Fun with Projections
by Mike Whiteman
So it’s February 15th, Spring Training is coming, and the annual excitement of the impending baseball season is in the air! As the teams’ rosters are finalizing, we start to see predictions from numerous sources.
I thought I’d jump into the fray.
Method: I’m using the WAR from the Depth Charts projections at Fangraphs (www.fangraphs.com). This takes the well-regarded Steamer and ZiPS methods, combines them, and makes adjustments for expected playing time as discerned by Fangraphs staff.
Upon adding each team’s total WAR projections, I use the WAR conversion to wins calculation at Baseball-Reference (www.baseball-reference.com). I then created the standings below.
Of course, a season has a life of its own, and is a journey, one which even the most thoughtful predictions struggle to forecast. Just the variables brought to play by COVID can (and will) certainly impact the games and season.
These projections are based on pure numbers. Numbers aren’t always reliable. But they often are indicators of trends.
Even with some of the perceived weaknesses we see in the Yankees, they have the potential to be really, really good. Interestingly, the biggest divisional nemesis may be Toronto, not Tampa Bay. That being said, the innovative Rays always seem to find a way to be relevant.
Even with the loss of George Springer, the Houston’s lineup will be pretty fierce, and likely will be the class of the AL West. Should they have the opportunity to pick up pitching help at the trade deadline, they could be a force in the postseason. Like the Rays, Oakland can’t be counted out either, though the Angels are primed to leap into second place due in part to the numerous additions they have made in the offseason.
Somewhat under the radar has been the Twins’ and the White Sox’s aggressive winter moves to fight for the AL Central crown. After the NL West battle, this may be the most interesting race in baseball due to the quality of their teams as currently constituted, and their willingness to make further moves if necessary.
The Dodgers and Padres are the class of the National League, and both are going at it for the divisional race, continuing to add reinforcements. The re-signing of Justin Turner gives Los Angeles a bit of an advantage now but what a fun rivalry this is becoming, perhaps the best in the game.
The NL East looks like an interesting fun race between the Braves and Mets, and with a little luck, the Nationals.
Even with St. Louis’ addition of Nolan Arendado, the NL Central race looks to be pretty open. I really don’t think any team will finish under .500 as projected due to the amount of intra-divisional play, but there are four teams in the division with both significant strengths and flaws.
Are there any Game Changers still out there?
Not many. The recent signings of Turner and James Paxton (Seattle) take the best remaining position player and starting pitcher off the board. Starters Jake Odorizzi (2.0) and Rick Porcello (2.0) are still out there, and they could help a team on the bubble take a small step forward, or give a team already in the mix an advantage. As of this writing, the Cardinals, Giants, Phillies and Mets are rumored to be interested in adding another starter.
I know it’s early, but do you have predictions on the 2021 season?