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2020 ZiPS Projections: Arizona Diamondbacks

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 Arizona Diamondbacks.


ZiPS projects Ketel Marte to regress a bit towards the mean, but not by enough to prevent him from remaining a star center fielder. The outfield corners remain more troublesome, and I believe it is extremely dodgy to assume that a healthier shoulder will be enough to return David Peralta to his career-best 2018 form. Peralta’s quite old for a player with just five years’ worth of playing time — he’ll turn 33 late in 2020 — and it’s quite likely that some age-related decline will counteract a portion of the benefits of (hopefully) avoiding further injury. I’m a fan of Josh Rojas, but I’m not sure his value will really come as a starter in a corner outfield position, where I think his bat will be stretched a bit.

I really would have liked to see Arizona go after Marcell Ozuna, who may actually be underrated at this point, including by me; I was leery of a team chasing after two seasons after him failing to hit the three-win line, but after running his ZiPS projection and looking at my BABIP model (zBABIP), I may have been too hasty to dismiss him. ZiPS thinks Ozuna should have had a .316 BABIP in 2019 based on his profile (his actual was .259) and gives him a .281/.346/.509, 3.1 WAR projection in 141 projected games in Arizona.

The projections aren’t completely sold on Christian Walker, still seeing him as a league-average first baseman. Problem is, ZiPS also is a fan of Kevin Cron — his emergence was huge even by Pacific Coast League standards — and projects him as the slightly better player right now. If trading Walker at some point can get the Diamondbacks another corner outfielder or a starting pitcher, it’s going to be hard to say no to. I don’t think Arizona is a top offense, but I don’t think there are any serious holes at the moment, an impressive turnaround for a team that had an 86 wRC+ as recently as 2018. Read the rest of this entry »

Dan Szymborski FanGraphs Chat – 12/12/19

Avatar Dan Szymborski: It’s a-me, Szymio!

Mark6: When will Jays 2020 ZiPS projections be published?

Avatar Dan Szymborski: At a time I am aware of!

Kiermaier’s Piercing Green Eyes: You know what the Yankee pinstripes always needed? A curvy swoosh advertisement right on the front. Thank you MLB for continuing to advocate for what’s best for baseball.

tommy timberlake: Do you think the Mets are simply adding depth by signing both Porcello and Wacha, or could it be a precursor to a trade involving Syndergaard, Stroman or Matz?

Avatar Dan Szymborski: Who knows with the Mets. I think it’s more likely a trade would happen in the spring than now.

Read the rest of this entry »

Giants Add Veterans Gausman and Cozart

The Giants made two acquisitions Tuesday evening, signing pitcher Kevin Gausman to a one-year contract and acquiring infielders Zack Cozart and Will Wilson from the Los Angeles Angels for future considerations.

These moves aren’t quite as earth-shattering as the Gerrit Cole signing, but both have short term upside for the Giants, which is consistent with the team’s goal of not completely gutting the roster while rebuilding.

Kevin Gausman is a long-term favorite of mine, and the $9 million the Giants will pay him in 2020 strikes me as a reasonable risk to take given the upside he represents. His stint with the Braves in 2019 is one he’d be happy to forget thanks to the 3-7, 6.19 ERA line he put up in 16 starts. It’s very easy to lose sight of the fact that his 4.20 FIP was nearly two runs better than his actual ERA, which was inflated by a .344 BABIP. Gausman’s strikeout rate had faded in recent years, dipping to a lackluster 7.3 K/9 in 2018, so his 9.6 K/9 in Atlanta was roughly a 30% improvement, which generally portends pleasant results rather than what actually happened.

When looking at Gausman’s 2019 hit data, the ZiPS projection system expects a BABIP of .309 rather than his actual .334. That’s still on the high side, but is enough to drop his batting average against in Atlanta from .290 to .252. Batters actually had the lowest exit velocity against Gausman since 2015 at 86.9 mph, which partially explains why even a struggling Gausman didn’t see his homer rate tick up. Read the rest of this entry »

2020 ZiPS Projections: Chicago White Sox

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 White Sox.


Yasmani Grandal was a tremendously important addition for the White Sox, giving the team an instant star behind the plate. He’s a good enough hitter that if the physical rigors of catching start to wear on him as he ages, he will still retain some value at first base or DH. ZiPS has been all over the map with Yoan Moncada, but believes that he’s finally turned the corner for good. I’ve declared this several times and been burned before, but I’m going to again make the claim, hopefully for the last time.

