Here Are the Complete Five-Year Win Forecasts

Last week, I asked you to project too much of the future. And, bless your hearts, you complied. Every offseason, in February or March, I poll the FanGraphs community to see how many games it thinks each team will win in the season ahead. That project is still coming down the road, when opening day gets closer and more of these free agents have signed. This experiment was more ambitious; instead of asking you about single-season wins, I asked you about entire five-year windows. Five-year win totals, for every single team. It’s far too much, given how little of the future is knowable, but you voted in the polls anyway. I appreciate your doing that.

For every polling project, there is an analysis post. Otherwise there wouldn’t be a point. Below, you can see what the community thinks about the near- and medium-term futures for every club. The idea here is to try to get a sense of which teams are and aren’t well-positioned in the bigger picture. Or, at least, how this community thinks about that. There’s more to this evaluation than just the state of the major-league roster — there’s also the state of the farm system, the identities in the front office, the resources supplied by ownership, and so on. A baseball team is a big, complicated business. It’s time to look at what you think about these businesses.

As per usual, for each response in each poll, I assigned a single number. That made it a pretty straightforward process to calculate average community-projected five-year win totals. I was heartened by the fact that the community wasn’t too dramatically optimistic — the average team had just under five wins too many, which means the average inflation was just under a single win a year. What I mean is, obviously, the average team in a given season will win 81 games. The average team in these projected seasons is expected to win just under 82 games. You expect a certain amount of optimism in a project like this, so I’m glad it didn’t get out of hand. I adjusted the final results to put them in line with reality.

Here are those results. I asked you all for five-year win totals. What I’m showing are those totals divided by five, expressed as average projected wins per season. Here’s how you think teams will do between 2018 and 2022.

Because of the design of the polls I made, the results might be a little bit low on the best teams, and a little bit high on the worst teams. That being said, the differences ought not be large, and the order here is accurate. Over the past five seasons, the Dodgers have won more regular-season games than any other team. You think that’s going to be true again moving forward, with the club just edging out the Yankees and Astros. I don’t know what’s less surprising, between the Dodgers point and the Marlins point. The Marlins are expected to be the worst five-year team, with about a three-win gap separating them from the Tigers each season. Over the past five years, only three teams have won fewer games than the Marlins have. Say what you will about their rebuild, but it’s only just getting underway, and only the Christian Yelich trade has returned a blockbuster haul.

As long as we’re comparing actual 2013 – 2017 performance against projected 2018 – 2022 performance, here are all the differences in win totals. This is no longer per year. This is just the future projection, minus the past performance.

The Phillies are expected to take the biggest step forward. No one has won fewer games over the past five years, but, moving forward, the community has ranked the Phillies 13th, about dead-even with the Twins and a step ahead of the White Sox. The five-year win gain comes out to 64. And keep in mind this is despite the 2018 Phillies looking fairly mediocre. You can consider them and the White Sox together. This is a reflection of the fact that the community likes these two rebuilds that have taken place. Much of the industry is in agreement. Baseball America just ranked the Phillies’ farm system sixth, and the White Sox’ farm system fourth. Fans do love a strong farm system.

See, also, the Braves — they’re first, according to BA, and they have a slightly higher five-year win projection than the Phillies. Yet thinking about those teams causes me to think about the Padres, Rays, and, especially, the Reds. Sticking with BA for a moment, those farm systems are ranked third, fifth, and ninth, respectively. But in five-year win projections, those teams are ranked 19th, 24th, and 25th. I sort of get it about the Padres; as talented as the system is, the major-league product still has a long way to go. And I sort of get it about the Rays; they’re just such a low-budget operation they can never really maximize their chances. But the Reds just seem like they have people feeling down. Only a few years ago, their payroll was right around the middle of the pack. The farm now is talented, and the big-league roster isn’t terrible. I bet this is partially a function of the eighth-worst ownership ranking. And, I bet this is partially a function of the fifth-worst front-office ranking. The community sees other rebuilding teams improving, but the Reds aren’t expected to take that step. I guess you could say they have something to prove.

