In each of the last two years, whenever the ZiPS projections came out, I did a separate article using those projections to get an overall projection for the Pittsburgh Pirates that year. In 2013, that projection had the Pirates at 83 wins. That was low, since they ended up with 94 wins, although the projection was much higher than every other projection out there. Last year I did the same process, and projected the Pirates for 88 wins. That was once again higher than most projections, and they ended up with exactly 88 wins (only not in the way they were projected, and I’ll discuss that later).

The 2015 ZiPS projections were released this afternoon, so it’s time for the 2015 projection. 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 pro-rated projections. That has been my approach every year with this article. I took the current projected 25-man roster, took their expected playing time, and used the ZiPS WAR numbers to project 90 wins for the 2015 season. Once again, this will probably be higher than a lot of other overall projections.

Before we begin, I will point out that the disclaimer in ZiPS is that you shouldn’t total all the WAR on the depth charts to get a team WAR. I’ve had that mentioned in the past in regards to this article, but I don’t think that applies. I believe that disclaimer is for all of the projections on the ZiPS page, which would result in a WAR that would be impossible to obtain, due to the unrealistic amount of playing time projected for each team. The approach I’m taking is much more calculated and more accurate. It’s also an approach that you could use with any projection system, since the main focus is figuring out playing time, then applying a projection to that playing time. There’s also the disclaimer to add that this is just for entertainment.

Now, here are the projections.

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

The Pirates will go with a starting combination of Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart. Tony Sanchez will be the third catcher to start the year, and Elias Diaz could factor into the mix. For this projection, I’m only going to focus on the first three.

The big question here is whether Cervelli can stay healthy. ZiPS projects 211 plate appearances for him, which I think is conservative, since he has only topped that in one season. He has an 0.9 WAR in that time. Chris Stewart is projected for an 0.5 WAR and 223 plate appearances. That gives the combo a 1.4 WAR, but only 434 plate appearances. The Pirates had close to 700 plate appearances at catcher last year. I filled in the rest with Tony Sanchez, who is projected for an 0.8 WAR over 403 plate appearances. I didn’t use that many, and pro-rated him to an 0.5 WAR. Sanchez and Cervelli are close enough in the projections that there won’t be much of a difference if Cervelli stays healthy.

A big factor here is pitch framing and catcher defense, which I’m not sure a projection system can fully appreciate. There’s also the potential for a breakout if Cervelli carries his offense from last year over to this season, and stays healthy. For now, the group combines for a 1.9 WAR.

WAR: +1.9 (49.9)

First Base

Pedro Alvarez will be the starting first baseman, and Corey Hart will step in against left-handers. Alvarez is projected for a 1.9 WAR over 523 plate appearances, which I think works well. That’s about what Garrett Jones received when he was in a first base platoon. Hart is projected for 415 plate appearances and an 0.4 WAR. I’m going to give him half of that at first base, and decide how to apply the other half in the outfield. That gives this combo a 2.1 WAR.

WAR: +2.1 (52.0)

Second Base

Neil Walker is at a 3.2 WAR with 573 plate appearances. I think that’s a good number, since he had 571 plate appearances last year. Jung Ho Kang is projected for a 1.5 WAR over 502 plate appearances. I pro-rated that number to 200 plate appearances, gives him an 0.6 WAR. The combination has the second base position at a 3.8 WAR.

WAR: +3.8 (55.8)

Shortstop/Middle Infield

Jordy Mercer is projected for 504 plate appearances, which might be a bit low, since he is the starting shortstop and had 555 plate appearances last year. I increased his playing time to last year’s total, taking him from a 1.9 WAR to a 2.1 WAR. I gave the rest of the playing time to Sean Rodriguez, who received a pro-rated 0.3 WAR. The combo gives the shortstop position a 2.4 WAR.

It’s possible that Kang could get some time at shortstop. It’s also possible that Rodriguez will get some time at second base. For the purposes of this article, I’m trying to distribute potential playing time. I’ve got Kang with 200 plate appearances in the middle infield, and Rodriguez with a little over 100. That split seems about right.

WAR: +2.4 (58.2)

Third Base

Josh Harrison is the starting third baseman, and could be moved around to other positions. ZiPS only has him with 482 plate appearances, which I think is low, considering he had 550 last year, and wasn’t a starter the first month of the season. Considering his versatility, and his starter role from day one, I’m bumping him up to 550, which takes his 3.0 WAR to 3.4. That still leaves room for some extra playing time, which I gave to Kang. His pro-rated time at third base amounted to an 0.5 WAR.

