Projection Systems See Pirates Finishing Just Over .500

Andrew McCutchen rounding 3rd

FanGraphs projects Andrew McCutchen to finish the season with a 5.4 WAR. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

FanGraphs unveiled two new features Thursday, depth charts and projected standings. Supreme Overlord of FanGraphs (unofficial title) Dave Cameron explains how they work and how to use them. The key takeaway is that the standings use a combination of ZIPS and Steamer projection systems, along with the depth charts, to suss out season records for all 30 teams.

One purpose we can use the projected standings for is looking at the Pirates’ playoff chances. FanGraphs is pretty optimistic on the Bucs’ playoff chances, projecting an 84-78 record, tied with the Arizona Diamondbacks just one game behind both the Washington Nationals and the Cincinnati Reds for a Wild Card spot. The FanGraphs projections see the Pirates scoring more runs as the season goes on, but also giving up more for about an even run differential.

Let’s compare the FanGraphs numbers to my two other preferred playoff projections from Baseball Prospectus and from Clay Davenport, the co-founder of Baseball Prospectus.

  • FanGraphs: 84-78, +10 run differential
  • Prospectus: 82-80, -2 run differential, 30.9% chance to make playoffs
  • Davenport: 82-80, 30.7% chance to make playoffs

All three sites project the Pirates to end up with a winning season, but just barely. What’s also important is that the Pirates’ target should be 87 wins, which would be enough to grab the second Wild Card in all three systems.

Also, the projections appear to have the Bucs’ record outperforming their run differential a little bit, which makes sense if the team’s bullpen continues to perform well. Good late-inning pitching is the most common reason for a team’s record outpacing its run differential.

FanGraphs’ depth charts offer a free alternative to those from Baseball Prospectus, which are based on PECOTA projections and require a subscription. The biggest difference between the two sites for the Pirates is that FanGraphs is more optimistic about the rest of the season for Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen, A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez, which explains why it projects a better record for the Bucs than Baseball Prospectus does.

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James Santelli

James covers the Pirates beat for Pirates Prospects. He is a Broadcast Journalism student at USC and has written for such outlets as NBCOlympics.com, Pittsburgh Magazine and the official websites of the Los Angeles Clippers and Pittsburgh Penguins. James previously covered the Pirates for Pittsburgh Sports Report. He also broadcasts play-by-play for the USC Trojans baseball team and was awarded the 2013 Chick Hearn Memorial Scholarship and Allan Malamud Scholarship. James dispenses puns at his Twitter account (@JamesSantelli) where he promises to write in first-person. Google

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  • http://www.facebook.com/ian.rothermund Ian Rothermund

    I’ll take a 30% chance at making the playoffs.

  • jg941

    Fangraphs, via ZIPS, is also more positive on Liriano, I believe.

    FWIW, the proximity of these projections to both .500 and a wild-card spot would hopefully drive home to Bucs fans the absolute importance of every run and win from this point forward.

    Many of the bad decisions (including the small ones) that the FO and manager have made thus far are only cutting into these very small margins for error.

  • leadoff

    I’ll take figuring out how to beat the Brewers, Padres and the Cubs, if we can split with them, we have a very good chance of going over 500.

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