Hi again, everybody. Welcome to sixth and final part of my series on the 2010 Fan Projections from FanGraphs. Here are the links to the first 5 parts:
- Part 1 (Starting Pitchers)
- Part 2 (Infielders)
- Part 3 (Catchers)
- Part 4 (Outfielders)
- Part 5 (Relievers)
In this part, I'll use all the fan projections to create projected 2010 NL East standings. I'll also look at the salaries of each team to see which team is getting the most bangs for its bucks (hint: it's the team that is only paying 3 players more than $5M this year). Finally, I'll break each team down individually and hand out some awards.
Before we get into it, one big caveat (in addition to the many others from the earlier posts): I've only covered 23 players on each team. As I'm sure you know, 25 players are active at one time, and teams typically use at least 35-40 players in a given year. Of course, many of these extra players will not have much impact, but some of them will--even if that impact is negative. A team that manages to get positive WAR from its mid-season call-ups and acquisitions will be in good shape to outperform its projection.
Projected 2010 NL East Standings
If you're really clever, you may have already figured out who comes out on top. If you're not clever, or if you're just too lazy to add the numbers up from the previous posts, here are the final fan-projected WAR standings, broken down by position:
That's right, the fans project your Atlanta Braves to edge out the Phillies for the division title, based on WAR. This is a somewhat unexpected result, as I believe the "expert" consensus is that the Phillies are the best team in the division (and maybe the league). Heck, even I would pick the Phils to win the East, if only based on past success. Much like the 1991-2005 Braves, I'm finding it hard to pick against them until they actually lose.
Fighting for third place are the Marlins and Mets. This seems about right to me, unless the Mets get better-than-expected health from their stars, in which case I think they'll beat out the Marlins fairly easily. The Nats* bring up the rear, as usual (though perhaps 2011 will be different...).
* One note about the Nats. Since they cut Elijah Dukes, I've replaced him in their WAR values with Justin Maxwell, which results in a loss of 1.1 WAR. Not that it makes a huge difference in the standings.
Now, let's convert the WAR values into some actual standings. To do this, I'm going to take the WAR values above and add a constant value. Since WAR is "Wins Above Replacement", we have to consider how many wins a replacement-level team would get in a 162-game season. According to various articles I've read on FanGraphs, this number is around 47 wins.
We can't just add 47 to the WAR values above, however. We also need to add in a downward adjustment, to take into account the fact that fans tend to overproject the number of PAs and IP that a team will get over the course of the year. We should also adjust downward to account for the certainty of injuries. Of course, injuries will not be evenly apportioned among the teams (just look at the 2009 Mets, or the 2008 Braves), but since there's no way to project that, we'll treat each team equally. All in all, I'd say that the total downward adjustment should be on the order of 10-15 wins. To be somewhat conservative, I'm going to go with a 14 win downgrade. That means I'll be adding 33 wins to the WAR values above to get the projected standings.
So here are the standings. I've also included each team's estimated runs scored and runs allowed, and the 2009 records.
|Proj. 2010 Record||Proj. Run Differential||2009 Record|
As you can see, the races for 1st place and 3rd place are projected to be very tight. And Washington, even though it is projected to finish last, is still projected to improve by 13 games, which is quite good. The Mets are also projected to improve by 11 games, which makes sense, provided they can escape the injury bug that so plagued them last year (seriously, at one point I thought we were going to see a transaction like this: "Mets place 2B Luis Castillo on 15-day DL after he inexplicably wakes up as a cockroach.").
One thing to keep in mind whenever you see projections like this is that the margin of error is rather large. I'd say that a difference of 5% (around 4 games) in either direction is almost meaningless, and a difference of 10% (around 8 games) is very possible. Of course, anything can happen, but based on the these projections, we can tell that the fans would expect the Braves to win between 84 and 93 games in most scenarios, for instance, and between 79 and 97 games in almost all scenarios.
Below, I've created a graph that shows these ranges of possibility for each team. The "Likely Range" is within 5% of a team's projected win total; the "Best Case" and "Worst Case" differ from the projection by 10%. I've also included last year's win total for reference.
According to these projections, it would take a minor miracle for the Nats to finish ahead of the Braves or Phils, but almost any other arrangement of teams is plausible. We could see 4 teams in the 83-86 win range, or 1 team with 95 wins and no other at much better than .500. The important thing to emphasize is that there's very little difference in the fans' minds between the Braves and Phillies, or between the Mets and Marlins. These projections won't be "wrong" if the Phillies top the Braves by 4 or 5 games, or if the Mets or Marlins win the division. (A projection can't really be "wrong", anyway--that's like saying that a fairy tale is "wrong".)
