By Mike Whiteman February 19, 2023 ************ With the Super Bowl in the rear view mirror and pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training, another baseball season is upon us, and there will be no shortage of projections and predictions for the upcoming Major League Baseball season.
One of the projections that I like to watch is Depth Charts from Fangraphs (https://www.fangraphs.com/). This system combines the player projections from the well regarded ZiPS and Steamer projections, and a predicted allocation of playing time by Seamheads staff.
Like the past couple of years, I decided to use the Depth Chart projections to add wins (WAR) to each team starting from replacement level (approximately 48 wins). See the projected 2023 standings below:
Now, the first thing that jumps out at us is that the wins and losses don’t really add up, and basically the records are a bit better than they really will be. That being said, I think we can draw some conclusion from the numbers:
1. The Yanks project to be the best team in baseball, primarily on the strength of the top pitching staff in baseball. Fangraphs also has high expectations of Harrison Bader – his 3.8 projected WAR would be just shy of his career high 3.9 in 2021. The AL East will again be a tough grind, with the Blue Jays making a push with their potent offense, the Rays being the pesky Rays, and even Boston could surprise.
2. This is the year for San Diego to make their move. The lineup including Juan Soto, Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado, and Xander Bogaerts is simply loaded. The pitching should be just fine. The Dodgers are a bit vulnerable this season due to free agent losses and injury. The opportunity is there for the Padres.
3. The Mets and Braves both look to be really good. Makes me long for the “good old days” when only the division winners moved onto the postseason - what an epic race this could have been! How about one of these two teams taking on San Diego in the NLCS? 4. The Astros are still the class of the AL West, even though the loss of Justin Verlander and the Angels and Rangers active off seasons tighten things up a bit. I enjoy this exercise every spring, and following up at the end of the season. This approach predicted three division winners in 2022 (Yankees, Astros, Dodgers) and picked the Mets to win the NL East (they tied with the Braves), so this seems as accurate a way to predict performance than any other. Baseball is back!