First Pitch: Projecting 88 Wins for the 2014 Pirates Using ZiPS

Last year I did an article that projected 81-84 wins using the 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates ZiPS projections. The range was due to the question marks surrounding Francisco Liriano’s signing at this time last year. With Liriano, the Pirates were projected for 83 wins. Without him, they were projected for 81. There were also rumors about Shaun Marcum, who would have taken the team to 84 wins.

The Pirates ended up exceeding their projections, as I detailed last night. I decided to do the same thing today, with the 2014 ZiPS projections that were released this afternoon. One thing about the ZiPS projections is that they give an impossible amount of playing time to the entire team. In order to get an estimate for what a team can do, you need to guess who will get playing time and only include their projections. So once again that’s what I did. I took the current projected 25-man roster, took their expected playing time, and used the ZiPS WAR numbers to get the projected win total for the 2014 season.

Baseline

Generally the accepted baseline for a team of replacement level players is anywhere from 45-50 wins. The average usually falls around 48. So we’ll start with that figure before we look at any individual players.

WAR: +48.0 (48.0)

Catcher

Russell Martin will once again serve as the starting catcher. Chris Stewart was brought in as the backup. This position is pretty straight forward. I think ZiPS is pretty accurate with the playing time split, so I just added their WAR together to get the result. Martin is projected for a 3.4 WAR, while Stewart is projected for an 0.5 WAR.

WAR: +3.9 (51.9)

First Base

This is the first difficult position. Gaby Sanchez is expected to be in a platoon, so he’s probably not getting the 458 plate appearances that are projected in ZiPS. Andrew Lambo is projected for an 0.2 WAR and 430 plate appearances, which sounds about right as far as playing time. I’m assuming he gets the platoon role. Based on last year’s numbers, I think that Sanchez gets about 70% of his projected playing time. That puts him at around an 0.8 WAR, which gives the first base position a combined 1.0 WAR.

ZiPS is usually conservative on prospects, so this is a position where the Pirates could exceed expectations. It really all depends on Lambo and whether he can be more than a borderline replacement level player. I think the chances are good for him to exceed that low projection.

WAR: +1.0 (52.9)

Second Base

ZiPS has Neil Walker projected for a 2.9 WAR and 603 plate appearances. I think the playing time is too high, considering his injury history, and the Pirates using him in a platoon more frequently in 2013. I lowered his total to 551 plate appearances, which is what he had in 2013. That gives him a pro-rated 2.65 WAR. I figured second base would see 700 plate appearances, so I gave the rest to Josh Harrison. He ended up with a 0.48 WAR. The combined result at second base is a 3.1 WAR.

WAR: +3.1 (56.0)

Shortstop/Middle Infield

Jordy Mercer will get the majority of the playing time at shortstop in 2014, although I expect Barmes to get about two starts per week at least. ZiPS has Mercer at a 1.8 WAR and Barmes at a 1.4 WAR. If you add up the plate appearances, Mercer is getting 55% of the playing time. I think the number will be closer to 60%. I took the playing time for both players last year (695 combined PA), then gave Mercer 60% of that time, and Barmes 40%. That resulted in Mercer getting 84% of his ZiPS playing time, and Barmes getting 70%. I took the percentages of both WAR numbers (1.8 WAR * 84% for Mercer and 1.4 WAR * 70% for Barmes), combined them, and got a 2.5 WAR as a result.

WAR: +2.5 (58.5)

Third Base

This one is pretty simple. Pedro Alvarez is projected for a 3.1 WAR and 597 plate appearances. That’s a bit lower than his totals in 2013. I also threw in about 100 plate appearances for Josh Harrison. I don’t know if Harrison will be the third baseman when Alvarez is off, but I figure he will get more than the 150 plate appearances projected at second base, and I figure third base will have more than the 597 plate appearances projected for Alvarez. The playing time for Harrison gave a 0.3 WAR boost to this position.

