Analysis

2013 ZiPS Projections and Thoughts

UPDATE: I asked Szymborksi himself if he thought the Phillies could be in the 85-89 win range. His response?

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-l_kenYLkGho/UOS3ndftrvI/AAAAAAAAAUw/KXKNRKmyOpE/s521/Szymborski.png

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Dan Szymborski of Baseball Think Factory and FanGraphs released his ZiPS projections today on FanGraphs. There is a lot of data to comb through, as Szymborski’s projections include players who likely will not even see Major League time, but there is a lot of interesting information in his projections. Szymborksi’s projects do not paint a very favorable outlook for the Phillies in 2013 but they don’t exactly write them off, either.

The Good

When looking at these, we’ll start with the good, or rather, the not bad. Szymborski projects that Chase Utley will see the plate 450 times in 2013, an 88 PA improvement from 2012. He projects Utley’s contributions to be 3.4 fWAR, a 0.2 WAR improvement from 2012. His right side infield partner Ryan Howard is projected to play at a 1.1 WAR clip, a net gain of 2.1 wins from 2012.

Szymborksi is projecting Domonic Brown to put up a line of .265/.335/.461 with 18 HRs and 12 steals in 19 attempts for 1.9 WAR with exactly even defense in 497 PA. Darin Ruf projects pretty favorably for a first year player at 1 WAR with a line of .255/.321/.420. And finally, among offensive players, Michael Young is projected to have a 2.8 win bounce-back, with Szymborski projecting a 1.4 win season for Young with a .279/.319/.401 line while allowing eight runs on defense.

Szymborski’s most aggressive projection occurs on the pitching side – he anticipates Roy Halladay to bounce back and pitch 179 innings with a 3.12 FIP, and 154 Ks. His projection for Halladay puts Doc at 3.6 WAR, a 1.1 WAR increase from 2012.

The Regressors

These lines aren’t particularly bad but are expected regressions. Szymborski thinks Jimmy Rollins will have a fine year (17 HR, 22 SB, .260/.323/.422) but that only translates into 3.3 WAR, a 1.6 drop from 2012. Even 3.3 WAR would keep Rollins in the upper crust of the NL shortstops so this is a regression, but expected, and would be a really good year for Jimmy.

Carlos Ruiz is not expected to replicate his injury-shortened 2012 5.5 WAR campaign but Szymborski does like Ruiz to put up 3.3 WAR also. Ruiz’s calculation does not account for his suspension but the projection has Chooch at .285/.367/.434 in 421 PA. Chooch’s back-up, Erik Kratz, is projected to put up 1.1 WAR in 339 PA with a healthy dose of power: 19 2B and 12 HR.

Ben Revere, projected to get a team-leading 639 PA, is projected to get his first home run in 2013 with 42 steals and a .285/.326/.342 line, is due for regression according to Szymborski, expected to take a 1.2 WAR hit.

In pitching, Cole Hamels takes a 0.1 WAR hit, from 4.5 to 4.4, as his ERA balloons from 3.05 to 3.26. His rotation mate, Cliff Lee, is projected to stay exactly at 4.9 WAR, like he was last year.

The Surprises

Szymborski’s projections murky up the outfield pecking order. Revere, Brown, and Ruf rank 1-2-3 in terms of projected value, but the next few names may surprise you: Jermaine Mitchell, Tyson Gillies, and Ender Inciarte. Szymborski’s projections love Mitchell’s speed, giving him nine triples and 14 steals over 544 PA and saving three runs on defense. Szymborksi has a similar defensive projection for Gillies, but do not believe he can play the entire season healthy. Inciarte projects to be worth a half win over a full season, stealing 30 bases in 46 tries.

