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The Obscenely Early ZiPS Projected Standings

Naturally, once the ZiPS elves have finished baking the ZiPS, the first thing I want to do — at least after actually getting some sleep — is to crank out some ZiPS projected standings. So let’s wrap up ZiPS Week (I’m possibly the only person calling it this) by doing the first run of the ZiPS projected standings for the 2020 season.

The methodology I use is not identical to the one we use in our Standings, so there will naturally be some important differences in the results. So how does ZiPS calculate the season?

Stored within ZiPS is the first through 99th percentile projections for each player it projects. I start by making a generalized depth chart, using our depth charts as an initial starting point. Since these are my curated projections, I then make changes based on my personal feelings on who will receive playing time, as filtered by arbitrary whimsy my logic and reasoning. ZiPS then generates a million versions of each team in Monte Carlo fashion. The computational algorithms, that is, not dressing up in a tuxedo and playing baccarat like James Bond.

After this is done, then ZiPS applies another set of algorithms with a generalized distribution of injury risk, which changes the baseline PAs/IPs selected for each player. Of note is that higher-percentile projections already have more playing time than lower-percentile projections before this step. It then automatically “fills in” playing time from the next players on the list (proportionally) to get to 700 plate appearances for each position and 1458 innings. Read the rest of this entry »


ZiPS Top 100 Prospects

Since 2014, I’ve cranked out the career numbers for every significant prospect, regardless of whether they’ve reached the level of the minors that would normally justify an official projection. After a one-year hiatus, those projections, more commonly known as the ZiPS Top 100 Prospects list, return for their FanGraphs debut. If you’re unaware of what ZiPS projections are and the purpose they serve, please consult this article and this article while I reconsider my public relations strategy.

These projections are not a replacement for scouting. Projection systems are very clever, and a smart analyst can figure out a lot of ways to approach some of the thornier data questions that emerge over 15 years of prognostication (as for me, I’ve muddled by). But they can’t capture everything and the farther down the minor league ladder you go, the worse the data gets and the shorter the players’ histories become. That’s why I usually need a compelling reason to create a yearly projection for a hitter with no High-A experience or a pitcher who has yet to make a Double-A appearance. ZiPS can use college data, but I prefer to avoid it. And ZiPS does not use high school data, as that would be preposterous. Without college stats or a major international league, ZiPS literally has nothing to go on for a player without minor league experience. So if you’re wondering why Jasson Dominguez is missing from the list, it’s not that he’s a lousy prospect, it’s just that ZiPS doesn’t have anything useful to say about him yet.

One of the biggest differences between ZiPS and most other prospect lists is that, given the uncertainty surrounding any prospect’s future performance, ZiPS projections tend to give higher career WAR forecasts to lower-risk, lower-ceiling players in the high minors. So ZiPS has historically given higher grades to prospects like Steven Matz, Kolten Wong, and Marcus Semien, though it turned out his ceiling was quite high, than any other prospect lists did. Some of the successes — players who ranked higher on the ZiPS list than any other I found — include Ozzie Albies (No. 49, pre-2015), Mookie Betts (No. 26, pre-2014), Trea Turner (No. 11, pre-2016), and Joc Pederson (No. 2, pre-2015). Naturally, there have been some dismal busts too, just like any prospect list, the worst possibly being the year ZiPS had Arismendy Alcantara ranked 13th. Whoops. Read the rest of this entry »


2020 ZiPS Projections: Tampa Bay Rays

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 Tampa Bay Rays.

Batters

One of the things that amazes me about the Rays is how easily they seem to be able to find solidly average talent. Give Tampa’s front office a list of minor league free agents and guarantee that those they talk to will sign with them, and I bet they end up with a bushel of 1.5 WAR players. Heck, send them into a dollar store and they’ll probably find a second baseman who can hit .270/.330/.380 and some off-brand Doritos.

