Shogo Akiyama has carried a high average at times when he was playing in Japan. In 2015 he hit .359. In 2017 and 2018 he hit .322 and .323. Last season saw him hit .303. While I think everyone agrees that the Major Leagues are a step above the professional leagues in Japan, there’s still high level play there. One of the selling points for the Cincinnati Reds signing the outfielder was that he could bring more contact, and more average to the team as the league as a whole is making less contact and hitting for less average.
Statistical translations from Japan to Major League Baseball are tough. The game is a bit different. Sure, baseball is baseball, but Japan tends to have pitchers with lower velocity, who work backwards – throwing more offspeed stuff rather than relying on the fastball to set up the breaking stuff. It’s similar, but not quite the same as trying to translate minor league numbers to Major League numbers. With both you have some base to work with, but always have to wonder if the little things done in the Major Leagues will be too different to make the straight statistical translations work. That, of course, doesn’t mean that people aren’t trying to make those projections, though.
We have seen what the ZiPS projections had for Shogo Akiyama, and the system spit out a solid, but unspectacular line over the course of his contract with the Reds. In 2020 the system projected the new Reds outfielder to post a .764 OPS, with a gradual decrease in the next two seasons. The projections from Clay Davenport were a bit better, projecting the outfielder for a .794 OPS in 2020, an .803 OPS in 2021, and then a .790 OPS in 2021. Nothing wrong with any of those projections – that’s a solid hitter who is probably a bit better than the league average.
But in the last few days the crew at Baseball Prospectus has been dropping the PECOTA system on us. You need a subscription to get the projections, but I do actually have one of those and so I took a look at just how the projections were for the Cincinnati Reds. There were two projections that stood out to me – one was for how good it was, and the other was for how lackluster it was.
The one that stood out in a good way was that for Shogo Akiyama. The 50th percentile projection, which is the one you will see publicly, because it’s the most likely one to come true, pegs the new Cincinnati outfielder to hit .316/.372/.461 on the season. That’s an .833 OPS. The .316 average is the second best projected batting average in Major League Baseball, trailing only Nolan Arenado in that category.
Finishing second in the league in average would be an outstanding outcome for Akiyama and for the Reds. Both sides would be thrilled with that. But that is just the beginning of the fun with the PECOTA projections. Unlike the other projection systems, which mostly do have different “percentile outcomes”, PECOTA actually shows us what those outcomes are. It’s always the 99th percentile outcomes that are incredibly fun to look at. These are basically the outcomes that are the most outrageous “in a world where literally every single thing goes right for this player based on his seemingly true world talent, and luck goes the most insanely perfect way for them too, would they produce this outcome” lines ever. They are for fun. They aren’t meant to be taken as anything beyond that – they aren’t going to happen.
But! Boy are they fun. To give some perspective on that 99th percentile outcomes, we can look at the output for Mike Trout. In his 99th percentile projection he has a .408/.549/.928 line with 68 home runs. That’s pretty wild. And it’s real fun. Sorting the various categories in this outcome section of the spreadsheet came up with something even more wild than that. Well, maybe.
The 99th percentile outcome for Shogo Akiyama, to steal the quote from Baseball Prospectus’ Harry Pavlidis, is a Fever Dream. You can head over to the batting average column in excel and sort largest to smallest. Remember, this is the 99th percentile – basically the most insane best case scenario for everyone in the game – so the numbers are going to be crazy here. There are six players who have an average between .400 and .410. And then there’s Shogo Akiyama. His average is at the very top of the list. At .480. No, that’s not a typo. Four hundred and eighty.
The Major League record for batting average in a single season is .440 by Hugh Duffy back in 1894. He had himself a season that year, leading the league in hits, doubles (51), home runs (18 – and while he didn’t lead the league in triples, he had 16 of those, too), average, and OPS. He also drove in 145 runs and scored 160. At least when it comes to average, the “Fever Dream” version of Shogo Akiyama would shatter the record with his .480 mark.
The second half of this article is just for fun. It’s unrealistic for so many different reasons. But it sure is fun to think about. Even at the expected production from Shogo Akiyama from the PECOTA system, it would be a heck of a deal for the Reds. There are a lot of questions around exactly how the team will use Akiyama. They’ve mentioned that he can play everywhere in the outfield. And as a left-handed hitter, along with Jesse Winker, the organization could do plenty of mixing-and-matching of positions and lineups with Nick Senzel, Nick Castellanos, and perhaps Aristides Aquino or Phillip Ervin throughout the year. While perhaps not having a full on platoon, mixing-and-matching could certainly help the numbers for everyone involved if they are playing more against their strengths.
