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2020 ZiPS Projections: New York Yankees

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for eight years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the New York Yankees.

Batters

That ZiPS gives the Yankees such a robust projection is hardly surprising. This is a team, after all, that won 103 games in 2019 despite missing most of their starting lineup, their ace pitcher, and a top reliever for large chunks of the season.

It’s unlikely the Yankees are going to win 110 games in this year. While the team did an excellent job furnishing Plans B through Z, players like Mike Tauchman and Gio Urshela likely performed at what might be thought to be the reasonable high-end of their expectations. Both project to be valuable in 2020, but not quite as spicy as they were in last season. Tauchman’s defensive projection remains quite aggressive, as the probability-based measure that ZiPS uses for minor league defense was a fan of Tock’s fielding, projecting him at around 10 runs a year as a center fielder in the minors. If only the Rockies could find a player like that! Read the rest of this entry »


2020 ZiPS Projections: Detroit Tigers

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for eight years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Detroit Tigers.

Batters

The Detroit Tigers will continue to struggle to score runs. I don’t mean in the “occasionally getting shut out by the Orioles” sense, but more like when you’re watching Tigers games, you should channel flip when they’re at the plate rather than during the commercials. What makes this worse isn’t that they’re just awful offensively, but that there’s really almost no source of potential upside outside of Jeimer Candelario.

Jonathan Schoop and C.J. Cron are both legitimate major leaguers, but in this offense, they’re practically the centerpieces, and the most the Tigers can really hope for is that they’re good enough to flip for a prospect in July. Normally, I’d rather see lottery tickets instead of fill-in veterans since the offense will be absolutely wretched under any circumstances, but Detroit doesn’t really even have many of those types either. Nor have the Tigers done any sweeps of minor league free agency to find any; it’s been an extraordinarily quiet winter in the Motor City.

It’s kind of sad to see Miguel Cabrera with a negative number, but his power was non-existent last year and it’s hard to have value at designated hitter when your isolated power is the same as Hanser Alberto’s. Cabrera blasted the team’s lineup for his lack of power in 2019, but the truth is that Cabrera just isn’t a good hitter any longer. One of the most dangerous fastball hitters in baseball at one point, Cabrera only had an xSLG of .600 against fastballs in what Statcast calls the “heart” of the strike zone. That sounds like a big number, but the league as a whole was at .615. That number was .928 for Cabrera as recently as 2016, and at 17% of pitches thrown in the heart of the zone last year, pitchers gave him more fastballs down the middle than ever before in his career. He just can’t do much with them these days. Read the rest of this entry »


2020 ZiPS Projections: Cincinnati Reds

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for eight years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Cincinnati Reds.

Batters

Cincinnati’s 2020 offense will likely prove to be an interesting challenge for second-year manager David Bell. There’s the potential for a good offense here, but there’s an equal number of scenarios in which the team simply fails to score runs. Outside of Eugenio Suárez, the incumbent third baseman who I’m still amazed was purloined for Alfredo Simon, practically every player in the lineup has a real upside but also, significant questions about a major aspect of their game.

Does Joey Votto have another comeback season left in him? Votto has had downswings before, but the swoons were never anywhere near as deep his .261/.357/.411 line in 2019. 2020 will also be his age-36 season, which isn’t exactly a point in a career where you see many players come roaring back after a collapse. ZiPS does forecast a moderate 2020 recovery, but Votto the Star may be permanently in the rear-view mirror.

The outfield is a particularly devious puzzle to solve as rather than having two or three outfielders who are head-and-shoulders above the rest, the team has a large collection of average-ish players with wildly varying skillsets. They’re a bit like a giant vat of Legos in which the Star Wars set, the Raiders of the Lost Ark set, and the Requiem for a Dream set have all been tossed together, with some scattered Erector parts thrown in; you’re just trying to build a nice little house but keep finding lightsabers and fedoras. Read the rest of this entry »


2020 ZiPS Projections: Milwaukee Brewers

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for eight years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Batters

There’s been quite a bit of turnover in the Brewers’ starting lineup, but the team has avoided opening any serious holes.

ZiPS was a fan of Orlando Arcia, but it’s hard to avoid the fact that he’s backslid developmentally at ages when he should have been breaking out. Even worse than not improving offensively, Arcia is probably a worse hitter than he was two years ago. Add to that that his glove hasn’t matched up to his minor league reputation, and good on the Brewers for seemingly moving on to Luis Urías, who ought to be a significant improvement. Read the rest of this entry »


2020 ZiPS Projections: Baltimore Orioles

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for eight years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Baltimore Orioles.

Batters

Don’t look away in cringing horror; the pitching projections are worse!

ZiPS actually projects every position to be above replacement level, which is something. If you’re a skeptic, you might just say that’s only because Trey Mancini is projected to get playing time at first and in right field, and while that’s accurate, can’t you just be nice for a few minutes?

You could probably call the Austin Hays‘ forecast a pleasant one, though obviously it’s not quite on the level of his .309/.373/.574 line from his 21-game stint with the parent club. Hays was clearly overmatched in his initial cup of joe in the majors in 2017, but the Orioles also promoted him very aggressively that season and he was never the sort of prospect you’d expect to skip Triple-A without issues. There’s also the possibility that his adequate line is underrating him; injuries create a lot of uncertainty and his 2018 season and much of his 2019 were marred by ankle and thumb injuries. Read the rest of this entry »


2020 ZiPS Projections: Houston Astros

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for eight years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Houston Astros.