WAR: +3.9 (62.1)

Left Field

Starling Marte is projected for 607 plate appearances and a 3.6 WAR. That seems a bit high for Marte, who has averaged 555 plate appearances the last two years as a starter. I went with the 555 number, giving him a 3.3 WAR.

One thing to consider here is that Marte has put up a 4.6 and a 4.1 WAR in each of the last two years. So it seems that the projections here are low. That seems to be a common theme with projections and Marte. Maybe it’s due to the defense. But you can probably expect some extra production from left field.

The extra playing time in the outfield will be addressed in the right field position.

WAR: +3.3 (65.4)

Center Field

Andrew McCutchen is projected for 659 plate appearances and a 6.3 WAR.  This is another area with possible bonus potential. He had a 6.8 WAR in 2012 and 2014, and an 8.2 WAR in 2013. So it seems likely that he will either meet or exceed his projection, with a good chance that he exceeds the projection by at least half a win.

WAR: +6.3 (71.7)

Right Field

Gregory Polanco is projected for 612 plate appearances and a 3.3 WAR. If you look at the Pirates last year, only McCutchen finished with over 600 plate appearances. Everyone else from the full-time starter list (catcher excluded) was around 545-571. So I’m adjusting Polanco down to 550 plate appearances. That gives him a 3.0 WAR.

Last year the outfield had 2156 plate appearances. So far in this projection they’re 392 plate appearances short. That time will be split between Andrew Lambo, Corey Hart, and Sean Rodriguez for this projection. I’ll give Lambo 200, Hart 100, and Rodriguez 92. Overall that would add an extra 0.6 WAR from the outfield.

This is another area where the actual playing time is probably accounted for elsewhere. Josh Harrison could get some time in the outfield, as an example. However, I’m focused on total playing time, and not as much on the specifics of where everyone will get all of their time. In this case, Lambo finishes with 200 plate appearances, Hart with 300, and Rodriguez with about 200. That seems about right.

WAR: +3.6 (75.3)

Starting Pitching

ZiPS has had an interesting recent history with the Pirates’ rotation. I got an 8.1 WAR with this article two years ago, and the rotation actually put up a 12.3 WAR. Last year I got a 9.3 WAR in this article, which seemed low when you consider the previous year’s actual results. They ended up with a 7.4 WAR. Here are the projected Opening Day starters, and their inning and WAR totals. I’m considering Charlie Morton and Vance Worley as Opening Day starters, even though there is a chance that Jeff Locke could replace Morton for the first few weeks.

SP: Francisco Liriano (163.7 IP, 2.8 WAR)

SP: Gerrit Cole (170.7 IP, 2.8 WAR)

SP: A.J. Burnett (179.3 IP, 1.6 WAR)

SP: Charlie Morton (127.3 IP, 1.1 WAR)

SP: Vance Worley (132.3 IP, 1.1 WAR)

That gives us 773.3 innings and a combined 9.4 WAR, which is already higher than last year’s projection and last year’s actual results. From there we need to fill 197.7 innings to get to the 2014 starting pitching total of 971 innings.

Now we get to the disclaimer about the above innings totals. I think some of these totals are low. Gerrit Cole was injured last year, but pitched close to 190 innings the year before. Charlie Morton has been around 157 innings in each of the last two seasons. Vance Worley threw 156.2 innings last year between Triple-A and the majors, and that was after spending a month in extended Spring Training. A.J. Burnett threw 213.2 innings last year while pitching hurt.

In this projection, I don’t increase the playing time for 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. If the above guys do stay healthy, then the Pirates obviously get a bonus.

The additional starters will include Jeff Locke, Nick Kingham, and Jameson Taillon. Locke will be ready at the start of the year, and should get most of the innings. I’ll give him 80 innings here, since he’ll also get some time in the bullpen. That gives him a pro-rated 0.4 WAR.

Next is Kingham, who I think will be the most likely prospect to receive a mid-season promotion. I’m giving him shy of 100 innings total, which is an 0.4 WAR. The final innings will go to Taillon, who I think the Pirates will delay at the start of the season, so that he can pitch at the end of the year in Pittsburgh. That gives an extra 0.2 WAR. If Taillon doesn’t pitch, then I think this number could easily be replicated by someone like Adrian Sampson or Brandon Cumpton.

