Oct 17, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera (24) hits an RBI single against the Boston Red Sox during the fifth inning in game five of the American League Championship Series baseball game at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Dan Szymborski’s famous ZiPS projections are in the process of being rolled out on a team-by-team basis on the popular baseball site FanGraphs, and today it was the Detroit Tigers’ turn.
You should head over there to read the full write up (you should read Carson Cistulli’s work whenever you get a chance), but here’s a small sample (this on the pitching staff):
There are few, if any, clubs which could have dealt a four-win pitcher this offseason, made basically no other alterations to its starting rotation, and still appeared likely to enter the 2014 season with a rotation full only of league-average starters or better. It appears as though Detroit is such a club, however. This isn’t to suggest, of course, that the trade of Doug Fister wasn’t curious in its way. It does suggest, though, that Detroit was working from a position of strength in this regard.
And here’s a couple of charts comparing the 2014 ZiPS projections to the 2013 actual numbers for several notable players (see the post for full projected batting and pitching lines):
The thing about most projection systems is that they, in general, project player performance to be more averaged than was observed the season before. This can be clearly seen on the hitting side. Miguel Cabrera is unlikely to repeat one of the better right-handed hitting seasons of our generation, but then again, neither is Andy Dirks likely to be as helpless at the plate as he appeared to be for much of the 2013 year.
There are exceptions to the rule, of course — Jose Iglesias and Rajai Davis are both projected to hit a bit worse than they did last season, and Ian Kinsler a little bit better — but these systems are by nature conservative when it comes to individual players, so you’re not going to see the extreme highs and lows that random variation allows for in the final season numbers.
Szymborski vehemently says not to do this — I’ll probably end up on a hit list for doing this — but adding up the WAR totals for the starting hitters, pitchers, and bullpen (using the handy graphic) yields a team WAR total of 44 WAR, which would make the Tigers roughly a 90-win team. That’s not a rigorous way to project team strength or win total, but I did it anyway, and it doesn’t seem unrealistic.