The 2010 season was a one for Gordon Beckham and White Sox fans alike. After a stellar rookie year, expectations for Beckham's sophomore year were through the roof.
After all, Beckham was moving to his natural position of second base, he was going to have a full season under his belt and a full spring training with the club; the sky was the limit for Beckham in 2010.
Something happened along the way, though. Beckham saw his average down to .252, his on-base percentage fall to a very mediocre/Juan Uribe-esque .317, his OPS+ fall from 106 to a meager 86 and his Wins Above Replacement drop from 2.2 to 0.9.
Even more disturbing, Beckham's defense, which was not exactly a high point in 2009 (0.0 UZR at third base), regressed even at his more natural position.
Sophomore slump aside, White Sox fans have every right to be concerned about Beckham's 2010 production. What's more, Beckham's BABIP, which can trigger large-scale regressions, was actually up near league averages last year. If 2010 was the result of a luckier Beckham season than 2009, we may be in trouble.
The real question comes in what White Sox fans can reasonably expect out of Beckham in 2011.
Optimism has obviously tempered from last year, but White Sox fans still want to know that former first-round pick Beckham is a long-term, middle of the infield option. I also want to know that I'll get a solid return on the investment of my Beckham shirt jersey, since I don't think my Grady Sizemore one is going to net much going forward. Although my Rickie Weeks shirt has made a very rapid ascension!
All joking aside, what are we looking at in 2011? What's the normalization for Beckham? Some hybrid of his rookie and sophomore year? Or can we expect Beckham to be a high below one WAR like 2010?
The computer projections we have so far of Beckham tend to lean more towards his rookie season. Good news for Sox fans.
ZIPs, the projection system of The Baseball Think Factory, puts has Beckham at .264/.331/.421, 15 HR, 73 RBI, 99 OPS+. Certainly not as great as Beckham's rookie year, but a definite upgrade from the Beckham we saw in 2010.
Marcel, TangoTiger's forecasting system, gave Beckham a similar but lesser year to his ZIPs projection, .266/.336/.420, 12 HR, 61 RBI.
The most optimistic projection for Beckham comes from the great mind of Bill James, who pegs the White Sox second basemen for a .273/.343/.436, 15 HR, 81 RBI season. The White Sox fan in me definitely loves James' projection, but the realist in me, unfortunately, just does not see it.
What do I expect out of Beckham? I think ZIPs and Marcel were both in the ballpark of what I feel Beckham can do in 2011. I do not see 2010 repeated, but I am also not one to think it was entirely a fluke and it will be a meager afterthought as Beckham charges to a fantastic 2011. That would be illogical.
Beckham, in my mind, is heading towards a 94-95 OPS+ season, right about in the middle of what we have seen in two years with Beckham.
I see Beckham right near his career batting average of .260 and his on-base percentage I predict a tick above .330.
I really have a hard time grasping and predicting Beckham’s slugging percentage. His rookie year, in less at-bats, Beckham showed pretty good power for a middle infielder. In 2010, though, we saw a reduction in home runs, even with a full season at one of the better home run hitting parks in the majors, U.S. Cellular Field. More troubling, though, is we saw a large fall in Beckham's FB%. He simply was hitting a ton more ground balls.
Was that a part of the sophomore slump or the fluke of a bad year? I simply do not know what to expect. I can assume he's figured out what's troubling him, but perhaps that rookie year with the higher FB% was the fluke.
Either way, I see Beckham in the 10-12 HR range, probably closer to the Marcel projection, as opposed to ZIPs and James who both pegged Beckham for 15 HR. I just do not see that, not after last year's nine homers.
Simply put, a .260/.330/.420, 12 HR season out of Beckham is in no way a bad thing. Beckham's expectations were probably unreasonable, that is where I worry Sox fans will be disappointed no matter what they get out of Beckham.
The idea that Beckham would exponentially improve over his rookie year was lofty and downright unrealistic. We more than likely saw the peak of Beckham, and it is still very good. Frankly, if Beckham can hold onto 2B for the next 5-10 years, I will be extremely happy. He will not win any MVP awards, but he's going to remain a solid part of the White Sox core for many years to come.