ZiPS sees Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal as instant contributors, though just how much the White Sox wring out of those positions will depend on how quickly they reach the majors in 2020. The computer thinks Danny Mendick is a serviceable stopgap who will have value as a utility guy when he eventually loses his job to Madrigal. The non-tendering of Yolmer Sanchez really makes the way the White Sox managed second base in 2019 seem odd in retrospect. If Sanchez’s performance was such that there was a chance the team wasn’t going to offer him a contract for 2020, why not give Mendick more time at second base? It’s not as if Sanchez’s projection got worse between September and November, so the team had to have been at least on the fence by late in the season. A more extensive audition for Mendick would have given the team more information. Read the rest of this entry »

A Strong Dodgers Season Again Ends on Sour Note

The Dodgers continued to challenge the idea of what a “successful” baseball season is. (Photo: Brendan C)

“This is an unfair thing about war: victory is claimed by all, failure to one alone.” – Tacitus

Fair or not, among the general public, success in baseball means winning the World Series. The baseball-cultural definitions of dynasty and success have not evolved as the playoff system has grown larger and less designed to crown the best team. After seven consecutive division titles and no World Series championships, the Dodgers are perceived in large swathes of baseball fandom as being failures. As baseball is no fairer than the rest of life, the fact that the playoff system will naturally create a lot more failures than successes hasn’t shielded the team from criticism.

So after winning 106 games, the Dodgers find themselves in the awkward position of having to explain to fans that there’s no dark, underlying reason that caused them to win only two games in one particular five-game stretch in early October. There are no more key teaching moments in the NLDS loss any more than there were in any of the other 30 five-game stretches in 2019 during which the Dodgers won two or fewer games. Read the rest of this entry »

2020 ZiPS Projections: Colorado Rockies

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 Colorado Rockies.


The 2019 Colorado Rockies ranked fourth in the National League in runs scored, which is actually a rather bleak ranking for a team that plays at Coors Field. “OMGTEHCOORSHANGOVER” has become a convenient excuse for the club’s struggles — at least when they accidentally suggest they’re aware there are struggles — but it’s become a bit of a crutch when talking about the team. There appears to be an effect, but a minor one, unlikely to be worth more than three-to-five points of OPS for Rockies hitters. ZiPS doesn’t take into consideration any “Coors hangover,” and if this were a big deal, then ZiPS would be systematically too optimistic on players going to Coors and too pessimistic on players leaving. But it is not.

I feel like we’ve been over this story a billion times, but very little has changed in Colorado. The team’s offense is largely reliant on having two-to-three players in any given season being MVP candidates, with Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story likely being those two players again in 2020. Ryan McMahon and David Dahl both receive projections that are kinda disappointing, but it’s hard to forget that Dahl’s injury history is long and the Rockies spent two prime development years jerking McMahon around. Read the rest of this entry »

The Phillies Get a New Set of Wheels

The indefatigable Ken “Robothal” Rosenthal reported Wednesday afternoon that Zack Wheeler had agreed with the Philadelphia Phillies on a five-year contract. Reportedly worth $118 million in guaranteed salary, Wheeler will remain in Philadelphia through the end of the 2024 season, barring a trade.

In my Elegy for ’19 article talking about the Phillies, when discussing the future, my hope was that the team would continue pushing forward financially. While it would seem unlikely that Philadelphia would suddenly become overly thrifty, the club would be far from the first contender to suddenly get nervous about nearing the luxury tax threshold.

Wheeler was always expected to be a top starter. A first-round pick for the Giants in 2009, he was traded to the Mets at the 2011 trade deadline straight-up for Carlos Beltran. Wheeler had little trouble adjusting to the majors, putting up FIPs of 4.17 and 3.55 in 2013 and ’14 over 49 starts for the Mets. Doesn’t it feel a bit odd that a 3.55 FIP was just a little better than league-average as recently as 2014?

During spring training in 2015, Wheeler was diagnosed with a torn UCL, resulting in Tommy John surgery that cost him the entire season. Arm soreness during his rehab in 2016 delayed Wheeler’s comeback with the Mets until the next year. It wasn’t until 2018 that Wheeler really appeared to be picking up where he left off, throwing 182.1 innings with a 3.31 ERA/3.25 FIP, enough for 4.2 WAR. Last year featured much of the same good stuff, with Wheeler’s .311 BABIP likely being partially the fault of an unimpressive Mets defense. Perhaps most importantly, 2019 put Wheeler’s 2 1/2 lost years more comfortably in the rear-view mirror, something important for a team making a significant contract commitment. Read the rest of this entry »

The 2020 ZiPS Projections

The 2020 ZiPS projection season starts Friday, and before it does, I wanted to offer a brief refresher of what ZiPS is and is not.

ZiPS is a computer projection system, initially developed by me from 2002-2004, and “officially” released in 2004. As technology and data availability have improved over the last 15 years, ZiPS has continually evolved. The current edition of ZiPS can’t even run on the Pentium 4 3.0 processor I used to develop the original version starting in 2002 (I checked). There are a lot more bells and whistles, but at its core, ZiPS engages in two fundamental tasks when making a projection: establishing a baseline for a player, and estimating what their future looks like using that baseline.