WAR: +10.4 (85.7)

Bullpen

I took the 485.1 innings pitched by the bullpen in 2014, and used that for the playing time here. For the main relievers, I kept their actual playing time, with the exception of Locke and Liz, who i adjusted down. In Locke’s case, he gets a total of 120 innings between the rotation and bullpen.

CL: Mark Melancon (66.7 IP, 1.2 WAR)

RP: Tony Watson (66 IP, 0.8 WAR)

RP: Antonio Bastardo (54 IP, 0.6 WAR)

RP: Radhames Liz* (70 IP, 0.4 WAR)

RP: John Holdzkom (37.3 IP, 0.2 WAR)

RP: Jared Hughes (65.3 IP, 0.2 WAR)

RP: Jeff Locke (40 IP, 0.2 WAR)

There were 86 innings remaining. I always have a hard time deciding who to give the extra innings to, since this is a hard area to predict. Since so many relievers are in the 0.2-0.4 WAR range, I ended up just going with an extra 0.3 WAR. I also figure that there’s a good chance John Holdzkom could get the bulk of these innings, which would make it easy for that 0.3 WAR to be obtained.

Overall, the bullpen struggled last year with an 0.7 WAR. That included a combined 3.2 WAR from Melancon and Watson, showing how terrible the rest of the bullpen was.

This year’s projection is at 3.9 WAR, which is 0.1 shy of last year’s projection. There is room for improvement, since Melancon and Watson are projected for a combined 2.0 WAR, and obviously did better last year.

WAR: +3.9 (89.6)

2015 Projection

Rounding up the figure, the Pirates are projected for an 90-72 record. They would have tied for first place in the NL Central last year. A very optimistic view would add a few extra wins from guys who seem to be under-performing in projections, such as Starling Marte, Melancon and Watson, and even Andrew McCutchen. You could probably add 2.5-3 extra wins for those guys, based on their historical numbers. We also don’t know how the catcher defense and pitch framing will impact things, as that is something that could boost the win total.

On the other side of things, injuries will happen and players will under-perform. Some of that will be countered by other players stepping up and out-performing their projections. I think the above projection is a conservative one, and I wouldn’t want to add potential injuries or potential gains to that. Just look at last year’s article for a reason why. The article projected the Pirates for 88 wins, and they finished with 88 wins. The pitching under-performed the projections, but other positions like catcher and left field out-performed projections. I like to take the neutral stance that the unexpected gains and losses will balance out, and the 90 win projection above will serve as a good mid-point. And that’s not a bad projection to have at all.

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79 COMMENTS

  1. I like the Pirates chances in 2015 – but I would like to see a division winner so we avoid that silly one game playoff scenario (IMHO, it should be a best of 3). The Cards will be good and the Cubs will be vastly improved. I see the Reds taking a step back, as well as the Brewers.

    The NL will be more competitive as the Padres, Marlins, and Padres will all be better.

  2. I fully expect Marte to be a 5.0 WAR player this year, and for that to become a regularity with him. That’s a horrible projection by them. That said, I’d be ecstatic with 90-72. Also would not surprise me if that is what happened. I don’t think it will though. This bullpen, IMO, still isn’t that good. Melancon and Watson are as good a 8-9 combination as their is in baseball. I like Bastardo, too. The rest of the pen is a question mark though, and, as we saw last year, you need more than 3 effective relievers to get by. Not sold on Holdzkom yet, Liz is terrible, Pimentel is terrible, who knows what you’ll get from Hughes as he was good in 2012 and 2014 but horrible in 2013, and all those other AAA options aren’t very enticing. I also think 1B will be a mess, and Jhay will regress just a matter of how much. Ultimately, I’ll say they win around 85-86 games this season. As I said though, 90 wins won’t surprise me at all.

    • The projection is not wrong – Marte was headed to Indy in late May according to many on this board and elsewhere. I think there are five things to hope for as a Pirate fan that if the come to pass 92 or more wins could happen.
      1. AJ is healthy coming out of Spring Training and can provide the kind of solid leadership that he has in the past. April last year was a mess – Burnett and an inspired Locke could get the Bucs off to a fast start.
      2. Marte has indeed figured it out and is a legitimate All Star Left Fielder. I think he is – but as noted above – the proof will be in the performance.
      3. Walker continues to show a better bat and better power and stays healthy
      4. Harrison proves he is not a fluke – I don’t expect the great numbers he had last year – but a solid .280 and good defense would be good.
      5. Alvarez gets back to 2013 or better – I really hope they drop the “hit to all fields” crap and focus on getting him to hit mistakes and fast balls in the river.

