First Pitch: Looking Back at Last Year’s Pre-Season Projection

Tomorrow the 2014 Pittsburgh Pirates ZiPS projections will be released on FanGraphs. Last year when the projections came out, I decided to take a look at my projected roster to get a feel for the overall talent level of the team. I ended up using the ZiPS WAR totals to project 81-84 wins.

The range in wins was due to where the Pirates were during the off-season. The deal with Francisco Liriano wasn’t yet official, and there were rumors that the Pirates were looking at Shaun Marcum. The 81 win total was without either pitcher. Liriano would have made the projection 83 wins, and Marcum would have put them at 84 (showing how pre-season projections aren’t gospel).

In the article I wrote that the 81-84 win range was a good starting point. That was actually during a time where many people were expecting another losing season, since the additions of Russell Martin and Francisco Liriano gave Pirates fans about as much inspiration as they’re feeling this off-season. That was a good starting point, because it meant the Pirates didn’t need to see a ton of positions exceed projections to become contenders.

Of course we now know that the Pirates were contenders. Here were the positional projections last year, along with the actual results:

Position – Projection / Actual

C – 3.1 / 3.8

Russell Martin exceeded his projections, although the backup catchers brought the overall production down.

1B – 1.9 / 0.5

The Pirates were almost a win and a half short here, mostly due to Garrett Jones.

2B – 2.9 / 2.7

The combined second basemen actually ended up with 2.4 WAR. However, the projection focused only on Neil Walker, who came very close to the ZiPS numbers.

SS – 2.9 / 1.5

This is where I put the bulk of the backup infielders, because ZiPS had most of them getting a lot of playing time. Jordy Mercer carried the shortstop position here, with a 1.4 WAR. Most of the production from Clint Barmes was cancelled out by John McDonald.

3B – 2.7 / 3.1

When you include the time Brandon Inge had, the third base position was right at a 2.7 WAR. But just like Neil Walker and second base, the projection here was only for Pedro Alvarez.

LF – 2.6 / 5.0

The Pirates really exceeded expectations here, mostly due to Starling Marte’s 4.6 WAR.

CF – 5.3 / 8.2

Here is another spot where the Pirates exceeded the projections, thanks to the MVP, Andrew McCutchen.

RF – 2.0 / 0.9

The Pirates slumped in right field, although Jose Tabata’s 1.1 WAR wasn’t bad.

SP – 8.1 / 12.2

I don’t know if this is a case of the starting rotation exceeding the projections, or the projections being low on the Pirates’ starters. I think it’s more of the latter. I think the defensive shifts helped, but that wouldn’t account for an additional four wins. Based on the early numbers I’ve seen for this year’s projections, it seems the starting rotation will be low again.

RP – 1.1 / 3.9

Once again, ZiPS might have been low on the Pirates’ bullpen. In this case I think the exceptional performances from Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli helped. They were projected for a combined 1.0 WAR, and ended up with a combined 4.0 WAR. There’s your extra three wins.

Overall the Pirates were below expectations at first base, right field, and shortstop. They exceeded expectations in left field, center field, catcher, and the entire pitching staff. It will be interesting to see how the numbers look for the 2014 projections. I plan to take the same approach this year, with an article tomorrow looking at the projected win totals, based on the ZiPS WAR and my projected playing time.

Links and Notes

**The 2014 Prospect Guide is now available. You can purchase your copy here, and read about every prospect in the Pirates’ system. The book includes our top 50 prospects, as well as future potential ratings for every player.

**We have been releasing our top 20 prospects for the 2014 season. Today the countdown resumed with #12 – Clay Holmes.

**Pirates Sign Travis Snider for $1.2 M

**Instant Replay Officially Approved in Baseball

**Reese McGuire Ranks Among Top Catching Prospects

**Winter Leagues: Kennelly and Hutchings Square Off In Australia

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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