Batters

Let’s get the garbage receptacle in the room out of the way: there are no adjustments for sign-stealing related shenanigans baked into ZiPS. The simple truth is that the data to do so doesn’t really exist, and any adjustments made for an unknown effect on unknown players for an unknown amount of time would lack any precision. It’s one of those unknowables floating around in the aether that makes up part of the error bars.

Houston’s front-end offensive talent remains an absolute battering ram. The great players are, well, great, and there are few holes in the lineup, though there will be less offense behind the plate in 2020, and Gurriel’s age means he’s always a cliff-diving risk in any given season. Read the rest of this entry »


Dan Szymborski FanGraphs Chat – 1/9/2020

12:02
Avatar Dan Szymborski: Happy current year everyone!

12:02
Avatar Dan Szymborski: It is now time. A time for chats.

12:02
Alex: Do you think the White Sox are done in FA after Cishek addition?  With their current team, do you think they top 85 wins?

12:03
Avatar Dan Szymborski: Like most teams, they’re essentially done simply because there’s not a lot left out there! I’m comfortable in the mid-80s somewhere, but we’ll see as we get closer to the year.

12:03
Avatar Dan Szymborski: I’m happy they have a deal with Luis Robert which means no games on that front.

12:04
Dave: If you could pick any 3 current MLB managers to compete in a chili cookoff, who ya got?

Read the rest of this entry »


The Washington Nationals Were Not Magical, Merely Awesome

The Nationals relied heavily on their stars to win the franchise’s first World Series title. (Photo: David)

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” – Joseph Campbell

If someone tells you the Washington Nationals had a storybook season, they’re wrong. The tale of the 2019 Nats is one of science, not magic, one in which they had a team led by superstars and were designed to roll over the opposition in the playoffs. Robbed by fate of the Bryce Harper Hollywood ending in 2018, the Nats moved on from their franchise player, and even at the lowest point of the season, they always projected to have an excellent chance of making the playoffs. Facing teams with better regular season records, Washington leveraged the club’s strengths to even the odds and grabbed the franchise’s first championship. Read the rest of this entry »


Nats Sail on the Hudson, Punt on the Thames

The Washington Nationals made two signings Monday afternoon, re-signing relief pitcher Daniel Hudson and inking former Brewers first baseman Eric Thames to contracts.

Hudson’s two-year, $11.5 million deal reunites the Nationals with one of their most reliable relievers in 2019. After being picked up at the trade deadline from the Blue Jays, Hudson put up a 2.47 ERA and 3.97 FIP for Washington. The Nats originally acquired him up as a setup man for closer Sean Doolittle, but after Doolittle went on the Injured List with a sore knee, Hudson picked up most of the save opportunities. This state of affairs persisted as the team eased Doolittle back into the bullpen in September. Hudson was one of the few relievers Washington trusted come the playoffs, with four of his nine appearances registering an average leverage index of two or higher.

It’s a fair price for one of the few quality relievers available in free agency. Of the major league free agent relievers still looking for a new team, only Aaron Loup projects to have an ERA under four by Steamer. Washington’s bullpen still isn’t particularly deep, but with Hudson set to join Doolittle and Will Harris, the Nats will start 2020 with solid choices at the top of the ‘pen. Wander Suero ought to have a better 2020 season, and while Tanner Rainey’s command is still a huge work in progress, I’d rather see him work it out in D.C. than become the umpteenth fascinating, youngish Nationals reliever to bloom in his next uniform. Read the rest of this entry »


The Astros Reached Their Apogee in 2019

The Astros should still be good, but the team — and the organization — faces pressing questions heading into 2020. (Photo: Ian D’Andrea)

“Clunk! Clang!” – Anonymous Garbage Can

In terms of winning baseball games, the Astros executed a model rebuild. When Jeff Luhnow took over after the 2011 season, Houston was a craggy mess. The team hired Ed Wade after the 2007 season to help transition from the Killer B’s era squads, but Wade’s drafts didn’t bear fruit for a long time, and at the major league level, his imagination appeared to find its limit at signing a lot of declining veterans. Luhnow’s task was to tear the team down to the foundation, and then build it back up into something that looked like a modern roster led by a modern front office. That task, he accomplished.

The Setup

Flags fly forever, and Houston secured their first World Series victory in 2017. That 2017 World Series was one of the more entertaining ones in recent memory, the perfect topper to the second 100-win season in team history. As importantly, the Astros were determined not to fall into the complacency trap that tends to snare the champs. Once a team wins baseball’s biggest prize, the natural impulse seems to be towards conservatism, to simply keep the band together and try to crank out albums identical to its prior hits.

But the post-2018 offseason was defined by a big move. Houston acquired Gerrit Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates for a package led by Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz. And it paid off wonderfully as Cole, no longer fettered by Pittsburgh’s increasingly dated philosophy of inducing grounders with his hard stuff, flourished in an environment that encouraged him to attack batters directly. Cole went from striking out 23% of batters faced to 35%, an improvement much greater than can be explained away by the overall increase in strikeouts around baseball. Houston’s other big pitcher pickup, Justin Verlander, continued to dominate in his post-Tigers career; the Astros had two Cy Young contenders on the roster that they did not have in July 2017. Read the rest of this entry »