What we can say is that the fans think the Braves and Phillies have a much greater chance of winning the division than the other teams do. Maybe something like Braves 45%, Phillies 40%, Mets 10%, Marlins 5% (I haven't crunched the numbers; those are just guesstimates).
Salaries and Value
Now that we have projected the final standings, it's worth spending some time to analyze the spending habits of each franchise. The NL East has a good mix of markets--the big-market Mets and Phillies, the mid-market Braves and Nats, and the small-market Marlins (though Miami is of course not a "small" market, only a bad one for baseball). Accordingly, the Mets spend money much more liberally than the Marlins, who have been almost cruelly frugal in recent years.
I totaled up the base salaries for each team using the same 23-man rosters that I used for all the previous projections*. To do this, I used the marvelous salary website Cot's Baseball Contracts. I used only the base salary for each player; the escalators and bonus clauses are only significant in a few cases, such as Troy Glaus' deal, so this shouldn't affect things too much. Here is each team's payroll broken down by position, as with the WAR graph above:
* This means that some players who are guaranteed fairly big money are not included in these totals, most notably Jamie Moyer. You don't need me to tell you that that contract is a bad one, though, right?
There is lots of fun information to be gathered from this graph, especially when combined with the WAR standings from above. My favorite fact is that the Phillies are spending more on their 'pen than the Braves, Marlins, and Nationals combined. And that is without Moyer's contract; if Moyer ends up in their bullpen, that'd be over $30M for a bullpen that isn't even very good. Ouch.
It's interesting to examine how each team has divided its resources. For instance, the Braves have spent a very high percentage of their payroll on starters, which shows the traditional Atlanta emphasis on pitching. The Braves are also the only team that is spending any significant amount on catchers--but then, the Braves are also the only team with catchers worth spending significant money on. It is also interesting to see that both the Phillies and Nats have spent almost as much on relievers as on starters, which is hard to do, not to mention inadvisable in most cases.
The next question is, which teams are getting the most WAR for their (millions of) dollars?
The simplest measure of value is to just divide a team's payroll by its WAR value to see how much bang they are getting for their buck. Here are each team's results:
|Team||Total Salary||Total WAR||$ per WAR|
Unsurprisingly, the Marlins come out on top in $ per WAR. They spend so little that they'd have to be really bad to not get the best value as a team--and of course, they're not bad (though the fans don't think they're that good, either). Next up are the Nationals and Braves, who both come in just shy of $1.5M per WAR, which is pretty good. The Mets and Phillies get much less value, but then that makes sense, since they spend so much more. If you give out enough $15M/year contracts, a few of them are going to be bad ones.
Another way of looking at value is by examining each player's contract compared to his production. Even cheap players (like 2/3 the Marlins' roster) can be bad values if they don't produce anything, and of course a player who produces a negative WAR is not worth having on the roster at any price (*cough* FUGA *cough*). I broke down each contract into one of five categories:
- Excellent Value: less than $1M per WAR (mostly players who have yet to hit arbitration)
- Very Good Value: $1M - $2M per WAR
- Good Value: $2M - $4M per WAR
- Poor Value: $4M - $8M per WAR
- Very Poor Value: more than $8M per WAR
You can quibble with my categories if you want, but I decided to use $4M per WAR as a dividing line, since that's about where the price per WAR has been in free agency the past few years. Here is how each team stacks up in these categories:
The Braves are the only team with no "Very Poor" contracts, and they only have 2 "Poor" contracts (can you guess who?). The Phillies and Mets have the most "Very Poor" contracts, though the Nationals have the most "Poor" contracts. The Marlins lead in "Excellent" deals, which makes sense given their payroll, but every team except the Phillies is doing OK in that department. It should be noted that not all "Very Poor" deals are created equal; the Marlins have 3 "Very Poor" contracts, but none of them is expensive--the players just aren't that good.
Below, I examine each team's value situation in more detail. I will also give out some awards for each team.
