Sunday, January 10, 2016

Hot Stove Update: Are the Giants Winning the Projection WARs?

As we approach the end of the Hot Stove League season, we enter the Projection WARs.  See, you can know who the best team in baseball is before the regular season starts.  You just have to go look up your favorite projection system and add up the WAR scores for the players on your team's likely 25 man roster and boom!  You know how many games you can expect them to win as well as their rivals. Of course, there is a reason why they play the games, and projections are projections.  Projections are a likely mean of range of possible performances of any given player.  For any one player, the projection may be wildly inaccurate due to luck, injury, breakout performance, there is a long list.  On the other hand, it you take all 750 MLB players and average their actual from expected performance, the mean difference would be close to zero, the projection systems are that good.  For a 25 man roster of a single MLB team, the accuracy is somewhere between what you would get from 1 player and the entire population of MLB players.  On the other hand, coming into last season, the Boston Red Sox had one of the highest projected WARs of any team and look where they finished.

By most accounts, the Giants have had a boffo Hot Stove League season while the Dodgers have had a rough one.  Of course, the Dodgers were starting out with a substantial lead, but what about now?  Where do these two teams, as well as the division rival D'Backs stand in the WAR Projection race?  Grant Brisbee at tackled this today from a different angle, looking at how much the Giants had improved just from the additions of the 3 FA signings minus the players they will replace.  He concluded that the Giants have improved by approximately 8 fWAR points.  The Giants finished 8 games behind the Dodgers in the NL West last year.  Just sayin'.

I decided to project 25 man rosters for the Giants, Dodgers and D'Backs and add up their Steamer projected WAR scores for 2016 and see what shook out.  We'll take the Giants first:

C  Buster Posey:  5.2
1B Brandon Belt:  3.1
2B Joe Panik:  2.9
3B Matt Duffy!:  3.1
SS Brandon Crawford:  2.4
LF Angel Pagan:  0.2
CF  Denard Span:  2.6
RF  Hunter Pence:  2.3
Bench Gregor Blanco:  1.0
Bench Jarrett Parker:  0.4
Bench Ehire Adrianza:  0.2
Bench Kelby Tomlinson:  0.1
Bench  Andrew Susac:  0.9
SP  Madison Bumgarner:  4.6
SP  Johnny Cueto:  3.4
SP  Jeff Samardzija:  2.4
SP  Jake Peavy:  1.2
SP  Matt Cain:  0.9
RP  Chris Heston 0.6
RP  Santiago Casilla 0.3
RP  Sergio Romo 0.8
RP  Javier Lopez 0.0
RP  Hunter Strickland 0.7
RP  Josh Osich 0.2
RP  George Kontos 0.0

In case you are wondering, George Konto pitched 73 innings last year with an ERA of 2.33 and had a fWAR of -0.2 which seems pretty ridiculous to me.  It seems his FIP and xFIP were both above 4.00.  So you see, it's not a perfect system.  At any rate, the grand total Projected WAR for my projected 25 man roster is 39.5.  Add on the projected win total for a replacement roster of 45 and you get a projected win total of 84.5 Wins.  Of course, it does not count what might happen after midseason trades or players replaced due to injury or poor performance.

What about the Dodgers?  Let's do the same exercise for them:

C  Yasmani Grandal:  2.5
1B Adrian Gonzalez:  2.7
2B Chase Utley:  1.3
3B  Justin Turner:  2.6
SS  Corey Seager:  2.9
LF  Andre Ethier:  1.2
CF  Joc Pederson:  3.3
RF  Yasiel Puig:  4.0
Bench Carl Crawford:  0.3
Bench  AJ Ellis:  1.0
Bench Enrique Hernandez:  1.1
Bench Scott Van Slyke:  0.8
Bench Alex Guerrero:  0.0
SP  Clayton Kershaw:  7.5
SP  Brett Anderson:  1.8
SP  Scott Kazmir:  2.1
SP  Hyun-Jin Ryu:  1.4
SP  Kenta Maeda:  1.0?
RP  Kenley Jansen:  1.2
RP  Alex Wood:  1.3
RP  Mike Bolsinger:  0.4
RP  Chris Hatcher:  0.5
RP  Pedro Baez:  0.4
RP  Yimi Garcia:  0.6
RP  JP Howell:  0.1

THAT all adds up to 42.0 or 87 projected team Wins.  Again, a few of those numbers may raise your eyebrows a bit.  Yasiel Puig is coming off a 1.5 fWAR season for starters.  Still, we'll probably all be surprised at how close most of these were at the end of the season.

What about the D'Backs after adding Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller at a horrific cost?

C  Welington Castillo:  2.5
1B Paul Goldschmidt:  5.2
2B Chris Owings:  0.3
3B Jake Lamb:  2.1
SS Nick Ahmed:  0.7
LF David Peralta:  1.7
CF AJ Pollack:  3.7
RF  Yasmany Tomas:  0.2
Bench Socrates Brito:  -0.1
Bench Tuffy Gosewich:  0.0
Bench Aaron Hill:  -0.1
Bench ????:  0.2?
Bench ????:  0.1?
SP  Zack Greinke:  4.8
SP  Patrick Corbin:  2.6
SP  Shelby Miller:  2.0
SP  Robbie Ray:  1.5
SP  Rubby De La Rosa:  1.4
RP  Daniel Hudson:  0.8
RP  Andrew Chafin:  0.3
RP  Randall Delgado:  0.4
RP  Silvio Bracho:  0.6
RP  Brad Zeigler:  0.5
RP  Enrique Burgos:  0.1
RP  Chase Anderson:  0.9

Now that all adds up to 31.3 or 76 team Wins.  The D'Backs roster is extremely top heavy and shallow.  In order to compete in the NL West with the Giants and Dodgers, they will likely need to add considerable depth which they probably cannot do this offseason.

