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ZiPS Over/Under: Pitchers

Are the projection systems right or wrong? I take guesses part two.

St Louis Cardinals v Chicago Cubs Photo by Andrew Weber/Getty Images

Last Friday, Dan Szymborski released the projections of the St. Louis Cardinals using his ZiPS projection system. Overall, it’s hard to say it is anything but positive. When I calculated the overall WAR, taking into account the playing time players would be likely to receive, the Cardinals ended up as an 89 win team. There is one easy way to improve that, but I’m not going to let myself get off track.

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. On Tuesday, I did position players. Today, it’s the pitchers’ turn. 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.

Carlos Martinez - 3.2 WAR (Over)

What convinced me, ultimately, was that Martinez has that projection over 168 innings, which leaves a whole lot of wiggle room in performance if he managed to throw, say, 200 innings.

Miles Mikolas - 3 WAR (Under)

But not by much. If Mikolas had a .300 BABIP against last year and normal home run luck, he’d basically had been a 3 WAR pitcher. I think he might also suffer a bit in what is commonly referred to as “the sophomore slump” even though most of that slump will be going from good luck to neutral luck.

Jack Flaherty - 2.9 WAR (Over)

This one isn’t hard to justify. ZiPS predicts a 3.79 FIP with a 1.17 HR/9. Last year, Flaherty had a 1.19 HR/9 with a 15.2 HR/FB%. Flaherty is probably not remotely close to a true talent 15 HR/FB% pitcher.

Daniel Poncedeleon - 1.3 WAR (Under)

Perhaps one of the most surprising projections. Unfortunately, he has to pitch almost 120 innings for this projection and something has gone terribly, terribly wrong if that happens.

Dakota Hudson - 1.3 WAR (under)

To give context on how surprising Ponce’s projection is, Hudson’s 1.3 WAR comes in 150 IP, which is 30 more innings than Ponce. Anyway, if Hudson pitches 150 innings, something has gone horribly, horribly wrong.

Andrew Miller - 1.3 WAR (under)

I just can’t bring myself to project a reliever OVER that WAR, especially at his age and after a 0.4 WAR season. But optimistically, he is only projected for 48 innings, so if he throws a full season, that projection is nearly 2 WAR.

Michael Wacha - 1.2 WAR (over)

It’s only for 120 innings and it’s a very mediocre 4.21 FIP. Wacha is a pitcher who will swerve and slide and be exactly the same pitcher he always has been. You just got to hope he didn’t slide more than he swerved and then gets hurt, like last year.

Giovanny Gallegos - 1.1 WAR (under)

What the... what the hell? Even if I believed in him - and I do (not sure about that much), he is one of the few relievers with options, which makes me think he won’t get the innings to have a chance at that WAR. Anyway, he was in the Luke Voit trade so I guess we might get good value out of that after all.

Austin Gomber - 0.9 WAR (Under)

Another pitcher with playing time issues for his WAR. He has 132 innings pitched with that WAR. He’ll either need to be better than last year or he won’t pitch that many innings.

Adam Wainwright - 0.9 WAR (Under)

He has 96 innings with this projection, meaning ZiPS considers him an average pitcher over a full season. I feel hypocritical being optimistic about Wainwright by going under, but there’s still a chance he goes to the bullpen and no way he reaches 0.9 WAR in the bullpen.

Alex Reyes - 0.8 WAR (Over)

ZiPS has him with 64 innings pitched and a 4.23 FIP. I can’t seem him pitching 64 innings and having that high of an FIP. I firmly believe he is a good if he’s healthy pitcher so I’m just gambling he can pitch like 50 innings or more for that WAR.

John Brebbia - 0.8 WAR (under)

This feels wildly optimistic to me and I’m a Brebbia fan. Also, there’s the unfortunate matter that he also has an option left so he is still in danger of getting sent down for long enough to not get the innings for this.

Jordan Hicks - 0.8 WAR (under)

I’m treating this like I’m gambling and I would never gamble the over on relief pitchers. Also Hicks threw 77 innings and managed 0.5 WAR last year. I’m sure he’ll be better this year, but he will probably not throw that many innings again.

John Gant - 0.7 WAR (Under)

When a spot in the rotation needs to be filled, I suspect Gant will be the first to be called, depending on Reyes’ health. Nonetheless, I do not think he will accumulate the innings necessary for this projection. I do think his 4.72 FIP is a little higher than I would probably predict, but not better enough to make up for the fact that he will throw way less than 138 innings.

Luke Gregerson - 0.5 WAR (Under)

I think there is a decent chance he either gets cut in Spring Training or spends most of the year on the DL again, and that would make getting 0.5 WAR difficult.

Tyler Webb - 0.5 WAR (Under)

I’m struggling to see a scenario where he fits in. Brett Cecil will get the chance to show h’s healthy and if he’s not, Chasen Shreve is there. Even if he makes the team, he’s not very good so this projection is genuinely surprising to me.

Ryan Meisinger - 0.5 WAR (under)

He’s not even on the 40 man roster and I could have skipped him, but I want you all to know his projection is solid. Nothing special, but good guy to have in the minors if things go badly. And the Cardinals picked up him for nothing.

Genesis Cabrera - 0.4 WAR (Over)

Call me a Genesis believer. Insert joke about the band I would have definitely made if I ever listened to their music outside of their radio hits. Sorry, it’s me not being cool. Anyway, I am a believer in the pitcher even if ZiPS, at this very moment, is not. If he’s for real, he doesn’t need that many starts to be over 0.4 WAR. Or if he goes to the bullpen, he might be that dominant. Either way, calculated gamble here.

Ryan Helsley - 0.4 WAR (Under)

I don’t believe in Helsley any less than Cabrera. But he’s thrown just a little over 100 innings in the past two years combined. The Cardinals probably wouldn’t mind if he added to his 30 total innings at AAA this year, keeping him there most of the year. Lastly, I think he’s fairly low on the totem pole to spot start and also the RP depth chart. Cabrera has the advantage of being a lefty, Helsley does not.

Chasen Shreve - 0.3 WAR (Over)

This is a matter of 0.3 not being that high of a bar to clear. Shreve has a career 16.9 HR/FB% and while most of that is probably his fault, he’s pitched 200 total innings in the majors. Or essentially a full season of a starting pitcher. I wouldn’t buy into that HR/FB if he was a starter so I won’t buy into it.

Mike Mayers - 0.2 WAR (Over)

The only real doubt in my mind is that he has no options. A pitcher of Mayers’ caliber having no options is very inconvenient. He might not be a St. Louis Cardinal on Opening Day because of it.

Dominic Leone - 0.1 WAR (Over)

Way over. No clue why it’s this low, since he was actually good when healthy. While he has a lower inning total than some of the guys on here, it’s not because of innings either.

Brett Cecil - 0.1 WAR (Over)

I mean.... he was a 1.1 WAR pitcher in 2017. I wouldn’t go much higher than 0.1, but 0.1 is a really low bar. It’s been reported that he’s gotten weight loss and strength gains, and no I’m not buying that for him being a better pitcher, but I do think it means the Cards are trying to sell the fans on him, which means they plan for him to be on the roster.

And that is it. Tell me how wrong I am. For not listening to Genesis I mean, not about this post.