Another area of increased murkiness is the bullpen. The starters rank who you may expect (Lee, Hamels, Halladay, Kyle Kendrick, and John Lannan), but the bullpen shakes out a bit differently. Jonathan Papelbon and Mike Adams are expected to generally maintain their effectiveness, but the third best projected reliever is swing-man Julio Rodriguez, who struck out 136 in 134 innings last year in Reading. Rodriguez has not generally not been talked about in the names that could help the Phillies ‘pen in 2013 so this inclusion is a bit of a surprise. Rodriguez is followed by Antonio Bastardo, Raul Valdes, Justin De Fratus, and Michael Schwimer. That probably is not the bullpen you had in mind to start 2013, right?

Conclusion

On these projections alone, the Phillies probably shouldn’t start printing 2013 NL East champions shirts. While the upgrades from Utley, Howard, Halladay, Brown, and a bounce-back year from Young would be nice, they aren’t likely to overcome the regression due from Rollins and Ruiz and the stellar, and completely unexpected, play of Kevin Frandsen in last year’s second half.

As far as the pitching goes, Kendrick is projected to be the almost exactly the same Kendrick as he was last year while Lannan is projected to be 0.6 wins worse than Joe Blanton was for the Phillies in half a season in 2013. Adams should give a legitimate boost to the bullpen, as should the additional year of experience for guys like Phillippe Aumont, De Fratus, and Jeremy Horst.

For fun, here is the depth chart these projections create:

Starters:

C –  Ruiz (3.3 WAR)

1B – Howard (1.1 WAR)

2B – Utley (3.4 WAR)

3B – Young (1.4 WAR)

SS – Rollins (3.3 WAR)

LF – Ruf (1.0 WAR)

CF – Revere (2.2 WAR)

RF – Brown (1.9 WAR)

Bench:

UTL – Freddy Galvis (1.3 WAR)

C – Kratz (1.3 WAR)

UTL – Frandsen (0.9 WAR)

OF – Mitchell (0.6 WAR)

OF – Gillies (0.6 WAR)

Rotation:

SP – Lee (4.9 WAR)

SP – Hamels (4.4 WAR)

SP – Halladay (3.6 WAR)

SP – Kendrick (1.2 WAR)

SP – Lannan (1.1 WAR)

Bullpen

CP – Papelbon (1.2 WAR)

SU – Adams (0.9 WAR)

RP – Rodriguez (0.8 WAR)

RP – Bastardo (0.7 WAR)

RP – Valdes (0.4 WAR)

RP – De Fratus (0.3 WAR)

That projected line-up puts the Phillies at 41.8 WAR. Of course, these projections, while fun, aren’t guaranteed by any means, and are done by computers. That being said, 41.8 WAR would put the Phillies at approximately 88.54 wins in 2013, using 46.74 as a baseline for a team of strictly replacement-level players. 88 wins would get them and keep them in the playoff hunt. Without adding any further players, their best bet is to have an overachieving bullpen, hope Revere continues to grow as a player, and to have a Cy Young level season out of either Lee, Hamels, or Halladay to get them over 90 wins.

26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. Josh S

    January 2, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    Decent enough article very complete but a bit to new age for my taste numbers can only tell you so much the leadership and will are more than numbers

  2. CS

    January 2, 2013 at 7:21 pm

    How do they decide which players are goin to see MLB time? No Nix, Mayberry, etc?

  3. john

    January 2, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    anything can happen in baseball. just play the games.

  4. Lefty

    January 2, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    I don’t generally read these projections, sometimes I check out Bill James, that’s about it. So what’s this guy’s track record? How much WAR does he predict for the Braves and Nats?

  5. R.C. Cowie

    January 2, 2013 at 8:41 pm

    “I don’t understand nor am capable of analyzing statistical tables so I will disregard this article. Heart and leadership are what matter and can not be quantified.”

    – 90 percent of people who read this

  6. Bruce

    January 3, 2013 at 12:44 am

    I’m sure those who regard sabermetics as their bible will write off Kevin Frandsen’s .338 BA in 55 games played last seaso as an anomaly. Of course, they have to say that as there are no amount of advanced statistics to explain Frandsen’s performance. I guess my point is there are variables that can’t be measured especially the heart, desire, intestinal fortitude and the ability to play at 100 percent all the time. Also the learning process gained from on field experience. Thus the expression “late bloomers” for older players have been used throughout baseball’s history and one notable and current player in Phillies lineup is Ryan Howard and his rookie of the year season at age 27.