What does all this mean?  We should take it as a rough idea of where these 3 teams stand in competition  for the NL West.  I believe the Giants and Dodgers are within margin of error of each other, with the D'Backs still having work to do to catch up.  And of course, the Hot Stove League is not over yet with the Dodgers having enough resources to make some more moves if they are so inclined.


  1. I'll just add that Madison Bumgarner added 1.2 fWAR with is hitting last year that is unaccounted for in these projections.

  2. By Steamer's projections, the Giants with Cueto, Samardzija, Span, and a full season of Pence are about the same, 84 wins, as the 2015 Giants. I disbelieve that, in part because I don't think Steamer's estimates of Cain (or anyone else's) have much of a factual basis, and I don't trust their accuracy about players who switch from one dominant park environment to another, esp. pitchers. I also doubt that they have enough data to assess Duffy after one year--witness their misestimation of 2015 Panik--or players who have altered their approach, as Crawford seems to have. As you point out with the example of Bumgarner's ignored value as a hitter, their formulae can't account for a good bit of miscellaneous data; but maybe in team-to-team comparisons, the omissions and overemphases even out.

    This much seems certain: the Las Vegas crowd had us well ahead of LA and Arizona on their odds board for 2016 WS champion, where we were tied with the Cubs; and those odds predated our signing Span. Do the heirs of Jimmy the Greek and Legs Diamond flout the back room wisdom of Steamer? What are the odds of Vegas being right and Steamer an also-ran?

    1. Keep in mind that these totals are simply added up from the 25 players who I think will start the season on the active roster. They do not account for other players who may appear on the roster and contribute themselves. They also do not include batting WAR for the pitchers.

      And yes, I do think that for the most part the projections even out in terms of being too high or too low on individual players. Again, the listed number is the mean of a range of possible outcomes.

      I think it is fair to say that the projections show the Giants and Dodgers to be approximately equal in talent at this point in their roster construction. I am not sure you can be any more precise than that. In fact, I am quite sure you cannot.

    2. I'll be honest, I'm completely not a fan of their modeling. I think Cove Chatter is better at it in that whatever he does to get his numbers he seems to be getting closer (barring unpredictable events like injuries) than these guys with their fancy models.


      Posey: If memory serves me correct, Steamer had him at 4+ WAR last year. This is a step in the right direction at least.

      Belt: When healthy (2013, 2015), he's shown himself to be a 4+ WAR first basemen as he's a good hard-contact hitter and has matured into a GG-capable 1B. I also noticed he got shafted on BABIP. He's more likely to have a .350 (or better) BABIP if he plays healthy all year rather than the .330 they gave him. (Past his rookie year, 3 of 4 years are .351 opr higher, 2014 (the injury year) it was a miserable .288).

      Panik: Keeps getting discounted. He's line-drive hitter with gap power. Regressing his BABIP to .301 because you want to make him fit your models is BS. He's earned that career .336 BABIP and until he shows he can't, he can.

      Crawford: They were wrong last year and probably wrong this year I know he's a bit of a wild card. But 2.4 WAR? He's averaged 3.0 the last 4 years and it's increased every year. I find hard to believe, baring injuries or melt-down, that he comes out worse than 3.5 which is far closer to 2014 (3.1) than 2015 (4.7).

      Pence: 2.3, really? It's possible, he had 1.6 WAR season in 2012. But it was 1.6 in 2015 and that was a third of a season. It just seems a big wonky. I could live with a 3.5 WAR projection. But...

      Anyway, I could ramble on. But I'll just jack my blood pressure up and life is too short to whine (too much) about their models I don't use anyway. If want projections, I'll wait patiently for Cover Chatter. Like I said, his seem to be closer to reality.

    3. Moses, it's really not worth raising your blood pressure over. I'll try to find last year's projections and compare them with last year's results. Yes, there will always be variance. As I have said several times, a projection is a mean of possible outcomes. I did that exercise for 2014, I think that was the year, and it was actually quite remarkable how close the projections came for most players.

      You can go through the Giants roster and find reasons give almost everyone a better projection and you can go through the Dodgers roster and find reasons for lower numbers on almost every player, but is it really realistic to think that every Giants player is going to outperform their projection and every Dodgers player is going to underperform?

      We'll see. As always, the most important ingredient for the Giants success in 2016 is for the roster to stay healthy. If that happens, they will do just fine.

      As for the specific cases you mention:

      Posey: 5.2 is a high hurdle. It strikes me as actually being a bit optimistic.

      Belt: It is extremely rare for any player to maintain a BABIP of .350.

      Panik: He's coming off an injury. Who knows what we are going to get from him?

      Crawford: It is not at all unreasonable to think 2015 might have been his career year.

      Pence: Again, coming off injury and he is starting to get into an age range where decline starts to set in. I am sure both of those were factored into the projection.

      So yeah, they might all do a lot better than their projection, but they all might do a lot worse. Most likely it will be a mixed bag with some doing better and some doing worse.

  3. I'll admit it: I tend to ignore projections and forecast numbers. I much more enjoy watching the actual games and the drama of a whole season. Looking good on paper doesn't mean a thing once the season starts.
    But I do feel really good about the Giants team going in to this year. Who knows if we'll actually win in the end, but it looks to me like we've got a really good shot at it. And really, that's all I ask for. Give me a team that keeps me feeling optimistic in August, and it's a good year.
    Honestly, which is more fun? Posey's projected fWar, or seeing him drive in a run to beat the 'Odgers in the ninth inning?

    1. Like I have said many times, there is a reason why they play the games.