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Community Projection: Lyle Overbay

Lyle Overbay gets a bit of a bad rap by Toronto fans.  After JP Ricciardi traded young players Gabe Gross, Zach Jackson, and David Bush for Overbay (none of the three have gone on to have remarkable careers), Overbay put up a huge year for Toronto in 2006, putting up a .373 wOBA and a .312/.372/.508 line with 46 doubles and 22 home runs.  Overbay signed with Toronto after that season to what I thought was an unnecessary but team-friendly contract for the Jays.  Unfortunately, after a slow start in 2007, Lyle was just turning it on when a John Danks pitch broke the hamate bone in Overbay's hand.  Lyle rushed back but had a very poor year overall, not hitting for any power and seeing his batting average slip.  It was plainly obvious his hand was still bothering him - if you couldn't tell from the results, you could tell from him wincing in pain and shaking his hand out after at-bats.  But it often takes a long time to fully recover from a hand/wrist injury (though not always - ask Vernon), and all one can do is wait. 

In 2008, Overbay was up to his usual antics - his line drive rate, which heavily drives his batting average on balls in play, his overall average, and his doubles, was back where it was in 2006, and his walk rate, another strong factor for Lyle, was back up as well.  Only one thing hadn't returned - his power - Lyle's Iso-P (isolated power) was no better in 2008 (.149) than it was in 2007 (.151), and a big part of that was his HR/Fly ball, which was still hovering around 10% where it was more like 15% before the injury.  With his sweet swing, he was hitting just as many fly balls and line drives, they just weren't going as far, and it lead to a slugging percentage of just .419, more what you want from your middle infielders than your first baseman.  That said, Lyle's other skills, at the plate and in the field, still made him a 1.6 win player, which is valued by frangraphs at about $7.3 million, about $.5 more than he was paid last year. 

Two other things about Lyle in 2008 are worth mentioning.  One, he was awful against lefties, .215/.285/.255 -- which was bizarre (though consistent with a loss in bat speed due to injury or age, particularly for a hitter like Lyle with a long swing) as he'd always hit quite decently against them before -- but that means he did quite well against righties (.291/.384/.481 - a line you'd be thrilled to have from your first baseman).  And Two, his power did somewhat return in the second half - he had an Iso-p of just .130 (and slugged .399) before the break but had an Iso-p of .174 (and slugged .445) after the break.  .174 is getting back to where he was before his injury (though not as good as the .196 he had in his career year with the Jays in 2006.  That's definitely an encouraging sign, since it's often repeated that hand and wrist injuries can take a year to fully recover and the second half of 2008 began roughly a year after the surgery.

So what do expect from our first baseman in 2009 - is a platoon inevitable?  How many plate appearances will he get, and what will be his AVG/OBP/SLG line?  Also, fielding runs above average (0 is average, 5 good, 10 very good, 15 gold glove caliber, 20 all-time great, and the same in reverse).  And any counting stats you'd like to project.  Personally, 20 HR would be great (Lyle hit 15 last year), but 45 doubles (he had 32) might be even better.