Archive for March, 2010

Jeremy Sowers to Triple-A (Punless Version)

Jeremy Sowers passed through waivers untouched. This is unsurprising. In 400 (exactly 400) Major League innings as a starter, Sowers has an xFIP over 5 and a contact rate near 88%. His high-80s velocity is unimpressive, even for a lefty, and only slightly does he initiate groundballs more than fly balls. Truthfully, Sowers’ current state is rather uninteresting. He’s going to Triple-A for a reason, and that reason is because his left arm seethes with mediocrity.

Take a moment to remember back to the good days. Do you remember, for instance, that Sowers’ first season featured 88 innings with an ERA of 3.57? Sure, his xFIP was 4.49, and his ERA was fueled by a low BABIP, but hey, ERA! More than half of Sowers’ starts came in August and September. He fed the hype machine by posting a 3.21 ERA during that stretch. Outside of that late season push, Sowers has a career 5.44 ERA, and his peripherals support it.

One of the reasons for Sowers struggles appears to be his heavy reliance on his fastball. He threw it more than half the time, yet batters swung and missed about 5% of the time. In fact, the only pitch that Sowers threw with any regularity that induced a decent number of whiffs was his slider, at 8.4% empty swings. For comparison’s sake, Nick Blackburn only gets 3.2% whiffs on his fastball, but 10% on his slider, and he’s a groundball heavy pitcher. Something Sowers isn’t.

The whole mess is particularly a headache for the Indians because Sowers was the sixth overall selection in the 2004 draft. Taken around such breadwinners as Mark Rogers, Wade Townsend, and Chris Nelson. Even if one ignores the signability issues associated with Jered Weaver and Stephen Drew, there were some quality players taken a few picks later, though, that would definitely help the Indians in the present day. Of course, it’s easy to say such in retrospect, since even up until the 2006 season, Sowers was ranked as one of the top 100 prospects by Baseball America.

This whole thing reads sort of like a career obituary, which is a little unfair to Sowers. He’s going to Triple-A and being removed from the 40-man roster, not being sold to Japan (although, look at what that’s done for Colby Lewis) or traded for a stick of gum. Maybe he finds a new pitch in Triple-A and rejoins the fray later this year. Or maybe he doesn’t.


Berkman Officially on DL to Start Season

Today the Houston Astros officially put Lance Berkman on the disabled list to start the season with left knee problems. The issues began on March 1st when he felt discomfort and swelling in his knee. The club had an MRI done on the knee and the results came back with a left knee contusion, basically a bruise. During the second week of March, he had fluid drained twice from the knee which kept him from playing. Then he had arthroscopic surgery on March 13 to remove loose particles from his knee which found no other damage in his knee. Yesterday the knee began to swell again after practicing and the team placed him in the DL today. The move was retroactive to March 26 with him available at the earliest on April 10th

So what does this mean?

For Lance, it looks like he may have to take easy, which may be tough for him. He has only missed 51 total days to the DL over the past 5 years. He expects to be on the field, but he will need to make sure he is fine before playing again.

It is hard to try to find the true extent of the injury. He had pain and swelling that surgery didn’t seem to correct. My guess is that he came back too fast from surgery hoping to make the opening day roster (maybe he bought 20 tickets already for friends and family) or the real cause of the injury has not yet been resolved.

I would be impressed if he makes back by April 10th and we could see the extent of this injury be even worse.

For the Astros, this injury was one of the last things they wanted to see happen to their roster this year. Chone projects Lance with a 0.381 wOBA this season while his replacement, Geoff Blum looks to hit a 0.294 wOBA (a level below replacement level for 1B). Berkman by far the best hitter in the Astros lineup and he will definitely be missed.

The Astros aren’t expect to do decent this season (73-89 projected by CHONE) and losing Berkman for any amount of time will just hurt an already disadvantaged team.