  3. Put down the calculators for a minute guys. Real world check. Marte is a slacker. He has some kind of problem, be it attitude, alcohol or drugs. It will catch up with him, and his performance will suffer at some point. Why do you really think he was sent down to Triple A?

      • Maybe it was the season before. But you know what I mean. He has problems. He’s no McCutcheon. He’s not an all-star caliber player. He may even be displaced by Josh Bell in a year or so.

        • The last time Marte was sent to Triple-A, excluding rehab time, was before he made his MLB debut. Since then, he has been in the majors, putting up a WAR over 4.0 in each full season.

          Also, to be fair, no one is McCutcheon, because there’s no one in baseball with that name.

          • Rehab time for what…an injury that didn’t require it to cover for his attitude problem Tim. To show him that he was replaceable. To knock him down a peg if you will. May also have sent a message to Gregory Polanco.

            Just my opinion, but it seems fairly obvious to me.

      • Well balderdash to you too. Excellent comeback.

        And intangible that can’t be broken down to a number? How dare I!

        Or rather a factor that requires stratification. An epidemiologic principal. Something I learned in my Masters of Public Health epidemiological training. Where we deal with statistics on a large population. similar to what you armchair statisticians think you’re doing to baseball.

        My point is that more weight should be given to what a player does in September and October relative to what they do the rest of the season. Because quite frankly, what one does in the playoff is more valuable. Ask Oakland. Or any other team that consistently does well during the year but loses in the playoffs consistently. Eventually Billy Beane will come around to my way of thinking.

        • You made a completely baseless claim and called someone you have never met a drug addict or alcoholic. You have nothing of merit to substantiate this other than you perceiving him to have an attitude problem for reasons unknown. Quite a troll you are.

            • You have made enough moronic comments on this single thread to make any connections or background you have meaningless. Keep doing what you do best, troll.

  4. I think 84-86 wins is more realistic projection, when I hear 90 Wins I think one of the best teams in baseball, I don’t think the Pirates lineup and rotation is one of the best in baseball. It is very good team but the strength is in the depth, they have a very high variance rotation.

    • Granted, much must go right for them to win 90. Especially playing in this highly competitive division. However, they won 88 last year w close to a league worst bullpen last year for 2 months, simultaneous injuries to most of their best players for most of August and a 3B who had the yips.

      I think 90 is as good as number as any.

    • The Pirates were 3rd in the NL in team OPS last year after Colorado and the Dodgers. The Rockies can be discounted because of the home park factor and the Pirates almost tied the Dodgers. This with several players having subpar seasons or at least first halfs, and abysmally hitting pitchers. I think it is realistic to expect better performances from Marte, Mercer, Polanco, Alvarez and the bench (Kang, Rodriguez, Lambo and Hart). There should not be much regression from Cutch, Harrison, Walker or Cervelli (Martin). So the Pirates lineup could very well be the best in the NL. I agree that the rotation is a concern because I see, at best, two #2’s (Cole, Liriano), one #3 (Worley) and two #4’s (Burnett, Morton/Locke). The lack of a true #1 hurts. The Pirates will have to depend on a “Lumber Company” approach this year. Also, with all of the potential candidates auditioning in ST the bullpen looks to be significantly better in 2015. End Conclusion: there are alot of reasons to be very optimistic.

      • You lost me when you said there shouldn’t be much regression from martin to cervelli. I’m all for optimism but that is an absurd statement.

        • Consider the lines:
          Martin
          2014: .290/.402/.430/.832
          Career: .259/.354/.399/.754
          Cervelli:
          2014: .301/.370/.432/.802
          Career: .278/.348/.381/.729

          Martin had a great year last year ahead of his contract negotiation, and is a great competitor. I love him. Will he repeat in 2015? Toronto certainly hopes so.

          Offensively, looking at OPS only, Martin is about 0.030 better than Cervilli (or about a 3.5% drop from Martin to Cervelli). Maybe you see that as a huge drop, but I don’t think it’s that much. Certainly not the type of drop as from Martin to Stewart for instance.