    • Bruce

      January 3, 2013 at 1:02 am

      I just checked Howard’s career stats and my post needs a correction. Howard was 25 years of age for his ROY season. Still relatively old for a rookie. I know about Thome playing 1B and possibly delayed Howard’s entrance to the Majors. However I believe Howard gained additional experience in the minors that greatly benefited him to have a ROY performance the next season in the Majors.

    • schmenkman

      January 3, 2013 at 8:08 am

      There are occasionally late bloomers, and it’s possible that Frandsen can come close to repeating what he did last year. But all of these projections try to show what is most likely to happen.

      The projection systems are computer programs that look at recent trends, and the player’s age, and make a projection based on those and how players have typically progressed historically. And where there are things that look out of place in a players’s career, history tells us that those will usually regress the following year. Do they always? No, but again they are looking for what’s more likely.

      So the programs see for example that Frandsen’s batting average on balls in play was .366 in 2012. In the 600+ at bats in the majors previously it was only .256. In his minor league career it was .326. Presumably he played at 100% all time in the minors as well, so did he suddenly figure something out last year? Or did he have a nice run, and maybe a few extra balls happen to fall in for him?

      ZiPS, for one assumes something in between, with a .293 BABIP for 2013, which generates a .273/.311/.363 line (.674 OPS). The Bill James system assumed .303, which generated a .283/.321/.374 line (.695 OPS). But I would bet that none of the various systems will assume anything higher than .330, and I’d be surprised if I saw anything above .310.

      So is it impossible that Frandsen got better at age 30 and that he can keep it up? Of course not. It’s just not very likely.

      • Bruce

        January 3, 2013 at 11:44 pm

        I generally agree with your view on the use of advanced statistics or “sabermetrics’. It’s another well developed system to present a more accurate though not a total picture of a player’s current worth. My point as previously mentioned, is that there are some individuals who regard their sabermetric system as infallible and the interpretation of the statistical results for a player as irrefutable. They disregard the intangibles that can not be measured. At least you recognized those intangibles and allow for the possibility of a different result for a player who may be a work in progress and a “late bloomer”. I often heard from professional players in interview say that no matter how good they may be, they are still learning this difficult game of basball and strive to be better. The players never allow for contentment and satisfaction and always going for a higher goal. For these players, premature judgment as a result of past statistics are unfair.

    • hk

      January 4, 2013 at 6:35 am

      Bruce,

      I don’t think it’s just those who worship sabremetrics who believe that Frandsen’s season was an anomaly. After all, the Phils own GM gave up one of the team’s top 20 prospects, plus another hard-throwing reliever off of the MLB roster and $6M of the team’s budget to effectively replace Frandsen as the starting 3B with Michael Young.

  7. arc

    January 3, 2013 at 2:19 am

    Win or lose, the Phillies are the greatest crew in baseball

  8. Fritz

    January 3, 2013 at 6:46 am

    WOW! Can’t even think about all that math. My gut feeling is the Phils will be better than last year, by 6 or 7 games.This comes from 50 years of gut feelings for the Phils.I hope that’s enough to get us back in the playoffs. Go Phillies!

  9. Jeff T

    January 3, 2013 at 7:52 am

    I am happy with these projections. Especially since they call for Chase and Ryan to play a relatively low number of AB’s. If those two are able to have healthy seasons (big IF, I know) then this is a 90 win team.

  10. George

    January 3, 2013 at 9:29 am

    The outfield/bench numbers here seem a little cockeyed to me. I’m not sure how a non-regular like Mitchell somehow ends up with 544 PAs, or a bench player like Inciarte manages to get 46 base stealing opportunities. I also can’t see Revere leading off, which would be pretty much required in order to lead the team in PAs.

