Friday, January 24, 2014

2014 Giants: Projected Wins With Steamer

Fangraphs provides a number of projections for players on their website and one of them is Steamer, which they then use to populate a depth chart for each team, then calculate the projected wins for them.  If you look at that depth chart website, and sort by the total, the Giants are roughly in the middle of the majors in wins, with 36.6 WAR.  Their methodology assumes 48 WAR base for all teams as replacement level, so that works out to 84.6 Wins for the Giants in 2014 per the Steamer projections.

ogc thoughts

I've collected a number of projections and Steamer's results in the lowest runs scored per the lineup calculator, so this is not too surprising.  Oddly enough, the WAR numbers for the offense don't look too much out of place, so I guess offense is assumed to be very down in the majors per their projections.  But I was not happy with the pitching and that is where I went in and dug around on the numbers.  First the starters:
  • Bumgarner:  they had 3.4 but he's easily 3.8
  • Cain:  they had 1.9, assuming he's declined, but he should be back to prior goodness, I think, so 4.0
  • Lincecum:  they had 1.9 but I think 2.0 is realistic even given how he was the last two seasons, but a minor quibble, but since I did the work...
  • Hudson:  they had 1.5, assuming he's declined, but I think he should be back to prior goodness, 2.3
Then the bulllpen, oy, not sure what drove their thinking there:
  • Romo:  0.7 but looking at past performance, should be 1.1
  • Casilla:  -0.4 but looking at past performance, should be 0.0
  • Affedlt:  -0.1 but looking at past performance, should be 0.3
  • Lopez:  0.1, and I don't understand how they got that, must be his age, but should be 0.6 based on past
Between the two, starters and relievers, that should add another 5.5 wins, leaving the Giants at 90.1 wins projection for 2014.  I'm good with that projection, I think the Giants should be able to do at least that, barring any catastrophic injury to someone key.  I think we have enough pitching prospects to cover the bullpen and probably one starter, plus Petit should pitch a lot more innings as a reliever if the starters are healthy.

And I think the upside for Sandoval (offense and defense, he was rated great on defense in 2011 when he was fit), Belt, and Crawford should cover any problems with the offense that might pop up, like losing someone to injury or a regression on Pence's part.  Plus, Morse is only projected for 0.9 WAR in total, but if he hits like he did before, that should increase.  And, Bochy plans on taking him out the last three innings for defensive purposes, which would help Blanco boost his WAR via defense (projected at only 0.5 WAR in LF) and reduce Morse's really bad defensive numbers by a third.

Now will 90 wins get them into the playoffs?  Usually, based on the recent past for NL teams, and probably now that there's the extra wildcard team added in.  The Reds got in with 90 wins in 2013 and the Cards got in with 88 in 2012.  And in 2011, had they had the extra, 89 wins get the next team into the wildcard game.

Of course, just getting in as a wild card makes things harder, as the team has to blow off their ace in that game.  But if the pitchers perform the way I expect, the Giants should have at least three aces to chose from for that wildcard game, then can rest him for game 3 of the divisional playoffs.

On top of that, except for LA, none of the NL West was over .500 in 2013, and nobody acquired anybody that huge that I can remember, to boost them up, though Steamer projects the Dodgers at 89.6 wins, Rockies at 86.3 wins, and D-backs at 85.3 wins, which are all above Steamer's projected wins but below my adjusted projected wins.

Of course, their fans might see upside on their rosters too.  Looking at their numbers, first off, no way Puig hits that well, he was a roughly .800 for good portions of the season after his hot start, .861 seems way too high.  Basically he had one hot month, then from July 3, a good .272/.363/.453/815 but nowhere near .861 OPS projection.  And Steamer has A-Gon at .844, something he has not sniffed for two seasons now, I'm amazed that they boosted up his projection to something he has not seen since 2011.  And frankly, I don't understand how AJ Ellis is worth 3.3 WAR with a .704 OPS and hardly any defensive value.   Makes it seem like they are undervaluing Posey.

