FanPost

NL Projection Medians, Underdogs, Overachievers and more Revised

Today I was inspired by tom s. article using the new Fans WAR projections. I had been throwing around an idea in my head about looking at some best case scenarios with some possibly underrated teams, so I thought I would look at some predictions using WAR and probably a few other newfangled saber-tooth stategery. Early in spring training I decided to do some rather underdoggish predictions for division favorites (well, mostly... I did pick a few clear cut 1st place finishers such as the Cards, Yanks, and White Sox in that briefly-lived signature that also involved bacon infused bacon, but more on this later). But before I do that, I wanted to look more into a Cards-Phils rivalry for the NL pennant.

tom s. showed with Fans projected WAR that the Cardinals and Phillies pitching staffs were just about dead even, with the Phils having a slight edge. I thought I might take a slightly different approach, and check on what type of innings pitched and fielder independent pitching were being predicted by the various different systems listed at fangraphs.com. To do this I went with the very simple method of averaging out the systems (what they have listed are Bill James, CHONE, Marcel, Fans, and ZiPS). Here is what I found out to be the median projections of these systems:

 

  • Carpenter...... 3.294 FIP/148 IP
  • Wainwright.... 3.396 FIP/203 IP
  • Penny............. 4.292 FIP/164 IP
  • Lohse............. 4.366 FIP/147 IP
  • Garcia............. 4.66 FIP/175 IP*

 

*for Garcia, the projections for innings pitched were all very low, and I thought that Lohse's projections were way too low, so I went with the completely arbitrary number of 175 for Jaime. 

Now averaging the median projected FIP for the Cardinals starters we get 4, and 167.4 innings pitched.

 

As for the Phillies starters.....

 

  • Halladay.......... 3.174 FIP/223 IP
  • Hamels........... 3.774 FIP/199 IP
  • Blanton............ 4.2 FIP/197 IP
  • Happ................ 4.536 FIP/164 IP
  • Moyer............... 4.936 FIP/154 IP

 

So for the Phillies, their average median projections equate to 4.12 FIP, and 187.4 innings pitched. So the picture I see being painted by these numbers is the Cards have a little more quality to their rotation, but the Phils have a lot more quantity since their starters are being valued a lot more for their endurance. Of course, it wouldn't be much of a stretch to see all of Carp, Penny, and Lohse to have greater innings totals, but it also wouldn't be much of a stretch to see Happ have a better FIP, but we'll go with this picture. Needless to say, both pitching staffs are loaded with talent and are among the elite in starting pitching in both leagues.

I'm going to all but skip the bullpen, considering I think both Franklin and Lidge will both be very hard to predict this year, and the Cards are better from the left side but the Phils are probably better from the right. It's not going to be a huge factor in all likelihood, but the projections are saying that the Cards bullpen may get overexposed. I guess we'll see about that. We know last year that we got lucky and didn't have to use the bullpen too much. Maybe some more exposure will help the inexperienced, since who knows what Boggs and Motte will do.

On to the other positions..... I will be using the average predictions for wOBA and WAR (only Fans and CHONE for WAR) to help evaluate:

 

  • Molina............. .327 wOBA/3.35 WAR
  • Pujols.............. .443 wOBA/7.55 WAR
  • Schumaker..... .335 wOBA/1.9 WAR
  • Ryan................. .311 wOBA/2.75 WAR
  • Freese.............. .339 wOBA/2.1 WAR (only 4 projections on the freeser for wOBA)
  • Holliday............. .396 wOBA/5.35 WAR
  • Rasmus............ .334 wOBA/3.6 WAR
  • Ludwick.............. .359 wOBA/2.5 WAR

 

So for the Cardinals starters, the overall wOBA is predicted to be around .356. Their WAR median projection by the 2 systems projecting for WAR is 3.64.... or 29.1 total projection.