WAR: +3.4 (61.9)

Left Field

Starling Marte should get the bulk of the playing time here. He’s projected for 583 plate appearances and a 3.3 WAR. There might be more plate appearances to give in left-field, but I figure those will come from the guys in right field. The extra playing time in the outfield from the bench will come from those guys.

WAR: +3.3 (65.2)

Andrew McCutchen could once again exceed his projections, which could push the Pirates to another playoff appearance. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Andrew McCutchen could once again exceed his projections, which could push the Pirates to another playoff appearance. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Center Field

Andrew McCutchen is projected for 670 plate appearances and a 6.4 WAR. Interesting note, that 6.4 WAR is lower than his previous two seasons, so there’s room for improvement here. ZiPS had him at a 5.3 WAR last year, following a 6.8 WAR season. I think the odds are good that he meets or exceeds this WAR total.

WAR: +6.4 (71.6)

Right Field

This is where things get interesting. I think that Gregory Polanco will come up in the second half of the season. He has a 3.2 WAR and 553 plate appearances. I cut that in half to give him a 1.6 WAR. That leaves Travis Snider and Jose Tabata getting the rest of the playing time in right field, plus any additional time in left or center field.

Last year the outfield had 2142 plate appearances. So far in this projection they’re 613 plate appearances short. I gave all of that time to Tabata and Snider. If you combined the projected plate appearances for the two, ZiPS has Tabata getting 55% of the playing time. That sounds about right, so I gave Tabata 55% of the remaining plate appearances, with the rest going to Snider. That resulted in a combined additional 1.3 WAR. Add that to Polanco’s total and the Pirates have a 2.9 WAR in right field, and from their bench outfielder.

WAR: +2.9 (74.5)

Starting Pitching

ZiPS was low on the Pirates rotation last year. The estimate I got was 8.1 WAR, and the rotation ended up combining for a 12.3 WAR. I’m not going to change the results here, but I will say that there is a lot of potential for improvement from this group. Here are the projected Opening Day starters, and their inning and WAR totals.

SP: Francisco Liriano (161 IP, 2.9 WAR)

SP: Gerrit Cole (163 IP, 2.2 WAR)

SP: Charlie Morton (121.3 IP, 0.9 WAR)

SP: Edinson Volquez (164.7 IP, 0.2 WAR)

SP: Wandy Rodriguez (119 IP, 1.4 WAR)

That gives us 729 innings and a combined 7.6 WAR. From there we need to fill 196 innings to get to the 2013 starting pitching total of 925 innings.

Before I go on, I want to point out something from the above group. In most cases, I think the amount of innings are low. Liriano had 161 innings last year after missing a month of action, not counting his rehab time. Gerrit Cole went over 190 innings combined last year between Triple-A and the Majors, plus the playoffs. Charlie Morton pitched half a season and had 156.2 innings between rehab and the majors. I think all of these guys have a chance to exceed their innings totals, which would only help the results. I also think Morton will be better than an 0.9 WAR pitcher (he was 1.3 WAR in half a season last year).

I’m not going to increase the playing time for any of these pitchers. Injuries happen. Poor performance happens. If I increased the time for these guys, then I’d just be taking the best case scenario. I think that leaving the innings low adds that injury factor, and forces the projections to go to the number six and seven starters.

As for those six and seven starters, I began with Jameson Taillon. I projected him to get the same amount of innings as Gerrit Cole last year (117). That gives Taillon a 1.2 WAR, based on his ZiPS projections.

The remaining 79 innings went to Jeff Locke, who had a 1.0 WAR in almost twice that amount of playing time. That gives him an 0.5 WAR in those 79 innings. In total, the rotation has a 9.3 WAR. I think there’s a lot of room for improvement over the projections once again from this group.

WAR: +9.3 (83.8)

Bullpen

I took the 545.2 innings pitched by the bullpen in 2013, and used that for the playing time here. For the main relievers, I kept their actual playing time, with a few exceptions that are noted below.