7 Thoughts on Garko, Sweeney, Griffey, etc.

As you’ve probably heard by now, the Mariners waived Ryan Garko, having been thoroughly unimpressed with his glove and bat this spring, particularly his glove, which is so bad they don’t want to platoon him with Casey Kotchman at first base. Plenty of reaction and analysis is already out there in the blogosphere, here I offer a loose series of (dis)connected thoughts.

1. Given that Garko’s glove is apparently un-platoon-able, and assuming that the Mariners had been willing to use him as their full-time DH, how would that compare to the current plan? CHONE (less optimistic on Garko than ZiPS) projects Garko for a .336 wOBA. ZiPS is more optimistic for both Mike Sweeney and Ken Griffey Jr. If they platoon at DH (with a 70/30 RHP/LHP distribution), and adjusting for estimated platoon skill, a Griffey/Sweeney platoon projects for a .327 wOBA. Over 150 games (about 630 PA), that’s about a 5 run (about half a win) difference.

2. Using the same inputs as in #1, against RHP, right-handed hitting Garko projects to have a .329 wOBA; against RHP, left-handed hitting Griffey projects for .325.

3. A league-average hitter is a replacement level DH. For the past three seasons, the league-average wOBAs have been .331, .328, and .329, respectively.

4. Sweeney and Griffey are apparently important to the Mariners for their positive effect on chemistry. Last season, Tom Tango used the example of Cliff Floyd to show that the open market values the “intangibles” at $350,000 per season. What does this situation tell us about the 2010 market for intangibles?

According to Cot’s, Garko is guaranteed $550,000 this season, Sweeney $650,000 in the majors, and Griffey $2.35 million (we’ll leave out the various playing time and award incentives for the sake of simplicity). First, let’s eliminate the “replacement salary” of about $400,000 for each player, so we’re left with $150,000 for Garko, $250,000 for Sweeney, and $1.95 million for The Zombie Kid. From #1 and #3 we can infer (generously) that a Sweeney/Griffey DH platoon would be around replacement level. So their “surplus salary” would tell us how much the Mariners are willing to pay for chemistry — $2.2 million. But we need to take account of Garko. Let’s assume he adds nothing to chemistry (or is it alchemy?). Still, we’ve established him as (conservatively) half a win (runs) better than the Sweeney/Griffey DH platoon (and we should really be only eliminating one of Griffey/Sweeney’s replacement salaries, since Garko only takes one roster spot, but this was supposed to be a simple post…). A win on the open market this offseason was going for around $3.5 million, so half a win is $1.75 million. That means that the Mariners are valuing Griffey and Sweeney’s “clubhouse presence” at almost four million dollars this season. The Mariners thus must think that the chemical advantage added by Sweeney and Griffey will add at a bit more than a win for them this season.

Feel free to check my math.

5. If Griffey and Zombie Sweeney are platooning at “chemistry,” does this mean their lockers are on either side of Milton Bradley’s?

6. I wonder what Kenny thinks of all this?

7. Yes, it’s only one decision, so “small sample size” caveats apply, even to front offices. Still, how fitting is it that this decision is announced so close to the Mariners’ organizational ranking being posted?


Organizational Rankings: #5 – Minnesota

For years, the Twins were an organization that succeeded in spite of their financial resources. They turned to player development to give them a chance to compete with larger payroll teams, and got so good at it that they ended up winning the division in five of the last eight years. Even as their best players got too expensive to retain, the Twins had a strong enough pipeline of talent to keep themselves competitive.

Now, with a new stadium ready to pump money into the organization, we get to see what the Twins can do with a real payroll. They added nearly $30 million in salary for 2010, bumping their expenditures on the current team from $65 million to $95 million, and this doesn’t even include the $184 million extension that they handed to Joe Mauer. The Twins are now a player development machine with money, and that’s a scary proposition for the rest of the AL Central.

The Twins are already the class of this division, even just looking at 2010. They’ve developed enough quality to surround Mauer with homegrown talent, then made some nifty off-season pickups, bringing in Orlando Hudson, J.J. Hardy, and Jim Thome. While their rotation may lack a big name ace, it’s strong at all five spots. Joe Nathan’s injury is a blow, but relievers are one of the easiest things in baseball to find, and the Twins have some good arms in the bullpen already. In my estimation, the Twins are bigger favorites to win their division this year than any other team in baseball.