And for the Phillies projected starters:

 

  • Ruiz..................... .326 wOBA/2.5 WAR
  • Howard............... .391 wOBA/4.45 WAR
  • Utley..................... .395 wOBA/7.05 WAR
  • Rollins................. .342 wOBA/4.15 WAR
  • Polanco............... .332 wOBA/2.85 WAR
  • Ibanez.................. .361 wOBA/2.35 WAR
  • Victorino.............. .346 wOBA/3.35 WAR
  • Werth................... .377 wOBA/4.05 WAR

 

The Phillies median projected wOBA equates to .359, and their WAR is 30.75, or 3.84/player. 

Some conclusions to be made from these projections........

 

  • Phillies seem to have a slight edge in wOBA and are a couple of wins higher than the Cards
  • The Cardinals have a younger core of players, and may be less injury prone for the positional starters
  • The Cardinals probably have the superior defense, which is harder to quantify and project
  • The Phillies will most likely not have to go to their bullpen as much as the Cardinals
  • The Cards might have a bigger advantage in starting pitching than it seems, if the starters can log more innings than is suggested by the projections
  • The Phils probably have a better bullpen, the Cards a better bench

I can't really see how the two teams could be much more evenly matched. The Cardinals have some injury worries in the rotation, the Phillies have an aging defense. The Cards have the best player in Albert, and the Phillies probably have the best pitcher in Roy Halladay. Both teams have questionable closers, and an edge from opposite sides of the 'pen. The Cardinals may end up with an overexposed and inexperienced bullpen, but this could be alleviated through trade midseason. Finally, the Cards have a more talented defense and a slightly more talented starting pitching crew, both of which might be the difference maker between the two teams.

A few weeks ago, I made some off the cuff predictions for divisional winners in one of my many signatures over the last year or so. I picked some obvious winners, such as the Yanks and Cards. I also had some less obvious predictions such as the Braves and Diamondbacks, and I wanted to see how these teams measured up if you give them a rather sunny outlook for their projections. If you take the highest projected FIP for each player in the starting lineups for these teams (also, the Fans WAR projection), you get some interesting results:

 

  • Hudson........... 3.74 FIP/3.4 WAR (CHONE)
  • Lowe................ 3.72 FIP/3.9 WAR (Fans)
  • Jurrjens........... 3.63 FIP/4.1 WAR (ZiPs)
  • Hanson............ 3.34 FIP/4.6 WAR (Fans)
  • Kawakami........ 4.06 FIP/2.3 WAR (ZiPs)

So if things shake out really well for the Braves starting pitching, they could end up with a FIP of 3.7 with that starting 5! Their Fans projected WAR is 18.3, which is higher than the Phils' roughly 16 WAR starting corps. That's pretty impressive.

I am going to go out on a limb and say that the Braves' bullpen is also better than the Phillies'. I could be way off base on that, but it's not a big factor anyway.

Now obviously, the Braves' offense are going to struggle to compete with the Phils, but is it possible that they could overtake the Phillies this season? Here are the sunny side wOBA projections for the Braves' hitters, as well as the averaged WAR projections from Fans and CHONE (the wOBA projection I've listed is in parenthesis):

 

  • McLouth............ .364 wOBA/3.2 WAR (ZiPs)
  • Prado................ .355 wOBA/2.5 WAR (Marcel)
  • Jones................ .397 wOBA/4.15 WAR (Bill James)
  • Glaus................ .356 wOBA/1.95 WAR (3 systems project at .356)
  • McCann............. .378 wOBA/5.05 WAR (Fans)
  • Escobar............. .357 wOBA/4.5 WAR (Fans)
  • Diaz.................. .365 wOBA/1.6 WAR (ZiPs)
  • M. Cabrera......... .358 wOBA/2.35 WAR (CHONE)

 

In case Heyward makes the team, James predicts a .368 wOBA. So I guess that wouldn't change the projection a whole lot. So I'll go with this lineup: .366 wOBA and 25.3 WAR. So if the Braves starting lineup overachieves, they could have a .368 wOBA, putting them in the ballpark with the Phillies. The WAR total, however, is over 5 wins less on offense. I suppose that if Chipper Jones and Troy Glaus shake off the dust, and Jason Heyward wins rookie of the year or something, the 5 win gap could be closed somewhat, and considering the Braves starting pitching is projected a median nearly 2.5 wins higher than the Phils', things could get pretty interesting in the East. While the Phillies are the clear cut favorites in the AL East, I wouldn't say that they will have a walk in the park as the Braves have themselves quite a good team this year. If the Braves bullpen is significantly better than the Phillies', then the two teams could be virtually tied towards the end of the season, as I think their defense may be a tad better as well.