CL: Jason Grilli (50.3 IP, 0.7 WAR)

RP: Mark Melancon (68.7 IP, 0.9 WAR)

RP: Tony Watson (63.3 IP, 0.4 WAR)

RP: Justin Wilson (72 IP, 0.4 WAR)

RP: Vin Mazzaro (77.3 IP, 0.3 WAR)

RP: Jeanmar Gomez* (80.67 IP, 0.5 WAR)

RP: Stolmy Pimentel* (70 IP, 0.4 WAR)

Gomez and Pimentel were projected for a lot more innings than I listed above. Gomez was given 128.1 innings, while Pimentel was given 142.1 innings. I gave Gomez the 80.2 innings he received last year. I cut Pimentel’s numbers in half. Both players could be options for spot starts or long relief, which could give them a good chance to reach these high numbers.

Just like the rotation, the bullpen exceeded expectations last year by about four wins. With the rotation I think it was because ZiPS was under-rating the group. In the case of the bullpen, I think it was because of the monster seasons by Grilli and Melancon. I wouldn’t project those seasons to repeat, and ZiPS isn’t doing the same. There’s a chance the bullpen could exceed the total projection, but that would require another insane performance by those guys.

There were 63.1 innings remaining. I couldn’t decide who to give those innings to, so I just added on an 0.2 WAR, since a lot of candidates were in the 0.2-0.4 WAR range. The total for the bullpen is a 3.8 WAR, which is way up from last year’s 1.1 WAR projection.

WAR: +3.8 (87.6)

2014 Projection

Rounding up the figure, the Pirates are projected for an 88-74 record. They would have missed the playoffs by two games last year with this record. Keep in mind that this isn’t the final record projection. It’s more of a starting point.

There are a lot of things factored in to the above projections. The first base production doesn’t look good. The innings from the top three starting pitchers look low. There are a few guys who could exceed their WAR projections, like Andrew Lambo, Travis Snider, Charlie Morton, and Edinson Volquez. You could even add Andrew McCutchen to that list, although he doesn’t nearly fall into the “Under 1.0 WAR” category.

Basically the Pirates need enough things to go right to get an additional two wins on top of this projection. That puts them in playoff range. And if we’re being technical, the Pirates were one of the five playoff teams last year, and 88 wins would have gotten them in anyway. But 90 wins, plus the season series over the Reds, would have given them home field, Johnny Cueto tormenting advantage.

Last year the Pirates were projected for 83 wins. They needed a lot more to go right to end up as contenders. A lot of that difference was made up from Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, the rotation, and Grilli/Melancon. The 2014 projections are higher on the entire team, including McCutchen and Marte. But there’s still a lot of potential improvements from the rotation. If ZiPS is correct on the rotation, then the Pirates will have a team on the verge of the playoffs. If ZiPS is once again low on the rotation, then the Pirates will have a playoff team, assuming things go right with the rest of the projections.

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 #11 – Tony Sanchez.

**Pirates and Neil Walker, Vin Mazzaro Avoid Arbitration

**Pedro Alvarez and Pirates Agree to Deal

**Pirates Avoid Arbitration With Mark Melancon

**Gaby Sanchez and the Pirates Avoid Arbitration

**FanGraphs Releases the Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 ZiPS Projections

**Winter Leagues: Arribas Goes Deep in Australia

Tim Williams

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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  • http://atung.net/ Steve Zielinski

    Marte’s projection seems low. He generated 4.6 fWAR in 2013 in only 135 games (566 PAs). That’s 5.5 fWAR over a 162 game season. ZIPs has Marte playing more in 2014 but generating less baseball value. Ignoring injuries, which Marte suffered last year, I just do not see Marte regressing towards the mean as ZIPS and other projection systems seem to do. ZIPs predicts that Marte will walk less, generate a lower BABIP, get fewer extrabase hits and steal fewer bases in 2014 when compared to 2013.