For every team, I've plotted each contract vs. the projected WAR for that player. I've shaded the regions for each value category from above (darker = worse value). Generally, the further to the right and the lower a player's mark is located, the better. Many of the key players are labeled. Here's the Braves' scatterplot:
This graph is a testament to the shrewdness of John Schuerholz and Frank Wren. There are 3 things that a good middle-market GM must do: 1) develop lots of cheap but good young talent; 2) lock up that talent to affordable long-term deals; and 3) sign or trade for veterans who can put you over the top. The Braves' GMs have done all 3. The Braves project to get more than 20 WAR just from young players on near-league-minimum deals, which is something not even the Marlins can say. Other Braves have been signed affordably, most notably Brian McCann, whose deal continues to be a fantastic bargain. And just in the past year or so, Wren has added McLouth, Cabrera, Kawakami, Lowe, Glaus, Wagner, and Saito--more than 15 projected WAR, none of whom has a Very Poor rating.
You may be saying, "but the Wagner and Saito deals are rated as Poor, and Lowe and Kawakami are just barely in the Good range." First off: pitchers will naturally rate worse than hitters, because they don't get into as many games. Add in the fact that their free-agent prices are driven up by the scarcity of good pitchers, and it's easy to see how $15M for Derek Lowe can actually be a decent deal. As for Wagner and Saito, despite their "Poor" value, you could argue that the Braves actually got them for below-market prices. Just compare those guys' deals to similar pitchers on other teams; you'll see that Wren has actually done well on his free-agent pitcher signings.
- Derek Lowe ($15M, 4 projected WAR) vs. John Lackey ($18M, 3.7 WAR), Roy Oswalt ($15M, 3.8 WAR), Jake Peavy ($15M, 3.9 WAR), or Carlos Zambrano ($17.875M, 3.4 WAR)
- Kenshin Kawakami ($7.5M, 2.3 projected WAR) vs. Brad Penny ($7.5M, 2.1 WAR), Kyle Lohse ($8.75M, 2.2 WAR), Bronson Arroyo ($11M, 2.2 WAR), or Jason Marquis ($7.5M, 1.9 WAR)
- Billy Wagner ($6.75M, 1.3 projected WAR) vs. Bobby Jenks ($7.5M, 1.3 WAR), Jose Valverde, ($7M, 1 WAR), Trevor Hoffman ($8M, 1 WAR), or Francisco Cordero ($12M, 1.1 WAR)
- Takashi Saito ($3.2M, 0.5 projected WAR) vs. Juan Cruz ($3.25M, 0.4 WAR), Ryan Franklin (~$3.25M, 0.4 WAR), Fernando Rodney (~$5.5M, 0.3 WAR), or J.C. Romero ($4M, -0.2 WAR)
I could go on, but you get the point. None of Wren's deals is a disaster if these players perform anywhere near their projected levels. I know the Lowe contract seems like a pain in the butt right now, but it could be so much worse, as we shall see.
Best Position Player in 2010: Brian McCann (but don't rule out a certain someone...)
Best Pitcher in 2010: Tommy Hanson
Best Value in 2010 (arbitration-eligible or later): McCann
Best Pre-arbitration Player: Hanson
Secret Weapon (minor leaguer not covered in these projections who could make an impact in 2010): Craig Kimbrel
Here's the scatterplot for the Marlins:
No Marlin makes even $8M, and only 6 make more than $2M. That's pretty remarkable. One of the unfortunate side effects of having such a low payroll, though, is that you can't afford to fill out the roster with good role players. That's how you get such a bad bullpen and bench, despite having a decent starting lineup and rotation. Also: I'm very surprised the Marlins didn't just cut or trade Leo Nuñez instead of paying him $2M. I doubt that he'll be worth that much.
Best Position Player in 2010: Hanley Ramirez
Best Pitcher in 2010: Josh Johnson
Best Value in 2010: Ramirez
Best Pre-arbitration Player: Chris Coghlan
Secret Weapon: Logan Morrison
Here's the scatterplot for the Mets:
Man, there are a lot of bad contracts here. We all know about Frenchy. Then there's Alex Cora's $2M deal, which I think everyone agrees was an overpay--he's a useful backup, but you don't give those guys $2M. Krod's deal looks like a disaster at this point. And Oliver Perez! What would he have made if the Mets hadn't given him $12M per year for 3 years? I'm guessing something like a $5M, 1-year deal. Then there's Johan Santana, who is a great pitcher when healthy... but no pitcher should ever make more than $20M. He'd have to put up a 5.5 WAR season to make his contract look at all decent. Luis Castillo, Feliciano... The list of overpaid guys goes on. And none of this includes Jason Bay, whose contract jumps to $16M in the last 3 years. It's safe to say that one won't look good by 2013.