    • schmenkman

      January 3, 2013 at 9:42 am

      I don’t think the playing time assumptions are meant to be taken at face value. All the position player projections add up to over 13,000 plate appearances, but an MLB team only gets about 6,000 in a 162-games schedule.

      • George

        January 3, 2013 at 9:59 pm

        Sure, these are assumptions. I know that. But if the team projects to a certain performance, I would think that the prognosticators involved could do a better job than a difference of 7,000 plate appearances. These numbers are so inflated, they’re borderline useless.

      • schmenkman

        January 3, 2013 at 10:13 pm

        George, I think the value in these is in the rate stats (BA/OBP/SLG/OPS etc).

        The way to view the counting stats is that if a given player got that many plate appearances, those stats are what he is expected to produce.

        Just fyi, I had the same issue with them, and earlier today I wrote a post to convert them to what a full season might look like (google “schmenkman zips projections” to find it).

      • hk

        January 4, 2013 at 7:16 am

        schmenkman,

        Great job of translating James’s and Szymborski’s numbers into more easily interpreted projections for the season. I agree that their rate stats are all that really matter and I’m not sure why they even project PA’s for players. It only leads to confusion.

        One thing that I have been wondering is whether there’s a way to take the projections and turn them into platoon splits and, if so, to take those splits projections and estimate how many additional runs the Phils might get from using strict platoons at certain positions. For instance, since ZIPS has Ruf’s wOBA at .321 and the average of James’s and ZIPS’s projections have Nix’s wOBA at .306, which happens to almost be his career average, is it reasonable to assume the following?:

        1. Since Ruf has shown a wide split in the minors, assume that his .321 wOBA projection is based on a .370 wOBA vs. LHP (in 30% of his PA’s) and a .300 wOBA vs. RHP (in 70% of his PA’s).

        2. Since Nix has a wide split (career wOBA .317 vs. RHP / .235 vs. LHP), assume a .317 wOBA if Nix played in a strict LF platoon.

        3. A strict platoon would give the Phils a .332 wOBA instead of Ruf’s .321 wOBA in LF.

        If this is reasonable, how many more runs would we expect from an additional .011 of wOBA from LF?

      • schmenkman

        January 4, 2013 at 7:50 am

        hk, thanks, and that is reasonable. The formulas would say that on average, .011 of wOBA over 650 plate appearances is worth about 6 runs.

    • schmenkman

      January 3, 2013 at 9:45 am

      (also, Revere can get 639 by batting 8th every day; it just assumes less time missed due to injury for him than for other players)

      • Bruce

        January 3, 2013 at 6:14 pm

        Did I read that right? A season’s total of 639 official at bats for the 8th hitter in the line-up? Seriously? Can you name any player in game’s history to achieve that total of at bats batting 8th in the line-up? It’s common knowledge that the 8th hitter will generally average one fewer at bat than those hitting higher in the line-up. Plus there are factors such as the opposing pitcher “pitching around” the 8th hitter (a walk issued) in order to go to the pitcher hitting last in the line-up.

      • schmenkman

        January 3, 2013 at 6:39 pm

        The 639 number in the projections is plate appearances, not official at bats. I doubt that the projections assumed any particular spot in the order, but 630-some is how many PA’s the Phillies had in the 8th spot in 2012.

  11. Chuck A.

    January 4, 2013 at 7:20 am

    So 88.54 wins have been forecasted using this formula base on a 41.8 WAR.

    I predicted, with a reasonably healthy Utley and Howard (about 140 games for each) …which I think will happen…that they hit 90 wins and a playoff berth. Of course, that assumes that Doc bounces back as well and that the rest of the Big 3 in the rotation stays at least the same. The bullpen seems to be improved as well. So many factors. But I think that the mere presence of the #3 and #4 hitters in the lineup from Day 1 will have a profoundly positive effect.

  12. JohnMatrix

    January 6, 2013 at 10:42 pm

    I dont really get all these fancy numbers, but how does this years numbers stack up against 08

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