On Friday, the esteemed sabermetric forefather Dan Szymborski released the projections of the St. Louis Cardinals using his ZiPS projection system. It is an unambiguously positive report. The Cardinals have ten position players who are projected for 2 WAR or higher (if they received the appropriate playing time to do so, and all ten players will not get the appropriate playing time to do so.)
Projection systems are a good tool, but baseball is a sport played by humans and as such, there’s never going to be anything that can predict how a player will do with absolute certainty. Players get injured, regress, improve, get good coaching to change their game from what it was previously. Thus, while projection systems are a good tool, they can be wrong about a player.
This post is about looking at Cardinals players’ final WAR projection and telling you whether the player will finish 2019 with a higher or lower WAR. Over/under in other words. Today, I’m only doing position players. To make it harder on myself, I am removing the option of picking even. I have to pick a higher or lower WAR. Let’s begin.
Paul Goldschmidt - 4.4 WAR (Over)
ZiPS is weirdly optimistic about Goldschmidt’s defense, giving him a +4 number (which he hasn’t done since 2015), but his offensive numbers are why I’m taking the over. Goldschmidt is projected for what would be his lowest average since his rookie season, his lowest OBP since 2012, and his lowest slugging percentage since his rookie season.
Matt Carpenter - 4.2 WAR (Under)
I can’t really complain about ZiPS offensive projection of 129 OPS+ . That is pretty much his combined wRC+ for the past two seasons and he’s 33, so if anything I’m surprised it’s that high. Defensively, ZiPS has him as a -3 3B, and I’m taking the under on that, thus under on the WAR total.
Marcell Ozuna - 3 WAR (Over)
ZiPS projects for a 110 OPS+. Hard, hard over on that one. Easiest one of this post I would guess.
Paul DeJong - 2.5 WAR (Over)
Even if I agreed with the offensive projection of 98 OPS+, ZiPS still has DeJong as a +0 defender. I’m taking the over on both offense and defense.
Yadier Molina - 2.3 WAR (Under)
Molina has had 2.3 WAR once in the last four seasons and is going to be 37 in July. Sorry, this wasn’t that hard.
Harrison Bader - 2.2 WAR (Over)
ZiPS has him with an 89 OPS+ and +8 defense in CF. I might also be willing to take the over on both offense and defense, but my confidence in the defense is why he’s over.
Jedd Gyorko - 2.2 WAR (Under)
Gyorko is projected for around 430 plate appearances, which is very hard to imagine. Ideally, Goldschmidt, Wong, DeJong, and Carpenter all sit as little as possible. Even if he’s platooned with Wong, there’s still not over 400 PAs there.
Tyler O’Neill - 2.1 WAR (Under)
ZiPS projects O’Neill for almost 500 plate appearances, which would surprise me. It’ll be hard to get to 2.1 WAR with 300-400 PAs like I expect. That’s the only reason, since O’Neill has a negative defensive number.
Kolten Wong - 2.1 WAR (Over)
Many, many reasons for this. ZiPS projects Wong for 420 or so plate appearances and has him with a +4 defensive number. I’m not saying it’s not fair that it’s that low (well for PA anyway. The defense is too low), but I’ll bet on Wong getting 500+ plate appearances in 2019.
Jose Martinez - 2 WAR (Under)
ZiPS has Martinez with too low of an offensive number, way too high of a defensive number (and it’s still negative). It almost evens out... and then there’s the fact that he’s supposed to get over 525 PAs to accomplish this. I’m not predicting any of the three RFers to get 500+ PAs.
Andrew Knizner - 1.3 WAR (under)
There’s playing time issues and then there’s being the prospect to follow Yadier Molina playing time issues. I’d take the under on 0.1 WAR.
Rangel Ravelo, Ramon Urias - 1.2 WAR (under)
Even if things go very right for them, there is no way they approach their plate appearance projection of 350+.
Dexter Fowler - 1.1 WAR (Under)
I tried to say over, I really did. And I would have... if Jose and Meat Pillar weren’t right behind him. I will say I’m taking the over on his 97 OPS+. Way over. I expect a 110 wRC+ or higher. Problem is, with his defense, he’s still not a better player than the other two guys with his defense.
Yairo Munoz - 0.7 WAR (under)
It kind of sucks for him, but Munoz is completely useless on this roster. He is behind Gyorko on the depth chart, which removes him from every position in the infield but maybe shortstop as a sub and I personally would start Gyorko over him at short. Both are bad there, might as well play the better hitter. There’s no reason for him to ever play in the outfield when the Cards have five guys who need all the playing time they can get.
Justin Williams - 0.4 WAR (under)
I’m not going through every minor leaguer - I’ve skipped a few - but I just want to note his #1 comp at his age is Andre Ethier.
Drew Robinson - 0.4 WAR (over)
There is no rational reason for me to pick over. Let me make that clear. He has a 78 OPS+ projection and I think he will do quite a bit better than that. He has like double the plate appearances that he’ll get if things go right for him, but nonetheless gut feeling here we come!
Francisco Pena - 0.0 WAR (under)
Pitcher over/under to come on Thursday.