There’s no reason to expect a collapse any time soon, either. Essentially the entire core is under 30 years old, and with Mauer locked up for essentially the rest of his career, the team won’t be suffering any major talent losses going forward. They aren’t one of baseball’s farm teams anymore – the Twins can finally keep the players they want to retain, and given the strength of their player development system, they will have a significant amount of young talent to keep around.

The Twins already proved that they can win on a shoestring budget. Based on early returns, they’re not going to frivolously throw away the new found access to cash, and so now Minnesota is a real force to be reckoned with. The rest of the AL Central is playing catch-up, and the Twins have a significant head start.


Organizational Rankings: Future Talent – Twins

Over a two week stretch earlier this month, the Twins signed three players to extensions, headlined by Joe Mauer’s eight-year deal. Mauer becomes the face of the franchise and the backstop until he can’t do it anymore — he will likely never play for another organization. Even if he doesn’t hit for all the power he did last season going forward, Mauer is talented enough to grind out five win seasons in his sleep. The team also bought out the arbitration years, and gave themselves a cheap option for the first year of free agency, for Nick Blackburn and Denard Span. This is the rare case where I believe Blackburn (the pitcher) is a surer bet than Span (the hitter), but neither deal is ill advised.

More importantly, paired with previous extensions given to Justin Morneau and Scott Baker, these deals mean the Twins payroll is going up with this move into a new stadium. These five players alone are on the hook for about $55 million in 2013, a number that just about represented Minnesota’s payroll in 2003 and 2008. When factoring in the money they’ll owe to Kevin Slowey, Glen Perkins and others, the Twins payroll is set to see new highs in this decade. Given the skills this organization has concerning player evaluation, a competitive budget could mean big things going forward.

The current regime of Minnesota homegrown players has been such a treat to watch, as this season they will likely lead the Twins to their ninth winning season in 10 years. But they are getting older, and given the aforementioned extensions, many of them will be playing ball elsewhere in a couple years. Mike Cuddyer and Jason Kubel will be gone after 2011, and they would probably have to give the team a discount to stay with their original organization. Not far behind them is a group that includes the newly acquired J.J. Hardy, Delmon Young and Joe Nathan. It’s certainly one step forward as far as the budget to retain talent goes, but keeping the sheer quantity of players this organization produces would be impossible.

The good news is that Mike Radcliff is still the scouting director in Minnesota, and as a result, you can bet the Twins have players in their system and will have more coming. If there is someone better in the business, I don’t know about him. And to consistently succeed with such a simple M.O. should almost be frustrating to his peers: draft athletes early, power in the middle, and pitchers with command in between. There’s variations of that in each draft, but this is the premise the Twins are routinely constructed around.

With the early drafted athletes, they have Aaron Hicks and Ben Revere. Hicks is probably a year from his breakout (Fort Myers is utter hell for young hitters), but he is one of the handful of players in the minor leagues I could envision being a #1 overall prospect. Revere is more of a B-prospect for me, and seems a weird fit in an organization that really likes Span. On an extreme side of that predicament is Wilson Ramos, a really solid young catcher that will be stuck as a back-up unless he gets traded away.

The athletes go on to include foreign players that show the reaches this scouting department is ready to go. Max Kepler was given the largest bonus ever for a European player (800K), and while very raw, has a ton of potential. Miguel Sano is the best player the team has ever signed on the international market, and scouts couldn’t be higher. Then there’s Angel Morales, a product of the draft, but a symbol of Radcliff’s fondness for Puerto Rican players.

When the team does veer away from the command-control pitchers, they go after projection. The hope is that 2009 first-rounder Kyle Gibson has both, because his body certainly has room to fill out, but he also has great command of his fastball on his best days. His health will determine how fast he moves, but Gibson was a risk that could really pay off for the Twins. The team also really likes David Bromberg, who also features an intimidating frame but a command-specialist arsenal. He moves up to Double-A this season, and could take over the Twins fifth starter spot as early as mid-2011.