ZiPS uses multi-year statistics, with more recent seasons weighted more heavily; in the beginning, all the statistics received the same yearly weighting, but eventually, this became more varied based on additional research. Research is a big part of ZiPS and every year, I run literally hundreds of studies on various aspects of the system to determine their predictive value and better calibrate the player baselines. What started with the data available in 2002 has expanded considerably; basic hit, velocity, and pitch data began playing a larger role starting in 2013, and data derived from StatCast has been included in recent years as I got a handle on the predictive value and impact of those numbers on existing models. I believe in cautious, conservative design, so data is only included once I have confidence in improved accuracy; there are always builds of ZiPS that are still a couple of years away. Additional internal ZiPS tools like zBABIP, zHR, zBB, and zSO are used to better establish baseline expectations for players. These stats work similarly to the various flavors of “x” stats, with the z standing for something I’d wager you’ve already figured out!

When estimating a player’s future production, ZiPS compares their baseline performance, both in quality and shape, to the baseline of every player in its database at every point in their career. This database consists of every major leaguer since the Deadball era — the game was so different prior to then that I’ve found pre-Deadball comps make projections less accurate — and every minor league translation since what is now the late 1960s. Using cluster analysis techniques (Mahalanobis distance is one of my favorite tools), ZiPS assembles a cohort of fairly similar players across history for player comparisons, something you see in the most similar comps list. Non-statistical factors include age, position, handedness, and, to a lesser extent, height and weight compared to the average height and weight of the era (unfortunately, this data is not very good). ZiPS then generates a probable aging curve — both midpoint projections and range — on the fly for each player. Read the rest of this entry »

The Twins Crushed Their Enemies…Until October

The Twins gave their fans at Target Field plenty to cheer for. Until October, that is. (Photo: Doug Dibble)

“If you don’t take an opponent serious, they surprise you.” – Canelo Alvarez

Coming into the 2019 season, the Cleveland Indians did not take the threat posed by the other teams in the AL Central very seriously. The Minnesota Twins made them regret it. With the most home runs in baseball history, the Twins sent Cleveland reeling and won 100 games for the first time since 1965. While the Twins benefited from baseballs being designed in a perfect, Flubber-y way for their lineup, every good success comes sprinkled with a dash of good fortune.

The Setup

Surprise is nothing new for the Twins. The 2017 team, still in the middle of its rebuild, shocked the American League by winning 85 games a year after going 59-103. That 26-game surge wasn’t caused by making dollars rain in free agency, but instead was mostly the work of the players the Twins already had. They even shocked themselves, and after losing six of seven games to enter the trade deadline below .500, they were sellers rather than buyers. Gone were the team’s closer, Brandon Kintzler, and Jaime García, a player they acquired just a week prior. Then they went 20-10 in August, enough to sneak into the second Wild Card spot. But the Yankees’ David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle shut down the offense for five and two-thirds innings in the Wild Card game, forcing Minnesota to make a characteristically quick postseason exit.

Regression to the mean is a cruel thing and the 2018 Twins, without wholesale changes, fell out of the playoff race quickly. An 11-3 run to end the season got the team’s record near the .500 mark, but it only shaved the edges off a disappointing season. Miguel Sanó and Byron Buxton, two hitters the team intended to build around, were injured and ineffective, and there weren’t enough pleasant surprises elsewhere. Brian Dozier’s OPS fell under .700, and with the exception of Zach Duke, none of the low-key offseason signings (Lance Lynn, Addison Reed, Logan Morrison) proved effective. The team became sellers at the deadline, trading Duke, Lynn, Dozier, Fernando Rodney, Eduardo Escobar, and Ryan Pressly. Read the rest of this entry »

Seattle Adds Fixer-Upper in Carl Edwards Jr.

In what is shaping up to be a very busy pre-Thanksgiving Hot Stove League, the Mariners announced on Wednesday that they have agreed with relief pitcher Carl Edwards Jr. on a one-year contract. Edwards will receive a base salary of $950,000, with the potential to make another $500,000 in performance incentives tied to appearances and games finished.

This is the type of move that you will likely see more of in Seattle this winter. The Mariners are rebuilding, and though it’s not the type of rebuild that tears everything down to the foundation, they probably won’t be competitive in 2020. Whether you call it a rebuild or a retool or a reimagining, finding low-cost pickups and reclamation projects are typically smart things for teams to do. It’s also a healthy situation for players seeking to rebuild their value and get better contracts down the road.

Seattle’s bullpen is a prime place for these types of low-risk additions. Spending on relievers tends to be the worst bang-for-the-buck signings when it comes to wins, so it’s natural to look for these kinds of transactions to fill out the relief corps. The Mariners are also a good candidate for this as they’re currently projected in our Depth Charts to have the worst bullpen in baseball. Read the rest of this entry »