For the Rockies, somehow their pitching is rated much better than the Giants.  And while they downsized our top relievers, somehow Hawkins himself will produce more WAR than Romo/Affeldt/Lopez/Casilla, and Brothers will produce the same as Hawkins, 1.1 WAR each.  And their rotation is supposedly better as well, even though Anderson has pitched barely 150 IP in the last three seasons, but they project him at 91 IP and 1.7 WAR.  And somehow their pitchers at low 4's ERA or FIP is worth 2.5 to 2.9 WAR, while the Giants pitchers, projected at mid to high 3's are worth 1.5 to 1.9 WAR.

The D-backs bullpen is also somehow better than the Giants  as well as their rotation.  Again, not sure how they got their guys in the positive while our bullpen is totally downgraded relative to what they have not only done in 2014, but  had done for a number of years now.

Ugh, just found out something odd.  The depth chart has Buster at 6.3 WAR but his profile has him at 7.1!  But the next players on the Giants list were within 0.1 or 0.2 of their depth chart figure.  So be aware of this, and this is probably happening for the other teams too, but the differences seems to be random, so they should balance out for the most part.  And I think the 6.3 seems realistic given that he probably playing 1B not as much as listed, I don't expect to see Belt sit that often, maybe 10 games tops.  Overall, looking at the other teams, the WAR seemed reasonable except for the ones I pointed out above.

In any case, I think the Giants should win at least 90 games in 2014, and easily.  This Steamer projection says that probably they won't reach that, but I pointed out my problems with their projections, and that would bring them up to 90 wins.  And no matter how the other NL West teams do, generally, winning 90 games gets you a spot in the playoffs, and with our pitching, that can carry us deep, as shown in 2010 and 2012.

They just need to stay away from injuries, which sunk 2011 (Posey) and 2013 (Pagan, Vogie, Scutaro, Crawford, Sandoval, Affeldt being the main problems).  And as they showed in April/May (until Pagan injury) and September 2013, when they were mostly healthy, they can win:  they were a collective 43-33 over those periods, a .566 winning percentage, or 91.7 wins in a 162 season.  

16 comments:

  1. Could be wrong here, but I think the discrepancy between the individual and the position is that the player won't play all of his games at the position, well, except Hunter Pence! Catcher would be where you would expect to see the largest difference. I find the offensive projections to be pretty fair.

    I think you might be just a tad optimistic to give Cainer a 4.0, but it's possible. I think Timmy may well go higher than 2.0 if he continues to build on his improved nutrition and conditioning.

    I agree with you that they are underrating the bullpen.

    Lotta ifs in the rotation. That's the Achilles Heel of the team right there. It could be a very good rotation, but a lot of things have to break right.

    Keeping my fingers crossed for a huge season from Pablo, a breakout from Belt and nice offensive bounce back from Morse.

    If things go right with the pitching and we get those three things on offense, I could see another WS title.

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    1. Steamer projects that in no year of the next five will Belt equal the 4 WAR performance of 2013. We all saw, however, that he became markedly better once he agreed to do what the coaches had been advising, as to his stance and grip. Over a full season of using the new stance &c., he should, one would think, improve on 2013. If Steamer's calculations rely on stats rather than upon actual knowledge of the players (as well as stats), there would seem to be plenty of room for skepticism about what they have to say.

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    2. Good thought, DrB, but unfortunately, not the answer here. His position WAR is 5.8, his overall 6.3 (including 0.5 for 1B) in the depth chart, but when I went to his profile, they list the Steamer projection as 7.1 WAR. Obviously, if that is the correct projection, then that adds almost another win to the projection.

      Thanks for the thought, though, I appreciate it. And I agree, the offensive projections do look fair, that is why I didn't really do much with that.