          Defensively Martin’s arm is better than Cervelli’s and perhaps his blocking is as well. But Cervelli may have the edge in pitch framing and game calling. So defense may be a wash.

          The Pirates would be better off if they had Martin instead of Cervelli (for Cervelli’s money). But that wasn’t an option. The money they saved on letting Martin go has been spent on other contracts which will help overall.

          So will there be a regression from Martin to Cervelli in 2015? We won’t know until the end of the season. Martin is older and his performance may decline. Cervelli may respond well to his first full season opportunity (if he stays healthy). We’ll see. As they say in the financial markets: past performance is no guarantee of future results. But I’ll stand by my prediction that the drop off from 2015 Martin to 2015 Cervelli won’t be that much.

          • It seems I misinterpreted you. I read that as you saying there won’t be much regression from 2014 martin to 2015 cervelli.

            • I was trying to say that I don’t expect offensive improvement from the catching position and that the regression from 2014 to 2015 may not be that much. But there is a lot of unknown with Cervelli coming in. Hopefully he surprises to the upside. You have to consider that at one point the Yankees were willing to let Martin walk with Cervelli as the potential replacement. Injuries to Cervelli lead them in a different direction, not necessarily poor performance.

  5. The makeup of the batting order could impact some of these numbers. Polanco batting 6-7 maybe allows him to be more relaxed at the plate. Marte is another player who could be better suited for a drop lower in batting order.

    • Marte in 5 hole makes sense to me. I also like Polanco batting 2nd vs RH SP, but Mercer in that spot vs LH SP.

      Here are my preferences:

      Vs RH
      1. Harrison 3B
      2. Polanco RF
      3. Cutch CF
      4. Walker 2B
      5. Marte LF
      6. Alvarez 1B
      7. Cervelli C
      8. Mercer SS

      VS LH
      1. Harrison
      2. Mercer
      3. Cutch
      4. Hart 1B
      5. Marte
      6. Khang 2B
      7. Cervelli
      8. Pols co

      Just one man’s opinion.

  6. Great article Tim. I like your logic and outcome pleases me, too. 90 wins. From your keyboard to God’s ears.

  7. This is the only thing war should be used for, projecting wins for the year. To apply it to every aspect of basebal is silly as well as total overkill.

  8. I think you are low on Marte, and too high on Harrison. But 90 wins sounds about right. Which should win the Central

  9. David manel of bucs dugout posted a spreadsheet that allows you to input your predicted plate appearances and innings pitched and it will run the numbers through steamer and zips to project runs scored and runs allowed. You can then use Pythagorean records based on the runs projection to get projected team win total. I entered roughly the same numbers you used above and zips projected 85.5 wins, with steamer projecting 84.

  10. Just curious. The hitting WAR is based on 8 positions. If this were the Reds, you’d have to include Leake, but even without good hitting pitchers, what about DH and pinch hitting? Is this insignificant, or included in the playing time numbers?

    • DH and pinch hitting at bats are still ultimately a function of total at bats available in a given season. That’s essentially what Tim is accounting for when he splits up a given number of at bats among the outfielders, etc.

      But the pitcher hitting WAR point is an interesting one. I think the general thought is that the position, in general, is so poor that for the vast majority of the time it ends up a wash. But there most certainly are a few specific guys out there – Grienke, Leake, Kershaw – who have shown the ability to add as much as an additional win at the plate in a given season.

  11. IMO, leaving Tabata out of the outfield mix is probably premature, Hurdle might not like him, but his numbers say he should make this club, he actually had better numbers with the exception of HRs. last year than Snider, Lambo is untested and won’t get to play enough, mainly because Hurdle won’t wait for him and he and Polanco are both left handed, Tabata can play well with 4 or 5 days off, Lambo can’t, he needs steady playing time, he won’t get it. I would have made the right field position a flat 3.0 war no matter who ends up out there.

    • Tabata, Rodriguez, Lambo, and Hart are all in the same general range for projections. You could change the name up in the outfield, and it wouldn’t impact the projections.

      As for the flat 3.0, Polanco was projected for 3.0, and I included the bench players from the other two spots in right field. Thus, it goes beyond a 3.0.

  12. IMO, the Pirates have a much deeper team this year than they had last year and even though every single starting position player went down with injuries and until Harrison took over 3rd base permanently they had very little from that position, the Pirates still wound up with 88 wins. I do not believe the Central will be much tougher than it was last year, so IMO it comes down to health and with the Pirates being a deeper team I have to be looking at somewhere between 89 and 93 wins.

