Atlanta Braves ZiPS Projections: 2019 vs. 2020

Today, we Math.

If the season started today, does ZiPS say we’re better or worse? For comparison’s sake, we are going to look at the 2019 vs. 2020 Atlanta Braves ZiPS projections to line up the 2 teams in the following categories: Starting Pitching, Relief Pitching, Infield, Outfield, and Catcher.

If you’re not in the know, here’s the breakdown of how ZiPs was formed and the tools it uses to measure players:

Definition

ZiPS is a system of player projections developed by FanGraph’s Dan Szymborski when he was at Baseball Think Factory. According a Q&A on the Baseball Think Factory website, ZiPS uses growth and decline curves based on player type to find trends. It then factors those trends into the past performance of those players to come up with projections.

The system uses statistics from the previous four years for players from ages 24-38, and it weights more recent seasons heavier. For younger or older players, it uses weighted statistics from only the previous three years. The system also factors velocities, injury data and play-by-play data into its equations.

Like other projection systems, ZiPS uses past performance and aging trends to develop a future projection for players. On FanGraphs, the projections are updated daily and predict each player’s numbers over the course of the remainder of the season.

Fangraphs

Obviously, no one is claiming that every ZiPS prediction will come true, but it is widely regarded as one of the most accurate predictors in the industry

2019 and 2020 Atlanta Braves ZiPS Projections, Starting Pitchers: 11.1 WAR vs. 14.8

This is a little misleading as they basically had Touki Toussaint being a 1.6 WAR 5th starter for 2019. For 2020, they list Sean Newcomb at 1.6, and Kyle Wright and Bryse Wilson each at 0.4 seemingly for the fifth starter spot. With that said, 1-4 is projected much higher for 2020 than it was for 2019.

I’ve said many times that one should be considering who will be your “6th and 7th” starters — pitchers who will make 10-15 starts for you over the course of the year — so I like that the 2020 projections include that. I’m not sure, though, who would have been included for 2019 had they had them, but I don’t know if they would have been projected for positive value.

2019 and 2020 Atlanta Braves ZiPS Projections, Bullpen: 5.1 vs. 4.9

This conclusion is interesting as my eye balls tell me that Mark Melancon, Will Smith, Shane Greene, Luke Jackson, Chris Martin, Darren O’Day, Grant Dayton, and Jacob Webb seem to be a better bet than the 2019 projected bullpen of Arodys Vizcaino, A.J. Minter, O’Day, Jonny Venters, Dan Winkler, Jesse Biddle, and Sam Freeman. But ZiPS says that the 2019 unit was projected to be higher than this year’s unit. Take that what you may.

2019 and 2020 Atlanta Braves ZiPS Projections, Outfield: 8.2 vs. 9.1

Ender Inciarte was projected higher last year (3.0) than he is this year (2.2). Somehow, Ronald Acuna Jr. is also projected for less (4.2 vs. 4.4 for last year). Marcell Ozuna is projected for a 2.8 WAR vs. Duvall at 0.8. For LF in 2020, Nick Markakis and Adam Duvall were originally penciled in at 1.1, so the Ozuna upgrade is pretty significant.

2019 and 2020 Atlanta Braves ZiPS projections, Infield: 15.8 vs. 14.1

First clear projection of regression, and there is no argument here. Josh Donaldson was projected for 4.8 WAR for 2019, and I see no reason for Austin Riley and Johan Camargo to have a higher projection.

2019 and 2020 Atlanta Braves ZiPS Projections, 2.0 vs. 2.1

Travis d’Arnaud should offer a slight upgrade over Brian McCann in the projections as he does.

Overall 2019 and 2020 Atlanta Braves ZiPS Projections, 41.9 vs. 44.9

In the aggregate, we appear to be an improved team. I’ll leave it to the others to break down the 2019 bench vs. the 2020 bench, and there may be some improvement there as well. But while there’s a step back in the infield, there’s improvement everywhere else, and ZiPS and I will have to agree to disagree on the bullpens.

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this piece on Atlanta Braves ZiPS projections, you might enjoy Jonathan F’s 6 part piece on Playoffs are a Crapshoot. You can find them all linked here!

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26 thoughts on “Atlanta Braves ZiPS Projections: 2019 vs. 2020”

  1. Basically, the idea is that the improvement in starting pitching more than outweighs the decline on the infield, and pretty much everything is a wash. I’d say that basically feels right. For a 97-win team, that’s a pretty good place to be.

    One real question is, just how much variance do we think there is? What’s the 25-75 percentile outcome? If we get a bunch of injuries, do we have more depth than usual so we’ll be better able to weather it? If we get some unexpected career years from a few different guys — like Dansbo, or, maybe a couple of scorching months from Kyle Wright or Christian Pache — how much better could we be than these numbers initially suggest?