      How I came up with 4.0 for Cain was averaging his prior three years, where the average was 4.03 WAR. Also, his full season average after his first call-up was 3.84 WAR. A tad aggressive, I can see, but as I've noted in my PQS analysis, he returned to elite status in the second half, with his DOM's percentage returned to prior highs.

      In his last 10 starts, 2.27 ERA, 3.64 K/BB, 70% DOM% vs. 5.00 ERA, 2.61 K/BB, 45% DOM% over first 20 starts. Remember, good pitchers have DOM% in 40's, elites have them at 70% and over.

      Only 10 starts, I'll admit, but over the time period since the no-no, 7 is the high mark for a 10 start stretch, and if you only look at 5 PQS starts, the highest 10 start stretch after the Perfecto was 5, and most of the time, it was 3 or 4, averaging 3.4 5-PQS in a 10 game stretch. Contrast that with him ending 2013 with 7 out of 10, plus running a string of 5 straight 5-PQS (high after Perfecto was 3 straight, with none even close to 4 straight or even 4 of 5, 4 of 6, 4 of 7.

      I agree that Lincecum could be much higher. Thanks for pointing this out. Given he only had 0.9 and 1.6 the last two years, I thought I would be conservative with him. I expect him to be back to good levels (under 3.5) but other than hope and faith, I got nothing to back that up, so I though pushing it to 2.0 was fair.

      I disagree about the rotation. It should be a good rotation just with Cain, Bumgarner, Hudson, plus Lincecum doing another 2013. It could be a very good rotation if Lincecum can return to pre-2012 goodness or if Vogelsong can return to 2011-2012 goodness. It can be a great rotation if both can return. But I expect a good rotation, and that the odds of either Lincecum or Vogelsong delivering a good season is pretty good.

      I would be disappointed if Pablo don't have a huge season, but even if he has a good season, as projected, we should be OK.

      I would also be disappointed if Belt does not have a breakout season. But he's projected to deliver less than he did last season, so that's a good buffer for any disappoint across the lineup, I think.

      I don't think a lot has to go right for us to win another title. I think if most of the players stay healthy and produce as expected/projected, we should get into the playoffs easily, and as long as we have a good four mix going good into the playoffs, that along with our offense, should power us to our third title in five years.

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    3. Thanks for your comments Campanari. I think skepticism is too strong a word to use for projections. They are all based on some formulation of how much the last three or more seasons' performances is projected to forecast the upcoming season. As long as one realizes that limitation, then one can pivot off a projection as a likely base case, and tweak based, as you note, on actual knowledge of the players and their situation. Like, as I noted about Cain, Lincecum, Sandoval, Belt. Or the bullpen as a whole. It is a good tool to start an analysis on, but not the be all or end all, as you are getting at with your comment.

      And I plan on doing the same with the ZiPS forecast, once Fangraphs includes that into their database for the players, and hope to do that, if I have the time, for other forecasts, like Bill James and Baseball Forecaster (Shandler). Then we'll have a better feel for the extremes and where the middle lies, and make some more educated guesses as to where the Giants might end up in 2014, barring any black sheep events, like losing half your lineup's effectiveness due to injuries (or similarly to our pitching rotation or bullpen) or having a key hitter destroyed by a careless runner on the basepaths (and that can happen at any base, not just catcher).

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    4. I looked up the Steamer Projection for the Team WAR and that number is for the position, not the individual player.

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    5. You listed a lot of ifs for the rotation.

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    6. Here is where I'm referring to: http://www.fangraphs.com/depthcharts.aspx?position=ALL&teamid=30

      At the very top, Posey is listed as 5.8 WAR as a catcher, 0.5 WAR as a 1B. Down near the bottom, his total is 6.3 WAR.

      Then, if you go to his profile, he has a 7.1 WAR listed under his Steamer profile: http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=9166&position=C

      This is the difference in WAR that I was discussing above, I have no idea what you are talking about.

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    7. "It could be a very good rotation if Lincecum can return to pre-2012 goodness or if Vogelsong can return to 2011-2012 goodness."