    • leadoff: Excellent points. A few things to watch – Can we expect more than 7 wins from Liriano? In his alternating years performances, this should be an UP year. AJ had 30 more Walks last year with Philly than in his year with the Pirates in 2013. Charlie Morton – can he turn his W-L to 12-6 rather than 6-12 – in his alternating years performances, this should be an UP year. Can we get Pedro Alvarez back on the path of .260, 25-30 HR’s, 90+ RBI’s? He was terrible last year and still had 18 HR, 56 RBI’s. With ‘Cutch as the recognized guy to avoid in the lineup, do we put Alvarez in batting 3rd and ‘Cutch 4th?

        • I think what emjay is saying is that Alvarez, more so than any other player on the team, would produce more with the extra fastballs he should expect to see hitting in front of the best player in the National League, Andrew McCutchen.

          If there is *any* truth to “lineup protection” existing in Major League Baseball, emjay would be absolutely correct. It’s an interesting thought, especially if you assume Alvarez will likely be seeing mostly RHP from here on out.

          I think an alternative would be to bat him *behind* Starling Marte. Alvarez would either force opposing teams to throw breaking balls in the dirt at which point Starling Marte runs wild all season, or Marte would force opposing teams to throw Alvarez more fastballs which will almost certainly result in more power production.

          • NMR: The possibility of getting better pitches to Alvarez was part of the reason because we need that guy to build some confidence as early as possible. The second part was that without Alvarez as a fear behind ‘Cutch, he was getting pitched around. With him at #4 and Walker behind him, there is no difference from last year. If we can get Pedro in the mix, I think that would mean a lot to the team. Moving him to #3 sends a message of support and confidence, and it is a risk.

            • i buy this version of protection more than the ole “good hitter behind another good hitter” version. i would love to see data of breaking ball frequency/location with a fast guy on base vs with a slow guy on base.

      • Is giving Cutch less AB’s really a great idea? I do kinda like the idea of getting him out of the 3 spot because the 3 spot comes up with 2 outs, nobody on more often than any other spot. But i’d much rather that be moving cutch to #2 than to #4.

        Let’s just say that lineup protection is real. Why do you want Pedro to be protected instead of the guys who have actually been good? what’s wrong with a 3 hitting Cutch ‘protecting’ Jay Hay, walker, and/or Marte? Why are they less deserving of Cutch’s ‘protection’ than Pedro?

        If anything, Jay Hay and Marte are more important to the long term viability of the team than Pedro

        • jay: Not sure of the lesser amount of AB’s, but I would estimate possibly 20-25 over the season? This is a big year for the Pirates because they have the team assembled that can make the playoffs, but there are many undercurrent issues. First is our young starting pitching – can they make the jump and establish themselves? Second is Pedro Alvarez. No doubt he is leaving – how does he leave and can the Pirates manage to flip him for some high quality prospects? There are more, but those are tops in my mind.

        • “Why are they less deserving of Cutch’s ‘protection’ than Pedro?”

          Because – in this hypothetical situation where Cutch influences the pitcher into giving the hitter in front of him more to hit – Pedro can produce more runs on the pitches he’d be more likely to see with Cutch batting behind him than any other player on the team. And it’s not really close. Cutch also hits LHP better than anyone on the team, meaning a Manager would have to burn three pitchers in order to isolate a lefty matchup on Alvarez.

          Also, you’re probably not going to want the guy hitting in front of Cutch to be running nearly as often as Harrison or Marte should be.

          I don’t think this would actually happen, mind you, but I also don’t think it’s that bad of an idea.

  13. Anyone can answer this, but can Radhames Liz be sent down to the minors without going through waivers? He doesn’t even have a full year of service time, and even though he gets $1MM this year, we have 5 years of control after. On the projected payroll page it says he has 0 options; but I don’t understand why he doesn’t.

  14. If the Pirates, as an organization, have truly found a way to maximize run prevention through defensive shifts and groundball-heavy pitching as has been suggested in the past, then projections of FIP-based pitcher WAR *should* underestimate their win total.

    I think any team is going to have a difficult time winning 90 games in the NL Central this year, which means a ZiPS projection in the 86-88 win range would seem appropriate.