    The questions: Did Marte produce more baseball value in 2013 than his base talent would suggest he would produce? And: Will Marte ever improve as a player?

    I would not be surprised if Marte was a 5 fWAR player in 2014. His defense and baserunning ought to remain stable during his peak season. The issue, then, is whether he can increase his offensive output.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 leefoo

      Steve…with you on the Marte under-project. Plus, how in Heaven’s name will Marte walk LESS??

      :) :) :)

  • michaelbro8

    Just for fun, I’ll throw out my prediction again. I was way off last year as I predicted 84 wins. In ’14 I’ll predict 100 wins , completely serious. I see virtually every aspect of the team improving or staying the same. And my prediction for breakout player is Mercer.

    • swampirate

      Wow. 100 wins is A LOT of wins. So much has to go right. Even if The Pirates have good health there are still so many things that need to go well to get to 100 wins that it seems like a very bold prediction. I sure do hope that you are correct! I wouldn’t bet a paycheck on it though.
      Would I be insanely shocked? No. Would I be mildly amazed? Yes.
      Wait until 2015, 2016 to start really predicting 100 wins. At that time I will be totally on board with you (if all keeps going well with some of the players development that are in the pipeline heading to the majors).

  • https://www.facebook.com/nate.wilder1 Nate Wilder

    I get that this is just a projection, but do you think they’ll move Marte to RF where his arm would be tremendous and put Polanco in LF since he’s the better all around defender? (Not that Marte is a poor defender or Polanco has a weak arm.)

    • https://profiles.google.com/115522615427589477970 Mike C.

      sadly, don’t see this happening as evreything I’ve read r Polanco getting extra reps in Rf not LF.
      theoreticaly,
      Cutch LF
      Polanco CF
      Marte RF
      would be the best setup, but we know that ain’t happening

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

      I’m not sure I agree with that. A few points…

      1.) Marte has been playing the last year and a half in left field, while Polanco has only limited experience outside of CF.

      2.) Left/Left-center is huge. I see the traditional roles of left and right field not applying at PNC park. PNC innately demands two, center field-type players to work to cover the ground ranging from center field to the left field line. While Polanco is a gifted outfielder, considering the depth of the northside notch, I’d prefer to have the strongest arm in left or center, rather than in the considerably shorter right field.

      3.) This plays into the last point to an extent, but it’s been said that Polanco has trouble going back on balls. Factoring in his speed, if he’s playing in RF, he could be nearly standing on the warning track and still be able to run up on everything headed his way.

      All three of those guys are gifted defensive outfielders. However, it’s not likely McCutchen will be moved any time soon. Also, considering the layout of the field, Marte’s experience playing LF, and playing to both Marte’s Polanco’s strengths, it seems like it would make more sense for Polanco to transition to RF.

      • Y2JGQ2

        Agreed

  • csnumber23

    Tim, I don’t understand the projection for Marte at 3.3?? He was 4.6 in his first year and missed a month. He is going to improve not regress at least in my opinion and projections. I project around a 5.0 for Starling.

    • Y2JGQ2

      I’m with you. I wouldn’t have him improving, but not backsliding either assuming he stays healthy, but he missed time last year too, so i think 4..5 would be a better assessment

  • The Masked robshelb

    .

    This (at least for me) has to be the funnest thread so far for 2014. Half the enjoyment of baseball is playing around with the numbers. And this is a wonderful and entertaining analysis by Mr. Williams.

    A few thoughts/reactions on my part (fwiw).

    (a) If Mercer only gets 60% of the playing time as SS, I may start going ballistic on or about June 14th, at approximately 10:45 in the morning. (I can already feel the vents filling up just *thinking about* that dire possibility.) Unlike the ZiPS projections, Steamer (for example) does try to anticipate actual future plate appearances. And they are projecting 406 PA’s for Mercer, and only 79 PA’s for Barmes. Me, I like that a *lot* better. And using that as a ratio would increase the projected win total –at least by a bit.