There’s depth, but we don’t have to go into every player today. Just know that the Twins have a scouting philosophy that is tried and true, and a budget on the rise. After all the recent extensions, the next person Bill Smith should be contacting for a new contract is Mike Radcliff, who might just be the man responsible for all the success this organization has had in the last decade.


Organizational Rankings: Current Talent – Minnesota

The Twins are in a great position to compete for their division title, and thus the World Series, in 2010. Outside of their injured closer, they return all of the key members of last year’s AL Central-winning squad and also made some good pickups over the off-season. As a result, they have, mostly likely, the best team in the AL Central heading into the 2010 season.

Of course, for the Twins it all starts with their recently locked-up catcher, Joe Mauer — one of the best players in baseball. Mauer plays the most demanding defensive position, from which offensive value is the hardest to find; is projected to have a wOBA above .400; and is not yet 27. Along with Albert Pujols and Hanley Ramirez he is one of the game’s greatest talents.

The rest of their position players have enough talent to form a competent core around Mauer. Outside of their catcher, the infield was a wasteland after Justin Morneau went down with an injury in 2009. But the Twins made steps to address that major weakness in the 2010 off-season. They brought in Orlando Hudson and J.J. Hardy, which should result in fewer plate appearances from the likes of Nick Punto, Alexi Casilla, Matt Tolbert and Brian Buscher. Also, Morneau comes back from injury, looking to replicate his three-win season of 2007 and 2008.

The outfield will have its defensive liabilities and is, generally, not a strength of the team. But it has enough talent, especially in Denard Span, not to be a liability to the rest of the team.

The rotation — although it does not have a lights-out, number-one guy — is solid one to four and one of the better ones in baseball. Its top four members are united by their strike-throwing ability, as none projects by CHONE to throw more than 2.11 BB/9: Scott Baker is the ace of the staff, quietly posting a top-fifteen K/BB ratio over the past three years; Kevin Slowey, coming back from injury, could be Baker’s equal, if not better; Carl Pavano re-signed with the Twins after an encouraging 2009; and, finally, Nick Blackburn limits walks enough to make his poor strikeout and average walk rate work. After that the Twins will go with Francisco Liriano, who they are guardedly optimistic about after a solid performance in Winter Ball. If he recaptures any of his past glory this could be an amazing rotation top to bottom.

The loss of Joe Nathan for the season no doubt hurts, but the Twins have a number of good relievers to cover the loss. And picking up bullpen guys during the season is easier than getting starting pitchers or position players; if the Twins need to they can trade for a closer (although not one of Nathan’s level).

All in all the Twins have surrounded their superstar with enough talent to make themselves the team to beat in the AL Central.


Organizational Rankings: #6 – Seattle

The presumption is going to be that I put the Mariners at #6 because I’m a biased homer – I am well aware of that. I could spend a few paragraphs explaining how I didn’t compile this by myself and generally attempt to defend myself against the claims of bias, but I’d rather just put those words to use explaining the logic behind the ranking, and then you can think what you will.

Each organization is being graded on different aspects that affect how well the team will play going forward. Since this will undoubtedly be the most controversial ranking of the series, I’ll break down each segment.

Present Talent

The 2010 Mariners are not a great team. It’s pretty easy to look at the roster and find problems – they lack offense, the back end of the rotation is a question mark, the closer has had one good major league season, etc… The upgrades on the roster pushed them into 83-85 win territory in terms of true talent level. Put them in the American League East, and they’d likely be fighting the Orioles for fourth place. In the AL West, however, there are no Yankees or Red Sox, as all four teams are pretty evenly matched. So, while the team is flawed, they also have a pretty decent chance of making the playoffs. There simply aren’t that many teams in baseball that are going into the 2010 season with a roughly one in four chance of playing in October.