    • Didn’t the Cubs start using defensive shifts last season? If so, how come their ERA was worse than their FIP. Maybe the Cubs are doing something wrong? Or maybe their defense is even worse than the Pirates defense even with shifting?

      • Many, many teams are shifting now and the Cubs are among them.

        However, the Pirates seem to be the club doing the best job of optimizing that strategy by building a pitching staff to suit. None of this is “proven”, mind you, but there is some pretty compelling evidence.

        • Shifts only matter if the batters hit the ball on the ground. Like Charlie Morton with his sinker ball.

    • To your second paragraph which raises a good point critical off the building up of WAR approach, there is no allowance of the WAR of the competition in the approach. A method of projection using WAR should look at the relative WAR versus opponents and assign a probability of victory in a particular contest based on the total WAR differential.

      • I’m counting on the fact that since the Padres are finally going to field a good team, the Bucs will finally win a season series vs SD. There’s two wins right there 🙂

  15. Seems about right TIm. On the low end if a few things go badly I project the Pirates at 87 wins and if a few things go well I project the Pirates at 93 wins. 90 wins would be right in the middle. My process isn’t nearly as in depth as yours as I just look at past performance for each player and guess at what they can be expected to do this year.

    • Why don’t you just make it a 15 game range and give yourself a little more wiggle room there. Lol.

      Doesn’t matter how many games we win. We just have to win one more than the Cardinals, Brewers, reds, or Cubs. Whoever comes in second.

      I’ve always believed that you don’t look at season statistics. You look at what players do towards the end of the season, and in the playoffs. Draft players who play well under pressure. Ie Mr Octobers.

      I mean wouldn’t you rather have a Madison Bumgarner than an Edinson Volquez in a one-game playoff. Keeping cool under pressure, can mean a big difference of a few games in a pennant race. (Cueto…Cueto…Cueto!)

      Experience matters in that regard also. Getting Burnett back, a former Yankee, will help. Especially with Nick kingham and Jameson Taillon, who needs to change his name so that I can remember how to spell it. Lol. Or at least become famous so my voice recognition can spell it.

      • “I mean wouldn’t you rather have a Madison Bumgarner than an Edinson Volquez in a one-game playoff”

        …..Well sure. Bumgarner’s FIP last season was an entire run better than Volquez’s…he’s a better pitcher. Bumgarner is a much better pitcher than Volquez all the time, not just in the postseason. Bad comparison to make.

        • You know what I meant. Someone who keeps his cool in the playoffs.

          For example, AJ Burnett is a pretty good pitcher but consistently does poorly in the playoffs. There are numerous other examples of this. Barry Bonds was a great player but did terrible in the playoffs. Dave Winfield was like that too. Extreme examples but I’m trying to make a point. I’d rather have players who do well in pressure situations for penant races & playoff runs.

          • SSS Derp.
            .
            A.J. Burnett Pitched well in the 2009 post season (as the number 2 guy behind Sabathia and helped the Yankees win the WS) and in 2011. Bonds helped the Giants to the 2002 WS and was lights out.
            .
            My point is, how do you have any clue who does well in pressure situations or not? Is it based entirely on who happens to do well with small sample sizes? Post Season history is also ripe with completely unknown role players playing key roles in championship runs, guys who just happen to hit a key hit at the right time, but never do anything else significant the rest of their careers and the reason is SSS. Anything can happen in the post season, all a team needs is good players and solid depth.

            • Just ask Clint Hurdle who was up the night before the wild card game and couldn’t sleep, vs who came to the game rested, cool calm and collected.

              No Willy Beamer puking on his shoes for my team in the playoffs. And yes you can tell. High School, sometimes college, minor league games, winter league, AFL, etc.

            • PRO Players with prior playoff experience tend to do better than those without. If you run the numbers, and I’m sure you will, you will see this to be true. And given the enormous number of baseball playoff games lately, I’m sure there are adequate numbers to do this.

              It would be too labor-intensive for a casual fan. I’m sure the MLB clubs have done it though.

      • Yep, I take a semi-educated guess based on variables over a 162 game season and give myself somewhere around 6 to 7 game window based on worst and best case scenarios in order to “give myself wiggle room”. Since I’m not accurately predicting the future though I must suck and be a complete moron. As you say, 6 to 7 game window based on variables might as well be a 15 game window or hell, why not a 50 game window.
        .
        As for every thing else you had to say, derp more please.
        .