  2. Also, I think I have the vapors.

    H Sizzle: I love AA’s focus on short term contracts to make the Braves contenders this year without sacrificing future payroll and top prospects. The Braves will have ~60 mil coming off the books after this year via Ozuna, Hamels, Melancon, and Greene. Could they be players for someone like Mookie (10yr/300mil) or do you think they will stick with their short term deal strategy?

    Kiley McDaniel: I would guess more shorter term deals but his approach allows for this

  3. Thanks for the link Alex. Here’s an interesting tidbit..Alex Jackson’s stock keeps rising in my mind. A Tyler Flowers career path isn’t out of the realm of possibilities…that’s if the MLB stays away from robot umps.

    Kiley McDaniel: Langeliers is closer to 60 than 50 but yes, Jackson’s framing was confirmed to be very strong, like near the top of the minors via TM measures

  4. Thanks for the post, an important distinction is that this is comparing last year’s opening day projection to this year’s correct?

    To compare what the Braves actually did last year is something else. Adding up all the WAR from the Braves stats last year gives 39.3 WAR which is 5.6 less than projected for 2020. Main difference is the actual 2019 bullpen accounted for 1.1 WAR and not the 5.1 projected.

  5. Sean Kazmar was invited to Braves Spring Training, which means he’s back with the team. This will be his 8th year in AAA with the #Braves. Hope he lands a coaching gig after this.

  6. Rob, I agree with your assessment of the bullpens. To me the difference is risk. It looks like there’s an element of risk that ZiPS is not taking into account. All of the 2019 bullpenners had performed at the level predicted in the past but with either more injury risk (Venters/O’Day/Viz) or less track record (Biddle/Minter/Winkler/etc…) than this year’s projected pen. I thought we all had the feeling that last year’s pen “might” be that good but were not confident with the projection. This year, we have much more confidence that this will be a 4+ WAR bullpen.

    With regards to the bench; last year’s was supposed to be strong with Camargo. Ultimately, it was really strong not because of the opening predicted group but because of mid-season performance enhancements (Riley, Duvall, Joyce, etc…). This year’s bench may or may not be stronger (looks weaker to me primarily because Camargo has to go into the lineup). Can Culby come back? Did Hech really learn to hit? Will Markakis outperform Joyce? Can either Riley or Duvall have the same immediate impact?

  7. @1 The real question is – were we a 97-win team to begin last year (I think not)? The fact that we ended up as a 97-win team may not be correlated to the ZiPS projection. FG currently has us pegged as about the 12th highest WAR projection in the majors. With 10 playoff teams (and two division rivals ahead of us), that’s not the best way to start the season.

  8. Re: the projected bullpen WAR — I think it stands to reason that as your team’s starting pitching WAR increases, the bullpen’s opportunity for WAR will, at some point, decrease as a matter decreasing relief opportunities (fewer innings pitched). This could account for the tiny decrease in projected bullpen WAR.

  9. Dusty, yes, it’s more of a comparison of what each team projected to be going into their respective seasons. It’s sort of a response to the idea that the team is worse in the aggregate because we didn’t sign Donaldson.

    Donny, yes, agreed that there’s only so much WAR you can get out of the same 9 innings of baseball. But while there isn’t an increase in the quantity of opportunity, hopefully there’s an increase in quality innings 1-9.

    Call me crazy, but I think Bryant could be in play if there was a way of getting rid of Melancon’s contract or both Ender and Greene’s contracts.

  10. Most oddsmakers are opening Atlanta at 91.5 wins. That’s probably the right number given how tough the division will be. Nats are second at either 89.5 or 90.5 depending where you look.

    I’m not sure I would take the over on that right now as this feels like a 91-92 win team as constructed.

  11. Two of the biggest questions — will the Mets and Phillies actually be good teams in 2020? One of the biggest reasons we won a lot more games than expected is that they both underperformed, the Mets by a little and the Phillies by a lot.

  12. The “pure luck” standard deviation of wins over a season is 6.3 games. Even if you could precisely quantify skill to, say 91 games, such a team would, over 162 games, win between 85 and 91 games about 1/3 of the time and win between 91 and 97 games about 1/3 of the time. The reason to go into the season with a 97 win team is that you have about an 85% chance of winning 91 or more. But 91 win teams win 91 or more half the time. No matter what ZiPs or any other prognosticating tool tells you, though, the 6.3 games of pure luck is wired into the game, so you really can’t be much more precise than that. But of course a 12 game spread (6 on either side) is enormous, which is why hope springs eternal even for the Mets.

  13. Are the Marlins still tanking? I feel like they have been the key to winning the division the past two seasons.

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