This team isn’t just designed to steal a division title and get waxed in the ALDS, either. The team is banking on several high variance players, and they won’t succeed without good years from the likes of Milton Bradley and Erik Bedard. That is certainly a risky proposition, but there’s no denying the upside that comes in a scenario where both stay healthy and perform near their talent levels. Their mean projections are dragged heavily down by the risk (as they should be), but the distribution of expected outcomes is not clumped around the middle – they will likely either boom or bust, and take the team with them whichever way they go. This team is not very likely to win 83 to 85 games. Instead, they’ll probably win 75 or 90. If it doesn’t work, they’ll be sellers at the deadline and go young in the second half. If it does work, though, the other three AL playoff clubs would be staring at having to defeat a team that throws Felix Hernandez, Cliff Lee, and Bedard in a playoff series. No one is going to sign up for that assignment.

The combination of a winnable division and a high variance roster gives the Mariners a legitimate chance at winning the World Series this year, even with a roster that has plenty of warts. They’re not the favorites, certainly, but if you ran the 2010 season 1,000 times, the Mariners would end up champions in a non-trivial amount of them. They’d also finish last a bunch of times, which is part of the risk they’ve had to accept. But we cannot ignore the fact that among the 30 MLB clubs, Seattle is more likely to win the title in 2010 than most of their competitors.

Future Talent

The Mariners farm system isn’t among baseball’s best. They have a couple of premium prospects in Dustin Ackley and Michael Saunders, but they don’t match up with the systems that boast a lot of high ceiling guys. However, there is a reason this section is entitled young talent and not farm system.

Felix is 23. Franklin Gutierrez is 27. Jose Lopez is 26. Adam Moore is 25. Ryan Rowland-Smith is 27. Every single member of the bullpen is under 30. Simply looking at a ranking of their prospects misses the youth already on the team. They’re not overflowing with young talent like Texas or Tampa Bay, but there’s a young core to build around in place, and the guys on the farm who are legitimate prospects are generally close to the majors.

This isn’t a team that has a short window to contend. They’re likely to be even better in 2011 and beyond than they will be in 2010 – the problem for them is that is true of most of the rest of the division as well.

Management

This is where I expect the disagreement lies, as I don’t think anything written above veers much from the common perception about the team. In terms of front office capability, financial commitment from ownership, revenues from the ballpark, and the other minor components of this section, the Mariners graded out very highly. Not just with me, but among everyone I talked to, including the other authors here on the site.

I understand that there’s a large contingency of people who believe that we should not presume intelligence until success has been displayed on the field, and that we should infer that an organization is well run once the fruits of their labor of have been reaped, and those are the people who are going to hate this ranking. I simply have a philosophical disagreement with you on how we should evaluate our expectations for the future. Just as we can separate Jason Heyward from a normal outfield prospect despite the fact that he has accomplished nothing at the big league level, I believe we can also evaluate an organization’s ability to put a winning team on the field before they do so.

The term “process” has become a cliche in referring to front offices, but quite simply, there are few better examples of an organization that is blending traditional scouting with new ways of thinking than the Mariners. The GM is one of the most respected scouts in the game, and his right hand man is an accountant who went out and hired Tom Tango as one of his first orders of business. Teams that have blended both ways of thinking into their decision-making process have been tremendously successful, and this is the path the Mariners have set themselves upon.

The Seattle front office knows how to evaluate talent, and they know how to value talent. Organizations that do both things well, and are given a payroll of $100 million to boot, win a lot of baseball games.

I knew putting the Mariners at #6 would generate a significant amount of backlash and claims of bias. But, in my estimation, when you actually look at their chances of winning in 2010, the group of young talent they can build around going forward, the quality of the decision making in the front office, and their financial resources, this is where they belong. After years of being a joke, the Mariners have made one of the most impressive turnarounds in recent history.