        • Chuck Taylor said it best. Every team wins a third of its games and loses a third of its games. That only leaves 50 in question. And you’re predicting plus or minus seven? And you think thats a good prediction. A seven-game window can be plus or minus 7, or 14 games in L column. First or last place based on your production. So what team will finish in first place or last place. That’s a great “prediction”. Real helpful.

          And you’re the one making fun of me?

          I’ve ace’d graduate level courses in statistics, have you? I have worked with large population data bases at the university level and state level, have you? Both research and insurance work. So don’t condescend to me without some big time qualifications.

          • If you were paying attention, I was guessing +/- 3.5 games. I think it is a good guess and since it is in the same range as Tim Williams conclusion, I at least know I’m not far off.
            .
            Am I making fun of you? I’d say you’re doing a fine job of that yourself.
            .
            Why don’t you tell me more about how qualified you are?

  16. Ridiculously low projections on Marte! He has put up 4.6 and 4.1 in his first two full years while being injured both years. He is only getting better! Expect close to 5.0 WAR if e stays healthy. Since I have them at 95 wins, the other spots I think are on the low side are Gerrit Cole, Andrew McCutchen and the bullpen.

    • The projection on Marte is smart, not ridiculous. The difference between past and projected for Marte comes down to BABIP. No projection system should assume a 99th percentile value for anything, which would represent Marte’s BABIP over the past two years.

      • It is ridiculous! The guy played 135 games each of the last 2 years and put up 4.6 and 4.1. He is improving, not regressing.

          • It went from 4.6 to 4.1 because of defense and 11 less steals. His defense should be higher this year. Do I have to post his offensive numbers to show the improvements? You argue BABIP like it’s a small sample. We are talking 2 full years so why would it change now? He has a high line drive rate and gets many infield hits. If his plate discipline continues to improve even a little, he will hit .300
            You want to make a friendly wager on Marte’s 2015 WAR? How about a couple tickets to a game? I had this same argument last year on here with people when Marte was projected at 2.9 and he finished at 4.1 Imagine if he can stay healthy and play in 155 games instead of 135

            • Why would it change now? Because that’s how BABIP works, buddy. Only six players in the last *three decades* have posted a BABIP north of .350 over more than 2000 PA. Marte has averaged roughly 20 points *above that* over his last 1000 PA.

              What you’re saying is that you project Starling Marte to be significantly better at converting contact in play into hits than *any* player we have *ever* seen, and I don’t think you understand that.

              • You didn’t answer about the wager. Since you think you know all, put your money where your mouth is. If Marte plays in 130 or more games he will be no lower than a 4.0 WAR. Also you fail to realize his contact rate is improving.

                • I won’t take that bet, because I absolutely think Marte will be at least a 4 win player. You don’t really understand what we’re talking about right now, so I don’t see much reason to continue.

      • True to an extent, but Marte’s speed will always lead to a higher BABIP than an average players due to Marte’s beating out infield singles and bunts, which then change the positioning of fielders which opens up more places for singles to drop in. In addition a lot of Marte’s WAR is from defense, unaffected by BABIP. My guess is that Marte produces a 5.0+ WAR this year.

        • And because of that, they *still* project a .345 BABIP for him, roughly a top 10 outcome in all of baseball. And the defensive value used to come up with his projection is in line with what he’s done in the past.

          It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Marte is a 5 win player, but that’s not what projections do. They project a 50th percentile outcome. The point at which there is as much chance of the player outperforming his projection as there is of him underperforming his projection.

          • But in your calculations for a regression in BABIP, you are not factoring in the CNF, which is very important

            (CNF= Cool Name Factor)

          • What I am guessing that they don’t capture well is the difference between 1H2014 Marte and 2H2014 Marte in terms of plate discipline. If he is able to retain and build on his second half performance in that area his 2015 year end percentage of balls put in play will rise dramatically from 2014.

            • Projections of this sort are inherently set up not to “capture” small sample changes like you mention with Marte because they end up being noise far more often than not.

              Josh Harrison’s projection, for instance, improved dramatically from 2014 to 2015 because he added about as many at bats to his track record in one season as he had the rest of his career, and those at bats happened to be very, very productive. Conversely, Marte saw improvement on less than 200 at bats after already logging over 1000.

              If Marte did turn a corner and this is now a new baseline skill, then yes, the projection will be off. But that case will be the vast minority.

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