How about the Diamondbacks, another possible dark horse candidate? Let's have a look:

 

  • Webb................. 3.46 FIP/3.9 WAR (James and CHONE for the FIP)
  • Haren................ 3.15 FIP/6 WAR (Fans)
  • Jackson............ 4.41 FIP/2.4 WAR (CHONE, ZiPs)
  • Kennedy............ 4.2 FIP/1.6 WAR (CHONE)
  • Buckner............. 4.46 FIP/1.5 WAR (CHONE, Fans)

 

So that shapes up to 3.94 FIP and a total of 15.4 WAR for their starting pitching. nearly as good as the Phillies. And if they overachieve and reach their ideal projections, that 3.94 FIP looks pretty damn good.

Offensively, I'm not too sure about the DBacks this year, maybe I should have picked the Dodgers earlier in the year. But let's have a look:

 

  • S. Drew............ .343 wOBA/3.1 WAR (James likes Drew the best)
  • C. Jackson...... .360 wOBA/2.05 WAR (Fans)
  • J. Upton........... .393 wOBA/4.7 WAR (Fans)
  • A. LaRoche..... .382 wOBA/1.95 WAR (ZiPs)
  • Reynolds......... .386 wOBA/3.6 WAR (James)
  • Montero............ .350 wOBA/3 WAR (Fans)
  • Young............... .343 wOBA/1.5 WAR (James)
  • K. Johnson....... .361 wOBA/2.55 WAR (ZiPs)

 

For the Diamondbacks, the best projections predict them for .365 wOBA. And an average of Fans and CHONE say that they are 22.45 wins above replacement level. Not quite as comfortable with this prediction, but I think both their starting pitching and the hitting have a lot of upside.... especially if Reynolds continues to hit a lot of home runs, Justin Upton does even better than the Fans wOBA projection. I suppose Adam Laroche, Conor Jackson, and Kelly Johnson could also outperform those projections... still, I think I'll have to change my mind to the Dodgers as favorites. But I should probably check out what the Dodgers have going on...

 

  • Kershaw............ 3.41 FIP/4.6 WAR (Fans FIP)
  • Billingsley.......... 3.48 FIP/4.4 WAR (ZiPs)
  • Kuroda............... 3.72 FIP/3.2 WAR (ZiPs)
  • Padilla................ 4.46 FIP/1.8 WAR (Fans)
  • ?.......................... 4.7* FIP/1 WAR*

 

The Dodgers look to have an unsettled 5th rotation spot, and might have a revolving door there all season. So the * denotes arbitrary guesses there. Still, even with those numbers their rotations FIP could still be pretty solid, at 3.95. The lack of a decisive 5th starter leads me to believe that the Diamondbacks may have a slight edge in starting pitching, and I would rather have Haren and Webb personally. As for the Fans projected WAR, 15 is the total here. So I'd give the slight edge to the Diamondbacks in the starting rotation.

Offensively, here's what the Dodgers are looking like:

 

  • Furcal................. .329 wOBA/2.9 WAR (James)
  • Kemp................. .381 wOBA/5 WAR (James)
  • Ethier.................. .379 wOBA/2.95 WAR (ZiPs)
  • Ramirez............. .409 wOBA/3.25 WAR (ZiPs)
  • Loney................. .353 wOBA/1.8 WAR (ZiPs)
  • Blake.................. .351 wOBA/2.75 WAR (ZiPs)
  • Dewitt................. .328 wOBA/1.5 WAR (Marcel)
  • Martin................. .346 wOBA/3.8 WAR (Fans)

 

So the Dodgers' team wOBA in a best case scenario is projected at .360, and the median total WAR between Fans and CHONE is 23.95. I think I'd have to change my prediction to the Dodgers, unless there's a compelling reason to believe that the Diamondbacks defense and bullpen are significantly better than the Dodgers is, but I don't see it. Still, the teams are pretty closely matched and it should be a dogfight, especially if the Dodgers lose any core players to injury for a significant amount of time.