Just one player, Austin Meadows, is projected to be worth at least three wins, so the team’s lineup will tend to max out at “good” rather than competing with the Yankees, A’s, or Twins; they just don’t have enough high-upside talent (right now at least, someone is coming). But it also makes them an incredibly safe lineup, one of the few groups that could survive an obscene number of injuries. Read the rest of this entry »


2020 ZiPS Projections: Toronto Blue Jays

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 Toronto Blue Jays.

Batters

If you planned a Bond villain-esque scheme to abduct the sons of famous baseball players and put them to work in your baseball mines, it would make for a pretty good plot, and a hell of a lineup. Toronto’s storyline is still incomplete, however, as the next phase of the plan involved collecting a bunch of castoffs and tossing them into the batting order.

Perhaps this is a touch on the mean side. Whatever else you can say about the Jays, it’s unlikely they have a floor anywhere near as low as some of the other teams — like the Marlins or Royals — likely to land in the 70s for wins. The outfield has a lot of guys to juggle, as players like Dalton Pompey and Anthony Alford never developed into the types that carve out permanent roles. ZiPS remains skeptical of Lourdes Gurriel Jr.’s offense, and while the computer has him ticking up near an OPS+ of 100, that isn’t all that exciting when you’re talking about a corner outfielder instead of a middle infielder. The Jays don’t really have a center fielder in this group — at least among those likely to start — which raises some concerns about what their defense will look like. Read the rest of this entry »


2020 ZiPS Projections: Texas Rangers

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 Texas Rangers.

Batters

I should start by making one important note about the Rangers: I’m projecting using current park factors. The club believes that the wind patterns in Globe Life Field will keep it fairly neutral, though they also thought that before their current home opened. Keeping the old park factors until data tells me otherwise keeps the numbers in a similar context as past Rangers teams, making the raw, non-neutralized numbers easiest to read. And remember, that’s why we have park-neutral numbers included as well!

The increase in league offense, combined with Globe Life Park being a hitter-friendly environment, served to camouflage the problems with the Rangers’ lineup in 2019. The team’s wRC+ of 88 was in the pits of the American League, tied with the Orioles, though thankfully lapping the woeful Tigers’ mark of 77. The lineup that will open at Globe Life Field isn’t an identical one, but it features much of the same cast that had issues putting runs on the scoreboard last year. Read the rest of this entry »


2020 ZiPS Projections: Oakland Athletics

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 Oakland Athletics.

Batters

The projected highs for the A’s lineup are very high. Matt Chapman has firmly established himself in the top tier of third baseman, and he’s not even reliant on having a +15 glove to be a star. He’s in his prime now and ZiPS gives him a nice chunk of time — five years — until his projection dips below four wins. Now would be a good time to make Chapman a multi-millionaire several times over and extend him a couple years into free agency, practically guaranteeing he spends his best years in Oakland.

ZiPS is all-in on Marcus Semien, forecasting shockingly little regression from the .285/.369/.522, 33 HR, 7.6 WAR line that earned him the bronze medal in the AL MVP race. There’s some regression, especially in the home runs, but there was no BABIP flukiness helping to fuel his big year; ZiPS actually thought he was mildly unlucky there! Signing Chapman to an extension would ease some of the blow in not signing Semien, who is a year away from free agency; the team has little leverage there. Read the rest of this entry »


2020 ZiPS Projections: Washington Nationals

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 Washington Nationals.

Batters

At this point, Juan Soto getting an MVP-region projection should probably have been expected. Soto didn’t quite meet his 2019 projection — yes, the OPS was close, but offense went up league-wide — but he was still a superstar, and with the departures of Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon in consecutive winters, he’s now undoubtedly the centerpiece of the offense. Mike Trout’s finally gotten old enough that Soto, along with Ronald Acuña Jr., has passed him in rest-of-career projections. Soto’s so terrific that he even managed to play in the majors five days before his debut. Okay, okay, it was a suspended game, but I like to imagine he caused a Star Trek-esque time paradox. Read the rest of this entry »


2020 ZiPS Projections: Miami Marlins

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 Miami Marlins.