Organizational Rankings: Future Talent – Seattle

Maybe in the perfect world for a Mariners fan, Adam Jones joins Franklin Gutierrez and Ichiro in the outfield, Chris Tillman shares the top of the prospect list with Dustin Ackley. Maybe Asdrubal Cabrera is still around. But as much as these fans wish it didn’t, the Bill Bavasi era did happen, and numerous young talents are in other organizations because of it. But, things are getting pretty good in Seattle, and I won’t be the first person to tell you why: Jack Zduriencik and friends.

I’m not going to tell you that Zduriencik is the best General Manager in baseball. That, I think, would be impossible to achieve without years of experience in the position. However, he is undeniably one of the game’s great talent evaluators, and he’s surrounding himself with informed opinions from intelligent people. The foundation is built for future success, both because of the personnel in the front office and the personnel on the field. This begins, like it has with every team in this series, with the stars: in Seattle, that’s Ichiro Suzuki and Felix Hernandez.

When Ichiro starts to significantly decline will always be at the heart of the Mariners future, as it’s hard to imagine ownership ever letting him don another uniform. In a perfect world, he has five more seasons with 200 hits and plus defense in him, as his 4-5 WAR contributions are essential to future success. With Felix, the hope is merely that he peaks when the average player does, as he is under team control through his age 28 season. If his 2009 is a level that can be sustained, the Mariners will be able to boast the best pitcher in the game, a distinction that certainly can’t hurt.

Joining Felix in Seattle until October 2014 will be Franklin Gutierrez, signed to an extension in January that promises a placement on Dave Cameron’s Trade Value series. I can’t believe Gutierrez is a +25 fielder, obviously, but if he’s +15 and makes minimal strides with the bat, he can be a 4.5 WAR player. And there’s Chone Figgins, tied down to the same timetable as Felix and Franklin, and seemingly just as unique as the previous three players. The hope is that Figgins understands his value was never as strong as it was last year, when he worked 100 walks. If he’s that patient again, then Figgins tenure in Seattle will go just fine.

This is the Major League core, and while it’s not typical, the players give Jack Z a very nice start for the next five seasons. Adam Moore will probably be there for all of them behind the plate, and you know how I feel about him. Some people took exception to my Moore projection, but I truly believe it was complimentary — Moore’s floor is very high. The pitcher version of this would be Ryan Rowland-Smith, who will have his modest success in Seattle as long as Safeco Field is standing. The bad news in Seattle is that the pitching really thins out after The Hyphen; there’s quite a bit of young relievers around Brandon League, but Zduriencik will have to be creative in building a rotation for the future.

If the pitching must come from outside the organization, the Mariners must keep their offense cheap outside of Ichiro and Figgins. They’ll get some help in this regard in 2011, when Michael Saunders should effectively replace Ken Griffey Jr., and Dustin Ackley should take over for Jose Lopez. The latter is another key to the future, as he must take to second base fairly quickly. While defense and power are still question marks for Ackley, his ability to make solid contact is an unbelievable skill. He’s a leadoff hitter the same as Ichiro and Figgins, which means the Don Wakamatsu will have rooms for lots of creativity in filling out his lineup card. Saunders, meanwhile, should play a good left field in Safeco (surprise, surprise) and will bring a touch of power to a lineup that lacks it.

There’s no doubt that by acquiring Cliff Lee, the Mariners dipped into what was already a shallow farm system. But Jack surely did so with the understanding that his team is going to rebuild this farm system quickly. They started last year, unafraid of the bonus demands of Nick Franklin and Steve Baron after spending big money on Ackley. Tom McNamara and his staff in the scouting department are very good at what they do, and I have total faith this team will be churning out young players in a few years. Until then, Jack Zduriencik must continue to be creative while building around the most unique core in Major League Baseball.


Organizational Rankings: Current Talent – Mariners

The Mariners spent an all time high on player payroll in 2008 and spent it so atrociously that they won only 61 games with it and got a brand new front office. As it turns out, it was probably worth it as they now employ one of the better-run offices in baseball and are heading back into contention far faster than anyone possibly could have imagined. Still, the new regime has to bear some crosses from the past one in terms of reduced financial flexibility. After that peak in 2008, the 2009 Mariners dropped about $20 million in payroll and this year’s team is down a little over another $10 million.