Let’s go back to that last image. The Phillies are expected to gain the most wins. At the other end, we find the Royals. The Royals are tied for seventh in baseball in wins over the past five years, but, over the next five years, they’re ranked 28th, between the Orioles and Tigers. The only farm system worse than theirs, according to BA, belongs to the Mariners, and the Mariners, at least, seem to have a modestly competitive big-league roster right now. The Mariners’ reckoning is probably coming. The Royals’ reckoning is probably already here. The difference is that the Royals are far more willing to accept it, given the highs they recently achieved. This is just capturing them in their inevitable downturn, but we can’t forget about where the Royals got to. The Mariners should be so lucky.

I’m going to start winding down because there’s no sense in my talking about every single data point. If I were to offer my own opinion, I think the community is somewhat high on the Nationals, and low on the Pirates. I also wonder if the community isn’t somehow still too low on the Yankees, despite them getting the second-best five-year forecast. The community expects them to be strong, but perhaps not strong enough, given that they have every single thing going for them. They have a virtually limitless revenue stream, a good roster today, and a top-three or top-five system. But I’m not here to nitpick or criticize. This project is about you, and not me, and according to you, as as collective, the three teams in the best positions right now are the Dodgers, Yankees, and Astros, with the Cubs just behind. I thank you for your participation, and I look forward to the next time I run a project. They’re always a kick.





Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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Original Greaser Bob
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Original Greaser Bob

Cubs are 28th according to BA, how the mighty are fallen.

output gap
Member
Member
output gap

Yes, I’m sure the Cubs are upset their farm ranking is poor, when their roster is full of controllable graduates of that farm.

1+ WAR Cubs farm graduates (2014-Present):
2014:Hendricks (11.8), Baez (4.6)
2015: Bryant (21.6), Russell (8.2), Schwarber (3.3), Edwards (1.6)
2016: Contreras (5.4), Almora (2.0)
2017: Happ (1.8)

Only 60 fWAR over 3.5 seasons on pre arb contracts.

TKDC
Member
Member
TKDC

Yeah, it’s almost like the point of having a good farm system is not to have a bunch of good minor league baseball players.

Original Greaser Bob
Member
Original Greaser Bob

Are you implying that it’s good that a team doesn’t have any +50 grade prospects?

Moate
Member
Moate

That is exactly what everyone is saying. There’s no such thing as a pitching prospect, and most of their position players are under team control for 4+ years because they’re graduated prospects. Also, they’re a major market team currently sitting 20Mil under luxury, so they can adapt to their future needs.

IDK why the Cubs need prospects, barring “more than half of their young stacked ML-caliber players die in a bus crash”. They’re clearly a team built to win right now, with “right now” being “for the next 5+ years”.

nenright
Member
Member
nenright

The Cubs need prospects so they don’t have to spend 100 mil a year on their rotation when all their SPs hit FA in 2020.

Having graduated a top farm doesn’t mean you don’t still need prospects

Moate
Member
Moate

Farm rankings are based on “near-MLB ready talent”. Cubs’ farm still has 3 years to develop/draft/trade for guys to start replacing the MLB talent.

The point of minor league players is to have develop players for your MLB team/trade for players to help your MLB team. It seems like that’s what the Cubs have been doing with their farm so far. The cupboard is bare now, but they have time to replenish it while using their young talented MLB team that won’t need to draw on the farm for a couple years in any huge ways.

channelclemente
Member

Go Giants, LOL.

Original Greaser Bob
Member
Original Greaser Bob

Sure but it doesn’t bode well for long term organizational health especially compared to the Yankees, Dodgers, Nats, and Astros.

FWIW I voted for 440-459 for the Cubs.

nenright
Member
Member
nenright

It’s not illegal to have a very good mlb team and still have a good farm system (see: Dodgers, Astros).

Concerned Reader John
Member
Member
Concerned Reader John

I think the negative reaction was to the hyperbole of “how the mighty have fallen.” They’ve fallen to what, a 90-95 win team with a big payroll?

ironfireman
Member
ironfireman

Fallen right into a championship & the NLCS last 3 years.