    (b) As someone astutely mentioned in a previous thread, bringing up Polanco earlier than mid-summer would increase to number of projected wins. If we miss out on a Wild Card slot by one or two (or three) games, and Polanco was held back this season, then there’s gonna be heck to pay come next October.

    If I were Mr. Huntington, I wouldn’t want to take that chance. Which leads me to believe El Coffee *will* be with the Big Club no later than May 1st. (Or maybe even a few days earlier.)

    And that likewise would up the total projected win total by a game or two.

    (c) As for pitching, specifically Wandy R., ZiPS has him logging in with 119 IP with a 1.4 WAR, whereas Steamer (for example) sees him with 96 IP and only a 0.9 WAR. (That’s half a game difference on the loss side of the ledger.) Personally, I don’t see him even getting that far into the season — but that’s another matter.

    And besides, whether it’s 1.4 or 0.9, both numbers pretty much suck. Steamer, again as an example, has 28 starting pitchers in 2014 with projected WAR’s over 3.0.

    (d) therefore, I personally wouldn’t cut either Pimentel’s or Gomez’ numbers in half. (And I might even up the IP and the WAR slightly for Justin Wilson.) I think all three just might have the opportunity for spot starts (or maybe more than that) — if Rodriguez and/or Volquez do under-perform early.

    And Mr. Volquez, 164 2/3rd’s IP producing a 0.2 WAR . . .

    Yikes !!!

    That really doesn’t boost the WAR-based team-win projection. If you actually want to, you know, *win* some games based mostly on pitching, those “spot starts” might come in rilly, rilly handy.

    All in all, though, an excellent preview and projection analysis by Mr. Williams. This is an abundance of fun !! And what will be even more fun will be seeing how these projections change between now and approaching Opening Day.
    .

    • Jared

      I have a couple things: 1) I think that others have pointed it out recently and I have pointed it out quite pointedly before, expecting or requiring Polanco to be in the majors before or by May 1st is not only unrealistic, but possibly damaging to the player. He has yet to be successful in the highest levels of the minors (winter league play notwithstanding) and has extremely low at bat totals in the upper minors such to justify a May 1st promotion. 2) It seems that the Pirates will, sadly, not have AJ Burnett next season…and for all those who have said how we don’t need him…just looking at the projections (and noting that some of them are low) AJ would have given us the extra wins needed to get to 90-wins by himself.

      Anyone else think/hope that if Volquez is only giving a 0.2 WAR over that many innings that he would be cut before he could get to half of those innings? What a complete waste a 0.2 WAR would be over that many innings. Hell, the projections would give better results with Pimentel and/or Gomez taking those innings…we’d almost double our WAR over those innings with them over Volquez. I have disliked the Volquez signing a great deal…but I hope he proves to be at least a marginally successful pitcher, especially if he’s pitching that many innings. If he’s less than 1 WAR and pitching that many innings…I hope he’s not on the team as soon as Taillon is available.

      • Y2JGQ2

        Anyone want to start a poll on how long Volquez stays with the team before he is DFA’d? I’m saying 6/10

    • Andrew

      I have seen your point (b) applied to the 2013 Rays, if Wil Myers would have brought up before the end of June, the Rays may have avoided the one game playoff prior to the wild card game. Thus improving their chances in divisional series.

      I did not see the previous discussion but it is effectively a trade-off between approximately a projected win in 2014 and arbitration a year earlier, I can see both sides.