Batters

I’ll share the good news first: The Marlins won’t have a good offense, but there are fewer gaping holes now than there were in 2019, when the team was able to outscore the Detroit Tigers, but couldn’t say the same of anyone else. (The team with the third-fewest runs, the San Francisco Giants, scored nearly half a run more per game than Miami did.) A lot of the team’s worst offensive performances — Curtis Granderson and Martín Prado combined for more than 600 plate appearances for some odd reason, hitting .183/.281/.356 and .233/.265/.294, respectively — are being replaced by players the Marlins brought in this winter. In Marlins terms, adding Corey Dickerson, Jesús Aguilar , Matt Joyce, Brandon Kintzler, and Francisco Cervelli constitutes a veritable orgy of spending. Along with players like Matt Kemp and Sean Rodríguez, who are signed to minor league deals, all of these guys are veterans, known quantities with few surprises. Read the rest of this entry »


2020 ZiPS Projections: Chicago Cubs

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 Chicago Cubs.

Batters

It’s hard to feel much excitement about the Cubs. They won the World Series when they were one of the best teams in baseball, so to see them in stasis as they pass through the core’s long twilight just doesn’t feel quite right.

I think of the Cubs like one of those expensive, powerful German luxury cars. It was dominating, with an engine that snarled, and looked like it would roll over the mid-size crossovers that were the rest of the NL Central. But it turned out the insurance for the car was expensive, the upkeep and maintenance fell behind, and now it isn’t any more desirable than a late-model, non-luxury brand. Read the rest of this entry »


Los Angeles Adds an Angel in the Outfield

The Angels quietly made a transaction of their own on Mookiesmas, picking up Joc Pederson, Ross Stripling, and Andy Pages from the Los Angeles Dodgers in return for Luis Rengifo and possibly a second prospect. The exact final names, most prominently if there’s anyone else heading to the Dodgers, are still up in the air at publication time.

If the Mookie trade was a Tuesday night earthquake, the Pederson move is one of its aftershocks. The Dodgers are splashing a lot of dollars onto their 2020 payroll, and whether or not baseball ought to have a luxury tax with steep penalties, that’s the world we live in and teams take it very seriously. Pederson’s exact 2020 salary is still unknown as he’s headed to arbitration, with the Dodgers filing at $7.75 million and Pederson’s camp at $9 million. The MLB Trade Rumors prediction of $8.5 million is the one we’ll go with there.

Sending Stripling to the Angels also removes $2.1 million from the Dodger payroll, putting the total luxury tax number at around $220 million. It does not appear the Dodgers got enough salary thrown in by the Red Sox to get under the first luxury tax threshold, but they do appear to be safely under the second threshold of $228 million. This is important because it leaves the Dodgers some flexibility to make other, small additions, while avoiding the second threshold’s steeper penalties, which could matter if the team’s in a position where they feel they need to pull the trigger on a big trade in July.

[Correction: Our payroll page for the Dodgers previously included Homer Bailey’s buyout and dollar figures for Yasiel Sierra and Hector Olivera in the team’s luxury tax figure. This has since been updated. The Dodgers now appear to have a chance to actually get under the $208 million threshold, not just the $228 million one. The exact amount the Red Sox are sending to the Dodgers to cover David Price’s contract is not yet public, so the situation remains fluid. If the Dodgers get under the $208 million threshold, it seems less likely that they would then spend over that threshold at the deadline. My apologies for any confusion! -DS]

Like Kenta Maeda, Stripling’s a nice player to have around, but with the Alex Wood signing, he’d probably be seventh or eighth in the rotation pecking order, even with Maeda gone to the Twins. Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin, and if healthy, Jimmy Nelson, all have higher upside than Stripling, who sheds a good deal of his utility if he isn’t in a starting role. Read the rest of this entry »