Nelson Cruz is a trap. In short bursts he can be an awesome offensive force that takes your breath away, and he's especially been that in the postseason with a career slash of .278 / .336 / .683 for a 163 wRC+ in 137 PA (.405 ISO!). He also had an extreme BABIP outlier in 2010 (.348 to a career .303) that saw his AVG and OBP elevated to .318 and .374, well above his .268 and .328 marks for those categories. Seeing Nelson Cruz burn his brightest and all those crazy long home runs makes fans just want to believe he can approach that kind of magic for a season.
The other side of the coin is that Cruz strikes out a lot, doesn't walk very often and when he puts balls in play it's generally close to league average in getting a hit. That makes the .260 AVG and .319 OBP for his 2012 season about who Nelson Cruz and about what you should expect from him.
One thing that was particularly unusual for Cruz, and what led to this worst offensive season since 2007 when he was a potential ML washout, is that his power dropped significantly. In his previous three seasons, he put up a combined ISO of .256 that dropped all the way down to .200 in 2012. That caused his SLG to be an uncharacteristically low .460 and no person or projection system except for our anti-jinx savior, LiamP, projected to him to even be below .500.
In those strong ISO years prior to this one, 18.4% of his fly balls went over the wall for a home run, in 2012 only 13.1% went full boomstick. Additionally, even his amount of fly balls went down a bit going from 44.4% to 40.8%. This results in Cruz having a career high 45 doubles, much higher than his previous 31, and only 24 home runs.
There's no clear explanation for this drop, it could be a slight change in approach, hitting balls hard but not quite as hard, an age related decline or simply the variance that is a season of baseball. There is some hope in that his months of July and August were an ISO of .259 and .252, but that's tempered with Cruz always being a streaky hitter with big highs and low lows where his good months are .350 or .400 ISO months mixed in with .100 ISO months.
Hopefully Cruz will regress to his career numbers in 2013, because a Nelson Cruz that can't mix elite power to go with his flaws is a below average ML player.
Congratulations to utlonghorn24 for having the lowest score* with his projection. Here is a spreadsheet with how everyone did.
*Score is the average number of standard deviations away from the actual 2012 value
|Top Five Projections|
|Bottom Five Projections|
|150. Baseball North||500||.300||.375||.550||3.43|
|151. Rob ONeal||583||.303||.388||.600||3.72|