  • emjayinTN

    I guess this is one of those tools that I really do not understand. When Charlie Morton pitched a full season in 2011 he pitched 172 innings. Last year, after starting the year on rehab from TJ surgery, he pitched the entire 2nd half of the season, including playoffs, and logged 116 innings. How can he be projected for only 121 innings in 2014? I agree with the position stated earlier regarding Starling Marte and have a problem believing the numbers projected for him. Generally speaking, it seems that WAR increases as numbers increase, so would the ZIPS be considered a very conservative projection? It seems that way for me, so I think it would be a reasonable mid-point projection that the Pirates will be at 91 wins in 2014.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 leefoo

      emjay….I don’t ‘get’ ANY of the projection tools.
      By golly Oliver, they get me Steamered.

      :) :) :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 leefoo

    A couple of days ago, somebody mentioned that we should maybe pick up Carlos Peguero. By coincidence, there was an article on Fangraphs about him. I have a feeling that quite a few fans across the nation were asking about him.

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/when-its-time-to-give-up-on-a-carlos-peguero/

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=68133272 George Hareras

    What would be AJ’s war if he comes back? It would be a big boost to the rotation and having him around I feel helps the younger guys get better too. His presence might be the difference from a wild card to a division title

    • Jared

      I believe that ZiPS has him at around 170-innings and a 2.2 WAR. I last looked at the ZiPS yesterday afternoon, however, so I might be a little off. But, yes, he would be a big difference.

      Even without career years being needed I think Liriano, Cole, and Morton all exceed their projections and I think that Burnett would end up exceeding his 2.2 WAR projection as well. More realistic numbers, I think, for each player even with potential minor injuries are all with 180-185 innings. That would give the following WAR for each: Liriano 3.2-3.5 WAR, Cole: 2.5-2.6, Burnett: 2.5. Burnett would, realistically be adding at least a full win (and I think much more than that really) to the rotation and even just slightly more innings for each of Liriano and Cole would also add a full win to the rotation…and that is with deflated numbers for each Cole and Liriano (as well as Burnett) over those innings.

  • Jared

    My Projections? Wins:

    How do I get there?

    Baseline: 48.0 WAR

    Catcher: 4.0 WAR
    -Martin 3.5 WAR
    -Stewart: 0.5 WAR

    First Base: 1.3 WAR
    -Sanchez 0.8 WAR
    -Lambo/Other 0.5 WAR

    Second Base: 3.6 WAR
    -Walker 3.0 WAR
    -Harrison/Other 0.6 WAR

    Shortstop: 2.5 WAR
    -Mercer 1.9 WAR (500 PA)
    -Barmes 0.6 WAR

    Third Base: 3.7 WAR
    -Alvarez 3.4 WAR (620 PA)
    -Harrison/Other 0.3

    Left Field: 4.9 WAR
    -Marte 4.8 WAR
    -Other 0.1 WAR

    Center Field: 7.5 WAR
    -McCutchen 7.5 WAR

    Right Field: 3.0 WAR
    -Polanco 1.5 WAR
    -Tabata 1.1 WAR
    -Snider 0.4 WAR

    Starting Pitching (w/o AJ): 12 WAR
    Liriano 3.3 WAR
    Cole 3.6 WAR
    Morton 1.8 WAR
    Rodriguez 1.0 WAR
    Volquez 1.0 WAR
    Taillon: 1.0 WAR
    Locke 0.3 WAR

    Starting Pitching (w/AJ): 14 WAR
    Liriano 3.3 WAR
    Cole 3.6 WAR
    AJ 3.0 WAR
    Morton 1.8 WAR
    Rodriguez 1.0 WAR
    Taillon: 1.0 WAR
    Volquez/Locke 0.3 WAR

    Relief Pitching: 3.8 WAR
    Grilli 1.1 WAR
    Melancon 0.8 WAR
    Wilson 0.5 WAR
    Watson 0.4 WAR
    Mazzaro 0.4 WAR
    Gomez 0.3 WAR
    Pimentel 0.3 WAR

    Total (w/o AJ): 94.3
    Total (w/AJ): 96.3

    • jaygray007

      I think the point is more to find out how good a player is as opposed to getting a super accurate playing time estimate. since polanco hasnt had any huge injuries, the number crunching computer just let it rip because i *think* past plate appearances are what it really goes off of. and he’s had a healthy minor league career *mostly*.

