck.
It's no coincidence Cabrera won the first Triple Crown in 45 years with Fielder behind him in the order.
"That's what happens when you have somebody like Prince Fielder backing you up," said Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen after Cabrera accomplished the feat. McCutchen added that all along, it was the same dominant Cabrera. But with protection in the order, people finally took notice because the numbers were a little better.
In 2012, Braun saw his intentional-walk total rise from two to 15 with Fielder no longer hitting behind him. But other than that, Braun's numbers remained relatively consistent. The average dropped slightly, but he led the NL in home runs.
Historically, some players have withstood the loss of protection in the order, while others haven't. There isn't much of a formula to it. Barry Bonds' productivity didn't drop post-Jeff Kent. David Ortiz, on the other hand, struggled when Manny Ramirez headed to Los Angeles in 2008.
There's no telling what might happen this season to guys like Stanton and Beltre, who lost Reyes and Hamilton, respectively. But they shouldn't feel much of an impact, mostly because they were the protection, rather than the one being protected. Beltre's job was to keep pitchers on their toes against Hamilton. Stanton's job was to get Reyes to touch home plate.
Still, the RBI numbers may go down for both. Stanton drove in 86 runs in 123 games last season, easily his highest per-game output. Of those, 37 were home runs, leaving 49 teammates that he knocked in. Reyes accounted for 14 of those -- almost a third. (Emilio Bonifacio, Omar Infante and Hanley Ramirez also scored thanks to Stanton several times, and none of them remain in Miami.)
Bautista, meanwhile, should see his run production increase, if he can remain healthy. Since he joined the Blue Jays, his run-production totals have never quite reflected his high home run totals. In the two years Bautista led the league in home runs (2010 and '11), he finished third and 10th, respectively, in runs batted in.
That's likely a result of players with poor on-base percentages and run totals hitting directly in front of him. With the addition of Reyes -- and also Melky Cabrera and Bonifacio -- that could and should change.
This offseason, Bautista, like so many others across the league, was the recipient of offensive help and protection.
Those handful of players may have stayed put, but that doesn't mean their numbers will in 2013.