During the Hot Stove, when the various Major League Baseball projection systems began to unveil their 2015 forecasts, Jeff Moore published a piece at The Hardball Times analogizing baseball projection systems to Mesopotamian mystics. A fact Moore omitted from his article is that the final projection each system gives a player is the mean projection—the result that is most likely in 2015 according to the way the projection system weighs its various inputs. The various projection systems forecast other results, but with lower probabilities of them coming to fruition. Sometimes the folks who develop the projection system publish these other potential outcomes; other times, they don't.
Dan Szymborski, the creator of the ZiPS projection system, makes his forecasts publicly available. Individual player projections can be found for free at Fangraphs. But Szymborski takes it a step further. He publishes a Google doc spreadsheet with the complete results. The spreadsheet includes a lot of information—some of which isn't found at Fangraphs.
For Sunday's post, I dipped a toe into the ZiPS spreadsheet and shared a few tidbits about how Matt Adams and Kolten Wong might outperform their respective ZiPS mean projections. I focused on the positive and ignored the negative. Today, I thought we might look at the contours of the ZiPS projections for every projected Cardinals starter. ZIPS gives us a percentage chance for a litany of offensive benchmarks.
- BA: >.350, >.325, >.300, >.275, >.250
- OBP: >.400, >.375, >.350, >.325, >.300
- SLG: >.550, >.500, >.450, >.400, >.350
- OPS+: ≥140, ≥130, ≥120, ≥110, ≥100, ≥90, ≥80, ≥60
Through ZiPS, you can see what a Yadier Molina decline season might look like. The BA dips below .275, the OBP follows suit, as does the SLG. Suddenly, you have a below-average batter. Thankfully, ZiPS forecasts a 93.2% likelihood that Yadi will post an OPS+ over 90 in 2015, so a collapse (as opposed to a decline year) is unlikely.
Further, ZiPS forecasts Yadi hitting over .300 as more likely than him posting a BA below .275. Thus, it's not surprising that ZiPS also projects a higher probability that Yadi will post an OBP over .350 than below .325. But ZiPS is not particularly bullish on Yadi's power-hitting. It sees a sub-.400 SLG as more likely than it finishing up over .450.
This graphic highlights Adams's biggest weakness and strength. His limited ability to get on-base creates a ceiling as reflected by the low percentage chance that he'll post an OBP above .350. The downside is represented by the 22.2% chance that Adams will post an OBP below .300 in 2015. Adams also has power potential, even if ZiPS is not particularly bullish on an outright breakout. It's feels dead-on to expect Adams to finish 2015 with a SLG between .450 and .500, and closer to the low end.
ZiPS forecasts Wong to improve on his rookie year stats during his sophomore campaign. While ZiPS doesn't allow much of a chance for a .300+/.350+/.450+ type of breakout (honestly, why would it?), it projects a .275+/.325+/.400+ line as within the realm of possibility.
As much as a projection system can make a declaration about a past season, ZiPS is doing so regarding Matt Carpenter's 2013 campaign. It's calling Carpenter's .318/.392/.481 a fluke. ZiPS doesn't give Carpenter much of a chance to hit over .300 and even less of one to slug at a higher than .450 rate. Getting on base is a slightly different story. ZiPS believes in Carpenter's OBP to an extent—just not to the .390+ level.
After Jhonny Peralta's exquisite 2014, Cardinals fans are understandably feeling pretty good about the shortstop as we enter 2016. The problem is that Peralta's pre-St. Louis career was somewhat up and down. ZiPS is sitting on the middle ground of those peaks and valleys. It forecasts the 33-year-old to do something similar offensively to 2014, but not quite as good. But it's a bit foreboding to see the potential for a sub-.325 OBP at 49.3% and sub-.400 SLG at 30.0%. Overall, ZiPS puts Peralta's chances of dipping below the MLB average on offense at 38.3% in 2015. If Peralta keeps up his elite fielding, such an occurrence will be much easier to swallow.
Matt Holliday might be the safest bet on the Cardinals roster. ZiPS forecasts it as rather unlikely that Holliday's OBP will dip below .325 or his SLG beneath .400. Put otherwise: Holliday is extremely likely to post a .725+ OPS in 2015. Such an outcome would still put him just above the MLB left fielder OPS of .720 from a year ago.
Jon Jay is what he is: a singles hitter who will post a hollow BA-driven line. You know it, I know it, and ZiPS projects it. That's not to say Jay is a bad player. He's a fine complementary player on a good team—the exact role he plays on the Cardinals. Not surprisingly, ZiPS doesn't expect Jay to repeat his extremely-high-BABIP-fueled 2014 batting, but nonetheless expects him to be a cromulent center fielder with the bat. Penciling in a league-average hitter in the seventh spot is not a bad problem for a manager to have.
Would you give a $200 million extension to a player ZiPS gives an almost 20% of hitting for a sub-.250 average? It's an interesting question, especially given the very good OBP ZiPS forecasts for Heyward in spite of his low BA. More positivity can be found in the SLG numbers. ZiPS forecasts a 40-point improvement over 2014 as the most likely occurrence this season with a one-in-four shot at something above .450.