This is the season of projection – seeing how your players stack up against your rivals, and seeing what upgrades might be necessary.
Even in the absence of a full roster you’ve got to already like the way that this edition 2019 of the Atlanta Braves are stacking up – particularly on the offensive side.
Any time you add a former MVP to the mix of what what already a quite capable hitting lineup, it means that you’ve got something that should be a significant thorn in the side of the opposition, and that’s exactly where the Braves are – regardless of who ends up playing the ‘other’ outfield corner spot.
Fangraphs.com annually posts the projections from multiple sources, and those from Steamer are already up on their site.
A bit of background is in order, though it’s more of a history of steamerprojections.com and not so much a methodology. What follows is from their website:
Steamer Projections is a projection system for baseball player statistics. The system was created and is maintained and operated by Jared Cross, Dash Davidson, and Peter Rosenbloom. Dash and Peter just graduated from college and are both former students of Jared – a high school science and statistics teacher.
The project began in the Fall of 2008 at Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn, New York. Saint Ann’s offers its students an independent research program where they may embark on collaborative projects motivated by personal interest together with a teacher. Our projection system is the result of this program and, since we all played for the Saint Ann’s Steamer baseball team (although not at the same time), this is how it got its name.
The Current Starters
Here’s how the Braves look, by their reckoning. While there are a lot more stats, I’m posting the ‘regular’ numbers by batting average, ops, homers, and fWAR.
- Freddie Freeman: .286, .885, 27, 4.2
- Josh Donaldson: .257, .843, 26, 4.2
- Ozzie Albies: .273, .773, 20, 3.6
- Ronald Acuna Jr.: .279, .836, 29, 3.3
- Ender Inciarte: .274, .720, 10, 2.4
- Dansby Swanson: .248, .712, 12, 1.7
- Tyler Flowers: .248, .733, 10, 1.5
- Brian McCann: .229, .707, 9, 0.9
- Johan Camargo: .261, .739, 10, 0.8
- Adam Duvall: .226, .705, 24, 0.6
Okay, right away, I have to look at these numbers and snicker a bit… some of them are really odd.
Most of them for the full-time starters are based around 150 game appearances… this includes Duvall, who they think will run into 24 homers along with an otherwise Dan Uggla-esque line.
While the Braves seem to be ready to enforce a ‘days off’ policy, I’m not entirely certain that 150 will be the maximum for players like Inciarte, Albies and Freeman. Barring injury, 155-157 could be the target… roughly 1 extra day off per month.
Still: Freeman has only had 1 season below that 4.2 WAR projection in his last six seasons… that being a 3.3 in 2015, thanks to a hand injury. Even when his wrist was broken in 2017, he still posted a 4.4.
So a simple averaging of his run from 2013-2018 would suggest a 4.75 WAR projection… which would be a reasonable starting point.
There are definitely some other curious numbers here as well:
- ACUNA JR – So his abbreviated 2018 season ended with numbers of .293, .917, 26, and 3.7. Naturally, Steamer thinks all of those figures will decline in 2019 (save for 29 homers… but recognize that he hit 26 in just 111 games last season).
- I’m actually not going to quibble with the notion that he might bit a little in average for 2019. But the slugging is still bound to be there, and a full healthy season should eclipse 4 WAR without much difficulty: he still will get on base at a high rate, and his OPS almost can’t drop by the 80 points projected.
- DONALDSON – This one is tricky, since we believe he’s going to be fully healthy, though knowing that isn’t possible. Still…
- Donaldson is a hitting clinician and has averaged .275 in the majors. That’s where I would be starting from. The worst he’s seen during a full year goes back to his Oakland days – 2014 – in which he hit .255. So starting from .257 is quite a bit pessimistic.
- Homers? 26? He’s certainly capable of mid-30’s production, but we’ll have to see how it goes.
- Likewise, an .843 expected OPS is also under his healthy norm… in short, what the Braves have in Donaldson is effective a right-handed Freeman… with production that should mirror one another.
- ALBIES – In his case, the bottom line could be about right (3.3 fWAR). Should we expect 20 homers out of him again? Maybe, though I could see that coming up just a bit short. I do think he’s a better hitting than the .261 he finished with.
The rest are more nit-picking. All of this sums to 23.3 fWAR, and I personally expect that Freeman, Donaldson, and Acuna could be a bit light… anywhere from 0.5 to 2.0 light.
If the Braves can muster a 25 fWAR on the offensive side (and we’ve still to summon another corner outfielder) then that’s a really solid number.
Here’s the current Top 10 fWAR sum offensive projections from the rest of the NL East:
The biggest takeways from these numbers:
- The very low projection from the Phillies
- The balance expected from the Nationals up and down their lineup
- The extreme length that the Marlins’ season will be… particularly once Realmuto’s bat is (eventually) subtracted.
Also, there’s this hopeful though: if the Braves actually manage to land Realmuto…we won’t even care who’s playing right field.
In the end, projections are just guesses, and these are as reasonable (overall) as any. They are probably best for comparing from one team to another since there will be weaknesses and objections for many players across the board.
Still, I’m liking what I see coming to a ballpark near you this Spring. Merry Christmas everyone!