When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life.
-Phil Connors, Groundhog Day
With little professional baseball to watch, winter can be quite dreary for a baseball fan. The hot stove serves to stir our imaginations and our team's action or inaction leads to countless posts and discussions on the year to come. After the transactions have occurred, not much happens before players finally report, signalling the end of winter. There are certain steps, part of a cycle baseball fans go through during the winter months to bide the time before the action commences. For me, the release of the Cardinals' ZiPS projections from Dan Szymborski is a part of that cycle.
We got a tease last night, courtesy of Carson Cistulli's twitter feed.
Today, the full projections have been made available. (Click here to go to the projections, from Fangraphs).
A projection system isn't so much trying to tell you what will happen in 2015 as what a player's true talent level for 2015 is. Various systems do this in various ways. Most emphasize most recent seasons. For example, Tom Tango's Marcel uses a player's three most recent seasons, giving the most weight to the most recent season, the second-most weight to the second-most-recent season, and least weight to the third-most-recent season. ZiPS uses four seasons. Bill James can use up to eight seasons of input, but emphasizes the most recent three seasons. Most projection systems use age as an input; thus pulling a players numbers toward the typical aging curve for ballplayers. They also tend to regress a player's stats-especially BABIP-toward the MLB mean.
We will spend a lot of time in the next few months looking at projections, trying to find players who are likely to over- or under-perform their projections. Sometimes ZiPS can be eerily close to the performance. Last season, ZiPS projected Matt Holliday for a .277.360/.468 for a wOBA of .359, very close to his actual performance of .272/.370/.441 and .360 wOBA.
The outlook for 2015 based on these projections is favorable for the Cardinals. Every single position except for first base projects as above average for the Cardinals with Yadier Molina and new acquisition Jason Heyward leading the way. Every rotation spot also figures to be above average, with all five spots above a zWAR of 2, even with Carlos Martinez only figured for 150 innings.
The lineup figures to be above average and deep. After Matt Holliday's .359, the next five players are projected for a wOBA between .329 and .344. The average wOBA for non-pitchers last season was .315. The next three hitters figured to receive a bulk of the playing time in Jon Jay, Kolten Wong, and Peter Bourjos all figure to be close to average.
We'll get deeper into these projections as the season draws near, but for right now, go over to the projections and take a look around. We have a lot to discuss over the next few months.