08 January 2011

2011: Win Projections v1.0

Each year, I run projections for how well the Orioles will do.  Since I began doing this in 2007, they have underperformed every single year.  The players just do not seem to uphold any of the standards set by the projection systems, so I tend to be pessimistic when I look at these simple season win projections for how well the team will do.

As I always do, I am using ZiPS which can be found at Baseball Think Factory and at some point will show up on FanGraphs.  For the Orioles, I assumed the following roster.
C Matt Wieters
C Craig Tatum
1B Derek Lee
2B Brian Roberts
3B Matt Reynolds
SS JJ Hardy
INF Cesar Izturis
INF Brandon Harris
OF Felix Pie
CF Adam Jones
RF Nick Markakis
DH Luke Scott
DH Nolan Reimold
I assume significant missed time for Roberts, Hardy, and Jones (about ~200 PA each) with replacement level production assuming a backup role.

S Jeremy Guthrie
S Brian Matusz
S Jake Arrieta
S Brad Bergesen
S Chris Tillman
S Zach Britton (assumed he will get about 100 IP this year)
C Koji Uehara
R Kevin Gregg
R Mike Gonzalez
R Jeremy Accardo
R Jim Johnson
R Rick Vanden Hurk
R Misc

Predictions and some thoughts as to how this team will get to the playoffs after the jump.

With these assumptions in place, we find the 50th percentile projections place the Orioles at 75.0 wins exactly.  That is with a relatively lacklaster performance by the starting pitchers.  ZiPS puts only two pitchers as above average in Brian Matusz and Jeremy Guthrie.  Those performances are not very special either with Matusz doing the best with a 100 ERA+ (league average is projected to be 96).  I personally think these pitching projections do not realistically predict what is likely to occur. 

They really cannot do much worse than is predicted, but many could shave half a run from ZiPS.  Two choice examples would be Brad Bergesen and Jake Arrieta.  The former is projected as 5.09 and the latter 5.11.  Based on their incredible performances down the stretch last year, it would seem that a 4.50 era would not be unexpected.  By shaving a half run off, the Orioles would gain a win a piece and slot the team at 77 wins.  Jeremy Guthrie is another player who ZiPS often fails at understanding.  He has a history of outperforming his FIPs by about a half a run, which would be another win (78).  Brian Matusz' projection of 4.38 looks reasonable to me, so I think shaving that is a bit too optimistic.  I do think it is highly unlikely he sees the wrong side of 4.50 and the right side of 4.00.  However, for the purpose of this exercise, I'll keep him at 4.38.  Chris Tillman has a 5.28 line, which he could vastly improve upon or not.  Perhaps combining the risk/reward for him and Matusz together . . . you can see a 79 win club.

That brings us to the offense where only Markakis and Scott are seen as hitters expected to hit above an 800 OPS.  I think the optimistic circumstance would be for Wieters, Lee, and Reynolds also to reach that mark.  The stretch for be for three of those five to hit the 850 mark.  Attaining that first level would result in an increase of wins for Wieters, Lee, and Reynolds together to be 1.5 wins.  The second level (lets say Wieters, Scott, and Reynolds) would result in an increase of 2.3 wins, which would put us to 82.8 wins.  Lets say something else wonderful happens with Jones achieving star status with an 850 ops.  He would add 1.7 wins (84.5 wins).  Lets also say that Markakis sees a 900 ops again and improves the team by 2 wins (86.5 wins).  Lets also say Roberts, Hardy, and Jones do not see any significant injuries . . . that tacks on 2.2 wins (88.7).  This leaves the team about 7 wins short of playoff consideration.

OK, well, we can go back to the pitchers and see what would happen if several players hit their high projection marks.  Matusz, becoming a star pitcher, would add another 1.7 wins.  Arrieta could become a legit 2/3 and add another win.  Bergesen could do the same, adding another win.  Tillman could also establish himself and become a 2/3 and increase his value by 2.3 wins.  There you have 6 wins (94.7 wins).  Playoff consideration in the AL East is about 95 wins, but more likely 97 or 98.  You can just tack on an extra special bullpen performance there.

So, that is where we are.  The team is not a Vlad away from a playoff birth.  The team is not a Adam Dunn away from a playoff birth.  The team is not a Cliff Lee away from a playoff birth.  It is not a Vlad, Dunn, Lee away.  More so, many of the guys who provide talent for this team are probably not got to be around much longer.  Brian Roberts is on his last legs, which was completely and utterly foreseeable as second basemen do not age well.  This is almost a hard and steady rule without exception.  Guthrie is about to become expensive.  Hardy and Lee will be free agents.  Scott probably is on the way down from last year and not long to be around.  The chance of all of these young players hitting their stride in development would be incredibly unique and there is not a wave of talent ready to crash onto the MLB scene for the Orioles.

Andy MacPhail has certainly strengthened the franchise, but the minors look hollow outside of two elite talents in Britton and Manny Machado.  The elite talent at the MLB level is not looking so elite and is entering into the more expensive arbitration phases.  The Orioles are also not a cheap team at 75MM.  What will an extra 25MM get you in free agency?  Not as much as this team needs.  Can the team sustain a payroll of 125MM?  I don't know.  They need to if they wish to properly complement the needs of this team over the next few years.  I just do not see them as a 125MM team.  Peter Angelos certainly has money to make that happen, but I do not see the Orioles revenue supporting that.  Angelos would have to take a loss every year until fans get invested into the team and Baltimore could jack up ticket prices and drink prices to three times what it is now.

Are you still optimistic?


The Oriole Way said...

I did an almost identical exercise last summer and came to the exact same conclusion:

"While a realistic projection again foretells a losing season for the O's in 2011, the orange-tinted glasses look reveals enough upside on the pitching staff to push the club close to .500. A further clicking of the ruby orange slippers shows that enough development out of the young hitters could move the club into range to compete with the Blue Jays. If the team really wants to compete, though, it's going to have to do more than hope everything goes right (hint: it won't) with the existing roster. There are no stars on this team, and the lack of true top tier talents means that a reasonable ceiling for this club is probably the .500 mark, even if all goes well. To compete in the AL East, this team needs top shelf talent."


This really comes down to Markakis, Jones, and Wieters not being top tier players. They are nice guys to have, but if they're your core, you're not going to be a contender.

Crawdaddy said...

I think some came to a firm conclusion on it before me because I think MacPhail really started off on the right foot. I gave him a lot of room last year because of that. The whole time saying how this off season needs to be a slam dunk, but it was not. What needed to be done last off season was done this off season. What needed to be done this off season did not occur. Our minors look sparse. We lack draft picks compared to our rivals and we have not heavily invested in the international scene.

I don't know exactly who is at fault, but Angelos is going nowhere . . . so might as well clean out the front office or give someone a free hand to do that.

Anonymous said...

The thing about getting a Dunn, Lee or V-Mart is that if you added one of those, and some of our young pieces had breakout years, the Os would have had a shot.

As it is, I'm not sure why the Os didn't just try trading Kakes, Roberts, Scott and Guts for prospects and try to build around Weiters, Jones and Matusz.

Canice Lexi said...

So it appears that my annual bet with my best friend is probably still a good one: one dozen jumbo crabs that the Orioles will drop 90 games.

Did the Orioles improve? Yes. Did they improve by 6 games based on no upgrades in starting pitching? I doubt it.

It isnt gambling when you know the outcome.