Fun with WAR Projections
This was originally posted at the now-defunct Baseballin’ on a Budget on December 22, 2010.
Note: This is for fun. It’s an estimate. It’s December and the A’s haven’t done anything this week. There will be reactions to this that I don’t understand. “HOW COULD YOU SUGGEST KOUZ WILL ONLY WALK THAT MUCH?” “Brett Anderson WILL STRIKE OUT EVERYONE!” My estimates are wrong. They might even be really wrong. But this took me probably 30 minutes to do on FanGraphs, so if you really disagree or have 30 minutes to spare, I ask you only to try it for yourself. I bet our answers aren’t that different. Post your results in the comments and let’s have some civil discourse. Also, sorry for defending myself before you read anything. Maybe no one will care that much.
I love FanGraphs*. I love the amount of information. I love how many ways I can cut it up. I love that it can summarize a season in a number or two, but also let dig into all the minutiae I want. And they keep adding to it.
*I suppose it’s somewhat strange, given the name of the website, that one of the things I’m not in love with are the graphs. Not that I don’t find them useful. But I usually don’t go to FanGraphs looking for pictures. Just pictures that the numbers paint ZING! Ahh, digressions…
One of the features I like are the fans’ projections. I like seeing what a large of group of (presumably) knowledgeable fans think about particular players and teams. Of greater interest to me for this exercise though are the WAR results for each player that I project. Therefore, if I projected every player on a given roster, I should get an estimate of how good a team might be.
A couple of notes first. I was conservative about talent levels, or at least tried to be. Nothing too much better than what a player had accomplished previously. The only thing that I was a little aggressive on (which, as an A’s fan, might scare you) was playing time. I don’t think that I was too bad about it though. I also was very conservative with defense, mostly because I don’t fully trust the metrics yet. I rated no player more than 5 runs above or below average.
I got about 1,350 innings pitched by the entire team, and I estimated roughly 6,300 plate appearances. A typical major league team will pitch roughly 1,450 innings in a season and have about 6,100 plate appearances. I’m assuming that the remaining 100 innings will be replacement-level for the pitchers, and you can knock off somewhere in the neighborhood of 0.5 WAR for the extra plate appearances that will be given to replacement level players.
So without further ado, I bring you your 2011 Oakland Athletics (if you click on each graphic, you should be able to see larger versions):
(I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE THESE GRAPHICS WENT. SORRY)
Upon looking at the tables, I see where I had extra plate appearances. There’s about an extra 500 in the outfield and an extra 500 for designated hitters. If you want to make that adjustment, take away from Ryan Sweeney, Conor Jackson, and Chris Carter. I’ve also got 166 starts by pitchers in there, but there’s only so much I can do about that.
Other things to note from my predictions: Josh Willingham and Hideki Matsui, the two hitters the A’s signed last week, will be their best hitters. I like David DeJesus, but if he struggles adjusting to rightfield, he’s going to have to hit a lot to be an average rightfielder. And a re-birth for Kurt Suzuki? He really can’t be as bad as he was last season, and it’s not hard to be an average catcher.
I don’t trust Gio Gonzalez to stop walking people. Despite what we’ve said about the team BABIP possibly being sustainable with the defensive talent, I tried to bring all of the ERAs up to more reasonable levels (except for Andrew Bailey, who is, of course, dreamy). And I really like Brett Anderson. Too much.
In the tables above, the hitters account for 19.6 WAR (of which 1.3 is accumulated defensively). The total for the pitchers (which is conservative talent wise but aggressive playing time wise) is also 19.6 WAR. With 39.2 WAR, that leaves us with about an 85-win team, based on my back-calculations of replacement level last year.
That feels about right to me, particularly given my conservative estimates for the defense and pitching. Last season, this was an 81-win team that accumulated 35.6 WAR. To describe the WAR components in the chart below, the 2010 position players generally were average hitters, caught the ball really well, used the DH, and fielded a full lineup for every game. The starting pitchers were good and the bullpen was ok. (Side note: the 2010 Pittsburgh Pirates were really awful).
(I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE THESE GRAPHICS WENT. SORRY)
I wanted to do one last check on my predictions. I checked each individual’s WAR estimate above with their WAR totals from last season, pro-rated to match the playing time.
Clearly I’m bullish on the pitchers. The red above is where I’m fairly high on the WAR estimate (per playing time) and the yellow is where I’m low. As I said, I was conservative about defense, and having that drive so much of the positions players’ value, I was bound to have some lower estimates. The other thing I notice is that I’m expecting too much from the 5th starter candidates. They all could be good pitchers, but if Bobby Cramer, Tyson Ross, Brandon McCarthy, and Josh Outman combine for 2 WAR, that’s probably pretty good.
As cautiously optimistic (passively pessimistic?) fans, this team has improved this offseason, but mostly on the margins. A half-win here, a half-win there. Those matter, don’t get me wrong. And it appears they’ll have every shot starting in April. Texas hasn’t added anything yet (though they’ll still be good), Anaheim’s big spending so far was on a guy who will pitch 70 innings, and Seattle stinks.
But this hasn’t become a juggernaut overnight, nor do I think anyone was/is expecting it to. If the A’s are going to make the playoffs this year, it’s probably going to involve a painful regular season (see: Giants, San Francisco, 2010). That’s better than a painless regular season though, because at least it matters.