Monday, 6 April 2015

Head to Head

Apparently the consensus of the various people who do predictions Have the Red Sox as the division favorites, with the Blue Jays and defending champ Orioles well back. I'm thinking maybe take a little closer look at that, in my own homerish fashion. I'll admit to being wary of dismissing the O's since i dismissed them into the early days of August last year and they still won 96 games, but I'll admit that on-aper they don't look like they belong in this discussion. I'm also worried about overlooking the Yankees, so let's do a 4-way head to head look at these teams and see where I think the consensus might be wrong, as we await the first pitch in the Bronx tonight. No, scratch that - let's include the Rays too.

To simplify things, since I'm not a math-whiz in advanced baseball metrics, I'm going to stick to projected fWAR as found in the Positional Power Rankings at Fangraphs. On occasion, I'll finesse some points I feel are not well reflected n the numbers (playing time, or some situation that's changed since the projections were made) but those numbers are the jumping off point. Also, I'm separating starter from bench and consolidating all of one players total under his primary position. I recognize that skews the numbers a tiny bit due to positional defense adjustments but screw it. You want meticulous detail you ain't readin' my stuff anyway.

Martin - 3.8
McCann - 3.1
Weiters - 3.0
Hannigan - 2.2
Rivera - 2
Big change here is that Hannigan steps in for the injured Vazquez in Boston, all I can do is pro-rate the PA but when I do, the Red Sox actually gain ground (make of that what you will). Jays and O's get biggest contributions from reserves. O's entertaining injury risk.

First Base
Napoli - 2.7
Davis - 2.5
Texeria - 1.6
Loney - 1.2
Smoak - 0.6
I could point out the flaws in the other guys but that'd mean I was buying into the air up my skirt about Smoak having potential for more. Not sure I do. But everyone here except Napoli is soft so it wouldn't take much to climb the list.

Second Base
Pedroia - 4.3
Franklin - 1.7
Travis - 1.5
Schoop - 1.4
Drew - 1.0
This was calculated before Franklin looked like he was going to spend around 1/4 of the season on the DL, but since they didn't credit him with a full season of PA, there was no easy way to calculate an adjustment. By contrast, Travis was projected only 175 PA and I took the liberty of tripling that. I don't know that he won't fail, but I'm making an executive decision based on the results of the spring.

Reyes - 2.7
Hardy - 2.6
Bogarts - 2.5
Cabrera - 2.0
Gregorious - 1.2
IF Reyes' D  IS improved by his health (big if granted) he might put some space in here

Third Base
Donaldson - 5.5
Machado - 5.0
Longoria - 4.8
Headly - 4.0
Sandoval - 3.4
Strongest position in the division, last place here higher than 1st place at shortstop and 1B

Left Field
Ramirez - 3.4
Gardner - 3.3
Saunders - 2.6
Jennings - 2.0
De Aza - 1.6
Pretty remarkable that for the vast difference in reputation and contract, there's less than 1 WAR between Ramirez and Saunders

Center Field
Jones - 3.8
Elsbury - 3.8
Betts - 3.3
Kiermaier - 2.8
Pompey - 1.4
I've inflated Pompey by 100% (which is still a bit shy of his ZIPS projection - ZIPS likes him much more than Steamer) for the simple reason that the power rankings show him a below average defender which is just damned silly. Also, as weak a hitter as Anthony Gose which also seems quite crazy. I compared him to Cleveland's Michael Bourn, who himself only projects to a .667 OPS and a slightly above average fielder, adjusted for fewer plate appearances, and came up with 1.4 WAR - still last on the list but not crazy, certainly the projection is easily within Pompey's abilities.Also, I don't buy in on Betts. I want to see him do it again (well, I don't WANT to but you get the idea).

Right Field
Bautista - 5.3
Peirce - 3.0
Souza - 1.8
Victorino - 1.6
Young - 1.4
Pierce is spread all over the place on the rankings, I just consolidated him into RF (though if Davis fails again he'd be at 1B) - the guy busted out at 31 which isn't unheard of but I'm skeptical. Souza may well be better than this projection.

Encarnacion - 3.2
Ortiz -2.6
Jaso - 1.3
Beltran - 0.9
Snider - 0.8
Snider's just the guy with the highest total among O's bench players. There's nothing here that allows for A-Rod accumulating anything above replacement as I'm confident he will.