I’m expecting Shogo to hit leadoff most of the time, so the key stat for Shogo is OBP. I’d love to see him north of .350, and if he manages that he will a) score a lot of runs and b) be a big upgrade from recent Reds teams. If he’s on base at .364 I’ll be thrilled, and I don’t care if he hits .302 or .240. And if he hits .480 that’s really bad because it means he went 12 for 25 and got hurt in early April.
Pitchers and catchers THIS WEEK! Can’t wait.
could you imagine if he managed a OBP of over .380 That would be huge at leadoff and honestly he might be able to do it. I know history shows a lot of players have significantly lower stats when coming over but their are a few that have not. I keep hoping he is one of these or at least only drops a little bit.
If he plays to his 50th percentile projection, Dick Williams, Tommy Thrall & and the a Japanese scouts need to win some sort of award.
Can you imagine if Castellanos plays like he did in Wrigley, Akiyama plays to this projection, and either the Winker/Ervin platoon is .900+ OPS or Aquino turns into the second coming of Eric Davis?! Holy wow!
I’d love to see what Aquino could do over a full year, but I think he’s the odd man out right now. Castellanos took his spot which isn’t a bad thing. Castellanos will play everyday and Shogo, Winker and Senzel will rotate in the other 2 spots.
I agree that unless Aquino lights up baseball in the spring and I mean great he will go to AAA. He has options and Winkler/Ervin in platoon will put up great numbers. That leaves Aklyama/Senzel for CF. I think, because of options he needs to beat out Senzel, but Senzel is needed for CF when Aklyama moves over. Without a trade Aquino does his thing at AAA.i
That is the best thing about February… Dreams. I am excited to see the reality. Hoping that Shogo and Castellanos both come through big for Reds. If they do that might offset the weak area in the BO of SS and catcher.
100% agree on this…..
If he’s leading the NL in average 50 games in… he’ll get more ABs and make the minimum number of at bats needed to qualify for that batting title…
Last Red to lead the NL in BA? Of course that would be Pete Rose at .338 in 1973 (Carew .350 led the majors).
Last Red to lead the whole majors in BA? Of course that would also be Pete Rose at .348 in 1969 (Carew was ironically tops in AL at .332).
Rose also lead the majors in 1968. Charlie Hustle deserves to be in the Hall Of Fame!!!
No he doesn’t. He knew the rules (bet on the game and get kicked out of it).
I realize you have a dislike for Pete Rose and by no means is he my favorite person. However everyone is entitled to their opinion. Baseball has been littered with bad people with bad habits since the beginning of the sport and I think it may be getting worse, with the latest sandal. You can’t tell the story of baseball without including many bad people and bad actions. I also don’t know that you realize that the rule banning him from the Hall of Fame came after he accepted his ban from MLB. The rule involving the Hall of Fame was changed after his punishment.
I also realize that this is your sight, but people come to leave comments and should be allowed to express them.
So, a few points:
1. People can leave comments and express their thoughts as long as they are respectful. I didn’t delete or edit the original comment, I simply responded to it just like anyone else has the ability to do.
2. I do know that the Hall of Fame changed the rule after. But that misses the point that Pete was betting on the game as a player (and anyone who doesn’t believe that is crazy – read the man’s book, he basically admits it without directly admitting it. He says “I don’t remember when I first started betting on games, but I remember when I first talked about it openly – the 1986 playoffs”. Pete Rose retired in Mid-August of 1986.) – and that every single thing he did on the field after he made his first bet on the game of baseball is an event that he risked having taken away from him. Pete didn’t care – he felt he was bigger than the game and the rules set forth by it.
3. Going back to the second sentence: Everyone is indeed entitled to their opinion, but that doesn’t mean every opinion is allowed in the comments. We’ve got rules for commenting here. No one in this thread has violated any of them thus far.
4. The Hall of Fame tells the story of Pete Rose. There’s an exhibit or three in there and everything that documents his accomplishments. He simply doesn’t have a plaque.
I agree that his story is told in the Hall of Fame through certain accomplishments. But his career accomplishment is this most important. I personally feel that you state your opinion on this matter as if it is the only “true opinion”. To your point of Pete not caring and thinking he was bigger than the game, I would say that encompasses a lot of professional athletes. Including an entire team using dishonest means to steal signs. He knew the rules and when he agreed to his punishment, it did not include the Hall of Fame. Allow the voters to decide his fate. They may agree with you.
I personally feel that you state your opinion on this matter as if it is the only “true opinion”, otherwise you probably wouldn’t be taken aback so much by someone having a different one. Pete Rose sucks. That’s my opinion. I hope they don’t even sell him tickets to the Hall of Fame.
