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