On a more positive note, Wright and Reyes are signed to very team-friendly long-term deals, and there are a few pretty good young players. So... yeah. Good job, Omar.
Best Position Player in 2010: David Wright
Best Pitcher in 2010: Johan Santana
Best Value in 2010: Wright (assuming he's back to normal)
Best Pre-arbitration Player: Mike Pelfrey
Secret Weapon: Ike Davis (or Jennry Mejia, although he really should be a starter in the minors)
Here's the scatterplot for the Phillies:
The Phillies have done a remarkable job of signing their regular players to good deals, despite none of them being pre-arbitration guys. Of the 8 starting position players, 5 rate as "Very Good" values, and Carlos Ruiz rates as "Excellent". (Ryan Howard and Raul Ibañez rate as being slightly overpaid, but not drastically so.) Their top 3 pitchers are all signed to reasonable deals as well--at least this year.
On the down side, the Phillies only have a few pre-arbitration guys (J.A. Happ is the only significant one), and their bullpen is full of bad contracts. Brad Lidge's deal is probably one of the 5 worst values in MLB, and it could be the worst if he doesn't improve on last year. And then there's Moyer's deal, which isn't even included on the scatterplot because he didn't make my 23-man roster. If the Phillies want to keep contending for titles in the future, Ruben Amaro is going to have to figure out how to build a better, cheaper bullpen.
Best Position Player in 2010: Chase Utley
Best Pitcher in 2010: Roy Halladay
Best Value in 2010: Jayson Werth (or Utley, or maybe Victorino)
Best Pre-arbitration Player: J.A. Happ (by default)
Secret Weapon: Domonic Brown (only if an outfielder gets hurt)
Here's the scatterplot for the Nationals:
The Nats are a weird mix of mostly uninspiring young guys (with the exceptions of Zimmerman and Morgan) and overpaid veterans (Guzman, Marquis, Rodriguez). On the plus side, the Wang deal is a good gamble, Zimmerman's contract is great, and they have a few young guys who should be able to help by 2011 (Jordan Zimmermann, Strasburg, Drew Storen). They need a lot of help right now, but there is some hope.
I would warn Mike Rizzo, though, that extending Adam Dunn is foolish. Everyone repeat after me: Adam Dunn is a DH. He cannot play 1B. He cannot play LF. Unless the Nats are planning on switching leagues, they should try to trade Dunn at the deadline to an AL contender in need of his bat. If they can't do that, they should let him walk and use that money to improve the rotation (or sign a 1B who can actually play 1B--they'll be plenty of them available after 2011).
Best Position Player in 2010: Ryan Zimmerman (no contest)
Best Pitcher in 2010: Uh... Lannan? Who am I kidding, it's probably Strasburg, even now
Best Value in 2010 (arbitration-eligible or later): Zimmerman
Best Pre-arbitration Player: Nyjer Morgan
Secret Weapon: I forget his name... I think it starts with an "S".
My projected standings are a bit different from the fans':
Braves: 89-73 (wild card)
Marlins: 84-78 (Fredi Gonzalez is worth a few extra wins to me)
Mets: 77-85 (I don't like their rotation at all, and the Reyes and Beltran situations are worrisome)
NL East Awards
Best Position Player: Hanley Ramirez (edging out Utley)
Best Pitcher: Roy Halladay, fairly easily
Best Reliever: Billy Wagner
Best Value: Ramirez
Best Pre-arbitration Player: Tommy Hanson
Rookie of the Year: Truckasaurus (i.e. Jason Heyward--the most obvious of any of these predictions)
Overall, I'd say that the fans have done a very good job with their projections (and I'm not just saying that because the Braves came out on top). I disagree on a few players here and there, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if "the wisdom of crowds" beat out CHONE and the other projection systems in 2010. What do you guys think of the fans' projections overall?
I'm also interested to know the TC community's projections and predictions. In addition to predicted NL East standings, who would you guys pick for any of the awards above? What players or teams do you think are most likely to out-perform or under-perform their projections?
Thanks to all of you who have read any part of this series. It's been a lot of fun. I hope to look back on it when the season is done to see how the fans did. If you have any suggestions for other projections/predictions that I could track during the season, let me know in the comments.