The Numbers Game: St. Louis Cardinals ZiPS Projections Analysis


Dan Szymborski, of Baseball Think Factory, prepares and then makes available for free public consumption his projections for each team and each player who may or may not get some time with the big league club in 2012. Today, I’m going to review the projections for the current 25-man roster and other notable players on the DL to start the season. I will not go player to player, but will highlight some items I see as positives and negatives for the Cardinals in 2012.

Please first check out this link if you would like to see the disclaimer placed on the projections. It is too long to fill the space here. You’ll also be able to download the entire spreadsheet showing all 30 MLB teams if you so desire. Here is the link to the complete 2012 St. Louis Cardinals projections.

Let’s check out the hitters first. They are sorted by OPS+

Understand that these are computer generated projections. There is no “feel” to them. It is based off of the players’ recent history, age and how they relate to players in years past with similar stat lines. It also tries to predict a “full-season” for each player. So, when looking at Tony Cruz, there is no chance of his reaching the AB listed unless he has to play a full season.

One of the first things I notice is they really take into account the injury history of the player in determining games played, at rightfully so. Older players on the roster who have had recent issues definitely get nudged downward. See Carlos Beltran, Lance Berkman, and Rafael Furcal.

The next thing that popped out at me is Allen Craig‘s projections. The good news here is that his at-bat numbers are still attainable. According to ZiPS he would be the fourth most productive hitter on the team. It was very wise of the Cardinals to take a step back with Craig and allow him to be fully healed and 100% before coming back. They wouldn’t want to lose additional time on a guy with so much potential. It also brings up the question as to how he’ll get his at-bats. This will be one of manager Mike Matheny‘s toughest jobs assuming health is not an issue and opens a slot for Craig.

In my estimation, Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina have the best chance of surpassing these projections. The others, I have a hard time discounting simply because a lot of it has to do with how much time they’ll be on the field. As such, look at the ratio stats instead of the counting stats when making your inferences.

The pitching staff looks like this.

In determining ERA+ numbers, Szymborski figured on a NL league-average ERA of 3.96. Again, history over the last few seasons plays a part in the number of innings projected.

I’m a little surprised by the huge regression they are projecting for Kyle Lohse. I understand that he lost some time in 2009 and 2010, so I don’t contend with the number of innings. I believe he’ll be back in the same 185-200 innings range for 2012. But for his ERA to jump almost a full point. I’m not buying it. He had a 3.67 FIP and 4.04 xFIP in 2011. I would say the worst case scenario for Lohse is something just below league average ERA with upside of a similar number to 2011.

Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia and Jake Westbrook will be keeping the infielders busy. This could end up being an issue over the long haul of the season. Furcal is losing a step and Greene is green at second. Descalso will be at second often and he’s an upgrade in the field over Greene. David Freese is average with the glove and Lance Berkman hasn’t played first base full-time since 2009 (91 games in 2010 and 21 in 2011). He is not as good as Albert Pujols was (is) at the position.

The bullpen projects to be a strength of the club. J.C. Romero‘s numbers should be better than advertised. He will be strictly used against lefties by Matheny and the statistics represented have plenty of time logged against right-handed batters, who destroy Romero. In 2011, Romero held left-handed batters to a .231 BA and he posted a 12.6 K/9 rate against them.

Eduardo Sanchez won’t be spending too much time in the minors based on these projections. If he can shore up some of the wildness, Mitchell Boggs and Scott Linebrink will have short leashes.

I provided Chris Carpenter‘s projections merely for the ratios and to note that half of Carpenter is not far off of a complete Lance Lynn. I expect Lynn to do fine at holding down a starting spot, but he is more than most likely not going to bring the same results as Carpenter would.

I think Wainwright’s projections look spot on. This seems like the right number of innings, though I think he could do more if needed. I expect the Cardinals will go very easy on Wainwright in the early going. But the ratios are solid and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he exceeds them.

So, there you have it. The computer spit them out and in some cases the model works. In others there may be too much dependency stats from a few seasons back and not enough emphasis on the most recent season. I notice this especially with Beltran, Lohse and Westbrook. Just as it is with predicting the finishes of major league teams, it is even harder to guess the player’s outcomes even with the most sophisticated computer models.

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