Lastly, I'd like to check out our main divisional rival using this method, the Cubs.... first off, the starting pitching:

 

  • Zambrano........... 3.94 FIP/3.4 WAR (ZiPs)
  • Dempster............ 3.79 FIP/3.5 WAR (ZiPs)
  • Wells.................... 4.1 FIP/2.6 WAR (James)
  • Silva...................... 4.53 FIP/.6 WAR (ZiPs)
  • Gorzelanny.......... 4.01 FIP/1.1 WAR (James)

 

The Cubs starting pitching has taken a big hit in production from previous years. Still, they ain't too shabby at 4.07 FIP, not to mention the fact that Lilly will return and is better than either Silva or Gorz, most likely they will have to figure out to do with Silva. If it stays like this, the WAR would be 11.2. Add in a best case projected FIP of 4 and 2.9 WAR for Lilly, you'd have more like 14 WAR. Not all that impressive though.

Offensively, the Cubs are probably more dangerous....

 

  • Theriot................. .329 wOBA/2.7 WAR (ZiPs)
  • Fukudome.......... .349 wOBA/2.5 WAR (James)
  • D. Lee.................. .386 wOBA/3.5 WAR (James)
  • Ramirez............... .384 wOBA/4 WAR (ZiPs)
  • Byrd...................... .354 wOBA/2.55 WAR (ZiPs)
  • Soriano................ .357 wOBA/1.7 WAR (ZiPs)
  • Fontenot.............. .334 wOBA/1.45 WAR (James)
  • Soto...................... .362 wOBA/3.6 WAR (James)

 

The starting core for the Cubs averages .357 wOBA and the median WAR projection between Fans and CHONE puts them at 22 wins above replacement. I definitely have no doubt that I overrated the Cubs when I picked them for wild card now.... 

Which brings me to my revised NL picks: Cards, Phillies, Dodgers and Braves for wild card. I think the NL West is just about too close to call, but the Dodgers probably have a slight edge. Heck, maybe even the Rockies will win the wild west, but I think the Braves are the dark horse candidate for the NL. Actually, since cardball pointed out that the Rockies may be just as competent a team as the Dodgers or Diamondbacks, let's see what they can do:

 

  • Jimenez............... 3.41 FIP/5.1 WAR (Fans)
  • Cook................... 4.28 FIP/2.6 WAR (CHONE)
  • de la Rosa........... 4.05 FIP/3 WAR (Fans)
  • Francis................ 4.26 FIP/2 WAR* (*a guess, no Fans projection)
  • Hammel............... 4.00 FIP/2.9 WAR (Fans)

 

Total of 4 FIP average if you look at best case scenario and 15.6 WAR for the starting pitching. 

 

  • C. Gonzalez......... .360 wOBA/3.35 WAR (CHONE)
  • Fowler.................. .364 wOBA/2.8 WAR (James)
  • Helton.................. .391 wOBA/3.5 WAR (James)
  • Tulowitzsky........... .379 wOBA/6.15 WAR (CHONE)
  • Hawpe.................. .394 wOBA/1.85 WAR (ZiPs)
  • Stewart................. .358 wOBA/3.25 WAR (CHONE)
  • Ianetta.................. .369 wOBA/3.55 WAR (James)
  • Barmes................. .319 wOBA/1.9 WAR (Marcel)

Rockies offense comes out to .367 wOBA at best and a total of 26.35 median WAR projection. Thats quite a consistent offense and if they could replace Barmes.... very potent. I personally still like the Diamondbacks offense a tad better, as well as their starting pitching, and the Dodgers are no doubt a force to be reckoned with. But if the Rockies indeed put up something like a .367 wOBA for their starters, they could just as easily win the division.