      If you want to go by total "if's", there are two. But the total don't matter, as the "or" means one or the other, so really only one "if" has to come true, in my mind, from the statement I made, for us to have a very good rotation. One "if" is not a lot in my book.

      Of course, you may think there are a lot of "ifs" and that's fine.

      I think Bumgarner, Cain, and Hudson will be as good as they have been in the past. I've explained why. No if's involved except for the standard health "if", in which case, you can apply that statement to every team in the majors and then the statement isn't worth mentioning at all.

      If Lincecum or Vogelsong can return to a good performance, we would have a very good rotation, we were able to do that in 2009-2012 period, have a very good rotation, even though the composite 5th starter sometimes was a pretty bad starter overall. Hence my statement.

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  2. I'd look to what the Red Sox did with their rotation last year... not much, and it came back strong. We've talked about those pen projections, I think they're pretty crazy. But Jeremy Affeldt's health and effectiveness could be a pretty big story this coming year.

    This steamer thing is predicting that the Giants have the 2nd worst staff in the majors, slotted between the Mets and Marlins. I would love to be in some sort of betting situation with these guys.

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  3. I saw those projections a while back too OGC, and I laughed. Fangraphs thinks the Giants will have one of the worst bullpens in the league. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, of course, but I think they'll be eating those words by next fall. Fortunately, most of the projections rate the offense very nice... but we all know the Giants will have an above average offense if everyone stays healthy.

    I'm not saying we are favorites going into this season or anything, and I do have plenty of concerns about this group. But, I do believe the talent is certainly there to get this team back to the postseason. If that happens, I'll take our guys against anyone else. Give that to your projection.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts. Yeah, laughter is all I could muster for the bullpen projections as well. I'm not really sure what type of projection methodology would do that other than a very severe penalty for being old, except that a prior study by THT found that there is a key segment of older players who survive aging and continue to produce into their late 30's, and that the Giants have been mining that lode for a long while (they even compared it to it being the Giants version of Moneyball market inefficiencies).

      I would say that the Giants should be favorites going into 2014. The Bridegrooms over-performed for two months, but reverted to their prior badness in September. They should not be below .500 in 2014, given that their money machine continues to buy up talent, but I don't expect them to run away with the division again, and will be in the thick of things. Still, I think the Giants should be the favorites, given my points above to modify the NL West projections.

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  4. To me these projection systems may make interesting reading, however, I can pull out similar projections out of whole cloth and be just as accurate or not. To me the systems are essentially worthless, and the knowledgeable baseball follower can be just as accurate with less equations. Although in reality I am an equation type of guy, just not when there are so many variables that these systems cannot be that accurate, they can be lucky as some players will exceed previous numbers, some will be consistent, and some will fall off a bit. It is better to just watch the season unfold.

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    1. That is the essence of WHY these systems work in the aggregate, each projection might not be pinpoint correct, but they generally randomly end up higher or lower, and thus the errors start cancelling out each other, resulting in a number that is relatively accurate, in the aggregate.

      And to each their own, I understand if you would rather see the season unfold, because ultimately, any projection could be knocked over by an injury or a big breakout.

      I like seeing if the team has the talent to be competitive. It's nice to say Pitcher A is better than Pitcher B qualitatively, but trying to do that to compare one team with another, without making some sort of projection, is futile. You can make rough comparisons, knowing, say, the Padres are a second division team while the Giants are a first division team, but it would be hard to make any arguments that the team should be competitive for the division title or not.

      Using WAR is one way to compare teams. I also like using the projections to calculate the RS and RA for the Giants, and then using the Pythagorean Formula to calculate their W/L record for a 162 game season. What I used to do before all these stats were around was to compare the new lineup with the old, seeing where each ranked in the prior season, to get a rough idea of how good they might be offensively, then compare the projected (I liked starting with the 3 year average, then using an adjusted number depending on what I knew about the player, maybe he looks headed downward or maybe he looks ready to breakout).with the prior season to see if the lineup is improved or worse or similar. It is kind of like how a basketball player pivots on one foot, it is a technique I got from linear programming, where I keep certain things constant then adjust up or down based on the changes year to year.