Total starting lineup
Blue Jays - 26.6
Red Sox - 26.0
Orioles - 23.7
Rays - 19.6
Yankees - 19.3

Red Sox - 3.7
Yankees - 2.4
Blue Jays - 2.2
Rays - 2.2
Orioles - 1.5

Total offense
Red Sox - 29.7
Blue Jays - 28.8
Orioles - 25.2
Yankees - 21.7
Rays - 21.8
(giving the Yanks a cushion here due to aforementioned A-Rod factor)

Starting pitchers
NYY: Tanaka (2.9 Sabathis (2.2) Pineda (2.1) Warren (1.8) Eovaldi (1.3) et al (1.3) - 11.6
TBR: Archer (2.2) Cobb (1.9) Smyly (1.9) Odorizzi (1.3) Karns (0.7) et al (1.4) - 9.4
BRS: Porcello (2.4) Buchholtz (1.5) Miley (1.5) Masterson (1.1) Kelly (0.5) et al (0.3) - 7.2
TBJ:  Buehrle (1.9) Hutchinson (1.7) Dickey (1.6) Norris (0.8) Sanchez (0.3) et al (0.8) - 7.1
BO: Chen (1.7) Tillman (1.3) Gausman (1.2)  Norris (1.0) Gonalez (0.5) et al (0.8) - 6.4

 Buehrle is as much as a full win too low, based on his track record and there's no reason I can see to project a regression from Hutch. Give the two of them just a repeat of last year and they jump from #25 to #18 on the Power Ranking list. The Yanks have injury concerns throughout and the Rays have already been hit by setbacks (I know, I know, Stroman - le sigh). The spread between #2 and #5 here is anyone's game.

TBR: McGee (1.7) Boxberger (1.0) Jepsen (0.1) Balfour (0.1) Frieri (0.1) et al (-0.2) - 3.0
NYY: Betances (1.6) Miller (1.4) Carpenter (0.2) Warren (0.2) et al (-0.5) - 3.0
BO: Britton (0.5) O'Day (0.5) Matsuz (0.3) Hunter (0.3) et al (-0.2) - 1.5
BRS: Uehara (1.5) Tazawa (0.7) et al (-0.9) - 1.3
TBJ: Cecil (0.8) Loup (0.4) Redomond (0.1) et al (-0.8) - 0.5
Let's first acknowledge that bullpens are insanely volatile and further acknowledge that the gap between a middling bullpen (Baltimore) and one of the "worst" (by this measure) is only 1 WAR.

That said, there's some nuttiness with the Blue Jays projections. Marco Estrada at -0.1 makes little sense to me - his track record suggests much better, but the uncertainty concerning where his innings will come from (rotation or 'pen) likely suppresses the result. Worse, they rate Castro -0.4 which, if he pitches that poorly he won't be on the team long enough to accumulate (ditto Osuna at -0.2 for that matter)

Total pitching
Yankees- 14.6
Rays - 12.4
Red Sox - 8.5
Orioles - 7.9
Blue Jays - 7.6

Grand Total
Red Sox - 38.2
Blue Jays - 36.4
Yankees - 36.3
Rays - 34.2
Orioles - 33.1

Closing remarks -
I feel okay about the difference between the Red Sox and Jays because of my confidence that the projection metrics can't capture the potential contribution of rookie players, of whom we have more in starting roles than the other teams combined. On the other hand, I'm worried that I, as many others, are underestimating the Yankees and I'm forced to cling to the hope that they will get beat up by injuries. I also don't buy the O's falling into last place though I'd be totally cool with that.

All in all, it looks pretty much like the "eye view" impression looks - not much of a gap from top to bottom, fairly evenly matched teams, the winner reliant as much on "breaks" as anything else, and every team facing the imperative of doing all the little things right because the margin for error is almost non-existent.

Let the games begin!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Pretty incredible that the teams are so close....I admit I was surprised that the Jays are rated with the worst overall pitching..for no particular reason...purely emotional......but I wonder are we really worse Boston....starting Rotation at least..or Baltimore? I suppose with our makeup it could go either way...either really good or really bad....all in all should be an interesting year..any chance of having a diqus sign I can use my moniker here?