Finally, here's the best case scenarios and WAR for the Cards and Phils:

 

- Cards best case projection for FIP: 3.84
- Cards Fans WAR projection for SP: 15.4 (assuming Garcia puts up 1 WAR)
- Cards best case projection wOBA: .364
- Cards median WAR projection offense: 29.1

- Phils best case projection for FIP: 3.98
- Phils Fans WAR projection for SP: 15.8
- Phils best case projection wOBA: .369
- Phils median WAR projection offense: 30.7

After doing all this, here's how I'd rank the NL:

 

  1. Phillies
  2. Cardinals
  3. Dodgers/Rockies/Diamondback (I can't decide!)
  4. Braves

But wait, there's more! The Reds and Brewers may not be so bad, right? First off, the Brewers best case projections and median WAR:

  • Rickie Weeks: .364 wOBA by CHONE; 3.05 median WAR
  • Carlos Gomez: .323 wOBA by CHONE; 2.35 median WAR
  • Ryan Braun: .411 wOBA by Bill James; 4.85 median WAR
  • Prince Fielder: .412 wOBA by CHONE; 5.25 median WAR
  • Corey Hart: .344 wOBA by James/CHONE; 1.7 median WAR
  • Casey McGehee: .351 wOBA by Marcel; 1.4 median WAR
  • Greg Zaun: .325 wOBA by ZiPs; 1.35 median WAR
  • Alcides Escobar: .341 wOBA by Marcel; 2.15 median WAR

That lineup averages out to an upside of .359 wOBA... more conservatively, the WAR would be a median of 22.1

Now I'm sure their rotation pretty much drops off a cliff, right?

  • Dave Bush: 4.51 FIP by Fans; 1.6 Fans WAR
  • Doug Davis: 4.39 FIP by Bill James; 1.7 Fans WAR
  • Yovani Gallardo: 3.52 FIP by Bill James; 3.7 Fans WAR
  • Manny Parra: 3.93 FIP by Bill James; 2.1 Fans WAR
  • Randy Wolf: 4.1 FIP by Fans; 3 Fans WAR

That averages out to a 4.09 FIP upside... and 12.1 WAR median. Not too bad.

The Reds, eh? What are they projected to do in 2010? Is this their year?

  • Joey Votto: .407 wOBA by Bill James; 4.3 median WAR
  • Brandon Phillips: .342 wOBA by ZiPs; 3.1 median WAR
  • Orlando Cabrera: .330 by ZiPs; 1.15 median WAR
  • Scott Rolen: .353 by Fans; 3.3 median WAR
  • Jay Bruce: .379 by CHONE; 3.05 median WAR
  • Drew Stubbs: .341 by Marcel; 2.9 median WAR
  • Chris Dickerson: .358 by Bill James; 2.45 median WAR
  • Ramon Hernandez: .325 by CHONE; 1.7 median WAR

Their lineup averages out to .354 wOBA by various projection upsides. The median WAR projection is 21.95.

Now how would their starting rotation look like if it stays like this:

  • Bronson Arroyo: 4.49 FIP by Bill James; 2.2 Fans WAR
  • Homer Bailey: 4.08 FIP by Fans; 2.8 Fans WAR
  • Johnny Cueto: 4.21 FIP by Fans; 2.7 Fans WAR
  • Aaron Harang: 4.08 FIP by Fans; 3 Fans WAR
  • ?: not sure who their fifth starter would be, let's go with Volquez: 4.04 FIP by ZiPs; 1.2 Fans WAR
Now obviously, it's hard to say since we don't know who the fifth starter is for sure, could be Chapman too, and he isn't even on fangraphs. Anyway, the upside for their rotation is 4.18 FIP by various projection systems... and the total Fans projected WAR is 11.9.
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