      But I see your point that ultimately, the season will prove almost any projection wrong, because that's life.

      I just like having starting point: do we look strong or do we look weak, and how do we look compared to the competition, because we could be weak but still win the division if we are better. Yeah, things change, and I'll follow them through the season. But I don't believe that fans in general have a really good feel for how good or bad their team are. If you go by the general mood at MCC over the past 10 years, one would think that the Giants were a crap team like they were in the 70's and 80's, instead of a two-time World Champion. And when I first started being a Giants fan, the few remaining Giants fans in the East Bay thought the Giants would win, but I had to burst their bubble then, as I disagreed.

      It may be a moving target, but I'm fine with that if it gives me a good overall understanding of where the teams are. Then we adjust as the season goes on.

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    2. For example, it helped give me hope late into the 2010 season, as I knew that the only reason the Padres were leading the division was because their rotation was pitching like they had a bunch of aces (much like the Giants) in the early going. As Richards and that other pitcher fell back to earth, regressing to their talent, that gave the Giants the break they needed to catch up with the Padres. There was no guarantee that they would regress, so I wasn't sure we would catch up, but I wrote all that summer that we still had hope to win the division if they returned to their normal mediocreness, and they finally did.

      This is why I've been writing that I'm not afraid of the Bridegrooms running away with the division in 2014. They were very lucky in 2013, in July and August, and unlike the Padres in 2010, they were able to ride that to the division title since the Padres peaked early, in April-May-June then drifted downward. No way that they duplicate that in 2014. Not that they can't be competitive, and that's fine, that gives us a chance, but some feel that their 2013 is representative of what they can do, whereas I think a lot of that was luck, as they were losers in four of the six months, roughly, and got in because of their incredible record in July and August.

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  5. I've given up on all the projections. They rely too much on math calculations that go haywire with injured players. That was the case with the Giants last year, especially the pitching, which isn't rated as highly as it should be in the algorithms. They overrate offense as a result, producing those ridiculous won/loss predictions for the Rockies year after year.

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    1. I agree that the projections can and will go haywire with any individual player. However, I disagree that they as useless as you say they are.

      Projections are good for giving you and idea of how talented your team is. You can compile the projections and get a good idea of how strong your lineup is and your pitching staff is, if everything goes as projected. Put them together with Pythagorean, and you can project how many wins they should win.

      As you note, it's not a perfect world. The beauty of combining the projections across a whole team is that while each projection can go wildly wrong for any particular player, generally the misses down will be counted by the misses high. So maybe there is an injury, but then maybe a backup player steps up and performs well, or another player in the lineup outperforms their projections. There will be ups and downs that will counter each other, leaving the overall numbers around where the overall projections are. Statistically, this is exactly like the portfolio theory in the stock market, of how a bundle of risky investments can be a relatively safe and high performing investment overall for as some stocks go down, others go up.

      Of course, they don't always even out. Sometimes there are too many injuries that there is not enough over performances (2013) to counter the poor performances. Other times (2010 and 2012), you get a number of over performances that overwhelm the unders.

      Still, this exercise is still a good one to go through, I believe. It gives you a good idea how talented your team is, both offensively and pitching (defense still has a long way to go, I think). also, together, you can get a general idea of what the team is capable of in terms of wins in the season. Knowing that most teams with 90 wins make the playoffs (particularly now with the extra wild card), that gives you a nice gauge of what to expect your team to do during the season. It also helps you pinpoint where there might be problem areas (like the bulllpen and LF for 2014). Of course, it is no guarantee, but I like knowing generally where the team should be, and work from there. It gives me a starting point.

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