I’ll play devils advocate for Pete. He has a huge ego and made a big mistake, but this is 2020 and you can blame past issues on your “disease”. I bet on sports and I enjoy it, but it can be a real sickness. Yeah he’s not a great person by any standards, but people look away for players who’ve done alot worse then betting on your own team. They should force Archie Miller to bet on Indiana. Now he sucks!!!! Back to my point….OJ Simpson is in the HOF for Gods sake. KC doesn’t win the SB without a pregnant girlfriend choking and 3 year old beating WR Tyreek Hill making key plays. If you look strictly at baseball, guys like McGwire and Canseco were cut up and had veins popping out at 250+ lbs. I knew they were on roids atleast 6-7 years before Canseco outed everyone. Bret Boone got HUGE, but his little head was still the same size))) Did mlb care? No….chicks dig the long ball. In or out….not losing sleep over it, but I got forced to watch There Will Be Blood recently. Thats a real crime! I want my 3 hours back!
Betting on baseball is a cardinal sin for any player (or manager). It is posted clearly in every clubhouse. That is a strong argument for a lifetime ban. But Pete lied about it, repeatedly. He didn’t come clean, admit the damage he did to the game, and ask for forgiveness. He went to Vegas.
Pete also was involved in other illegal and horrible things at the time of his managing the Reds, things mentioned in the investigation notes released a couple of years ago.
And as gambling becomes legal in every state, it is more important then ever to have a clear, black line drawn around betting on games.
I loved Pete as a player, and as a manager, as well. Pete, the person made big mistakes – many mistakes over many years. I would love to see him come clean, acknowledge the damage he has inflicted, ask for forgiveness, and be forgiven and rehabilitated in these his later life years. At our best, we are a society of second chances for those that embrace seeking them. Maybe that can happen.
No one is stating that he deserves a chance in baseball. The rules before he was punished, allowed him into the Hall of Fame. That changed shortly after his punishment, with the influence of a bitter Fay Vincent. Hard to call it the cardinal sin when all these leagues are looking to get involved in gambling. All I’m saying to the people who want to burn him at the stake is, I hope none of you have skeletons in the closet. Are we going to keep someone like Altuve out of the Hall of Fame because his numbers are tainted?
Swayback, I definitely agree that all of us have faults and have made mistakes. The right way to handle them is to acknowledge them – directly and unequivocally, while taking full responsibility and asking for forgiveness. Pete has not done this. I hope that he does, and I hope it gets him into the HOF.
Whether ‘baseball’ or the HOF, they have the right to set their standards, and the veteran baseball players decided that their standard was to prevent banned players from the HOF. Fay Vincent stated directly that he never pushed for the HOF to exclude Rose, noting that they did it on their own, and he was surprised when they announced it. Vincent also knew that the investigation uncovered lots of other illegal and harmful things that Rose was involved in at the time, so it is no surprise that he stayed so firm in his opinion that Rose should continue to be banned.
I know all to well about holding yourself accountable. Having been a person who has made mistakes in my life, I have decided not to be anyone’s moral compass. I personally do not need an apology from Pete. Pete has met with Manfred and very well may have done all the things you ask of him. Is he still living his life in Vegas? Yes, but who are we to tell him that he can’t make a living how he sees fit. I personally do not gamble, but I know a lot of very good people who do. I’ve also stated that I’m not a fan of his personality. I just find it wrong to jump on someone else’s opinion or on a person living their life how they want as long as they do not hurt others. My simple point of view is that there are a lot of people who want him in the Hall and a lot who do not. Allow all those people to vote on it, baseball can’t be any more embarrassed by what it’s become. This would be the ultimate way to put this whole issue to rest.
Swayback, thanks for the responses. I agree that there are too many people wanting to be the moral boss of others, and I will look back at my posts and see if I came across in that way (and look to change it). I suppose that I mostly hope that the HOF and Pete and everyone else involved in any of these things lead us to be our best selves – and when they don’t, I hope we all understand humanity and act as well as we can on our own. All organizations, especially honor-bestowing ones, need standards, and I support their efforts at doing so, even if they are lumpy and imperfect in trying to determine them.
What was the lackluster projection
Slight correction: that OPS would be .833, not .863 (at least according to the numbers listed)
Nobody told me there’d be math.
I don’t think Shogo will lead the league in hitting. However, I really don’t care about that. I care about the team. As long as the team does well, I’m fine.
I think he’s more likely to hit half of that 99 percentile, i.e. .240. Would be happy with .270/.350/.735.
I really think Galvis starting at ss for the reds this year is being looked at way too negatively. He is a premier defensive ss in all of baseball and has good power for the position, good base runner and veteran experience.
Not every position is going to be above average overall on even winning teams. We need a backup of course but the constant wringing of hands over ss for the 2020 reds is way overdone imo.
Galvis looks to be the only elite defender at his position in the every day lineup. Plus he’s a switch hitter with power.
Let’s play some bb!
I think that it will depend much more on how he adapts to different pitching and umpiring.
I’m excited for Spring. I like our team and we added some punch .