The Mariners went from 61 wins to 85 last year. Will the loss of an additional payroll project to hurt the Mariners this season? According to our notable projection systems, it looks like it will have some impact though perhaps not a great one. FanGraphs readers and CAIRO both have the Mariners at 83 wins for 2010 while CHONE is more pessimistic at just 78 wins.

Run prevention is going to be the name of the game for Seattle this season. Fronted in the rotation by Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee and possibly joined later on by Erik Bedard, the Mariners can boast some seriously good arms. The bullpen is no slouch either with power arms galore and breakout candidate Brandon League, discussed previously on FanGraphs with regards to his added splitter.

Kenji Johjima departs from the catching platoon, replaced by Adam Moore, which should make pretty much no difference. Casey Kotchman at first base will get a chance to get his career back on track and at the least will provide more solid defending than the Mariners have seen there in a long time.

Newly signed Chone Figgins is making the switch back to second base where he’ll be an asset and Jack Wilson mans shortstop from now until he–no, wait, he just got hurt again. Jose Lopez moves from second to third where the Mariners say that his body type plays better but more likely meant his trade value as they await Dustin Ackley.

Franklin Gutierrez and Ichiro Suzuki need no more fanfare, except they do, but I will not take time here to add on. Left field is a sticky situation, along with DH, with several mediocre candidates vying for time in between Milton Bradley suspensions.

The Mariners, as built on paper, are going to contend in what looks to be a slightly watered down AL West division. Given the savvy front office and talent in house, do not be surprised if the Mariners hang around contention for the foreseeable future.


Comparing CHONE and FANS projections

A while ago Tango wrote about the optimistic fan projections and I followed it up with a look at the fans’ playing time projections. I think the fan projections are very interesting and I wanted to look at another aspect before the season started. I wanted to see, broadly, how the fans’ projections compared with a computer-based system, like CHONE.

Here I plotted the FANS WAR projection versus CHONE WAR projection for each hitter with more than 15 fan projections. I use CHONE as the x-axis – not to say that I think it is the “independent” or “correct” variable, but just because one of them had to go on the x-axis. The red line is NOT the best fit line, but rather the y=x line. If the FANS and CHONE projected exactly the same values everything would fall along the line. Dots above the line are players whose FANS projection is higher and those below whose CHONE projection is higher. I added the names of a couple outlying points.

First off, there is a very strong positive relationship between the two projections: generally, players with a good FANS projection also have a good CHONE, and those with a poor projection of one have a poor one of the other. Not surprising, but reassuring to see.

Next, CHONE is more pessimistic than the FANS (or the FANS are optimistic). Most of the points fall above the line (FANS project higher WAR than CHONE). Interestingly, though, the FANS optimism (or CHONE pessimism) increases for better players. For below-average players (zero- to two-win players) there are a points below and above the line. But as you move up or right on the graph, almost all the players are above the line. The equation of best-fit line, FANS = 0.17 + 1.08*CHONE, bears this out. Since the slope is greater than one high-WAR players will have the greatest difference between FAN and CHONE projections. So the FANS optimism, relative to CHONE, is seen most in the best players.

Finally, I highlighted a couple outliers. The FANS really like Ian Desmond, Elvis Andrus and Evan Longoria compared to CHONE. The difference in each case is largely driven by a difference in defensive projection: the FANS think Andrus and Longoria will be elite defenders, CHONE thinks they will be just good; and the FANS think Desmond will be an average defensive shortstop, but CHONE thinks he will be quite poor. There were two players that CHONE liked considerably more than the FANS: CHONE likes Yuniesky Betancourt to be merely replacement level, while the FANS think he will be about a game worse; and CHONE sees Melky Cabrera as a three-win player while the FANS see him as a 1.5-win player. Finally I noted Troy Tulowitzki since he is one of the few superstars projected higher by CHONE than FANS. Again the difference is driven by defense. CHONE likes him to be an elite defender, while the FANS just a good defender.