      It’s the responsibility of the human readers to really make the assumptions about playing time and callups and opinions about how guys will continue to rehab from injury, and scale the counting stats accordingly by using the rate stats.

      It knows that morton had tommy john, and it knows how pitchers like him usually come back from injury, but it doesn’t know that Morton actually seems to be feeling well.

  • https://www.facebook.com/bruce.humbert Bruce Humbert

    My biggest gripe about Zips is the Cole and Liriano projections – as I noted elsewhere these numbers rank them 11th and 6th respectively among the 15 starters for the Red Cards and Bucs. And the biggest surprise is that Zips has Latos projected as better than Wainwright.

    As others have noted – the only way Volquez pitches more than 100 innings is if he is doing so effectively – at least a 1.5 WAR rate – otherwise the Pimentel and Gomez – and Locke start getting his starts in May.

    So the good news is that Tim accurately analyzed the ZIPS data – and yes ZIPS would have the Bucs as third best in the Central – 4 games behind the Cards and 2.5 games back of the Reds. But there are ways that the gap can be closed. How practical some of these ways are will depend a lot on how things go in spring training. Bring Polanco up early only makes sense if he has a great spring and crushes AAA pitching in his firs 100 AB. Tailon likewise will need to get 8 to 10 AAA starts unless he has a great spring and start.

    I have always wanted to see Lambo get a chance and really hope he earns a platoon spot in Spring Training – but I have similar thoughts on him as I do on Volquez. If Lambo struggles in Spring Training the Bucs will not come North with him as Gabby’s platoon partner. They will use some of the bullpen depth – and a prospect or two to find a better option.

    • jaygray007

      I think the pirates have depth that the reds don’t have. if every starter on each team got hurt, i think the pirates could put together a much better team than the reds could.

  • Cato the Elder

    I think it’s pretty safe to assume that a team projected to win 88 games actually should have a game or two added to the offseason projection. If I recall Dave Cameron has shown that contending team reliable outperform their projections due to in season acquisitions. In other words, if the Pirates are on pace to win 88 games in early July, it is quite likely that the will make a move to improve the club. So, for example, if 1st base is still projecting for 1 WAR, then I would expect a trade to be made at the point which could add to the overall wins above replacement.

    As for the playing time and pessimistic projections, these projection systems are number driven and therefore don’t take narrative into consideration, e.g. Morton coming off Tommy John surgery and his new sinker-GB approach. All ZiPS is doing is looking at Morton’s career numbers and predicting this season based on past performance. Marte is a player with one full year of mlb experience who strikes out a lot and has a high BABIP ZiPS doesn’t know or care if Marte has a better average chance to repeat that performance, all it knows is that historically players with that profile are unlikely to repeat that performance (that is until they have a history of doing so).

    All in all I find these projections encouraging.

  • Y2JGQ2

    Based on what we have right now- I think 88 wins is right in line. I see Lambo being about as effective as Garrett Jones last year, I see Wandy Rodriguez doing nothing at all, and Volquez being a negative WAR. Cole I expect to do better, I’m not going to put anything in the positive bucket for Taillon, I expect a little more from Marte and a little more from Mercer. At the end 87-89 Wins with this team is optimistic, not best case scenario, but i’ll go with it.

  • Pie Rat

    Did the fan graphs after the 2013 season show the Pirates should have won 84 games. If they are now saying 88 games they are projecting the Pirates to be better at the beginning of the season that they were last year as a whole. Even the most favorable calculations based on stats (after the season) put them at 92 winds. That would seem to indicate they have to be a better team to duplicate their wins from last year. Also it would be interesting to compare the Cardinals projected wins. Also the central is getting better with teams like the Cubs adding talent.

