As you’ve no doubt noticed, we’ve been rolling out posts that work through the expected production for each team at each position on the diamond, and with the DH post going up this morning, we’ve now done a post for each of the nine spots occupied by position players. If you missed them, I’ll put the links below.
We’ll tackle pitchers at the beginning of next week, but with hitters behind us, I thought it’d be interesting to take a little bit of time to look at some of the data to come out of the project so far. There are several things to note, and I’ll be writing about several of those things over the next few days. For now, let’s start with the main thing we noticed as we’ve gone along.
The Positional Power Rankings love the Rockies. Love them. If you take the aggregate total of all the data presented so far, you’ll note that the Rockies come out with +32 WAR from their eight everyday players, tied with Texas for #1 in baseball. Their worst positions were 1B/3B/RF, but they managed to accumulate +3 WAR each of those spots, and then Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, and Dexter Fowler helped push them ahead at the spots where their best players line up. We know Tulo and Gonzalez are good, but the Rockies numbers were consistently higher than we might have intuitively expected.
Which led us to notice one small problem — the park factor part of the WAR calculation didn’t get attached, so every position player was being compared to the same baseline, regardless of what home park they played in. For guys in extreme hitters parks (like Colorado and Texas), this made them look a bit better. For guys in extreme pitchers parks (like Seattle and San Francisco), this made them look a bit worse. For most players, the application of a park factor won’t change the results too terribly much, but at the team level, it can start to add up. How much do park factors matter? Well, here’s a table of the WAR totals by team and position without park factors (these tables are sortable, by the way, so click any header to sort each table by that position).
And now, the park adjusted numbers.
The Rockies +32 WAR falls all the way to +21 WAR, and instead of being tied for the top spot, they end up 23rd, between the Cubs and Orioles. Yeah, Coors Field is kind of a big deal, and if you thought the Rockies hitters looked too high on each list, you were absolutely correct. We’re sorry we didn’t catch this earlier in the process. Hopefully, you still found the posts useful, and for most positions, the non-Rockies changes don’t move things around too much. Colorado is the extreme outlier as far as parks are concerned, and even the teams that get a bump upwards from the adjustment aren’t anywhere near the magnitude of the adjustment as the Rockies downward shift.
But, here’s perhaps the most interesting thing — even the park adjusted numbers actually paint a more optimistic picture of Colorado’s 2013 outlook than you might have expected, because park factors go both ways, bringing down the hitters but bringing up the pitchers. So, while the distribution of wins between the two sides of the ball change when park factors are added, the overall total isn’t affected. And — spoiler alert — the park adjustments push the pitcher’s totals up to the point where the Rockies are still projected as a roughly .500 team.
So, yes, these combination Steamer/ZIPS rate projections with FG projected playing time allocations were too high for the Rockies on the posts we’ve rolled out over the last few weeks, but the system is actually still quite a bit higher on Colorado than I would have expected going in. Based on their failures last year and their essentially non-existant off-season transactions, it’s easy to assume that they’re just going to be lousy again in 2013, but giving them better health makes a pretty large difference. According to this calculation, at least, the Rockies don’t totally suck. They’re not the best group of hitters in baseball, but they might have a better shot at being an average team than we’ve been giving them credit for.
Beyond just that calculation error, there are some other interesting things to be gleaned from the results. For instance, holy crap the Angels line-up. They probably won’t actually end up with +35 WAR from their position players — it’s easier to underperform than overperform projections due primarily to injuries — but the gap between their starting nine and everyone else’s starting nine still stands out. Also, look at the logjam in the NL between the Nationals, Braves, Giants, Reds, and Cardinals; according to this, the NL playoff race will most likely be decided by the quality of each team’s pitching staff.
There are a few other interesting things to note from the overall totals as well, and we’ll dig into those tomorrow. And then, once we roll out the pitcher rankings next week, we’ll look at the overall team ratings and see what we can learn from those.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.