It’s time for my annual Giants WAR projection post. You can find the link to the 2009 projection, here. It explains a few things in general and it’s not a bad place to start if you’ve never seen a WAR projection. But, the basics are that: a team totally devised of ‘replacement level talent’ — ie: freely or cheaply acquired talent (AAA players, roster cast-offs, etc.) — would win something around 50 games. We would expect a RL team to sport a .300 winning percentage or so (162 * .300 = 48.6 wins). Then, plug in some projection numbers, find your position and pitching player’s wins added above replacement, add that to your baseline of 47-48 wins, and you’ve got a team projection.
A few assumptions before we begin:
~ I’m still using the same method for pitcher WAR as I used in last year’s post. Check the link if you want any more information on it.
~ Replacement level for starters has been set to 5.50. For relievers it’s set to 4.50 runs.
~ I used the CHONE projections for 95% of this post with a few tweaks here and there. CHONE is an awesome projection system and the ZiPS database hasn’t been fully released just yet.
~ For the defensive projections I’m working off of Jeff Zimmerman’s 2010 UZR Projections. He’s projected every defensive player for 2010 with an age adjustment. Good stuff.
Now, let’s check our numbers out.
- Right off the bat I’ve got the Giants projected as an 83-84 win baseball team for 2010. If you’ve read the Giants 2009 projection post, they were projected as an 82-83 win baseball team. I’ve said more than once that I’m not sure the Giants have actually improved themselves heading into 2010, as this initial projection seems to validate that idea some. DeRosa in LF isn’t an improvement over Fred Lewis (and maybe even John Bowker — but DeRosa does have some value from his versatility), even with a dead cat bounce Huff isn’t projected to be any better than say Ishikawa, and Freddy Sanchez will improve the 2B group — but his health concerns shouldn’t be taken lightly.
- The Giants did win 88 games last season after we projected them to win 82-83 wins. That’s over our numbers by 5 wins or so. A couple of things helped the Giants play over their heads last season: they fielded an exceptional defensive team, their pitching was incredible (clearly the best Giants pitching team in almost 50 years), and they were a “clutch” team (by FanGraphs, the Giants were the 6th best team in baseball for clutch performance). Being clutch isn’t something that you can’t rely on from year-to-year and the Giants accumulated nearly +3 wins because of it. Realize that it’s just as likely for the Giants’ luck to swing the other way, and instead of 88 wins, you end up with 78 wins. It’s a good reason why to not treat baseball performances as static and say: “OK, we won 88 wins this year, add a player here, a player there, and 90 wins!”
- Some numbers. The top 5 Giants players by projected WAR: Lincecum (6.1), Pablo Sandoval (4.1), Matt Cain (3.6), Jonathan Sanchez (2.5), and Nate Schierholtz (2). Not surprising that 3 of the 5 are pitchers. The Giants pitching is by far their best team strength. Projection systems always love Nate (calling him a slightly better than league average hitter with +6 defense in RF). I would love to see Nate live up to that projection this year but I’m skeptical on him. He looks great on D in RF, but his hitting approach leaves something to be desired. If he’s a league average hitter with +6 defense, he’s a starter on this team and quite valuable.
- More pitching thoughts: Zito turns in a slightly below average performance (1.7) in 190 projected innings pitched. He’s earning $18.5M these days and continues to be a vast overpay. But most Giants fans (me included) would be happy if he can hang around 2 wins for awhile. Brian Wilson’s projection (1.6) is very solid for a reliever. The elite guys in the bullpen tend to pitch around 2 wins per year. Wilson took some great steps forward last year with his components and if he can hold them steady, he should be in for another good year.
- The bullpen also projects some solid performances from Affeldt and Romo but outside of the top three pitchers in the ‘pen, things drop off. Medders is a replacement level reliever that out-pitched his peripherals last year. Runzler and Joaquin have some promise, but control issues in their past make them a little risky to project as sub-4.00 FIP relievers.
- I’m calling Bumgarner (0.7) the 5th starter for now even though I would prefer that he start the year in AAA. Look for the Giants to bring in someone like Todd Wellemeyer to fight for the 5th spot. Bumgarner does offer some upside vs. his projection. He could be a spot on the Giants were they could add an extra win.
- On the hitting side of things the Giants could improve themselves in a few places: (1) As soon as possible use Posey behind the plate. He’s set to almost outproduce Bengie Molina in just 25% PT as compared to Bengie’s projected PT of 60%. Catcher is one of the few areas on the Giants where a clear and reasonable upgrade is available. (2) Play John Bowker. Bowker gets the 2nd best projection for hitting on the team behind Pablo. Bowker probably won’t be in the open RF competition in ST, making his avenue to the team narrow. But a poor hitting team like the Giants just can’t ignore the possibility of a .350 wOBA hitter on their roster. I’ve got Bowker backing up in RF and LF, but you can probably cut that back at the moment — taking down the total team WAR a few runs. (3) If Huff looks done, don’t be afraid to play Ishikawa at first base, he still profiles as the better player. (4) This also applies to Renteria vs. Uribe.
- Uribe comes back to earth in 2010 but his defense is still good enough in the infield that he should be the preferred sub at 2B/3B.
- Aaron Rowand gets a below average projection (1.6) in 80% PT. I find Rowand to be a pretty volatile player. He’s going to be an average hitter in most seasons, but his defense, which has also been average, could go quick. He’s projected as an average defender in CF for next year but if he posts, say, a -5 run season in CF, he’s going to be lucky to break 1 win. The Giants tried to rest Rowand more last year to help his bat and he was basically the same hitter. His defense did bounce-back, though. Only three more years left.
Feel free to click around the spreadsheet above and check out the numbers. The 2010 Giants team looks pretty similar to the 2009 team. The Giants are going to have to hope that last year was for real and that they’ve actually improved themselves over this offseason. I’m not seeing in right now in February. The team is still weak on offense and there’s reason to think the defense (losing Winn, reduced PT to Ishikawa, Renteria, Rowand) might take a step back. The pitching should be very good again but any missed time to either Lincecum or Cain (or even Pablo, or if he regresses) and you can kiss the season goodbye. The Giants don’t have the depth on offense/defense to make up for any missed time in the rotation. Once again, the rotation will carry the team with a below average offense.
Before you jump into the comments section, check this post from Dave Cameron on what projections are. Because these projections can sometimes bring out the worst in people, please keep your comments respectful in the comments section or I will edit them with pictures of sheep.
Comment Starter: How many wins do you think the Giants will net in ’10? Is it enough to win the NL West?