    • https://www.facebook.com/bruce.humbert Bruce Humbert

      here are the zips numbers for cards and reds

      https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Aladq9xGqE8hdGJadGlnRDVGVHUtaGJ3WXlkZU02V3c&usp=sharing

      Will add the Cubs and Brewers ZIPS when they are released – but it looks like another three team race right now….

      I think Tim did a post analysis – and the total is pretty close to right – due mostly to Cutch exceeding projections – Cole’s contribution – more from Liriano, Locke and Martin than projected and better bullpen.

  • The Masked robshelb

    .

    Steamer has Ike Davis’ WAR at 1.4 — which isn’t that wretched a number considering that they only rank 16 1B-men with a WAR > 2.0

    ZiPS likewise has Davis at 1.4

    Great minds think alike, I suppose.

    That could’a been nice insurance if Slambo’s shot at The Bigs doesn’t go swimmingly. (Although I’m 100,000% positive that it will !!)

    ZiPS also gives some ISO numbers. (I think that’s a relevant and telling stat.) So when it comes to projections and comparisons, let’s roll the videotape !!

    Ike Davis .192
    Slambo .178
    G. Sanchez .149

    Indeed, only two Bucco’s are projected to have a higher ISO than Davis’ .192 — namely, Pedro and Mr. McCutchen.

    If it indeed works out that way when real baseball begins, those who were suggesting giving into the Mets’ demands and trading a higher-level prospect for Ike Davis might very well prove to have been prescient before all is said and done.

    One thing for sure. There’s going to be a lot of pressure on Mr. Lambo to live up to expectations and exceed the projections he’s been getting (so far) this year.
    .

  • piraddict

    How do “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts” factors such as defensive shifts, or an effective running game figure into a Zips projection?

  • https://www.facebook.com/scott.skink Scott Skink

    Random thoughts on this:
    - 88 wins will be enough for 2nd in NLC. Might be enough for 2nd WC
    - Nats/DBacks/Rockies/Mets/Cubs all better. Reds/Brewers/Phils get worse. Everyone else stays about the same
    - NLC plays ALE, interleague is tougher this year
    - More teams will employ more defensive shifts. This may have adverse implications for some Bucs hitters. As the Bucs already employ 2nd most shifts, the upside for other teams is greater than incremental upside for Bucs
    - Liriano and Morton have one season over 175 innings, Volquez has two. Nobody else has done it. Ergo, Bucs need to sign a veteran back end starter if they have any sense.
    - IMO, several Bucs position players are near their peak WAR and shouldn’t be projected to go higher. Pretty much all of the upside resides with Polanco, Pedro, and whomever Gaby’s partner is, maybe even Gaby himself.
    - Pitching WAR will go down. No escaping loss of AJ unless Bucs are signing a 4.0 WAR pitcher.

    All that considered, ZIPS says specifically not to add up WAR of individual players to come up with a total. That’s not how it works. So anything can still happen.

  • leadoff

    Since I am not into fantasy baseball I will have to rely on what I know, which is that the Pirate organization is much stronger now than it was at this time last year and that translates in a lot of wins, there is not a calculation in the world that can tell whether they are going to win 80 games or 100 games, too many factors during the season will affect the outcome of the season, fortunately for the Pirates they can overcome many obstacles that other teams cannot, this is why I have never predicted wins and loses in the middle of winter, I don’t think it can be done, other than with dumb luck.

    • https://www.facebook.com/bruce.humbert Bruce Humbert

      None of these projections have anything to do with fantasy baseball – they are ways to try and understand player value – WAR is about reducing a player’s value to a single number – how many wins does the players performance mean to his team versus the league average player at the same position. Some who play fantasy baseball like to use WAR – but only the offensive side.

  • https://profiles.google.com/107471995502632447673 Frank Restly

    Tim,

    What about the defense? Seems like the Pirates have a good chance of meeting or exceeding the success they had last year – exceed if Pedro gets more control on his throws to first.